CMN 4166 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: The Flaws, Social Actions, The Makeover
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Sommert Esther “Just a Book”
This article tries to articulate the actual female audience of erotica today.
The ethnographic turn pioneered by Janie Radway’s study of
romance readers in 1984.
Radway’s interest was to remove nvestigation from the high culture of
university jargon and exclusiveness and to relocate it at a lower level of
academic cultural analysis. Romance readers are not dupes who have
subjected themselves to the dictates of patriarchy, but serve as an
expression of personal agency and resistance to those patriarchal structures.
Theirs is a declaration of independence, a protest and dissatisfaction
against demands of husband, home and children.
Adorno had noted that leisure time pleasure is a conduit ideology (it is
experienced as private domain outside capitalist relations of work yet is
wholly produced by them)
Gramsci noted how capitalism reproduces its hegemony through
participation in popular leisure activities. Example: For teen readers of teen
magazines, fun and pleasure are intrinsically ideological.
But Sommet tries to place the idea of ‘fiction and fantasy’ outside of the
control by ideology, especially by replacing romance reading in favor of real
female desire, sexual fantasy (erotica).
Pornography for women
•!Many publications like Black Lace series claim to be erotic fiction for
women by women. The erotica replaces soft core with hard core, all
in the form of words. (Whipping and ramming as examples of
graphic representations of sex). It is all about the female’s quest for
sexual fulfillment, something articulated first in the 1970s not with
Harlequin but with ‘bodice ripping’ tales. Their numbers of books
sold are surprising: 55 million per year!
Categorizing for audience and vice versa
•!One can no longer divide types between Author/Reader. This is a
participatory culture of classifications and distinctions where
readers are often themselves aspiring authors. Likewise in the
distinction between erotica and romance no longer viable. A
sensuality key even operates: sexy, spicy, very sensual, sensual,
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sweet. All applies to a category of post-feminist heterosexual
Reading sex: The post-feminist audience
•!Have feminist goals been realized thus allowing for return to pre-
feminist pleasures but not openly erotic ‘New Woman’ who enjoys
the illicit pleasures of pornography? The post-feminist female
reader is seen as a self-empowered consumer.
Is Pornography Feminism?
•!Black Lace (the British company producing this material) editor
claims that their books express feminist aims. Anything goes,
except anything that condones hatred of women or advocates
subjugation of women to men.
•!Written by and for women with the object of declaring these books
take ordinary women with ordinary needs where they would want to
go. Deny the Robin Morgan pronouncement of the 60s: ‘Porn is the
theory, Rape is the practice’.
Sexual pleasure and feminist entitlement
•!What women want, according to Black Lace, is equal sexual
gratification. This is all about play not politics. Black Lace presents
sexuality as a site of liberation for women who seek individuals
gratification. Sommet points to a key problem, echoing Foucault:
capitalism’s commodity markets appropriate the language of
freedom and feminism to market products of which Black Lace is
one]. In short, transgression (i.e. reading erotica) is cultural capital
geared for hetero and lesbian alternative sexualities. The discourse
of sexuality offered as ‘private’ pleasure, as the individual’s ‘
Images stay with us.
Fisk, John Understanding Popular Culture (112-116)
Uses example of torn jeans. Late capitalism is characterized by commodities
which serve a material and a cultural function. Cultural=meanings and
values. Every commodity reproduces the ideology of the system that
produced it. Commodity is ideology made material.
Ideology produce false consciousness that blinds the subordinate classes to
their fake position in society. They believe their social differences are seen
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