We find ourselves in places where belonging is a luxury.
By definition, this means it is unnecessary.
Her see-through plastic bag, oversized,
contained hundreds of half used soaps
stolen from her job cleaning hotel bathrooms.
Soaps rubbed on morning bodies sleepy and thoughtful
as unconscious as the walk to work every day.
Bodies that hold secrets of unwanted advances,
deposits of having perpetuated untruthful yeses and no’s.
Simply becoming reminders, faint traces, like wandering
so deep the path blends into the horizon or the way pleasure
can be found in those delicate spaces where limbs join torso.
I’m seven essays deep into The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure. There are new terms to embrace like “pink films” (Japanese softcore porn) and breathless realizations around phrases like “the key to mutual confidence–risk.” The essays couple academic stimulation with real-world sensations. As the infamous Betsy Dodson so aptly notes, “all forms of sex were [are] an exchange of power, whether it was [is] conscious or unconscious.”
The politics around (re)production, representation, and the permeable moral high ground of porn – “feminist” or not – are chapters of a story that pivot on domination and release. Who’s on top and who is really getting what they asked for? What lies beneath most of the antiporn rhetoric (which is intimately coupled with conservative ideas about the purpose of sex; hint: it’s not pleasure) are “sexual panics” around fluid concepts of decency, normalcy, and obscenity. All of these convictions, and more, build towards a formula that reflects standardized shots designed to maximize profit.
I like Susie Bright’s pithy assessment “porn arouses to distraction” to describe what porn actually does.
In the essay “Emotional Truths and Thrilling Slide Shows,” Smith & Attwood theorize “in making arguments for free speech, its proponents often cede the ground that some forms of pornography are indeed awful, damaging, and to be abhorred, thereby confirming the basic analysis that there is something intrinsically problematic about both the cultural forms of sexual representation and those who seek them out.” This sounds similar to the soundtrack around abortion rights and reproductive freedom in general. This ceded ground leaves the usual suspects, non-wealthy, gender non-conforming, and non-white, maintaining the space of deviance. That is until there is a reason to play with that resistance.