I was glancing through a back copy of The Australian Financial Review (24 10, 2003, subscription required) and I noticed a few remarks on porn. Porn and the Financial Review? What's going on here?
The article contained a paragraph that said porn is cool. Porn is heading for the mainstream. Ordinary old-fashioned sex (whatever that is) is uncool. Those puzzled by this (anyone over 40 apparently) are uncool. Porn is postmodern as it says no to limits, to restraint, to taboo, to authority. This is the libertarian position.
What we have here is a review of a book by Martin Amis called Yellow Dog. Amis is over 40 and he is reflecting on the significance of porn in liberal society. He says that porn is just about the body. Everything is the body in the world of porn. Amis is also reflecting on the obscenification of everyday life in which porn uses the image as a blunt, functional image of desire. It is a literal image.
So what do we make of this interpretation of the porn image of desire?
Porn is certainly part of the mainstream. Academics study porn. Porn is a big industry that is able to turn a profit on the internet and this industry porn shapes the way we understand and represent our sexuality. There is a porn photogaphic style that informs the work of fashion photographers. Thus soft porn. Helmut Newton comes to mind:
Self-Portrait with June and models.
Samples of Newton's work can be found here.
What the above image shows is the construction of a photo of female sexuality. We normally see the finished image:
Newton, Naked and Dressed
Newton's photo's are an intervention into the way our culture understands female sexuality.
Newton's work suggests that porn is far from the literal image that Amis assumes it to be. It is constructed in that way. Porn has a certain style that is then reworked by those in the fashion world. We have this mixing of porn and fashion in advertising for Calvin Klein by Bruce Weber:
It's not porn. It's gay sexuality. But it's gesture to the erotic world of porn introduces gay sexuality into the mainstream of everyday life---advertising.
This representation of sexuality is a long way from the natural and innocent sexuality of Woodstock. On that hippie intrepretation you just strip off your clothes and you have an innocent sexuality. Natural, free flowing sexual desire was held to be the basis to launch a critique of a repressive industrial civilization. It is naive conception of sexuality, given that sex was used by the advertising industry to sell cars, rockets, coffee or anything.Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at October 29, 2003 06:08 PM | TrackBack