Pornographication: A discourse for all seasons
sub_mediaandculturalstudies | sub_law
As part of research for a teaching session I entered the words pornographication and pornification into Google; the first more unwieldy term collected 7,450 hits, the second was more popular with 28,700 hits. Always one for a bit of procrastination, I started to work my way through some of those hits. I was particularly interested by those which proclaimed\ud \ud The nation has been pornified.\ud \ud The pornification of teen life.\ud \ud The pornification of politics.\ud \ud The pornification of Britain.\ud \ud The pornographication of society.\ud \ud Pornographication: Why men don’t respect women.\ud \ud As pornography continues to become more prominent and pornographic imagery becomes more ‘mainstreamed’ we become accustomed to living in a pornified world in which it is acceptable that women and girls can be bought and sold.\ud \ud Each of these identified what their authors understood to be a remarkable new phenomenon, unstoppable and unregulated, indicative of a general malaise in society and with unforeseen consequences for our emotional and sexual lives. Of the links I visited, many were Christian in origin; others were blogs with unclear politics, some left-leaning, others right-wing, feminist, activist; there were some online issues of newspapers, magazines; and others involved policy documents and submissions to government agencies. Amongst the cacophony of concern were listings for a number of academic books including Paasonen et al’s Pornification: Sex and Sexuality in Media Culture, an erudite and careful collection which considers ‘the intertwining processes of technological development, shifts in modes of representation and the cultural visibility of cultures of sexuality’ (2007: 2). Other titles included Pamela Paul’s Pornified and Ariel Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs, neither of which are so careful to lay out the terrain on which their arguments are based. Desirous of putting the couple of hours of Googling to good use, I want to problematise the uses of ‘pornographication’ and ‘pornification’ in this commentary. My central claim here is that, notwithstanding Paasonen et al’s careful dissection of the term ‘pornification’, its usefulness may well have been exceeded. Further, I argue that the terms have been so widely taken up as descriptions and explanations of cultural shifts and worrying experiences, that they obscure the specific histories and politics of both the cultural artefacts under examination and those who are doing the examination. The claims of ‘pornographication’ and ‘pornification’ are already so saturated in the languages and references of concern and regulation that they restrict the range of possible explanations that can be admitted.
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