At Home with Pornography

At Home with Pornography: Women, Sexuality, and Everyday Life

Jane Juffer
Copyright Date: 1998
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    At Home with Pornography
    Book Description:

    Twenty-five years after the start of the feminist sex wars, pornography remains a flashpoint issue, with feminists locked in a familiar argument: Are women victims or agents? In At Home with Pornography, Jane Juffer exposes the fruitlessness of this debate and suggests that it has prevented us from realizing women's changing relationship to erotica and porn. Over the course of these same twenty-five years, there has been a proliferation of sexually explicit materials geared toward women, made available in increasingly mainstream venues. In asking "what is the relationship of women to pornography?" Juffer maintains that we need to stop obsessing over pornography's transgressive aspects, and start focusing on the place of porn and erotica in women's everyday lives. Where, she asks, do women routinely find it, for how much, and how is it circulated and consumed within the home? How is this circulation and consumption shaped by the different marketing categories that attempt to distinguish erotica from porn, such as women's literary erotica and sexual self-help videos for couples? At Home with Pornography responds to these questions by viewing women's erotica within the context of governmental regulation that attempts to counterpose a "dangerous" pornography with the sanctity of the home. Juffer explorers how women's consumption of erotica and porn for their own pleasure can be empowering, while still acting to reinforce conservative ideals. She shows how, for instance, the Victoria's Secret catalog is able to function as a kind of pornography whose circulation is facilitated both by its reliance on Victorian themes of secrecy and privacy and on its appeals to the selfish pleasures of modern career women. In her pursuit to understand what women like and how they get it, Juffer delves into adult cable channels, erotic literary anthologies, sex therapy guides, cyberporn, masturbation, and sex toys, showing the varying degrees to which these materials have been domesticated for home consumption. Representing the next generation of scholarship on pornography, At Home with Pornography will transform our understanding of women's everyday sexuality.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-4399-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: From the Profane to the Mundane
    (pp. 1-31)

    Pornography is not often a subject linked to the mundane. Take, for example, the controversy surrounding the 1996 release of Milos Forman’s filmThe People vs. Larry Flynt. The main players in the porn debates resurfaced, using the platform created by the film to make the same arguments they have always made about pornography and women. Larry King brings togetherHustlerpublisher Larry Flynt and televangelist Jerry Falwell; Falwell likens Flynt to a Nazi and says that “pornography is a scourge on society, demeaning to women and children.” Flynt responds that he has tremendous respect for women and that there...

  5. 1 Home Sweet Pornographic Home? Governmental Discourse and Women’s Paths to Pornography
    (pp. 32-68)

    On August 22, 1996, President Clinton signed a “welfare reform” bill that effectively eliminates the federal guarantee of cash assistance for the country’s poorest children, saving the U.S. government $55 billion over six years. The bill abolished Aid to Families with Dependent Children, which, according to theNew York Times, provides monthly cash benefits to 12.8 million people, including 8 million children (Pear, A10). It established a lifetime limit of five years on welfare payments to any family and required most adults to work within two years of receiving aid. In a little reported but telling provision, the bill mandated...

  6. 2 The Mainstreaming of Masturbation? Making Domestic Space for Women’s Orgasms
    (pp. 69-103)

    In the early 1970s Betty Dodson dedicated herself to teaching women how to liberate themselves sexually through the act of masturbation. Tired of consciousness-raising groups that “catalogued female suffering and social injustices” (73), she initiated an ongoing series of Bodysex Workshops in which she demonstrated how to reach orgasm through masturbation, eventually engaging all the women participants in the performance as an act of “selflove.” In 1974Ms. included her views on masturbation in an article, which was then published in a small but frequently cited book,Liberating Masturbation: A Meditation on Selflove. Indeed, in a 1995 articleMs. credited...

  7. 3 Aesthetics and Access
    (pp. 104-144)

    On February 9, 1996, an episode of the popular television showPicket Fencesfeatured the story of twelve-year-old Zach’s unfortunate escapades with cyberporn. The boy morphs the head of his teacher onto a lingerie-clad female image on the Internet; then, much to his chagrin, the teacher discovers his deed. A bad situation gets worse when, unbeknownst to Zach, his friend uploads the image onto the World Wide Web, prompting “600 hits a minute around the globe,” according to the teacher’s lawyer. Zach’s parents, especially his mother, chastise themselves for failure to monitor their young son. The school principal advises the...

  8. 4 The New Victorians: Lingerie in the Private Sphere
    (pp. 145-166)

    Sexuality in Victorian England, Foucault tells us, was “carefully confined” within the home, and the home was the site of reproduction, where the “couple imposed itself as model, enforced the norm, safeguarded the truth, and reserved the right to speak while retaining the principle of secrecy” (History, 3). There seems to be a remarkable nostalgia for this conception of Victorian England in the 1980s and 1990s, a harking back to a time when sex was more domestic in the contained sense of that word, when boundaries between public and private were more clearly defined, and where certain rules of class...

  9. 5 Behind and Beyond the Bedroom Doors: From John Gray to Candida Royalle
    (pp. 167-199)

    It’s 10 p.m. on a Sunday night at the Marriott Hotel in Indianapolis, the night before the seminar I’ll attend: “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus,” an offshoot of the thriving industry of “relationship guru” John Gray. This city seems like the perfect place for Gray’s offerings; in the early 1980s it passed a city ordinance written by Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin that made pornography a violation of women’s civil rights.¹ But even the most sexually prudish of cities can’t keep national hotel chains from offering adult programming on cable; I choose what seems to be the...

  10. 6 Eroticizing the Television
    (pp. 200-232)

    In the spring of 1997 cable operators across the country announced their participation in a new advertising campaign: the “Make Every TV Set a Cable TV Set” campaign. Based on a “whole-house concept,” operators are aiming to wire up every set in the home by offering free installation of additional cable outlets after an initial onetime installation fee of ten dollars. The operators are banking that cable viewing will follow the patterns of television watching: a 1995 study found that in homes with two or more sets, prime-time viewing was increased by 33 percent (Forkan, 26).

    By 1997 about a...

  11. Conclusion: Revisiting Transgression
    (pp. 233-238)

    In the introduction I opposed the concepts of domestication and transgression, using the opposition to advance a theory of agency in relation to women, pornography, and everyday life. Domestication, I said, drawing on Roger Silverstone, involves “the capacity of a social group to appropriate technological artifacts and delivery systems into a culture—its own spaces and times, its own aesthetic and its own functioning—to control them, and to render them more or less ‘invisible’ within the daily routines of daily life” (98). Pornography is domesticated when it becomes integrated into the routines of everyday life—not exactly rendered invisible,...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 239-252)
  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 253-264)
  14. Index
    (pp. 265-271)
  15. About the Author
    (pp. 272-272)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 273-273)