10/28/2008

Censure and Sensuality




Gerard Damiano passed away today. Damiano is best known for directing the X rated film Deep Throat, a pornographic tale of a woman in search of an orgasm of her very own. Her doctor tells her that she is a unique creature, that her clitoris is located in throat. There's some fellatio and then the heroine goes off on her quest to achieve sexual satisfaction and love (fellatio).

Deep Throat opened in theaters to controversy which focused such a spotlight on the movie that it became a cultural icon. The phrase deep-throat inserted itself into our vocabularies for good but the controversy stayed with the film’s creator for years until charges of “obscenity” were fired.

The aim to obscure erotic and pornographic literature and film ironically fosters conversation and attention. The conversation has many branches from repression to subversion, topics which have been relevant to all forms of entertainment, art, and artisanship. Underground culture thrives and is embodied under the shadow of censorship. From those shadows emerged sadomasochism, and role-play.

Surprisingly in many ways sexual discourse is as defined by the censure as it is by its aesthetic rebellion. The paths of opposition are so well defined that anarchy has become its own brand or institution. That’s why designers like Betony Vernon fascinate because they rupture bifurcation between sex and fashion. Vernon creates jewelry with erotic functions, rings that tickle and that absorb body heat for pleasure’s purpose which defy the singular operation that fashion has come to embody. So few have taken a route like this that it proves censorship is more powerful than the old punk reactionaries anticipated. Censure defined the avenues of rebellion.

Porn has of course degenerated in the past three decades in part due to the democratization of the industry by video tape. The look and quality of the works have become largely disposable. The function of porn to stimulate is often radically separated from its ability to amuse and entertain. Its more obvious effect of arousal has become its only product where in the past erotica and pornography were also cozy with talented illustration and interesting filmmaking techniques. To build a spine between sense and thought allowing some humor and intelligence into the fold once again is the difficult task of the new pornographers. Pornographers such as Alan Moore and Melinde Gebbie who authored the graphic novel Lost Girls a grown up perversion of the Dorothy of The Wizard of Oz, Wendy from Peter Pan, and Alice from Alice in Wonderland. Alternative Porn tries to inject different looks and more sophisticated framing devices for raunch. Ultimately, all mediums deserve a good shake down. Even the dirty ones which play their own special part in our lifestyles deserve to be treated with some care.

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