If pornography proves a problematic avenue within women’s bid for sexual liberation and equality today, how then has this historically been constructed? In an attempt to determine the role of pornography within articulations of women’s sexual (in)equality, I use a banned pornographic magazine published in 1930s Mexico as the starting point for a broader examination of the relationships between female sexual visibility and modernity, and sexual normativity and the state. Employing the Foucaultian methodology of genealogy, I trace popular representations of female sexuality as well as civic discourse on sexual prohibitions through space (from the USA and Europe to Mexico) and time (from the 2010s to the 1920s and 1930s). Using Vea, which ran from 1933 until 1937, as a barometer of sexual debates, I analyze the depiction and concern over ‘public women,’ to consider how the visibility and invisibility of women in public space and portrayals of female sexuality are connected to gender (in)equality, modernity, and the construction of heteronormative sexuality. In the wake of the Mexican Revolution, a time that saw the re-articulation of traditionally prescribed gender norms, pornography proved a problematic battleground within broader debates about gender and sexual equality. I conclude that magazines like Vea connected Mexico to transnational ideas of the early twentieth century that held that sexually liberated women were part and parcel of Western modernity. The creation of a heteronormative desire and audience through pornography such as Vea tells us not only about critical intersections between sexuality and modernity, but also about unfortunate disconnections between women’s ‘sexual liberation’ and the achievement of actual political rights. This history and these lessons are important as we work in the present to make sense of the tangled relationships between forms of ‘sexual liberation,’ sexual imagery, gender (in)equality, and the powers of capital and the state.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/ageeth_sluis/15/