Teaching Post-pornography

This paper introduces the term ‘post-pornography’, drawing on diverse texts from the last three decades. We propose that ‘post-pornography’ expands Porn Studies beyond its focus on explicit representations of sex. First, we outline the history of post-pornography as a concept that emerged in the sex-positive, anti-censorship and queer/feminist moment in the US in the 1980–90s and has subsequently been taken up by a diverse group of artists, activists and scholars to describe practices that both reference and attempt to move beyond pornography. We define post-pornography as characterised by three aspects—the denaturalising of sex, the de-centering of the spectator, and the recognition of media and technology as inseparable from sex. We examine the history of Porn Studies in the university, including in our own faculty at UNSW Art & Design and the singular influence of Linda Williams in defining its place and setting out its pedagogical methods. We propose post-pornography as a framework that can confront prevailing assumptions about sex and sexuality that underpin Porn Studies and its critique of pornography, and outline a set of concepts that have emerged from the development of the second- and third-year Art Theory course Post-Pornographic Bodies.