Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sex in Art

One of the troubles with trying to create material that aims to be erotic, is that people's sexual tastes are so varied. Just look at how many different categories the porn industry is splintered into. Different people react to different things, and even one person's erotic triggers can change during the course of one's life.

There may be a certain "common denominator" of human sexuality that can be tapped into, to engender a certain level of response in a large fraction of the population, but that can only go so far. You can write a story about a character who experiences erotic attraction in such a way that the audience can relate to it, but getting the audience to actually respond erotically is a guessing game.

Obviously, this is no reason to refrain from creating erotic materials - even in non-sexual contexts, you can't ever hope to please everyone. There will inevitably be some, for example, to whom the character you write to be likable or relatable is neither likable nor relatable. If anything, I think this supports the artist's impulse to please himself as much as anyone else, which people sometimes call selfish.

But, if you do indeed want your work to be able to be appreciated by a wider audience - and in many cases, this is important, if not the most important thing - what can you do? I think the answer is that you need to appeal to more than just the erotic impulse, so that the people who don't find the work personally very erotic, can still find it appealing in other ways. For example, to an image you could add artistic composition (which is indeed my approach, as an erotic photographer), or to a film you could add drama.

I think this is an excellent argument for a closer marriage between art and pornography, because as it stands, the two are diminished by being kept so firmly separated. Pornography loses its interest and value because it has no redeeming qualities beyond the erotic impulse (which is probably narrowly directed, in most cases, to the subset of the population who will find that instance of pornography particularly arousing).

And on the other side of the divide, we have beautiful art that is afraid to say anything about human sexuality; and when it does, it is derided (whether for its base morals as interpreted as a piece of art, or its pretensions when considered as pornography) to the point that other talented artists are discouraged from applying their talent to the subject, thus resulting in the vast majority of depictions of human sexuality being of the single-minded, unartistic, pornographic variety.

I think anyone and everyone who wants to change this should take heart, and stand up. Ignore the simple-minded masses who insist on fitting everything into neatly delineated categories, and the prudes and moral conservatives who insist that sex as a subject is not befitting the same kind of careful and profound treatment as every other subject ever considered by an artist. And go out there, and make art. Art that crosses boundaries. Art that defies conventions. Art that shatters taboos, and dares to color outside the lines. Get out there and shake things up a bit.

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