Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Art and Pornography

There was recently some discussion online about using "the wet test" when evaluating about erotica. I did a couple posts, one about reading erotica for reasons other than arousal, and one about writing erotica for reasons other than arousal.

I came across a great passage over the weekend that sums up my position, from Geoff Nicholson's book Sex Collectors:

Some people used to say that art was good because it was celebratory and porn was bad because it was masturbatory, but now we all say, what's so wrong with masturbation? Camille Paglia says, "What people call pornography is simply the moment when the physicality of the act becomes obtrusive to them." I say the difference between art and pornography is this: you can masturbate to art if you want, but you don't have to. It still has an appeal and a function even if it doesn't get you aroused. Whereas if a piece of pornography doesn't get you aroused, then it's a complete failure, and few things are worse than failed pornography.

I found this a useful distinction. I think what I was trying to get at with my earlier posts was that I see erotica as art. However, when I started to read it, I read it as porn -- I wanted to get off. I think its purpose is still confused, and writers and readers approach it as art or porn or both, not always being clear what they're going for.

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