Is pornography only skin deep?

Filed Under: SophosLabs

Miss November 2010

Miss November 2010

Looking through news sites I encountered articles about a full-frontal pin-up calendar ("EIZO - Pin-up Calendar 2010") that shows a young lady more exposed than any I have seen before. Yet this calendar is reproduced on various respectable websites. It is all part of a clever marketing campaign by LCD monitor manufacturer Eizo. Now after the initial laugh & giggle no one would seriously say that there is anything wrong or immoral about these pictures, but...

This strikes me as another one of those grey areas, literally shades of grey in this case. It is difficult to have a universal definition of what is legitimate for public consumption and what should be censored as pornography. Now obviously a skeleton of a woman is not pornographic, yet full-frontal pictures of a live woman in erotic poses is obvious porn. So when is an image unacceptably pornographic?

A little bit of exposed flesh is alluring, a lot is rude. If a picture can be pornographic when you can see the exposed outer micrometer of flesh, as displayed in PlayBoy magazine etc. Then is being able to see the rest of the flesh that is below the skin going to be more pornographic, or less? And what ever the decision, why?

Is it context that counts, as in the "is it art or is it porn" argument? In this case the erotic poses would suggest it is definitely pornographic. There is certainly no medical reason involved for these particular poses.

In some countries the laws have defined pornography as how much and what bits of flesh are exposed. The film industry suffered with actresses in bedroom scenes having the amount of exposed breast measured by a censor before shooting was allowed. Well these pictures certainly fail that test.

Miss August 2010

Miss August 2010

Sometimes laws define pornography as "that which may shock, offend or corrupt". But that surely depends on who is present at the time. Some regions with this type of law allow people to walk to the local supermarket whilst completely naked, whilst others are very restrictive in their interpretation. So are these X-rays offensive or likely to corrupt you?

Legal definitions of pornography in general vary drastically. It can depend on where you are, what social group you are in, who you are with at the time, age, period of history, gender and so many other factors. In the end it usually comes down to the interpretation of an individual censor or judge.

If we have ruled out law, artistry & offensiveness as suitable definitions of what should define pornography then should it depend on it's arousal. Should it be down to whether someone might choose to experience the material because of it's sexual effect. After all that is what the other methods are trying to restrict, namely images or actions that might cause a sexual response. So do these X-ray images cause you to be aroused? Possibly an interesting question. But yet again there is the huge variance from person to person. After all there is Objectum sexuality or Objectophilia where some people get sexually aroused by everyday objects. So should Apple's iBook be banned because of it's potential erotic effect?

I still don't know if technically these X-rays are pornography. Why do I care? Because it can be our job at Sophos to help protect you from pornography, if only we knew what it is.

And if this isn't explicit enough for you there is also a MRI video of sexual intercourse penetration that is part of the results from a paper submitted to the British Medical Journal some time back. Though this example is not pornography as it is medical research, lucky scientists.

Miss March 2010

Miss March 2010

, , , , , ,

You might like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

About the author

John Bryan is proud to be one of the Sophos Labs back-room ‘geeks’ as a Senior Threat Researcher and the Technical Lead for DLP data production. John is also an accredited privacy specialist with the 'International Association of Privacy Professionals' (IAPP) and a co-chair of their London chapter. Before joining Sophos in 2008 he had been working in IT since the 80’s and has worked as a consultant to many of the big business names, typically reverse engineering and deployment roles.