In envy I look at the freedom and controversial release that causes the Primavera’s characters to rebel. I stand under the Sistine ceiling, recognizing that had I lived earlier I could have surrounded myself with these same figures in their original nude – and I smile. I walk through the Century Project’s 100 portraits of the female nude – young girls to old women. The history that accompanies their words accompanying their bodies astounds me, and the way they have found shape by the guiding hands of biology humbles our greatest architects. I look at a world of men and women, their emotions and bodies juxtaposed in an industry of fantasy we’ve come to call pornography, never claiming that I haven’t used it or walked away and returned to it, and I grimace.
I am not blind to the prude air of foisted sophistication that accompanies those who condemn the world of erotica. I understand how individuals who long to free themselves from the confinements of a society monitored and scrutinized by big brother institutions seemingly cannot reject some of those institutions’ standards and cling still to others. It seems that the soul needs to recklessly abandon those things unconducive of life and profundity without exception or hostage. Sexual freedom and sexual autonomy is pivotal in this way. For centuries the grips of social norm and the glare and gaze of a Church which forges that social norm has ostracized the very spirit that gives our race a future – the spirit of sexuality. For as long as there has been a standard of decency there has been a list of those things acceptable and unacceptable which all decent people must follow. To this list has rarely been added those things which make the Sistine ceiling marvelous in content and legend, which make skinny dipping and sleeping naked beautiful and worthy of anticipation, which grant to every body – no matter its shape or presentation – the awe it deserves. The harnesses of a misguided morality have pinned down our wings and confined us to an existence of quiet missionary positions, of which we never speak of or giggle.
To this end sexual pioneers deserve commendation. Without a doubt they have worked to free a part of us as humans that yearns to roam untethered as deeply as that which wants for art and drastic escape and the seductions of music in all forms. But I have to ask, who are those pioneers? Who and what teaches us what sex can be and what sex has been and what sex might become? For the sake of the rebellion which leads us away from the fear and timidity of fundamentalism, we likewise cannot afford to lose sight of what we treasure as intimacy; we cannot move our eyes away from that place in front of us which holds out truth and real knowledge. I fear that we’re no better off accepting the standards of porn as we are accepting the criteria of ensnaring religiosity. The argument comes to ‘preference’ too often. For one, this should not be an argument but a discussion. It should be a conversation in which ideas about men and women, and men and men, and women and women coming together can prosper and be admired. There is a danger, I think, in assuming that the use of pornos can be reduced to personal preference which holds neutral value. Of course it has nothing to do with a condemning Trinity sitting at a judge’s bench somewhere beyond the cosmos, and socially defined sexual deviance is as oxymoronic as venial sin. It isn’t about achieving a grade. The rebellion against mediocre existence never is. It’s going about life in such a way that we prod those things that can stir our most inner convictions.
When you choose to run an empty beach and throw yourself at the waves isn’t it right that the water’s kiss against your naked body will singe the memory deeper than if you’d allowed your clothes to interfere? Life insists that rolling down the windows and letting in Night as you drive through her reflects a sort of existence that harbors epiphany and awe. To see the world when you’re in it – its people, its trees, its sky, its sounds and aromas – is to want life whether it seems to want you or not. To push sex away as a threat and imposter upon your purity cheapens our human condition. And to post sex on a billboard and a magazine and a computer is to take what few have fought so hard to liberate from visionless hands and place it in the palms of a different tyrant – one of blind profit and motives irreconcilable to the objectives of a soul’s rebellion.
Pornography is not art. Let us not fool ourselves into thinking that two strangers humping each other like hormone-engorged ducks, at the direction of their neighbor with a camcorder, need be considered art. To be fashionably accepting of all interpretations of art is certainly a trend, and not necessarily a bad one, just obnoxious. If we can look at something and deduce that it was put together by some sort of cognitive plan and conclude that it is thus “art”, we’ve arrived a very sad place indeed. A place, in fact, where we might as well either abandon the word “thing” or the word “art” because redundancy can be flagrantly unbecoming. Let those artists capable of presenting the human nude in controversy or grace or violence or depression or ecstasy while evoking thought in their on-lookers, let them retain the title of ‘artist’. When porn becomes art we’ve sold out to the manipulators of our most primitive response – see it, have sex with it. Let’s be clear, it is not thought that porn provokes, and we only act like veteran consumers when we humor porn all the way into a classification such as “creative”.