April 12 Work

It was like pulling teeth to get the last 300 words written, and I’m still 30 short. Hopefully tomorrow will be better!

Revision to the anti-censorship feminism section:

“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. Anti-censorship feminism argues that “the term “pornography” is so vague, subjective, and expansive that it could apply to all sexually oriented speech” (Strossen 1103). This argument claims that it is a “misperception that feminist values necessarily weigh in favor of censoring “pornography”” (Strossen 1108). Rather, anti-censorship feminists argued that censorship would undermine feminist principles and women’s rights and equality. Anti-censorship feminist activism and thought includes the production of pornographic material, and can be seen as a first step toward pro-pornography feminism. Caught Looking is a collection of works by FACT (The Feminist Anti-Censorship Taskforce) that attempts to “demonstrate that women and feminists may find sensual pleasure, as well as positive affirmations of their individuality, freedom, and equality, in sexually explicit imagery-including sexually explicit imagery that other women and feminists may find nonpleasurable, or even “subordinating”” (1109). (FIX THIS PARAGRAPH, INCLUDING CITATIONS FROM OTHER ANTI-CENSORSHIP SOURCES – THIS IS TOO POORLY CITED)

Strossen’s article is important because it provides a detailed account of the points of agreement between pro- and anti-censorship feminists.”

New work:

Section title: Watching Feminist Pornography: Feminist Spectatorship, Feminist Spectacle

“Pornographers are the enemies of women only because our contemporary [1979] ideology of pornography does not encompass the possibility of change, as if we were the slaves of history and not its makers, as if sexual relations were not necessarily an expression of social relations, as if sex itself were an external fact, one as immutable as the weather, creating human practice but never a part of it” (Angela Carter 527 FIGURE OUT HOW TO FORMAT THIS).

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).

Ward’s question, and Trouble’s engagement with it, echoes back to the much earlier writing of Angela Carter, who predicted that “[w]hen pornography abandons its quality of existential solitude and moves out of the kitsch area of timeless, placeless fantasy and into the real world… [i]t begins to comment on real relations in the real world” (539). Trouble and Pepper do not move into the “timeless, placeless fantasy” of the pornography that they watch. Rather, the pornography moves into their real world, and has a direct and embodied impact on their real relationship. There is a back-and-forth between Trouble watching the porn and Trouble creating the porn, she takes up Angela Carter’s optimistic challenge that pornography is only an enemy when women are the slaves to its historical construction of sexuality, rather than the makers of it (527). This offers one potential answer to Jane Ward’s question – that we can watch mainstream pornography and have feminist orgasms when our viewing is active and when we actively reclaim, reimagine, rewrite the harmful heteropatriarchal tropes that we see in the mainstream porn we are watching.

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 are two significant consequences of Trouble’s sequence of scenes. The first is a linear movement from foregrounded, ‘natural’ embodied ejaculatory orgasm in Behind the Green Door through decentered, ‘unnatural’ embodied ejaculatory orgasm in Deep Throat, disembodied and non-orgasmic ejaculatory imagery in Babylon Pink and finally ending in the complete removal of ejaculatory imagery from The Devil in Miss Jones. This progression will be discussed in further detail below.

The second consequence of this ordering is to create a theory of female spectatorship. As Mary Ann Doane says “[f]ilm plays out scenarios of looking in order to outline the terms of their own understanding” (Film 240). Nostalgia articulates five “scenarios of looking” – the four scenes in their specific sequence and the framing scenes of Trouble and Pepper watching the porn together. Each of these scenarios presents a shifted understanding of the gaze. In Behind the Green Door, the gaze of Trouble and Pepper is aligned with the male gaze of the original film. Structually, the scene is shot in ways that closely mirror the original film, and these filmic elements present the viewer with an expected pornography viewing experience. However, Trouble produces her work from a queer feminism, and like Jane Ward’s theorized queer viewer, the viewer that is invoked by Trouble’s pornographic gaze is “unpredictable, potentially unhinged from biological sex or even gender… [a] given viewer may have a vagina, but while watching porn, who knows what kind of subjectivities emerge?” (Ward 135). This concept of the viewer with multiple subjectivities is not a new development restricted to queer feminism, though it does find its expression in other feminisms on the edge of the movement. Steve Neale writes “Cinema draws on and involves many desires, many forms of desire. And desire itself is mobile, fluid, constantly transgressing identities, positions and roles. Identifications are multiple, fluid, at points even contradictory” (278). (EXPLICATE THIS.)

Although the first scene closely mirrors the original film, and it is therefore easy to fall into the expected dilemma of the feminine gaze (DEFINE THIS DILEMMA, GO TO DOANE).



Love this term – “polymorphous political engagement” – from Sex Wars. Maybe work this into the introduction, to describe my own goals in this project? Oh! Yes! I think that would work well. – My goal in this project is to take up the challenge offered by Lisa Duggan and Nan Hunter for “polymorphous political engagement” (3). This engagement involves examining embodiment/disembodiment and spectatorship, specifically as these issues relate to ejaculatory imagery in Courtney Trouble’s Nostalgia. Something like that!


“This is not merely a matter of recognizing the intersections of issues understood as separate, but of working out the complex ways that hierarchical categories have been mutually constituting…. We would not argue, however, for a unified or totalizing politics which attempts to explain everything at once, which never accords priority to one set of issues over another, or which subsumes particular struggles into a universalizing project” (Duggan and Hunter 3). This seems useful to the discussion of queer vs/plus feminism, and to making an argument for addressing Nostalgia on queer terms.


Works Cited

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.

Carter, Angela. “Pornography in the Service of Women.” Feminism and Pornography. Ed. Drucilla Cornell. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. 527-539. Print.

Doane, Mary Ann. “Film and the Masquerade: Theorizing the Female Spectator.” The Sexual Subject: A Screen Reader in Sexuality. Ed. Screen. London: Routledge, 1992. 227-243. Print.

Dolan, Jill. The Feminist Spectator as Critic. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991. Print.

Duggan, Lisa and Nan D. Hunter. Sex Wars: Sexual Dissent and Political Culture. New York: Routledge, 1995. Google book.

Dworkin, Andrea. “Against the Male Flood.” Feminism and Pornography. Ed. Drucilla Cornell. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. 19-38. Print.

Kipnis, Laura. “She-Male Fantasies and the Aesthetics of Pornography.” More Dirty Looks. Ed. Pamela Church Gibson. London: British Film Institute, 2004. 204-215. 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.

Neale, Steve. “Masculinity as Spectacle.” The Sexual Subject: A Screen Reader in Sexuality. Ed. Screen. London: Routledge, 1992. 277-287. 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.

Ward, Jane. “Queer Feminist Pigs.” The Feminist Porn Book. Eds. Tristan Taormino, Celine Parreñas Shimizu, Constance Penley and Mireille Miller-Young. New York: The Feminist Press, 2013. 130-139. Print.

Williams, Linda. Hard Core: Power, Pleasure and the “Frenzy of the Visible”. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. Print.

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