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Sex, Art and the Search for Stimulation
by Lilika Ruby
2011-01-13 09:30:15
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My husband looks at a lot of porn.

Not just your general garden-variety porn either. Last week at a dinner with friends, he described in detail and pantomime the curious gyrations that are a part of pissing in public, mimicking the video he’d watched on the website with a similar name. Everyone laughed.

Some more comfortably than others.

sex001_img_400I haven’t watched the video myself – the pissing in public. But from the description, it’s an endless digital compendium of variously embarrassed girls hopping around – in very public places – as  growing wet spots spread down their very white pant legs.

And that’s it.

Video after video of cute, smiling girls with red cheeks and pee stains.

Yesterday, we went to the modern wing of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. We hadn’t visited since arriving in Kansas City - our new hometown – and it was hot outside and we were all dressed up with nowhere to go.

The building itself – or buildings, rather – are beautiful. Giant shuttlecocks on the lawn.

A  Rauschenberg I’ve often seen in books. A moderately interesting Warhol called Baseball.

A few photographs I stopped in front of dutifully, first noting that they were part of an exhibition of alumni at the Art Institute where we’ll be teaching in the fall.

I don’t think it turns him on anymore. The porn. I mean, sure maybe as a quick way to get your rocks off – a sort of vibrator for him – but as a real stimulant, not so much. It’s more about the search at this point. The search for something that can make him stop and say:

Damn. That is some crazy shit.

We passed from gallery to gallery rather quickly – my feet hurt, I’d worn the wrong shoes for gallery hopping – testing each other’s art history knowledge in slightly louder voices than usual

And who is this?

Well, at least they have one woman –

Ellsworth Kelly – why can’t I ever remember his name??

feeling generally superior to the other people in the galleries with us and feeling particularly solicitous toward the docents that stood smiling and handing out pamphlets for the Italian Glass exhibit - but not really stopping, not really getting excited, not really feeling much of anything except educated. Versed.

Well, except for walking across the Andre – a habit we’ve been cultivating – dancing on the Andres – They all have an Andre, of course, usually one of the floor pieces that if you know the secret codes of the museum, you absolutely feel compelled to walk upon –– maybe even taking the time to self-importantly announce –

Well of course you can walk on them, that’s what your supposed to do –   

All this time I was thinking: with porn, for my husband, you know:, “the straight sex doesn’t do it for you anymore – penetration gets old, blow jobs get old, the money shot gets old, the false lashes, the red lips, the big dicks. Then it’s the pierced clit, the latex boots, the sex machines, the up-skirt shots, the anal, the fisting…The list goes on and on and it’s never quite the same as those first tits you saw.”(Bataille was right: it’s the goddamn religious experience if we’re going to get right down to it.)

Before we left, we ended up in front of the piece it turns out we’d really come to see. Soft, curling wisps of hair. Ugly female bodies that aren’t feminine at all. Sheer fabric falling in gentle folds at too small feet.

The Three Muses by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1525. Sublime.

I don’t worship the past and think oh how great it would be if we could all just get back to making our own paints and uncritically depicting the female nude. I love contemporary art.  And yet, I couldn’t help but think as I sat listening to my husband talk about www.wetinpublic.com and watching my friends squirm just a little bit in their chairs and titter and smirk and listening to their conversation about but is that really about sex? And while we’re at it - what is sex and sexy and sexual…? And I couldn’t help but think – where has this endless quest for stimulation taken us? And is it really any different than the land of plain old tits and ass?

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Emanuel Paparella2011-01-13 15:04:42
The question here resurfaces: is it time to go back to the future and resurrect the concept of beauty in the 21st century? No need to repeat what has been already been said. If the reader does not know what was said in the pages of this very magazine and is curious and eager for some intellectual stimulation, she/he may open the link below:


Lilika Ruby2011-01-13 20:03:29
Hi Emanuel -
It's nice to hear from you. I actually just came across your post about beauty the other day. It is indeed an interesting question (at least to me - many have given up on it entirely, as I'm sure you're well aware). It's one that I am confronted with on a daily basis, given that I am a working artist as well as being part of art's academic community. I'm working right now on an aesthetics of pornography for the present/Internet age...Any thoughts?

Emanuel Paparella2011-01-13 21:07:31

Perhaps the above link to a piece on art vis a vis feminism may prove useful.

Emanuel Paparella2011-01-13 21:13:46

And then there is this above by way of summation.

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