Monday, March 15, 2021

"No one has imagined us": A lesbian couple and the representation of women in pornography in Adrienne Rich's "Twenty-One Love Poems"

Adrienne Rich's "Twenty-One Love Poems" (1976) depicts two women in a lesbian relationship who feel the absence of the representation of lesbians in the culture they live in: "No one has imagined us." Yet the sequence begins with them surrounded by representations of heterosexuality: "Wherever in this city, screens flicker / with pornography, [...] / we also have to walk." At the time, as Susan Brownmiller writes, Rich was working with Brownmiller, Andrea Dworkin, and others to start a radical feminist anti-pornography group to oppose the representation of women in pornography as objects of male desire, while Laura Mulvey was theorizing the male gaze in "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" (1975). (Andrew Shields, #111words, 15 March 2021)


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