Thursday, November 02, 2006

Pornography, Erotica and L'Histoire d'O

Laura may be right, I tend to go with the view that abusers are made, not born. But I doubt it is down to pornography.

I got thinking a little when one of the contributers to that thread on her blog differentiated porn from erotica. I pointed out that the lines are often blurred, but there also appears to be an implicit snobbery in arguments which are pro erotica but anti porn. Erotica tends to be highbrow material while what tends to be classified as porn tends to be cheaply produced and lacks artistic merit. One person's porn may well be another's erotica. Where, for instance, do Black Lace novels fit in? Are they porn for women or erotica? I wouldn't like to say really. Or what of the French movie 'Baise Moi', containing graphic scenes of sex and violence? It was not generically porn as it was not designed soley for titillation, yet you would be hard pressed to define it as 'erotica'. It's simply a violent film with images of real sex. But those who support banning pornography of any description would be inconsistent if they did not apply it to this movie. This is what makes the proposed law, banning people from holding 'extreme violent pornography' look subjective and almost impossible to impliment (leaving aside the issue of civil liberties). The fact that 'Baise Moi' was made by a woman makes no difference to it's contents.

I had to mention the Story of O as that is one particular work where the boundaries are somewhat blurred. The novel was written by a woman, yet when the author of the piece was unknown her gender was disputed, often by feminists. Part of this was obviously due to the masochism of the fantasies and the totally submissive nature of the female character, whose will ended up being totally broken by libertines of the Sadean nature. But I also suspect it was due to the prurient and Victorian view that a woman could never write such 'depravity', that such fantasies were the province of the male. The virtue of womankind dictates that she must be sexually pure.

This is obviously false as women do have submissive fantasies. Some feminists seemed to buy into the Victorian view of female nature and idealised women the same way that some Marxists (especially of the Leninist nature) idealised the working class. It was a naive and patronising view which was also elitist in nature, implicitly laying down a restrictive code of sexual conduct.

The author of the novel did write it for her partner Jean Paulhan, who was a fan of Sade's literature. This does raise a few questions about how 'in control' she was when creating the novel, but it does not mean she was under duress or suffering any kind of 'false consciousness'. Paulhan himself claimed to have felt slightly disturbed by some of the scenes. I am not easily shocked but I couldn't help but cringe a little, and it was not a comfortable read. But such literature is interesting due to what it may say about fantasy and the subconscious in relation to sexuality.

Such a novel could not have been written in English. It's surrealistic tone the whole way through, along with it's Sadean ethos, put it firmly in the French tradition of erotic literature.

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