“Don’t Scholars Fuck”? Pornography & the Academic World, by Dr. Anna B. Volk

I have been inside the academic world for nearly 18 years now, be it as a student, as a
professor, or as a researcher. I have taught in private universities, public ones, catholic
ones, and even a neo-liberal college. My students have majored in Arts, Sciences, Computer
Technology, and Literature. While I was still in my first undergraduate course, I affiliated
with a woman studies group on a national level, and through it I have spoken in conferences
revolving around feminism, homoerotism, gender, politics, literature, linguistics, sexuality,
film studies. Nowhere, not once, did I see a discussion over pornography as a valid format of
erotica representation, and not only as an example used by any kind of politics fuelled minority
studies, be it gender, women, race, or whatever.

Recently, the marriage between my academic life and my love for pornography took form
before me, and I was appalled at what I saw: scholars have been repeatedly hammering
the same spots in relation to pornography since before the Civil Rights movement. It is still
referred to as presenting “Corny settings, unattractive performers, clumsy acting, thin or
nonsensical narrative lines and general bad taste are the usual encumbrances of hardcore
porn films, whose exclusively commercial function is to provoke sexual arousal.” (NAGIB, Lucia:
2011, 185) It is something that "ravages and destroys the lives of both men and women"
by high jacking the male brain to the point of "hypnotizing him and rendering him incapable
of making good decisions" while making "a man who is married to a lovely wife risk that
relationship for a ten-second video clip of a couple having sex." (STRUTHERS: 2009, 11) It
even seems to creep into our minds, because it “has so thoroughly been absorbed into every
aspect of our everyday lives—language, fashion, advertisements, movies, the Internet, music,
magazines, television, video games—that it has almost ceased to exist as something separate
from the mainstream culture, something “out there.” That is, we no longer have to go to porn
in order to get it. It is filtered to us, in some form, regardless of whether we want it or are even
aware of it.” (Sarracino, Carmine: 2008, x).

It is shocking. The academic world has always fostered all sorts of political movements on
behalf of minorities –gender, race, sexual orientation, for example – and, yet, in the one
crossroads where all this can be combined, the academy drives by without even a hint of
acknowledgment. Pornography is a ground fertile enough to host all sorts of differences which
are so dear to the academic world: we can talk about feminism, racism, socio political views,
gender issues, religion, economics… And, yet, the discussion of pornography is restricted to
more “daring” professionals who are “crazy” enough to include it in their course. For sure
there have been scholars who have dealt with pornography in a serious, academic level,
and thanks to these professionals so much improvement has been made in terms of work
ethics and safety in the pornographic industry, for example, to the point where there seems
to be more acceptance of porn performing as a career choice. However, from Adrienne
Rich’s “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence” (1986) onwards, very few
groundbreaking theories have been presented aiming at the decriminalizing of pornography
and its perception as a format of sexual representation which, like ALL others, can be either
positive or detrimental to ALL kinds of realities explored, and not only the feminine sexuality.

Don’t scholars watch porn? What kind of porn films have they been watching? Haven’t they
noticed the explosion of porn video streaming sites which promote all sorts of pornography,
from the most “classical” to the homemade footage of “real” couples having “real” sex? Are
they unaware of works of directors such as Nica Noelle and Marc Dorcel, studios like Elegant
Angel and the Crash Pad Series, aren’t they reading performers such as Katsuni, Zoe Voss?
Who consumes pornography, then? Of the US$ 14 billion that the adult industry generated in
2011 (according to Forbes), how much of it was allocated within the academic world?

I am not saying professors around the globe should include their personal preferences
regarding pornography in their syllabi. Or that they link each and every subject taught to some
form of porn graphics and multiplication tables: all I ask is that they stop ignoring the fact that
pornography exists, or, better, that they face it as a valid discussion that can be held within
the walls of the academy without averting eyes, and directing it to the informality of hall
discussions. Or are they still too tangled on medieval notions that academics and professors
must be the epitome of morality and good manners, not tinted by more “mundane” issues,
being trapped in Plato’s world of higher ideas?

And this takes me back to my first question: don’t scholars fuck? Because there is no way, in
nowadays society, that one can ignore the massive absence of discourse about porn. The fight
is no longer exclusively in the realms of sexual orientation or gender divisions: it transcends
these borders, blurring niches into a more panoramic view of human sexuality through which
prejudice and segregation might be, if not eradicated, then lowered. And, if I am not mistaken,
raising a critical citizen who does not tolerate any kind of difference to be regarded as negative
is one of the best outcomes of an education.


Anna B. Volk holds a bachelor’s degree in English language, a masters’ in Irish Literature,
a doctorate in Comparative Literature, a bachelor’s in Architecture and Urbanism.
She also holds plane   tickets from Brazil, latte filled mugs, and cigarettes.
And she watches porn. And writes, and talks about it.
And she sometimes does all this at the same time, while listening to jazz.
She lives in Rio de Janeiro.


http://darlinghouse.net/beta/blog/2012/01/03/dr-anna-b-volk-scholar-reviewer-writer-brazilian/

1 Comment on “Don’t Scholars Fuck”? Pornography & the Academic World, by Dr. Anna B. Volk

  1. You might be interested in looking up the work of linda williams. She teaches at UCB and has published works such as HardCore and Porn Studies which attempt a serious academic study of the genre.

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