Pornographic performance constitutes a philosophically riddling form of role-playing. Those who merely distinguish between authentic agency and artificial pretence are likely altogether to miss the problem. They would simply identify acting with pretending, and perceive pornographic acting — if it is acting — as no more than another kind of mimicry. From such a perspective, the philosophical questions raised by pornography are mostly moral in nature, relating to the moral desirability of pornography as such, or to its desirability given the exploitative conditions underlying most of its production. But when analysed as imaginative embodied role-playing, as acting, pornography raises less familiar puzzles relating to performed agency rather than to moral status. Does participating in a porn film (I will discuss mostly films, but much of the following discussion is pertinent to other forms of pornography, such as live shows or photography) constitute acting? Does it make sense to claim that the performer goes through an entire array of sexual motions — from foreplay to penetration and orgasm (surely the case for performing men, though doubtfully so for the women in such movies) — and is still merely playing a role? Would, for example, performing in a pornographic film amount to adultery if the actor is married? Responding to such questions demands inquiring after the precise form of role-playing involved in performed sex, whether such performance takes place within a pornographic context or in a non-pornographic one.


Sexual Performance Sexual Pleasure Moral Desirability Interpersonal Meaning Adult Film 
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© Tzachi Zamir 2013

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  • Tzachi Zamir

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