(Art) of the Flesh [Very NSFW]

People don’t get Erotic Art.

To be clear, what I am calling Erotic Art is (capital A) Art first, versus mere pornography. That doesn’t mean Erotic Art is never pornographic, nor pornography artistic. Rather, pornography, as genre of (lowercase a) art, is fundamentally commercial. It is meant to titillate, to get you off.

Erotic Art has the same aims as Regular Art, whatever you believe those to be — to challenge, subvert, distort, whatever. It merely uses the sexual as a thematic or symbolic vehicle.

Erotica, which is aesthetic pornography, occupies the border. It is not Erotic Art, even though it often claims to be. The distinction, however, is hardly clear, and depending on the viewer, a work of erotica might function as Art, as pornography, or even as both.

Erotic Art is also not the Nude, which these days is as much landscape as anything else. Although at one time the preserve of goddesses and muses, both erotic and sublime, the female form is now so ubiquitous as to be mundane. It fills our magazines and TV screens. Indeed, there is a concerted political effort to demystify and debase it to its foundation, to “free the nipple” and turn the vagina into a mere organ, like the pancreas.

Ultimately, what is most erotic is that which is not seen, or which is glimpsed only. Hence it is increasingly not the female form but the erect penis — the last bastion of impropriety — which symbolizes the erotic.

(Fan fiction, which portrays, often graphically, a homosexual relationship between two otherwise straight male characters, is the male equivalent of the lipstick lesbian, a homoerotic fantasy to titillate the opposite gender.)

However, in as much as there seems to be an indelible link between it and fragility, beauty remains effeminate. Masculine beauty, which circumscribes a much smaller erogenous zone, is muscular and strong, never fragile or sublime — or if it is, it’s homosexual, or else a perversion.

The male organ is a required active participant in the physical act of love. Hence, the flaccid penis, peeking at the viewer from under a belly, is the antithesis of the erotic: the spent miracle, the false promise, the weakling.

Impotence, that uniquely male fragility, is never beautiful.

The following selections all come from the last couple decades. I’ve tried to represent several different mediums, from photography to painting to illustration. (There’s even a work of street art.)

As I’ve indicated, there are generally fewer depictions of men than women, and what’s out there is mostly homoerotic. There seems to be an assumption, as one female critic noted, that women don’t enjoy looking at naked men, fragile or otherwise.

The artists are:

  • Fabian Morassut
  • Ali Franco
  • Chiba Kotaro
  • AlphaChannelings
  • Ida Belogi
  • Kristin Liu-Wong
  • Harumi Hironaka
  • La Fleuj
  • Nancy Murrian
  • Robin Isely
  • Pogo Lin
  • Stephanie Sarley
  • Perry Gallagher
  • Tara Booth
  • Nikolay Tolmachev
  • Wishcandy
  • Tony Kelly
  • Yuji Moriguchi