Future Femme, “An anonymous feminist art collective,” put on the show and grabbed the photos as well—off the internet, no less, from sites like U Got Posted and Is Anyone Up? Yet despite not getting permission from these male counterparts, there were hardly any ramifications. Apparently, most of the dicks looked the same anyways—which isn’t to say there weren’t some variations in poses and props, such as, “Two men who had the bright idea to present their penises next to measuring tapes” and another man who “Used a can of Gilette shaving cream for scale.” But Future Femme also pulled the photos from Grindr, with the help of a Future Femme artist posing as a gay man. Interestingly, next to the dick pics she chose to display the hate mail she received after people found out she was really a woman posing as a gay man on Grindr. More than one person “Wished her a female-genital-mutilation-style clitoridectomy,” and, unsurprisingly, “the effect” of pairing dick pics next to such gruesome threats “was nauseating.”
Whether porn can be art has been a heavily debated topic. Oddly, it’s the more serious porn performers who are often of the opinion that porn isn’t art, and should stop trying to be artsy. Yet if there were one example of how porn can be art it would have to be Richardson Magazine, a beautifully curated magazine made by celebrated fashion stylist Andrew Richardson that covers sex, erotica, relationships, gender identity and porn. The past three covers have seen Bella Donna, Stoya, and now Tori Black. Past contributors include Glen Luchford, Mario Sorrenti, and Terry Richardson as well as Harmony Korine, Richard Prince, Jack Pierson, and Larry Clark. In a past issue, Bruce LaBruce interviewed the porn star Stoya and looks back fondly on the 60s and 70s in porn, when “Porn was made by filmmakers” and had thoughtful narratives that were actually “a meditation of the sex. It gave purpose to the sex, it gave meaning to the sex. Porn could be a fully realized dramatic narrative that had sex in it.” And that is what he thinks is missing now from porn.
Stoya, on the other hand, just wishes people would stop trying to make porn into something it’s not. When LaBruce asked her where she thinks porn is going, she replied, “Fuck, I don’t know. I would like to see it accept what it is. The point of porn is not art. If you wanted to see art you would go to a movie or a museum. The point of porn is erotic stimulation, it’s an aid to achieving orgasm.” When Andrew Richardson asked Richard Avedon if he would contribute to the third issue, Avedon replied, “Sorry I was being polite because you had put me in a public and difficult position. I actually think the magazine brings nothing to the potential art of pornography and do not want to be quoted in any way. Sincerely, Richard Avedon.”
But despite this popular opinion, people have still pursued and will continue to pursue artistic pornography. And one place that has perhaps seen the majority of artsy porn is Brooklyn. Coveted gay porn star Max Ryder told me that he prefers to live and work in Brooklyn, rather than Los Angeles because “it’s artsy.” And if you’ve ever heard of The Black Spark you’d know that Max isn’t lying. The Black Spark, a formerly anonymous gay guy making pornographic, artsy videos, helped open up the debate about whether porn can be art. Though it’s blatantly pornographic in nature, Black Spark considers his work to not be porn at all. “It’s not porn—it’s my life. What you’re seeing is not a show I’m putting on. People need to know they’re seeing something real and the reality of it makes it art,” he said in an interview.
The underground dick pic exhibit doesn’t only beg the question of whether porn can be art and vice versa, but also whether dick pics are porn and, consequently, art. I have a hard time believing that the female equivalents would be as similarly glorified in an art exhibit. But at the same time, given the unauthorized nature with which these photos were procured, can they be considered art at all?