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Art vs. Porn: What's the Difference?

    At any given day in GetLusty office, you'll either see us chatting about porn or art, or maybe even both. Erotica. We're no stranger to our human craving for porn, but our favorite is feminist porn (have you seen our favorite porn stars? Or maybe our top feminist porn site recommendations? Oh, my!). But we've given much thought to where art begins and where porn ends. What is pornography, anyway? Well, GetLusty sex positive thinker Nadine Thornhill, of course, comes to the rescue. Read on as Nadine talks about the fine line between art and pornography.

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    This week I’ve been enjoying an e-mail exchange with Canadian, Muskoka-based Beverly Hawksley, an artist who wrote asking for my thoughts about where one draws the line between art versus pornography.

    As a photographer who occasionally does fine art nudes, I am wondering where and how the line is drawn between porn and erotic fine art. Yes, I know – depends on the audience. But there must be some informal rules – what galleries are willing to display and what crosses the arbitrary line defining what is considered ‘respectable’ art for public display and that considered ‘indecent’.

    As I told Hawksley, I’m a fan of both fine art and porn but have nothing resembling authority on either subject. It’s hard for me to speak to what distinctions fine art society does and/or should make. But I can tell you what I think. So this post may include some small sprig of knowledge but that’s just garnish for the main course – a generous portion of Nadine And Her Random Opinions About Stuff.

    Regarding pornographic film, the Ontario Film Board defines pornography or “adult sex films” as a film that has, as its main object, the depiction of explicit sexual activity. Those films are distributed with a special porn identification sticker. And that, gentle readers, is the extent of my knowledge about what defines porn. Time to get opinionated!

    Maybe I can draw a similar line between fine art and pornographic images. Porn are explicit photos of people engaged in sexual activity. Full frontal boners, lubricated fingers in places…and so on. Meanwhile artistic images are more discreet. Nudity but no erections or penetration. There may be implications but in reality there’s no actual sex happening during the shoot. Hm.

    But I don’t love that distinction. Like I said, I know nothing of photography or art. But I do know I’ve seen what I’d consider artfully realized pornographic film. And while I accept the practicality of a film board rating to restrict age and alert the consumer to the content – it also irks me that a well crafted movie forfeits inclusion as part of “art ” because it shows people having actual sex. Similarly it seems kind of sex-negative to define a photograph as porn-not-art simply because the subjects are getting it on. So in the words of Winnie The Pooh, "Think, think, think."

    Perhaps a distinction based on skill. But I’ve been lucky enough to work with some pretty kick-ass photographers. I imagine most of them could take a picture of two people engaged in explicitly sexy things that would be a hundred times more artful than any photo I might snap of a more modest scene. In fact Hawksley himself sent me a beautiful photo of a woman performing fellatio. We opted not to post it at the model’s request, but it was a striking image. It was also reasonably modest, with only the subjects’ hair and limbs visible. Yeah, but…

    Separating art from pornography by saying the former requires skill, still kind of implies that the latter is inherently less good and less valuable. I fully concede that porn is not something that everyone enjoys or wants to see. But so are some of the world’s great works of art. No, I don’t think that porn becomes art simply by virtue of being provocative and controversial. But where I’m landing on this question right now, is that there is no line. For me at least. This gal’s opinion is that pornographic images, like any other creative endevour run the gamut from mindless dreck to artistic genius. As for which works fall into what category, there will probably never be consensus. With art there almost never is. I for one am happy to include the type of porn that I find beautiful in my every-woman definition of fine art.

    Now--enough of my opinion! I know some of you picture takin’, art makin’ probably know a lot more about this subject than I do. Is there a line between porn and erotic art? Where do you think it lies? Whether you’re a respository of knowledge, chock full of opinions or bothI’m eager to hear what you think!

    The two pictures are just a few of Beverly Hawksley's art pieces. This piece cross posted with permission from Nadine Thornhill's blog.

    Help end boring sex and enter to win a LELO Tiani 2 courtesy of SheVibe. What do you need to do? Just 'Like' GetLusty on Facebook by December 1st! Have you followed us on Twitter yet? We're @getlusty there. We're also on Pinterest and Tumblr, too!

    http://www.ottawafocus.com/uploads/spotlight/nadine_01.jpgThis is a guest post by Nadine Thornhill. We're very excited to announce Nadine will start writing regularly for GetLusty.

    Nadine is a sexual health educator, playwright, poet, burlesque performer, partner and parent living in Ottawa, Ontario. The plays and poetry she creates tend toward subjects such as clitorises, vibrators and non-monogamy.

    She enjoys candy, fashion and dreck television. She does not care for pants. Find her on Twitter @NadineThornhill. She also blogs on the Adorkable Undies. Find her blog on Facebook and Pinterest.
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