Katrien Jacobs Position Paper

I am interested in digital networks because they provide an opportunity to create
knowledge in somewhat less stiff and bureaucratic matter. I see it as a zone where the
genres and nervous twitches of academic production and evaluation are breaking down. The
sexual or pornographic “position papers” can enter the game at this time.  I could not
imagine how to deal with and write about China’s online sex culture and war on pornography
without the help of this transnational and unorthodox zone. Sexuality and pornography can
indeed be used to analyze cultural activity networked bodies, but these online products
are often considered too surreal to enter official academia and its classrooms. The
network wants it uncanny couplings and artful-libidinal or even nostalgic possibilities
for intellectuals, the issue remaining how to roll them over and embody them as in-house
work practices.

Sex Networks: a reply to Jacobs's position paper by Zach Blas

 
 
The question of online pornography and sex cultures--in both radical and commercial contexts--is intimately linked to neoliberalism, market drives, and what has been termed “immaterial labor.” While Jacobs has suggested that digital networks offer the abilities to produce netporn in a “somewhat less stiff and bureaucratic” manner, the flexibility of networks appears an as index of neoliberalism’s flattening of work and play into a single plane. I would suggest that these networks are differently stiff or bureaucratic. Networks are not de facto a site of power evasion; we must learn to recognize that now stiffness and flexibility go hand in hand. Thus, if one were to foster a radical online sex praxis, the question becomes: how do we modulate these flows of flexibility and stiffness? Can we craft and fabricate an unstiffness on networks? Or a new stiffness attuned to our pulsating desires? These terms quickly break down when autonomous and commercial porn ventures entangle in indeterminate, unknowable ends. Can any casual user of Xtube, Grindr, YouPorn, or any other free content sex site articulate the commercial, profit-making relation to their own uncompensated productions that are up-loaded to these sites, such as videos, images, chat records, and various degrees of biometric and statistical data, without extensive research?
 
In Shu Lea Cheang’s 2001 sci-fi porn film I.K.U., replicants, similar to Blade Runner, seek amorous encounters throughout New Tokyo to collect “orgasm data” during sexual intercourse with humans. This data is then collected by the transnational corporation Genom and sold as a product, allowing consumers to telematically experience the collected sensory orgasm data. This doesn’t seem to far afield from where we are today, except that we voluntarily give up our orgasm data without a collector seeking us out in the flesh. But of course, we enjoy giving it up, sharing it, circulating our sex productions; we take immense pleasure in doing so. In fact, our collector has expanded beyond the replicants of I.K.U. to potentially everyone. Just as PornoTube and Cam4 house and manage user loaded content on their servers, other users easily download and collect images, videos, and dialogues for future sexual engagements, art projects, business prospects--an unquantifiable variety of appropriations and re-uses. Again, some of us are turned on by this endless collection, circulation, and re-purposing, while others are easily angered over content leaving a site. In the end, on user-generated porn sites, users are never quite in control of their content like they would wish to think.
 
In 1991, the cyberfeminist group VNS Matrix wrote, “the clitoris is a direct line to the matrix.” They couldn’t be more accurate: our sexual desires can connect us to a matrix of digital porn platforms and online sex communities to use, partake, and contribute to, but they also link us to a matrix of capitalism predicated on flexibility and profits generated from user content. Today, a radical networked sex praxis should disturb the line between sexual desire and the matrix, so that anti-capitalist, autonomous online sex communities can develop and flourish. This is a game of shapeshifting, of fluctuating combinations and mutations of stiffness and flexibility, of not staying in the same location for too long. It means our desires must resonate on the line and learn to resist as control networks continuously flex, contract, and attempt to swallow our sexual appetites.
 
Zach Blas, PhD student, Duke University