Mansweat by Debauch
Many GLBT community members have become increasingly concerned that Pride seems less and less Queer friendly and more driven by the almighty buck. Jennifer Pritchett, owner of Smitten Kitten, states “When you let money make decisions for you, you run the risk of those decisions being antithetical to your mission.”
Debauch has been contacted via email by Dot Belstler, the current Executive Director of this year’s Twin Cities Pride. Belstler writes, “I am so sorry this has caused you and your colleagues such pain. It was certainly not the intent – nor was censorship. In the future, we will attempt to be more clear in the call for Art, but please understand that sexually explicit content must be handled with sensitivity.” She also addressed the issue of censorship in the following statement “In this particular case, I believe “Mansweat” may have been confused with the full frontal nudity pictured in “Morning on the Balcony.” Of course “Mansweat” is not too erotic, it is a beautiful painting and we would be proud to display it in the show.”
These comments have left many wondering what constitutes erotica in a digital age. Any search engine will pull up a flaccid penis photograph while searching for information about syphilis. As for art and nudes – sculptures of male nudes grace the entries of some of our most noted institutions including Westminster Presbyterian Church. In this age, why should an oil painting of a male nude without an erection be considered too hot to handle?
The issue of erotica and the queer community is a tricky one. there are the quite right concerns that the dollar is becoming too important, that the conservatives and sponsors are taking over and quashing expression. I hope this is not the case. there is also, often, a concern within the community itself that too much erotica can underplay the seriousness of queer rights, fostering and reinforcing the opinions that being queer is all about sex, that everyone GLBT are unrestrained hedonists. I don’t hear that in this article, but I have heard it voiced as a concern in other Pride style events and I can’t help but wonder if this so-called mix up is due to the dollar, to perception or just to plain fear. the email certainly smacks of frantic backpedaling.
When an artist is well known for their sexually explicit works it often becomes hard for them to gain acceptance for their non sexual art. combine that with the fact that the artist is (gasp) gay and there is a ticking time bomb waiting for a ‘misunderstanding’ like this. it’s unfortunate that it is so hard to straddle both sides of the fence in this respect. usually you have to be either one or the other. People always seem to want to put things, people, artworks, into a box, label it and put it away. Events like Pride should be about breaking out of boxes and away from labels- not reinforcing this habitual behavior.