I did a lot of work! It might even be actually usable work! I am starting to feel less terrified. (I also wrote almost 1400 words today. If I can keep that up, I will be finished my thesis in 10 days and will have 4 days to edit it. Woo!)
Okay, today’s work, for those who are reading it. Oh, and a note – I’m pasting in my Works Cited as it grows, so not all of the works are cited in each day’s work. But I am happy with how it is growing each day. And I came up with a structure for my lit review today.
Yesterday’s thesis statement: 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.
In this research project I examine how the ‘money shot’ trope has been subverted and reimagined, and finally excluded, in Courtney Trouble’s queer feminist pornographic film Nostalgia. Trouble’s film provides an ideal opportunity to engage with the impact of anti-porn feminist arguments, the ‘sex wars’ and related feminist debates, and the emergence of feminist pornography and pro-porn feminist scholarship. Trouble reimagines some of the very scenes that caused critics such as Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon to respond with such vehement disgust and outrage. Nostalgia, therefore, is an embodied performance of the impact of these critiques and the ensuing developments within feminist thought and activism over the intervening decades. Although I do not believe that Nostalgia can be read as representative of feminist pornography writ large, I do believe that it is possible to read key responses to anti-porn feminist critiques within her work, and to see the result of decades of pro-porn feminism being performed. These responses point to the work of feminist pornography to provide a different ‘theory’ of sex, and of the power structures that underpin our cultural understandings of gender and sexuality. Trouble’s attempt to reclaim the power to define pornographic sexuality is what makes this film relevant to the ongoing study of pornography and its place within feminism.
It is critical to recognize that this analysis is neither a comprehensive articulation of the state of contemporary feminist thought on the topic of feminist or mainstream pornographies, nor is it an analysis of the changes in pornography as a whole. In fact, one outcome of this research is a clear understanding that there is no monolithic ‘pornography as a whole,’ just as “feminism is not a monolithic discourse with a cohesive party line” (Dolan Feminist Spectator 3). Given the lack of a “cohesive [feminist] party line” (Dolan Feminist 3), it is relevant to this discussion that Trouble’s feminist pornography is queer, and that queer feminism is a distinct branch in the feminist tree (FIND CITE – DO I NEED A CITE FOR THIS? MAYBE). It is important that we not look for all the answers in Trouble’s film – she cannot represent the heterosexual feminist in this film, or answer the question of where the biologically male penis fits within feminist pornography. These are important questions regarding the role of ejaculation and ejaculatory imagery in feminist pornography, but they are not addressed in Nostalgia. I believe that the issues of the heterosexual feminist and the biologically male performer within feminist pornography are areas that are chronically under-theorized. Within an academic discipline that is itself full of gaps and areas that demand further thought and critique, feminist academic writing needs to someday wrestle with the acceptance of heterosexuality into a pro-porn canon that often conflates queerness with feminism and problematically excludes heterosexuality. However, queer feminist pornography is a legitimate subgenre within the broader umbrella of feminist pornographies. While this paper will attempt to poke at the holes within feminist theory that act to exclude the heterosexual feminist from feminist pornography, this is not a devaluing of Trouble’s work or a critique of the validity of her performance of feminism.
Karen Boyle notes that “where and how pornography is distributed and consumed… is essential to its meaning” (Boundaries 10). Given this, it is important to look at the context within which Trouble’s film was produced, distributed and consumed and to examine the film with this context in mind. However, because Trouble chose to remake film scenes whose contexts of production, distribution and consumption are so radically different from her own, it is not possible to compartmentalize Nostalgia into a queer feminist box and ignore the heterosexual mainstream context that her original subject matter invokes.
There are no biologically male performers in Nostalgia and this necessarily shifts the focus away from male ejaculatory orgasm and onto alternative ejaculatory imagery. Trouble also focuses on the active participation of all sexual players, and ultimately the decenters orgasm as the end-goal of pornographic sexual scenes. It is critical to recognize that Trouble’s queer feminist pornography is not the only iteration of feminist pornography, and that not all feminist pornography is queer and not all queer pornography is feminist. Alison Butler has said that “women produce feminist work in a wide variety of forms and styles” (CITE), and this applies to feminist pornography as much as to any other feminist cultural practice.
Feminist Responses to the Original Films & (OR??) The First Wave of Anti-Pornography Feminism
Jill Nagle uses karate and aikido as metaphors for two possible feminist responses to sexism. Karate-style feminism, she states, “aims to meet, destroy, and overpower oncoming energy with greater, more effective energy, for the safety of all” (6). This would describe the Dworkin and MacKinnon style of anti-porn feminism, where pornography “crushes a whole class of people through violence and subjugation; and sex is the vehicle that does the crushing” (Dworkin Against 25). While pornography continues to be produced and legally protected, Catherine MacKinnon writes, “women continue to be ground down” (Pornography 125). The response to this harm is to call for the removal of pornography, legal sanctions for the protection of all. This is what Jill Nagle calls “”stop” feminism” (7) and, in her words, it “fails to theorize a positive, autonomous view of female sexuality” (7). However, Nagle also notes that “[i]t also reflects an awareness of the minefield of sexual oppression within which the struggle to define our sexuality takes place. Without any clues, room to explore, or signs of imminent safety, a defensive posture is… a rational response” (7).
Nagle’s recognition that the “defensive posture” of the early anti-pornography feminist movement is “rational” (7) is important, and accurate. The original scenes that Trouble chose to remake are horrifying (CAN I SAY THIS?) in their representation of passive female sexuality and active, coercive male sexuality. And it is not only the representation of gender and sexuality that is distressing about these films. As Diana E. H. Russell notes “although many people would classify Deep Throat as nonviolent pornography because it does not portray rape or other violence, we now know from Linda (Lovelace) Marchiano’s books… that this film is in fact a documentary of rape from beginning to end” (55). I would extend Russell’s point and argue that the inclusion of rape fantasies in the conclusion to Deep Throat brings the behind-the-scenes violence into the on-screen representation, and continues the tradition of sexualizing and even fetishizing coercive sex that Dworkin, MacKinnon and other anti-pornography feminists were arguing against.
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). The early responses to anti-pornography feminism did focus on an anti-censorship or free-speech approach. Nadine Strossen’s “A Feminist Critique of “the” Feminist Critique of Pornography” exemplifies the anti-censorship feminist argument. (PUT SOME QUOTES FROM IT IN HERE.)
Sex-Positive Feminism & Feminist Pornography
The Second Wave of Anti-Pornography Feminism
Maybe beyond the scope of this project but reference in Linda Williams to the girl/girl scenes that have been present since “beaver films” might be important – is Trouble reclaiming not only ejaculatory imagery and orgasm, but also re-authenticating (???) the queerness that is present in BtGD, BP, etc?
In what ways does Nostalgia “talk to itself” (Williams Hard Core 129, quoting someone else LOOK IT UP) “about problems that have urgency and currency in the present moment” (Williams Hard Core 129)?
“The repetitive forms of each [genre] seem to insist on the possibility of solutions, as long as the problems persist” (Williams Hard Core 129). Nostalgia does not repeat the form of the money shot, rather the film follows a fairly linear trajectory of disembodying and decentering the ejaculatory moment – does this present a “solution” to the “problem” of embodied queer sexuality? By pushing orgasm to the outskirts of the pornographic sexual scene and positioning the ongoing and technologically mediated sexual act as the focus of the action, Trouble potentially offers a vision of empowered sexuality that is no longer tied to biological sex or orgasm.
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.
Dworkin, Andrea. “Against the Male Flood.” Feminism and Pornography. Ed. Drucilla Cornell. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. 19-38. Print.
MacKinnon, Catherine and Ronald Dworkin. “Pornography: An Exchange.” Feminism and Pornography. Ed. Drucilla Cornell. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. 121-129. Print.
Nagle, Jill. “Introduction.” Whores and Other Feminists. Ed. Jill Nagle. New York: Routledge, 2010. 1-15. Print.
Russell, Diana E. H. “Pornography and Rape.” In Feminism and Pornography. Ed. Drucilla Cornell. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. 48-93. Print.
Strossen, Nadine. “A Feminist Critique of “the” Feminist Critique of Pornography.” Virginia Law Review 79:4: 1099-1190. JStor. Web. 3 June 2012.
Williams, Linda. Hard Core: Power, Pleasure and the “Frenzy of the Visible”. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. Print.