[Though I thoroughly enjoy and largely agree with Rosenzweig’s piece, I do have to take issue with his optimistic and fallacious vision of a “complete historical record,” because it is the very nature of history and historiography to never have the “full story.” Records themselves are limited – they are representations (not manifestations) of events and experiences. However, this issue may just be semantical on my part.]
So having established that accessibility and dissemination have all played a role in “de-invisiblizing” and promoting critical engagement with pornography, should we not also consider why the visibility of porn (or any other taboo, “subcultural” materials/institutions) is the determining factor for its study? In other words, pornographic materials, throughout time and place, have served to illustrate both the public and private, the celebrated and persecuted, desires and drives of people. Porn is one of the most valuable (and undervalued) primary source “genres” for the study of sexuality. To that end, when Rosenzweig questions whether we should be trying to save everything and how we find/define our materials, implicit in his musings are how we go about prioritizing one document or byte over another and, thus, prioritizing one historical narrative over another. When does weeding become censorship? Just as the Victorians secreted away the erotica of Pompeii, we must now avoid destroying the “seedy,” sexually explicit “underbelly” of our modern society.