Tags: , , , , , , , [ × ]

So, I have decided to delve further into the world of erotica. Pushing limits, testing boundaries, seeing what is and can be considered erotica. In order to fully understand what it is I am looking to create, I first felt I needed to understand what is erotica.

Erotica (from the Greek word Eros – “desire”) — refers to works of art, including literature, photography, film, sculpture and painting, that deal substantively with erotically stimulating or arousing descriptions. Erotica is a modern word used to describe the portrayal of the human anatomy and sexuality with high-art aspirations, differentiating such work from commercial pornography. Erotic photography should be distinguished from pornographic photography, which is of a sexually explicit nature. Erotic photography is a style of art photography of an erotic, sexually suggestive and even sexually provocative nature.

Distinction is often made between erotica and pornography, although depending on the viewer they may seem one in the same. Pornography’s objective is the graphic depiction of sexually explicit scenes. Pornography is often described as exploitative or degrading. Erotica, on the other hand, seeks to tell a story with sexual themes. It attempts to explore desire through mystery and intrigue.

A truer distinction may lie in intent and message; erotic art intended as pieces of art, encapturing formal elements of art, and drawing on other historical artworks. Pornography may also use the exact same tools, but is intended primarily to arouse one sexually. Nevertheless, these elements of distinction are highly subjective.

For instance, Justice Potter Stewart of the Supreme Court of the United States, in attempting to explain “hard-core” pornography, or what is obscene, famously wrote, “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced . . . but I know it when I see it . . . .”

So, now that leads me to ponder, is what I am seeking to produce going to be erotica or is it going to be porn? So now I need to look closer at what constitutes porn, not what The Miller Test considers to be porn(The Miller Test is the benchmark test used by the Supreme Court to determine if something is obscene and not of artistic value), but rather what I feel porn is.

So, first I need to define clearly what porn is, in a text book, cut and dried manner. Pornography or porn is the explicit depiction of sexual subject matter, especially with the sole intention of sexually exciting the viewer, with no artistic value. It is to a certain extent similar to erotica, which is the use of sexually-arousing imagery for mainly artistic purposes. Ok, so following this basic definition, I am seeking to create erotic art, not accidently producing porn.

But, will my work still be considered porn? Will my showings be protested? Will I be a victim of censorship? So, let us look at the benchmark test used in the United States to consider a work obscene, rendering it not protected by the First Amendment. That is The Miller Test, which I briefly mentioned earlier. So, what is this powerful tool, for our courts to use? Well, let me talk about it for a second. The Miller Test was developed during the 1973 case of Miller V. California, in which Miller was charged with distribution of obscene materials. So, the court refined what was the test of the time, which made anything illegal that “depraves and corrupts those whose minds are open to such immoral influences and into whose hands a publication of this sort might fall.”(i.e. children). Miller refined the wording, refined the standards, into a three part test, when anything is weighed against Miller, it must meet all three standards. The standards of Miller are:
* Whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest, * Whether the work depicts/describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions specifically defined by applicable state law, * Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
So, all my pictures must be weighed against this, to be considered erotic art, that is protected by the First Amendment, otherwise it is porn… but this also raises questions for me. I mean, whose community are we taking the standards from. Who picks what community? I mean a rural community in Kentucky might deem something offensive, that NYC community standards laugh at as cliche. So, it is left up to each individual areas determination of community standards, when it should be weighed against a national community standard, more equal. With the proliferation of the internet, Miller is being tested, with the work being produced and stored in one location, and someone in a completely different community(with different standards) is being granted access. So, now you have to ask, in which jurisdiction does the standard apply? The pending case of United States v. Extreme Associates, involves content delivered purely over the internet, across state lines, will test Miller and other obscenity laws. Keep your eyes out for this.

So, when did pornography become such a horrible thing? The depiction of sexual acts is as old as civilization (and can be found painted on various ancient buildings), but the concept of pornography as understood today did not exist until the Victorian era. Previous to that time, though some sex acts were regulated or stipulated in laws, looking at objects or images depicting them was not. The world’s first law criminalizing pornography was enacted by the Parliament of the United Kingdom in 1857 in the Obscene Publications Act. And in 2005 a bill was introduced in the U.K. that sought to outlaw, what was deemed “extreme pornography”, which is tested against these standards:
* an act which threatens or appears to threaten a person’s life,
* an act which results in or appears to result (or be likely to result) in serious injury to a person’s anus, breasts or genitals,
* an act which involves or appears to involve sexual interference with a human corpse,
* a person performing or appearing to perform an act of intercourse or oral sex with an animal,
The British Government also wishes to criminalize possession of the material in order to attempt to reduce the risk of children coming into contact with it. The consultation cited a study which reported “57% of all 9-19 year olds surveyed who use the Internet at least once a week had come into contact with pornography online”, but it did not distinguish between different forms of pornography, and the government has no plans to criminalize all pornography for the same reason. This argument is weak and unsubstantiated, in fact current research proves the opposite. A 1995 study, in Japan(which is a large producer of rape fantasy pornography), comparing crime statistics since 1972 when pornography changed from totally prohibited to freely available with no age restrictions found that:

“sex crimes in every category, from rape to public indecency, sexual offenses from both ends of the criminal spectrum, significantly decreased in incidence. Most significantly, despite the wide increase in availability of pornography to children, not only was there a decrease in sex crimes with juveniles as victims but the number of juvenile offenders also decreased significantly. We hypothesized that the increase in pornography, without age restriction and in comics, if it had any detrimental effect, would most negatively influence younger individuals. Just the opposite occurred. The number of victims decreased particularly among the females younger than 13. In 1972, 8.3% of the victims were younger than 13. In 1995 the percentage of victims younger than 13 years of age dropped to 4.0%; a reduction of greater than 50%. In 1972, 33.3 % of the offenders were between 14-19 years of age; by 1995 that percentage had decreased to 9.6%..”

A lower per capita crime rate and historically high availability of pornography in many developed European countries (e.g. Netherlands, Sweden) has some researchers to conclude that there is an inverse relationship between the two, such that an increased availability of pornography in a society equates to a decrease in sexual crime. Moreover, there is some evidence that states within the U.S. that have lower rates of internet access have a greater incidence of rape. Some researchers have concluded that wide availability of pornography may reduce crimes by giving potential offenders a socially accepted way of regulating their own sexuality. So, what the regulation and censorship of pornography may actually be doing is increasing and driving sex based crimes. That is interesting to ponder.

So, again, I ask myself, what kind of work do I want to create? Do, I want to hold my nose in the air and declare, “I only produce erotic art”? Or do , I want to be honest, raw and open and state, “I produce images that some will find erotic, some will consider porn, some will be offended, but honestly, I don’t give a fuck what you want to call it.”

My conclusion from all of this… is to sit back, enjoy the images and not be concerned over what people want to call it.