(This is my response to a discussion question about “What is Erotic Art and how is it different from porn?” from Erotic Signature erotic art/artist community online.)
by Jennifer Jigour
I’ve been thinking about this topic for a long time and I had to go back to the broader question “What is Art?” in general – which I’ve also had a hard time trying to pin point a definition to (and really I think it’s close to impossible to try to pigeon hole it) – in order to try to answer, what is erotic art?
Art is forever changing with time. Art can grow or regress, expand, enlighten and be enlightened, just like people. We may not all agree with the subject matter, style, or medium. We don’t even have to like a work of art to the taste, but it still can be art. If the artist is strong in their c onviction that what they create and put on display is art and has no other function other than that – then it’s art. Furthermore, if an artist strongly believes that their art is erotic art and not pornography than I think we should listen to them, because we may not agree with it or like it, but they are trying to say something about what they believe in.
Sure, politics and logistics forces us to consider society as the defining audience and thus we have to set limits on what we can or cannot show in galleries or competitions, but I think it would be wrong to also let them define what “art” and “erotic art” is. If we let society’s insecurities and prejudices make those lines we would be stuck in the dark ages of art and only painting, sculpting, photographing religious iconography. Francisco Goya’s, “Saturn Devouring One of His Children,” would be cannibalism and not art. There would be no room in our museums for Jasper John or Andy Warhol or toilets on their side and all works of sexual nature, even discreet nudity, would be porn and not a rt. Art and erotic art is what is today because of the artists who did not give up and who said, “F%#* what society thinks! this is what I believe in and this is what I truly believe is art.”
Boxing-up and narrowly defining art and erotic art makes me feel suppressed as an artist and I don’t like one bit.
When I first read some of the responses I started feeling a bit paranoid about my erotic artwork. I thought, “Did I enter the wrong image into the competition? Was it not subtle enough and too blatant in sexuality? Am I a pornographer? After thinking about it for awhile I realized that my first thoughts were pure BS. The image I entered may not be right for the competition in the end, but it’s right for me and I stand %100 behind it as erotic art and erotic art I’m proud of. Furthermore, I am not a pornographer, I’m an erotic artist and I’ll stand by anyone else who believe the same about themselves and their artwork.
I find that trying to judge the degree of arousal in art to see if it’s erotic art and not porn quite funny. If it’s too arousing it’s porn? What’s this? If we really want to be that picky about levels we should create an “Artistic Erotic Arousal Scale” where we place all of our artwork on the scale and it judges it’s eroticness and if it goes up to “Climax” then “Oh dear, I guess it must be porn.” It’s just silly especially because everyone’s arousal point is different. Some people get off on feet, should we ban feet? No. I know a group of lesbians who totally get off on the movie (and book) “Pride and Prejudice,” should we ban Jane Austin and call her porn now – I don’t think so.
My point is, trying to draw a universal line of what erotic art is is impossible. There will always be something new that hasn’t been discussed yet that throws the line out of balance.