Nature, Not Society, That Is Our Greatest Oppressor

…the stringent sexual repressions and yet high sensory stimulation of Catholicism gave Robert Mapplethorpe his special vision; these tensions and limitations allowed him to look directly into universal sexual reality. He saw and accepted the cruelty and aggression in our animal nature, our unevolved link with the pagan and primeval past. Mapplethorpe was not a liberal. Sadomasochism is not liberal. It is rigorously hierarchical and coldly ritualistic. In my analysis of history, sadomasochism always returns when moral codes and social institutions weaken. It returns because it is our deepest nature. Mapplethorpe’s liberal supporters do not understand him. His work is a scandal to all their progressive humanitarian ideals…I accept Mapplethorpe as a pornographer, but for me Donatello, Michelangelo, and Caravaggio were also pornographers…

The Beautiful Decadence of Robert Mapplethorpe: A response to Rochelle Gurstein in Sex, Art, and Culture, Camille Paglia


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