From the “sex wars” of the 1980s to debates about the “pornification” of
popular culture, pornography has been one of the most contentious sites
in feminist theory and politics.1 Conversations about pornography have
functioned as rich sites of debate about the role of the state in safeguard-
ing women’s bodily integrity, the nature of sexual freedom and agency,
the social consequences of representation, and the ubiquity of sexual vio-
lence. Yet the vibrancy of these debates has been substantially diminished
when feminists turn their attention to racialized pornography; indeed,
feminist scholarship on racialized pornography—regardless of the poli-
tics of the scholarship—has been more normative than analytical, informed
by what Loïc Wacquant terms the “logic of the trial,” an impulse to diag-
nose and condemn rather than to closely examine pornography’s histori-
cally and technologically specific meanings.2 Far too often, the word black
in front of the word pornography is treated as an intensifier, as something
that produces political anxiety rather than as something that engenders
theoretical energy and analytical sophistication.3
For black feminism, the rich and vibrant tradition I locate as my intel-
lectual “home place,” critiques of racialized pornography are part of a
larger critical assessment of dominant representation.4 In this volume,
I argue that the heterogeneous texts that constitute the black feminist
Reading Ecstasy
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