Affect Theory

The 9 Affects Which Impact Our Love Life

Have you every heard something about the so-called "Affect Theory"? There are 9 different affects that explain when emotions, produced by social exchange, generate stronger or weaker ties towards relationships. ⁠

Just the other day, a desperate young man was sitting at his kitchen table. He had just ended a budding relationship with a young woman. They had parted on a good note, in a very grown-up way and had agreed that it just wasn’t right. After the discussion, in order to clarify, she said that it had never really worked well in the bedroom. The young man raised his arms in despair:

“But I just didn't want to cause her any pain”.
affect-theory

 

This illustrates well how different people’s sexual preferences can differ, and which opposites can sometimes attract and come together.

For the young woman, the pain was maybe something that kept her in the moment, that gave her the opportunity to give up control and let herself fall and stay in a situation. For the young man, it was simply strange.

In the 1980s the  “Affect Theory” was developed, which roughly states that there are nine affects which can be divided into positive, negative and neutral. For example, pleasure and interest are positive. On the other hand, fear, anger, disgust or shame are negative.

For a healthy life, it is essential that the positive affects predominate and outweigh the negative.

We perceive affects unconsciously and through the body, which is why one comes across Freud’s theory of instincts again and again when one begins to deal with affects.

But there are also different theories about this topic. The term affect is used in many disciplines to do with humanities, but it is used differently everywhere. One says that drive arises from affect.

affect-theory

 

Another states that it is exactly the other way around, that the drive would create the affect. One thing is certain: we read and understand our world through affects that cannot be consciously controlled.

This term is interesting in the “Porn Studies” context, as there are negative affects, such as fear or shame which can suddenly become exciting and arousing.

So far, the connection between affects and sexuality has mostly been discussed in a queer context. The insights that can follow are generally valid and can tell us much more about likes and dislikes, and thus more about us as a society.

Because basically pornography – which does not come from nowhere or out of the blue -, functions via the underlying and subtle structures of a society, so that it would actually depict or represent a society: that’s exactly because it is not what you want.

Pornography is subject to much scrutiny : it reproduces, and thus manifests images of power and stereotypes.

 

And it’s true: porn does team up with racism and classicism, and obviously with sexism too. But you can take a different approach and see that porn only makes visible the “isms” which are already present in a society. It’s kind of like the hen and the egg.

Which one came first in this case is clear, as porn feeds on the reality of a society and acts like a burning glass : because – and that’s the exciting thing -; everything, really everything can be erotic. So it is of course relatively difficult to find out who likes what and even more difficult to find out why. Therefore, scientific surveys about who likes which things and why are hardly possible.

But if you look at the most clicked on videos on popular porn sites, at least in Germany they’re: “German”, “Deutsch” and thirdly “Mom”.

Pornography works with stereotypes, with images or perhaps even archetypes and representations of certain groups and sub-groups, rather than with complex, independent characters.
affect-theory

 

That is why it reveals so much about what constitutes a society, what we do not talk about and what may also be a little uncomfortable.

And so what always applies is: What is allowed is what you like, and what all those involved have given their consent to.

Ultimately, the young man and the young woman will soon find partners with whom they can live out their respective preferences in order to maximize the positive affects in their lives. Whatever they may look and seem like.

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