Pornography or Erotic Art?

Is erotic art pornography? While not a simple question to answer, addressing it is necessary in order to bring clarity, appreciation, and understanding of this topic by what at times can be considered an...

Is erotic art pornography? While not a simple question to answer, addressing it is necessary in order to bring clarity, appreciation, and understanding of this topic by what at times can be considered an extremely sexualized society. We must ask: What is erotic art? What is pornography? What is the difference between them, and how can we develop a knowledgeable perspective on the issue?

In order to understand the difference, we must first address the definition of each word. Art is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings.” A work of art conveys a concept, an idea, or a group of ideas. It is communication between the artist and the viewer, listener, or reader. Within art and the viewing of it, there is no shame; at least, there shouldn’t be. Art inspires interest and deep thought, however, there is not usually a blatant push for action intended by the artist. For example, a work of tastefully erotic art can hang on a wall and be understood by artists and the individuals viewing it, that while sexy, the piece is not necessarily intended to motivate the viewer to engage in the eroticism being portrayed. At this point, one can begin to see the difference between art and pornography, once the purpose of erotic art is understood.

pornography or erotica by arkadiy kozlovskiy
Arkadiy Kozlovskiy | Yulya Svet

We must next define the word pornography in order to understand its meaning as well. The word pornography originates from, “pornographos,” a Greek word that refers to prostitution. Webster’s defines pornography as “the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement,” or, “the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction.” The motivation of pornography, then, is not communication of a concept or idea. Its intention is for action on the part of the viewer, reader, or listener. Within pornography and normally, a consumer of pornography, there is generally a strong push for gratification of sorts. There is not usually an inspiration of deep thoughts and consideration contained in the intention of pornography toward its consumer. For example, a sexual depiction as part of a marketing campaign may be considered pornographic, as it motivates action. The sexual depiction is not represented for contemplation, appreciation, or communication of an idea other than to motivate the viewer, listener, or reader to engage in what is being sold. Unfortunately, as a result of the pornography industry and the sexually saturated marketing campaigns so prominent today, there is a gross lack of understanding of the difference between erotic art and pornography.

Within pornography there is generally a strong push for gratification.

Let us not leave out the perspective that erotic art is a communication of beauty, while the purpose of pornography is not for the consumer to take the time to appreciate beauty and ideas. Tasteful art is about the artist, and what is being communicated by him or her. It is an invitation of the artist extended to the consumer to participate in his or her art via intellect. Pornography is about the viewer, listener, or reader, and what can be gained by him or her as a result of consuming it.

pornography or erotica by Harry Carmean
Harry Carmean (1974)

The understatement of tasteful art when comparing erotica and pornography is also to be appreciated. It evokes thoughtful emotion of the consumer. The communication of art can be assessed, understood, and reassessed with appreciation. However, pornography is seldom understated and does not usually promote the consumer to take the time to assess or thoughtfully examine. The general motivation is clear, blatant and at times, forceful. This brings to the forefront the argument that what is considered pornographic does lie within the viewer. An artistic work that one individual may view as simply erotic, may cause that “strong emotional” and motivated reaction within a different person that may be considered pornographic.

It is important for consumers of art to fully understand and continue to educate themselves on the difference between erotic art and pornography. It is a path of understanding and personal growth not to be regretted.

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