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Expert Answer Forum

by Catherine Frakas 06 Jul 2002

Art and Pornography QUESTION from Doray November 24, 1998 When is a Work of art pornographic??? (i'm a member of a secular dance group and we have a concert soon and our artistic director has indicated that he will include a SEX suite in the show....he says it will be very artistic (most of us in the group are christian and catholic--some are nominal though). i'm trying to evangelize them. what contentions can i make re; catholic/christian stand on sex in art?
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius on November 30, 1998 Dear Doray:
Thanks for your question.
One of the primary differences between art and pornography is that art deals with beauty and raises mankind to the higher virtues of beauty.
Pornography appeals to prurient interest in sex and involves a demeanor of indecency, lewdness, bawdiness, lust, and appeal to the baser aspects of mankind to sexual appetites.
There are many definitions we could use for pornography. For example:
Pornography is material deliberately designed to produce strong sexual arousal -- a sexologist.
Pornography is…Doing dirt on sex. -- D.H. Lawrence.
Pornography is actually a form of prostitution because it advertises and advocates sex for sale, pleasure for a price (this can be the price of a ticket to a performance).
Pornography is masturbation – meant to arouse sexual interest in the absence of a personal human contact let alone a one-to-one human relationship.
As far as your performance is concerned, you don't describe what this sex suite includes, but in my opinion nudity is almost NEVER justified in ANY film or stage play or performance.
Is this sex suite designed to appeal to sexual naughtiness for the audience? If so, it is inappropriate.
Does this sex suite have any REAL meaning in the context of the overall performance, or is it added to titillate the audience? If so, it is inappropriate.
Because the art director says it will be artistically done, DOES NOT mean that it is artistic. Is it really art, or is it lewdness dressed in artistic clothes?
St. Paul tells us to guard our senses, our eyes, and to think upon ONLY those things that are pure. Is this sex suite pure? If not, it is inappropriate.
We are called to modesty in speech, manner, conduct, and demeanor. Is this sex suite modest? If not, it is inappropriate.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (no 2354) states:
Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grace offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials. This quote deals with formal pornography, but also we need to take care not to promote the pornographic mentality that comes from any form of lewdness or bawdiness.
A dance performance that includes choreography that is flippant to the sacred nature of sexuality between married persons insults chastity and God, I believe.
If any of this were involved in this sex suite I would protest the inclusion of this unnecessary part of the performance, and if necessary refuse to participate.
Refusal to participate can be the strongest and most direct evangelization that you can perform. It says that you believe in this so strongly that you will decline participation rather than involve yourself in an immodest and morally questionable performance.
That is what I would do in your shoes. But I am not in your shoes. You must decide this with help from God in prayer.
Hopefully, some of the things outlined here will help you see what pornography, or at least immodesty (which as Catholics we are NOT to do either) involves.
We will pray for you as you make evaluate this and make your decision.
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