The argument Moore and Gebbie are making, that porn deals in fantasy, not reality, is mucked up by the very thing whose existence isn’t acknowledged in Lost Girls: photographic porn. This is not to enter into the deranged territory of Catherine Mackinnon and the late Andrea Dworkin and claim that pornography is rape. Even transgressive fantasies in adult movies and photo layouts are done with the consent of the participants. But photographed porn exists in a weird netherworld between fantasy and documentary, and some of its uglier aspects (and now, widespread and catering to every desire, porn has gotten uglier) don’t have the comforting distance the same acts would in a story or a drawing. And it’s easier to make the argument being made here because, at $75 a pop, Lost Girls will have a limited audience.
The broader failure of the authors’ argument is that it falls back on the line beloved of censorship opponents: “Art can’t hurt you.” To which the only real response anyone who cares about the arts can make is, “What good is it then?” We do free speech no good when we attempt to paint it as an entirely benign thing. There’s no telling what sparks books, movies, paintings, photos, music will set off when they go out into the world. That is not and should not be a rationale for censorship. But protecting free expression shouldn’t be a rationale for defusing it.
Lost Girls | By Allan Moore and Melinda Gebbie | Top Shelf Productions | THREE volumes, $75
, Peter Pan, Andrea Dworkin, L. Frank Baum, More