Imagination, Fantasy, and Sexual Desire<sup>1</sup>

Cain Todd

in Art and Pornography

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199609581
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191746260 | DOI:
Imagination, Fantasy, and Sexual Desire1

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The starting point for this chapter is the idea that the appreciation of pornographic representations is heterogeneous. In particular, it makes a distinction between two different appreciative attitudes or states: regarding pornography as fiction, and regarding it as non-fiction. The latter, it holds, does not involve the imagination, but involves instead the voyeuristic-like ‘transparency’ that precludes aesthetic interest, and in virtue of doing so, involves real sexual desire. In contrast, the appreciation of pornography as fictional, the chapter argues, essentially involves the imagination and aesthetic attention to and appreciation of the ‘formal features’ of the work. The awareness of fictionality ensures that one's imaginative engagement implies merely imagined ‘desire-like’ states involving some aspects of the self as a character in the fictional world. Significantly, this imaginative engagement is enough to cause certain physiological and emotional sexual responses, but ones that people are sufficiently detached from, allowing them to serve as objects of reflection and permitting meta-responses of approval and disapproval.

Keywords: imagination; fantasy; sexual desire; fiction; non-fiction; transparency

Chapter.  8462 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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