Pornography and Snuff

I Preamble

If I bring up, as a conversational topic, a pornography movie, or a snuff flick; I’m sure one would be pretty demonised; it is, for appeal of sanity, or just prudishness, seen as a very taboo social topic. But if you look at the hits of a pornography blog, compared to Sinistre and Destre’s Noumenal Realm; you’d probably find a lot more people looking for sex than the importance of Kant.
Art is an institution

Should we consider pornography as an art? Okay, so maybe, it’s not necessarily good art. But, why is it acceptable that Michael goes to admire nude female forms if they are marble, rather than dancing around a pole. If Michael goes to the Parthenon exhibit, his friends think he’s slightly effeminate, sensitive, intellectual; but if Sinistre goes to a titty bar; he’s a dirty old pervert! They may have the same psychological process in different places; they may have the same appraisal process going on to judge this nude form before them as beautiful.

The first thought I have is that there seems to be an institutional status about art forms; we call some things art, but not others; Beethoven is art, but folk is droll craft. Basketweaving is not art, but a Warhol silkscreening is a definitively postmodern work of 20thC cynicism. In 2000 years; our craftsmanship will be seen as art, yet during the time of the Greeks; their amphora which were used to carry oil in vessels was merely a tool, an instrument, and not a work of art; but now, people talk of the worth of Corinthian pottery; or the Red Figure Athenian vase.

Why can’t sexual content be art? I made the jibe earlier that it may not necessarily be good art; but maybe I take that back; some of our most powerful artworks have sexual content. Consider D.H. Lawrence‘s Lady Chatterley’s Lover; the powerful and infamous abuse in A Clockwork Orange, or, bringing it back home to philosophy, the homo-eroticism of Plato’s Charmides. In some respect, I see that there is an elitism about the allowance of sexuality as a theme and substantive content being included in art.
Kantian thoughts

I have a second thought; regarding pornography, and in particular, snuff; can we be Kantian about our judgment of the beautiful? What is it, that makes us a Kantian about beauty? Here are some things:

  1. Our appraisal of the beautiful is devoid of our interest in the real existence of that thing; my appraisal of this nude form before me is based is not orgiastic (interested), but formal and abstract (disinterested)
  2. When I claim a snuff movie is disgusting, I impute that, as a rule of my judgment, that you must agree too; while the grounding of my disgust is subjective, my imputation must, whether right or wrong, convince you too. My claim of beauty is demands universal assent.

I think these claims seem fairly innocuous; so let us move on to the next difficult thought

Moral evaluation

This is where our thought when you hear the word “pornography” or “snuff”, the first thing you would think would be normative; perhaps, a joke, or a demeaning comment to condemn the morality of those things. So here, I raise this thought; do we evalutate snuff and pornography as moral entities? Intuitively, we would say yes, emphatically; we condemn the Iraqi captive murders like Ken Bigley in 2005; we condemn child pornography. Is art appropriate a subject matter for moral analysis and ascription?

A person can like a film that contains violence without endorsing it; I’m sure many Christians would not endorse crucifixion or racial hatred; yet they would appreciate and greatly value compositions like St. Matthew’s Passion. To valorise the death of Christ and the way in which he died is surely not to endorse the act of crucifixion; furthermore, the recent film Juno has been well received by the conservative American critics; yet, is a film about teenage pregnancy. It seems there is something wrong with the intuition that we should evaluate these things in a purely moral capacity.

The ultimate question of aesthetics

Is art independent from morality and the everyday? Is art a distinct entity that elevates us and our lives in such a way that beautifies it; how is it that the bleakness of melodic death metal riddles us and moves us with such power; the thing of being out of this world makes it fundamentally applicable to us; it seems almost ironic that something distinct from us would be so powerful and personal.

Michael (and Antisophie)


5 thoughts on “Pornography and Snuff

  1. “Should we consider pornography as an art?”

    I think clearly it is. If one takes pornography in the sense of “anything that provokes sexual thoughts” (which these days includes most advertising and music videos) we even have an aesthetic criteria with which to judge pornography as art. 🙂

    Best wishes!

  2. “You will be aroused by a shampoo commercial” – Homer Simpson, in an attempt to make a slogan for fortune cookies.

    I hate that bloody phrase “sex sells”; which leads me to a thought. What about advertising as artistic?


  3. I personally belief advertising qualifies art, at least in the general sense. We can’t exclude it because it’s commercial, because *all* the works of the great Masters were commercial too (they were paid either by commission, or by a patron, for all their paintings).

    Of course, most advertising is pretty poor art, but there is still an artistry at work!

    I suppose this contradicts Oscar Wilde’s claim that “all art is useless”. 😉

  4. Perhaps, then, we may say that advertising is a new form of patronage. The changes in economy and society, given a structural view of social entities, would possibly entail a difference in the organisation of those whom we call ‘artists’.

    I think it is a different way to how I saw artists, but not absurdly out there. Haydn worked as a court musician for the Esteharzy; Praxiteles worked for commissions by the state authorities. What bigger advertising/propaganda work can you get than dearest Leni Riefenstahl!

    I whole heartedly agree; although I feel bad about going against poor olde Oscar.

    “I don’t mean to be land baron milking his cash cow, but but, every artist needs his patron”


  5. This is a fascinatingly different view of advertising… I completely agree that there is a parallel with patronage. I’m going to have to mull on this further…

    Best wishes!

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