In the cauldron of modern universality, conflicting narratives of diverse civilizations melt. This often leads to confusion and misrepresentation. One example of such conflation is mixing up of modern pornography with erotic portion of ancient art. This on one hand gives undeserving respectability to crass stupidity; on another it brings down some profound art form to level of mindless orgies. It’s therefore important that difference between the two is clearly understood by us. Here is an attempt in that direction.
The genre of sexual arousal content is called pornography. It means that our appreciation-sense of beauty today is largely defined by pornographic content of varying degrees and levels that we are made to watch in different contexts. Mass media and popular culture start bombarding man with such content from early childhood. The pernicious effects of such content on psyche, character, personality, family, relationships and society are not hidden or unknown. But its utility to advertisers, marketers, media and decision makers rarely allow fair study and discussion on such an important issue. Any criticism regarding this trend elicits standard response. Hired columnists, quack scholars all accuse critics of sexual mores of playing puritans, fundamentalists and moral police etc. To strengthen their argument they quote examples of erotic panels or painting of Khajuraho and Ajanta. But can these things be compared with genre called porn? To know this it is important to understand pornography and its development.
Pornography is depiction of sexual matters for sexual arousal. The word pornography comes from Greek word porne meaning prostitute; it is related to word pernanai meaning “to sell” and porneion “residences of prostitutes”. In the Deipnosophists of Athenaeus word pornographos is used to denote “someone writing of prostitutes”. In modern times we find earliest use of term pornographie in the French. Merriam Webster defines it as - the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement; material (as books or a photograph) that depicts erotic behavior and is intended to cause sexual excitement; the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction.
Pornography is a modern phenomenon. The Post Renaissance colonization era of 18th century provided ideal climate for development of pornography. Decline of Church’s power over state and laity, secularization of society, scientific advancements made the suppression of sexual desires look illogical. The exposure of Victorian British and French-German intellectuals to other far ancient civilizations made repressed Western man more inquisitive, exploring and self-willed. This resulted in a reaction of sexual freedom that rapidly degenerated into porn culture. The difference in pornography and ancient arts is presented here:
|Pornography||Ancient ‘erotic’ art forms|
|Pornography as a genre came into mainstream existence in early 18th century.||Its evidence goes back to early dawn of human civilization.|
|The purpose of pornography is sexual arousal.||Majority of examples appear depiction of natural sensual beauty.|
|Pornography as a genre shows an obsession with sexual arousal. More the arousal more successful the product.||Erotic content appear a small part of a greater scheme of theme. For example erotic sculptures constitute less than 10% of total sculptures of Khajuraho.|
|Development of pornography requires moral-ethical and religious suppression of natural sexual desires.||These developed into a society that was open to sexual pleasure.|
|This genre is a reaction to religious-moral suppression of Abrahamic religions.||These forms are celebration of procreative-fertility powers.|
|The narrow, clannish and exclusivist morality present in these religions provided a rationale to exploit other people. This too contributed in development of porn. The vast categories like child, teen, rape, Incest, taboo, interracial, kink, BDSM etc. attests this.||Here depictions represent pleasures aspects of desires and sex pertaining to some story or morale.|
|The voyeuristic nature of this content leads to perversions, moral-ethical dilemma and dysfunctional relationships.||Kama i.e. desires including sexual one are seen as one among four goals of human life; the other three being Dharma, Artha and Moksha (righteousness, money and liberation).|
|Its dominance emanates from psychological appeal.||Its power lies in connect with holistic well being of individual in society and ecology.|
The so-called similarity of porn and ancient erotic art is fallacious and untenable. We know that Modern psychology’s failure to fathom deep in realm of consciousness made them relate everything to sexual instincts of man. It legitimized those sexual mores which promoted porn as natural instinct of man. The effect of Freudian school on modern civilization through literature, art and popular culture has been unparallel. Many a cherished movements produced and exported by the Western civilization like feminism, liberalism, LGBT movement etc. lose their sheen once we are open to this truth. It is time that we study the effects of pornographic content on people and take corrective policy changes is call of the time.