Exchanging Bodily Fluids: Transubstantiations in Contemporary Pornography

Helen Hester



In the work of commentators such as Dines, Jensen, and Paul, then, irrumatio or gagging has a clear and monosemic message, and the scenarios of gendered violence and male power that it apparently enacts are positioned as evidence of the aggressive tendencies of pornography in general. However, I would argue that there is more to gagging than “an intensification of the blowjob, a deep penetration of the mouth, an obvious staging of male power” (Stüttgen, “Disidentification in the Center of Power” 52); in fact, the manner in which this act is represented raises a number of interesting questions about the operation and limitations of the generic visual language of photorealistic hard core. In particular, the incorporation of corporeal paroxysms and the utilization of abject bodily fluids within representations of irrumatio would seem to prompt a re-examination of certain critical assumptions about the aesthetics of pornography. In what ways might the seemingly one-dimensional imagery of gagging serve to open up a discussion about the generic conventions of porn? How are abject substances coded, represented, and invested with significance, and how might they be said to contribute to pornography’s attempt to visualize female desire? Drawing upon Linda Williams’s scholarly work on pornography, along with examples from contemporary adult entertainment, this essay will attempt to provide at least a partial answer to these key questions.


Keywords: gagging, irrumation, abject bodily fluids, aesthetics of pornography, female desire