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Drawing the Line: Art Versus Pornography



Art and pornography are often thought to be mutually exclusive. The present article argues that this popular view is without adequate support. Section 1 looks at some of the classic ways of drawing the distinction between these two domains of representation. In Section 2, it is argued that the classic dichotomies (subjectivity versus objectification, the beautiful versus the smutty, contemplation versus arousal, the complex versus the one-dimensional, the original versus the formulaic, imagination versus fantasy) may help to illuminate the differences between certain prototypical instances of pornography and art, but will not serve to justify the claim that pornography and art are fundamentally incompatible. Section 3 considers those definitions of pornography that make an a priori distinction between pornographic and artistic representations. The difference between the ‘merely’ erotic and the pornographic is also discussed in this context. Section 4 provides a critical assessment of the most recent and elaborate arguments against the compatibility of pornography and art. Finally, in Section 5, a case is made for the existence of pornographic art, as a subcategory of erotic art.