Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

Why Internet Porn Matters

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

Why Internet Porn Matters

Article excerpt

Why Internet Porn Matters Margret Grebowicz (Goucher College) Stanford, CA: Stanford Briefs/Stanford University Press, 2013, 135 pp. ISBN 978-0-8047-8662-1

Grebowicz makes an argument concerning pornography's role in political ontology: turning to the philosophical register results in reorienting the politics of pornography. The intersection of pornography and Internet distribution effects a shift in what pornography means and how it functions in the world. The Internet embeds the social meaning of pornography squarely in the epistemological shift from knowledge to information. The shifts in which Internet pornography acts as a catalyst effect a particular understanding of the sexual subject in relationship to the democratic state and to speech that constrains the possibilities for sexual speech to resist or intervene in the state's policies (Internet pornography creates unprecedentedly docile subjects). Grebowicz discusses those structural and logical particularities which allow the form of pornography to play a pivotal role in the democratization of information. In the case of Internet pornography, the question of political belonging must be foregrounded, as the political belonging of pornography is intimately linked to its ontology. Internet pornography is symptomatic of and central to an "American" kind of modernity.

Grebowicz presents a poststructuralist critique of the politics of the First Amendment and their central role in the formation of America as an imaginary, interrogates the relationships between speech, freedom, sexuality, and power as they are produced and maintained by the commodification of information, and the effect of the dematerialization of commodities on the idea of the real. Grebowicz considers the role of pornography in the changing dynamics between sexual freedom and freedom of expression, as well as fantasy and social change: questions about pornography's social effects and political significance cannot be answered without taking the mode of distribution into account. It is possible to cite an image, from which it follows that it is possible to extract pornographic imagery and present it in a different context. The idea that discourse is constitutive of subjectivity does not guarantee its particular role as intervention or event at work in political movements. Speech that constitutes the sexual self could remain in the service of hegemonic techniques of management. Showing that sexual practices are effects of discourse does nothing to account for something like "speaking the sexual" as resistance. Internet pornography compromises the progressive potential of pornographic speech: the technology raises new anxieties about the social function of signs, about speech and its material effects. Ours is a social order more tuned into, and turned on by, signs, representations, simulacra than ever before in history. The practice paradigm is not sufficient in mapping the social effects of pornography in the Internet age. Internet pornography demands the reconception of pornography as information, and as subject to the logic of the democratization of information and to new fantasies of immateriality.

The findings referred to here suggest that to understand the political effects of cyberporn we must come to think about power in the way that the delivery method that is the ecstasy of community constitutes a new kind of governable subject: cyberporn is best conceived of as speech if we wish to examine its social effects. …

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