Prurient Pleasures and the Pornographic Effect of H.I.V.

Matthew Phillip Kirschenbaum : Rhetoric

Mentor: Linda Williams, Film & Media

Some are daily watchers, some click on a faulty URL, some start browsing during their pre-teens: most adults have seen pornography, and it is here to stay. After “Porno Chic” during the 1970s-1980s in which pornography was viewed in theaters, VHS pushed porn into the bedroom in the 1990s, provoking gay men to find private sexual outlets. Internet access has exacerbated this tendency, and at present, gay men in the United States encounter discourses of sexuality and H.I.V. through stigmatization and repression. For them, pornography is a social institution through which one discovers sexuality and health. How does the history of pornography present cultural anxieties surrounding H.I.V.? Given that pornography did not employ condoms until the 1980s, how does modern pornography affect viewers by means of a relationship between eroticism and health? By developing a historical eye for gay male pornography and condom usage, Matthew will examine pornography’s effects on discourses of sexual health onto the gay man from the rise of the VHS onwards.