Pornographic, Offensive, or Just a Naked Body?

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Last week, when I posted this article on Facebook, a couple of my guy friends expressed their discomfort with the art work I used. Several of my girlfriends defended the image. There was a debate about whether Facebook’s terms of service explicitly forbade all nudity or just pornography and whether this piece of art crossed the line into being pornography. You can read all the comments here.

As I pondered how to respond, I scrolled around clicking “like” on my friends’ clever witticisms and taking personality quizzes (I’m Bjork, according to Buzzfeed). And then I stumbled across a photo of a man I’ve never met naked in a bathtub eating a burrito.

Now… let’s talk about what’s pornographic and what’s offensive. The idea of pornography is that it’s intended to be used as masturbatory material. That is the supposed difference between porn and art. Of course, it’s also possible that a piece of fine art could arouse the viewer, and maybe the artist even created it with that intention. In those cases, the quality of the work is often what determines the difference. If the artist is good enough, the sexy painting ends up in a museum. If not, it goes in a closet.

For something to be offensive, on the other hand, is more serious. I’m not offended by things I simply disagree with, though. I am offended by sexism, racism, homophobia, and other forms of hate. Hate is the only thing I find truly offensive. Everything else is usually a matter of taste.

If you label something offensive just because you don’t agree with it, what you’re engaging in is not morality, it’s censorship. You are not “protecting the children” by shielding their eyes from a perfectly healthy image of a woman looking at her body in a mirror. Our society largely invalidates brilliant art work because we’re uncomfortable with the fact that it turns us on, or might turn someone on, or maybe just reminds us a little too much of sex.

To be clear, the picture I posted was of a woman looking at her vulva with a mirror. As my friend Krista said, “our necks don’t bend enough to see all the good stuff.” The woman is learning about her body and admiring it. She is smiling into the mirror. She loves herself. I don’t find anything offensive about that idea or the picture, and in fact the whole damn thing makes me happy.

As for the guy in the bath tub photo, that I didn’t want to see. I’ll admit I’ve posted a dorky selfie or two, but what the hell man? Actually, the photo was taken and posted by bathtub guy’s friend (who is my friend, hence me seeing the photo). I can’t quite imagine the circumstances that lead to this photo being taken, but I’m sure it was hilarious for the two of them. However, if any of my friends posted something that unflattering of me on the internet, we wouldn’t be friends anymore. But I’m still not offended by the photo. Furthermore, I doubt anyone will complain to my friend about the picture because we know him and his weird sense of humor. Everyone will roll their eyes and laugh about it. Facebook will not take down the post. It’s just a naked guy in a bathtub eating a burrito.

What’s wrong with that?

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What I’m Reading: I Love Trouble, 1

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OK, so I mostly picked it up for the cover design. You know you love that typeface and those colors.
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I don’t know how to take a picture of paper quality, but I really like this paper and the art style.
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The main character, Felicia, is someone I can at least relate to a little bit, what with being female and liking to drink on planes.

I’ll probably buy the second issue when I go to the comic shop again. It’s like $3. Why wouldn’t I?

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What I’m Reading: Ada by Gertrude Stein

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Ada
by Gertrude Stein

Purchased at Third Eye Comics in Annapolis, MD.
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I don’t want to ruin it by trying to tell you about it.

I think it’s about finding a way to love and be happy. The writing is hypnotic, and Stein’s sparse language points out just how much we don’t have to say. Every time a character says nothing, they say everything.
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The artwork throughout is beautiful, but I want you to see that for yourself.

 

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Monday Night Nonfiction: Unsolicited Advice

Glen Rubsamen: The gradual loss of all that gave life meaning and Joy (ARCO8 - Madrid)
Find meaning in what you do or else don’t do it.
Even if the meaning is just curiosity. What happens if … ?
Know that your actions change the world.
Your creations bring something into the world which was not previously there.
It’s OK to fuck up. You will miss the mark sometimes.
Good intentions count, but follow-through is better.
Have a goal in mind, or don’t.
Choose the path of integrity over the path of least resistance.
The fact that something is difficult to do does not make it worth doing.
It is easy to get lost in the noise of our age.
Do not join the meaningless chatter.
Entertaining delusions of grandeur has become a national pass time.
Opt out.
Opt fucking out.
Seriously.
Being important is overrated.
Be unimportant.
Take risks because they’re interesting to you.
Do it for the adventure.
Stop waiting for praise and acknowledgement.
If you don’t love what you’re doing, no one else will. And if they do, what’s that worth?
If you can’t laugh at yourself, you’re doing it wrong.
If you could change the world, what would you do?
Start now.

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Miley Cyrus Wrecks Your Idea of Herself

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So, I recently watched Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” video, and I gotta say … I know everyone’s still pissed about her VMA performance, and I have some feelings about that too, but this video on its own is actually really fucking good.

People have been saying it’s disturbing or cheap or trashy, and I disagree. Women wear skimpy clothing and dance provocatively in videos for male artists all the time. Every day, we see women in the media used as props to make the men around them look better. A woman’s beauty and sexuality are used as a marketing tool for cars, beer, web hosting, you name it. What people can’t stand is that in this video, Miley absolutely works her stuff in way that benefits herself instead of someone else. She’s getting naked to sing a song and sell some records. She’s making money. Yes, it’s shameless. It should be. If a man had *ahem* assets like that, you bet he’d be working it to sell some records. Why shouldn’t Miley?

I’m not saying I agree with everything the girl does. I think her VMA performance (along with her video for “We Can’t Stop”) was a disaster because it treated black women’s bodies as a joke. I wasn’t fond of the dancing with Robin Thicke because his whole damn song is about date rape. And I don’t approve of twerking not because it’s too sexual but because the mere thought of doing it makes my back hurt. Yeah, so what, I’m old.

Anyway, I’m not some die-hard Miley defender. I’m not really a fan of her music. I think she needs more sane adults in her life. But as for her music videos, I think the strong reactions people have to her are more indicative of our own hangups than something wrong with her. If it freaks you out that much to see a woman acting sexy without a man around, maybe you’ve got some shit to work through. If you’re afraid she’s sending the wrong message to young women, maybe think about what message you’d like your daughter to receive and then have an honest conversation about that. And of course, if you simply don’t like what you’re seeing, you have options. You could go make something better.

 

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