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

John Stadler john.paul.stadler at gmail.com
Mon May 11 03:34:11 AEST 2015

Hi Emilie, Murat, Ben, everyone!

Emilie, I think you are right to note the continuity between the
boredom of modern pornographic cam shows and the narrative that
animates "Deep Throat" except that in DT, it is a problem that the
narrative seeks to resolve very straightforwardly. She has to go on a
quest (a sex quest!). It becomes the problem to be solved, and it is
resolved when the sex therapist finds Lovelace's clitoris is magically
located in her throat, and one can imagine what then happens for the
remainder of the film. Within cam shows, the boredom is not really
spoken of as much as it is experienced. It might function like a
problem to be solved, but it's often the awaiting of enough money,
tokens, viewers, etc. to make the sex act itself worth the performer's
while. So it is oddly a question of value. Boredom has become woven
into the script of some kinds of pornography, and the way I'm arguing,
is not so much a problem as an interlude or rest or form of

You also write, Emilie:

> Rather than viewing pleasure as antithetical to the boring I'm considering the interesting as the not boring. The interesting can be engaging without necessarily being pleasurable, such as challenging intellectual pursuits.

I think this is a helpful manner of parsing out distinctions between
what boredom's antithesis is. I'm always very interested in the
etymological arrival of words (or their popularization), so that's
indeed a really interesting co-arrival. Thanks for bringing it to our

Murat, you write:

> In my view, the watcher of pornography escapes boredom through daydreaming, which escapes (though elicited and stirred by them) the repetitive, ritualized set sequences of pornographic acts. It seems to me it is in the interchange between the mind and charged (in what way?), mechanical acts that pornographic pleasure/excitement is created. Marquis de Sade's ritualized fantasies which at moments have the permutations of mathematics (both "algorithmic" and orgasmic) are examples of that.

I can’t speak as much to mind-wandering or day-dreaming, because until
this week’s conversation, these models have been off my radar as
explanations for boredom. I’m thinking of boredom more as a self
awareness of one’s alienation from the passing of time. But we should
definitely push on this more in the coming weeks and see how many ways
there are, ultimately, to account for boredom.

The way you write of daydreaming is interesting, though, and reminds
me that film studies is often caught up in the psychoanalytic language
of identification / objectification as the primary way of
understanding spectatorship. Thinking about Sade would be interesting,
too, for the phenomenological differences that reading pornographic
texts afford, versus watching pornographic films. I saw a really
interesting presentation at SLSA last year that read Sade as a
dictionary, and in many ways, argued for the boredom and
interchangeability of his texts’ sex acts.

Rather than the language of escape, I would probably say something
like: the viewer of pornography integrates boredom into the production
of pleasure, and this happens because boredom is not merely a negative
feature that denies, but rather is a productive component that sets up
the task of finding its own erasure. I’m also very taken by Ben’s
recent post that considers boredom as a possible reset button. If
pornography habituates us, and habituates our reception of pleasure,
boredom might well be a manner of disrupting the stimulus circuitry.

Murat again:

> When you say, "the non-event... authenticates... pornographies as genuine," are you implying something akin to what I am referring as escape?

Let me try to clarify what I’m saying, because I’m not sure if it’s
the same as what you’re writing about, but I want to understand your
point better. I’m interested that boredom is almost exclusively seen
as something we must strive to escape from, which then presents it as
just a bad thing. When I write of authentication, it is largely in
response to commercial pornography that has through time and
repetition come to be viewed as fake or disingenuous. The pleasure of
commercial pornography seems highly suspect, highly performative in a
falsifying way (like on the level of the Brechtian alienation effect,
but without the intentionality of the Brechtian alienation effect).

Amateur pornography seeks to present real pleasure (whether it does is
an open question), and one way that it authenticates its relationship
to reality is by replicating the boredom of everyday. So a cam show
that has a great deal of down-time is boring for the viewer and likely
boring for the performer as s/he does effectively little (while
awaiting tokens or the courage to perform sexual acts on camera), but
the function of that boredom is to render the person real in a way
that the glossy hypersexual performance of commercial pornography
seems impossible of producing anymore. Commercial pornography seems
like a fantasy in the most hyperbolic sense, whereas amateur
pornography doesn’t necessarily do away with fantasy, but tries to
render fantasy in a more believable manner. I guess what I’m saying is
that boredom is a shorthand for reality, even if it’s highly mediated.

Wow, I have a lot to think about now. This has been really productive
for my project, and I hope it's been helpful for others, too. Thanks
again, Renate, for the invitation to participate, and thanks Ben, for
your really thorough and thoughtful responses, too!



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