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

By Joseph W. Slade | Go to book overview

15
Folklore and Oral Genres

LANGUAGE: OBSCENITY AND DEMOCRACY

Americans may be less inclined to doubt the connections between sexual expression, personal identity, and democratic freedoms after watching a special prosecutor invade the sexual privacy of a president whose own defense of free speech for his fellow citizens had been lax in the first place. The president's enemies attempted to use pornography to achieve political advantage. But pornography is double-edged. As Lauren Berlant argues in The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship, pornography in all its forms, especially those involving marginalized genders, is the key to citizenship, if only because it serves to remind Americans that spheres of privacy are distinct from realms of public life and that a culture can become authoritarian by trivializing the sexuality of its members. According to Berlant, middle-class messages relentlessly attempt to infantilize Americans; pornography has at least the merit of trying to get beyond such messages and thus helps form the basis of a more rational community. Berlant's thesis has much in common with Joss Marsh's Word Crimes: Blasphemy, Culture, and Literature in Nineteenth Century England, which details legal and cultural cases in which lower-class, blasphemous, and obscene speech helped secure democratic rights. As Americans have grown genteel, they have forgotten that democracy is, by definition, vulgar. For democracy to function as a social and political system, it must embrace the common, the trashy, the dispossessed, the lunatic—and it must embrace their discourses, which, through their very outrageousness, in turn transform, energize, and advance the growth of the body politic. Considered from an organic or thermodynamic perspective, a society that cannot assimilate the obscene will

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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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