Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A “Pornographic Society”

Despite some passages (read: several pages) where I felt like I was reading an in depth analysis of a book I’d never read, I rather enjoyed the Pornographic Imagination. To me, pornographic, or as most bookstores euphemize it “romance”, novels are a subset of books that I’ve never taken seriously, and never opened except to flip to the middle and find a laughably lewd line. However, Susan Sontag really changed my mind, and had a lot of interesting things to say on what I had always assumed was a closed book.
             Particularly interesting to me (perhaps only because of my work sample mindset) was the idea Brandi brought up about relating The Pornographic Imagination to Blue Velvet. I noticed the same quote she did (Hats off to you, mysterious margin writer) and also: “But O is an adept; whatever the cost in pain and fear, she is grateful for the opportunity to be initiated into a mystery.” This line really reminded me of Jeffrey in Blue Velvet. Like O, he is drawn into a world of darkness by his fascination with the mystery of the severed ear.
              Perhaps the most provocative thought raised was Sontag’s idea of pornography as “one of ‘the dilemmas of a society in transition’”. As Sam touched on in her post, the role of women in society and art has drastically shifted in recent history, and the rise of and developments in pornographic art over the same time period is an enlightening tool for studying this shift. Even the differences between Sade’s 18th century work and the work of the new pornographers (isn’t that a band?) could illustrate the changing views our society has on the roles of women, both sexually and morally. And what does the massive rise in pornography in recent times indicate about our society? That we are more fascinated with lust than love, more interested in instant gratification than long term commitment? Or is it an expression of our generations increasing acceptance of promiscuity and lewdness? I’m not sure, but I want to post the passage I took my title from, and hopefully we can come up with some answers in class: 

“… that there also exists a ‘pornographic society”: that indeed, ours is a flourishing example of one, a society so hypocritically and repressively constructed that it must inevitably produce an effusion of pornography as both its logical expression and its subversive demotic antidote.” 

So porn is both a poison and an antidote, a disease and a cure? And what does Sontag mean by “hypocritically and repressively constructed”? I would argue that she is referring how sex is a social taboo, forcing us to hide feelings and urges which we all share, because of their perceived ‘dirty’ nature. This thought leads back to our discussion of Funny Games, when we mused over how nudity earns an American film an R rating, while violence earns only a PG-13. Are we as a society scared of sex? Or are we scared of admitting to enjoying sex? I'm left with many questions, but in any case The Pornographic Imagination was a good read, and I think it ties in nicely with all of our other subjects.

1 comment:

  1. I laughed when I read your 'new pornographers' comment.

    But I don't think pornography has necessarily had a 'rise' in popularity. The main thing is that the way production runs post-Industrial revolution and post-Internet revolution. Things can be made more quickly, more cheaply, and at a higher volume. I can agree that we are a society in transition- where porn was once left at pubs or sent in brown paper bags, now you can walk out of a major bookstore chain with a pornographic purchase. (I personally think this has much to do with the role of religion post-Industrial revolution in society).

    I think people are just more aware of the access they have to pornography as opposed to how it once was.