ABSTRACT

Let's begin with two images. The first is of feminist author-poet Robin Morgan as she appears in the anti-pornography documentary Not a Love Story. Posed in her large booklined living room, poet-husband Kenneth Pitchford at her side, she inveighs against a number of sexualities and sexual practices: masturbation-on the grounds that it promotes political quietism-as well as "superficial sex, kinky sex, appurtenances and [sex] toys" for benumbing "normal human sensuality." She then breaks into tears as she describes the experience of living in a society where pornographic media thrives.1 The second image is the one conjured by a recent letter to Hustler magazine from E.C., a reader who introduces an account of an erotic experience involving a cruel-eyed, high-heeled dominatrix with this vivid vocational self-description: "One night, trudging home from work-I gut chickens, put their guts in a plastic bag and stuff them back in the chicken's asshole-I varied my routine by stopping at a small pub . . . ."2 Let's say that these two images, however hyperbolically (the insistent tears, the insistent vulgarity), however inadvertently, offer a route toward a consideration of the relation between discourses on sexuality and the social division of labor, between sexual representation and class. On one side we have Morgan, laboring for the filmmakers and audience as a feminist intellectual, who constructs, from a particular social locus, a normative theory of sexuality. And while "feminist intellectual" is not necessarily the highest paying job category, it is a markedly different class location-and one definitively up the social hierarchy-from that of E.C., whose work is of a character which tends to be relegated to the lower rungs within a social division of labor that categorizes jobs dealing with things that smell, or that for other reasons we prefer to hide from view-garbage, sewerage, dirt, animal corpses-as of low status, both monetarily and socially. E.C.'s letter, carefully (certainly more carefully than Morgan) framing his sexuality in relation to his material circumstances and to actual conditions of production, is fairly typical of the discourse of Hustler-in its vulgarity, its explicitness about "kinky" sex, and in its imbrication of sexuality and class. So as opposed to the set of norms Morgan attempts to put into circulation (a "normal human sensuality" far removed from E.C.'s night of bliss with his Mistress, who incidentally, "mans" herself with just the kind of appurtenances Morgan seems to be referring to), Hustler also offers a theory of sexuality-a "low theory." Like Morgan's radical feminism, it too offers an explicitly political and counter-hegemonic analysis of power and the body; unlike Morgan it is also explicit about its own class location.