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Porn, sex, art and the mind in the 21st century

Art has gained heightened significance as an aesthetic.

From hotel lobbies, restaurants to private homes, it's displayed with reckless abandon. Last week while I visited a friend I marveled at her display. She had a peculiar but banal art piece. One in which a lady, clad in attire routinely narrativized as “African”, with a child in the back and basket of bananas on the head. 

This kind of art is very common ranging from pictures of children living under deplorable conditions to dancing. Such videos become somewhat picturesque or entertain a wide white gaze abroad and a middle-class gaze domestically.

Perplexed and somewhat incensed by this irony I asked my friend why she a middle-class lady with a steadily rising career would keep such art. I should admit that I asked curiously because I thought that such art undergirded certain ideological presuppositions. She answered, ‘Doesn’t it look beautiful?’ Seeing the unsatisfaction on my face she proceeded to give a more cogent answer “It reminds me that I am doing well and should be grateful.” 

This was the beginning of wisdom for me. Imagine the United States of America the richest nation on the earth is obsessed with catastrophic end of the world. Its media behemoths always feed this bias by flashing images of war, terror, and mass catastrophes of hunger and earthquakes across the globe.

Sports like wrestling that convert real combat into a simulated spectacle are most popular of its TV sports. For Hollywood, superheroes have been invented who shall save the world from this catastrophic mess. Perhaps it's through these egregious images that proliferate its mass and popular culture that Americans feel better about themselves.

The better sense of themselves is gleaned in this subtle comparison just like the person that has beautiful pieces of slavery art. The idea that one can only realize that they are doing well by reflecting on the misery of others may have Christian roots. St Thomas of Aquinas concluding his Summa Theologica concludes that the blessed in the Kingdom of Heaven will see the punishment of the damned in order that their bliss be more delightful for them.

Aquinas, of course, takes care to avoid the obscene implication that good souls in heaven can find pleasure in observing the terrible suffering of other souls, because good Christians should feel pity when they see suffering. The passage in Luke’s gospel Chapter 16 is instructive, where Lazarus looks down in hell at the rich man who had denied him even the crumbs off his table while on earth.

Abraham tells the rich man in hell who had sought Lazarus’ help that it is impossible to help him as there’s a wide chasm between heaven and hell and the drop of water that he wanted could not be delivered. But why was Lazarus looking into hell in the first place.

Isn't this similar to the discourse in our ordinary lives about gratitude? Where we post on our social media pages "Many have died, many are ill etc but you are well” or the funniest “ finish you food for there many people starving" as though if I finished my food those people would have food themselves. 

When I posed the question of art to my dear friend the economist Hebert Abaho, he responded casually that those who buy this obscene art love it. I asked what conditions precipitated this liking? he responded with an interesting question asking “what conditions precipitate rough sex’? 

I understand rough sex to mean sex characterized by bits of sadomachosism: pain that gives pleasure. So why would such sex be on the rise in a fragile epoch that erodes any forms of discomfort in public and private lives.

Under what conditions are such desires produced and enacted? At the height of this intimate expression as marketed by porn industry the lady usually moans signaling a desire that the “ daddy” should choke her or give more punishment from which she derives sensual pleasures.

The inversion of the sexual partner’s role to that of the daddy that is demanded to offer punishment in the form of some choking returns us to Sigmund Freud’s concept of the Oeidpius complex. The scene also raises questions in feminist theory on women’s subjectivity.

Does this desire in itself negotiated under capitalism and patriarchy erode or enact the autonomy of the individual woman. These questions to which I have no quick answers for me are quite important in the age of neoliberalism’s individualism where the society is completely defanged. It is from this to use of the words of Michel Foucalult that “Society Must Be Defended”.

The author is a lawyer, journalist and political and social commentator

Comments

+1 #1 Lakwena 2024-04-09 14:25
Thanks Joel Mukisa.

A good philosopher is not the one who offers the right answers, but the one who asks the right questions.

In other words, apparently we live in a weird world. Therefore, in order to avoid blaming others for being mislead, everyone may have to arrive at his/her correct answers.

E.g., how can same sex marriage, which in my and others' strongest opinion, is a human wrong, disaster and an absurdity, be "a human right"?
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