Skin-somnia

12

Bougie is up all night pondering anti-porn zealots and Bagel BitesI’m sitting there watching late night TV and there’s this commercial. It’s nothing special, and nothing I haven’t seen many times before. It’s typical in its banality, but resplendent with this totally inane theme song. He’s not visible, but I can hear that this guy is just rockin’ out while we are looking at these cheese covered disks coming out of an oven, and the guitar is wailing, and he’s just giving his all — singing about goddamn Bagel Bites.


I look up from my paper, slightly stunned and knocked free from my creative train of thought… but it’s already over, and then the next commercial comes on. It’s another invisible guy, and instead of rock, it’s an upbeat zydeco number and cats are running around like adorable furry demons and he’s singing about getting the “…friskies in my bowllll!!”
I’ve suddenly noticed something new in a commercial I’ve seen a thousand times. I’ve suddenly gained a new perspective, one that brings me to my next point; I’m sure these guys are appreciative to be making silly little jingles instead of actually working for a living, but within the sounds of their voices I detect …. a sadness. It’s like the sound of the ocean in a seashell. If perk your ear you can hear a ponderence of what could have been. What if they had “made it,” man. Top of the charts, instead of pouring their hearts and souls into songs about catfood and maxipads. It sounds bizarre, but if you listen carefully to many of these ads, you can fucking hear a musicians PAIN.
I stand up suddenly and feel compelled to wander around the room absentmindedly looking at shit on my bookshelves. I’m suddenly hungry for fucking Bagel Bites.
Screw that. I go and take up position in front of the computer and hope that I’ve got some email or someone wants to instant message with me. At least I don’t want to eat Friskies cat food.
Nothing is waiting for me but spam, but on one of the message boards I frequent is a discussion about anti-pornography online message groups, blogs, and livejournal accounts. I spend the better part of 2 hours following links and reading some of the most unintentionally hilarious repressive tirades, and then open up my writing program and begin to write.
At first I don’t even know what I’m gonna write about. By this time it’s 4 in the morning. I’m not tired, but I know I need to put my thoughts down, or sleep will be a lost cause.
“The majority of the people in the media and their unrepentant vilification of the porn industry and sexuality in entertainment make me fucking sick” is the first thing I write.
Ugh.
My writing style has been suddenly tainted by the anti-smut troglodytes I’ve been mentally ingesting for the better part of 2 hours. Slightly frustrated, but undaunted, I continue to write…..
*
We as an audience have mass media news programing and journalists constantly telling us that sexual imagery on TV and in the movies is getting out of hand, that porn actresses are exploited, that workshops are springing up everywhere for chronic addicted masturbators, that children are having their innocence shattered by visual depictions of a erotic nature, that men are learning to abuse women from watching hardcore XXX, and that pornography is — by its very nature — degrading to women.
Maybe I’m preaching to the converted, but it’s getting so boring, this same ol’ tired way of thinking about porn and sex, and how the genders relate to it. It chases its own tail and circles back to the role of women in porn and sexually based imagery. People generally assume that porn and sex are inherently degrading to women. I don’t, and none of my friends do, but it’s so easy to forget that we are totally in the minority on this continent.
When Robert Jensen recently wrote “This culture struggles unsuccessfully with pornography because it is about men’s cruelty to women”, in his popular MS Magazine essay “A Cruel Edge: The Painful truth about Pornography”, he was unconsciously revealing far more about what he thinks about women, than he was revealing about our society or the porn industry itself. Like many writers and commentators on society, Jensen makes the assumption that porn (and thereby sex itself) is primarily about abuse.
Jensen wrote that “It hurts. It hurts to know that no matter who you are as a women, that you can be reduced to a thing to be penetrated, and that men will buy movies about that, and that in many of those movies, your humiliation will be a central theme.”
I am of the humble opinion that you are not degrading a women simply by inserting your penis into her. You are not devaluing a woman by role playing rape scenarios, or pretending that she’s a hooker and you are her john. You are not announcing that she is a lower life form if you shoot a load of semen down her throat. I don’t care if she’s tonguing your bunghole or drinking your wizz out of a Big Gulp cup, you are not making her less of a person, or less worthy of anyone’s love or respect by partaking in consensual sex, no matter how kinky it is.
Shit, I don’t like to whine, but it gets tiring to be on the defensive about this. I feel like the other side should have to explain themselves once and a while. Mainstream anti pornography journalists always make the same mistake while fear mongering that Christian moralists and uber rightwing feminists make: they don’t comprehend the difference between fantasy and reality.
It’s not rocket science, it’s rudimentary stuff you should have figured out when you played “pretend” in the playground as a tot. It’d be like saying that horror movies are evil, because the killer actually murdered the actors in the movie. Sorry, it’s make believe, fuckhead, and simply because it’s ADULT entertainment, doesn’t make it an any less valid form of entertainment. Fine, so you don’t find films where squealing girls get anally reamed entertaining, but then maybe I don’t find opera entertaining. Should I try and get everyone to stop going to the opera, or pressure them to feel guilty about listening to it? Fuck… whatever. If they like opera, and it’s not hurting anyone, why the fuck should I care?
I don’t mean to sugar coat the vile package that XXX comes in. Its inherent qualities are evident in its lack of pretension and its sinful appearance. Its got a mindless, primal, bad-boy/girl image, and that image is fitting. Yes, porn has been getting “rougher” and “dirtier” in recent years, and it’s now far less about the actual act of dick-in-pussy copulation than it is a wacky sexually based freak show. But I don’t understand why that must automatically be cause for concern. I’d like to point out that there have also been a lot more musicals coming out of Hollywood lately. Personally, that trend makes me far more upset. I’d like to see a bunch of essays and reports in the media on how that’s damaging society, since it would be just as relevant.
And yet the argument rages on: Porn exploits women, porn exposes men as cruel and sadistic, porn perverts the natural loving relationship a man should have with a woman, porn justifies rape. I understand where these rationales and concerns come from (fear and ignorance), but I don’t agree with them.
Yes, the majority of XXX content out there features women who are treated like nothing but a hole to fuck. They are merely cum-deposits with three wet openings, and they are completely objectified. This is totally true. I would never disagree with that. But you know what? In porn, Men are nothing but a cock. Just a big stiff prick, and that’s all they are — and fucking is all they are good for. It’s the same exact thing, and yet it’s somehow unnoticed. If porn is so obviously degrading to women, then certainly it must be degrading to men as well. So then if it’s degrading to everyone, it’s suddenly degrading to no one. So fuck you and your outdated puritanical Christian sex-guilt.
North Americans need to grow the fuck up, stop being so naive about sexuality, and take the time to understand that not everyone fucks the same way they do, nor gets off on the same things they do. And for the last damn time: Not everyone thinks women are automatically sullied or cheapened simply because they are sexual beings.
I’m not saying everyone has to love porn. I’m just saying that none of you have the right to tell someone else they can’t partake in it.
*
And with that, I pressed “save,” gave the cat a few pats, and fell into a deep deep sleep. Perhaps this won’t come to much of a surprise, but I swear to god — I dreamt about triple X-rated TV commercials with the catchiest, rockin’est jingles ever fucking recorded. And in my dream, those guys MADE IT, man.
Top of the world.

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12 Comments

  1. ugh. what a photo! the looks on their faces! that guy is a maniac. and she’s miserable. wtf didya find it? reminds me of the spurting asshole in tree pic that’s floating around. same brand of humour. maybe same creator?

  2. To be honest, as annoying are the god fanboys and girls are, they’re not really that culturally influential. Gay rights was directly about sexuality, and they couldn’t stop that. I think there’s a bigger fight on your hands with people who agree in principle that porn is OK, but are creeped out by the power dynamics.
    If I knew someone who’s into military movies or cop shows, that would creep me out a bit too. It’s not so much the sex and nakedness in porn that upsets people, it’s the power and degradation.
    Opera’s an interesting thing to compare porn to–it’s got undercurrents of conservatism and elitism that are creepy too — but it’s not a multi-billion dollar industry. I think what scares and depresses people about porn is its secret popularity — pretty much everyone loves someone who likes porn. Everyone feels complicit in it on some level, so it becomes hard to talk about it, to be for or against it.
    So now porn is here, admitted to, but still pretty monolithic. If I said I liked visual art, no one would immediately assume I was into Piss Christ, but would ask what kind of art I liked. If you say you like porn, people default to the mass media image, or rape porn, or whatever — the same way people think you get your yucks killing hookers in Grand Theft Auto if you like videogames.
    Like yourself, I often like the “bad” or extreme examples of the videogame genre, but to me the challenge is in showing people who haven’t been willing or able to look more closely at some of the interesting elements — not just to show them that they’re wrong.
    Is that picture Photoshopped? I assumed it was real. Does it matter?

  3. Robin Bougie on

    Good points, Jim! Well said.
    As for the picture, it found it on a message board. I really liked it because it it manages to be one of those crazy over-the-top porn pics, but unlike ones where you’re amazed at the size of the genetalia, the enormity of the insertion, or the freakiness of the kink, everything is relayed through facial expressions (which are right out of an insane asylum). There isn’t even any nudity.

  4. James Schellenberg on

    Robin,
    I’m completely puzzled when you say there’s no nudity in the photo. What exactly do you mean?
    I also don’t see how the picture supports your argument. You wave your hands and say that the issue of degradation goes away if it happens to both men and women. I get the exact opposite from the picture.
    James

  5. Well, generally when you can’t see a models “naughty bits”, it’s considered to safe for publication. I said “no nudity” to get that idea across.
    This picture supports my argument in just the way I wanted, because as your comment shows, many people constantly make the mistake of assuming the worst when they see images of a sexual nature.
    You see a woman being degraded in that picture, I see two people having agressive sex and making the crazy primal faces that people make when they have sex — in this case being played up a notch for the camera. Humping is not a PC act. It’s totally ok for it to be all nasty looking. In fact, many people prefer it that way.
    Like I mentioned in my article, I’m really saddened and frustrated that people see imagery of sex as inherantly degrading to women — sometimes without even realizing it. This photo is a perfect touchstone to make people question why they feel that way.
    I’d say more, but I’d just be repeating what I wrote in the peice itself.

  6. I don’t see two people engaged in a primal act. I see a possessed looking guy who’s raming into a woman who looks miserable. I’m the first to admit I get off on sexy images, but this one really creeps me out. It seems more like some man’s domination fantasy than two people fucking around.

  7. James Schellenberg on

    If my brain can remember some semiotics from school days…
    There’s a gap between signifier and signified that can’t be reduced, and the connection between the two can be different for different people. If the sign or image or icon is from a controversial and contested (and semiotically-rich) subject as sexuality, it’s dangerous to say that one person has “misinterpeted” a sign. That’s not to say that it’s all a postmodern muddle and no one can make a point about anything. More that this is a case where arguments have to be made with precision. That’s why I’m a little worried about using an image like this to support a case — I find it extremely offensive, others don’t, and the intended meaning is too slippery to rely on for rhetorical purposes.
    (And I thought I would never use that course in real life 🙂

  8. The distinction that there’s no nudity in the pic is kind of like horror movies where the murders happen offscreen. I remember being upset by Seven (or Se7en, whatever) because when I realized how someone had been killed I felt like someone had dragged through my brain through the muck.
    The question is, what do you like to plug into your brain? Talking about horror movies, I don’t like to watch them much… the fascination/attraction doesn’t often make up for the nerveshredding/repulsion. Lots of people don’t like videogames for the same reason, it feels like they’re being hunted. Some people like really spicy foods, while it just seems masochistic to others.
    In a horror movie, someone will be murdered and a fake dummy of the actor will be mutilated and profaned in the most violent and sickening ways. There’s not much serious criticism of this, however, and almost no one assumes that the actor was exploited. On the other hand I think most of us looking at the woman in this picture are feeling that this woman is actually in pain and being abused, while the odds are–given the craft involved in the framing of the picture, etc.–that it’s probably concentual. Are we OK with women acting out victimhood? Do we actually believe that people ever voluntarily take this role?

  9. what a photo! the looks on their faces! that guy is a maniac. and she’s miserable.
    That picture looks like a joke to me, with neither sincere mania nor misery. It’s not even meant to be serious, I assume. If you’re going to be offended, save your indignation for good acting, at least.

  10. The Cro-magnon man depicted in this photo has his own website called Monsters of Cock and if you saw the size of his you would realise why the girl is looking quite pained or is that surprised. Everything is set up to look like they are in real pain when the reality is they could probably take even more. This lovely looking chap appears on other sites where they portend to to pick up teenage virgins hithchiking or in malls, wherever, and bang the hell out of them, usually anally. Everything you see on these type of sites are all staged and are there solely for the purpose of conning some poor sucker into whipping out his credit card and downloading the same old boring pretend virgin teenage sex.

  11. Hmmmmm interesting points, I am female and not fussed on moving porn myself, but I think one of the most valid points brought up is and I always myself had the view that if it was degrading to women, then it is also degrading to men therefore it is just a lifestyle choice I guess at the end of the day, horses for courses (within reason, obviously where children and/or animals are concerned, it is out of the question). I am just extremely annoyed because I am visual too and whilst I dont like watching porn itself, I don’t mind some nicely done straight male nude pics, but do you think I could find any for free without a huge hassle? No, but for men it is just naked women’s galore for free everywhere all the time, that’s what gets me…..

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