Seminar 2: Playboy Magazine & The Pharmacopornographic Era

“After World War II, the somatopolitical context of the production of subjectivity seems dominated by a series of new technologies of the body (which include biotechnology, surgery, endocrinology, and so forth) and representation (photography, cinema, television, cybernetics, videogames, and so forth) that infiltrate and penetrate daily life like never before.” – Preciado, Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics

Outlining the relationship between pharmaceutical advances and pornography, we researched into the influence that their introduction has had on our society. Changing bio-political values, advances within medicine and pornography have encouraged the way we view reproduction and allowed it to become separated from sexuality. Researching further into this concept, I was able to raise and answer critical questions:

  • How has the 1970s introduction of porn altered the way we objectify our bodies and others? With popular culture and magazines such as Playboy, idolising porn star females as role models, audiences desired their “ideal” appearance. This often led to individuals to the use of plastic surgery procedures. Plastic surgery arose from the military, and has since been exploited for a narcissistic purpose within our modern society. These procedures enhance our image-obsessed culture, and lead to specific expectations and the objectification of female appearance. 
  • To what extent, do we, as passive mass consumers, allow these advances to affect us? With reference to Laura Mulvey’s theory of the male gaze, Mulvey explores how cinema purposefully provides its audience with a male perspective. Through specific camera shots and narratives, women are forced to take on a secondary male perspective. I believe that this notion can also be applied to the silent image of the objectified female that is promoted within pornographic magazines, such as Playboy. Using the example of VALIE EXPORT’S ‘TAP and TOUCH Cinema’, the objectification of women alters once the female is regarded as an alive-being, as opposed to a silent image. This suggests that as a passive audience, we allow objectifying ideals to impact our perspective, but as soon as the act of looking becomes an interaction between two people, often we feel uncomfortable. 
  • Is popular culture solely to blame?  Medical reproductive treatments and advances have also affected our change of perspective regarding sexuality. The invention of the contraceptive pill, promoted intercourse as a pleasurable activity as opposed for reproductive purposes. Therefore, changing our perspective of reproduction, and separating it from sex. In the 1980s, the internet was introduced to wider society. Beginning as a military experiment, the internet has now become part of our everyday lives. With billions of pornographic websites now online and easily accessible, the internet has enabled a wider consumption of this content. This has enforced the effects of pornography to an exaggerated degree, and made it part of mainstream society.

In terms of my final essay, I would like to address the subject of the objectification of the female body. Drawing in elements of The Pharmacopornographic Era, I will be able to discuss how advances that initiated from the military (such as the internet and pornographic content) have altered our perception of the female body.


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