Semiotics of the pornographic face: From traditional porno to Beautiful Agony


  • Bruno Surace Department of Philosophy and Education Science, University of Turin (Unito), Turin, Italy



semiotics of pornography, pornographic faces, erotic faces, face studies, semiotics of the face


Today’s pornography constitutes a semiotic laboratory capable of meticulously describing some characteristics of the cultures from which it comes and for which it is intended. In it, the role of the face is preeminent and assumes relevance both from a diegetic and a formal point of view. A face which makes itself a sign and is articulated in a dialectic between the syntagmatic and the paradigmatic axis, finding expression as an aspectual device, establishing a peculiar semiotic procedure of absentia in praesentia, and highlighting an eminently enunciative dimension of the textual genre. Thus a facial semiotics of pornography becomes to all effects a cultural semiotics, which through the exploration of a transversal genre – both in its mainstream and more niche actualizations – produces significant results in defining how cultures of the face, including extrapornographic ones, delineate themselves. The aim of this article is to verify this peculiar facial semiotics through a case history that stretches from traditional to contemporary pornography, also analysing the “facial pornography” website and the visual works of some contemporary artists.


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How to Cite

Surace, B. (2021). Semiotics of the pornographic face: From traditional porno to Beautiful Agony. Sign Systems Studies, 49(3-4), 400–417.