Comics Stripped examines the history and cultural significance of the illustrators, icons and images that have entertained and educated (as well as equally misinformed) the basics of sex. From the coquettish to the most explicit “dirty drawings,” the exhibit presents the ultimate homage to sexual fantasy uninhibited by the constraints of reality.
From simple titillation to hardcore representations, comics have a long history of incorporating humor, scandal, fantasy and fun with sex. Originally used as a form of amusement and satire intended for adults, the societal perception of comics as wholesome entertainment geared toward children has made the inclusion of sexual content particularly jarring.
In recent years comics as a media has grown into a potent, dynamic and sometimes subversive form of art, worthy of academic investigation. Comics focused on erotic subjects are no exception, and tend to fall into two popular narratives: one uses familiar – sometimes mainstream – icons in “compromising” sexual situations, while the other constructs sexual encounters, acts and personas that cannot exist in reality and are constrained only by the illustrator’s imagination. For some, even the creation of erotic comics is a sexually charged experience, particularly if the sexual fantasy is in some way inaccessible in reality. As Tom of Finland famously said, “If I don’t have an erection when I’m doing a drawing, I know it’s no good.” Whether mass-produced or created as individual works of art, erotic comics are a reflection of society and unabashed sexual fantasy, where every sexual act ever performed or imagined exists.