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Tom Waugh Presents “Confessional Contract: ‘Jerkoff’ Porn/Art, 1970s, 2010s” – SCMS 2015

Although presenter Ora Gelley of North Carolina State University was unfortunately absent due to illness, both Concordia’s Tom Waugh and University of Missouri’s Brad Prager delivered engaging presentations in the panel “Alternative Views of Sexuality and Pornography.” Prager’s “German Film Rescues the Rain Forest: From New German Cinema to F*ck for Forest” compares the handling of non-Western sexuality in two German documentaries: Werner Herzog’s Ten Thousand Years Older (2002) and Michel Marczak’s F*ck for Forest (2012).

Continuing research spanning roughly three decades, Waugh presented on “Confessional Contract: ‘Jerkoff’ Porn/Art, 1970s, 2010s,” which considers pornography and art centering on the act of masturbation during two distinct decades. Although Waugh’s research initially focused on the 1970s, his recent consideration of the current decade allows him to situate the practice within more contemporary media contexts. Through this historical comparison, Waugh’s presentation identified continuities that persist throughout both decades.

Waugh’s primary interest in on-screen solo sex is the “contract” it forms between the performer and spectator, borrowing the term from Gilles Deleuze. On-screen masturbation goes against the dominant porn convention of partner-based sex, thereby directly addressing the viewer. Through a series of examples, such as a sequence from Tom de Simone’s Erotikus: A History of the Gay Movie (1973), Waugh argues that this direct address is mimetic, self-consciously acknowledging that the spectator masturbates too. Narrative porn featuring couples, on the other hand, positions the spectator as voyeur.

Waugh equally finds of interest masturbation’s paradoxical relevance in communal settings, whether found in theatres or online. However, a notable rupture between decades is the practice’s more recent status as a “default activity” in today’s “digital porniverse.” The discussion following the presentation further developed this idea, with an attendee noting the rising popularity of the “Jerk-Off Instructions” (JOI) porn sub-genre.

Along with his findings, Waugh’s presentation was especially interesting in the way that it applied previous research to enrich a contemporary and overall larger project.

– words by Ben Browning

#ConfessionalContract #pornstudies #SCMS #TomWaugh

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