What lies beneath : medical imaging and the erotic in public culture
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The anatomic human body is increasingly visible in public culture. Representations of the body sourced from or imitative of the images produced by medical imaging technology are bloodless depictions that highlight the body’s internal structures and elide its viscerality. Despite the deliberate exclusion of the flesh, many of these images are saturated in erotic potential, both implicitly and explicitly. These images emerge in a culture preoccupied with the visualization and control of women’s bodies and sexualities. Feminist scholars have long been critical of the ways in which popular media constructs the body as an object for erotic consumption;; the anatomic images I consider here go one step further. The mainstream gaze has previously been limited to the exterior surfaces of the body, with the penetrating gaze into the body’s interior restricted to the medical and legal establishments. The penetrating gaze is increasingly democratized as x-ray and other interior views of the body become more prevalent.The texts under discussion in this thesis traverse the opaque barrier of the skin and serve to construct the totality of the human body as an object to be examined and consumed. While X-rated x-rays can, sometimes, offer a potential site of resistance to gen- dered surveillance of the anatomic body, their increasing ubiquity demonstrates the escalation of a dominating surveillant regime intent on penetrating and controlling the anatomic body. The images’ uncritical public consumption provides an insidious route by which that regime may be normalized, furthered and even glorified.