Cover image for Bound and gagged : pornography and the politics of fantasy in America
Bound and gagged : pornography and the politics of fantasy in America
Kipnis, Laura.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Durham, N.C. : Duke University Press, 1999.

Physical Description:
xiii, 226 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
Originally published by Grove Press, 1996.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HQ472.U6 K56 1996 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



In a book that completely changes the terms of the pornography debate, Laura Kipnis challenges the position that porn perpetuates misogyny and sex crimes. First published in 1996, Bound and Gagged opens with the chilling case of Daniel DePew, a man convicted--in the first computer bulletin board entrapment case--of conspiring to make a snuff film and sentenced to thirty-three years in prison for merely trading kinky fantasies with two undercover cops.
Using this textbook example of social hysteria as a springboard, Kipnis argues that criminalizing fantasy--even perverse and unacceptable fantasy--has dire social consequences. Exploring the entire spectrum of pornography, she declares that porn isn't just about gender and that fantasy doesn't necessarily constitute intent. She reveals Larry Flynt's Hustler to be one of the most politically outspoken and class-antagonistic magazine in the country and shows how fetishes such as fat admiration challenge our aesthetic prejudices and socially sanctioned disgust. Kipnis demonstrates that the porn industry--whose multibillion-dollar annual revenues rival those of the three major television networks combined--know precisely how to tap into our culture's deepest anxieties and desires, and that this knowledge, more than all the naked bodies, is what guarantees its vast popularity.
Bound and Gagged challenges our most basic assumptions about America's relationship with pornography and questions what the calls to eliminate it are really attempting to protect.

Author Notes

Laura Kipnis is Professor of Radio-TV-Film at Northwestern University. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts for filmmaking and media criticism. She is the author of Ecstasy Unlimited: On Sex, Capital, Gender, and Aesthetics .

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Kipnis (Ecstasy Unlimited) argues in five loosely connected essays that just about everyone-from the religious right to militant feminists-misunderstands and misjudges pornography, which she considers a form of fantasy that is an end in itself and not the cause of something else, such as rape. The individual essays deal with a homosexual sadomasochist who made the mistake of discussing his fantasies on the Internet with an undercover cop and was entrapped and sentenced to 33 years in prison; America's fat phobia and how it is reflected in fat pornography; transvestite pornography, focusing on the revealing photographic self-portraits featured in drag publications; and the rise and fall of Larry Flynt and Hustler, with an emphasis on the magazine's populist political philosophy. The disjointed concluding essay, "How to Look at Pornography," tries, unsuccessfully, to pull all this material together, touching along the way on subjects that range from masturbation to Andrea Dworkin's alleged misreading of pornography as a feminist issue to Jeffrey Masson's legal battles with Janet Malcolm and others. Kipnis's individual essays make a stronger case than does her book as a whole, but she is a lively and engaging writer who argues, often convincingly, that we would be better off simply thinking of pornography as just another form of science fiction. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

As Kipnis pointedly notes in the opening line of her preface, the US is currently "in the midst of a massive wave of social hysteria focused on pornography, which spills over into art and other cultural spheres." Her book is a response to this wrenching political and social problem, an issue that, as Kipnis observes, has nothing to do with whether pornography should or should not endure. It has and will, and the questions that motivate the author about pornography in all its forms revolve around "why it exists, what is has to say, and who pornography thinks it's talking to ... just what is pornography's grip on the cultural imagination?" Kipnis's answers to these questions form the basis of an analysis that is at once extremely thoughtful, personally incisive, and professionally informative, and extends the debate developed in salient works such as Linda Williams's Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the "Frenzy of the Visible" (CH, Sep'90) and Dirty Looks: Women, Pornography, Power, ed. by Paula Gibson and Roma Gibson (CH, Apr'94). Kipnis's writing is lucid and graceful, but the book is marred by the lack of an index. All levels. J. Boskin Boston University

Table of Contents

1 Fantasy in America: The United States v. Daniel Thomas De Pew
2 Clothes Make the Man
3 Life in the Fat Lane
4 Disgust and Desire: Hustler Magazine
5 How to Look at Pornography