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The Romanian Communist Aesthetics of Sexuality



Starting from several foreign films that were banned or censored on grounds of obscenity in Romania during the 1960s and the 1970s, this study intends to capture the spirit of totalitarian communist censorship. Undermining the classical dissociation, this censorship placed a ban on erotic art, refusing to differentiate it from pornography. Under charges of obscenity or vulgarity, various films or scenes were prohibited, including some that were ostensibly innocuous and not indictable for this offense. This ideologically sanctioned prudery, voiced from a position that was as conservative as that of (petty) bourgeois primness, may seem paradoxical if we consider that communists used a progressive, revolutionary rhetoric at the political level. In fact, pornography was a metonymic term that designated the generalized degeneration communists associated with the opposing capitalist system. This study contributes to reflections on a contemporary issue situated at the confluence of moral philosophy, criminal legal practice and art theory: the (in) compatibility of art with pornography. Is there a contradiction in terms or, quite on the contrary, can pornography aspire to an artistic status? If the latter is the case, does pornography remain pornographic or can it be elevated to the rank of eroticism (and, hence, to the rank of art), once it has been divested of its aesthetically degrading dimension? Or, more radically still, can pornography become an art while maintaining its pornographic appeal?

Keywords: Romanian Cinematography, Communism, Censorship, Eroticism, Political Surveillance, Socialist Bureaucracy