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Beyond Explicit

Pornography and the Displacement of Sex

Helen Hester

Publication Year: 2014

Develops a novel characterization of the pornographic as a cultural concept.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

I have been fortunate enough to have received exceptional support during the course of the preparation of this manuscript, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those who have helped to make Beyond Explicit: Pornography and the Displacement of Sex happen. I am...

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pp. 1-16

This book represents an attempt to contribute to the branch of cultural theory known as Porn Studies. This emerging academic discipline takes as its object pornographic representations of various kinds, and aims to extend the understanding of a genre that has historically received too...

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Part I: Feminism, Pornography, Transgression

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pp. 17-20

This section contends that there is a clear clustering of issues detectable in contemporary responses to pornography, with certain key ideas suggesting and feeding off of one another in a manner that makes them difficult to disentangle. Specifically, there is an evident assumption that there is...

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1: The Sex Wars

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pp. 21-34

Carole S. Vance describes the feminist sex wars as “the impassioned, contentious, and, to many, disturbing debates, discussions, conferences and arguments about sexuality that continued unabated until at least 1986” (“More Danger, More Pleasure” xxii), and she remarks that these debates...

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2: Rethinking Transgression

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pp. 35-48

Wetlands, the debut novel by Charlotte Roche, is narrated in free direct discourse by 18-year-old Helen Memel, and takes place during the protagonist’s stay in the proctology wing of the Maria Hilf Hospital. Having cut herself while “lady-shaving” (Roche, Wetlands 3), Helen is suffering...

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3: Sex and Disgust in Popular Culture

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pp. 49-62

In the discussion of Charlotte Roche’s Wetlands, we encountered scenes of everything from vomit drinking to pus licking, discharge chewing to scab eating. These representations of abjection were complex, affecting, and diverse, but our analysis was far from comprehensive. There is more...

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Part II: Intensity and Prurience

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pp. 63-66

As shown in Part I, the complex interpenetrations of feminism, transgression, and pornography have resulted in something of a diversification when it comes to contemporary understandings of the pornographic. In the case of Charlotte Roche’s Wetlands, representations of abject bodily...

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4: “Not All of It Will Get Your Dick Hard”

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pp. 67-86

In his essay “ ‘Choke on it Bitch!’: Porn Studies, Extreme Gonzo and the Mainstreaming of Hardcore,” Stephen Maddison identifies a tendency within certain pornographic texts to engage with the idea of corporeal spectacle in a manner that might be said to exceed the domain of the...

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5: Prurience and Postmodernism

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pp. 87-102

War, as demonstrated in Chapter 4, intersects with the contemporary pornographic in a number of affecting ways. However, despite operating under a new name, engaging with highly contemporary events, and frequently circulating in technologically advanced virtual forms, it is worth...

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6: Violence, Sympathy, Titillation

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pp. 103-124

Perhaps one of the most powerful and disturbing things about Margaret Atwood’s imagining of a post-postmodern visual culture in Oryx and Crake is the manner in which suffering, violence, and sexuality are brought together in the form of various spectacles catering to a prurient...

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Part III: Pornography and the Real

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pp. 125-128

So far in this book, we have used the concepts of transgression, intensity, and prurience to help theorize the manner in which certain unconventional— and at times, nonexplicit—materials have come to be viewed as pornographic. In this section, I extend my analysis of the displacement...

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7: Pornography and the Appetite for Authenticity

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pp. 129-140

It may seem somewhat counterintuitive to argue for the cultural significance of authenticity in the contemporary Western world. After all, the postmodern age is more typically characterized by a move away from an ethos of authenticity. As Baudrillard famously claims, the development of...

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8: Autobiography and/as the Real

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pp. 141-156

The contemporary hunger for the real can be seen to manifest itself via the cultural visibility currently associated with reality-based forms of representation. With increasing frequency, it seems, we are incorporating the real into the sphere of entertainment for, as Misha Kavka remarks, the...

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9: Sex, Trauma, and the Authenticity Effect

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pp. 157-180

The scandal surrounding the unveiling of JT LeRoy—which I outlined in the introduction to this section—is intriguing for a number of diverse reasons. First, the strength of feeling provoked by the hoax, within the literary and intellectual community as well as within fan cultures, is perhaps...

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10: Conclusion

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pp. 181-190

In this book, I have explored a somewhat counterintuitive idea; the idea that sex has, to a certain extent, been displaced within contemporary perceptions of the pornographic. That which is signified by the word “porn” has, I have demonstrated, undergone something of a slippage.1 It is not...


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pp. 191-206

Works Cited

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pp. 207-230


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pp. 231-234

Back Cover

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p. BC-BC

E-ISBN-13: 9781438449623
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438449616

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2014