Pornography and Sexual Representation: A Reference Guide - Vol. 3

By Joseph W. Slade | Go to book overview

Introduction: Finding a
Place for Pornography

The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right.

—Justice Learned Hand, 1944

Intersecting trends continually readjust thinking about pornography. The most important trend is the growing popularity of erotic representations among overworked Americans seeking stimulation in a capitalistic and technological society increasingly characterized as joyless. A second is the fascination that pornography exerts on scholars bent on unraveling the mysteries of gender. One should be careful not to ascribe too much moral weight to the first trend. After all, politicians used to condemn pornography in the name of a majority that was supposed to hate it. To claim that porn is now acceptable because more people apparently enjoy it is to forget the fickleness of the public. Moreover, if pornography is to retain its marginality, the presumed source of an energy that feeds a cultural mainstream, then sooner or later it will have to refresh its oppositional stance, become more offensive, and regain the power that comes with distance from prevailing mores. Besides, plenty of Americans still recoil from what's out there now, and they are unlikely to draw comfort from knowing that their neighbors like it.

Fashion just as clearly governs the fortunes of current academic theories of sexual expression. The New Yorker has devoted several pages to academic research in porn,1 and niche-marketed periodicals are commissioning the copycat articles that diffuse entertaining information among strata of readers. Behind the journalistic notice, always welcome to professors, lie expectations that may be unrealistic. Erotic representation may or may not demonstrate conclusively that sexuality lies between the legs while gender lies between the ears. Like longheld assumptions that pornography causes antisocial behavior, the poststructur-

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Pornography and Sexual Representation: A Reference Guide - Vol. 3
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Pornography and Sexual Representation - A Reference Guide Volume III iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xvii
  • How to Use This Guide xxi
  • Introduction: Finding a Place for Pornography 749
  • 15: Folklore and Oral Genres 755
  • 16: Erotic Literature 811
  • 17: Newspapers, Magazines, and Advertising 879
  • 18: Comics 932
  • 19: Research on Pornography in the Medical and Social Sciences 954
  • 20: Pornography and Law 1019
  • 21: The Economics of Pornography 1093
  • Index 1123
  • About the Author 1315
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