The Pornography of Violence

   Imaginary Enemy  , The Used

Imaginary Enemy, The Used

"Today, films that promise spectacle, intensity, and, above all, whore-bashing are not the totality of the pornographic universe. But they are the primary thing that millions of heterosexual men flock to when they are alone at their computers (check out the popular titles at http://business.avn.com/charts/.) Author David Foster Wallace (2006) spent some time with Max Hardcore at the AVN Awards in 1998 and left convinced that the snuff film was the apotheosis of porn -- the 'horizon' towards which the industry was traveling (28). More recently, journalist Susannah Breslin (2009) left a movie set of director Jim Powers with a similar impression: 'The products that Jim produces are videotaped vivisections, studies in which homo sapiens lie upon the operating table, the director is the doctor, the camera is the scalpel, and the only question worth asking is, How far will we go if we are pushed to our limits?" Breslin suggests an answer in the ambiguous title of her essay: 'They Shoot Porn Stars, Don't They?'
There is good reason why critics entertain visions of lethal violence when they consider pornographers' commitment to the intense and extreme, to the hostile and aggressive. But there is less reason to believe we stand on the precipice of something else altogether new and more threatening than what came before. The apocalyptic visions of Breslin and Wallace are not unique in the twenty-first-century. For instance, pornography and pop culture in the 1980s left David Cronenberg with a vision as ominous as Breslin's and Wallace's: The sleazy pornographers of the fictional Videodrome (1983) promised to bring snuff to the hungry masses on their home televisions. And decades earlier -- well before the dawn of pornography's Golden Age -- George Bataille (1962) believed that murder was the essence and the end of pornography, that sex and death were ever fused in human minds and bodies. Bataille's work, like that of the Marquis de Sade before him, shows that sexual violence has long been a staple in the pornographic -- and the popular -- imaginary (Moore 1990).
What changes with time is the form our most violent desires take, how extensively they dominate our sexual imaginations, how we choose to express them, and, perhaps, how far we are willing to go in exploring and satisfying them. The power of violence to captivate a wide audience is far from new, but the warnings of pop culture's soothsayers should not go unheeded. We must consider what is born when we so readily fuse arousal with contempt, sex with fury." -- Violence and the Pornographic Imaginary: The Politics of Sex, Gender, and Aggression in Hardcore Pornography, Natalie Purcell