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Let's talk about sex: 'C*bul' puts spotlight on porn

Desca Angelianawati
Desca Angelianawati

Book reviewer

Yogyakarta  /  Wed, March 11, 2020  /  09:30 am
Let's talk about sex: 'C*bul' puts spotlight on porn

C*bul by Hendri Yulius (Desca Angelianawati/File)

Sex and pornography have been controversial topics in Indonesia for years and are often taboo simply because discussing them will always intersect with traditions, norms, religious beliefs and the law.

Hendri Yulius has no such qualms. The young Indonesian writer and lecturer of gender and sexuality studies breaks the boundaries with his new book titled C*abul: Perbincangan Serius Tentang Seksualitas Kontemporer (Pervert: A Serious Discourse on Contemporary Sexuality).

Released in late 2019 by Marjin Kiri Publisher, the book unveils contemporary sexuality from a pornographic point of view. It is noteworthy for the fact alone that nonfictional books on sexuality, pornography and eroticism are few and far between in Indonesia.

The book begins its premise with an intriguing question asked by Leo Bersani in his book Receptive Bodies: “Does sex exist?” Hendri starts his discussion by telling his readers about the importance of sexuality and pornography. Donatien Alphonse François, better known as Marquis de Sade, one of the fathers of erotic literature, is placed as the pedestal of the allegory. Hendri further illustrates other opinions on sex and eroticism uttered by several philosophers, including Georges Bataille.

The book is broken down into three parts: Foreplay, Intercourse and Cumshot – in their relation to porn movies, which are quite interesting topics to delve upon.

In Foreplay, Hendri tries to engage his readers in the topic he is going to unveil. He begins by mentioning sexual fantasies people often have. It includes their representation in porn movies and the fantasy of being watched. What is noteworthy in this part is how he provides the data on what he is writing and several real examples from people’s experience related to porn and the pleasure department, such as the story of porn star Annabel Chong. He also interviewed several people to lend depth to his narration, including his friend Wina, who talks about how she and her husband, who works in Africa, keep their sexual life spicy and hot through porn movies.

In this section, I suddenly remembered what Sigmund Freud said about fantasy: “One might claim that the happy never have phantasies, only the dissatisfied (or the unsatisfied). Unsatisfied desires are the motive force behind the phantasies, and each single phantasy is a correction of an unsatisfied reality.” A question does arise in my mind and I would question the author: “Are the people who watch pornographic films and indulge in the fantasy considered happy or unhappy with their lives, Hendri?”

In the second chapter, Hendri continues with the discussion on Intercourse. He deals with 3P: penis, pussy and penetration. The discussion covers topics such as anal sex, pornographic literature and eroticism in Indonesian horror movies. Meanwhile, the third part deals with the cumshot, which include discussions about creampie and adventures in the pornographic world.

What I love about all of the discussions is the overreaching theme of Hendri’s narration: It not only deals with pornography but also with gender, sexuality, queers and the notion of feminism. I love how Hendri keeps the discussion light and still enlightens his readers. For instance, he mentions that creampie can be seen as a liberation of female sexuality and the rejection of masculine domination (the wordplay being a bit like Pierre Bourdieu’s). Hendri is also brilliant in presenting the discussion from different perspectives, such as, for instance, from a queer point of view. What makes this book interesting is the fact that he also provides the main keys for his ‘innocent readers’ to understand the scientific terms and concepts he tries to deliver.

I remain convinced that there is something missing from the book. The transition from one subject to another is not smooth. One such instance is when Hendri discusses anal sex, gangbang and pornographic literature. As a reader, I sometimes felt lost in reading and grasping the points he tries to deliver, because it seems like each object has no relation to the other. It seems like they stand on their own but are gathered into one main theme. It is as if Hendri has so many ideas to tell and he puts them on one big plate, trying to mix them up, but in the end it may turn out to be a little confusing for some readers -- particularly those who are new to the discussion on pornography, sexuality and eroticism.

Hendri also mentions eroticism several times, but do mind that eroticism is slightly different from pornography. Gloria Steinem says: “Though both erotica and pornography refer to verbal or pictorial representations of sexual behavior, they are different as a room with doors open and one with doors locked.” Hendri should set a clear boundary between these two, because they are similar yet also slightly different. The first might be a home, but the second could only be a prison – reciting Steinem. Therefore, Hendri should decide which arena he is going to go into –eroticism or pornography?

I also saw that Hendri explains a little bit about the schizoanalysis of Deleuze and Guattari apart of Freudian and Lacanian's psychoanalysis. Yet I cannot see any discussion that reveals that elements of schizoanalysis. Let me know if I have missed anything in the book!

Apart from the aforementioned points, the book comes across as bliss to me. It is a book worth reading, because it is not only enlightening but also entertaining – as well as a little bit surprising. (kes)

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Desca Angelianawati is a book reviewer, research assistant at an Indonesian NGO and English instructor at one of Yogyakarta's universities. In her spare time, she writes, reads and travels with her partner. She can be found at www.literatureisliving.wordpress.com and Instagram account @descanto.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.