For most of human history, erotic images have been reflections of, or celebrations of, or substitutes for, real naked women. For the first time in human history, the images’ power and allure have supplanted that of real naked women. Today, real naked women are just bad porn.
In A World History of Photography, Naomi Rosenblum describes the effect of the proliferation of images in the 1840s and 1850s in nearly opposite terms. By this time, images of prostitutes sold for more money than the prostitutes themselves, and the sale of photographic images of all types to the middle classes was thought to endanger artistic taste:
This appeal to the middle class convinced the elite that photography would foster a taste for verisimilitude instead of ideality, even though some critics recognized that the work of individual photographers might display an uplifting style and substance that was consonant with art. (211)
The insistence on “ideality” is a hallmark of nineteenth and early twentieth century discourse on art. Apparently, the porn industry, in Wolf’s opinion, is no different. I think that this sort of preference for stereotype is a natural part of discourse that carries with it the seeds of its own reversal. Perhaps this is a part of the larger picture of the tensions between word and image: the resistance to the epistemic nature of images. The epistemic use of images, coincidentally, seems to be the focus of the project of Hermann Krone.