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'This is not Kate Moss': an exploration into the viewing of cyberpornography

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/ProceedingsPaper

Published

Publication date1999
Host publicationProceedings of the 14th annual BILETA conference
PublisherBILETA
Number of pages12
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

In this paper I explore the changing form of pornography and put forward tentative suggestions as to how the phenomenon of cyberpornography might influence orthodox understandings of pornography. Feminist interventions have long been critical in altering the frame through which pornography is understood, but how does the emergence of cyberpornography complicate these visions?

The title of the paper comes from a comment supermodel Kate Moss made after her Calvin Klein adverts were accused of being pornographic. She said `the more visible they make me, the more invisible I become'. The issues implicit here are identity and the relationship between subject and object, issue that have been central to the orthodox view of pornography. If these are disturbed, what then?

In Surrealist paintings, precisely that quality of subtle disturbance is central. Magritte's `This is not a pipe' is the classic example. And of course it is not a pipe, but a picture of one, just as it is a picture of Kate Moss to which we react. Informed by Surrealist theories of art and film, I examine how understandings of pornography might be affected.
Taking this a stage further, I turn to the cyberpunk novel Neuromancer by William Gibson and the work of various cybertheorists. Using their visions of cyberculture, I try to imagine how cyberpornography might work and how we might understand pornography beyond the simplistic subject/object, stimulus/response debates within which it is commonly cast. If, as the postmodernist, postfeminist, gender and queer theorists argue, identity, gender, subjectivity and sex are
destabilising, how will new pornographies fit in? It is my contention that the emergence of cyberpornography and postmodern debates on the fragmentation of the subject must irrevocably complicate our understanding of pornography. In turn, these new understandings may perhaps provide a way out of the anti-censorship/pro-censorship impasse.