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

John Stadler john.paul.stadler at gmail.com
Wed May 13 04:13:58 AEST 2015

Hi again, everyone:

I am late to the game! Sorry for the delay. I should have some more
directed responses Murat's previous messages that I'll try to write up
later today, but I wanted to respond to Ben's post first. Also, I
don't want to derail our discussion into just being about pornography,
as boredom is our object this month.

That said, I think we need to be careful not to essentialize
pornography. I would not want to declare all pornography as boring or
lacking complexity or interest, but at the same time, I am still
compelled by boredom's relationship to pornography. It's important to
note that pornography's address, function, and reception has changed
over time, and is contingent on numerous factors. In the era of porno
chic that I first mentioned, the act of going to see pornography
required going to a theater and was actually done with a social
function in mind. This was a water-cooler event. Johnny Carson was
talking about it on TV. Famous stars were seen going to see "Deep
Throa. The film was also stirring controversy, too, so it was walking
a fine line between popular entertainment and scandal. Within a gay
milieu at this time, going to see a gay pornographic film was often
also tied to cruising for sex (you may not end up seeing much of the
film in question), and it also served as a kind of social and indeed
an identity-forming function, but for a more marginalized audience. So
in some of these instances, boredom becomes a less vital force than
other consideration. I mention all of this to say simply that when
we're talking about what the intentions are of the porn-maker and the
intentions of the porn-viewer, that that's a really hard question to
answer (and likely there as many answers as there are people who make
and watch pornography), and one that will vary over time based not
just on historical and cultural conditions, but also on things like
how technology changes its production and distribution.

When we're talking about the attention of the porn-viewer waning
during the act of watching, a scholar like Magnus Ullen would want us
to be more overt in recognizing that the act of watching pornography
is tied to the masturbatory act. Ullen locates this as very much
related to pornography's proliferation online and a return to viewing
pornography in private spaces. See his article at Jump Cut here:


For Ullen, this perhaps tacitly understood feature requires more
consideration, and it might explain why some viewers of pornography
are willing to allow the representation in question to get away with
non-verisimilitude, bad acting, repetition, or other boring features,
and that is because the representation itself is not the whole point.
But it also could be that fantasy takes over, where the pornographic
film falls short, and for many the fantasy was spurred by a much
earlier (and at that point novel) viewing of pornography that was once
fresh, new, not boring. It would be interesting to think about this
aspect more in relation to other "body genres" like horror, comedy,
and tear jerkers, all of which are read in relationship to their
ability to affect a bodily response. For instance, do we come to
pornography with a certain cultural bias that we don't anymore to
these other body genres, each of which in the past have been
disparaged or treated as un-interesting, too?

Ben, you write:
> Pleasure is a positive arousal, and thus requires a ground of boredom to
> occur. For the same reason, fear as a negative arousal requires a
> baseline of boredom.

I'm not sure I am on board with treating pleasure as always a positive
arousal, or I suppose I need to hear more on what you mean by
positive. The way pleasure is policed and often tied to shame and
transgression makes me wary of this designation. I think pleasure is
complicated, and part of what pornography does is provide an insight
into that complexity, so I would want to think more about what is
foreclosed if we only position pleasure as positive arousal, in the
same way that I'm questioning of boredom as only a negative valence.

More later! best,


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