Our Chief Article Writer Brittany Sutcliffe shares her thoughts on art being against porn.

I was just about to annotate a video on my blog (fab what classes as a sketchbook these days) and my actual WordPress feed got my attention for the very first time. A photographer, Phil Kneen, had raised an interesting question. What’s the difference between Art and Porn? My brain immediately blurted out “it’s staged” before it had time to think before it spoke. We stage actors and models to be painted and photographed nude all the time but….they’re classed as art. So shut up brain. Kneen was suggesting that twenty-five years ago, the lines between the two weren’t so blurred – “A quarter of a century ago, naked woman in plush coffee table books and on the walls of galleries we classed as art, naked women in top shelf magazines and on page three of The Sun newspaper was porn. Then along came the internet and the two blended and leached into each other like cheap vodka mixing with freshly squeezed orange juice”. He’s right. I’ve got no clue. How did something that’s supposed to just be an extension of a book (an advanced, accessible, collaborative, ever-growing and useful tool as the internet is) change all that? What’s the difference between printing it out and pressing upload?

bumfporn1I realised it was the intention in the creation. How can you look at Kneen’s photographs and not recognise the intimacy that the women share? Even if it’s faked, it’s reached a whole new level of acting that porn can’t reach. We know that shit is fake. These photos have me guessing. The models are casual and comfortable in their surroundings and they’re comfortable with each other, you can tell that much by how they hold each other. It’s like it’s trying to capture an emotion, something you can’t do in porn. Porn’s mechanical. Sure, it’s provocative but even the “soft-core” or the “romantic breakfast-in-bed and “OOPS! A blowjob, because I love you babe” set-ups are flawlessly choreographed. Shot and reshot. Real sex isn’t flawless.

There’s a certain amount of manipulation you get with a lens and in that, as an audience member, you’re allowed to question what the artist has given you. Are you supposed to accept it as it is? If it’s fake, why has it been faked? What were they trying to say? What were they trying to imitate? How is that imitation different to the real life incident? As an artist, that camera trickery is vital. It’s that bit of magic you have over the narrow-minded and the stubborn. Catch your child looking at “NUTS!” magazine and they get a wallop, a walk around nude paintings and statues at Tate Britain on a school trip and that’s encouraged. Why is one okay and the other isn’t? Kneen asks, “When did people grow so uncomfortable and judgemental about the other 6,000,000,999 naked bodies on the planet?”

monapornOff my own noggin, I think it comes down to two things.
One, cracking one out to porn is a singular, quiet act. We can’t talk about it so we’re not sure whether to be comfortable with it. We don’t know how to form boundaries with pleasure. All we know are, there some very weird sections on PornHub but your definition of weird and my definition of weird are definitely going to be different. Also, if you’re comfortable with talking about it, people are threatened by your outlandish nature (extra points to me for finally using that word accurately in a sentence).
Two, because we haven’t quite sorted out the answer to that whole “what’s the perfect body type again?” question. It’s like we’re slowly saying “be comfortable with yourself…but oH gOD not THAT comfortable with yourself”. What we perceive “the perfect body type” as has rapidly changed throughout history. At different times, each one meant different things. In the 1870’s, a big ‘ole belly meant you could afford food. You were wealthy af and chicks digged it. But now we don’t know our place.

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We’re slowly getting there with the “everybody is beautiful” slogan, I can get behind that. Problem is, the only people actively jumping on that are the H&M marketers who go “Ooo! Diversity sells because the general public is finally developing a moral compass!”. We’re not stupid, we need more than just adverts to reflect our culture. We need to go beyond thinking that the odd booby on Instagram and Facebook is reserved for the lean and clean eaters. That we can’t live up to a certain brand or that we even need to. That somehow, anyone who isn’t a health freak is part of the counterculture. We need art to explore the concept of porn and vice versa since we’re all just different leaves of the same tree. #deep

Words by Brittany Sutcliffe, Illustrations by Alda Lilja