'Extreme' porn? The implications of a label

Article English OPEN
Jones, Steve (2016)

Despite its prevalence, the term ‘extreme’ has received little critical attention. ‘Extremity’ is routinely employed in ways that imply its meanings are self-evident. However, the adjective itself offers no such clarity. This article focuses on one particular use of the term – ‘extreme porn’ – in order to illustrate a broader set of concerns about the pitfalls of labelling. The label ‘extreme’ is typically employed as a substitute for engaging with the term’s supposed referents (here, pornographic content). In its contemporary usage, ‘extreme’ primarily refers to a set of context-dependent judgements rather than absolute standards or any specific properties the ‘extreme’ item is alleged to have. Concurrently then, the label ‘extreme’ carries a host of implicit values, and the presumption that the term’s meanings are ‘obvious’ obfuscates those values. In the case of ‘extreme porn’, this obfuscation is significant because it has facilitated the cultural and legal suppression of pornography.
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