September 16, 2012


Before I begin to analyze Bart H. Welling's Ecoporn, I just want to say that I found this article to be very well written, enlightening, and intriguing. I will admit that when I first began reading, I thought the concept of ecoporn was completely ridiculous (I actually underlined the first sentence of the article and wrote "...what?"), but having read the piece in its entirety, I think Welling makes many valid and interesting points on the way that we view nature and what this realization means for the future of the animal kingdom. From my understanding of the reading, there are four overarching points (and multiple examples) that he touches on to connect the way that nature is portrayed by so called "environmentalists" and the characteristics of pornography...

1. Staging/intentionalism: It goes without saying that traditional pornography is not a natural recorded act of sexual behavior, but is instead a staged performance created for an intended audience. Welling argues that the same goes for ecoporn. Wildlife photographers and camera men rarely capture the beauty of wildlife in completely natural conditions. Instead, they use tamed creatures in controlled habitats versus untamed animals in the wild, and create artificial situations that will provide the desired response, such as using a seal decoy to lure a shark up out of the water and into the air. Staging creates the facade of capturing animals in their "natural" environments, thus making it a necessary and integral part of the ecoporn industry.
2. Objectified/over-sexualized subjects: Sex sells. We hear these two words time and time again, and society proves them to be true. Susanne Kappeler says in her book The Pornography of Representation that the "representations of women and of nonhuman animals in modern Western culture are interchangeable in truly uncanny ways, and the effects of being objectified visually, whether in zoos or in peep shows, can be sickeningly close for women and animals" (Welling 58). To further stress this point, we can think of nature itself as a female, which many male heros in wildlife shows all over television (eg. Steve Irwin, Jeff Corwin, etc) aim to "tame" and dominate, just as women in the pornography industry as well as throughout history have been treated. Another one of Welling's points that caught my attention was his facts about the "We'd Rather Go Naked than Wear Fur" campaign. He says that the campaign is "one of many headline-grabbing projects linking vegetarianism, fur-free fashion, and so on with sexual performance and sexiness" (68). He says that the campaign uses naked models in erotic poses to get their message across, but in reality it only enhances the problem of over-sexualization in our culture.

3. Exaggeration: Similar to staging, another characteristic of pornography is exaggeration. Porn is a much more exaggerated version of what sex really is. The participants are paid actors that are instructed to be "over the top" and to do things that viewers have not seen/experienced in hopes that it will be visually appealing. This is the same for wildlife shows and photographs, that boast "never-before-seen" material and warn viewers to never attempt anything they see on TV at home. This exaggeration only enhances the appeal of the photos/shows, which leads to the companies selling T-shirts and coffee mugs and refrigerator magnets, turning what was once an environmental message into a money-making frenzy.

4. Untouched "virgin" ideals: In ecopornography, photographers and advertisers for the environment use photos that capture an animal in their own serene habitat, happily resting on a tree branch or swimming along with other nonhuman members of their families. Virginity and purity are appealing in both nature and sexuality. The idea of an "untouched" world like what you see in these photos is pretty, but it isn't real. If it is photographed, it can never be truly unaltered. Camera men equipped with truckloads of lighting equipment and cameras "rape" (62) this so called virgin world as they venture down into unknown deep-sea caves and poke their lenses in the faces of wild animals. This begs the question, is anything really wild? And if it is, which presumably means we have yet to discover it, how much longer will it remain untouched?

Is our society simply over-sexualized? Is there a way to escape ecoporn, or is it something that is stitched into the inner workings of human nature?

1 comment:

Victoria said...

I find this a very effective summarization of Welling's article and a very interesting point. I think that it's less that our society is over-sexualized, and more that the concept of sex/sexuality is overly stigmatized. "Sex Sells" because sex is 'shocking', it is scandalous and sensationalized, and thus has very specific connotations attache to it.
As for whether or not ecoporn is apart of human nature, I don't think so either, but rather that it's an effect of our society's views on 'sex' and 'nature'

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