Queer Pornogenesis

Curator's Note

I’ve been thinking about pornographic media that emerge like a virus, attaching to other host media. In particular, I’m reminiscing about chatroulette, discussed in IMR at the height of its popularity, and how it quickly became pornographic. Not unlike the process whereby Mindgeek’s many tube sites adopted YouTube’s format, chatroulette underwent what we could call a pornogenesis. Chatroulette started as a website that paired strangers together randomly to see what would happen. But shortly after the New York Times profiled its Russian 17-year-old creator in 2010, chatroulette got “dirty.”

The conceit of chatroulette (and websites like omegle)—its random assignment and the ability to opt-out—intensified an already ephemeral temporality. That ephemerality afforded it a pornographic function: it was an ideal venue for exhibitionism. As one might imagine, this "misuse" of the site soon spawned copycat chatroulettes—like manroulette—as well as an increase in flashers to the original website, and so the pornographic potential became explicit. This pornogenesis challenged the dominant vernacular of hardcore spectatorship, but it also presented a queer understanding of pornography—one founded upon dissident (mis)use and cruisy sociality.

For my upcoming In Focus piece, I map the formation of queer studies alongside porn studies, claiming their scholarly arrivals hold notable overlaps that deserve further analysis. I also argue that queer studies and porn studies diverge in notable ways. I’m curious what their shared disciplinary origin can tell us, and how the “queerness” of pornography might be understood in less obviously (anti-) identitarian ways. Rather, and returning to chatroulettes, I’ve been contemplating whether queerness might be apprehended as a problem of form, and how an incident like chatroulette’s pornogenesis helps us find alternative understandings of pornographic temporality, sociality, eroticism, and sex.

 

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