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Authors:Michael Frank: Bentley University, USA
Publication title:The Ontology of the Pornographic Image: Some Speculations
Conference:NORLIT 2009: Codex and Code; Aesthetics; Language and Politics in an Age of Digital Media; Stockholm; August 6-9; 2009
Publication type: Abstract and Fulltext
Article No.:030
Abstract:The remarkable foliation of porn studies in has led to a far more nuanced understanding of pornography. But what is largely missing from these discussions is any extended inquiry into what might be called the essence – the quidditas – of porn; the thing that constitutes it as porn in the first place; of what Andre Bazin; speaking about cinema in general; calls its ontology.

Common-sense might lead us to assume that porn is constituted by its subject matter; by what it is a representation of. But a little reflection calls this argument into question; for different pornophiles are notoriously various in what they crave; and the same material that seems so arousing under one set of circumstances can seem trivial or tawdry on another. If; then; we; at least provisionally; eliminate subject matter – that which is represented in porn – as its defining characteristic; as what is both necessary and sufficient adequately to define it; we’re left with looking at the transaction that takes place in the process of accessing porn; that is; the process of representation.

Andre Bazin has noted that the process of photographic represntation provides; with minimal mediation; access to the real; to some otherwise unrepresentable part of human experience. The ubiquity of the come shot; could then be read as the guarantor of that authenticity. Yet animated porn; to say nothing of strictly verbal porn that dominated the first great efflorescence of porn in Victorian England; provides no access to that authenticity; unlike Bazin’s photographic image; it gives us no degree at all of unmediated access to “the real thing.” Thus; if we take verbal; animated; and photographic porn as sharing the same “quidditas;” the question becomes what does it give us access to. This has to be the great challenge for porn studies; partly because it itself is so crucial for our understanding of the relationship of sexuality to representation; but even more so because it is a laboratory for understanding the nature of representation – especially pictorial representation – in toto. In fact porn is the ideal laboratory in which to explore the relationship between cinema as an access to the real and cinema as a conventional code; a language.

And they were both naked; the man and his wife; and were not ashamed.
Genesis 2.25

No. of pages:12
Series:Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings
ISSN (print):1650-3740
ISSN (online):1650-3686
Publisher:Linköping University Electronic Press; Linköpings universitet

Michael Frank (2009). The Ontology of the Pornographic Image: Some Speculations, NORLIT 2009: Codex and Code; Aesthetics; Language and Politics in an Age of Digital Media; Stockholm; August 6-9; 2009;article=030 (accessed 2/6/2016)