Women’s orgasm – how do you KNOW?
“In her seminal book Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the ‘Frenzy of the Visible’
, first published in 1989, Linda Williams accounts for hardcore pornography as a discourse of sexuality. Drawing on Michel Foucault, she discusses pornography in terms of scientia sexualis
, of the scientific will to know, understand and explain sex. She demonstrates how the genre is obsessed with finding the truth about and (literally and metaphorically) shedding light on sex through representing, capturing and providing visual evidence of sexual pleasure. Lighting, framing, camera angles, close-ups, body positions and, not least, editing are part of the machinery that works to unveil the secrets about what sex is. Hardcore pornography builds on a principle of maximum visibility; an idea that the visible can prove that pleasure is taking place. This principle has led to a number of generic formal conventions such as the beaver shot, the meat shot and the cum shot.
However, pornography has one problem: how to know and capture women’s sexuality? The pornographic model of maximum visibility builds on the premise that sexual desire and pleasure can be illuminated, displayed and revealed by the body’s visible functions. In the case of men, sexual pleasure is assumed to express and reveal itself through penile erection and ejaculation – features that have been established as the visible proof of pleasure. From this perspective women become a troublesome object of difference. Women’s sexual pleasures escape the principle of maximum visibility and the scientific method of measuring, knowing and explaining sex.”
Linda Williams’ book, female ejaculation and queer pornography are discussed in essay ‘Maximizing Visibility’ by Ingrid Ryberg, in Film International. Download it here
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