Pornography and Sexual Representation: A Reference Guide - Vol. 1

By Joseph W. Slade | Go to book overview

6
Theoretical Works on Erotica and Pornography

An index of pornography's cultural significance is its power to generate endless comment. There is hardly a minister in America who has not preached at least one sermon on the evils of porn, and, fortunately, no one has ever tried to list them all. Even discounting that particular category, however, the scholar will quickly realize that most “serious” comment is superficial, tendentious, prurient, mistaken, and uninformed, often all at the same time. Vagueness is not merely widespread; it is essential to a mode of discourse that would be severely constrained were everyone to agree even on a single example of pornography. As always, we should remember the opening of D. H. Lawrence's essay, “Pornography and Obscenity”: “What [pornography and obscenity] are depends, as usual, entirely on the individual. What is pornography to one man is the laughter of genius to another” (69).


PORNOGRAPHY AS SEXUAL FOLKLORE

Writing about pornography is appealing for several reasons. One is that the writer need make no investment in facts and thus is free to conjecture. Another is the freedom to define pornography as one wishes, a circumstance made possible by the certainty that the term means something different to almost everyone. The unaware reader will be startled to find buried in a note appended to a study of pornography the revelation that the researcher based his or her conclusions on an analysis of the reader's favorite network television show or record album or blue jeans advertisement, items that the reader has never thought of as arousing. For example, in For Adult Users Only: The Dilemma of Violent Pornography, edited by Susan Gubar and Joan Hoff, Gubar routinely cites as pornographic films such as David Lynch's Blue Velvet and artists such as Ma-

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