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Pornography and Erotica

By Electric Angst in Culture
Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 09:51:55 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

From Merriam-Webster Online:

Main Entry: por·nog·ra·phy
Pronunciation: -fE
Function: noun
1 : the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement
2 : material (as books or a photograph) that depicts erotic behavior and is intended to cause sexual excitement

Main Entry: erot·i·ca
Pronunciation: i-'rä-ti-k&
Function: noun plural but singular or plural in construction
1 : literary or artistic works having an erotic theme or quality
2 : depictions of things erotic

Do you see the difference here?

Looking at these definitions, it's pretty obvious what the one difference is between pornography and erotica. Porn actually tries to turn you on. Without knowing the intent of the creators, there's basically only one way that you can distinguish the difference between the two (which, in some areas, is a difference that could land you in jail), and that's if it actually turns you on.

Bringing up this issue is important, because there is a current in feminist thought that wishes to create a much stronger divide between these two things. Gloria Steinem's 1977 essay "Pornography vs. Erotica" does its very best to segregate pornography and erotica by the way that power was used in the material (and goes on to make some horribly ill-researched statements about S&M and snuff films).

This type of divide, however, is seriously flawed. It is very much just a step away from the steretypical anti-feminist argument of "A picture of nude man on top of a nude woman is porn, a picture of a nude woman on top of a nude man is erotica." Also, in this age of the internet, when erotic material of nearly any fashion is avalible to anyone with the ability to type, such divisions become laughably pointless. Finally, the very fact that she wishes to create a new, softer label to allow certain types of pornography while maintaining the social (and potentially legal) stigma attached to porn creates a strong suspicion of her intent.

Those attempts at division aside, the problem still arises that there exists pornographic works who's focus is upon the unwilling degredation of its subjects. What can be done about that?

Well, I'd like to make my own catagorical division. Not between pornography and erotica, but instead, between good porn and bad porn. Instead of some form of stigma attached to works of a various nature, there should instead be a commonly-held set of standards for quality amoung the material. I believe that this will do much more good than any possible taboos, as it is allowing instead of restricting. I also believe that, with the removal of taboos and greater access to the material, these standards of quality will develop naturally in our society.

So, to those feminists who's sensibilities are offended by certain pornographic materials, here is my call to action. I say, create you own, better, pornography. Find pornography that doesn't offend your sensibilities, that is of a high quality and promote that rather than rail against the material that is devoid of quality. That is the way that we're going to be able to change things in the pornographic world, and make things better for all of us.


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Pornography and Erotica | 51 comments (48 topical, 3 editorial, 1 hidden)
Nudity taboo laws. (4.66 / 3) (#2)
by Speare on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 05:31:19 PM EST

Several states, including Texas, don't outlaw public nudity. They just outlaw public displays of sexuality. It's not the skin, it's the intent.
[ e d @ h a l l e y . c c ] spare time? know java? earn cash

And then... (4.60 / 5) (#9)
by fluffy grue on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 07:23:04 PM EST

...there's states like Nevada which (according to a friend of mine who lives there) outlaws any outdoor display of nipples. Not just female nipples, either. Nipples in general, due to their implied sexuality (or whatever).
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Ah yes. (4.00 / 3) (#19)
by kwsNI on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 11:33:17 PM EST

Las Vegas. Prostitution capital of the US. I guess they're only concerned about men keeping their shirts on.

I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it. -Jack Handy
[ Parent ]
Protitution (4.50 / 2) (#39)
by fluffy grue on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 04:36:43 PM EST

Prostitutes aren't allowed to show their nipples outdoors, if that's what you're trying to say...
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Prostitution illegal in Vegas (4.50 / 2) (#41)
by ckm on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 08:47:35 PM EST

Prostitution is illegal in Vegas. In fact, it's illegal in any incorporated area and the brothel has to be off of a non-government maintained unpaved road.

I think that there are several other strange rules surrounding prostitution in Nevada, but those are the one's I've heard off.


[ Parent ]
even (5.00 / 1) (#27)
by xriso on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 03:16:59 AM EST

Rubber Nipples?
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
[ Parent ]
the way i see it.. (3.57 / 7) (#3)
by rebelcool on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 05:56:50 PM EST

erotica is the more artsy of the two. All slow and nice and romantic and all that jazz.

Porno is sloppy wet up the ass fucking with advertising on "CHECK OUT THESE BIG TITS AND THE MONEY SHOTS" kind of things.

I think theres alot more porno out there than erotica, really.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

Repost: The real difference (4.50 / 6) (#4)
by johnny appleseid on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 06:04:42 PM EST

This was originally posted here by ubu, but since that story's gone now and this one looks like it's going to post, and it's absolutely fucking hilarious, here it is again. Chet/Erik at his best:
I think Old Man Murray made the point about pornography and "erotic art" better than anyone has or ever will. Read the full thing here.

Since I'm sure erotic photography is much more expensive than your average dirty trucker porn because all the models went to graduate school, I'd like to offer my own cost-cutting advice to the Salon editors. You can get regular old blue collar beaver shots for free at Uh-Oh.net, then have somebody over there - maybe Garrison Keillor - smarten them up. For instance, the series "Pussy Lips on Display" could be "eroticized" by simply renaming it "Pussy Lips on Display...FRANZ KAFKA!" I'm no expert on art, erotic or the completely worthless non-erotic kind, but if I was on my way out for a night of theater followed by poetry slam, and desired a brief unilateral erotic interlude, I think this would do it for me. Here, I'll act it out while I read it:

Pussy Lips on Display - [fluttering hand on chest] "Well I never. How vulgar."
... - "Ellipses. Now that's curious...doo-da-doo...tap tap tap..."
FRANZ KAFKA! - [monocle pops out of eye] HUUHHH?!? Why, Salon, you've done it again! Well marx my engels, Penis, I see you've experienced a metamorphosis of your own! HA HA HA! I'm going to need that monocle back, though.

If income taxes and poor starving babies had anything to do with one another, trhurler vs. streetlawyer would be a lot more interesting to watch.

Eye of the beholder.. (4.14 / 7) (#5)
by Sawzall on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 06:05:06 PM EST

Never did a trite phrase apply more than here. If the famed Justice knew pornography when he saw it, it was almost certainly not good. Why do I say that? Despite what a dictionary may say, our cultural bias tends to put good in the erotic pile, like somehow defining it that way cleans it up. But on the otherhand, saying that if it intends to "turn on", that somehow makes it pornography is a distinction that does not exists. All art is meant to turn you on in some manner. To stimulate some feeling. If it succeeds, it is good art. So does that make erotica only the bad? Rather bipolar...

Unwilling degradation (4.25 / 8) (#6)
by Eloquence on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 06:06:00 PM EST

Those attempts at division aside, the problem still arises that there exists pornographic works who's focus is upon the unwilling degredation of its subjects. What can be done about that?

How do you want to distinguish between unwilling degradation and simple masochism? Also, how do you define degradation? Some feminist essays by Dworkin and MacKinnon on the subject already seem to define sexual intercourse between a male and a female as degradation. Also, the same feminists have often ignored female porn advocates and basically defined porn actresses as "unwilling" regardless of their own opinions.

These "feminists" are really not far away from religious fundamenatlists who hide women's faces or prevent them from riding bikes because they are considered "sexually provocative". Replace "sexually provocative" with "degrading women", and the remaining logic is the same. Fortunately, the feminist movement is split, and the logic by Dworkin & Co. is strongly opposed by parts of this movement (cf. Feminists Against Censorship).

The content of a picture should not be relevant for the right to distribute or consume it; it should only be relevant for prosecuting criminals. And if you want to prevent women from being raped or tortured for photos against their will (which happens, fortunately, extremely rarely), the best way to do it is, as you correctly point out, to remove the taboos on the pictures. Through legalization and public discourse, actual crimes can be prevented better without harming individual rights. It's really the same as with prostitution and drugs.
Copyright law is bad: infoAnarchy · Pleasure is good: Origins of Violence
spread the word!

Playing with Power... (4.66 / 3) (#13)
by Electric Angst on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 08:36:22 PM EST

"Unwilling degredation" indicates that the peformer is being degredated and demeaned in some fashion that is against their will. The definition is perhaps a bit overbroad, but it is generally accepted that in many forms of pornography, power archetypes are fodder for manipulation, and that to leave nothing but those materials containing erotica in which all participants are depicted as equal would be, in a word, boring. Making the willingness of the participants an issue gets rid of the tricky power struggle, and turns it into something much more tangeble.

"Honey, we're all in drag. Most people just don't know it." -Rupaul
[ Parent ]
Er (4.37 / 8) (#7)
by trhurler on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 06:20:24 PM EST

Well, if you want to make better porn, I certainly applaud you, but there is something here I don't get. What're we supposed to discuss? Is someone supposed to disagree by saying, "No, I'm against better porn, because I like my shitty Ron Jeremy pumping some 20 year old college girl in a swimming pool while some guy does Ron's 'wife' upstairs kind of porn?" Is someone supposed to actually believe that erotica doesn't turn people on? I don't get it.

I know a lot of people who do and who do not like porn. I know a lot more who don't really care all that much. You know what? Invariably, the anti-porn crowd is no fun to be around, and almost invariably, the pro-porn people are the most fun to hang around with, unless they're porn fanatics, in which case they're not all that different from anime fans:)

Regardless, I do believe that people involved should be willing, obviously, and generally they are(certainly in the mainstream porn industry in the US they are, and quite well paid, unless they suffer the curse of being male,) but I don't think content is important to anyone but those who make it and those who watch it; if you aren't one of those two, then your opinion doesn't count.

'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

Men in porn make more than women... (3.80 / 5) (#8)
by Electric Angst on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 07:18:59 PM EST

True, female performers are paid more than their male counterparts, but they are less likely to be able to break in to the positions that make the real money, production and distribution. Those positions are almost exclusivly male, and there's much more money there than any performer can ever dream of making...

"Honey, we're all in drag. Most people just don't know it." -Rupaul
[ Parent ]
Well, (4.20 / 5) (#10)
by trhurler on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 07:23:26 PM EST

Yes, but seeing as the comparison I made was between performers, and seeing as the women who perform are in fact well paid(better than I am, that's for damned sure,) I think maybe you're barking up the wrong tree. In any case, a large part of the reason women don't get into production and distribution is that very few porn actors ever become porn businesspeople, even if they ARE men; the career path for the business side of porn is more akin to traditional finance than anything else. Women are making inroads in finance, and sooner or later, that will show up in the porn world too.

'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Better paid than you? (3.50 / 4) (#12)
by Electric Angst on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 08:30:29 PM EST

Sure, a woman who's just getting started, and happens to be on a 'hot streak' will probably make more than you. Unfortunantly for her, those 'hot streaks' generally only last one or two years (at most, and that's with good name recognition), while your knowledge and skill set will probably ensure you make as much as you do now and more as time goes passes.

To take an entire industry and judge only the most visible part of it, instead of the entire thing, is like going into the mail room for one building of some multinational corporation and using that to extrapolate the demographics of the entire company...

"Honey, we're all in drag. Most people just don't know it." -Rupaul
[ Parent ]
Sexist (4.57 / 7) (#18)
by ucblockhead on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 10:35:18 PM EST

At its root, the argument that porn exploits women is sexist. It is sexist in that it makes the implicit assumption that women in porn are somehow damaged whereas men in porn are not.

A pro basketball star has about the same active career time as a porn star. Are they exploited?

A female porn star can make around $4000 a day (according to Susan Faludi in "Stiffed"), yet her male costar is often making only $200. If she is being exploited, is he not being exploited as well?

To say that porn exploits and degrades people is one thing, but to single out the women is to buy into the implicit assumption that women are somehow less able to protect themselves from exploitation than men are.

This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

I agree with you. (4.50 / 4) (#24)
by Electric Angst on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 12:24:17 AM EST

...that's why I did my best to avoid gender-specific terms when I wrote my origional article. My reply to trhurler was correcting his ignorance about females in the porn industry making more than males, and thusly encompassed gender. The nature of exploitation is interesting, and it becomes an issue of the will of those who work within the industry, be they male or female.
"Honey, we're all in drag. Most people just don't know it." -Rupaul
[ Parent ]
Well, (4.00 / 2) (#38)
by trhurler on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 11:58:31 AM EST

Let's see. A "hot" female porn star is probably working at least the same hours I am, maybe more. Making several thousand a day. So, you can figure that it takes her about ten to twenty days to make what I do in a year, depending on just where she's at in that "several" range. Now, if she's an idiot, and spends it all, then that's a problem - professional athletes have the same problem. However, if she lives even remotely sensibly and puts her money into well chosen investments(this is not hard; you just go to a guy at a big brokerage and say "I have a lot of money, and I want even more," and he'll take care of it,) a couple of years of this will give her enough money that she should never have to work again, in any industry. Yeah, that's exploitation for you.

The key to almost any work you do is, if you aren't asking yourself, "what is it going to take to make me comfortable down the road?" then you are screwing yourself over. I could work my whole life at the kind of job I have now, and I could spend every dime, and then bitch about how I was "used." Or, I could do what I'm doing, and be very happy.

'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
While we're on the topic of porn.. (4.14 / 7) (#11)
by rebelcool on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 07:36:00 PM EST

The Onion is re-running their interview with Ron Jeremy here

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

Remember freedom? (4.00 / 8) (#14)
by QuantumG on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 09:17:21 PM EST

You can take your "restrictions" and your "taboos" and shove em. Remember me? I'm the citizen, with inalienable rights. I have freedom to look at what I want, to produce what I want, and before you try and take those rights away you better do more than redefine a few words. You better pick up a gun, cause that's what I'll be doing. This is what has always pissed me off about Feminism, they're all too willing to use force to achieve their own ends. Men get paid more than women, oh, we'll just make it illegal to pay men more than women. Fair? I dont care if it is fair. When you make something illegal (and dont ever forget this) you are threatening to imprison someone who doesn't do what you want them to do. More than that, in the US you are sometimes threatening to take their life or subject them to sexual abuse (in prison). Laws take away freedom. If you want to convince me your way is the right way, you will have to argue for it.

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
Cute, kid. (4.40 / 5) (#17)
by Electric Angst on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 10:33:07 PM EST

Ah, yes, the old libertarian staple "They're threatening to use government force! They're evil!" I think streetlawyer pretty much ripped this one to shreds in this beautiful piece of satire.

See, there's a thing called social responsibility. It is pretty much prerequisite for a society that its citizens to have some degree of social responsibility. Unfortunantly, some people feel compelled to act out of greed and selfishness, in violation of a society's generally held level of social responsibility. Sometimes, these transgressions are so severe that the society must use force to reprimand the violator, or else risk being torn appart.

So, go right on ahead and throw around the word "right". That's just another social construct. I'll tell you right now that if you were to produce and view, oh, say child pornography (after all, if it's what you want to view then you'll view it, by god). You'll probably have to reach for your gun as the SWAT team, our society's enforcers of social responsibility, break down your door and proceed to beat the shit out of you.

"Honey, we're all in drag. Most people just don't know it." -Rupaul
[ Parent ]
it all depends (4.25 / 4) (#26)
by xriso on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 03:14:45 AM EST

on what you think a government's purpose is. Some say it is just to create an environment of maximized freedom. Others might say it is to make an excellent economy. Still others may say it is to minimize suffering. Most would say that it is also the government's job to create external security (eg. an army). A little bit of internal security may be wanted as well (eg. stop civilians from owning nukes).

PS: one might say that there should be nothing legally wrong with viewing child porn, but rather the child has a right to not be mistreated as at the time of the photography.
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
[ Parent ]

yes... one might say it ... (4.00 / 2) (#29)
by neuneu2K on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 05:47:53 AM EST

Me ! Producing "child pornography" can be in some case just drawing hentai...
Owning "child pornography" can be just having a freenet node...
Criminalising Images is very dangerous (if that does not appeal to you, think of criminalising books !)... If the SWAT waste valuable time attacking "child pornography" viewers instead of jailing rapers, yes a gun might be needed !

(whohoo! i have been trolled by Electric Angst !)
- "And machine code, which lies beneath systems ? Ah, that is to do with the Old Testament, and is talmudic and cabalistic..." - Umberto Eco
[ Parent ]
Thomas Jefferson paraphrased (4.00 / 2) (#32)
by JazzManJim on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 09:08:42 AM EST

Jefferson said something very much like "The only job of Government is to do that which the People can not do for themselves". Granted, that casts a fairly wide umbrella over the role of government, but it does have a government doing far less than mine does right now. I'm not sure if that helps the conversation, but it does give some fuel to discuss whether the people are able to censor themselves, or whether the government would have to.

"Hostility toward America is a religious duty, and we hope to be rewarded for it by God...I am confident that Muslims will be able to end the legend of the so-called superpower that is America."
(Osama bin Laden - 10 Jan 1999)
[ Parent ]
Here's another "social construct" for ya (4.00 / 3) (#28)
by ti dave on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 04:21:03 AM EST

"Sometimes, these transgressions are so severe that the society must use force to reprimand the violator..."

Now, remind me EA, who gets to set that severity threshhold?

Don't answer me with a generic "society" either,
let's get really specific here.
Citizens' freedoms are at stake.

BTW, Your invocation of Kiddie Porn bears an uncanny resemblance to Godwin's Law.


ti dave
"If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

[ Parent ]
Yep, some coercion IS needful . . . (none / 0) (#48)
by liberalmafia on Sun Jul 08, 2001 at 05:08:23 PM EST

. . . . For one thing, there will always be violent, destructive people who can only be stopped by force and coercion.

(Warning: irritated feminist comment) Male supremacists have *always* been willing to use force to subjugate women -- rapes, beatings, coercive laws, etc. Why is it so much *more* outrageous when feminists seek laws?

And finally, all human life contains -- and must contain -- some elements of coercion anyway.

"No ideal could be more destructive of human life than the ideal of non-coerciveness. A new-born human is so helpless, much more helpless even than the half-inch blob which is a new-born kangaroo, that it would never survive for one day if hands which are *both coercive and loving* did not guide it to the nipple which it would never find on its own."
-- David Stove, The Plato Cult (From Critiques of Libertarianism. There's an MPL for the day.)

It's more realistic to talk about when and where and to what degree coercion is necessary and proper than to denounce coercion the way a puritanical prude denounces pornography.

[ Parent ]

Bad Porn (3.50 / 8) (#15)
by wiredog on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 09:25:37 PM EST


Whadda ya know. An actual, legitimate use of that link in a way which is apropos of the discussion. How rare.

"Anything that's invented after you're 35 is against the natural order of things", Douglas Adams

That isn't so much porn (4.33 / 3) (#23)
by delmoi on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 12:15:24 AM EST

Well, it might have origionaly be that way. But now it's just a 'thing' more shock value than anything else I think.
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Some MLP (4.00 / 7) (#16)
by zakalwe on Thu Jul 05, 2001 at 09:46:58 PM EST

But how do you classify this?

How to classify? (3.00 / 2) (#21)
by Scribe on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 12:09:56 AM EST

Excellent satire!!

[ Parent ]
Definition of pornography (3.40 / 5) (#22)
by sigwinch on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 12:10:02 AM EST

Porn actually tries to turn you on. Without knowing the intent of the creators, there's basically only one way that you can distinguish the difference between the two (which, in some areas, is a difference that could land you in jail), and that's if it actually turns you on.
A friend of mine defines pornography as "whatever makes the judge wet". Here in Oklahoma, that's a pretty good working definition.

I don't want the world, I just want your half.

Feeling Singled Out? (4.50 / 4) (#25)
by Crashnbur on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 02:50:26 AM EST

The author almost makes it seem like feminists are the only ones railing against pornography... I'm no expert on the subject, but I would guess that parents and political leftists are somewhat against free and dirty porn too.

Still, I'm not quite sure that promoting "better" pornography would make the "bad" pornography go away. Along those same lines, just because feminists or parents don't like something or don't want something available to their children doesn't mean that the rest of the world should suffer for it. Perhaps the parents should just try harder to keep the stuff away from their children rather than actually trying to get rid of the stuff. (Both actions can be the same thing at times...)

Either way, I would be more in favor of simply letting both erotica and pornography serve their purposes. Erotica is intended to be appreciated as art. Pornography is intended to be appreciated as a catalyst for, um, sexual excitement (euphemism!). Let the laws be applied as they may, but don't go around suggesting and making new and more restricting laws. Then it just falls into the category of negative rights. (You know, you never technically had that *right* in the first place, but it is now prohibited ... I call those negative rights.) That's my stance.

While somewhat in disagreement with the author, I still respect the opinion and would like to see others commenting on it, so I naturally voted +1...


Censorship for the benefit of kiddies (4.00 / 4) (#30)
by simon farnz on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 05:48:11 AM EST

People often forget that the best way to make people behave is to supervise them, even lightly. If parents don't want their children looking at the range of porn on the net (and I can see their point), then just passing by from time to time as the child is browsing should be enough to stop them.

Censorware is often used as an excuse to allow parents to abnegate their responsibility. If you view the Internet as a big city, then you end up with a better idea of what control is needed.
If guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns
[ Parent ]

Nice metaphor... (4.00 / 2) (#43)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 11:31:03 PM EST

... Internet as a big city. I'm sure it isn't original, but I've never heard it before (that I can remember). The internet does remind me of so cities I've been to, ones where from anywhere, porn and the like were never more than two blocks away. :)

[ Parent ]

Leftists? (4.33 / 3) (#37)
by CrayDrygu on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 11:50:28 AM EST

"I would guess that parents and political leftists are somewhat against free and dirty porn too."

You know, I used to think I was pretty far left, politically speaking, but with all the accusations people have been making recently about what the lefties must think of this, and oh I bet all the leftists are behind that one, I'm starting to think that someone's got the wrong impression of the left side of things, and I'm not sure if it's me or all these people.

Either way, I have a fairly decent collection of porn, thank you.

[ Parent ]

How Fitting... (2.80 / 5) (#31)
by edibiase on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 09:04:40 AM EST

Your vote (1) was recorded.
This story currently has a total score of 69.

www.scarletletters.com (3.50 / 2) (#34)
by your_desired_username on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 09:43:38 AM EST

(Don't go there from work.) (Disclaimer: I dislike a fair percentage of their material - but they sure write like feminists.)

Wow! (2.83 / 6) (#35)
by Vladinator on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 09:52:52 AM EST

Your vote (1) was recorded. This story currently has a total score of 80. You're the straw that broke the camel's back! Your vote put this story over the threshold, and it should now appear on the Section page. Enjoy!

Always happy to help! :-)
LRSE Hosting
Amateur porn without the nudity (4.80 / 5) (#40)
by kzin on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 08:02:59 PM EST

Take a look at ISPs, a web piece of art by John Haddock. Many of his works deal with the conflict between the media and our own feelings. This particular page contains thumbnails of amateur porn pictures he found on the web and out of which he had carefully photoshopped out the actual figures.

What is still left brings out strange feelings; their exact nature is highly subjective. Of course that after the editing nothing sexual about them remained, but much of persons who used to appear naked is still there. The unseen amateur models had chosen a scene, a room, objects and camera angle, and all these are still present. Those scenes and objects are usually in the models' homes, and so their furniture, clothes, even family photos still appear in the pictures. All these bring out a wish to know more about the person, a bit of intimacy. Similar feelings to those Jennicam, or (to a lesser extent) Survivor makes me feel.

I think what Haddock tried to do is to distill those emotions out of the amateur porn. They are not Haddock's creation; they were always there, giving the porn its added "amateur" value.

So how does amateur porn fit in with the division between Erotica and Pornography? It is sexually exciting, but it also has something more, something that is found in neither professional porn nor professional erotica. From the pure "porn quality" point of view that the story is suggesting as an alternative distinction, amateur porn is really, really bad. But then again, so is Survivor's storyline. It is not because of drama quality or superb modeling that people like those genres, it is because of the added "amateur" value -- a value that is anything but degrading.

This strikes me as analogous... (4.00 / 3) (#44)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 11:34:55 PM EST

... to some songs I've heard that played around with leaving out notes that one is expecting to hear. Thanks for the link.

[ Parent ]

Quality not always the issue (5.00 / 6) (#42)
by Keslin on Fri Jul 06, 2001 at 09:24:01 PM EST

So, to those feminists who's sensibilities are offended by certain pornographic materials, here is my call to action. I say, create you own, better, pornography. Find pornography that doesn't offend your sensibilities, that is of a high quality and promote that rather than rail against the material that is devoid of quality. That is the way that we're going to be able to change things in the pornographic world, and make things better for all of us.
Haha, wow, that's an interesting suggestion, were you expecting that suggestion to be completely rhetorical? I have been absent from K5 for a couple of months because I have spent 100% of my time lately doing exactly what you are suggesting. I'm female, I'm a feminist, and I'm a pornographer. I didn't like most of the porn that I saw, so I decided to try to make a minor dent by making my own, on my terms. I have actually been very well-received by women in general, and feminists in particular.

I have to pop in with a correction though: quality is not the critical issue in the success of pornographic content. Far from it, in fact. I just recently got it through my thick skull that there are a lot of porn consumers out there that specifically and intentionally gravitate toward very low-quality porn. They like ugly people, poor lighting, cheap cameras, and poor photographers. They see content as being more authentic and approachable if it is totally awful, and professionally polished material turns them off. Keep in mind that it is not a small percentage of the market that feels this way. I have actually gone so far recently as to produce photographic content that was intentionally of far lower quality than I normally would, specifically to appeal to this facet of my audience.

If you're going to suggest looking at pornography from a quality perspective, then I think that it is very important to define exactly what you mean by the term "quality". Technical perfection is the first thing to come to mind when you hear the word "quality", but technical perfection plays a relatively limited role in the success of porn. What plays a much more bigger role is what I refer to as "wankability". You could rephrase that as "quality is defined in terms of how useful it is to your audience". If your audience's primary goal in consuming your content is sexual gratification, then the term "quality" doesn't refer to the tonal range or the composition of a photograph, or how attractive a model is. Instead it refers to how well the material facilitates sexual gratification. High quality material is anything that really turns a person on, evokes an emotional or sexual response, something that entertains on exactly the level that they are seeking. By this standard, a lot of the images that you see in Playboy might be considered low quality by some people, even though it is obviously of high technical quality. If it doesn't arouse, though, then it's low quality.

What does this have to do with your story? My point is that categorizing porn based on quality standards is simply not possible. To Gloria Steinem, a simple nude photo from Playboy might be the highest possible quality, whereas a cheap Gonzo porn DVD of a guy picking up strippers and nailing them would be of the lowest because of the degradation and objectification factor. To your average porn consumer though, the quality standards are exactly reversed because the average porn consumer is looking for something that will turn him on and help him to get off. Nobody will ever agree on what material should be classified "good" and what material should be classified "bad".

-Keslin, the naked nerd girl.

Definition of pornography quite easy (4.50 / 2) (#45)
by Knuckles on Sat Jul 07, 2001 at 09:14:16 AM EST

I once read a definition I like very much (of course I can't remember where and by whom). Unfortunately I don't know the English words for the German "Signifikant" and "Signifikat", at the moment, so I'll try to explain them:

"Signifikant" == that which expresses, i.e. the word 'tree' (think of it as the pointer)

"Signifikat" == the thing pointed to by the expression, i.e. the thing tree (think of it as the dereferenced pointer)

The definition is:
It's pornography when "Signifikant" and "Signifikat" are the same

The beauty of this definition is, IMHO:
1.) It's clear and usefule in practice (try to decide if something is pornography according to this definition for, e.g., a.) 9 1/2 weeks b.) Deep Throat)
2.) It takes pornography out of the realm of the sexual and makes it applicable to other media phenomenons like TV talk shows or depiction of violence

Signifier and signified (none / 0) (#46)
by Macrobat on Sun Jul 08, 2001 at 12:01:02 PM EST

I believe the words you are looking for are "signifier" and "signified," respectively. But it doesn't clear up your definition of pornography, though. When is the word 'tree' ever an actual tree? The only case I could imagine was a plant bonsai'ed into the shape of the word. And then it's only pornography in one language.

"Hardly used" will not fetch a better price for your brain.
[ Parent ]

Trees (none / 0) (#47)
by Knuckles on Sun Jul 08, 2001 at 02:09:44 PM EST

When is the word 'tree' ever an actual tree?

Maybe this is why we have no alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.trees :)
I used 'tree' only to explain the words (thanks BTW; where did I have my brain?).

However, a photo that shows a simple intercourse can be taken from an actual intercourse or an intercourse that was simulated, i.e., acted. Furthermore, it can be content with depicting the intercourse (i.e., not more than really happened) or use it a broader context (maybe a story about a woman's life)

A spanking movie depicting a spanking without consent can be filmed off a spanking that really happened without consent or a careful setting everybody involved approved of

A story about sex with a minor can tell a real happening in all detail or be completely fictuous

The depicted killing of a person can be acted or real

The definition has some rather interesting implications: It may lead to different assessments depending on the media used for the expression. It also leads to the question if completely fictuous expressions can be considered pornography at all. Also, the definition clearly leads to differentiations that are different (sometimes radically so) to the outcome of other definitions. I don't see this as a weakness.
It may be that the definition forces one to consider if the item under examination tries to point to broader topics than it shows or talks about. By this I mean, is the item content with showing only the surface of its theme or is its theme used to discuss more than is visible. The factor of wankability that Keslin has beautifully introduced may be important here, too. I don't like this possible implication of the definition, since it probably forces one to also consider mental actions of the viewer/reader, which ideally should not come into play. Also, the definition can not be used to decide if an item is desireable to exist: It can't be used to say "this is pornography and therefore is harmful and should be banned", since it concerns itself with other problems. This decision must be taken by the persons who need to make it for some reason (parents, etc.) and they must use their own moral standpoints

Please also note that I don't advocate this definition as being true in any sense of the word. I do like it and find it useful as a thinking device, but if it were destroyed in the discussion I'd be happy to have learned something. Here are two decisions which I like that seem to me to be supported by the definition:
a.) Any (sexual, but probably also others) art involving children that had to be there (since the item is, e.g., a photo) is a priori pornography, since it's extremely questionable if children can make the differentiation between "I'm only playing it" and "it really happens to me" (even adults often can't)
b.) A news report that purports to show "the results of war" but only shows disconnected limbs for the horror factor (wankability) is pornography

[ Parent ]

Real or play irrelevant (5.00 / 1) (#49)
by Keslin on Mon Jul 09, 2001 at 06:50:56 PM EST

I'm deeply saddened to see one of my favorite terms, "wankability", used in conjunction with severed limbs from a war film. Remember that the wankability of any given item of content is extremely subjective. There are people out there wanking off to pictures of me that don't reveal anything but my toes. They just like toes. To a toe guy, a picture of my foot might be extremely wankable, but to most people it's just a picture of toes.

Regardless of that though, this definition still just doesn't make much sense. I just don't understand why the reality behind a pornographic scene of any kind is relevant at all in deciding whether something is "porn" or "erotica". Whether what you're seeing was real has a lot to do with how much you can enjoy the material, but I don't see what it has to do with how it's classified beyond that.

Some of my very favorite pornography involves sex between married couples. It's much easier to suspend disbelief and get into the mood of thinking that the performers are really enjoying themselves if you know that they do have some real connection in the real world. Why would that be "erotica" though, instead of porn? To me it's even more gratuitous (and wankable) if it's real, not less.

The real problem here is that trying to define "pornography" and "erotica" and trying to classify material as being one or the other is just silly to begin with. This issue has cropped up before around here, and I said basically the same thing then: trying to decide if something is "pornography" or "art" or "erotica" is just fundamentally pointless. The categories are too subjective, the categories are (I think) not mutually-exclusive, and there is very little benefit in being able to classify anything anyway. Why bother? Why should we care?

Shouldn't we spend our energy on maturing to the point where those classifications are irrelevant, instead of arguing about classification methods? This reminds me of all of the effort that people used to go through in trying to decide how much black ancestry a white person could have and still be classified as "white" instead of "black". People used to get all worked up over it, there were all kinds of rules. A person that is 1/4 black is considered black in Mississippi. I'm 50% Japanese and 50% white, so I'm considered "Asian", not "White". What is the point of that classification? What was the point of all of the effort and debate that went into coming up with that rule? Why does anybody care? The classifications are used as a mechanism for not maturing to a level where race is irrelevant. In the same way, labels like "art", "pornography" and "erotica" are just ways to avoid what really matters.

We should be talking about why people are so uncomfortable with sexually-explicit material, as opposed to struggling with what rules we use to determine if any given item is acceptable or not. A preoccupation with classifying all sexually-explicit material as either "pornography" or "erotica" contains a very overt subtext that says "erotica is okay, pornography is not". We really need to advance past that and learn to enjoy every aspect of ourselves, including our sexuality.

-Keslin, the naked nerd girl.

[ Parent ]

Trees redux (none / 0) (#51)
by Macrobat on Tue Jul 10, 2001 at 11:58:24 AM EST

My point was that, not only in the instance of a tree, but in any instance, the signifier and the signified cannot be the same. There may be some overlap depending on what kind of act or symbol is used as the signifier, but they aren't the same, especially when the signifier is a record of an event (which pornography/erotica, at least in this context, is).

I may have been a little deliberately obtuse on that point, but I bristle a little when I hear mid-eighties lit crit terms like 'signifier' and 'signified.' Sorry.

"Hardly used" will not fetch a better price for your brain.
[ Parent ]

Definition (5.00 / 2) (#50)
by ljoas on Mon Jul 09, 2001 at 11:27:34 PM EST

If men like it, it's pornography.
If women like it, it's erotica.


Pornography and Erotica | 51 comments (48 topical, 3 editorial, 1 hidden)
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