The Politics of Feminist Pornography: An analysis of representation and spectatorship in Sweet but Pyscho
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The feminist sex wars (also known as the porn wars) in the 1970s and 1980s refer to the collective debates among feminists that deeply polarized the feminist movement because of the different opinions on matters of sexuality and sexual activity. Feminist porn aims to address existing issues of sexism within the mainstream porn industry and can thereby figure as a middle ground in these porn wars. The objective of this thesis is to examine how the politics of looking and the politics of representation are constructed in tandem in feminist pornography. Case study is the feminist pornographic film Sweet but Psycho, created by pioneer in the feminist pornography movement, Erika Lust. The main theory used entails Stuart Hall’s definition of representation and Laura Mulvey’s ‘male gaze’. With the use of the semiotic approach and the discursive approach, as well as analyzing the construction of spectatorship, this thesis explores the power relations that are at stake with the constitution of the politics of looking and the politics of representation in this specific pornographic film. The analysis shows that Lust creates a pornography that is non-sexist, by providing, to a certain extent, a ‘powerless’ or ‘genderless’ gaze, while also putting female sexuality at the center stage. This way, Lust offers alternative representations of the female body, female sexuality and sexual interaction and thereby creates a more balanced pornography in terms of power relations, compared to conventional mainstream pornography.