I’ll have a read tomorrow. You are, of course, entitled to your own opinion, but I don’t find porn a beautiful thing because overwhelmingly, it is not erotic. This is one of the distinctions I am trying to make. And from what I understand, that is actually not just laziness but purposeful that this is so. I wish I could find the very well done Medium story on that and better explain, but alas, I can’t seem to find it. Perhaps more another day when I’m not so tired.

Modern porn quite often depicts women enjoying things that most women would find painful or otherwise unpleasant and has, I believe, led to a general degradation in good sex because young men who have received no other sexual education don’t realize it’s for entertainment and not a “how to manual.” Cindy Gallop, who started Make Love Not Porn (which is about real world sex), did so for this very purpose. She dates pretty exclusively younger men and got tired of it being assumed that she enjoyed the guy coming on her face or never actually paying any attention to her orgasm. Sex is awesome (obviously) and things that are erotic can be quite beautiful and powerful. Porn is largely a waste of time and when it isn’t boring, it’s maddening or highly disturbing. (Just my opinion — I sense another story prompt for myself brewing……)

I used to joke that I was going to become a porn producer in my retirement since it wouldn’t take much to make better porn than is largely out there. My point with all of this is that erotica and porn are two entirely different things. And I am also not convinced that the Venus and others like her were created to stimulate sexual thoughts. It’s highly likely given the enlarged breasts and stomach as well as the absence of feet that they are a kind of self-portrait made by a woman (perhaps a pregnant woman) looking down at herself. Nudity in the ancient world was not routinely sexualized as it seems to be today in the US.

Did the Venus and others like her depict fecundity? No doubt — those statues were often found where the grain was stored in the house but although they celebrate procreation and abundance, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they were some kind of ancient “marital aid.” I don’t believe those images were intended to be titillating, so even by your own definition, they were therefore not pornography. They were part of the worship of a goddess who represented fertility and abundance.

JI: Aren’t other interpretations of paleo art just as speculative as calling them pornographic?
AN: Yes, but when we interpret Paleolithic art more broadly, we talk about “hunting magic” or “religion” or “fertility magic.” I don’t think these interpretations have the same social ramifications as pornography. When respected journals — Nature for example — use terms such as “Prehistoric pin-up” and “35,000-year-old sex object,” and a German museum proclaims that a figurine is either an “earth mother or pin-up girl” (as if no other roles for women could have existed in prehistory), they carry weight and authority. This allows journalists and researchers, evolutionary psychologists in particular, to legitimize and naturalize contemporary western values and behaviors by tracing them back to the “mist of prehistory.”

Just as the erotic and the pornographic aren’t necessarily the same things, the difference between fertility worship and sexual stimulant aren’t necessarily the same thing either.

Dispelling cultural myths with research-driven stories. My favorite word is “specious.” Not fragile like a flower; fragile like a bomb! Twitter @ElleBeau

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