Art vs. Pornography

Hello everyone,

So this has been a question on my mind for sometime now. I’ve seen the distinction between Art and Porn made in Theology of the Body by the likes of JP II. I’ve seen it been made by Christopher West who talks about ToB.

So my question is, whats the difference?

The typical answer seems to be

“Porn is made to induce lust”
“Art is made to make one appreciate the sexes/ glorify God etc”

My question to this is, this seems to be a subjective notion rather than an objective one. Can I look at two pictures and say which one is Art and which one is Porn? What are the objective criterion?

Let us say a Mr. Pron drew a painting to induce lust. But is it objectively visible in the painting? Can the audience simply see it as Art?

So it appears there is no objective criterion and everything might be art from the viewer perspective. Porn seems to be defined in terms of artist intentions so it appears quiet possible for someone to accidentally create art while making porn.

Christopher West also quotes st. Paul saying

“To the pure all things are pure, but to the impure, nothing is pure” (Titus 1:15)

So is me feeling lust when I see Pornographic nude just a sign of me requiring moral transformation?

I happen to find ToB very attractive but this is the one part that always throws me off.

So would like to hear some good arguments or explanations on this matter that are BASED ON CATHOLIC THOUGHT in CONSONANCE WITH THE CHURCH.

God Bless :slight_smile:

From the CCC

2354 Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.

scborromeo.org/ccc/para/2354.htm

I would venture to say for it to be considered pornographic, it must be more than just nudity being depicted.

Some depictions of nudity are meant to be lustful, but are not pornography.

My SIL went to art and design school, when she studied the human form she was required to sketch some nudes. They weren’t pornographic.

So lets take Playboy nudes for an example. You are saying they are not pornographic?

God Bless :slight_smile:

First, the difference between sketching a nude and pornography is great.

In my Life Drawing class, the women were regarded as whole persons and required our respect. In pornography the men and women involved are only inciting lust.

Sadly, I am seeing attempts by a few that offer photos of 1950s models as claiming it is “art not porn.” Such photos continue to be offered as porn and do incite lust. The pornographers disguised such images as “art photos,” or as models for artists.

Peace,
Ed

I think this is sort of getting at the problem. What is the distinction? Where do you say this is art and this is porn?

While the painter might have had porn drawing intention, he might well have produced a work of ART, no? Also on the same token, no matter how good the intention of the Artist, he might have produced a work of Porn, no?

Since the distinction has been made only in terms of the artist intention in all these places, I find it confusing as to how you know simply by looking at the photo/painting if its art or porn.

God Bless :slight_smile:

There is no doubt that you find it confusing. Everyone does. The subject has been debated from courthouse to church.

Lately the debates have been addressing nude children in art. Some artists have created a genre referred to as “shock art”. The artist intentionally creates that which will be offensive to some and artistic to others.

I think a good rule of thumb is this: if the art/photograph in question is putting emphasis on the genitalia, or the sexual organs (whether or not said organs are aroused or not), then it is pornography. If the art/photograph is not emphasizing or “sexualizing” the genitals, then it is considered art.

Just my humble opinion. I could very well be wrong on all accounts.

i also thought we weren’t supposed to reveal the nakedness of anyone but are wife/husband

Oh ok, I actually didn’t know that there was an ongoing debate.

I really wish there was more clarification on the issue. I’ve even thought that since ToB is by no means infallible teaching, this might be a point on which it has erred.

It feels that the most logical position is that due to concupiscence, though a person’s nude body is a good, we must not expose it other than within the context of sexual intercourse in marriage OR in cases where it is for the person’s own good (like in medical circumstances).

I can’t see how there is a distinction for an example where a husband does not want his wife’s nude body to be displayed in public but can be ok if its considered a piece of art. Is the husband being upset with the whole thing a sign of moral disorder in the husband?

God Bless :slight_smile:

I can see some merit in what you say. But their are pieces which are considered art (right in the Sistine Chapel) that depict genitalia when it could have been easily avoided by having a leg across etc?

God Bless :slight_smile:

Well, what I was saying was that the artwork doesn’t emphasize the genitals, but emphasizes the beauty of the body. Certainly genitals CAN be shown, but if they’re the focal point of the artwork, then that’s a problem.

Let’s put it this way: imagine the Sistine Chapel’s artwork, specifically “The Creation of Adam”. Very famous piece of work. And it shows a naked man (Adam), genitals and all. Now, that’s art.

However, now imagine that exact same picture, except now Adam has one of the following:

  1. an overly large, flaccid penis;
  2. an overly large erect penis.

That’s what I’m trying to get at. The genitals on Adam are neither sexual nor intended to be the focal point of the painting. If it was, then I would classify that as pornography.

Ok I see. So well proportioned is good, you mean? In other words you want it to be realistic?

But then what about nude photographs? They are realistically proportioned because they are photos of an actual subject. Then does that qualify as art?

God Bless :slight_smile:

Realistic is a good start, I think. But also natural (ie, no erection/sexual arousal visible). My point being: does the artwork emphasize the sexual organs?

And regarding nude photography: See, that’s where it gets complicated. I think that goes more into the realm of the photographer’s intent than what’s actually depicted. For example, while Playboy meets the above criteria, I’d consider that pornography, due to the fact that the magazine is more or less for adult entertainment.

Mary Gail 36
2354 Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.

That seems to present the answer concisely, but since people differ greatly in their perceptions, responses and formation in chastity, as TV’s Hunter (Fred Dryer) used to say “works for me” – what causes a particular individual to be incited to lust is what is to be avoided.

As has been mentioned, overemphasis on body parts and suggestive positions can turn an art form into a pornographic form. An individual’s attention to such as Playboy would indicate a problem.

The culture of today, if it can be so called, is shredded with the banal, the bizarre, relativism, secularism and the pornographic. That is really what has to be reformed and it starts with the right formation in the family, parish, school and university. As we think so do we act.

Good question ddarko.

Here in Australia this very issue has caused people to get their knickers in a knot because of a photographer called Bill Henson. He is internationally known and has exhibited in New York. He specialises in photographing nude young girls. The controversy is over whether his work constitutes art, or pornography.

Here are two links to articles which reflect the controversy, the first being a news article and the second an opinion piece well worth a read -

  1. .Bill Henson’s nudes may offend again

  2. Bill Henson’s images not paedophilia

I, for one, tend to question why a man would wish to focus on young nude girls as photographic subjects. I don’t find the photos offensive, but by the same token, I wouldn’t want one of my daughters being photographed this way. Henson, and others, see them as art. Others see them as either pornographic, or tending towards. It is interesting to take note of the second last paragraph in the opinion piece. It says “Some time ago a television program showed an innocent scene of children playing in a river, and then the voice over of a paedophile made it innocent no more.” Recently, a convicted paedophile was found to have a magazine of Henson’t photos with him in prison. It would seem that the distinction between what constitutes art and what constitutes pornography can also depend upon the inclinations of the viewer, regardless of the photographer, or artist.

So if I understand you correctly, everything is a result of the intent and formation of the viewer/producer and in an ideal society everyone would not be lead to lust by nudity?

But, due to Concupiscence and effects of original sin, we will never really be an ideal society, no? So cannot one make the argument that to avoid people from giving in to lust, no form of public nudity, whether it be in art/porn should be tolerated UNLESS it is required for the good of the person (like in medical situations or for sexual intercourse between husband and wife?)

Or in another sense, this seems to make the term pornography seems to be an arbitrary choice that is made at an individual level, no? If one has a good formation, is it not theoretically possible that no form of nudity will lead him to lust?

Which leads me to what John brought up regarding Child pornography. How does the church teaching decide on those?

I still have a hard time accepting the idea, as John put it, my wife’s or my daughter’s nude body displayed in public whether it be as art or porn.

God Bless :slight_smile:

2354 Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.

So under the above bolded section, does not even Artistic nudes qualify as immoral?

Because in art, one does still use the participants as merely pleasure to the viewer? Is that not an objectification of a person solely for pleasure?

God Bless :slight_smile:

That is pretty disturbing.

In a more disturbing note, then it would appear that the people who call out things as Pornography are the ones with bad inclinations.

God Bless :slight_smile:

First off, “nude” is simply a genre of human representation: the body natural and uncovered. “A nude” is just a depiction of said human body. Nudes may be artistic or pornographic.

The rules for photography, IMNAAHO, are the same as for drawing or for painting. It just uses light instead of ink, lead, paints, etc.

If the body in a nude photo is arranged so as to call attention to the sexual organs, that would be porn. If the nude bodyform does not call forth such attention, it’s just art.

ICXC NIKA

As an artist I believe that art is just some sort of self expression. Art is so broad and many people do not understand what it is. The truth is we are all artists and art is everywhere. It can range from how we decide to dress and decorate our bodies, how we decorate our surrounding, fine art, performing art, culinary, ect. People do not understand what art is. As sentient beings we express ourselves in ways that other life forms cannot. Now… I know this will cause an uproar, but porn is art, maybe immoral art, or even poor art, but still art.

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