[-empyre-] Welcome to May: Boredom: Labor, Use and Time

John Stadler john.paul.stadler at gmail.com
Tue May 5 14:15:33 AEST 2015

Hello all and thanks, Renate, for the introduction and invitation to

In my work, I am currently pursuing the question of boredom from the
vantage point of pornography. I became interested in this topic
initially after reading Ralph Blumenthal’s curious New York Times
article “Porno Chic” (1973).

Alongside locating a heightened technical and aesthetic proficiency in
it, Blumenthal celebrates the early 1970s narrative-driven pornography
for moving us away from the boredom of loops, stag, and beaver films.
Even so, some critics of the film Deep Throat--Blumenthal’s primary
example--reject it for this very reason, claiming: “It was boring.” I
find this tension very interesting.

In the film itself, Linda Lovelace’s motivation for sexual awakening
derives from a general sense of boredom from sex (that is,
traditional, heteronormative, missionary sex), which she fails to take
pleasure in. Boredom, then, becomes a problem for both the reception
experience and the narrative expression. A question we might ask, then
is: is boredom antithetical to pleasure?

Boredom itself often carries certain assumptions: it typically holds a
negative valence, is treated primarily as a psychic disturbance, and
characterizes a temporal condition of repetition and routine. Under
these assumptions, what boredom fails to deliver is surprise,
pleasure, excitement. To be bored is to know the future that will
shortly be delivered, to experience displeasure in that knowingness,
and to disengage from such an epistemology.

My research questions these assumptions and treats boredom as an
historically, technologically, and culturally contingent concept. I am
especially interested in tracking how what comes to be thought of as
“boring” in pornography (its expression and its experience) changes
over time. Boredom in contemporary pornography, especially among
amateur pornography and cam shows, might be thought of as the
precondition for if not the authentication of pleasure. I am left
wondering if boredom might be itself a form of pleasure and how we
might better account for the slipperiness between these terms. I’m
happy to expand on some of the ideas I’m proposing here in subsequent

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