Tag Archives: pornography

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

The (possibly alarmist) claim recently surfaced on social media that it was only a matter of time before some enterprising hacker managed to connect the records held by porn sites of their users’ browsing histories to the individual identities of those users, creating considerable opportunities for individual blackmail or general mischief. My personal reaction to this scenario –oh god please no – was balanced by a tranquil sense that a great many people would be in the same boat, and that the likely social impact of mass disclosure was difficult to anticipate. It might be horrific and hilarious in about equal measure. However, sites such as Pornhub already occasionally release their own statistical analyses, showing which US states evince the greatest interest in teenagers, spanking, interracial couples and so on. Public access to their – suitably anonymised – access logs might yield much of sociological interest.

My review of Tim Jordan’s Information Politics: Liberation and Exploitation in the Digital Society is now up at Review 31.

If Only You Had Been Right

I’m thinking – what else would I be doing? – about the valuation (in left-accelerationism and elsewhere) of the cognitive, its overvaluation or undervaluation. Here, for example, is what the internet already knows to be Dominic Fox’s Favourite Andrea Dworkin Quote:

There is also, possibly, sexual intelligence, a human capacity for discerning, manifesting, and constructing sexual integrity. Sexual intelligence could not be measured in numbers of orgasms, erections, or partners; nor could it show itself by posing painted clitoral lips in front of a camera; nor could one measure it by the number of children born; nor would it manifest as addiction. Sexual intelligence, like any other kind of intelligence, would be active and dynamic; it would need the real world, the direct experience of it; it would pose not buttocks but questions, answers, theories, ideas – in the form of desire or act or art or articulation.

I imagine an allergic reaction to this being triggered almost immediately by the word “intelligence”, and the reader breaking out in hives at the valuation of the “active and dynamic”, the masterful and virile intellect posing its “questions, answers, theories, ideas” to “the real world”. A pose of aggressive sufficiency, in which “desire or act or art or articulation” is always caught up in a movement of intelligence from itself to itself, “discerning, manifesting, and constructing”, making things smart. This vision of what intelligence is, and does, is indeed what I love in Dworkin: I think it is more characteristic of her than almost anything else; even her macabre involvement with extremes of violence, horror and humiliation is subservient to it, driven relentlessly forward by it. Pessimism of the intellect, but never pessimism towards the intellect. (Firestone was much the same).

We see also here Dworkin’s devaluation, in which I share wholeheartedly, of the world of appearances – “painted clitoral lips”, the imaginary realm scoped out by scopophilia, turned into manifest reality by pornographic staging. For her there is a dreadful fall from the qualitative – the deep interior of things, that which intellect must delve into and reason out – into the quantitative, that which can be measured, posed, addictively consumed. Intelligence has nothing to do with this “unreal” world, the world of commerce and communication (and this is where my Dworkin meets my Badiou, in their shared disdain for the democratic-materialist unworld of circulating signifiers). There is nothing to be learned from the “posed”, the “painted”. An entire dimension of performativity – everything that can happen on a stage, in front of a camera, for the amusement of an audience – is condemned here as essentially unworthy of thought. (Dworkin is in this sense perhaps the least “queer” lesbian ever).

My imagined allergic reader feels the lash of this condemnation and recoils. A part of humanity, perhaps a preponderant part, is to be carved away and cast into the fire. You can try to offer reassurance, but it’s too late. Most people don’t experience their intellect as in any way sufficient to their lived reality; the demand that everything be filtered through “intelligence” feels tyrannising and small-minded. They say that Dworkin hated sex; she didn’t, she found it endlessly rich and fascinating and complex. A challenge for thought, a genuinely worthy problem – “not the fun kind”, as she said of herself. What she hated was the kind of inane cruelty that comes out when things slip the reins of intellect and people’s childish wishes are brought garishly into fruition (the porn fairy waves her plastic wand…); the way this cruelty demands subordinated bodies to play its games with, to fashion into the material of its enjoyment. I’m with her there, 100%: obscenity and transgression are always fun for someone, and damn that someone to hell (even if, or especially when, it’s me). But you cannot separate humanity from obscenity: there is no possible “integrity” that does not involve some kind of compact with the unavowable.