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Modern Media: Art or Porn?

By Sara Gouda

David by Michelangelo Sculpture
Michelangelo’s David, sculpted in marble between 1501-1504, one of the most famous sculptures in the world. | Photo via Wikipedia
Mathilde Tantot posing naked on her Instagram account.
French-Persian Instagram Fitness model Mathilde Tantot posing naked on her Instagram account. | Instagram

Art and Sexuality in Ancient Rome

The Romans had different attitudes towards the female and male body. Nudity was accepted in art due to the influence of Greek depictions of men and women. The Romans were much more comfortable with nudity in comparison to todays society. Romans went to public baths together and writings showed that men and women who chose to wear loin clothes in baths were mocked. This suggests that being dressed was somewhat looked down upon, perhaps as a mark of insecurity.

Fun fact: In Rome, many statues of men are sculpted or painted with a small penis. That’s because the Romans believed that the brain and the penis were linked, and that the bigger your brain was the smaller the penis and vice versa. Often emperors and rulers wanted to display how wise they were.

Why did Michelangelo create David naked?

Considered by many the greatest artist of his lifetime, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, known famously as Michelangelo, was an Italian painter, sculptor and architect of the High Renaissance period. The Florentine’s artistic versatility was of such high order that many also considered him the greatest artist of all time.

Michelangelo Adam Sculpture
Photo via Wikipedia

Several of Michelangelo’s works of paintings and sculptures rank among the most famous in existence. He sculpted two of his best works, the Pieta and David (above), before the age of thirty. But why did he create David nude?

Maryland Institute Art History professor Ellen Cutler suggests a number of reasons why David was built nude.

It was firstly because of Michelangelo’s adoration of the male form. He believed that the naked body expressed the nature of God. Romans and Florentines were used to naked figures. The male figure in youth was an icon of strength to them. The huge figure of a young naked heroic male ready to charge into battle with a slingshot and large hands was a metaphor for strength. If David had been clothed, even with as little as a loincloth or a leaf, it would distract from the overall effect by drawing attention to what is hidden rather than the whole piece.

What is porn?

According to the Oxford dictionary: “Pornography can be understood as the explicit representation of sexual activity, in images or in writing.” Many scholars argue that neither representing sexual activity, nor obscenity necessarily constitutes pornography.

Gender Studies historian Helen King claims that recent theorists have defined it more specifically as material which presents people—particularly women—as mute, available, and subordinate sexual objects, often shown in a context of violence.

In its most severe form, pornography theory depicts that all representation produced by men in patriarchal societies is, by very definition, pornographic.

A further element to be considered is the intention of the writer or artist; is the material created deliberately to violate a taboo or provoke? Is it providing a sense of sensuality and calamity?

Many celebrities and models, both men and women, post naked pictures on their social media accounts to promote artistic value. French-Persian fitness Instagram model Mathilde Tantot posted this picture captioned “Nudity is god creation.”

Tantot regularly posts nude photos to her Instagram page.

Tantot expresses her confidence and beauty with, what she claims, is the goal to inspire.
Seth, a student at NAIT, agrees. “I think its art because it shows body confidence,” he said.
But many do not see it this way. Tantot replied to people who body shamed her with the following post:

“Some people think I need an excuse to take sexy pictures. Today 60% of girls on Instagram are doing sexy photos. When I take a picture dressed, I like it to be sexy. I am a sexy woman, and I like sexy women. I cannot stand men who have not seen a naked woman in their life and who become disrespectful towards women in swimsuits,” writes Tantot.

Tantot also points out the gender difference, “I assure you 100% when I see a man in a swimsuit/underwear I do not think one second of sex. Because today is the 21st century, spirits have evolved. Believe me when you look at a photo of us in swimsuits or underwear and that excites you, YOU make us AFRAID. And if my Instagram is porn for you then bye! Evolve sh**!”

NAIT student Austin agrees.

“I think it’s art because it is showing off the beauty of the human figure,” he said.

Tantot’s provocative pictures grow her following and her business. She and her twin run a successful international swimsuit company on Instagram.

So where do people draw the line between art and pornography? Is every naked picture equivalent to or considered pornography?

Despite the Oxford definition, some argue that imagery cannot be construed as pornography.
“Isn’t porn more of an action? So no, it is not considered porn,” said Emma, a female NAIT student.

Chi also views the imagery as art.

“I don’t see why this is porn, why is it considered so? A lot of Greek statues are naked and they’re still in museums and viewed as art by many. This isn’t any different,” said Chi.

Where is the line between art and porn? Is society indeed evolving as Tantot predicts? Will this generation see nudity as art just as the Greeks and Romans did, or will they have a different perspective?

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