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Plotting Sex: Pornography's Performatistic Screen

  • Author(s): Hukku, Sanjay P.
  • Advisor(s): Williams, Linda
  • et al.
Abstract

The early 1970s witnessed the mainstreaming of feature-length, hard core pornography. Though derided by critics, this newly minted genre had two notable features: broader narratives within which sex occurred, and an insistent focus on the visual display of male pleasure. Plotting Sex claims that, by embedding sex within a story, sex itself takes on narrative qualities.

To support this claim, it teases out small shifts in the twentieth century's episteme that collectively contributed to the early 1970s emergence of what it terms pornography's performatistic screen, or the base, plotted structure of bodily performance and engagement underpinning sexual displays as enacted over time in orgasmically-oriented hard core film. This project starts with the twin Foucaultian poles of law and "human

sciences" as represented by the metonyms of American obscenity jurisprudence and sexology, finding in both a late 1960s pivot to issues of social construction and utility as tethered to narrative. Following this, it narrows focus to look at increasing rates of oral sex in American sexual practice and the changing production and exhibition of filmed

pornography. After analyzing then-contemporary concepts of desire in readerly narrative, it finishes by proposing a model for how plotted sex works both within and alongside broader narrative.

In all of these analyses, this project pays particular attention to the shifting role narrative occupies in matrices of power, knowledge, and pleasure. It argues that narrative plotting, when applied to sex, increasingly functions as a tool for both policing and reduplicating social and cultural norms.

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