Disclaimer: the following piece contains discussion, links, and images that are of mature content.
“So, are you working on anything these days?”
I asked Kate as we flipped open our ice cream pints in her basement one summer night. Once grade school best friends, we had lost contact over the years and now found ourselves with too much to catch up on as new college kids on break.
“Yeah, I’ve started doing commissions online.”
She seemed a little nervous as we waited for her computer to boot and she could show me.
We were both artists and had been all our lives. Once an integral part of our friendship — how many poorly drawn original characters had I passed to her with pride, and vice versa? — the topic seemed now like the easiest place to start to reconnect, so I pushed with curiosity.
“Dude, awesome. What kinds of things have you been doing? How much do you charge?”
She wiggled her mouse to open her software then gave me a big smile.
“So actually, it’s porn.”
Anyone who’s been on the internet long enough knows Rule 34: if it exists, there is porn of it.
Although much of Rule 34 turns out to be traditionally erotic porn featuring unexpected subjects (think Disney princesses, the Starbucks siren, or Kim Possible), in its full glory, Rule 34 encompasses mind-blowingly strange and creative subjects: anthropomorphized animals mating like humans (“furries”), male characters with protruding bellies round with alien spawn (“impregnation”), women with heaving breasts lining up to be milked by machine (“lactation”), and dragons fucking cars.
That art didn’t just emerge from an abyss (even if the internet can feel like one). Behind each kinky sketch or bouncing boob GIF is an artist who made the decision to not only draw porn, but weird porn, porn that you wouldn’t see splayed out on the cover of Playboy.
In my experience, I’ve had little exposure to visual porn (I was an erotic fanfiction kinda gal), let alone niche or fetish work. But I had seen examples of Rule 34 in passing. When I would go to upload artwork to my DeviantArt account, I would inevitably encounter it on the ‘Recently Uploaded’ page — familiar characters bound and gagged or with bellies heavily pregnant. These erotic artists spanned skill levels from “hands hidden behind the back because they’re hard to draw” amateurs to polished, 100+ hours per piece, commercial quality experts.
Typically, I would scroll past with a shrug (“to each their own”), but after that conversation with Kate, I started lingering on those pictures. I decided to reach out to a few of those DeviantArt creators whose erotic art caught my attention.
Who was making this art? Why were they doing it? And why was I tempted to try it too?
Link to their work here (NSFW): http://johncarper.deviantart.com/
John is a man in his 20s from Brazil. His 3D erotic art features giantesses — that is, women who are giants compared to other subjects in the pieces. Understandably, these pieces usually involve feet. The characters he portrays are adorable and mischievous, so cute and compelling that the idea of being squished under their elegant feet is not so unappealing.
John told me that he creates for both himself and others. “There are a lot of people out there that would love to see their favorite character participating in erotic acts. In my case, those would be foot fetish and macrophilia, so its really easy to cater to my fans needs.”
John isn’t this artist’s real name — it’s a pseudonym he uses within the community. He prefers to keep his work private from friends and family, keeping a “private persona” for the public act of posting art.
One thing John told me particularly resonated with me as an artist, as something that has inspired my fanart (though not yet in an erotic way):
“There are times that I get to see new characters in any sort of media (movies, anime, cartoons, games) that I immediately think, ‘That character would be awesome as a Giantess’ and I start brainstorming situations so that I can upload them as fast as I can.”
“You’re drawing porn?”
Kate gave me the details as she opened up her works in progress.
“I found this site and put up some of my art and the requests just started flooding in.”
The first piece she was working on: Princess Peach, Zelda, and Samus all being milked by a machine.
“And you’re making a lot of money?”
“Yeah. For a basic sketch like this, it’s like $30, more if there are more characters.” She showed me a drawing of a man, dick as big as his thigh, lying back as Miley Cyrus gave him a hand job. “I charged him more because he wanted it to be his face, which is a little harder to do than characters or celebrities.”
I couldn’t keep my eyes on any of the works for long. I felt embarrassed to look.
“People really ask for stuff like this?”
Kate shrugged. “It’s a little weird, but I don’t mind. It gives me a chance to practice anatomy in new positions and stuff. And people are happy to pay for it, so…”
I started digging at my very frozen ice cream, not sure what to say in response. Kate seemed relieved to minimize the windows. Perhaps inspired by the characters in the lactation picture, I turned the conversation to video games, carrying on as if someone’s erotic fantasies hadn’t been on display moments ago.
Countless think pieces and research articles have covered how internet anonymity allows us to express our most private thoughts, so I won’t dwell on that. Suffice to say, when we take our physical bodies and real-life identities out of the equation, humans have proven that we can bare it all, from mundane to the intensely erotic.
These works I was seeing on DeviantArt’s ‘Recently Uploaded’ page were the erotic fantasies of someone out there. Somebody bothered to pay an artist to create those works or put in hours of work to create it themselves.
Eroticism and sexuality are considered private but, as my casual discovery of these works proves, are demonstrably public. Any flavor of eroticism is a Google Incognito search away. Perhaps this irony is exactly why specialty and fetish porn is well-suited to this strange place we call “the web.”
Link to their work here (NSFW): http://busty-vamps.deviantart.com/
Rush is a man in his 30s with Russian and Welsh roots. He creates 3D characters and showcases them in a unique storytelling format. Although the stories may start out with safe-for-work character introductions or descriptions, they quickly change into erotic thrillers featuring vampire lesbians, body inflation, and the occasional burst of gore or lactation.
His fascination with women like the ones he creates runs deep. “My vampire/villainous babe fetish roots go back to some of my earliest memories in mid-childhood and those roots only grow deeper through my teen years. Angelic beauty that hides a dark secret and hidden evil often arouses my curiosity.”
Understandably, his motivations for creating erotic art reflect his personal fascination.
“[W]hile I am beginning to grow an audience and even fans the thing that motivates me the most is my own desire to show my odd and erotic fantasies to the world. The commissions I get are merely a welcomed bonus which helps me financially.”
Like John, Rush keeps his erotic art hidden from people in his real life, but considers the act of posting it to be public.
Late in the night, after remembering who we were and settling back into our comfortable friendship, Kate’s sketches came back up when I pulled out my own drawing tablet. I colored an artistic nude as she finished the lines on the Miley drawing. Just two old friends in a basement eating ice cream and drawing naked people.
What was so different about our drawings, my girl posing with a blanket and her man squirming under Miley? Our subjects were people we had envisioned and constructed, to be seen by others and appreciated. Perhaps one difference was that I drew my girl to feel elegant, to express a subtle beauty I wanted more of in this world, while she drew her subjects for utilitarian reasons: money and practice.
But as I drew, I realized how easily our motivations could be flipped. I could be drawing an erotic scene because it made my heart flutter and body flush. She could be drawing other kinds of beautiful things because someone had paid her for it. So really, what was the difference?
The motivation to create can come from within or from outside and the sexual nature of the art is largely unimportant to that, all things considered.
Link to their work here (NSFW): http://lairofthebluedragon.deviantart.com/
Stavros is a man in his 40s whose specialty falls under the broad label of BDSM. However, his particular kink is the slave girl — hands and neck shackled and heavy with chains. His work has featured celebrities, cartoon characters, and original characters, all with the distinct trappings and situations of a female slave world.
Stavros offered an in-depth explanation of the public and private aspects of his work. He started out creating for himself, unable to find existing work that satisfied his tastes. He describes his first posts to DeviantArt as “an experiment. I thought if people liked this other work, then some might like mine. So I did think that I might have some followers, but I had no idea how many. Right from the start, I had some very loyal fans who [favorite-d] everything I did. This gave me a confidence boost, and it also pushed me to improve my work. I started experimenting with different mediums, techniques, and styles to get better, and I am still experimenting.” Less than a year ago, he opened up his page to commissions.
Ultimately, his art is driven by both public and private motivations.
“When I am doing a request or commission, it is more of a public act. I have done many requests involving fetishes that do nothing for me, so I cannot view those as private. Pictures that are my own are more private… I do them to please me. Yes, I may think about my fans when I am doing them, but ultimately, they are for me.”
However, he sees the act of posting to anywhere as inherently public. “Creating my own art (not requests or commissions) is a private act, but posting them is public. I have some work that I have not posted, and I will not post. These are for me and me alone.”
Like the art appreciator, the erotic artist operates in a private and public way. Their subject matter appeals to the private desires of people, yet it’s put onto the public web. Furthermore, the artist may create erotic art for private purposes — because they think something is yummy and want to bring more of it into the world — or for public purposes — for an erotic art contest, for a commission, whatever.
Given the amount of amateur erotic art out there, money can’t be the only factor. It’s likely a mix of both private and public motivations. But with no erotic art in my portfolio, I can’t speak to the reasons for it. But there are others who can.
Private need is the thirst that must be quenched in the beginning, when we are amateurs learning to inspire others.
Searching the ‘Recently Uploaded’ page of Deviantart, I found dozens of artists creating wonderful and strange erotic pieces. I searched terms like impregnation, breast expansion, yiff, giantess, or fetish and found many more creators who specialize in certain kinds of erotic art. Surely, after all the time and energy put into producing galleries full of erotic art, these artists understand what it means to create art that results in private pleasure despite its public place.
Link to their work here (NSFW): http://black-rayal.deviantart.com/
Richie is a man in his 20s with a talent for drawing sexy video game girls. His drawings feature soft, beautiful, feminine women painted with detail and care to showcase their generous curves. Some of his works feature wedgies and diapers and all fall into the “Rule 34” category.
Although Richie began drawing erotic art for fun, he sees it now as a serious option for a job.
“I create erotica because it’s kinda all that I’ve got. At first, I drew smut for fun, but as you get older well… the appeal of pornography kinda dies out as you have real relationships and experiences… Art is all I’ve got now, so I’m desperately trying to make all the hours and cash that I’ve invested in it pay off.”
Richie sees his DeviantArt posting as a largely private act, given the maturity filters and sexual content constraints of the website. I interpret this to mean that his posts are only exposed to a community of people rather than the world at large. Those communities can be unique social places, too. “I have met some amazing people in the communities that I’ve joined and participated in… and also some of the worst people I’ve ever met. It’s a real mixed bag. My interaction with the people that I’ve met here changed my life completely.”
After browsing countless galleries of erotic, fetish, and specialty art and chatting with the people who make it, I think I have begun to understand why they do what they do. As with all art, to draw erotic art, even non-professional, fetish erotic art, is for both the artist and the consumer. The motivation to create can come from within or from outside and the sexual nature of the art is largely unimportant to that, all things considered.
Yes, people keep separate their erotic art lives and their public ones. But to create from a place of sexual pleasure is not all that different from creating from a place of appreciation for beauty, or inspiration gleaned from TV shows, games, or the natural world.
For an artist, to create is to craft, to struggle, to celebrate, and to appreciate. Private need is the thirst that must be quenched in the beginning, when we are amateurs learning to inspire others. With time, talent, and luck, our work migrates to the public spheres, where motivations become more complex — but to differentiate erotic from non-erotic art in that process is to say nothing at all.