Today’s writing session was more productive! And I found some flow – I think a lot of what I came up with as a result of the close-read of Karen Boyle’s article will be usable. To avoid annoying anyone who doesn’t want to read these progress updates, it’s after the jump.
April 9 work
WHAT AM I DOING IN THIS PROJECT?!
I am focusing on the money shot.
This research attempts to read a response to anti-porn feminist critiques of the porn industry in the film Nostalgia by queer feminist pornographer Courtney Trouble. Nostalgia is uniquely suited to this analysis since it reimagines scenes from the original 70s triumvirate of porno chic, Behind the Green Door, Deep Throat and The Devil in Miss Jones, along with Babylon Pink (FIND DATES FOR ALL). This allows for an engagement with the anti-porn feminist theorists on their own terms through brief analysis of the original films, and also allows for a comparison between the originals an a contemporary reinterpretation.
There is a wealth of material, both critical and pornographic, between the theory and the pornography of the 1970s, and the theory and pornography of the early twenty-first century. A thorough investigation of this material is not possible within this restrictions of this project, and my research will focus on a few key areas of comparison.
Looking specifically at ejaculatory imagery, this research project examines how Courtney Trouble’s film Nostalgia redefines and reclaims this imagery and how this redefinition is influenced by and responds to the critiques of anti-porn feminism and the growing body of feminist academic and activist work on the topic of pornography and gendered power dynamics. Ejaculatory imagery, especially in the form of the money shot (and more specifically the facial), has been linked to sexism and the subjugation and objectification of women in pornography (FIND CITE).
This research project limits itself to an exploration of the issue through the lens of feminist writing about pornography, though not limited only to academic feminist writing. This limitation is necessary in order to examine how feminism is responding to feminism. This is an internal debate, a response from within the movement to critique generated by the movement. And yet, there is no single feminism, there is no cohesive, consistent performance of feminism. There are, rather, feminisms. And so this research examines some anti-pornography feminisms, particularly those theorists and critical works that engage with the topic of ejaculation and ejaculatory imagery, and some anti-censorship feminisms, and some pro-porn feminisms, both academic and pornographic. This is not, nor can it be, a comprehensive engagement with feminist pornography or with feminist writing about pornography. Rather, it is a narrow focus on a specific topic, with the hope that these findings can be applied beyond this single film and this single research focus. Future research should, and in my opinion must, engage substantially with the other critiques raised by anti-pornography feminisms, and must start to unpack how feminist pornographies are (or are not) responding to and answering these critiques.
This iconic pornographic trope, the cum shot onto a face or body that often signals the end of the sexual act or scene, has been subverted and reimagined, and finally excluded, in Courtney Trouble’s queer feminist pornographic film, Nostalgia.
Trouble reclaims ejaculatory imagery
Much of the feminist academic writing about the two sides of the pornography debate frames the debate as anti-pornography or anti-censorship (Boyle Boundaries 9, FIND MORE CITES). As Karen Boyle notes, this is “well-worn and increasingly muddy ground” (Boundaries 3). In her 2004 anthology, Porn Studies, Linda Williams claims to move beyond the “[f]eminist debates” (1) of pro- or anti-censorship. Boyle’s response to this anthology, and to its move away from, and even rejection of, feminism and feminist critiques is important. Boyle notes that a rejection of feminist debates includes, at least in Williams’ anthology, “prematurely discarding important questions raised in feminist debate” (3). These questions include issues of regulation, consumption practices, and something more than the “cursory engagement with foundational feminist texts” (4).
It is not possible to understand the work that Courtney Trouble is engaging with her reimagining of iconic porn scenes without also understanding the original films and the feminist critiques of those films. I would suggest that, like Boyle indicates, it is not yet reasonable or wise to discard feminist critiques of pornography or to assume that feminist debates about pornography are outdated or no longer necessary. Where Williams argues that “moving beyond feminism allows for a consideration of difference and diversity and this is reflected in Porn Studies’ emphasis on gay, lesbian and homosocial pornographies, and on issues of race and class” (Boyle Boundaries 4 – FIND CITE IN ORIGINAL TEXT), Boyle sees some engagement with these issues within existing feminist texts, such as Andrea Dworkin’s Pornography (Boyle Boundaries 4).
I would extend Boyle’s argument and suggest that pleasure-positive, intersectional feminisms such as the feminisms represented in the 2013 anthology The Feminist Porn Book bring an explicitly feminist lens back onto the topic of pornography. In 2000, Isabelle Barker wrote that the simple pro- or anti-pornography framing of the pornography was too simplistic and that it needed to expand to include recognition of the diversity of pornographies available and their various meanings and relevancies. Karen Boyle seems to be calling for a similar complication of the issue, and an inclusion of more nuanced understandings of pornographies.
(Somehow include a discussion of how Trouble’s choice to remake iconic, classic porn films allows an analysis of her film to look at the “centre” and the “edge” that Boyle critiques Williams for eliding. I think that this is relevant, but I need to do more thinking about this. Maybe using Boyle’s critique of Williams isn’t the right piece of literature for this bit, but… it’s a start. A spark.)
Boyle notes that “where and how pornography is distributed and consumed—in other words, how ob/scene it is—is essential to its meaning” (Boundaries 10). (LINK THIS TO LYNN CAMELLO’S ESSAY IN FEMINIST PORN BOOK).
“Encouraging us to account for our learning—for its parameters, its methods, its relationship to other contexts and places—is one of the ways in which the study of ‘pornography’ (however we define it) can enrich the media, film and television studies curricula” (Boyle Boundaries 14) – use this in the introduction when talking about why situating my own bias and methods is important. How to talk about methods when this project was such a gong show of wrong turns and constant revisions? Things to think about.
Title: Redefining The Money Shot: Ejaculatory Imagery in Courtney Trouble’s Nostalgia (SOMETHING ABOUT THE ORIGINALS?)
Quoted in Linda Williams’ Hard Core, Stephen Ziplow offered the following advice to frugal pornographers in 1977, “[i]f you don’t have the come shots, you don’t have a porno picture. Plan on at least ten separate come shots” (FIGURE OUT HOW TO CITE THIS PROPERLY 93). This advice seems to have stuck, since the come shot, also called the “money shot” is still a staple of mainstream heterosexual pornography (FIND CITE?).
Williams traces the origin of this focus on the “money shot” to 1972’s Deep Throat (CITE).
Barker, Isabelle. “Editing Pornography.” In Feminism and Pornography. Ed. Drucilla Cornell. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. Print.
Boyle, Karen. “The Boundaries of Porn Studies.” New Review of Film and Television Studies 4:1 (2006): 1-16. tandfonline. Web. 4 Nov 2012.
Dolan, Jill. The Feminist Spectator as Critic. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991. Print.
Williams, Linda. Hard Core: Power, Pleasure and the “Frenzy of the Visible”. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. Print.