Cinesexuality

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Cinesexuality is a concept developed by the feminist film theorist Patricia MacCormack. It emerges from the poststructuralist philosophy of desire found in the work of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari.

MacCormack claims that cinema has an immense power to produce pleasure which is "in excess of the meaning of images and their deferral to established sexualities" (MacCormack, 2005/6, p. 341). This means that cinema can undermine stable units of narrative meaning such as the nuclear family and heterosexual romance which have frequently been criticized by feminists. Mainstream cinema, according to MacCormack, works with narrative building-blocks of meaning which reinforce the semiotic pathways of desire already established by, for instance, education. An example of this would be the relationship between how sex education is delivered in school (which creates a pathway of desire in the children being taught) and how these established patterns later connect with film genres such as romantic comedies.

In contrast to mainstream cinema and its narrative, semiotic templates, MacCormack celebrates low-brow genres such as the horror film. Of particular interest to MacCormack are the zombie films of Italian director Lucio Fulci, which encourage the spectator to give themselves over to the effects of pain and pleasure at the expense of narrative logic. These effects help create new pathways of desire, overturning the dominant family-oriented, heterosexual codes. Hence, MacCormack refers to this sort of audience experience as being "cinesexual". The submission to this sort of experience, which may require some initial discomfort on the spectator's part as they are moved out of their comfort zone, MacCormack calls "cinemasochism".

Further reading[edit]

  • Patricia MacCormack, "A Cinema of Desire: Cinesexuality and Guattari’s Asignifying Cinema" in Women: A Cultural Review, 16 (3), Winter 2005/6