Emmet Gowin Edith Danville, Virginia 1971

When I study Gowin’s work I am always struck by its deep reverence. Whether his subject is his wife Edith, or various members of her family or his later aerial landscape, each image is treated with the same quiet wonder.

In Edith Danville, Virginia 1971, Gowin’s wife stands in the doorway of a dilapidated shed and pisses on the floor—the scene is handled with a quiet awe rather at odds with ‘taboo’ of enjoying the sight of someone urinating.

Whether intended or not, it strikes me that this is reverent watching is not at all unlike the way pissing is commonly depicting in pornographic media.

The actress informs her partner she ‘has to pee’ and moves several steps away to stand with her legs spread wide or more often than not to squat. With this movement her body transforms from the discrete catalogue of penetrable orifices and denuded erogenous zones it is likely to have been presented as for most of the scene to something whole and complete. She gazes down at her cunt, or looks away from the camera like Edith—breaking her near constant, self-conscious awareness of the spectator. She begins to piss but by the time she remembers she is expected to be self-conscious, the camera has begun to zoom in on the fluid ensuing from between her legs.

‘Having to pee’ is, unequivocally, a need. Given the raison d’etre for porn—manufacturing male pleasure—admitting that women have needs is unusual. Admittedly, sexualizing yet another aspect of female bodied experience is problematic, but for me that is trumped by how hot it is when porn—however tenuously— implies the truth: nothing provides more pleasurable than meeting the needs another.

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