As a society, we are confronted daily with pornographic images, they feature in our newspapers, on our film screens, and even in our novels. This voyeuristic obsession the media holds has for a long time been desensitizing us to depictions of violence and sex, but has it also disabled us in being able to see the difference between what is carefully constructed satire and what is merely pornography?
There is probably no text this discussion embraces more in modern gothic literature than that of Brett Easton Ellis’ American Psycho. The novel was surrounded with controversy, ecen before its publication in 1991. Originally, cited to be published by Simon & Schuster, the company forfeited from the engagement, including its £300,000 advance, due to the controversy surrounding the novels publication after a number of chapters were leaked and later it became the first book in America to receive an R rating. Immediately, the novel was portrayed by critics as ‘vile pornography, immoral and artless’ (Milner 43), with Ellis himself being described as ‘a dirty writer’ . The reactions to the text were befitting of how many people negatively receive pornography, with some critics outright declaring that the novel was pornography. This shows a distinct example of how society viewed representations of violence coupled with sexuality, regardless of the purpose of the medium.
A major similarity between the two mediums is the way they represent women. American Psycho received extremely negative press from women’s groups who claimed the novel ‘legitimizes inhuman and savage violence masquerading as sexuality’ ; this is a quote that could easily be applied to similar group’s opinions on the Adult Entertainment Industry. Sex being used as a system to degrade and objectify women is something that clearly exists within common pornography when you consider it through a feminist viewing. What makes the sexual violence of American Psycho receive the same level of offence is Patrick Bateman’s matter of fact way of discussing and ‘performing’ these acts.
What is interesting about this is that we experience these sexual scenes in the novel in a completely different regard to pornography. Pornography is in many ways a matter of opinion - its receipt being largely dependent on the opinions of the person who is viewing it. American Psycho does not allow this same level of personal distance, we receive the acts of ‘pornography’ within the novel through Patrick Bateman’s first person narrative and this is an insight to a man who disregards women as the ‘other’, making them a product of sexual consumerism, choosing their names, and disembodying them all in the same matter of fact dismissive fashion. Furthermore, the way in which he views sex, violence and rape as complicit is uncomfortable for the reader as it forces them to ‘become the violator’ through the personal pronoun ‘I’, the reader becomes involuntarily involved in scenes that are only to the purpose of...