🧟‍♀️ Exploring otherness through zombie sex

Unexpected revelations from journal articles about zombie porn

Hi friends! I’m Jeannette and am currently writing the 9th issue of this newsletter in the midst of another full COVID-19 lockdown in Malaysia. On Saturday (29th May), there were 9,020 cases reported. Apparently, we now have “more new cases per capita than any medium- or large-sized country in Asia”. 😰


Pix credit: Unsplash, Marek Piwnicki

I finished drafting the second chapter of my thesis last week – on penis enhancing traditional medicines – and have started outlining my third chapter on jinn sex. So for the last two days, I’ve been looking up writings on the supernatural and / or monstrous both in and out of Malaysia. 

Through conversations about ghosts, exorcisms and other encounters with the supernatural, I discovered a host of academic writing about zombie porn (part of a broader field of zombie studies). In the introduction to the book Zombies and Sexuality, Jones and McGlotten (2014) write: 

“Zombies crystallize fears and desires related to contagion and consumption, to the body and sociality, to autonomy and enslavement. They represent a rarefied drive that underpins our conscious desires: to consume.”

So if the rising popularity of zombie media like The Walking Dead, World War Z (2013), and Left 4 Dead says something about the politics, economics and culture of society today, what is it saying about sexuality? There are many ways to look at it, of course. 

For example, when humans have sex in zombie narratives, it can be viewed as “symbolically powerful”, as a “reprieve to dystopian threat”. On the other hand, zombie procreation — all it takes is a bite! — “represents a powerful alternative to heterosexual breeding”.  

In another essay titled Zombie Porn 1.0, McGlotten and Vangundy (2013) analyse the film, Otto; or, Up with Dead People (2008). There is zombie sex: Apparently, in one of the scenes, a newly-infected zombie attacks his partner, eats his guts then humps the wound. There is a zombie orgy somewhere in the movie as well. 

When the writers ask in the essay, “What could be more patently offensive or lacking in serious artistic merit than pornography sex performed by zombies...?” it’s really quite hard for anything else to come to mind.

But if we look at zombies as symbols instead, perhaps these films can have more profound significance. Or as the authors put it: 

“Whether they operate as metaphor or analogy, zombies help us to think through the changing significance of categories of life and death writ large.” 

Personally, I found the link between zombiehood and queerness fascinating. It also made me wonder: if the zombie represents a way to explore otherness in the Western context, what might the jinn be saying in the Malaysian context? Because what’s even more interesting about jinn is that it’s not a creature of fiction like the zombie. The supernatural is very much a fixture in Malaysian society, which means jinn (and other creatures) inhabit the same plane of reality as us, so to speak.  

A couple of examples: 1) in primary school, a friend who had a high fever was told that it was because he had accidentally kicked a football into a Na Tuk Kung shrine earlier that day; and 2) my uncle who used to stay at (apparently) one of the most haunted places in Genting Highlands said that he would tell the ghosts in his room to “keep quiet” so he could sleep at night (they were quite compliant). 

Conversations about ghosts and the supernatural are everyday, not just stories that are told around campfires or at sleepovers. So what do conversations about sex with the supernatural say about Malaysian culture? And how do these narratives play into the larger part of how we live?

It seems the more I learn about sex and all its related parts, the more I discover that it’s an endless rabbit hole with new questions at every turn. 

References:

McGlotten, S., & Jones, S. (Eds.). (2014). Zombies and Sexuality: Essays on Desire and the Living Dead. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company.

Mcglotten, S., & Vangundy, S. (2013). Zombie Porn 1.0: or, Some Queer Things Zombie Sex Can Teach Us. Qui Parle, 21(2), 101–125.


On Pornography:

One question that’s constantly on my mind is: What is pornography? 

What requirements does a piece of media have to meet in order to be considered porn? What makes hypersexual media (eg. the WAP music video) not porn? 

Is sexting pornography? Or is it sex? In this age of new and networked media, where do you draw the lines? What kind of lines would you even draw? 

Do you have news / information / tips / stories on pornography to share? Hit reply to share!  


Consuming:

Pornography by Rebeca Sullivan & Alan McKee. I just started and the whole first part is about what the authors will or will not consider pornography. As you can see, whether or not something is pornography is a whole thing. 

Dying for Sex. I’m quite enjoying the storytelling in this podcast about a woman who starts having sexual adventures after she is diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. 


I finished writing this right on the dot today! Not only are we in lockdown; the suburb I live in has been experiencing power cuts too 😑

If you want to check out more of the stuff I’ve been reading, feel free to hit reply and ask for a longer list. Also, if you liked this newsletter, please share! 

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