Bound and Gagged

Pornography and the Politics of Fantasy in America

Bound and Gagged

Book Pages: 240 Illustrations: Published: December 1998

Author: Laura Kipnis

Cultural Studies, Gender and Sexuality, Media Studies > Film

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.


Bound and Gagged is a remarkably rational book about a subject that usually sparks remarkably irrational responses.” — Joy Press , Boston Globe

“[A] valuable contribution to the present debate. . . .” — Simon Hardy , Sexualities

“[A]n astounding thesis. . . . Ms. Kipnis is honest, and direct and . . . a persuasive writer.” — Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy, and the Humanities

“[Kipnis’s] conclusions are infinitely more powerful and informative than any of [Andrea] Dworkin’s rants about the evils of porn. By forcing us to face our fears and our foibles Kipnis has created an insightful cultural analysis of a billion-dollar industry that most critics won’t even acknowledge as existing.” — Mark Zeltner , PopMatters

“[Kipnis] blends the themes of Freudian analysis, consumer capitalism and societal taboo into a piece of sharp, insightful, sometimes disturbing social commentary.” — Richard Bernstein , New York Times

“A wonderfully insightful book about elitism that lurks behind the antiporn sentiment. By bringing class into the picture, Bound and Gagged moves beyond the predictable, repetitive argument among feminists.” — Leora Tanenbaum , The Nation

“A wonderfully provocative examination of pornographic fantasies and their broader cultural meanings. . . . Bound and Gagged pokes and prods at a number of America’s most tender spots—examining everything from transvestite personal ads and ‘fat fetishism’ to the class-ridden politics of disgust.” — David Futrelle, Los Angeles Reader

“Laura Kipnis’s Bound and Gagged offers an example of the directions pornography scholarship might take in moving beyond the pornography debates. Kipnis’s stance is neither anti-porn nor anti-censorship; rather, she approaches pornography as a serious cultural form and reads it with the same critical eye that scholars typically reserve for more ‘acceptable’ texts. In doing so she unveils a variety of meanings which, she claims, make pornography an ‘oppositional political form.’ ” — LaRae Cunningham, Minnesota Review

“[Kipnis] provides a succinct, thoughtful, and lively case for porn as a significant contemporary cultural form.” — Kirkus Reviews

Bound and Gagged will prove intellectually productive for generations of scholars and thinkers. As always, Kipnis's insistence on articulating concerns of class and gender makes her work virtually unique withing U.S. cultural studies—and she is doubtless among the most engaging writers in the academy today.”
  — Lauren Berlant, author of The Queen of America Goes to Washington City

“A tour de force polemic in defense of the foibles of human fantasy.” — Linda Williams, author of Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the ‘Frenzy of the Visible’

“In Bound and Gagged, Laura Kipnis demonstrates that she is the Marx and Freud of porn.”
  — Constance Penley, author of NASA/Trek: Popular Science and Sex in America

“Laura Kipnis is the rarest of authors. She looks at porn and makes you see it through new eyes. Bound and Gagged is fearless, unflinching and funny.” — James Peterson, Senior Editor, Playboy


Availability: In stock
Price: $25.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

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.

Table of Contents Back to Top

One: Fantasy in America: The United States v. Daniel Thomas DePew

Two: Clothes Make the Man

Three: Life in the Fat Lane

Four: Disgust and Desire: Hustler Magazine

Five: How to Look at Pornography


Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2343-3
Publicity material