Porn vs. Eroticism

In 1969, Susan Sontag had referred in her article “The Pornographic Imagination” to three domains of pornography: in social history, as a psychological phenomenon, and within the arts. She claims that from the social and psychological standpoint all pornographic texts have the same status – they are documents. As a psychological phenomenon, for example, pornography is the representation of the fantasies of infantile sexual life for purchase by so-called adults, and social pornography becomes “the disease of a whole culture.”

From art’s point of view, some of these texts may become ‘something else’. When she argues for the recognition of artistic values in certain contemporary pornographic literature, she refrains from the feminist movement’s negative attitude towards all kinds of pornography since, in her view, while pornography is commonly treated as only a social or psychological phenomenon and a locus for moral concern, there can be no argument that some books that she terms as pornographic are interesting and important as works of art.

Georges Bataille takes a similar approach in his book The Accursed Share (1993), arguing that humanity forms various ‘worlds’ that exclude and ignore one another; two of these are eroticism and thought. It isn’t that man’s sexual activity is forbidden in principle, says Bataille; only eroticism that is “marked off by the violation of rules” is forbidden. Sontag suggests that “’the obscene’ is a primal notion of human consciousness, something much more profound than the backwash of a sick society’s aversion to the body.”