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

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"Pornography is the royal road to the cultural psyche." --Bound And Gagged (1996) Laura Kipnis

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Bound And Gagged: Pornography and the Politics of Fantasy in America is a 1996 book by Laura Kipnis that attempts to approach pornography (and various responses to pornography) in a new way, focusing not on whether or not pornography is a serious social ill, but rather on what its function might be, both in the lives of its audiences and in the lives of those who seek to ban or suppress it.

The book is divided into five sections which each can stand more or less independently as individual essays:

  1. "Fantasy In America: The United States v. Daniel Thomas DePew" presents an account of the first computer bulletin board entrapment case, in which Daniel DePew is convicted of conspiring to make a snuff film and sentenced to 33 years in prison, even though there was little evidence that his "plans" were anything other than kinky sexual fantasy.
  2. "Clothes Make The Man" is a look at transvestite pornography, and particularly the self-portrait personal advertistements, comparing them to the more "respectable" work of photographer Cindy Sherman.
  3. "Life In The Fat Lane" is about fat fetish pornography and contemporary American culture's anxiety and hypocrisy about fat and desire.
  4. "Disgust And Desire: Hustler Magazine" discusses Larry Flynt's use of pornography as a political act. This also discusses feminist disgust with Hustler and similar magazines as being class-based.
  5. "How To Look At Pornography", the book's conclusion, discusses (among other things) the marriage of antipornography writer Catharine MacKinnon and antipsychoanalytic writer Jeffrey Masson.

Kipnis rejects the more militant anti-pornography views expressed by feminists such as Andrea Dworkin and dismisses the conservative movement to exempt pornography from First Amendment protection. She sets out her view that pornography is a legitimate cultural expression which exposes class prejudices and sexual hypocrisy while it deliberately seeks to transcend taboos. The book involves themes including Freudian analysis, consumer capitalism, and societal taboos.

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