Feminism, the Public and the Private

By Joan B. Landes | Go to book overview

10
Live Sex Acts (Parental Advisory: Explicit Material)

Lauren Berlant

I am a citizen of the United States, and in this country where I live, every year millions of pictures are being made of women with our legs spread. We are called beaver, we are called pussy, our genitals are tied up, they are pasted, makeup is put on them to make them pop out of a page at a male viewer. . . . I live in a country where if you film any act of humiliation or torture, and if the victim is a woman, the film is both entertainment and it is protected speech. Now that tells me something about being a woman in this country.

Andrea Dworkin, quoted in Edward de Grazia, Girls Lean Back Everywhere: The Law of Obscenity and the Assault on Genius

I open with this passage not simply to produce in advance the resistances, ambivalences, and concords that inevitably arise when someone speaks with passion and authority about sex and identity but, rather, to foreground here the centrality, to any public sphere politics of sexuality, of coming to terms with the conjunction of making love and making law, of fucking and talking, of acts and identities, of cameras and police, of pleasure in the text and patriarchal privilege, insofar as these couplings can be found in fantasies of citizenship and longings for freedom made in the name of national culture.

I'm going to tell you a story about this, a story about citizenship in the United States. It is about live sex acts, and also about a book called Live Sex Acts, and about a thing called national culture that, in reference to the United States, I mean to bring into

____________________
Reprinted by permission from Feminist Studies, 21/ 2 (Summer 1995), 379- 404. Copyright © 1995 by Feminist Studies, Inc. c/o Department of Women's Studies, University of Maryland, College Park MD 20742. Thanks to Roger Rouse, Kim Scheppele, Michael Warner, and the great audiences at the University of Michigan, Rutgers, and Brown for much-needed conversation and challenge.

-277-

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