THREE DEFINITIONS OF PORNOGRAPHY
"Pornography" names an argument, not a thing. WALTER KENDRICK The Secret Museum: Pornography in Modern Culture
What is pornography? Does obscenity really begin where eroticism leaves off? What, if anything, is the difference between them? Most of the usual answers to these questions are uncertain, and all definitions are fragile, a condition that probably stems from the nature of the subject itself. Pornography provokes some very strong feelings, from sexual excitement to outrage, but the thing itself remains imprecise and frustratingly ungraspable -- so intangible, in fact, that it is known primarily by its effects. Perhaps more astonishing is the fact that the three main definitions of pornography seem to come from three different universes, each of which is unaware of the existence of the other two. And each has its own merits.
Let us begin with the current analytical definition of pornography, which we will view with a certain amount of clinical detachment, in the hope of reaching some of the fundamental elements of pornography and arriving at a model that can then be applied to all circumstances, and which will sail smoothly between the Scylla of confusion and the Charybdis of tautology. This opening section may require the reader's indulgence, since theoreticians seldom bother about clarity and are also prone to boredom resulting from their own shyness and reticence, which