Posted by: nhfalcon | March 25, 2009

What Is Pornography?

WARNING!!! : potentially offensive images and language ahead!

pornography (n): obscene writings, drawings, photographs, or the like, esp. those having little or no artistic merit.

                                     sexually explicit pictures, writing, or other material whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal.

                                     creative activity (writing or pictures or films etc.) of no literary or artistic value other than to stimulate sexual desire.

                                     Books, photographs, magazines, art, or music designed to excite sexual impulses and considered by public authorities or public opinion as in violation of accepted standards of sexual morality. American courts have not yet settled on a satisfactory definition of what constitutes pornographic material.

                                     material that depicts erotic behavior and is intended to cause sexual excitement. NOTE: Pornographic material is protected expression unless it is determined to be obscene. 

                                    Still and moving images, usually of women, in varying states of nudity, posing or performing erotic acts with men, women, animals, machines, or other props. Some say it degrades women, some say it corrupts young boys…

(the preceding definitions of the word “pornography” come from www.dictionary.com)

“I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced… [b]ut I know it when I see it…” – Justice Potter Stewart (1964)

So, just what the hell IS porn, anyway?

I’ve never made any secret of the fact that I look at porn. Cookiemaker is well aware that I do. So long as I don’t do it when she or – more importantly – Little Man is around, she’s tolerant of (though by no means thrilled about) it. However, we have on occassion disagreed about what constitutes porn. For example, she says Playboy is, I say it isn’t. Sure, I say, the women are nude, and their nudity is for the purpose of titillation, but, while I wouldn’t say the nudity is artistic, I also wouldn’t say it’s obscene. I’ve been known to check out The Hottest Girls of MySpace on a fairly regular basis, and while I would call that obviously not even close to artisitic, I still wouldn’t call it pornography. Nevertheless, Cookiemaker doesn’t want me on that site when she and/or Little Man are around. Hell, I even remember back in the days when I would pick up the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and reading the hatemail a week or two later from readers who claimed that that was pornographic! Seriously! SI has had god knows how many subscribers cancel their subscriptions because of the swimsuit issue!

I mean, honestly, are these pics pornographic?:

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Thank you. I didn’t think so, either.

So how the hell do we define this term? Can we? Let’s look at some of what I consider to be the key words or phrases from the various dictionary.com definitions: “obscene,” “little or no artistic merit,” “material whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal,” “no literary or artistic value other than to stimulate sexual desire,” “designed to excite sexual impulses,” “in violation of accepted standards of sexual morality,” “varying states of nudity,” and “posing or performing erotic acts.”

Well, that would certainly seem to narrow the definition now, wouldn’t it? Or would it? See, in my opinion there’s still one small thing these definitions overlook – the wide and varied realm of the human psyche. Who’s to say what’s obscene or not? What’s artistic or not? What does or does not cause sexual arousal? What the standards of sexual morality are? What’s erotic or not?

Let’s take the above SI pics, for example. Why were the pictures taken and published? For artistic reasons? I doubt it. Because sex sells? You bet. And why does sex sell? Because you’re appealing to the baser side of human (or, more specifically in this case, male) nature. Because you’re showing a man a beautiful woman in revealing swimsuits and getting him to think about having sex with that woman. So, those images are designed to excite sexual impulses, but are they pornographic? There’s no nudity, after all. The women aren’t engaged in any sexual acts, nor simulating doing so. Those five specific pictures aren’t even necessarily all that sexually provocative.

But does nudity have to be part of it? Look at these famous nudes:

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Anybody wanna call these works of art pornography? Why not? Because they’re works of “art?” Says who? What makes them “art” and not pornography? What’s the difference between them and this:

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Because their creators did not have sexual stimulation as their intent when they made them? How do we know that? How do we Alexandros of Antioch didn’t have titillation in mind when he sculpted the Venus de Milo? How do we know Michelangelo was not attempting to excite the ladies with David? How do we know Jules Joseph Lefebvre didn’t paint Chloe with a little lechery in his heart (or some other part of his anatomy 🙂 )? 

And even if they did, so what? Is all sex pornographic? Is arousing your partner obscene? Does it matter if you’re in love with your partner or not? Is all sexual intercourse between a husband and wife automatically “making love” while the same activity during all one-night stands automatically “fucking?” Take a look at the following videos:

(sorry about the foriegn language overdubbing there)

(relax, there’s no actual sex here)

(relax, there’s no actual sex here, either, but…)

So, which one of the three was pornographic? All of them? None of them? Just one of them? My guess says that nobody thinks the Top Gun clip was pornographic because a) it was from a mainstream film, b) there was no nudity, and c) because it featured two characters who were in love with each other. Now, I bet some of you thought the second one was pornographic, and you thought so because a) it was about anal sex and to most people that just ain’t right and b) it featured a porn star. The fact that the purpose behind the video was to be educational would be irrelevant. I bet most people found the third video to be pornographic because even though there was no sex or even nudity, it was clearly leading to sex, and that the sex would be loveless and just purely physical.

What about the term “erotica?” Is that supposed to cover some fine line, some gray area between decency and pornography? What is it that makes erotica ok but pornography not ok? According to dictionary.com, one definition of erotica pertains to “sexual love.” Another one, however, makes it synonomous with pornography, complete with the emphasis on a lack of artistic merit. Sometimes I wonder if it isn’t just terminology, just simple vocabulary. For example:

“Moments later, she appeared, coming down the staircase that led from the jacuzzi directly to their bedroom. She held a bottle of Perrier Jouet and two champagne glasses in one hand and a small pail of ice in the other. As he had noticed earlier, she was beautiful enough without trying, but when she put her mind to it…

            She had let her flowing blond hair down and arranged it perfectly. Her makeup was just right and as she drew closer he could smell the aroma of her perfume. She wore a black three-piece teddisette that he had gotten her the previous Christmas. He drew his breath in sharply and felt himself swell and grow rigid under the surface of the water.

            No words were spoken. She entered the tub without removing her lingerie, straddling him as she set the champagne, glasses, and ice pail down next to the hot tub. She popped the cork on the champagne and poured them each a glass, handing one to him. After she recorked the bottle and set it in the ice, they intertwined their arms, something they had not done since their wedding day, and drained their glasses. She smiled down at him as she set the glasses aside.

            He tried once to speak, but she quickly silenced him with an index finger placed gently upon his lips. Her smile became a wanton grin, her eyes filled with hunger as he took the finger into his mouth and sucked on it, nibbling gently. She leaned forward and attacked his ear with her mouth, probing with her tongue, sucking and biting his earlobe. He moved under her, and she responded, moving her hips, rocking them over his member, teasing them both.

            They kissed long and hungrily, tongues searching each other’s mouths, each breathing in the other’s moans and sighs. His hands found her breasts, squeezing the full, pliant mounds of flesh, brushing and gently pinching the stiffened nipples. She covered his hands with hers and continued to move her hips over his, teasing him and herself mercilessly. She could clearly feel his large erection through the thong panties of the tedisette, and she reveled in the delicious sensation of his length sliding between her nether lips, never entering her, and rubbing back and forth under her aroused, exposed clitoris.

            She could tell that it was all having the same effect on him. His breathing became more rapid and explosive. His hands moved quickly to pull the top of the tedisette down over her breasts, exposing them to his ravenous mouth, tongue, and teeth. He moved his hips more and more frantically under her, trying to thrust himself inside her. In just a few minutes she bucked and shivered, cumming hard. Using her cries of pleasure as his cue, the sounds swelling him even more, he grabbed her buttocks, spread them apart, and lifted her off him.

            She reached down and held him with one hand as he lowered her down, impaling herself with his length. Their coupling did not last long. She leaned forward again and thrust her tongue into his mouth as he kept hold of her buttocks and moved them up and down over his erection. Neither could long stand the sensations of him rapidly sliding in and out of her sex like that, and soon they came, she biting his shoulder to stifle her cries, and he shooting long and deep inside her.                   

            They lay together, gradually recovering their breaths and lowering their heart rates, for almost two hours. Neither said a word as they basked in the afterglow. Finally, Sarelle sat up, flexing her inner muscles to bring Logan out of his half-doze.  A self-satisfied smirk played over her face as he opened his eyes.

            “There now,” she practically purred, “wasn’t that fun?””

(allow me a brief moment of narcissism – I wrote that)

So, was that erotica or porn? What if I changed things up a bit? What if I removed the whole champagne and perfume and entwining arms bit? What if I removed the basking in the afterglow bit? What if instead of “member” and “length” and “erection” I used “cock?” Instead of “breasts” I used “tits?” Instead of “buttocks” I used “ass?” Instead of “coupling” I used “fucking?” Instead of “clitoris” I used “clit?” Instead of “her sex” I used “her pussy?” Suddenly the exact same piece of prose is no longer possibly erotica and is now certainly in the realm of porn, isn’t it? Why is that?

Let’s go back to the idea of “accepted standards of sexual morality.” Who makes the decision on that one? Is only romantic heterosexual sex involving no fantasies whatsoever acceptable? Is this porn?:

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What about this?:

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These?:

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(am I revealing a little too much about myself here? 🙂 )

Look, folks, I don’t have any answers here. I can’t really give you anything better than Justice Potter as far as a definition of pornography. I can’t tell you why I think Playboy isn’t porn but Penthouse definitely is. Why Maverick and Charlie getting it on to the strains of “Take My Breath Away” is fine but Anna Nicole Smith and Richard Steinmetz bumping uglies in Skyscraper is “bow-chicka-wow-wow” without the male frontal nudity. What the difference is between a Penthouse Forum letter and a Harlequin romance. I don’t think I really wrote this with the idea of coming to a definitive answer. I guess I just wrote to get everybody thinking, to get some wheels turning.

Oh, and to post pics and vids of hot chicks, of course! 🙂

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Responses

  1. Oh, SURE! *I* get to be the first one to comment on THIS one!

    I think that we have such a hard time coming to a definition of pornography because we are, as you say, very complex creatures. It’s not just the images that we have to consider; it’s also the social and personal implications of those images.

    As you know, I’ve gone on a pretty interesting personal journey around this issue, and I think I’ve come to a place where I’m comfortable enough in my own situation to not feel threatened by porn, but I can certainly understand why some people do. It’s about how we relate to those images; whether we do or do not compare ourselves (or our partners) to the images, whether we think our partners compare US to those images, and how we feel about sex in general – and our own sexuality in particular – that’s going to determine our relationship with porn.

    I take a very First Amendment stance on the whole issue (and I’ve got children young enough that I’m conscious of these sorts of images around them); it’s not out on billboards, no one is forcing anyone to pay-per-view. If you have to seek it out, then you really have no cause to complain when you DO find it.

    That being said, I’m interested in a conversation about the reverse sexism of porn. Ask most men (not ALL, I understand, but I bet it’s “most”) whether they’re okay with looking at porn, and they’ll say “Sure!” Ask them if they want their wives or girlfriends looking at porn, and your answer will be a little different. I wonder why that is…

  2. Oh, and I also think that the people who cancel their subscription to SI because of the “pornographic nature” of the swimsuit issue need to lighten the fuck up. We are, in general, WAAAAY too uptight about bodies. Some people are horrified that my daughters (ages 10 and almost 12) see Mr. Chili and me naked on a fairly regular basis. There’s nothing sexual about it, and I try to explain to those people that I want my children to be comfortable in their own skin and to not think of bodies as icky or embarrassing. This is an elbow, this is an earlobe, this is a breast and this is a penis. Get over it, already.

  3. I certainly haven’t had a problem with my partners looking at porn, it’s just that most of them have fit the stereotype of a woman finding pornography offensive.

    The closeest I’ve come to one of the women in my life not finding pornography offensive was the woman I dated before Cookiemaker, who used to come to work with me when I was a DJ at a strip club. She had blast there!

  4. Interesting blog Mr. Falcon! I’m the live and let live type personally.

    The only time I have a real issue with porno is if it’s ‘in place of’ a real person. If it’s in addition to, hey whatever works! ;-)! I’m pretty liberal in general as long as it’s surrounding consenting adults, of course. I believe the key to sexuality is feeling secure about ones’ self and ones’ own sexuality.


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