Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Art Vs. Pornography: Navigating the Media World

I wrote about this idea a few years ago, but I think it's time for an update. Disclosure: I'm no expert. Just a girl with a blog who does a lot of thinking (and research).

Pornography is FAMOUSLY difficult to define. Supreme court cases on the subject have ended in vague phrases like “I know it when I see it.” Right now, the best legal test we have is the “Miller test,” which is limited in scope. In order for something to be considered “obscene,” it must meet the following criteria:

1. The average person, applying local community standards, looking at the work in its entirety, must find that it appeals to the prurient interest.
2. The work must describe or depict, in an obviously offensive way, sexual conduct, or excretory functions.
3. The work as a whole must lack "serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific values".

As an actress and a writer, but also just as a consumer of media, I’ve spent a long time trying to come up with a better working definition of pornography for myself. The Supreme Court’s obscenity criteria just doesn’t give me enough to work with.

After watching the film “Don Jon” and three seasons of the TV show “Girls” with my husband, we had a conversation about how to define pornography, and I had a chance to put into words some of the thoughts I’ve had on the subject. Since then, I’ve taken some time to create a more formal list.

MOST IMPORTANT NOTE OF THIS POST: I don’t want to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t watch—for the most part, that’s up to you and your family and whatever higher power you may believe in. You have the right to abstain from anything you are uncomfortable with. You don't have the right to tell other people what to abstain from. So that's not what I'm trying to do here. I just recognize that the line between pornography and art is not a solid one, and it's confusing to try to navigate all of the books and movies and tv shows.

For the purposes of this list, I’m going to focus on sexual acts, and just skip over nudity. Not all nudity is sexual. Some is tribal. Some is ancient Grecian. Some is maternal. Some is classically artistic. Some is medical. Some is just the human body being a human body.

As far as sexual acts in the media, here are some of my guiding ideas:

Of course, this isn't a perfect list at all--it's very incomplete and totally subjective. And something artistic can have aspects from the "pornography" column, and vice versa. But these are the ideas that have helped guide me in my decisions about what to read and watch.

For example, the film "Don Jon" is about a young man's deep attachment to pornography, and how it affects his ability to have meaningful relationships. Because of the subject matter, there are brief clips of actual pornography--stuff that straight up just belongs in the pornography column. But the majority of the movie isn't in that column, and the entire POINT of the movie is how consuming pornography can be harmful. Some people don't want to see the pornography clips, even if they're part of a more important message, and that's okay. But my husband and I decided that we were comfortable with watching it.

I've read books that I felt uncomfortable with, and books that I thought were fine. Same with movies, and tv shows. If ever I'm uncertain, or feel uncomfortable, I pause and take a moment to evaluate. Sometimes I'll decide that what I'm consuming is more on the pornographic side and choose not to continue. Or sometimes I'll decide that it's on the art side, but I'm still uncomfortable and choose not to continue.

And finally, there's the fact that I have agency, and I can choose to view something pornographically or not...even if it's on the "art" side, I can choose to follow through on any arousal I may feel. For more details on that idea, check out this post.

Happy reading/watching!

1 comment: said...

is ok your my post !