Violence and the Pornographic Imaginary: The Politics of Sex, Gender, and Aggression in Hardcore Pornography, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Violence and the Pornographic Imaginary

The Politics of Sex, Gender, and Aggression in Hardcore Pornography, 1st Edition

By Natalie Purcell


260 pages

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No cultural product reveals our collective fascination with sexual violence more candidly than popular heterosexual pornographies. They showcase scenes of intense sexual aggression and cruelty that are gendered in repetitive, patterned configurations—configurations that are designed to arouse. Purcell uses comparative critical analyses of popular pornographic movies to explore common fantasies of sexual violence and how they have changed over the past forty years. Adopting a thick descriptive approach, she moves beyond the mere observation and recording of instances of sexism and violence, elucidating the changing aesthetics, themes, and conventions of depicted sexual aggression and showing how they have emerged in specific socio-historical contexts. Purcell also draws from a range of industry publications and fan forums to examine the fabric and function of misogyny and violence in viewers’ fantasies and everyday lives. By documenting how popular pornographies have changed over time, this study sheds new light the evolving desires and anxieties of the genre’s growing U.S. audience.

Table of Contents

Selected Contents: Introduction: Violence and the Pornographic Imaginary 1. "Just Fantasy": Rethinking the Pornographic, the Fantastic, and the Real 2. Golden-Age Assaults: Heat and Hostility in 1970s Pornography 3. Romance and Rebellion: The Two Faces of 1980s Pornography 4. Expressive Bodies, Intense Encounters: Realism in 1990s Pornography 5. Banal Brutality: In Search of Extremes in 2000s Pornography 6. Sex, Gender, and Power: Aesthetics of Arousal in Contemporary Pornography 7. Body and Soul: Pleasure, Pain, and Self-Revelation in Today’s Hardcore 8.Conclusion: Pornography, Feminism, and Tomorrow’s Sexual Politics

About the Author

Natalie Purcell holds a PhD in Sociology from University of California, Santa Cruz and is currently a Presidential Management Fellow at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

About the Series

Routledge Research in Cultural and Media Studies

Cultural and media studies are now well-established as important academic disciplines and are inspiring new research into a wide range of pertinent issues. This series presents outstanding research in these subjects, helping to shape the direction of future inquiry.


To submit a proposal for this series, please contact:
Suzanne Richardson, Commissioning Editor for Media, Cultural and Communication Studies

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Men's Studies
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Popular Culture
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Women's Studies
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Gender Studies
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Pornography
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Violence in Society
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Media Studies