Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Victoria Sponge Cock

Today, in my work-related researches I came across the following abstract. I'd been reading a lot of po-faced postmodernist gender theory that morning and this reminded me of the interesting, and sometimes a little bizarre, possibilities of academic study. It also made me laugh, because I'm juvenile like that.

"Getting a Piece: An Ethnographic Look at Erotic Cake Purchase"

Emily Wentzell
The Johns Hopkins University,
Program for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality
and The Johns Hopkins Department of Anthropology

This paper uses ethnographic data gathered from a Philadelphia erotic bakery to explore individuals’, particularly African American women’s, use of erotic cakes. People often understand “traditional” identity and morality as sexually and emotionally repressive, and use the cakes to assert “nontraditional” selves in which sexuality is joyfully integrated into life. Many American rituals, like birthday parties, involve cake and can be understood to inscribe “traditional” mores via celebration in traditional forms. Erotic cakes function not simply as humorous party centerpieces, but also as vehicles through which individuals revise the structure of these rituals, breaking perceived taboos and pushing social boundaries. Through this revision, individuals craft rituals that assert, support, and re-inscribe participants’ “non-traditional” identities. Erotic cakes, like humor and erotica/pornography in general, exist within interlocking and mutually dependent forces of perceived repression and transgression, providing pleasure through their challenge to what individuals view as the repressive force of “tradition.” Because cake purchasers are enculterated individuals, erotic cakes sometimes serve as sites for the support of certain “traditional” social standards such as heteronormativity, yet simultaneously provide a powerful tool for individuals to target and alter certain ill-fitting norms. Erotic cakes are particularly well suited to African American women’s needs, since their form matches that of the “textured” joke prevalent in black humor and women’s subversive humor, and speaks to a particularly damaging “traditional” association of black women with food preparation and lack of sexual control. However, individuals from multiple racial, sex, and sexuality groups use erotic cakes as an indirect vehicle for social redefinition.

PDF here.

One of the reasons why I'm not hugely enthusiastic about doing postgraduate study at the moment is because I fear that as a humanities man I'd never be able to pursue ideas like this. I worry that I'd just end up being prodded by my advisor into writing something indistinguishable from the output of the postmodernism generator.