The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0789 Thursday, 13 April 2000.
From: Marti Markus <
Date: Thursday, 13 Apr 2000 04:36:44 +0100
Subject: 11.0662 What is pornography
Comment: Re: SHK 11.0662 What is pornography
Why all this fuzz about things everybody likes, and does, or would like
to do - or watch - or talk - or hear - or read about?
What is "pornography" anyway?
I have to admit, I have got no idea. It seems to have something to do
with "(hardcore) sex" - whatever that is - as opposed to "the erotic" -
whatever that is.
But there, still, I am at a loss. Is it the presentation of naked
bodies, that makes something "porn"? Is it the description of sexual
intercourse? Of "abnormal" sexual practices (whatever that could be)?
Speaking about or showing hitherto unknown or hidden parts of our
bodies, such as TOES or TITS?
In France and Switzerland we want to liberate Muslim women: we think
that it is inhuman if women should not be allowed to show their face and
hair in public - but our more enlightened and liberated society does not
allow women to show their pubic hair, let alone their vagina in the
supermarket, in a bus or in a church, either. And a naked little penis -
whether it is erected or not - makes a movie XXX-rated.
Does pornography by definition involve the exploitation of people? Of
people who do not share our ideology, mental abilities, gender, race, or
class? (But then: think of workers, unemployed, actors or writers or
"normal people" with similar predicaments!)
I do not think that the working conditions of the people who are (or
might be) involved in pornographic productions should influence our
judgment of the particular "work" in question. Nobody is ever talking
about the payment actors or writers get, most people eat fruits and
vegetables whithout asking or caring where they come from. The actors in
our local theatre will not be better off if we do not go to the theatre
any more, and the peasants in Latin America will not get more for their
labour if we do not buy bananas any more. We do not ban the theatre,
and we do not stop eating, but we ban pornography (at least
Are we against "pornography" because it makes us excited against our
wills (no Elizabethan pun intended)? Or are we afraid of pornography
because it does NOT excite or arouse us - just out of fear it could
excite somebody else (e.g. other women or other men, or our or somebody
else's children)? Why should people not "play" or "represent" scenes
from Shakespeare (or just themselves) by having their naked bodies
exposed - if they earn more that way than by playing a short role in a
provincial theatre performance? Why should they not let their bodies
speak? And if they earned less, why should we care? Even if we should
not be interested personally (something I find hard to believe), why
should we not be interested in such performances or pictures from a
purely academic point of view?
Does pornography automatically imply exploitation? As a teacher I have
to sell my innermost: I get paid a more or less moderate sum to teach
literature: Does that not make me a "pandar" and a necrophil? As a
husband or a wife one sells (or gives freely) one's body and soul to the
beloved: is that not prostitution?
I would prefer to sell my physical body (which I do not esteem so highly
and for which I do not care so much as all these healthy anti-porn
people seem to do) if there were a market for my size: I could sell it
for a good price and keep what I consider to be my proper self intact
and untouched to give (or sell) to somebody else.