Bears in Boxes: Community, Bodily Byproducts, and the Bareness of the Porn Archive

Saturday, January 3, 2015: 3:50 PM
Midtown Suite (New York Hilton)
Joshua Morrison, University of Michigan
This paper theorizes the complications of conducting archive research on queer pornographic media, and the vital role queer porn, and the desires it vivifies, is to the formation of community identities. I have made several trips to the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archive to examine BEAR magazine and early 1990’s bear VHS porn, which were central in debates surrounding what a bear is (generally, a larger, hairy, affable gay man who celebrates a wide range of queer masculinities) and the production of a sense of self enlivened by porn produced by, for, and about bearish men. I draw on Jussi Parikka’s methods of media archaeology, which ask us to look backwards to non-digital media and focus our examination of them on these same extra-textual productions and how those reshape cultural media history. Porn is not passively consumed: an integral part pornographic media is the production of identity, affect, and bodily fluids. This is doubly true for queer porn, where the ability to experience non-normative desires through media can bring comfort, excitement, and affective and community identification well beyond a quick jack-off. Media scholar Elizabeth Bird defines produsers as media user-producers, with user replacing the more common term consumer to explain how media materially affect the user’s world, and often lead to the production of new media as a response to the media already consumed. I draw on my archival research to push produsage to include the utopic production of community and identity that queers use porn for, an affective production that occurs alongside the very material, ephemeral production of bodily fluids associated with porn’s traditional use-value. My promiscuously interdisciplinary paper explores the limits of queer archives and asks how we can use queer porn to explore embodied histories of desires that are essential to queer subjectivity and community formation.
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