Bound and Gagged: Pornography and the Politics of Fantasy in America

Overview

In a book that completely changes the terms of the pornography debate, Laura Kipnis challenges the position that porn perpetuates misogyny and sex crimes. First published in 1996, Bound and Gagged opens with the chilling case of Daniel DePew, a man convicted—in the first computer bulletin board entrapment case—of conspiring to make a snuff film and sentenced to thirty-three years in prison for merely trading kinky fantasies with two undercover cops.
Using this textbook example ...

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Bound and Gagged: Pornography and the Politics of Fantasy in America

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Overview

In a book that completely changes the terms of the pornography debate, Laura Kipnis challenges the position that porn perpetuates misogyny and sex crimes. First published in 1996, Bound and Gagged opens with the chilling case of Daniel DePew, a man convicted—in the first computer bulletin board entrapment case—of conspiring to make a snuff film and sentenced to thirty-three years in prison for merely trading kinky fantasies with two undercover cops.
Using this textbook example of social hysteria as a springboard, Kipnis argues that criminalizing fantasy—even perverse and unacceptable fantasy—has dire social consequences. Exploring the entire spectrum of pornography, she declares that porn isn’t just about gender and that fantasy doesn’t necessarily constitute intent. She reveals Larry Flynt’s Hustler to be one of the most politically outspoken and class-antagonistic magazine in the country and shows how fetishes such as fat admiration challenge our aesthetic prejudices and socially sanctioned disgust. Kipnis demonstrates that the porn industry—whose multibillion-dollar annual revenues rival those of the three major television networks combined—know precisely how to tap into our culture’s deepest anxieties and desires, and that this knowledge, more than all the naked bodies, is what guarantees its vast popularity.
Bound and Gagged challenges our most basic assumptions about America’s relationship with pornography and questions what the calls to eliminate it are really attempting to protect.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Bound and Gagged will prove intellectually productive for generations of scholars and thinkers. As always, Kipnis's insistence on articulating concerns of class and gender makes her work vitually unique withing U.S. cultural studies—and she is doubtless among the most engaging writers in the academy today.”—Lauren Berlant, author of The Queen of America Goes to Washington City

“A tour de force polemic in defense of the foibles of human fantasy.”—Linda Williams, author of Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the ‘Frenzy of the Visible’

“In Bound and Gagged, Laura Kipnis demonstrates that she is the Marx and Freud of porn.”—Constance Penley, author of NASA/Trek: Popular Science and Sex in America

“Laura Kipnis is the rarest of authors. She looks at porn and makes you see it through new eyes. Bound and Gagged is fearless, unflinching and funny.”—James Peterson, Senior Editor, Playboy

“Laura Kipnis’s Bound and Gagged is a singularly important contribution to contemporary cultural criticism. [It] should be required reading.”—Michael Bérubé, author of Public Access: Literary Theory and American Cultural Politics



“. . . as clear a take as one could expect on the intertwining of sexual fantasy and reality. . . . rendered in language that generates a seductiveness of its own.”—Robert Christgau, [unidentified review]

“[[Kipnis] blends the themes of Freudian analysis, consumer capitalism and societal taboo into a piece of sharp, insightful, sometimes disturbing social commentary.”—Richard Bernstein, the New York Times

“A wonderfully insightful book about the elitism that lurks behind antiporn sentiment. By bringing class into the picture, Bound and Gagged moves beyond the predictable, repetitive argument among feminists. . .”—Leora Tanenbaum, The Nation

“[Kipnis] provides a succinct, thoughtful, and lively case for porn as a significant contemporary cultural form.”—Kirkus Reviews

Bound and Gagged is a remarkably rational book about a subject that usually sparks remarkably irrational responses.”—Joy Press, The Boston Globe

“Few readers. . . will come away from Bound and Gagged with their perceptions about porn intact. . . .This original and spirited paean to the secret power of pornography makes a stimulating bedside primer—albeit one that’s more likely to lead to sedition than seduction.”—Autumn Stephens, the San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle

“A wonderfully provocative examination of pornographic fantasies and their broader cultural meanings. . . . Bound and Gagged pokes and prods at a number of America’s most tender spots—examining everything from transvestite personal ads and ‘fat fetishism’ to the class-ridden politics of disgust.” —David Futrelle, the Los Angeles Reader

[Kipnis] is a lively and engaging writer who argues. . . that we would be better off simply thinking of pornography as just another form of science fiction.”—Publishers Weekly

Robert Christgau
As clear a take as one could expect on the intertwining of sexual fantasy and reality...rendered in language that generates a seductiveness of its own. -- Village Voice
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Kipnis (Ecstasy Unlimited) argues in five loosely connected essays that just about everyone-from the religious right to militant feminists-misunderstands and misjudges pornography, which she considers a form of fantasy that is an end in itself and not the cause of something else, such as rape. The individual essays deal with a homosexual sadomasochist who made the mistake of discussing his fantasies on the Internet with an undercover cop and was entrapped and sentenced to 33 years in prison; America's fat phobia and how it is reflected in fat pornography; transvestite pornography, focusing on the revealing photographic self-portraits featured in drag publications; and the rise and fall of Larry Flynt and Hustler, with an emphasis on the magazine's populist political philosophy. The disjointed concluding essay, "How to Look at Pornography," tries, unsuccessfully, to pull all this material together, touching along the way on subjects that range from masturbation to Andrea Dworkin's alleged misreading of pornography as a feminist issue to Jeffrey Masson's legal battles with Janet Malcolm and others. Kipnis's individual essays make a stronger case than does her book as a whole, but she is a lively and engaging writer who argues, often convincingly, that we would be better off simply thinking of pornography as just another form of science fiction. (June)
Kirkus Reviews
Despite the suggestive title, this collection of well-argued essays on some of the socially constructive roles in which pornography can be cast would be more at home at an MLA conference than in an adult bookstore.

Pornography "distill[s] our most pivotal cultural preoccupations," says Kipnis (Northwestern Univ.; Ecstasy Unlimited, not reviewed). She asserts that when it comes to porn and what it tells us about ourselves as individuals and as a society, we would do best to take a long, hard look, since the porn industry (whose profits, she says, rival those of ABC, CBS, and NBC combined) is not going away anytime soon. Kipnis takes issue with both anti-porn feminists and conservatives, and argues for the politically and personally transgressive potential of fantasy as expressed through porn's forbidden images. She contrasts porn with what she sees as more genuine social evils like classism, deprivation, hypocrisy, repression, and conformity. She begins with a discussion of Daniel DePew, a gay man into S&M who was sent to prison for discussing—though never acting on—a plan (devised by undercover cops) to make a snuff film; for Kipnis, this case demonstrates what pornographic fantasies are not about (actual violence and crime). The author then focuses on what they might really be (a mirror of society's deepest desires and fears). She maintains that the more publicly reviled something or someone is, the more fertile a site for intellectual inquiry. Then, concentrating on printed material, she surveys transgender porn, "fetish" subcultures, and class-conscious porn (specifically Hustler magazine).

While she is not likely to dent the armor of anti-porn crusaders or to inspire the dawning of a new era of pornography studies, the author provides a succinct, thoughtful, and lively case for porn as a significant contemporary cultural form.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822323433
  • Publisher: Duke University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/1998
  • Pages: 226
  • Sales rank: 803,023
  • Lexile: 1460L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Laura Kipnis is Professor of Radio-TV-Film at Northwestern University. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts for filmmaking and media criticism. She is the author of Ecstasy Unlimited: On Sex, Capital, Gender, and Aesthetics.

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