Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Porn: You don't always know it when you see it


I'm pretty tired of people quoting whomever said that he can't define porn, but knows it when he sees it. The quote has two essential implications.

First, that the classification of pornography is intuitive rather than explicitly rule-based. I agree with this.

Second, that there is no fuzzy border between porn and non-porn. This I take great issue with. If you take all of rated-R movies, nude photography, sculpture, and the websites calling themselves the "pig-butt nastiest site on the internet", you see a great variety of stuff, much of which is very hard to classify as porn or non-porn.

And the thing is, most of what people say is like porn in the way quoted is also that way. That is to say, when someone says "like porn, I know x when I see it," he or she  is probably wrong about x. Fuzzy boundaries are everywhere.

pictured is porn. Or is it?
 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Annemarie_Heinrich_-_Desnudo_II_La_Paloma_-_1945_noir.jpg

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2 comments:

push_pause said...

Hi Jim - few month long reader, first time writer,

Isn't it the case that in most instances of 'fuzzy boundaries', the judge doesn't know 'x' until s/he sees 'x'? I interpret the porn quote as meaning to express the exact experience of identifying a fuzzy category. What am I missing? I don't see how the quote makes the second implication, I see it as implying the opposite.

Thanks!

Steve

Jim Davies said...

Hi Steve

My understanding of fuzzy boundaries is that even when you see it, for some border cases, the category membership is not clear. For example, a man who is 5'10 is not clearly tall and is not clearly not tall, even if you see such a man and are asked to make the judgement at perception time.