Deanda Discusses Porn, Male Gaze

By The Elm - Feb 22,2018@12:01 am

By Taylor Patterson
Elm Staff Writer

On Valentine’s Day, students and faculty gathered on the Rose O’Neill Literary House porch to discuss the poetics of eros, or as Dr. Elena Deanda prefers to call it, pornopoetics. The Tea and Talk is part of the Sophie Kerr lecture series and included a discussion of Dr. Deanda’s latest book, “Pornopoetics: the Poetics of Pornography in Eighteenth Century Europe.”

Dr. Deanda, associate professor of Spanish and director of the Black Studies Program, wrote a book on the poetics, or mechanics, of pornography in 18th century Europe. She said that this topic was inspired via two separate stories.

The first, or official story, is that during her time as an undergraduate she discovered medieval courtly love and Occitan, a romance language that is spoken in southern France, Italy, Monaco, and Spain. Stemming from the idea of courtly love, Dr. Deanda found folk poetry, which transformed into a love of early modern folk music.

The second, or unofficial, reason for her research was the “Pornoteca,” or library of porn possessed by her former roommate.

“He was a Latin lover and seduced all my friends…my sister included,” she said.

The “Pornoteca” then became an object of interest for Dr. Deanda because of the variety of categories. Upon watching the DVDs, she found that there was a distance between her and the film. Whereas her roommate would watch pornography for sexual fulfillment, she would only find it entertaining, so she began to question the effects of the male gaze on pornography.

The politics of the obscene and censorship became a topic of great fascination for Dr. Deanda, she said. She began to research the obscene in the 18th century and found there was a line drawn between the pornographic and erotic. This divide was linked to class—the erotic was considered to be of a higher class and therefore acceptable for public consumption, while the pornographic was mass produced for the lower classes.

Shannon Neal, junior, spent three weeks assisting Dr. Deanda with her research in England and Ireland.

“Working with Professor Deanda in the British Library and Dublin Trinity College Library was wonderful,” she said. “I was given the chance to take part in professional research and see first-hand the texts that support her theories/arguments.”

Research led Dr. Deanda to the Vatican City archives, along with Neal, who assisted her. While trying to find obscene artwork and folk music, she realized that if she “needed to find pornography, I needed to go to the Church…they keep very good records of the obscene.”

All of the research pointed to two things; first, that pornography is dominated by the male gaze and male desire, leaving women at a distance from sexual productions; second, porn has a way of reminding us of our humanity, she said. Many of the features of pornography, such as the close ups, show us parts of human sexuality that many would rather leave behind closed doors. By exposing these facets, porn is forcing us to accept all that we are as humans, she said.

Dr. Deanda also included an interactive piece to her presentation. This included an anonymous questionnaire about the audience’s sexual comfort. Students, professors, and community members participated, and Dr. Deanda said she was pleasantly surprised about the poll results. Most of the audience members were able to discuss sexually explicit topics with confidantes and expressed the ability to communicate with sexual partners about their desires, according to the poll results.

The Elm

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