BOUND AND GAGGED by Laura Kipnis


Pornography and the Politics of Fantasy in America
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 Despite the suggestive title, this collection of well-argued essays on some of the socially constructive roles in which pornography can be cast would be more at home at an MLA conference than in an adult bookstore. Pornography ``distill[s] our most pivotal cultural preoccupations,'' says Kipnis (Northwestern Univ.; Ecstasy Unlimited, not reviewed). She asserts that when it comes to porn and what it tells us about ourselves as individuals and as a society, we would do best to take a long, hard look, since the porn industry (whose profits, she says, rival those of ABC, CBS, and NBC combined) is not going away anytime soon. Kipnis takes issue with both anti-porn feminists and conservatives, and argues for the politically and personally transgressive potential of fantasy as expressed through porn's forbidden images. She contrasts porn with what she sees as more genuine social evils like classism, deprivation, hypocrisy, repression, and conformity. She begins with a discussion of Daniel DePew, a gay man into S&M who was sent to prison for discussing--though never acting on--a plan (devised by undercover cops) to make a snuff film; for Kipnis, this case demonstrates what pornographic fantasies are not about (actual violence and crime). The author then focuses on what they might really be (a mirror of society's deepest desires and fears). She maintains that the more publicly reviled something or someone is, the more fertile a site for intellectual inquiry. Then, concentrating on printed material, she surveys transgender porn, ``fetish'' subcultures, and class-conscious porn (specifically Hustler magazine). While she is not likely to dent the armor of anti-porn crusaders or to inspire the dawning of a new era of pornography studies, the author provides a succinct, thoughtful, and lively case for porn as a significant contemporary cultural form.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-8021-1584-5
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1996


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