April 11 work

After the jump.

Revised part of the introduction:

“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 pornography is queer. Although there is an often-problematic conflation of queerness with feminism, particularly in feminist theorizing of pornography (CITE THIS, MAYBE A FOOTNOTE TALKING ABOUT FEMINIST MASCULINITIES IN THE FEMINIST PORN BOOK AND HOW THESE ARE ALL TRANS*), other iterations of feminism are also engaged in creating feminist pornography.

Jane Ward notes that there is “a persistent gulf between feminist and queer approaches to sexuality” (134). This gulf is important to recognize in a discussion of queer feminist pornography, a category that contains within it certain inconsistencies and instabilities. Ward says that “feminist approaches to sexuality privilege women’s genuine desires and experiences, but it does so without much critical reflection on who we think women are, and how they come to desire what they do” (135). In contrast, Ward argues that “queer approaches to sexuality… are not likely to take the gender binary or the pursuit of genuineness so seriously” (135).

Ward’s analysis betrays her bias towards queer feminisms, and is informed by her experiences with feminists who reject the kind of postmodern queering she advocates (and lives). She includes in her essay a personal anecdote of an experience with Ariel Levy, whose book Female Chauvinist Pigs has gained considerable popularity and acclaim (Ward 133). Ward uses Levy’s book in the women’s studies classes she teaches, but she was “left… cold” (Ward 136) when, in a question period following a speech Levy gave, Levy responded to Ward’s questions with a personal attack. Ward says “[s]o there I was, a women’s studies professor, being told that I needed therapy by the woman the New York Post has called “feminism’s newest and most provocative voice”” (134). This points to a tension found in much of the writing about queer pornographies and queer feminisms, a desire to distance from what can seem like an “essentialist and pathologizing” (Ward 136) approach to theorizing sexuality that is seen in some feminisms. On the other side of this coin, there seems to be a similar response among feminists who see the slippages and permeability of these queer definitions to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater (Boyle FIND CITE).

As queer pornography that features an entire cast of female-bodied performers, Trouble’s film does not represent the heterosexual feminist, or answer the question of where the biologically male penis (and body) fits within feminist pornography. These are important questions regarding the role of ejaculation and ejaculatory imagery, but they are not addressed in Nostalgia. I believe that the role of the heterosexual feminist and the biologically male performer within feminist pornography are chronically under-theorized. Within an academic discipline that is itself full of gaps and areas that demand further thought and critique, (SHOULD I INCLUDE A BRIEF DISCUSSION OF THESE GAPS? PROBABLY.) 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, and particularly excludes a discussion of the place of the male body in pornography. Laura Kipnis theorizes that “one of the reasons there’s been an under-theorisation of pornography of male bodies is that it might throw… certainty about what pornography as a category is, and does, into question” (204). The certainty that Kipnis refers to, and that she says has found a “general feminist consensus” is that “pornography both portrays and endeavours to perpetuate… the deployment of male power over female bodies” (204). A discussion of the pornography of cisgender male bodies, and of feminist heterosexuality in pornography, would challenge this certainty. Kipnis asks, “[i]n seeing pornographic images of women as so transparently about male erections and female disempowerment, what remains hidden?” (214).

Although this research does not address the question of what “remains hidden” (Kipnis 214), and does not contribute to an academic engagement with feminist heterosexuality or the role of the biologically male body in pornography, it is important to recognize that this gap exists. Despite this gap, queer feminist pornography is a legitimate subgenre under the broader umbrella of feminist pornographies. Though I attempt to recognize and engage with the gaps in 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.”

And the new work:

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. Trouble’s film invokes both the “overt imaging of sexuality in an economic context constructed for and controlled by men” (Dolan Feminist 59) and the “new modes of marketing and distribution that could reach previously marginalized groups… the feminist sex-toy store” (Comella 80). These are two disparate contexts, creating and selling distinct pornographies. Nostalgia is firmly planted in the feminist porn context –produced by Reel Queer Productions and Good Releasing, companies that are affiliated with feminist porn giant Good Vibrations – but gesturing to the mainstream porn context by choosing to reimagine scenes from four iconic porn films. It is necessary, then, to look at how Nostalgia (IS IT? THINK ABOUT THIS. MAYBE WORK ON THE ANALYSIS OF THE ACTUAL FILM A BIT MORE. OR MAYBE CONTINUE THIS, BUT INCORPORATE IT MORE INTO THE LIT REVIEW? THINK.)

*

Laura Kipnis writes “[t]he more pornography I look at,… the less feminist certainty I have about what exactly it is and what, if anything, defines it” (204).

*

Nostalgia is framed by transitional shots of Trouble and her girlfriend, Pepper Sox, watching porn together. This is an important insertion of Trouble and Pepper as viewers into the pornographic scenes, and implicates us, as viewers, as active participants in the same pornographic scenes. Nostalgia engages actively with Jane Ward’s question, “[c]an we watch mainstream porn and still have feminist orgasms?” (132). The pornography that Trouble and Pepper are watching is not only mainstream, it is the porn that redefined the genre (FIND CITE, PROBABLY IN WILLIAMS). It is also, at the same time, the queer feminist reimagining of those pornographic scenes. And Trouble does not go to great lengths to inform the viewer that they are watching ‘covers’ of the original scenes. The name of her film – Nostalgia – points to the past, and the scenes each contain elements that make the original films identifiable, but there is no credit given to the original films on the cover or in the main menu of the DVD, or in the film itself. Trouble reclaims the subject matter entirely, making it her own and not even acknowledging the original films.

And yet, despite this disidentification with the original films, Trouble’s choice to use them as subject matter points to her attraction or at least interest in them.

(There’s something about this framing – the two women watching porn together, having sex together, and then the porn coming into their bedroom. I feel like it’s important that the porn does come into their bedroom rather than them going into the porn scene. This seems like a commentary on the role of pornography? I don’t know where to find anything to cite on this. Anyway, questions to answer in the next ten days. COMMENCE PANIC!!!!!!!)

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