Hello all!

I’ve been thinking about the use of Girard’s thought (both the mimetic and sacrificial aspects) around the world of pornography. The problem is very subtle and it will take time and care to address it properly. Below is a brief excerpt from a longer piece I wrote some time back. I realize, now, that it is difficult to think critically of pornography while also acknowledging and counting in its very complex and multiple facets. Perhaps one way out of this would be to ponder the presence of violence in human sexuality in general, before and beyond the particular case of pornography… Anyway, let us start a dialogue on this to see how Girard can help to understand porn…

Society cannot survive without the coming and going of increasing tensions and liberating accusations. This is the role played, according to Girard, by modern institutions. While assuming the effective performance of a set of functions in a certain socio-professional field of activity, our institutions – as ‘descendants’ of ancient rituals – also regulate the social worry inherent to human societies. They do so by being the playgrounds where tensions will grow, where arbitrary selections of culprits will take place, and where reactions or symbolic punishments will be held. The entertainment and leisure industry is one of such institutions. It is in this setting that we find pornography and the pornographic actress. More than another example of modern and allegedly mild scapegoating, the pornographic actress may actually represent the most efficient safety net of our social tension. Like other modern scapegoats, the actress (virtually) receives the remaining tension of the watcher’s day of labor, and pays the price of coming across his path through the rather inhumane treatment now boringly common in the sub-genre known as gonzo pornography. But when the scapegoat is a colleague at work or in another community, the confrontation happens in the public sphere, and if it goes out of hand, there is someone to notice the unacceptable nature of the punishment. With pornography, this is not the case. On the one side, the actress receives her treatment in the larger context of a professional sphere where it is more or less clear that it is precisely what she is there for. On the other side, the watcher enjoys a pornographic content that is increasingly violent, and since he watches it mostly alone, no external person is there to comment on what seems to be a progressive alliance of sexual excitement and pleasure with verbal and physical violence. Thus pornography could be seen as the modern exutoire par excellence, the strongest leftover of our ancient sacrifices and of their cruel ritual extension. And this, at the heart of a society that has, paradoxically, strongly rejected these very practices.