Sunday, May 9, 2010

Subjective Discrimination

As a nudist and an erotic artist, I frequently encounter discrimination against nudity and sexuality. There are a number of topics in the great list that inspire trepidation in the hearts of normal, well-adjusted folks, but of them all, sex seems to be the one with the most generalized stigma. And, unfortunately, instead of allowing nudity to be appreciated independently, it is combined under the great heading of "sex" in the minds of far too many. People may complain about violence, harsh language, drug use, all sorts of "immoral" activities, but nothing scares us as much as sex. For what other topic do we exert more effort to compartmentalize it and hide it away from impressionable minds?

I have mostly good things to say about the photo-sharing website called flickr, and anything bad I say about it should be taken in context - I have yet to discover a better site for my purposes on the whole of the internet, and I am very grateful for the opportunity for sharing and growing as a photographer that the site has given (and continues to give) me. Still, as an idealist, I can't help pointing out the flaws when I see them. Even when they don't have a clear solution - I don't think we should just sweep a problem under the rug simply because we can't (yet) find an agreeable solution to it.

I have no problem with flickr's content filters in theory. I think they are a good idea. Lots of people are upset by sex and nudity, and being able to give each person a choice whether to see that kind of material or not is a whole lot better than simply outlawing the material across the board (which is the path taken by most sites that are not dedicated to porn). But, it remains to be said that the filters very clearly discriminate against nudity and sexual content. That's not an argument against the usage of filters, but more so the attitude towards sex and nudity, and the overbroad application of the filters.

The problem I have is that there is no consideration made for artistic quality. Now I know that people will argue that defining what is "art" is just as difficult as defining what is "porn", but though the line between them may be vague, the extremes on either side clearly distinguish themselves from one another. What bothers me is having to put a clearly artistic shot on the same "level" as a clearly prurient shot. It bothers me in principle, and it concerns me because the artistic qualities of my erotic art are being neglected on account of the fact that it "shows too much" or that it "unreservedly broaches the subject of sexuality" - even when it does so in a tasteful manner. And it also makes it harder for my work to be appreciated by the type of individual - artist - who is open-minded enough to view erotic art, but not at all interested in the non-artistic purely prurient shots that populate flickr. For that, I can't lay any blame, but it hardly seems fair to me for my artistic work to be stored in the same "drawer" (under the same level of filtering) as these other non-artistic shots.

I'm really not trying to be elitist about "art" here - I'm really not. But tell me there isn't a difference between an artistic shot like this:

And a clearly vulgar shot like this. A world of difference, I say. Yet, on flickr, they both belong under the same content filter. Of course, if we were to separate the filter into "erotic" content and "prurient" content, there would surely be a lot of argument about what goes where. This is, as I understand it, the reasoning behind the overbroad nature of the filter as it is now - it is far easier to regulate a photo based on "what" it shows, than on "how" it shows it. Still, this is a decision of efficiency, and I can't be fully satisfied with it.

Of course, in the end, it comes down to simple discrimination. Although I've heard of the filters being used for other subjects, such as graphic violence, the concentration of attention is clearly on sexual material. On a side note, why do people get upset that sex is so popular? Why can't they just embrace it - what's with the Puritanism? People get offended by different things. I think closeups of penises are gross, but otherwise I'm not terribly shocked by nudity or sexual material that isn't excessively explicit. On the other hand, I have a fear of spiders, and I get more disturbed by glancing at a photo of a spider than I do even of a grotesque cock. The one makes me want to turn away in disgust, but the other actually fills me with a sense of primordial fear. Most people, I think, aren't that disturbed by pictures of spiders, and there are of course some who love pictures like that. How come there isn't a spider filter? It doesn't seem fair that other people who get upset by nudity have the option of avoiding it, but I have no similar choice to avoid spider photos. I'd like you to tell me how exactly that is fair? And if it's just because more people are upset by sex than by spiders, then it's a matter of minority discrimination.

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