02/14/2014 10:18 am ET | Updated Apr 16, 2014

Some Thoughts From the Heart


In an article entitled "The Way of Lust," (NYT, ll/29/13), the Yale psychologist Paul Bloom describes how he and a team of researchers used Timothy Greenfield-Sanders's XXX: 30 Porn-Star Portraits in an experiment published in the The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The shots in Greenfield-Sanders's book, which pictured porn stars clothed and naked were a perfect template to determine whether nudity resulted in objectification. Never mind that the results of the experiment seemed inconclusive. Bloom reports,

"Consistent with the objectification view, naked people were thought of as having less agency. But contrary to this view, they were also thought of as being enhanced experiencers, capable of stronger feelings and greater emotional responses."

However, Bloom makes the following even more telling remark earlier in the piece,

"the philosophers Martha Nussbaum and Leslie Green have pointed out, being treated as an object isn't necessarily a bad thing. Imagine that you are sitting outside on a sunny day, and you move behind someone so that she blocs the sun from your eyes. You have used her as an object, but it's hard to see that you've done something wrong."

This utilitarian view of the body seems to fly in he face of psychology (though Freud reputedly said "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar"), yet the implicit reticence to pathologize may shed light on how pornography can work as an agent of disinhibition. Sure pornography is rooted in misogyny and misandristy (the female equivalent of misogyny) and it can be both addictive and monotonously predictable. But if we look at an Oedipus or Electra complex as being the equivalent of the burning sun, then pornography might be seen as shielding the viewer from its effects by exorcising them. On this day devoted to the ideals of romantic love, some couples may seek out less exalted images, as they seek to open their hearts to each other.

{This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture}