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Tony Grist

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Pornography And Eroticism [Jan. 24th, 2010|11:04 am]
Tony Grist
They were talking about pornography on TV last night-  about how it has transformed society in the last few decades. Martin Amis- a person I instinctively dislike- said we no longer know the difference between pornography and eroticism. Well, I don't think we ever did. I certainly never did- and still don't.  A naked bod is a naked bod is a naked bod.  When I was a kid I got turned on by old master paintings because they were the only images of flesh that were freely available. And lets not pretend that Titian or Ingres or any of those guys painted their nudes in a spirit of chaste high-mindedness. No, they did it because it sold or because lascivious Medici cardinals had commissioned them to do it or because it gave them a hard on. The only difference between a Venus by Titian and the centrefold in a top shelf magazine is that the Titian is very well made.

Also- one might add- that the Titian is worth a hell of a lot of money and the centrefold is so much discardable wastepaper. One of the things that's going on here is that the rich and educated are gilding their vices.  

Renoir once told Modigliani that he painted with his prick- and Modigliani- the younger man but also a painter of porny nudes- was terribly, terribly shocked. The old man had let the cat out of the bag. Shame on him.

Incidentally Amis has just published a novel which contains- according to an interview I read this morning- "a 200 page sexathon". My jaw drops. 
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: wolfshift
2010-01-24 11:59 am (UTC)
The distinction between pornography and erotica has always seemed both vague and false to me. It's as if there's something proper or "classy" about erotica, but pornography is dirty and shameful; or erotica is artistic and pornography is mechanical and crude. The line between the two is so arbitrary as to be meaningless.

In my first-year university English class, we read a poem about the distnction between "naked" and "nude". I must dig that out again.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-01-24 12:03 pm (UTC)
There's a poem by Robert Graves on that subject, which is probably the one you mean.
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[User Picture]From: ideealisme
2010-01-24 02:00 pm (UTC)
Re Martin Amis - yeah, I don't like him either.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-01-24 02:03 pm (UTC)
I'll confess I've never read any of his books- there's just something about him that repels me.

I felt the same way about his dad.
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[User Picture]From: ideealisme
2010-01-24 02:13 pm (UTC)
Probably that he's a philandering creep.

I was reading the serialisation of Antonia Fraser's memoirs of her hot 'n' heavy thing with Pinter and god she sounds like a vapid, silly woman.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-01-24 05:08 pm (UTC)
It doesn't reflect particularly well on Pinter that he fell for her. But then he was a vain man too- and apparently under the impression that he was a poet.
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[User Picture]From: ideealisme
2010-01-24 07:32 pm (UTC)
They say he wrote his best work when he was unhappy and after his marriage to Fraser he churned out political pap. A bit like John Lennon only to be fair to Yoko he had quite a few good songs after the Beatles split up.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-01-24 08:50 pm (UTC)
Yes, I'm a fan of post-Beatles Lennon- well, maybe not of "Beautiful Boy".

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[User Picture]From: glitzfrau
2010-01-24 06:14 pm (UTC)
Did you see the Digested Read? God, I love John Crace.

Edited at 2010-01-24 06:26 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: ideealisme
2010-01-24 07:33 pm (UTC)
You bad woman! I am laughing out loud on the train!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-01-24 08:54 pm (UTC)
That's a good one.

Who needs to read any new book when there is Crace?
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[User Picture]From: heleninwales
2010-01-24 02:18 pm (UTC)
Interesting... I don't like either of them either.

Re the 200 page sexathon, is Amis hoping to win the Bad Sex award? :)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-01-24 05:11 pm (UTC)
The only way to write about sex is obliquely.
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[User Picture]From: ideealisme
2010-01-24 07:36 pm (UTC)
Obliquely, eh? What's wrong with the good old missionary position?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-01-24 09:13 pm (UTC)
Actually, scratch "obliquely". The only way to write about sex is with your tongue in your cheek (oooh, missus!)
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2010-01-25 11:37 am (UTC)
I felt the same way about his dad.
Really?

I've had Kingsley recommended to me, especially his, The King's English. Have never got 'round to reading him, though.
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From: mamadar
2010-01-24 02:47 pm (UTC)
Maybe a useful distinction between erotica and pornography is simply the distinction between good art and bad art, well made and poorly made?

I read and write fanfic, much of it featuring handsome naked men getting it on together. I freely admit that this is much the same as a man watching porn of two women, but I would argue that a lot of fanfic is far better made of its kind than most porn videos.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-01-24 05:14 pm (UTC)
Yes, that way it becomes an aesthetic not a moral distinction.

The thing about sex is that, no matter how good it feels, it always looks kinda silly. And the more you try to dress it up- with fine writing or artistic lighting- the sillier it becomes.
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From: mamadar
2010-01-25 12:38 am (UTC)
Well, I'm not inclined to disagree. *g* I prefer depictions of sex and romance that are comedic rather than solemn--to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, more Papageno and Papageno than Tristan and Isolde.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-01-25 09:23 am (UTC)
The comic sidekicks are almost always more entertaining than the hero and heroine.
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2010-01-24 05:48 pm (UTC)
Martin Amis- a person I instinctively dislike- said we no longer know the difference between pornography and eroticism. Well, I don't think we ever did.

Pornography gets you off. Erotica gets you off and is actually well-written. I think that's about it.

a novel which contains- according to an interview I read this morning- "a 200 page sexathon". My jaw drops.

Call the Bad Sex in Fiction Awards!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-01-24 06:08 pm (UTC)
Yes, the distinction has to be aesthetic rather than moral.

I can't imagine how anyone could possibly drag out an "erotic" passage for 200 pages.
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[User Picture]From: glitzfrau
2010-01-24 06:10 pm (UTC)
Titillating erotica gives me the creeps, whereas honest porn puts on no airs: it does what it says on the tin. Rowan Pelling and the Erotic Review make me shudder with their over-ripe over-arch attempt to make pornography middlebrow.

Anyway, art is pornographic at its best: it should give you a sexual shock anyway, on some level. No need to make pornography 'artistic'.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-01-24 09:01 pm (UTC)
I like that idea- that all true art is pornographic. I need to go away and think about it.

I wouldn't touch The Erotic Review with a bargepole.
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[User Picture]From: red_girl_42
2010-01-24 08:50 pm (UTC)
I think the distinction is this.

"Erotica" is titillating material that I enjoy.

"Pornography" is titillating material that gets other, lesser beings off.

It's about people wanting to feel highbrow about their masturbatory material. And wanting to believe it has some artistic value other than being masturbatory material, which it usually doesn't. I've read some extremely well-written erotica, and it certainly takes talent to write it, but at the end of the day it's value lies in getting me hot and bothered.

Hmm, maybe "erotica" is porn that pretends it's something else?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-01-24 09:11 pm (UTC)
What the writers of erotica forget is that sex is a comical- even absurd- activity.
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