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September 7, 2012
The Porn vs. Art Thing


One of the things that amuses me about the Porn vs Art thing is the way people frame the statement:  “this is porn, not art” as if those were wholly distinct, mutually exclusive categories; and indeed the only categories. Now clarity is a marvelous thing but unfortunately rarely if ever realizable in the real world (blame quantum physics for that).

But of course we are not in the real world, we are on the InterWebz and people here have the luxury of imposing whatever clarifying principles they see fit, and many of them use it. I suppose it must be a source of some comfort, especially for those whom the intractable complexities of real life; the discernment of fine distinctions, and the burdens of analytic thought prove problematic. But that is also why I do not enter into the debate: in this  context it can be no more meaningful that debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin (not a pinhead).

But it does give me excuse to tell amusing (to me at least ) stories, and here is another one:

I went recently to view the sketches of Leonardo da Vinci, which have been touring. They are remarkable, extraordinary, and not to be missed by any serious student of visual arts. But they are something else as well. As my companion pointed out to me, some are arguable pornographic. One leaf of the sketches depicts a series of anatomical studies of a nude male figure, rendered with all the sensitivity and genius we’d expect of da Vinci, that decrease in size towards the upper right corner of the paper. About four or so figures into the sequence, the burly nude male is getting a hand-job from a cherub. 

Oddly, the accompanying explanatory material for this piece was entirely silent on this matter. :-)

posted by: Himself | Permalink | Comments: 0

August 4, 2012
On Porn — Towards a Functional Definition of the Indefinable


Code Hell has added a new ring, called MySQL. I have not yet explored it anything like fully so I cannot report on the rumored presence of any frozen lakes with a large horny fellow at the center.  In addition, my promised guide has flaked on me and I’m stuck with a cryptic book that appears to have left out some crucial bits. This is the last time I trust anyone named Virg… 

But enough about that. Given my situation and contemplating the relative merits of the firing pan vs. the fire, it seems only unreasonable to throw gas on the flame. Being this fond of unreason at times like (and getting some encouragement from a quarter I admire, though I’m not 100% confident they have my best interests at heart), that is exactly what I’m going to do:
Continue reading . . .

posted by: Himself | Permalink | Comments: 0

October 21, 2010
The Art of the Blowjob — Really!


Can photos and videos of a gorgeous woman sucking cock really be art? If you are kind of person who “reads the articles” you will find out the answer below. If you aren’t, you’ve already clicked on that link and are finding out the answer that way.

In a perfect world, that would not even a be a question. Alas, perfection is elusive and in the one we live in the Porn vs. Art debate almost invariably gets in the way of that question. This post is not an attempt to add to that debate — I’ve given my thoughts on what porn is (and isn’t) here, and discussed what art is (and isn’t) here. The astute reader will note that while there is an important distinction, it is largely academic owing to the undue influence of our Puritanical heritage.

My point here — a point so emphatically made by Camille Crimson, the divine who runs and appears on The Art of the Blowjob — is that fellatio is an art, in and of itself. Considered dispassionately (yeah, right!) the mental and physical act of sucking cock is as much as an art as painting a picture or singing a libretto.

Indeed, the connection between sex, of which blowjobs are a particularly nuanced example, and art is much closer than generally realized; indeed it is intimate. Central to elevating both art and sex to the pinnacle of their expression are love and passion. Without them, a painting is merely an assemblage of pigments, an aria is just noise, a blowjob is only an uninspired form of assisted masturbation.

But art is hard. Love and passionate are necessary but insufficient conditions for it’s attainment. Art also requires skill, inspiration, and rare and liquid intelligence that can comprehend the essence of things.

The Art of the Blowjob is a prime example of all of these things. Camille’s passion for cocksucking is most evident but it is also beautifully and skillfully captured, in both stills and HD video. This is a women who loves what she does, and loves sharing it in ways that are actually transformative — that is what art is all about. You will not look at or think about blowjobs the same way again.

But don’t take my word for it: go check out how this beautiful green-eyed redhead expresses her art in the most beautiful, passionate, and loving ways.

posted by: Himself | Permalink | Comments: 0

November 8, 2009
Art: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


Admittedly, the title of this post has less to do with the subject matter than I desire to shoehorn a cute title into most of the things I do. But I have been meditating on the nature of art recently, most especially because of a piece by Michael Helms, which the Powers That Be on deviantArt, where Michael posts most of his work, saw fit to remove. Said work was judged to have artistic merit incommensurate with the controversy, potential or manifest, that attended upon it’s subject matter, so it had to go. I was fond of the work, which I found beautiful and thought-provoking, and in keeping with the highest traditions of good art, so naturally I was disappointed.

But what got me thinking was not that deviantArt’s management disagreed with me — for all I know they do not — but that they decided that this particular artwork was not worth supporting or defending, no matter what they thought of its esthetic value. What was, or could be, behind such a decision? The trivial answer must allow for purely personal reasons such as individual taste, personal pique, too much coffee or not enough, having a less than stellar day. But allow me to pose the question in the abstract, and consider it corporately and not merely individually. And to do that, I should start with the concept of Art itself; what it is, and where it comes from.

Continue reading . . .

posted by: Himself | Permalink | Comments: 1

September 1, 2009
The Courtesan as Muse: Marie Walewska


Chapter 1: The Royal Concubines and Maitresses-en-titre: Stratospheric Careers and Slow Fades

From a Striptease on an Ancient Witness Stand to Drinking Pearls: The Courtesan’s Many Graces and Faces

Wherein we explore the lives and inspirational qualities of some of the most powerful women who ever lived: the Conquering Beauties from the 5th through the 17th century: The Royal Concubines, Maitresses-en-titre. Edo-era Geisha, Korean kisaeng, and Italian Renaissance Courtesans.

Marie Walewska: The Royal Mistress who Tried to Save Poland at the Cost of her Honor

Marie Laczynska, born in 1786, was a young and sheltered Polish woman who never dreamed she’d play a part on the international stage as the mistress of the most powerful man in Europe, Napoleon I.  Coincidentally, she’d had a crush on the conquering Napoleon I during her girlhood, tracing his name in the ice on her bedroom window pane.

Continue reading . . .

posted by: Veronika | Permalink | Comments: 0

July 18, 2009
The Courtesan as Muse: Madame du Barry


Chapter 1: The Royal Concubines and Maitresses-en-titre: Stratospheric Careers and Slow Fades

From a Striptease on an Ancient Witness Stand to Drinking Pearls: The Courtesan’s Many Graces and Faces

Wherein we explore the lives and inspirational qualities of some of the most powerful women who ever lived: the Conquering Beauties from the 5th through the 17th century: The Royal Concubines, Maitresses-en-titre. Edo-era Geisha, Korean kisaeng, and Italian Renaissance Courtesans.

La Pompadour’s Opposite: The Ostentations of Madame du Barry and Her final Penance

After La Pompadour’s untimely death, Louis XV, who was desperately lonely, met the far less self-effacing, but nevertheless bewitching nymphet Jeanne du Barry. With her golden curls, of which she was extremely proud, dancing blue – some say violet — eyes, a highly agreeable smile (even her enemies accorded her that), and endless ambition, she stole the king’s heart, and some would say his senses, and remained his primary mistress until his death, even  though she was,  in the view of many,  just a cheap whore.

Continue reading . . .

posted by: Veronika | Permalink | Comments: 1

July 14, 2009
The Courtesan as Muse: Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson


Chapter 1: The Royal Concubines and Maitresses-en-titre: Stratospheric Careers and Slow Fades

From a Striptease on an Ancient Witness Stand to Drinking Pearls: The Courtesan’s Many Graces and Faces

Wherein we explore the lives and inspirational qualities of some of the most powerful women who ever lived: the Conquering Beauties from the 5th through the 17th century: The Royal Concubines, Maitresses-en-titre. Edo-era Geisha, Korean kisaeng, and Italian Renaissance Courtesans. 

La Pompadour, the Most Cultured Woman in France: The “Scandal of Convenience”

Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson caught the eye of King Louis XV in 1745. A group of courtiers, including her father-in-law, promoted her acquaintance with the monarch, who was still mourning the death of his second official mistress, the Duchesse de Châteauroux. However, the position of maitresse en titre was considered a very significant one, and although she had been very well polished and educated growing up, with the best tutors instructing her and cultivating her talents in singing and playing instruments, witty Jeanne-Antoinette could not claim the noble lineage that belonged to some of the aristocratic young women who were being put forth as candidates for the job opening. Royal mistresses had been a seemingly indispensable staple of the French court since the appearance of Agnes Sorel, official mistress to King Charles VII in the mid 15th century, and it was they, and not the queens, on whom the kings were expected to bestow the most gratuitously lavish gifts, and to whom poets and painters paid tribute as their muses (often to ingratiate themselves with the king).

Continue reading . . .

posted by: Veronika | Permalink | Comments: 0

July 12, 2009
Does Nude Art Sell?


This is obviously a question that has a significant amount of interest to us. But first, I’d like to clarify what I mean by “art”. I don’t mean just what is often called “fine art nude photography”, which is typically conceived of as sculptural nudes devoid of erotic connotation and usually presented in black and white. As those familiar with X-muse and our work will know, we see nothing at all inconsistent and incompatible in coupling the notions of art, the erotic, or the sexual — even the explicitly sexual. All of these are a just manifestation of eros, as the terms is originally and properly understood.

Nor do I mean to go into what constitutes art and what does not (I already recorded my thoughts on what art is — and isn’t — in this post). So I’m going to assume (dangerous I know) that we have a general agreement on what art is, the details of which may be safely left to subjective appraisal, and just muse on whether it is an economically viable product or not.

Continue reading . . .

posted by: Himself | Permalink | Comments: 2

June 25, 2009
The Courtesan as Muse: Korea’s Treasure


Chapter 1: The Royal Concubines and Maitresses-en-titre: Stratospheric Careers and Slow Fades

From a Striptease on an Ancient Witness Stand to Drinking Pearls: The Courtesan’s Many Graces and Faces

Wherein we explore the lives and inspirational qualities of some of the most powerful women who ever lived: the Conquering Beauties from the 5th through the 17th century: The Royal Concubines, Maitresses-en-titre. Edo-era Geisha, Korean kisaeng, and Italian Renaissance Courtesans.

Korea’s answer to the Geisha: The Kisaeng Hwang Jin-I

Korea has a tradition of female entertainers similar to the geisha. Called “kisaeng” or “gisaeng,” these women, like geisha, received extensive training in dance, poetry, calligraphy, and even nursing and textile crafts. Scholars estimate that such women – or a very similar prototype — date as far back as the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). During this era they were often adopted as kings’ concubines and given noble rank. Because of this, and like the geisha, the confusion between their position as artist and their potential as sex workers has continued to haunt them. In the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), Confucian perceptions discouraged the elevations in rank seen during the Goryeo Dynasty, and in this era, when the kisaeng did indeed engage in sexual transactions, they usually became concubines or mistresses to men of much lower rank than kings. Complicating matters still further, kisaeng were broken down into a hierarchy, with the “court kisaeng” designated as the highest in status and the most skilled (and thus, most likely to trade in desultory sexual favors.)

The most famous kisaeng in Korean history is Hwang Jin-I, also known by her kisaeng name, Myeongwol. She lived between 1520 and 1560. Legendary for her exquisite beauty, quick wit, and exceptional intellect, her life has inspired countless movies, operas, and novels in her native country. Because not many specifics of her life are historically certain, this kisaeng easily lends herself to myth.

Continue reading . . .

posted by: Veronika | Permalink | Comments: 2

June 7, 2009
The Courtesan as Muse: Su Xiaoxiao


Chapter 1: The Royal Concubines and Maitresses-en-titre: Stratospheric Careers and Slow Fades

From a Striptease on an Ancient Witness Stand to Drinking Pearls: The Courtesan’s Many Graces and Faces

Wherein we explore the lives and inspirational qualities of some of the most powerful women who ever lived: the Conquering Beauties from the 5th through the 17th century: The Royal Concubines, Maitresses-en-titre. Edo-era Geisha, Korean kisaeng, and Italian Renaissance Courtesans.

China’s Treasured Courtesan: Su Xiaoxiao

China also celebrates historical courtesans who were particularly gifted in the arts.  One of the most beloved of such women died over 1500 years ago.

Living at the tail end of the 5th century, Su Xiaoxiao (died c. 501 A.D.) was a famous courtesan and poet. Her fame as an intellectual courtesan-poet gives her a kinship with a courtesan who would not be born for over a thousand years after Su Xiaoxiao’s death, and would flourish as one of the most recognized courtesans of all time half a world away: Veronika Franko of Renaissance Venice. Both were valued for possessing the best of a courtesan’s virtues: their beauty was matched by exceptional intellect and a gift for poetic writing. However, some of the charms ascribed to Su Xiaoxiao – a heart bestowed with an ability to love and a deep sense of humanity, which her writing and anecdotes allegedly about her life are said to evince – are those also valued in the great courtesans of Edo-era Japan.

Continue reading . . .

posted by: Veronika | Permalink | Comments: 0

June 4, 2009
The Courtesan as Muse: Wu Hou


Chapter 1: The Royal Concubines and Maitresses-en-titre: Stratospheric Careers and Slow Fades

From a Striptease on an Ancient Witness Stand to Drinking Pearls: The Courtesan’s Many Graces and Faces

Wherein we explore the lives and inspirational qualities of some of the most powerful women who ever lived: the Conquering Beauties from the 5th through the 17th century: The Royal Concubines, Maitresses-en-titre. Edo-era Geisha, Korean kisaeng, and Italian Renaissance Courtesans.

Wu Hou: from courtesan to empress, no matter what the cost

Like Theodora, the prostitute who crawled out from under the 6th century big top to become Empress, the 7th century Chinese woman Wu Hou (born 625; died 705) rose from being one among the myriad concubines bound to Tang emperor Taizong, who ruled from 626 to 649, to eventually become the empress of China during the Tang dynasty (618-907). She has the distinction of being the only woman in the history of China to assume the title of Emperor, ruling in all but name for many years, and finally in her own for the last fifteen (690-705).

Continue reading . . .

posted by: Veronika | Permalink | Comments: 0

June 3, 2009
Under Their Spell:pt.6


Part 6 of our essay on fantastical, mythological, and supernatural Muses

The Cheetah Woman: Our Secret Desires and Fetishes

Finally, I want to end this by considering the strange and controversial allure of Aimee Mullins’ part-woman/part-cheetah creature in the five-part film cycle, “The Cremaster Cycle,” produced in the early part of this decade by art world darling (and Bjork’s partner) Matthew Barney. For this films Barney assembled an eclectic cast: Normal Mailer, Ursula Andress, and Barney himself played key (if opaque) roles. Mullins, as she always does, struck an even sharper and more unsettling note, for she is a double amputee. Therefore, when Barney made her two cheetah legs for the third film, in a way he was starting from scratch. Is this the source of her allure? Her danger? There are those who argue that Mullins is exploited (this was especially the case when Alexander McQueen used her as a runway model; he countered by saying she was a stunning beauty, and that’s that – with more profanity thrown in), but I don’t think so. She is a model and an athlete, and she seems more than in control of her remarkable collaborations.

I recall an image fetish photographer Eric Kroll had on his web site of a very young girl (early 20′s probably), innocent-looking, fresh and pretty, and “normal” looking except that she had had one of her legs amputated. He once confided in me that she had received more marriage proposals – through his site – than any of his other models.

Continue reading . . .

posted by: Veronika | Permalink | Comments: 0

June 1, 2009
The Courtesan as Muse: Ninon de Lenclos


Chapter 1: The Royal Concubines and Maitresses-en-titre: Stratospheric Careers and Slow Fades

From a Striptease on an Ancient Witness Stand to Drinking Pearls: The Courtesan’s Many Graces and Faces

Wherein we exploring the lives and inspirational qualities of some of the most powerful women who ever lived: the Conquering Beauties from the 5th through the 17th century: The Royal Concubines, Maitresses-en-titre. Edo-era Geisha, Korean kisaeng, and Italian Renaissance Courtesans.

Schooling in Courtesanship: Ninon de Lenclos and Her Own Court

Although never an official “royal mistress of a king,” one of the most remarkable and charismatic of courtesans of any age, Ninon d’Lenclos, had the distinction of ruling over her own court. Indeed, although she only met Louis XIV – the sovereign whose life overlapped with hers – one time, he was well aware of her bright mind and opinions, and is said to have asked his courtiers, when faced with a particularly perplexing political problem, “What does Ninon think?”  Ninon was very different from royal mistresses like Athenais in that she maintained her independence throughout her long life of erotic conquests. She was a courtesan in the truest sense of the word: even when cavorting with royalty, she remained in control.

Continue reading . . .

posted by: Veronika | Permalink | Comments: 0

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