Art Or Porn: Does It Even Matter?S

A bunch of artistes have made a movie with a lot of sex in it. Some are asking whether it's porn. The real question is: who gives a shit?

Of Desctricted, a series of shorts by such art world luminaries as Matthew Barney and Marina Abramovic, the Daily Beast asks, "Art? Or Porn?" The project's creators say they want to "highlight controversial issues about the representation of sexuality in art, opening up for debate the question of whether art can be disguised as pornography or whether pornography can be disguised as art." And they've had a hard time screening the film in the US because of pornography laws. So is Destricted porn?

You can't tell all that much from the Daily Beast's accompanying slideshow, which is surprisingly SFW (okay, you do see some dudes' butts). The sober descriptions of clearly graphic films ("the young man winds up with an older actress who is willing to have anal sex with him") are more amusing than titillating. Some of the shorts sound kind of silly ("A man is seen rubbing his erect penis against a wax-coated deforesting machine, ultimately ejaculating on it"). Ultimately, though, the question of whether all of this is pornographic or artistic seems moot.

The Daily Beast's Craig Stephens writes that "porn is now a mainstream commodity, its shock value challenged by saturation and corporate marketing." That may be true, but America has a long way to go before we embrace sexuality, and especially sex work, as topics that can be discussed sanely and openly. One step on this road would be to accept that the definition of pornography is fluid and shifting, and that whether something is pornographic or not is often the least interesting question you can ask about it. That old saw about "I know it when I see it" has a very true flipside — porn is in the eye of the beholder. So rather than asking whether Destricted is pornography, maybe we should be asking whether it's good.

Controversial New Sex Film: Art? Or Porn? [Daily Beast]