Economies of fantasy, pleasure and desire in explicit sex films

Krzywinska, Tanya (1996) Economies of fantasy, pleasure and desire in explicit sex films. Doctoral thesis, University of North London.


The representation of explicit sex in film has become the focus for heated debate in Western feminism in the last twenty years. This debate has become polarised into pro and anti-censorship positions through the alignment of the representation of explicit sex to issues such as positive representation and freedom to explore different representative languages for articulating female sexuality. The thesis argues that there are other important issues at stake within the frame of Explicit Sex films that have been side-lined through the terms of the censorship debate. The primary effect of the censorship debate has been the failure to address adequately the construction of desire and sexuality in contemporary culture. The thesis seeks to remedy this exclusion by examining the conventions of the genre of Explicit Sex films through a broader analysis of the construction of sexuality in both popular culture and theory.

Through textual analysis of a range of Explicit Sex films and engagement with contemporary debates about sexuality and sexual differences, the thesis will examine the recent phenomenon of video-produced Explicit Sex mills. As the impact of this shift in the production and dissemination of these films has not been addressed by key critics of the genre, the thesis will address the ways in which video and camcorder technology has shifted the means of representing authenticity and will discuss the implications of the notion that authenticity operates through disavowal as a fetish. The thesis will ask what it means to assign authenticity to the sexual acts depicted in these films and will furthermore ask what it means to call Explicit Sex films transgressive. It will be argued that the mainstay of analyses of these films often neglects to interrogate the complex matrix of contemporary sexuality, which is constructed through culturally and historically specific repressions and disavowals, that underpin the textual strategies and readership of these films. The thesis examines examples of Explicit Sex films through the concepts of authenticity, performance, the phallus, and transgression, in relation to psychoanalytic notions of fetishism, desire and fantasy. This conceptual approach offers a means of re-evaluating the status of contemporary sexuality and sexual identity and broadening the field of enquiry into the possible pleasures that these films offer to viewers.

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