Sunday, October 10, 2004

Special PoMo to Porn edition:

1.)Jacques Derrida

2.)Porn
Learning to enjoy your homework: Ennio Plaise, our Spy in the House of Academia reports on the pleasures of the text...
As the New York Times has noticed on several recent occasions, pornography has crept into the mainstream, or at least become part of the world that is "fit to print". This is not the first time, of course. In the early 70s national magazines announced the age of "porno chic" and reported that sophisticated audiences had replaced the archetypal raincoat brigade at screenings of Deep Throat. Porno may have been chic, but it takes more than a box-office hit to counter a century of censorship and prudishness. By the 1980s. Deep Throat was more likely remembered as a footnote to Watergate, misguided pro-censorship feminists like Andrea Dworkin had hopped into bed with the Meese Commission, and the porno industry, still dreaming of the elusive cross-over into the mainstream, had retreated.
It was a retreat, but not a defeat. In the 80s, porno became less public but got an enormous boost by the fastgrowing technology of home video. No longer chic, it was now accessible at home. The VCR meant that the Times Square fleapit had been replaced by the suburban bedroom. And the introduction of video cameras meant that likes of Marilyn Chambers and Harry Reems were now getting competition from you, your wife, your girlfriend or you neighbor, as the porn film curiously crossed paths with the home movie.
Fast forward to 2004. Britney Spears bumps and grinds on stage for an audience of pre-adolescent girls, many of whom are undoubtedly watching their first lap dance while wearing t-shirts that bear mottos like "Porn Star". Children on sitcoms express disapproval by saying that something "sucks", hardly aware that they're casually referencing the same sexual act whose mention put Lenny Bruce in jail.
Linda Williams, whose book "Hard Core" is the definitive study of pornography from the perspective of film theory, pioneers the study of pornography as culture with her new "Porn Studies", a collection of scholarly essays culled from various seminars she's organized over the last few years. (Though Williams wrote only one of the pieces in the book, her influence on the field is unavoidable; nearly every author in the collection cites "Hard Core" and the definitive introduction to taking porno seriously.) One of Williams' strongest points is that pornography has crossed the line from being "obscene" - literally "out of the scene" - and has become what she calls “on/scene”, an unavoidable part of the culture. It’s not just movies and magazines anymore. Porno is everywhere. The book sections of your most sedate papers offer comments on Jenna Jameson's autobiography and the anal-sex-as-spirituality memoir "The Surrendor". A minor-league celebrity like Paris Hilton can ride to the top of the gossip columns on the strength of an "amateur" sex video. Thanks to Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, discussions of blowjobs, thongs and cigar fetishism took place not just in chatrooms but on the nightly news and even in official government publications.

Nearly all of "Porn Studies" is worth reading, but there is still a sense of giggling students passing notes in class, albeit notes that reference Foucault. The material covered ranges from the public ("The Starr Report", World War Two era pin-ups) to the private (if such a word can be applied to the famous Pam and Tommy Lee video), from the low culture world of smokers and beaver loops to the gallery-approved area of video installations and Warhol's "Blow Job", all of which adds to the sense of contradiction that hovers over the book. Even as it appears that we're in what one commentator has called "pornotopia..where it's always bedtime", we continue to cover it up, to deny or condemn our obsession with sexuality. The habits of a culture that has long favored guilt and shame over desire die hard.






2 comments:

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