...but I just saw Deanna's post that mentioned the usually-exploitative nature of pornography. The facts that "most pornography is created with men in mind, even now, that the sex drives of women are portrayed but to excite men, and that these two things almost necessarily exploit women (as a gender, not the individual women/characters)" should NOT be ignored. I agree.
I had a friend named Spencer in high school. Spencer (actually, Spencer's mom) was considered TOTALLY AWESOME by his friends, because she allowed, perhaps even encouraged, Spencer to look at/purchase pornography so long as no women were degraded. This sounded cool to our friends, whose parents were not as TOTALLY AWESOME and were thus resigned to secret, hurried .wmv files saved among folders labeled "school" and "homework" on their bedroom computers. It was actually pretty difficult for Spencer to find anything that met his mom's standards. There is undeniable degradation in Sade's women as "virtual slaves to be the objects, shared in common, of the men's brutal and inventive lust... unspeakable sexual indignities, floggings and more ingenious kinds of physical mutilations..." but this was considered, in the late nineteenth century and even in 1969 when Sontag wrote the essay, "some of the creakiest items in the repertoire of pornography." We now have ejaculating on faces and scenes of multiple penetration and gang rape as pretty bleakly typical of American porn 2k9.
Nafisi says that, "Humbert fixes Lolita in the same manner that the butterfly is fixed; he wants her, a living breathing human being, to become stationary, to give up her life for the still life he offers her in return." And then Sontag writes that "what pornographic literature does is precisely to drive a wedge between one's existence as a full human being and one's existence as a sexual being." It really is about dehumanization - which was stylistic with Sade, stylistic and probably illustrative of a larger idea with Nabokov - but now, here, we have this billion-dollar industry based entirely on something that was never meant to be taken seriously. It was never meant to be rendered so ordinary. I don't think porn titillates as much as it used to because we are all so used to this degradation, this dehumanization of women as sex objects.
Rachael is right when she says that rarely does porn try to be subversive. But in that it reveals all these uncomfortable truths about the way we view/prize manipulation/submission on the part of women - it is kind of sinister, yeah?