Pop-Culture and Porn Chic

Author: Kim Chungong

I found out about The Rise of Pop Culture Porn Chic lecture through my intro into LGBT studies class. From its title, I assumed that the lecture would be about how in today’s culture women are becoming more liberated in their fashion and the amount of clothing they decide to wear. I initially thought it would be more about ‘freeing the nip’ and women’s choice but it discussed more profound topics that are relevant in today’s culture.
The speaker was Dr. Annette Lynch from the University of Northern Iowa. She is a professor in the textiles and apparel program, works with violence prevention programs, and was the director of the women’s and gender studies on her campus. In the lecture she focused on important topics from her 2012 book Porn Chic: Exploring the Contours of Raunch Eroticism. The term ‘porn chic’ generally refers to pornography in pop culture and mainstream media.

Dr. Lynch began with explaining how pop culture has normalized sexual objectification through fashion and media. She starts out by focusing on the late Hugh Hefner and the “unapologetic bad boy” persona, a man who is revered for being a player. She credits Hefner and Playboy for igniting the normalization of collecting sexual conquests and women in modern American culture. Lynch then went on to talk about how from an early age girls are overly exposed to the objectification of women and learn to prioritize the male gaze over everything. She then goes on to talk about how porn chic has impacted campus cultures with series like Girls Gone Wild. She gives examples of how campus girls are pressured into exposing their bodies or are expected to and when they don’t people lash out.

Another major point she made in her presentation was the importance of dismantling the gender role dichotomy. In this dichotomy each gender has a normative cultural script they are expected to follow. Males highlight their achievements and and physical abilities. Females are taught to highlight their appearance and attractiveness. According to her colleague Susan Kaiser, men have agonic power and women have hedonic power. Agonic power is the ability to physically do something and is a more direct power. It includes not only athletic feats but also running companies and countries. Hedonic power equates attractiveness to power and is more indirect. The more attractive a woman is the more attention and power she has in society. Lynch said that rather than having a rigid dichotomy people should be able to be able to have both agonic and hedonic power.

Dr. Lynch also focused on how the fashion industry plays a role in enforcing or breaking these gender roles. In athletic wear men are showcased playing sports but women are advertised as being cute in their sportswear and just posing. Despite this, the fashion industry is also breaking gender roles. Many fashion labels are going outside the gender binary and making their clothes genderless or unisex, meaning anyone can wear them no matter what they identify as.
Overall the lecture was very eye-opening. It exposed how early on girls are socialized to value their appearance over everything else but not only focuses on that. Lynch made a point of saying that in order to change a culture you need to make allies of people who benefit from that culture. She went on to say how it’s important to inform men on the way society’s gender norms not only hurt women, but men too, so they can help change societal norms. I enjoyed how she talked about the importance of fashion in empowering people and social movements. As interesting as a ‘free the nip’ lecture would have been Dr. Lynch’s presentation was far more impactful and meaningful.

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