Thursday, June 3, 2010
Vladimir Nabokov on "Pornography"
"While it is true that in ancient Europe, and well into the eighteenth century (obvious examples come from France), deliberate lewdness was not inconsistent with flashes of comedy, or vigorous satire, or even the verve of a fine poet in a wanton mood, it is also true that in modern times the term "pornography" connotes mediocrity, commercialism, and certain strict rules of narration. Obscenity must be mated with banality because every kind of aesthetic enjoyment has to be entirely replaced by simple sexual stimulation which demands the traditional word for direct action upon the patient. Old rigid rules must be followed by the pornographer in order to have his patient feel the same security of satisfaction as, for example, fans of detective stories feel - stories where, if you do not watch out, the real murderer may turn out to be, to the fan's disgust, artistic originality (who for instance would want a detective story without a single dialogue in it?). Thus, in pornographic novels, action has to be limited to the copulation of cliches. Style, structure, imagery should never distract the reader from his tepid lust. The novel must consist of an alternation of sexual scenes. The passages in between must be reduced to sutures of sense, logical bridges of the simplest design, brief expositions and explanations, which the reader will probably skip but must know they exist in order not to feel cheated (a mentality stemming from the routine of "true" fairy tales in childhood). Moreover, the sexual scenes in the book must follow a crescendo line, with new variations, new combinations, new sexes, and a steady increase in the number of participants (in a Sade play they call the gardener in), and therefore the end of the book must be more replete with lewd lore than the first chapters."
- Vladimir Nabokov, from the addendum to his novel Lolita.
The above passage is written in the context of describing how Lolita does not conform to definitions of pornography and obscenity (of which it is neither), with - if I may read between the lines - mild distaste for the trite formulaic composition of pornography thrown in. My personal stance on the issue of pornography is that it has specific uses for which it deserves recognition, and a certain level of respect, but that ultimately, it is a depressingly constrictive medium that reduces sexuality to its fundamental function, at the same time stripping away all the artistic flourishes of sensuality that - in my opinion, at least - make sex so interesting in the first place. So while it may take a simple stimulus to get me "going", what I look for in the sensual realm of the erotic is so much more than that. I desire not simply to indulge my baser senses (although such indulgence is not unwelcome), but to fulfill a deeper, rounder, fuller desire - one that is almost spiritual in nature - to experience the entire realm of sensuality and all its tangential wonders.
It is for this reason that I support lifting the topic of sexuality out of the gutter, and encouraging more sophisticated approaches to it that are not simultaneously afraid to deal with the topic in a frank and honest manner. Such is the basis of my approach towards the erotic photography that I strive to create.