Two weeks ago, I published a poem by a regular contributor of ours Ezra S. It was a love poem that he wrote for his girlfriend, so I thought using Salvador Dali’s the Triumph of Love as the thumbnail picture would be appropriate. Unfortunately when I posted the link on twitter, the use of the image was deemed unsafe for human consumption, due to the nudity in it, and the link was censored. I thought “Well, this is fucking stupid.” There is nudity in the painting, but I couldn’t see any sane person seeing this painting as pornographic. A week later I published another poem by FF regular Jackson. I used some Hans Bellmer photography for the image, as the poem was intentionally transgressive and I thought that Bellmer captured the vibe perfectly. Again when I posted the link on twitter we were censored due to nudity (there is no nudity in the image) and again I was taken aback. “Who in their right mind would consider this pornographic?” Bellmer’s work is disturbing, for sure, and some of his more graphic work, I suppose could be deemed pornographic, but the image I used does not fit the criteria. This leads me to the topic of this article, and kind of confirms my fears of rightward drift on twitter. The pornography question and why I don’t support calls to ban pornography.
First of all I don’t think that pornography can be defined in a clear cut way that wouldn’t result in things that most people wouldn’t consider pornographic also becoming subject to censorship. I’m talking about erotic art, fashion photography, music/films/literature with sexual themes. The list goes on. A ban on pornography would lead to a slippery slope, where anything that might cause someone to have sexual thoughts, being subject to censorship or banning outright. According to Oxford dictionary pornography can be defined as “printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.” So it comes down to artistic intent, something that is difficult to measure and is entirely objective. Are Amadeo Modigliani’s nude portraits artistic or pornographic? It really depends on who happens to be viewing them. Is a film like Cronenberg’s ‘Crash’ pornographic? There is a lot of graphic sex in the film, but I wouldn’t say that the intent is to stimulate the viewer in the same way as the stuff on pornhub is intended to do. Fact is I have zero faith in right wingers (the people who usually call for porn to be banned) to make the distinction. They are hostile to the arts in general and are incapable of drawing the distinction between something that has artistic merit and something that does not.
Perhaps Wilhelm Reich can help explain why reactionaries always define pornography in the broadest possible terms.
“The reactionary of any kind condemns sexual pleasure because it stimulates and repulses him at the same time. He is unable to solve the conflict within him between sexual demands and moralistic inhibitions. The revolutionary refutes the perverse, unhealthy kind of pleasure, because it is not his kind of pleasure, because it is not the sexuality of the future, but the sexuality which results from the conflict between instinct and morals, the sexuality of authoritarian society, a debased, smutty, pathological sexuality.” ― Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism
When a reactionary sees things depicting sexuality or eroticism, their mind see’s something dirty. It doesn’t matter how graphic the images actually are, the chemical reaction in their brain is the same. It takes their mind to places that they don’t want it go, so it has to be stamped out. It always becomes very clear whenever talking to these people that their call to ban porn is not limited to what you might find on pornhub, but is extended to anything at all sexual or erotic.
Personally, I think it should be harder to access the really raunchy stuff on pornhub (parental controls are a thing and there is something to be said for personal responsibility) but I wouldn’t even support that stuff being banned. First of all it would push the industry into the underground. Demand for this stuff wouldn’t just go away and a criminal element would arise to capitalize on that. This would put more people at risk, than keeping it above ground and regulated would. Furthermore, porn provides an outlet for sexual frustration. These frustrations again wouldn’t just go away, but could potentially manifest themselves in much more destructive ways, in pornography’s absence. Not that I think people SHOULD watch porn, but it shouldn’t be considered criminal activity either. That seems retarded to me.
Banning porn would also set a dangerous social precedent beyond just the issue of artistic expression, when your allowed to have sex (only in marriage), with whom, for what purpose (reproductive purposes only), what clothes women are allowed to wear and so on. A repressive society that I would rather avoid. Sex should be a private manner, that moral puritans and the government stay out of. That’s not to say that there aren’t problems with modern sexuality, but the commodification of sex and it’s consequences is a topic for another article.
This isn’t a matter of futurist vs traditionalist. Older art styles are full of nudity and sex, while sexuality and nudity are not very common in futurist art at all. Marinetti attributed D’Annunzio’s erotomania to his traditionalism in “Futurism’s First Battles” and Evola wrote an entire book on sex called Eros and the Mysteries of Love, where he talks about Tantra and Crowlian Sex Magic among other things. Trad doesn’t necessarily imply anti-sexuality. This is actually something that Futurist art accounts and Trad art accounts should be able to agree on, as it affects both of us. It’s a specific type of puritanical American traditionalism that takes on these attitudes. At one point these people had banned Christmas because they associated it with sinfulness. They have always been a pain in everyone’s ass, and nobody should take them seriously.
And to be clear, if you are actually addicted to porn, you should get that checked. Porn shouldn’t be used as a substitute for real sex. Moderate usage, in times of need, isn’t going to hurt you, just as moderate alcohol use isn’t going to result in alcoholism, but chronic porn use can become a problem and damage your ability to enjoy real sex. So be wary. With that being said, I am absolutely opposed to prudish people that say that your sexuality and desires are evil, and I oppose all efforts to suppress something as healthy and natural as sex. I will close with a quote from Valentine de Saint-Point’s Futurist Manifesto on Lust.
“Lust, when viewed without moral preconceptions and as an essential part of life’s dynamism, is a force.
Lust is not, any more than pride, a mortal sin for the race that is strong. Lust, like pride, is a virtue that urges one on, a powerful source of energy.
Lust is the expression of a being projected beyond itself. It is the painful joy of wounded flesh, the joyous pain of a flowering. And whatever secrets unite these beings, it is a union of flesh. It is the sensory and sensual synthesis that leads to the greatest liberation of spirit. It is the communion of a particle of humanity with all the sensuality of the earth.”