Book: Pop Porn. Critica dell’immaginario porno, edited by Matteo Bonazzi, Francesco Cappa. Milano: Et al. 2010, pp. 148-159.


Language: Italian

In this essay I wrote for the volume Pop Porn. Critica dell’immaginario porno – an anthology on pornographic imagery edited by Matteo Bonazzi and Francesco Cappa (University of Milan) –, I have tried to demonstrate how commercial adult entertainment can be potentially interspersed with problematic gender issues. Starting from the incapability of hard-core texts to visually represent female pleasure, I have analysed the “fucking machines” – mechanical devices equipped with (sometimes multiple) rubber phalluses and other pleasure-inducing tools – as a sort of metaphorical substitute for this “quintessential failure” of (audio-visual) pornography. In her latest book Screening Sex (Duke University Press, Durham and London, 2008), Linda Williams interprets the notorious “Exsexive Machine” scene from the 1968 movie Barbarella (Roger Vadim) as a perfect embodiment of the clash between two opposite notions of orgasm: one, “finite, masculine concept of sexual pleasure as climax and crescendo” versus “the lessons of Kinsey, Masters and Johnson, and feminist sexological revisions of female sexual pleasure as potentially infinite.” (p. 168). The contemporary fucking machine – even though undoubtedly charged with a certain aesthetic and symbolic hyper-virility –, unlike its cinematic “space age” ancestor, seems to share with its female human partner a “potentially infinite” aptitude for sexual performance and pleasure, thus creating a sort of gender hybrid. At the same time, however, several porn clips showing a woman with a fucking machine repeatedly put stress on images of female ejaculation, thus re-focusing on the idea of orgasm as climax and confusing gender representations further on. Quite paradoxically, then, in the “artificial” sexual intercourse between a disembodied female-phallus and an insatiable ejaculating-woman, we can find a representation capable of blurring the traditional gender binarism.