I’ve long wanted to blog about Vasslily Rozanov and, picking up his Fallen Leaves, about the personal/political blogging non-dilemma, but (a gadzillion excuses here) I’m not ready yet, so I’ll try something lighter.
I saw a man talking about pornography on the Russian Channel 3 (“TV Center”) yesterday.
Production and dissemination of pornography (at least for profit) are technically illegal in Russia. It is up to courts to decide if an artefact is pornographic. The way the Russian legal system is set up, courts have to rely on experts’ opinion in cases like that. Not surprisingly, much depends on who the judge allows to act as an “expert”. Experts’ presence is not always required; a written statement can be enough.
The guy I saw yesterday is an expert on porn at the Ministry of Culture. The Ministry’s main responisibility is to distribute state funds among museums, theaters and other federally-sponsored institutions. I didn’t know they had a Porn Division. But then, the minister being an agreeable, businesslike and liberal theatrical critic, perhaps it’s not that bad, I thought, that it’s his appointees who are sweating over that line between healthy eroticism and septic smut? (Yesterday’s show even made a point of connecting porn with feces-related (post)modern art; its general tone was ironic.)
The expert looked like a maniac. The way his lips moved; the way he bared his upper teeth; the way is eyeglasses blinkered, — everything pointed in that direction: some kind of sexual obsession for sure. “We have carefully watched 15 hundred films… and 90% are pornographic…” Oh, that should explain it, I thought, — but then he began, at the interviewer’s request, to enumerate his criteria for porn. Will those who said Miller v. California kindly leave the room please?
He went into some detail. “A close-up of an erect penis — erect, I must stress, — showing the shaft and the head, is definitely indecent and dirty and illegal; so is a close-up of female genitals showing labia majora and labia minora; a close-up of male and female genitals during a sexual intercourse is equally unacceptable.” He spoke with passion matching his descriptive precision.
I’ve heard that Japan used to have an even simpler rule: no pubic hair showing = it ain’t porn. Or is it just something about civil law — rules instead of precedents?