Art or Porn?

Social media sites like Facebook and Instagram have banned pictures that display nipples. Other sites, such as Tumblr and Twitter don’t censor pictures at all but Pintrest draws the line at images they consider to be porn.

So where should the line be drawn? Are nude photos art or is all nude photography actually porn? It’s a debate that rages among photographers and the general public.

There are strong arguments on both sides of the issue and opinions vary across cultures. If you are a photographer or have a website, you need to be able to judge where an image crosses the line from art to porn.

Porn v Art

Porn is the depiction of erotic behaviour that is intended to cause sexual excitement.

Art is more difficult to define than is porn. Art is an expression of human creativity. It isn’t appreciated solely for its beauty or emotional power.

The best art causes an emotional response in the viewer.

Using those two subjective definitions, you could say that porn, by causing a response, is a subset of art, but the fact is that porn is illegal in many instances and art is not.

So, for a photographer or website owner, the line that needs to be drawn is at intent. If an image intends to cause sexual excitement, label it porn and stay out of trouble.

Why All the Fuss Over Nude Pictures?

While artists have been depicting the nude form for generations, photography is often singled out as being particularly inappropriate for nude representations because the images are exact copies of a real subject.

The realism of the nude in a photo makes some people uncomfortable, whereas a nude representation in white stone statues from antiquity or pencil sketches (no matter how detailed) do not seem as real to viewers.

The realism of photographs lends them to being more morally serious to view than a drawing or sculpture. Because real people are depicted within nude photographs, many people feel like they are invading private moments, as though they were standing in the room when the photo was taken.

This realism makes it much harder some people to view nude photography objectively.

Boudoir photography often walks a knife’s edge on whether it is art or porn without showing any nudity at all because the intent is to elicit arousal. However, because the subject is usually clothed, people are less upset by boudoir photography than nude photography.

So Can A Nude Photo Be Art?

For a nude photo to be considered art, the nudity mustn’t be the focus of the photo. In art, nudity is secondary to the subject form or another concept. The subject is nude because clothing would interfere with the lines of the form, not because someone is turned on by the idea of nudity.

Nude photographic art is not about sex. When it is about sex, it becomes porn.

But Is It Really Porn?

In general, if the focus of the photo is the genital area or a sexual act, it most likely constitutes porn no matter how artistically you pose the subject(s).

If the photo includes any pose you have seen in an adult men’s magazine centrefold or any similar publication, it is unlikely to be art.

If your website uses words like ‘sexy’, ‘hot’, ‘slut’ or any other word you might see in an adult film advertisement to describe your photos or images the chances are they fall under the definition of porn because of intent.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, everyone will have their own opinion.

If you are hosting on your own site, you set the rules. I find the best rule is to warn visitors to my site if I am going to display anything not safe for work (NSFW) which pretty much begins with lingerie or swimsuit pictures.

Social media sites have their rules. Facebook and Instagram remove pictures displaying female nipples and genitalia of both sexes.

Twitter and Tumblr offer no censorship at all whereas Pintrest allow nude pictures but not what they consider to be porn.

YouTube is a grey area. They ban nudity but they allow nudity for ‘educational’ purposes. So, a nude scene in a film is banned but a ‘how to’ video on nude photography is allowed.

At the end of the day, common sense is king and you can be sure someone, somewhere will complain no matter how hard you try to please everyone.

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