Friday, 1 November 2013

PORN?

Politics is a tricky business. Within right-wing countries such as my own home, the United Kingdom, politicians play a difficult game, attempting to combine conservative values with an economy driven only by growth. Ever since David Cameron (part of the right-wing Tories) took on the role of Prime Minister, a class hierarchy of sorts has emerged – arguably an undeniable element of a Capitalist government and not one which has had a hugely detrimental effect so far (aside from the fact that most of the population now shudder with fear at the thought of £9000 tuition fees, meaning that university education is now less of a right, more of a privilege). However, Cameron’s most recent announcement that he was going to ‘revolutionise the Internet’ was a step too far, and a clear example of politics sticking its proverbial nose where it does not belong. 
Kristen McMenamy, 032c

The ‘revolution’ of which Cameron speaks will manifest itself in the form of strict online censoring, no doubt designed to appease the overly-sensitive members of the UK population that  spend their Saturday nights on the phone to OFCOM, complaining about Lady Gaga getting her arse out on the X Factor. Now, with regards to the ban, it would be less irritating if Cameron was talking about cracking down on child pornography, or if the censorship was aimed specifically at youngsters, but he wasn’t and it isn’t. Instead Cameron now apparently feels he has the right to judge what we, as a nation of consenting, educated adults, should and should not be allowed to see – a rage-inducing thought, especially when we consider the effects that the ban could have on young creatives. This article is designed to highlight just one of the countless flaws in Cameron’s grandiose scheme – the notion of defining what it and what isn’t porn, especially within the realms of fashion and art. In terms of censorship, how can we define what is inappropriate and what isn’t?

Simone Rocha, S/S 2014

To begin, we have to understand that sex and sexuality are both fluid, especially in today’s society. Too often we think of ‘sex’ as a bad thing, associated only with the silicone-chested models splashed on Page 3 of every newspaper, hands in knickers and ‘come-to-bed’ eyes fixed firmly on the camera. Never do we think of sexuality in the sense of power – we don’t think of BDSM as a commentary on submission, we don’t think of exposed flesh as a commentary on vulnerability and we don’t see sex as something which is a) perfectly natural and b) something which should be discussed. For example, Simone Rocha’s latest collection was loosely based on a Japanese photographer, Nobuyoshi Araki, whose portraits show women laid naked, bound and gagged. This, of course, would be banned by Cameron’s law. If you look at the photographs themselves they are strangely beautiful, designed to visually represent the contrast between submission and domination. The women portrayed are clearly in control, and the steely glint in their eyes portrays determination and strength. 

Nobuyoshi Araki
There is also the example of one of my favourite editorials of all-time, ‘032c’ (first image of this post). Featuring unusual beauty Kristen McMenamy in a series of brutally graphic shots, some of which are incredibly explicit (one, for example, is a close-up of McMenamy’s vagina), the editorial was provocative in its warts-and-all portrayal of a model in her home environment. There’s a kind of deranged beauty to the shoot, one which breaks the conventional stereotypes of beauty and one which is both more interesting and more beneficial than the glazed looks of the glamour models that we’re so accustomed to seeing. The theme of the shoot is definitely more aggressive than it is ‘sexual’ – McMenamy is literally shoving her vagina in the viewer’s face, but the message here is one of assertion as opposed to one of seduction. Paolo Roversi is another example of a photographer that specialises in nudity – one of his most iconic portraits features Guinevere van Seenus, completely naked, staring pointedly into the camera. Roversi’s ‘Nudes’ series is just one of the great things that could get lost in these Internet filters despite the fact that the photo is not designed to offend, simply to create a beautiful picture.  

Guinevere van Seenus, by Paolo Roversi

Finally, one of the most recent examples of nudity in fashion came courtesy of androgynous model Andrej Pejic, who controversially posed nude for Vogue Brazil. Pejic’s presence in the fashion industry in itself is extremely important – by walking both menswear and womenswear catwalks, he is slowly breaking the boundaries of gender and exposing a wide demographic to the sense that ‘transgender’ isn’t something to be feared. The UK population need to be exposed to these kinds of people – a staunchly nationalist country in itself, exposure to this kind of art would be beneficial in terms of bringing people out of their comfort zones and forcing them to entertain the notion of sex and sexuality as something more layered than mere titillation. 

Andrej Pejic by Mario Testino, for Vogue Brazil










In summary, it is genuinely disappointing to see government money being pumped into something as trivial as censorship which seems designed to appease a Conservative public. The focus on academia can occasionally mean that creativity can be trampled, and these new regulations will only make it even more difficult for young artists and designers to get their work approved and shown to the world (which is one of the main functions of the Internet). Cameron may to try dress the law up as an attempt to tackle child porn, but all discussion around the bill has focused more on needless censorship than it has on any kind of serious issue. Sex and sexuality are tools of expression, both in fashion and in art. Nudity, erotica and countless other ‘controversial’ subjects can actually be incredibly beautiful, powerful and provocative when done right, therefore it is completely ridiculous to even entertain the idea of a ban, especially when the plan is so badly thought out. Cameron’s plea that ‘soft porn’ be allowed to slip through the net is what is truly the most harmful – the 032c editorial may never see the light of day again, yet men are still allowed to leer over Page 3 models as long as their vaginas are covered. This immature concept that ‘nudity = porn’ is a clear indication that actually, more explicit photographs are something that need to be seen so that people can understand that an erect dick or a woman with her legs open are not always there to offend. It’s also an example of the infuriating attitude of the country in general, one which sees people actively seeking things to complain about instead of looking at things objectively, and from an artistic standpoint. Finally, the ban represents judgement – judgement on people that watch porn, judgement on people that participate in porn and judgement of a sexually-active lifestyle. Perhaps Cameron should focus less on ‘the porn debate’ and instead focus on the fact that politicians themselves are hardly perfect – from expenses scandals, bigoted comments and more examples of hidden ‘mistresses’ than I can count on both hands. There is a well-known saying that feels painfully appropriate here – ‘May he who is without sin cast the first stone’. 

Kate Moss, by Juergen Teller


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