Experiential Essentialism, Postmodernism and Phenomenology: Why Mainstream Pornography is Criminal

Marilyn Corsianos, Central Michigan University

Through a feminist lens, this paper evaluates the benefits of experiential essentialist, postmodernist and phenomenological theoretical paradigms by exploring representations of female bodies in mainstream pornography, and ultimately shows that all female bodies share certain forms of oppression. The paper draws on different kinds of women's oppressions within and as a result of the mainstream pornographic industry to show that even though various aspects of postmodernism and phenomenology with regards to "women's" experiences should be applauded and embraced, experiential essentialist arguments cannot be ignored. Even though there is no one experience for all 'women" personally, there are truths in a western patriarchal society that all human bodies afforded the category of "woman" or "women" experience directly and/or indirectly and whether they are conscious of them or not. It is vital to recognize that there are parallels in the consciousness of various groups of "women" and "men" about female bodies and that they are necessarily connected to the social norms which are historically rooted and socially situated. Both phenomenologists and postmodernists must commit to recognizing these many parallels and therefore, accept some aspects of an essentialist gender difference that is experiential.

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Updated 05/20/2006