Koos Kombuis

Is it an ism or is it Porn?

2012-01-16 14:27
In a well-written, thought-provoking Mail & Guardian Thought Leader contribution entitled "Regulation of the porn industry is not a free speech issue", author Fiona Snyckers makes the following statement:

"That woman who is stripping in front of her webcam is doing it to make money, not to express her inner womanhood. That couple who are engaging in sexual intercourse in plain view of a cameraman, a director, a sound guy, and several hundred thousand online viewers are not putting on some kind of avant-garde naked theatre. They’re doing it for the money."

Using these examples as the basis for her argument, Fiona goes on to explain that the current debate about porn on TV is an altogether separate debate from the debate about media freedom and the government's proposed secrecy bill.

I could not help wondering where this argument would go if one took it to its logical extremes. As Fiona admits herself, the only potential grey area in her reasoning has to do with the rather subjective problem of art versus commercialism.

But is it art?

Is all so-called 'good art' supposedly removed altogether from the profit motive? When I write a column, I try to bare my soul, it's true, but hell, I really need the money, too. And I can point out a number of well-respected artists in different fields who were, and still are, huge commercial successes, and even greater geniuses than myself: Dickens, Shakespeare, the Beatles, Carrol Boyes, to name just a few!

The problem is: who gets to decide what is art and what isn't? What if pornography isn't really something separate from real art? What if it's just bad art?

I have had a love-hate relationship with porn all my life, and only recently managed to formulate my personal skepticism towards the genre: even though it can be psychologically harmful, and even though it is often degrading to both the women and men who participate in it, it is not so much the morality or immorality of the work that bothers me as the sheer unadulterated kitsch-ness of it. Break it down to its basic components, and your average late-night TV blue movie is pretty much like a Mills and Boone paperback. The characters are two-dimensional, the endings are predictable, and the whole thing is repetitive, bland, and plain silly. Yet Mills and Boones can be found in a normal library under 'Fiction', whereas porn sort of oozes through the cracks of society, partially hidden from view, whispered about, hidden in drawers and tucked away in the corners of respectable peoples' hard-drives. It might be slowly becoming more socially acceptable, but it still leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Bodice-rippers and bad art

If porn is prohibited by law, however, wouldn’t that open the door – legally speaking - to prohibiting all bad art? What if kitsch became contraband? Would that be a good or a bad thing? And who gets to decide? Look, let’s be perfectly honest here: two thirds of Kurt Darren’s songs would be removed from the playlists if such a law came into effect. And, even though I’m no great fan of Kurt's music, I wouldn’t want that to happen, because I really like the guy! We get along! I'm scheduled to open for him later this year at the Stellenbosch Woordfees! I think he is a helluva nice bloke, and besides that – here's the bottom line – if he loses two thirds of his royalties, he might also lose his private game lodge, and then I would never stand a chance of ever getting invited there!

Recently, during a spell of cashless poverty I narrowly missed out on an opportunity to act as language editor of a new Afrikaans 'hyg-roman' (I’m not sure what hyg-roman is in English; the literal translation would probably be 'heavy breathing fiction'). When I finally saw the book in print months later – the author had found someone else to do his dirty work – I must admit I felt intrigued.

The book is called Geen Groter Erfenis, it's written by Frederick J Smith, and released by Reach Publishers with a very understated, very blue cover. There are pretty floral designs at the start of every chapter, and the main character is a guy called "Pompies". There are sizzling sex scenes on almost every page, some of them against a backdrop of domestic pets and farm animals.

I'm still not sure whether this book is pornography, a love story, or a humorous satire. I really don't know. All I know is that it will probably sell well, and that, if I play my cards right, the author might one day invite me to his private game lodge. We are already Facebook friends, and that's a start...



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