Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What's the difference between nudity and pornography?

I've gotten curious, as you can see, about what it is about nudity that gets people so darn upset.  Yesterday I posited that perhaps it's because they equate nudity and pornography.

I will admit right here, right now, I do not like pornography.  I have strong judgments about it and about the whole industry that creates it.  I worry that women who are involved in posing for pornographic pictures are betraying themselves, despite their assertions that they know precisely what they are doing and want the money they can earn from doing it.

I don't like pornographic images.  They disturb me.  They make me feel strange - like a voyeur, looking at something I shouldn't be seeing, something tawdry, dirty, nasty, forbidden.  But I love looking at a beautiful nude, exploring the forms and shapes and composition.  The human form, to my eye, is one of the most beautiful forms on earth.

What is it that makes something pornographic?  I don't think anyone has been able to come up with a satisfactory answer to that question yet.  I believe one of the Supreme Court justices summed it up by saying, "I know it when I see it."  That sounds rather stupid, but on deeper thought, I think there's truth to it. 

I hope no one perceives my nudes as pornographic.  I do my best to depict the women (and men when I painted them) respectfully - as beautiful, empowered people who love themselves and their bodies.  I choose not to paint graphic genitalia because I find there are too many pornographic associations to it.  I know of a couple of young women who are still in high school who draw genitalia for their art class and have to figure out how to show it to the teacher and not get in trouble for bringing it to school.  I haven't seen their work, but from the descriptions I've heard, I don't believe it's pornographic.  It's simply the subject matter that's problematic.

Georgia O'Keeffe, whose painting is shown here, was accused myriad times of painting female genitalia and of being over-sexed.  She constantly had to clarify what her work was about.  Early in her career, before she became well known, her then-lover, later husband, Alfred Stieglitz, photographed her in the nude.  That caused such a controversy that she never allowed herself to be photographed nude again. The photos completely colored the reception of her own abstract art and caused people to believe she was painting sex.

What do you perceive as the difference between nudity and pornography?  Are you OK with porn?  with nudity? 


  1. I don't mind nudes, what I don't like is that almost every avenue of the media exploits women in a seductive way. I cannot go to the grocery store without T & A slapping me in the face. I can't go to the movies without some woman having her clothes ripped off, being killed in the nude, or shown doing a sex scene. There is no comparison between exploitation of men and women. I have also noticed camera angles and length of time the camera spends on body parts are different as well. And I can't go to a sporting event without scantilly clad girls cheering doing raunchy maneuvers. What's worse is people don't understand why I feel this way. How many ways can I tell them that with all this stuff thrown at me, my choices have been taken away. Interestingly, if I went out in public dressed like the girls in the magazine covers, or behave like the women in the movies and the cheerleaders, my family, friends, and others would not waste time to tell me how inappropriate I am behaving. Though, they buy magazines, go to the movies, and attend sporting events.

  2. When you give someone the freedom from something (for example, seeing women in short skirts) you take away someone else's freedom to do something (dress in short skirts). I would like to have the freedom to and make my own decisions.