Marxism and Pornography

deadline for submissions: 
June 1, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Porn Studies Journal
contact email: 

guest edited by Brandon Arroyo 

Within an internet environment flooded with ‘free’ pornography, it is more important than ever to reconsider the production and labor structures producing pornography today. All of this ‘free’ pornography is supported by billions of dollars’ worth of platform support and consumer spending. It is essential to consider both the infrastructural assemblages enabling this new type of financial structure and the primary critique that has helped us to imagine possibilities both inside and outside this structure—Marxism. While the labor practices, financial structure, and innovative payment systems developed by the pornography industry are well-worn sites of both popular and academic writing, a thorough Marxist analysis is lacking. This is particularly curious considering that one of the most important terms to emerge from pornographic discourse, the ‘money shot,’ is a cornerstone of Linda Williams’ Marxist analysis in her 1989 study Hard Core. In situating the ‘money shot’ as an ‘ideal instance of commodity fetishism,’ Williams establishes a fundamental connection between commodity and sexual fetishism that has yet to be expanded upon in the popular internet age. Alan Soble’s Pornography: Marxism, Feminism, and the Future of Sexuality (1986) book-length Marxist analysis of pornography anticipated a dynamic future for this type of approach. However, both Williams and Soble’s provocations encouraging deeper Marxist analyses in the future have mostly fallen on deaf ears.

Perhaps the utopian thinking from writers such as Wilhelm Reich and Herbert Marcuse, imagining a Marxist future where freedom from the labors of capitalism would translate into a freedom where pornography would no longer be needed, worked to stunt many scholar’s ability to consider the Marxist aspects of contemporary pornography. Today, this ‘utopian’ fantasy of a pornography-free world seems too closely aligned to the anti-pornography feminist position that sees pornography as merely a result of unfair and unequal economic and gender dynamics. However, as with every other moving image form, if one is to have a comprehensive understanding of pornography, it must be conceived of as part of a comprehensive cultural landscape.

This special issue of Porn Studies seeks to address this problem by collecting articles that situate a Marxist analysis of pornography within our contemporary moment. Questions might include:

 -What does it mean to consume ‘free’ pornography within a capitalist superstructure? 

-How does/doesn’t amateur pornography upset conventional labor practices?

-What can non-pornographic work structures learn from the pornography industry?

-What is the role of affective labor within pornography? 

-What can Marxism teach us about the intersection of sex work and pornography?

-How does Marxist discourse intersect with pornographic discourse on the internet?

-How has anti-pornography feminism historically relied on Marxist rhetoric?

-How are capitalism/Marxist ideals represented within pornographic texts?

-What does it mean that our contemporary understanding of sexuality as it relates to gender, race, and practice can only be understood within a capitalist framework? 

 The special issue will be published in 2021. First drafts of articles will be due in January 2020 and final drafts in December 2020.  Please send abstracts of up to 500 words and a short biographical note to by June 1, 2019.