Arts and pornography Essay
Arts and pornography
?No-one ever asks ‘When does art become realistic? ‘, or ‘When does art become abstract? ‘, or ‘When does art become literary? ‘, although questions like these make as much sense because art can be all or any of these things. This is because we can usually distinguish an abstract work from a realistic or literary one, whereas what pornography is, is unclear in the minds of most people. Pornography derives from two Greek words: porne, which means harlot, and graphos, which refers to writing; however, we use the term today to describe much more than stories about prostitutes.
And when we use it, it is as more than the definition of a class of writing and visual art: it has an ethical (usually pejorative) connotation also. And, like most ethical and aesthetic terms, its use is intensely personal. Just as beautiful really means no more than ‘I like it (although I cannot clearly explain why)’, pornographic means ‘I find this offensive (although I cannot really explain why)’. There is no generally agreed meaning for either of these terms – which bedevils our discussion of both. Art exists in many different forms. Sculpture, paintings, graphics, drawings and such are part of the visual art.
Dance, film, music and theater, as well as literature, are also forms of art. Throughout the years, art has, in all of its forms, interpreted, presented, or made allusion to nudity. Many famous masterpieces or important art represent nude people, and sometimes even persons making love; yet, it is recognized as beautiful art by many people. What difference is there, if any, in the interpretation and importance that we humans give to nude art and pornography? So it leads to my first knowledge issue: When does art become pornography? Here is a real life example.
As we all know, our school invites some nude models for art class, they expose their nude bodies to the art students. I am not sure if it is the reason why many guys take art. Do you think it is art, nasty art, performance art or pornography? Art, nudity and pornography are different, and every individual’s sense perception of what these are will also be different. The area of knowledge of art is one of the most subjective of all the areas of knowledge, which explains why persons interpret it differently. Nudity may or may not be included in the AoK of Art, but it is a part of many art pieces.
Nudity is present in many forms, for example, the famous sculpture of David by Michelangelo Buonarroti. This 5. 17 meter tall statue represents the biblical King David, nude, and it is recognized by many as a masterpiece, and some even consider it a symbol of the defense of civil rights. Vitruvian Man, by Leonardo Da Vinci, is the drawing of a nude man, legs and arms stretched. Michelangelo did not limit himself to sculpting nude man, but also painted many important figures nude on the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, such as Adam, Eve, Jesus, and others. All these art pieces, famous and important, widely recognized masterpieces include nudity.
Of course, the importance and recognition of these art pieces is debatable and can be argued, but many people and important art communities consider them to be masterpieces. These art pieces illustrate both, men and women, sometimes together, other times separated, but share many things in common. All of these art pieces include nudity, and are recognized by many as important art. But then, when does art become pornography? Is it just like crossing a line, on one side its art and the closer you get to that line, it becomes less art until you cross that line and it becomes pornography?
If that is the case, what if you stand on the line, would it be neither art nor pornography, or both? Every single person can interpret it as they want, but as I see it, many factors affect the decision of whether it is art or pornography. I see it as a line, on one side it is art, and on the other it is pornography, because I don’t think that an art piece can be both art and pornography at the same time for a single person. I emphasize on the fact that it is for a single person, as this is very subjective.
Although this is very subjective, as mentioned before, it is also very cultural. In most of Western Europe, nudity is seen in a very different way than in the Middle East, due to cultural and historical differences. In the Middle East, for example, Muslim women must wear the burkha, while in Western Europe there are many semi-nudist or nudist beaches that anyone, regardless of age and gender, can enjoy. This, however, does not justify or imply anything else than the fact that there are higher chances for western Europeans to have higher limits and Middle Eastern people to have lower.
It only means higher chances, because as mentioned before, although culture is a factor that affects where the individual puts the limit, it still is subjective, based on beliefs, ideals, past experiences, and many other factors. The Ways of Knowing apply to this judgment or decision of whether it is art or pornography in different ways for each individual. Sense perception, which includes the five senses, is the main element that allows the interpreter to perceive the art piece, whether it is through hearing, seeing, or touching.
The other two senses, smelling and tasting, are not as relevant for the interpretation of the forms of art mentioned earlier. With the three senses mentioned (sight, hear and touch), a person can interpret a work of art and decide what it is, give an interpretation, a symbol, a meaning to it. Then, through emotions, the person can associate feelings and ideas to the work of art. If the person feels shocked or offended (emotions) from seeing (sense perception) a nude sculpture, he or she might decide it is pornography.
Finally language is very important as it is one of the most important filters affecting the decision between art and pornography. The simple definitions of what is art and what is pornography are evidences of the implications of language. Art can be defined as “the quality, production, expression or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance” in other words, something exceptional according to a set of principles (decided by a majority of people). According to this definition, the masterpieces mentioned before are still art. Pornography is more difficult to define.
The first definition (from dictionary. com) describes pornography as “obscene writings, drawings, photographs especially those having little or no artistic merit”. The definition states “obscene” materials, but obscenity is very subjective and varies from person to person, just like the limit at which art becomes pornography. The second part of the definition is very interesting, and I would agree with it: materials with “little or no artistic merit” so that would mean that is not exceptional according to the set of principles previously mentioned, which again supports the idea that it’s subjective.
Another definition of pornography (from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition) states it is “sexually explicit [material] whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal”. This definition is more ambiguous then the first mentioned. According to this definition, two factors are needed in order for something to be pornography: it needs to be sexually explicit, and it needs to primarily cause sexual arousal.
The problem with this definition is that anything containing nudity is sexually explicit, so all the masterpieces mentioned above have at least the first factor needed to be considered pornography (according to this definition). The second part of the definition is very subjective, because we cannot know what the purpose of the nude sculpture, drawing or painting was unless the author tells us. To conclude, in my personal point of view, art cannot “become” pornography, it is either born as art, or born as pornography, and this depends on each individual’s interpretation of the material in question.
Not only the visual arts, but other forms of arts, especially Medias, have many influences on young people. Anyone who watches television, goes to the movies, or picks up a magazine today knows sex is prominent across all media. Discussions regarding the early sexualization of children and young people are an increasingly hot topic with celebrities and politicians alike having something to say. An analysis of use of the term sexualisation published on the Global Media Insight blogspot showed that in early 2010 use of the term ‘sexualisation’ in both mainstream and social media more than doubled (fig. 1).
This is not to say that the concerns behind the idea of sexualised childhood are new ones; it does however suggest that this is a concept which is increasingly in the collective public consciousness. Although the effects of sexual content have received little attention from researchers in the 1980s, there are strong theoretical reasons to believe that media may play an especially important role in the socialization of sexual knowledge, attitudes and behavior.
These were well summarized by Elizabeth Roberts (1982): “(1) the adult nature of most programming children watch; (2) children’s limited access to or experience with countervailing information or ideas; (3) the ‘realism’ with which roles, relationships, and lifestyles are portrayed; and (4) the overwhelming consistency of the messages about sexuality that are communicated” (Roberts, 1982, p. 209). Each of these points is even more pertinent in 1998 than in 1982.
Children watch a great deal of adult programming, and there has been a steady increase in the frequency and explicitness of sexual content on broadcast television. Young people have access to a much wider range of video content as well as to other entertainment media than they did in the early 1980s. Movies Adolescents see movies in theaters, and the same movies are soon available on pay TV channels and video tape. Many of these movies are “R-rated. ”
They contain more frequent and more explicit portrayals of sexual behavior than broadcast TV – an average of 17. 5 per film in one analysis (Greenberg, Siemicki, Dorfman, Heeter, Stanley, Soderman, &Linsangan, 1993). Like TV, the most frequent sexual activity shown is unmarried sexual intercourse. Sex is often in the context of profanity, alcohol and drug use, and nudity. Not only have the movies, music world confronted similar problem as well. Let’s see a real example. Modern music is becoming increasingly pornographic. It is not about being old-fashioned. It’s about keeping values that are important in the modern world. We can’t watch modern stars like Britney Spears or Lady Gaga with a two-year-old.
99 percent of the charts in R&B and 99 percent of that is soft pornography. Children and young people are being forced to grow up too young. A researcher named Larson (1995) used an experience sampling technique to analyze the relationship between emotional states and the use of television and other media. He argues that adolescents experience increased emotionality and that such emotionality may be related to increased use of music because “it both speaks to adolescents’ personal issues and helps them create a separate experiential space at home… music is also important to adolescents because it helps define their public self outside the family”.
Private, solitary use of both music and television use by adolescents is important in providing them an opportunity to deal with the stress and emotionality of this stage of development. Young people select media which entertain them, contribute to their identity formation, help them cope with their problems and emotional mood states, and form the basis of their selection into youth subcultures.
Today’s generation of youth has easier access to sexual content. From television, movies, magazines, and advertisements (billboards, print, and electronic), to music (on radio and in music videos) and the Internet, youth who are interested in nudity, sexual role models, romance and depictions of sex and intercourse, have a range of media options readily available. Media provide perhaps the least embarrassing way to get information about sex and romance.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 1 June 2017
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