On Porn Part I

On Porn Part I

 

Saying you don’t like porn is kind of like saying you don’t like television.

For example, if you told me that you don’t like television, maybe I’d press you with some follow-up questions:

“Really? None? Not even PBS? No America’s Test Kitchen or Masterpiece Theater? Not even premium cable stuff like The Wire or The Sopranos? No Netflix Streaming? No clips from The Daily Show? No old episodes of I Love Lucy?”

Then you might backpedal and cop to watching basketball games (“only during March Madness”) or episodes of Breaking Bad on your iPad. As if this doesn’t, technically, count.

What I think you’re really saying, though, is “I don’t like shitty awful depressing demeaning television.” Like reality TV or game shows hosted by Howie Mandel or anything about drunken numbskulls in New Jersey.

Or maybe you’re saying, “I’m not one of those people who makes their television the centerpiece of my living room.” Like, you don’t own one, or if you do, it’s hidden in a craftily-painted armoire or whatever.

Either way, numbskullery and/or gross aesthetic emphasis are the first images that pop into your head when you hear the word ‘television’ and that’s why you hit the REJECT button.

Similarly, some people hear the word, “porn” and what automatically pops into their head is an image of some naked blond dimwit with pneumatic breasts and acrylic nails and a spray tan and a complete lack of body hair and personal agency. And whatever she is doing with her unlikely body is probably context-free and alarming in its excess and vigor and surfeit of body fluids.

To the “I don’t like porn” people, all the above = porn. (Never mind that research doesn’t support it.) It’s kind of like saying that what’s for sale at an airport bookstores = the best of modern literature.

The “I don’t like porn” people remind me of people who say they don’t like to read. I automatically think, “you just haven’t found the right book yet.” Same with porn. There exists something for every preference and niche in porn. Every body style. Every activity. Every taste level, every camera filter, every context or lack of context. I can understand being annoyed by having to wade through a whole bunch of crap that makes you shudder, yes. But dismissing ‘porn’ as a monolith is a mistake.

(Though there doesn’t exist porn for people who don’t want to look at sexual content, I guess. Sorry.)

Furthermore, assuming everyone involved in the production of porn is some kind of drug-addled, underaged, abused brainless runaway is also a mistake.

It is true that most people would not want to have sex while people are filming/watching.

It is true that most people would not want to have sex on camera for money. (Or even be able to do that! How many of us get aroused on cue? Or can act professional while stark naked and surrounded by camera equipment and strange people? Sex on film involves skills that most of us do not use in our bedrooms).

It is true that most people want to have sex in private situations, with people they love and care about, and aren’t interested in the world seeing how they look naked and while in the throes of passion or whatever.

It is true that what is presented as ‘sex’ in porn is a facsimile of sex, generally. It is really happening, yes. It’s ‘sex’ by definition. But not in the way that sex ‘really happens’ to people in reality, since most of us don’t have sex for money or on schedule or in front of cameras and such. (Well, no shit. Don’t look at art if you’re concerned about Pure Reality. Go read Robert Boswell’s essay “On Urban Legends, Pornography, and Literary Fiction” if you want to really get dorky and deep on this matter).

But to assume that the people involved in porn production and consumption are degenerate or exploited or somehow lesser is to lack imagination. And lack of imagination is more obscene to me than, say, Super Slutty Anal Gangbang 7, as far as I’m concerned.

 

8 Comments

  • Ela Harrison on May 31, 2013 Reply

    I think it’s an interesting subject and I like that you remove it from its taboo location, as it really is another part of life and, let’s face it, entertainment.
    I had never seen any whatsoever until this past fall when I had a friend loan me some DVDs and books. Fascinating. Many of the movies were lol bad, but some were better.

  • Elizabeth Fama on May 30, 2013 Reply

    I’ve never seen a single frame of porn! I wonder how typical that is?! (And I guess Game of Thrones doesn’t count.)

    • Carrie Mesrobian on May 30, 2013 Reply

      This is a modern miracle. Especially because I know you have a Tumblr!

    • Elizabeth Fama on May 31, 2013 Reply

      My Tumblr is all Doctor Who gifs, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, TV shows I haven’t watched, and baby goats wearing sweaters.

  • Sarah Ahiers on May 30, 2013 Reply

    I watched a documentary a few months back (of course I can’t remember the name now…) about a photographer who wanted to make a, more or less, coffee table book about the porn industry without the book being Porn. So he went to an awards show and it was all about him trying to convince porn stars and sex workers to agree to let him photograph them for his book. And of course it was a documentary so they’d interview the people and some were just getting in to the business and some were on the end of their run and it was really interesting and awesome

  • Matthew MacNish on May 30, 2013 Reply

    I’m a bit torn. I’m all for personal freedom and existentialism, but if some motherfucker from the San Fernando Valley gets my daughter tweaked out on meth and manipulates her into doing something she would never choose to do in her right mind, he’s going to experience some bilateral facetime with the end of a shotgun I just stole from the cop car down the street from his house.

    Admittedly, those assholes are a small, albeit highly visible, percentage of the porn industry.

    • Carrie Mesrobian on May 30, 2013 Reply

      I think that a lot goes wrong way before a meth-tweaked girl ends up naked on camera, Matthew. And I’m confident that you’re ahead of the game on this score.

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