Hope, Possibility, and Cruelty: Porn Consumption and Neoliberalism's Everday Affective Subjects

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In the wake of the post-2000s internet and technology boom, with the nearly simultaneous introduction of smartphones, tablet, IPads, and online video streaming, another moral panic around pornography has reared

In the wake of the post-2000s internet and technology boom, with the nearly simultaneous introduction of smartphones, tablet, IPads, and online video streaming, another moral panic around pornography has reared its head. While much has been written about pornography from the perspective of media analysis and, more recently, ethnographic work of the industry and with performers themselves, very little work has been done with consumers. What has been undertaken, by psychologists and antiporn academics in particular, suffers an unfortunate lack of diversity in terms of how consumers are defined. That is, psychologists and antiporn academics alike appear to think only white hetero men consume porn. This research realizes its significance through the idea that porn looks and feels differently, and expresses different meanings through the historical and intersecting relations to power of a consumer, even in the young heterosexual men that antiporn feminists are so keen on using as a strawman for all porn consumption. With the help of an intersectional affects framework, I am able to articulate the manner in which pornography puts bodies in motion before the mind undertakes a hermeneutical exercise fundamentally framed by the consumer’s knowledge and subjectivity, which muddles how antiporn’s speech act approaches presume a direct propositional transmission from a pornographic object to the consumer. Moreover, a digital object of any kind becomes pornography when it is used as such (Magnus Ullén, 2013); there is no necessary or logical consequence that outside of such a context the object remains inherently or intentionally an object of pornography (Mary Mikkola, 2017). With the help of my participants, I expose the manner in which subjective and intersubjective flows of affects expose entanglements of hope, possibility, and cruelty for porn consumers qua affective subjects. This is particularly the case for those non-majoritarian subjects whose promise of sexual citizenship and/or legibility, within neoliberalism’s single-issue progress narrative and linear temporality, rests on both the transposition of illegibility and non-citizenship elsewhere, as well as the subject’s willingness to fix, label, and thereby commodify their desires as affective labor.