Hard Core: Power, Pleasure and the “Frenzy of the Visible”

August 5, 2011 § 1 Comment

Once again I find myself in the entirely …exhausting? weird? whatever, swear words… position of having to distill nearly 300 pages of serious business cultural theory into a digestible blog post designed for quick and easy frankensteining when I’m asked whatever I’ll be asked for the written portion of the breadth exam. In the case of Hard Core, this is a particularly difficult task — Williams is a badass and throughout her analysis braids pubic hairs of awesomeness into g-strings of success. For example she uses feminism to challenge anti-pornography feminists, arguing that the anti-pornography stance, however well-intentioned, reifies precisely the gender dynamics (naturally and necessarily and always-already victimized women subject to and subjected by naturally and necessarily and always-already sadistic rape-monsters aka all men in the history of ever) that the anti-porn crusaders purport to condemn (22). She also eviscerates Freud, basically by reminding people what the crazy bastard actually said– namely, that women are dickless horrors and no wonder men end up obsessing over women’s feet or underwear or whatever. Because somewhere in the recesses of their lizard brains they recall the fateful moment they saw mommy naked for the first time and OH MY GOD WHAT IS THAT DEATHLY HOLLOWS, clearly that’s not the correct sex organ, you know like the one I have, which unlike mommy’s murder hole recalls the wizened nose of a dust-caked marsupial which apparently can’t stop raping, ever, and why doesn’t mommy have one, perhaps it was suctioned off by our Dyson, this is simply too much for my lizard brain to process because what if my penis is next, I must find a way to reinstate the wholeness I once attributed to mommy thereby alleviating my own fear of patented cyclonic suction and/or vaginas lined with razor blades, oh I know, why don’t I pretend her stiletto heels are actually her penis, ah that feels so much better, now I can be a heterosexual. Which is as circular and self-replicating –not to mention blithely ahistorical– as it is offensive and lulzy (46; 54).

And, in perhaps my favorite section, she discusses the history and present ubiquity of the “money shot,” wherein the penis-haver gets down on one knee and professes his affinity and respect for the bright-eyed young lady he’s chosen to tenderly bed. lol jk when he cums on her face. According to Williams, the “hydraulics of ejaculation” (94) may indeed mark the woman as less-than, but it also performs a fetishistic function, framing the act itself as revelatory and worthy of further study (as opposed to knee-jerk condemnation). It is, as she argues, man unable and/or unwilling to take woman into account. It is man so focused on man that the visibility of woman is obscured quite literally by the shadow of teh phallus. Thus the money shot, politically problematized as it may be, makes visible an entire system of relations –Foucaultian power at its most bare– in which women are something to be obscured (117).

In other words there is lots to say and lots to admire about this book. As usual, though, I have to think about where and in which ways I can connect Williams’ argument to my other selections. Foucault’s articulation of the “implementation of perversions” –so easily applicable to the history of pornography– is a recurring theme, and can be likened to Cohen’s claim that “deviance” is both brought about and subsequently condemned by the same spider-webbed social and political forces i.e. power. There’s lots of stuff about no-homo penis-play a la Eve Sedgwick (81), as well as connections to the panopticon generally and Mary Douglas’ positing of a symbiotic, chicken-and-egg relationship between social norm and social aberration (35). As with most of these selections, Williams will be a supporting character if she’s featured at all (we’re talking written exam question), but this is one of those books I’m happy to have read due to I am now smarter for having stuck with it. I’ll take that as a win, NOW LET’S WATCH WIPEOUT.


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