Interview: Oskar Piegsa, Anne Waak
Fotografie: Natalie Neomi Isser, Pasqual Schillberg

Ten years ago, queer theory and a new kind of porncriticism stormed academic discourses. Since then interest in “Post-Porn" has dwindled. What is the reason for this? This question was addressed by Svenja Fasspöhler, author of the book "The Will to Lust. Pornography and the Modern Subject." (Campus-Verlag, 2007), by Tim Stüttgen, organizer of the first German post-pornography symposium "Post/Porn/Politics", which took place at the Berlin Volksbühne in October 2007 and by Jürgen Brüning, co-organizer of the Berlin "Pornfilmfestival" and CEO of the porn film production company "Wurstfilm". The debate, moderated by Oskar Piegsa and Anne Waak, was first published in the pop culture magazine Spex (issue #330, Jan/Feb 2011). The following is a reviewed and partially updated version. "Post-Porn": This keyword has been at the centre of discussion on pornography for more than a decade. However, the term seems to have almost vanished from public debate. Instead, the main interest is on the protection of our supposedly over-sexualized youth, or is this impression deceptive?

I share this evaluation. They say over and over again that pornography has become our cultural orientation. It is claimed that young people are affected by omnipresent pornographic pictures and no longer know what affection, sex or love is. However, it can be proven empirically that young people are indeed not increasingly horny. On the contrary: Values such as faithfulness, family and monogamy are becoming more and more important. There is a presumption that love, affection and respect are on one side, and sex, pornography and brutality on the other. The fact that both sides belong together is being ignored. There is no human relationship — even less if it is of a sexual nature — without ambivalence. The pathologization of pornography pathologizes sexuality as a whole. It expresses that we are increasingly veering away from a culture of eroticism.

When the academic debate on pornography began to establish itself and events on the topic of porn were happening for the first time, it was first reflected in the press. Later, interest dwindled — here publications like "Jungle World" do not differ from the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" — whereby the former at least tries to sporadically integrate queer feminist positions. The topics discussed at that time are still being discussed outside the media. There are university seminars on pornography; students are researching the topic in their theses. A new generation of producers of queer culture is creating its own images. A new room for experiments has been created particularly in lesbian and transgender scenes. However, this alone does not yet shape the public discourse.

I guess there are three approaches: Academic discourse takes a look at how we define pornography in media theory and cultural science. Post-feminist theorization sees critical potential in how feminist pornography plays with male economy of view. The third approach is the already-mentioned scandalization. It assumes that the increasing pornographization has a bad influence on society. What is lacking is an approach that does not deny pornographization, because it really happens -- in the images in advertising, of cinema, in museums and on the internet. But is pornographization really an indication for demoralization and the decline of culture? Or is it maybe the caricature of our achievement-oriented society? Ultimately: The pornographic body always can, always wants, always enjoys. It is constantly aroused. This is an adequate image for contemporary phenomena such as workaholism and hyperactivity.

Which questions are being addressed today?

It is still hard to create space for people of diverse identities to explore sexuality and pornography by producing and consuming images. The Berlin "PornFilmFestival" creates such space. However, this approach cannot be transferred as easily to the masses. This is also because public space is strongly controlled in a heteronormative way. When a bunch of straight guys watches two women having sex, the greatest of queer orgies can tip.

There is at least a broad spectrum of feminist and queer pornography in addition to mainstream porn; porn for all kinds of fetish and diverse preferences-there is something to suit everyone, but the goal remains the same.

Pornography wants to stimulate, you are supposed to masturbate. However, if porn is intellectualized, when there is an artistic demand, a message or an unsoundness to be established, then it is “Post-Porn" as Georg See len described it in his essay in the newspaper "Tageszeitung" a good ten years ago. On the one hand, "Post-Porn” undermines the rules of mainstream pornography by not illuminating scenes luridly but relocating the act into the dark again. What's even more interesting about the post-pornographic view is its melancholic momentum. Sex as a promise of happiness is being dismissed but is being portrayed with its fragility and imperfection: After all, it's an ambivalent practice that wants to be mastered and inherits interpersonal explosive power. The post-pornographic view is a sad one. There is an undertone of society's deep schizophrenia towards sexuality. Although sex is being shown and praised everywhere, the fact that we see everything doesn't mean that we are allowed to do everything. Our highly-developed culture is increasingly based on the suppression of sexual instincts, with all our work and self-design we have no time left to have sex.

Breaking through this dialectic and enabling enjoyable and public sexuality — is this what we expect of a Utopian "Post-Porn", as a kind of "good pornography"?

We shouldn't fall back into the sentimentalized idea that predominated in the 70s; that there is something like "free sex". The question is: How do we achieve an open-minded culture of sexuality? I think that the first step has to lead away from pathologization, and towards thinking about the role that eroticism plays in our life and work. 

Most important is that thinking critically about sex and enjoying sex are no longer two separate things. This dualism was often carried through in discussions about porn - from Alice Schwarzer's "PorNO"prohibitionist campaign to the affirmative ideas of activists like Madison Young, for example, for whom porn is solely about feminist “empowerment". In principle, both classic feministic critique of mainstream porn and alternative, queer, sex-positive points of view agree on many points. However, the conclusions differ. The unfortunate thing about the "PorNO” point of view is its totality. For instance, Kathleen Hannah, founder of the Riot-Grrrl-Band Bikini Kill and lead singer of queer pop-girls from Le Tigre, used to be a stripper. This prompted feminist Kathleen MacKinnon, who pleads for the prohibition of porn to accuse her of having a misguided perception. This accusation was pure paternalism.

Pornography continously makes use of new formats. Websites such as YouPorn allow the sampling of individual pornographic experience from snippets of commercially and privately filmed porn films found in video chat rooms like Stickam" and "Chatroulette" — all without the intervention of the porn industry. Will porn, as we know it, survive the current radical changes in media technology?

Porn is being democratized on the internet due to its sheer quantity - the format is disintegrating. The internet is full of shreds of highly contradictory sexual experiences that are joined together by the viewer to form a new experience. Porn on the web has made the onanists become editors and collectors themselves. I think that most people still watch porn films. For instance, a friend of mine, Spanish postporn activist Maria Llopis, has made a film about masturbating with a stranger on Chatroulette. You could argue that real chat-sex and porn-filming are increasingly melting into one interface.

One thing has become apparent: The potential of excitement that used to be inherent in sex seems to be shifting more and more into the media. Today, seeing anal sex scenes is no longer exceptional and as society becomes more and more used to sexual transgression, what's still exciting about it? This is why companies like Beate Uhse are trying to not only play with the content but also with the medium. People can download their films onto their mobiles or watch them on big HDTVs in the living room. When I see people twiddling with their displays, I sometimes think: That's modern masturbation.

From VHS tapes to the internet, it was always pornography that contributed to the breakthrough of new medial formats. However, it was said recently that the clinical view of porn films on high definition blu-ray discs would make them too authentic. If even the smallest hint of cellulite or shaving rashes are to be seen, will this in actual fact harm pornography?

The more media develops and the more deficiencies become apparent, the less it's possible to fetishize the body. The fiction of porn becomes brittle. You could even say: The more developed technology is, the more post-pornographic porn becomes.

However, the opposite tendency also has an element of truth: The more developed technology becomes, the easier it is to increase the pornographic and fetishist content of images.

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