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These letters are NOT from the same person.

by Dear Jon
October 11, 2002

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Sort 178_Dear Jon-These letters are NOT from the same person. ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:

Dear Jon,

Recently my church tried to have a bake sale, when we were swarmed by yellow-jackets (bees). They made it very hard to have the sale, and every time we shooed them away, more came back! How do we keep bees out of our sales?

Yellow-jackets not required

Dear Yellow-jackets,

Try having the bake sale INSIDE.


Dear Jon,

What is the difference between art and pornography? Is there such a thing as "erotic art?"

Conservative but Curious

Dear Curious,

I wonder what the writer of “yellow-jackets” would say?

One rule to follow is that if you have to ask whether a portrayal of eroticism is pornographic, it probably is. However, if what is being displayed needs to be explained, it is probably “art.”

According to the government of the United States, no “art” ever depicts unclothed children, unless the art was painted at least two hundred years ago.

In case you are really interested, the word pornography is a compound of two Greek words, “porneia” which means “of prostitution,” and “graphew” which means “to write.” Pornography is that which describes or depicts the behavior of prostitutes. A prostitute is someone who is paid to have sex. If people are being paid to behave sexually for the sake of titillation, they are prostitutes, and if they are being painted, photographed or “performing” before a live audience, then they are prostitutes who happen to be porn stars. Strippers are prostitutes. Phone sex providers are prostitutes. All of it fits under “porneia.”

The closer erotic art gets to titillation for its own sake, the closer erotic art gets to becoming pornography. Some erotic art is a long way from titillation. A sculpture of lead pipes twisted around each other called “Two Shall Become One” is a long, long way from pornography. Once you actually show naked human beings, the line begins to blur.

Not that all nudity in art is erotic, either, at least not intentionally. In cosmopolitan settings, there are often live plays which involve nude actors and actresses. This is mostly for the shocking counter-cultural value. Under harsh spotlights the human body looks rather cold, corpse-like and clinical. Not that I would know, having never actually gone to one of these plays.

Anyway, from playbills and reviews I form the impression that often these plays are written and performed by Lesbian Feminist Goddess Worshipers to make the point that they are not slaves to the sexualizing chauvinism of the Stupid Beastly Patriarchal Fascist Half of the human race. Dear Jon hopes to write a book, “Women Who Hate Men and the Men Who Like To See Them Naked” as a commentary on Chicago’s theatre scene. However, Dear Jon’s wife won’t allow him the expense sheet.

Nudity on television in prime-time may not be erotic but it is basically pornographic in that it intends to weaken moral boundaries and titillate the curious. Directors, producers, writers, and actors will give us a bunch of justifications: People are naked in real life, America’s sexual attitudes are puritanical, people are naked in Europe and Canada all the time. Yet there is no reason the viewing audience needs to see Dennis Franz’s butt, no matter what Europeans do or think is appropriate. I doubt that even the Europeans think it is decent to watch people step in and out of showers, not that they take showers all that frequently anyway. If we are importing European values for our television, are we going to import European values for hygiene next?

Anyway, the point is that networks that show nudity in a sexual context are being specifically titillating for the sake of ratings. This is exploitive and pornographic.

Nudity on television programs that document the Holocaust is neither erotic nor pornographic, nor is the picture of a ten year-old Vietnamese girl whose clothes have been burned off by napalm. These jarring visual images display the shocking depths of indignity and violence and are meant to awaken conscience, not deaden it.

Whatever intends to deaden your conscience is a vice. Whatever intends to awaken your conscience to a new perspective has intrinsic value to your own and the public’s good. Often nudity can awaken conscience especially when it is divorced from eroticism. Does “erotic art” deaden or awaken conscience? No one, not even Dear Jon, can make that decision for you.

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