The Price Of “Virtue”


Many of those who consume and pay for erotic artwork are from first world countries. Many of those who produce commercial erotic artwork are not. The artists themselves are often from developing or third world countries. They may not be able to find local employment due to their sexuality or gender identity. Therefore they generate an income by providing online erotic artwork to people from wealthier countries.

The artists in question frequently support not just themselves but also partners or dependent family members via their art. I know several local artists who do so.

The content of erotic artwork is largely defined by the tastes of the market i.e. the people with money, those from more developed countries. However, the LGBTQ+ artists may still produce work that reflects their sexuality or gender identity in some way albeit in an eroticized context.

In order to market it, they also apply tags that some consider problematic (for example “trap”, “c_ntboy” or “futanari.”) They do this in order to draw the attention of potential clients, who use these terms as search terms. Again, the first world market is defining how this game is played. The artists in question may also use these tags to distinguish erotic images from artwork of characters who are in the process of transitioning or genderqueer in some way. Using porn terms helps to separate erotic art created for the purpose of titillation from something created to accurately deal with gender identity or sexuality.

Now here comes the interesting part. A lot of porn terms are problematic if applied in a real-life context. Using a porn term for a transman, transwoman, non-binary or intersex individual is fetishistic and dehumanizing (unless an individual themself has reclaimed a certain term and wishes to be addressed as such.) Using a porn term for artwork of a transman or transwoman is also problematic. However, futanari, c_ntboy and trap artwork is not designed to depict characters who have transitioned to any degree, are in the process of transitioning or are intersex in the medical sense.

The erotic artwork in question features genitalia that changes via magical means, shifting between different shapes, sizes and forms. An erotic artist might depict a character who shifts from effeminate male to female to female with a penis to male with a vagina, all within an erotic context. But this character is not depicted as transitioning, transgender or intersex. Therefore, it wouldn’t be appropriate to use the term “transgender” as a tag instead of a relevant porn term.

One also has to consider that the meaning of words differ according to geological location. For example, the term “colored” is a slur in America and has some terrible historical associations. In South Africa, it is a neutral term describing a race, specifically Cape Coloureds and many people in SA still refer to themselves as Coloured.

Likewise, in certain subsets of SA gay culture, the term “trap” has been reclaimed by effeminate gay males who identify as male and use male pronouns while being very feminine. It takes courage to be effeminate and identify as such in certain parts of South Africa where “corrective” rapes of femme men and masculine women still occur.

However, the term “trap” is considered problematic online and among certain members of the transgender community, understandably so. But we do need to acknowledge that terminology can mean different things to different people and within different contexts.

But I’ve meandered off-topic and I apologize. Let me circle back to the topic of erotic artwork featuring futanaris, gender transformations, c_ntboys and traps. As previously stated, much of this artwork is done by queer artists in developing or third world countries, many of which have discriminatory policies (overt or otherwise) in place. Even South Africa, a place with legal protections for queer employees, suffers from a degree of queerphobia. Queer employees are often targeted and forced out of the workplace without the bigotry behind it being explicitly stated.

So a lot of these queer artists earn a living from monetizing erotic artwork. They tend to use potentially problematic porn terms in order to attract traffic and clients. And the artists are then frequently attacked online for using such terms to market their work. It’s ironic and sad when queer artists from the third world are attacked by first world do-gooders and labelled as transphobic/homophobic. Especially when the third world artists are earning a living through erotic artwork because they may not be able to find alternative work due to local homophobia or transphobia.

In our fervor to educate, we must not attack other members of the LGBTQ+ family who too experience persecution.

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