Love in the time of pornography: an interview with Emily Southwood
En prévision de notre conférence avec Emily Southwood prévue le 25 avril 2014, nous lui avons posé quelques questions à propos de la sexualité, de la littérature et du féminisme.
Leading up to Emily Southwood’s talk on April 25th, we asked her a few questions about our monthly theme “Sex”!
Many classical authors and philosophers have established a link between sexuality and creativity. Freud, most notably, wrote extensively about our libido and our desire to accomplish great things. In writing about sex and pornography, how do you feel creativity relates to sexuality?
I’ve heard of the whole sublimation of primal, sexual energy into higher pursuits thing. Freud was a bit of a misogynist, so I wonder if he figured women into his theory. I personally don’t think I get any more creative energy when I’m repressing my base desires; they can coexist simultaneously.
Then again, I’m pretty repressed to begin with, which is why I channeled my discomfort around porn and sexuality into writing a book about porn and sexuality. I do know for sure that Freud was right about the whole penis envy bit.
While I was writing Prude I kept thinking: A penis would really help me get into the minds of men and what they think about porn. Damn, I wish I had me that penis to watch this MILF scene with.
Today more than ever, sexuality is at the forefront of our collective literary output. So much so that books like Fifty shades of grey, which is nothing short of written erotica, can become an international bestseller. As an author, what is your take on this recent “mainstreamism” of sex-oriented literature?
There’s no question that Fifty-Shades filled a niche and resonated with an enormous number of readers. But it’s still kind of a mystery to me why the world buzzed so much about this book, and not, say, Danielle Steel’s latest saucy tale. (I guess Fifty Shades is racier?)
In any case, readers, especially female ones, have been thumbing through erotica for as long as it’s been available in the mainstream, even back when they were reading banned copies of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
Personally, I think there’s something incredibly sexy and even subversive in reading about sex. It’s quite different than the close ups of hard core porn. There’s more left to the imagination and perhaps that connects with women. Plus, you can read it on the subway.
That said, there is nothing subversive about the plot of Fifty Shades. Take out the S&M and you have a really stereotypical tale— a young, beautiful-but-overlooked woman, a rich, handsome- but-troubled older man, she wants to fix him, blar de blar.
But hey, whatever floats your boat. Women and men alike enjoy their silly cliches in porn.
Montreal and Los Angeles both openly promote diverse sexual services, and are active platforms for the blooming pornographic industry. As you have lived in both cities, how would you compare them in this light?
I’d honestly never thought about this! My book is called Prude after all. While strip clubs and sex shops are ubiquitous in Montreal, I’ve never really been aware of Montreal’s porn industry per se. Someone once told me there’s quite a bit of porn being shot on the upper floors of Parc Avenue; I have no idea if that’s true.
In LA, I drove by the Vivid Entertainment sign on the 101 Freeway daily. It’s widely known that the San Fernando Valley is an epicenter of smut. It’s also home to family-friendly Universal Studios.
Because of my husband’s brush with the porn industry, I’m aware that lots of porn is shot in random hotel rooms, poolside at rented homes, and in downtown lofts.
Porn producers don’t want you to know where it’s happening, nor does the public actually care to confront this reality. In effect it’s a mutual hush hush agreement in both cities, even though we all know it’s there.
How have the experiences you depict in the book and the publishing process per se influenced your point of view on feminism? Does your perspective on womanhood and gender equality, differ from what you thought 5 years ago?
My perspectives have changed tremendously in the last five years. I used to have more of a knee-jerk, what I once considered feminist, association of porn being degrading and demeaning to women. And I probably wouldn’t have figured that most porn stars actively selected their vocation as top choice.
My biggest eye opener was seeing that many of the performers Robbie worked with enjoy what they do. I no longer put myself on the moral high ground of presuming to know a porn star or assuming they are making a disenfranchised choice. I also now think the men in porn have an extremely tough job. Seriously! It’s a ton of pressure for the dudes and the pay isn’t nearly as good.
Overall, I’m more pro-porn than I once was and less judgmental regardless of what isn’t my cup of tea. But that doesn’t mean I still don’t have my opinions and particular qualms. I think porn can warp our expectations of sex and put a lot of perceived pressure on women and men alike. I think addressing these byproducts of the industry are people issues, not just womanhood issues.