This essay argues that the ubiquity of digital media for representations of sexuality is rivaled only by the fact that any positive outcome for such media is largely ignored in both popular and scholarly imaginations about it. The essay examines John Cameron Mitchell's 2006 Shortbus, a film noted for the explicitness of its sexual representations, against the terms of its digital supplements in order to suggest that the sex life of the digital does not exist but as an array of demonized forms. That is, digital sexualities and the erotic affinities afforded by the technological innovations of the past twenty years—such as anonymity, decorporalization, self-invention and reinvention, randomness—are largely disregarded by older “dominant” media forms and their subtending industries. Thus, few such mediations (including cinema, television, and print media) seek to account for the sexualities of the digital in nonpathologized ways. Simultaneously, sexual subjects go about their business of putting digital mediations to uses largely undisclosed to all but themselves, and in light of this, the essay examines three digital technologies that appear in Shortbus as being unnarratable: though they appear as ordinary elements of the diegesis, the digital camera, the Internet, and the cellular smartphone each allow the film's queer male figures to exceed the generic constraints of the film in its customary dimensions and to see where digital sexualities—the visual iconography of digital photography, the pleasures of Internet pornography, and the sexual networks of the cellular—part ways with the cinematic.
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Matthew Tinkcom; “You've got to get on to get off”: Shortbus and the Circuits of the Erotic. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 July 2011; 110 (3): 693–713. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-1275842
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