I have no body; the “I” writing this has no body: not in the old way. Zones. Pressures. Here a structured tension there an underlying ache. Vital signs. Phases of disquiet not clearly demarcated from areas of peace. — Laura Mullen, “Spectograms (projected autobiography),” Complicated Grief
Revolutions are frenetic desires. Seams stretch tight.
familiar stimulation: swelled power and impulse
Violence precedes peace when knowledge becomes ransom.
negative space: culture is public negotiation
Men speak in abstraction. Their distancing performative.
economies of scale: underwhelming demands for mass hysteria
In a previous post, I coupled the early essays of The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure as “academic stimulation with real-world sensations.” The chorus of voices throughout the remainder of the book continue on that path and give more support for using an erotic economic analysis. The production of porn is about selling pleasure, consuming (queer) desire, and fucking loving yourself.
Ingrid Ryberg in Every Time We Fuck, We Win pushes you to understand watching porn is witness to intimacy. It is telling that we have to learn to repress so much to fit into assumed historic preferences. Keiko Lane’s Imag(in)ing Possibilities spreads your psyche out with respect. Experiencing “fantasies made conscious” is a particular arousal of “embodied subjectivity.” That point of view, a corporeal validation, is useful. Porn can heal us if we experience it without shame or remorse. If you want to get the deepest and quickest purpose of this book, read Constance Penley’s A Feminist Teaching Pornography? She gives you the permission to study porn as film. We are the audience to a multi-dimensional experience from performer to director to public tastes.
Presentation matters: angles and agency. Lorelei Lee demonstrates that to the fullest. “Sexual desire and sexual identity are absolutely essential to the freely defined self.” Feminist porn performs power which is why it deserves its current patriarchal reputation. Own that what you feel from seeing is pleasurable. This feminist entertainment project is political. That’s no-fucks-given explicit from the begging to the end The Feminist Porn Book. As is Ariane Cruz’s call to “take up a politics of perversion, a disruptive shift in black feminist studies, to critically analyze the engagements of pleasure and power through pornography consumption, performance, and production.”
All anthologies straddle numerous opinions and I agree with Nina Hartley that “porn houses our sexual dreams, which are vitally important to our happiness.” The how – worker centered – is what makes feminist porn feminist. It is what mutual satisfaction looks like – good enough to share. Tristan Aormino knows both sides of the camera. I’ll watch sex that is “presented as joyful, fun, safe, mutual, and satisfying.” Sexual expressions of joy! Who would be against such imagery?
That was a larger question that was often left out of the frame. We hear and see enough of the anti-porn position. It was a nice reprieve from that way of thinking. The Feminist Porn Book repeatedly and gently reminds you to consume critically and honor consent always. Sexual expressions are exchanged as erotic capital and culturally produced whether we agree with it or not. That’s why having more porn that thinks and fucks like me is where I’ll be putting my hard-earned feminist dollars.
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.