Erotic, Pornographic, or Obscene: Factors Influencing the Perception of Photographs of the Nude
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Considerable attention has been directed in the literature to exploring the pornographic or obscene nature of images depicting sexual content, however relatively few studies have attempted to investigate possible desirable aspects of such material by discriminating between these concepts and the erotic. This study required 37 female and 22 male visual arts students to complete two measures of their visual aesthetic response and their sexual interest and orientation before applying a semantic differential to reveal differences in individuals' understanding of the concepts erotic, pornographic, and obscene. They then rated 150 color and monochrome photographs depicting single and multiple female and male nudes in terms of how erotic, pornographic, or obscene they were perceived to be, and how much liking and pleasingness they elicited in the viewers. Erotic as a concept clearly was differentiated from the others by association with positive descriptors (e.g., dynamic, strong, emotional, relevant, tasteful, good), with pornographic characterised as more superficial (e.g., transparent, repetitive, physical) and obscene being the most unusual and disturbing. Participants gave more variable responses in their erotic ratings of images compared with pornographic and obscene. Significant sex-of-viewer differences were observed. Females found most content erotic except explicit images of two males that were rated most obscene; males rated images containing only males of little erotic interest. In future research, more consideration needs to be given to image content before it can be deemed pornographic and its likely effects on the viewer assumed.
Empirical Studies of the Arts
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Studies in the Creative Arts and Writing not elsewhere classified