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Aug 14 2007

Ticky-Tacky, or Why Most Mainstream Het Porn Bores The Pants On To Me

This piece was originally written for Fishnet about ten years ago. A few of the details of the porn industry formulas have changed since then, but it’s somewhat unnerving to realize how apt this piece still is. FYI, the videos here used to illustrate ticky-tacky porn here are not necessarily ones that I’ve seen. If I’m mistaken and one or more of them is actually an exception to the ticky-tacky standard, please accept my apologies. (The videos illustrating concepts of good porn are all ones that I’ve seen.)

Boxes*Little boxes, on the hillside
Little boxes, made of ticky-tacky
And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same…*
-Malvina Reynolds, “Little Boxes”

Ecstasy_in_berlin_1926No, don’t worry. This isn’t a rant about why porn is sexist and oppressive and demeaning and generally a Bad Thing For Our Society. I like porn quite a bit. I whack off to it all the time. And I have a very squishy soft spot in my heart for video porn. Real actual people having real actual sex, right there in real life videotape in the privacy of your own living room — what could be bad?

I_dream_of_jennaBut Lordy, Lordy, am I ever tired of the formula. I am so tired of flat stomachs and big fake boobs and long ratty bleached-and-permed hair. I am super-tired of pussies shaved into the Hitler moustache. And Christ on a crutch, I am so far beyond tired of cum shots that I could just plotz.

It’s not that I could never find any of these things arousing. I’m just tired of the repetition. I’m tired of seeing the same types of bodies and the same hairstyles and the same four or five sex acts over and over and over again. And I’m tired of what this repetition, this sameness, says to me about the porn industry.

AvnYou see, it seems to me as if the folks in the mainstream het porn industry are not really trying very hard to turn people on. They seem instead to be trying desperately hard not to turn people off. The decisions about what body types and hairstyles and sexual variations get put on video seem to be based, not on creating images that customers might find arousing, but on avoiding images that customers might not want to see. The very narrowness of the erotic vision speaks to me of marketing meetings, and lowest common denominators, and fear.

Hands_typingI have this mental image. Joe-Bob Jones in Bumblebrain, Idaho writes an irate letter to the Veryhot Porn Company about their recent release, “Suzie Sucks South Dakota.” The shot of Suzie with two dicks in her mouth has apparently put him right off his lunch. Those dicks were actually touching each other! he rants. What do they think he is, anyway; some sorta faggot? If he wanted faggot porn, he’d rent faggot porn. He’s never renting another Veryhot video again.

The marketing dudes at Veryhot are appalled. “We’ve lost a customer!” they shriek. “And you know there are a hundred more like him who didn’t bother to write! Send a memo to all personnel immediately — no more double-blow-job shots ever!”

Pen_in_handA month later, Billy-Bob Baker in Deadwood, California writes an enraged letter about another Veryhot release, “Lust’s Labour’s Lost.” One of the girls, it seems, had a belly that was actually convex in shape. Ew! Fat chicks! He doesn’t wanna look at fat chicks. If he wanted to look at fat chicks, he’d rent a fat chick video…

Computer_keyboard…and a month later, they get an infuriated letter from Jim-Bob Harper, complaining about the scene in “Lovely Rita, Peter Maid,” where Rita put her finger up the guy’s butt…

…and then one of Veryhot’s competitors, Hothothot Video, releases “Blonde Supermodels With Big Plastic Tits, Part 1,” and the sales go through the roof (cutting directly into the sales of Veryhot’s own new release, “Brunette Supermodels With Small Natural Tits, Part 1″)…

…and then Veryhot does a sales analysis and realizes that “Crossfire 3″ isn’t doing nearly as well as “Crossfire 2,” and they wonder if maybe the black guy on the box cover turned some people off…

Avn_awards_2007…and the bandwidth just gets narrower and narrower, until eventually, Veryhot Video, along with Hothothot Video and Superhot Video and everyone else in the mainstream het porn business, is putting out the same damn movie over and over and over again. Sometimes they’re fucking in a ski resort, and sometimes they’re fucking on a park bench, and sometimes they’re fucking on Mars… but they’re all made out of ticky-tacky, and they all look just the same.

Gripe, gripe, gripe. I know, I’m just being another nattering nabob of negativity. Can’t I ever say anything nice about anyone? Accentuate the positive and all that?

Sure. Positivity coming right up. Here are some things I would like to see more of in porn movies:

Sugar_high_glitter_cityShort women.

Round women.

Older women.

Women with short hair.

Ashley_and_kishaPeople of color — both men and women.

Masculine women and effeminate men.

Unshaved pussies.

Wet pussies. (I’d think this one would be a no-brainer. Why on earth wouldn’t you want to see dampness and juice and lovely squishy slippery stuff oozing out of the woman’s cunt while she’s getting fucked? But I almost never do. Not on video, anyway. I guess Jim-Bob and his friends got grossed out by it or something.)

Lubed assholes. (This one truly makes me cringe. Every time I see some huge porno-dick pushing into some woman’s asshole with no visible means of lubrication, my poor little clit curls up in a fetal position and puts its hands over its eyes. I don’t think it’s violence against women or anything; I just don’t get it.)

Bend_over_boyfriendWomen fucking men up the butt.

Men sucking women’s strap-on dicks.

Rimming.

Titfucking.

Crossdressing.

Cunnilingus scenes in which the cunnilinger isn’t just lapping away delicately at the cunnilingee with the tip of his/her tongue; or, to be crude about it, faces shoved right up into pussies.

Two guys/one girl scenes in which the guys don’t go through absurd circus-like contortions to avoid touching each other.

Orgies and puppy-piles, ditto.

Sex toys. Vibrators and butt toys especially.

Bridal_showerShots of people’s faces when they come.

Whole-body shots of the couple (or triple, or whatever) when they come.

Shots of the couple (or triple, etc.) coming in which the guy doesn’t pull out and shoot all over hell and gone when he comes. (I know, I’m living in a dream world. I’d like to see Ru Paul elected President, too.)

Shots of the women’s orgasm. Whether that means female ejaculation, or close-ups of her face, or even some very persuasive moaning and screaming, doesn’t matter to me. I just want to see the women come (or fake it convincingly, anyway).

Big_booty_hosNow, I realize that, with a little leg work, I can find fetish videos with any one of these variations. But I don’t want fetish videos. Well, alright, sometimes I do, but that’s not the point. The point is that I don’t see why sexual variation has to be fetishized. I don’t see why I should have to choose between an all-skinny and an all-fat cast, or between lily-white performers and racial fetishization.

BitanicAnd perhaps most importantly, I want to see more than one of these variations at a time. Sure, I can get a video featuring people of color… but they’re all going to be skinny and young with shaved pussies and no two guys touching each other. Sure, I can rent a bi video… but they’re all going to be skinny and young with shaved pussies and white as the driven snow. Sure, I can find a video showing women with pussy hair, but… you get the drift. The fetish videos (the ones I’ve seen, anyway) work by following the narrow-bandwidth formula in every area except for the one being fetishized. And that just looks like more ticky-tacky to me.

New_wave_hookersI know I’m exaggerating, and I know there are exceptions. I could even name you some. But I don’t think I’m exaggerating by much; and even the exceptions don’t stretch the envelope very far. Yeah, I might get to see a guy in a funny monster mask fucking a black woman, or a woman with short hair licking another woman’s butthole. But videos with the sort of exuberant, eclectic, polymorphous sort of sexual exploration that I’m talking about are very, very hard to find. (If you have any titles you can recommend, please please please let me know.)

Slide_bi_meI think what I’m getting at here is that I find variety, in and of itself, arousing. And when I say that I want to see more round bellies and more wet pussies and more guys getting it up the butt, I think what I’m really saying is that I want to see more variety, period. I want to see more of everything. I want porn that gives me new fantasies and new images and new ideas about fun stuff to try.

Britney_rears_2And I want the mainstream het porn industry to quit saturating the market with ritualized, rigidly circumscribed, formulaic, ticky-tacky sex in a box. It insults my intelligence — and it insults the intelligence of all porn customers. We deserve better.

16 comments

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  1. 1
    Christophe

    And some things never change. Our best selling video (like, by a bazillion gillion mile) is The Crash Pad, which we’ve gotten multiple complaints about because a lesbian video made by a lesbian director with an all-lesbian cast in the heart of the lesbianist part of the lesbian district of San Francisco…
    … doesn’t have guys in it.
    Sometimes, all you can do is nod, smile, and give them their money back.

  2. 2
    ShifterCat

    One question: are the video box pictures that go with this article meant to be good examples, bad examples, or some of each?

  3. 3
    Greta Christina

    “are the video box pictures that go with this article meant to be good examples, bad examples, or some of each?”
    Some of each. I’m sorry, I thought that was clear from my intro. “Ecstasy in Berlin 1926,” “Sugar High Glitter City,” “Ashley and Kisha,” “Bend Over Boyfriend,” “The Bridal Shower,” and “Slide Bi Me” are all, IMO, great.

  4. 4
    ShifterCat

    *looks* Oh. I guess I wasn’t paying enough attention to how each paragraph corresponds to the picture next to it. Pardon me. :)

  5. 5
    Iamcuriousblue

    I have mixed feelings about this whole issue. On one hand, I think there should be a hell of a lot more variety in porn. On the other hand, like a lot of more mainstream viewers, I’ve got a lot of “squicks” when it comes to performer appearance. I’m actually quite familiar with most of the positive porn titles you’ve just mentioned, and I bet they show some real sexual pleasure. I haven’t bothered to pick any of them up though. My big hangup? I’m just not turned on by the actors, so I’m not going to be into it. (Not to say that Jenna’s my type, either.)
    I’ve read a lot of sex positive folks talk about “pansexuality” as the solution for better porn – throw together all body types, all sexual preferences, and all gender identities into one diverse mass and somehow everybody will come out happy. The problem is that its totally not where most people are at sexually.
    Personally, I think the whole nichefication of porn that’s being driven by the internet is a better trend. Pansexuality is just one niche among many, and I hope there’s plenty of it for those who’s boat it floats. But I also hope there continues to be lots of highly fetishistic porn for those of us for whom a have that one special “type” or sexual act that does it for them.

  6. 6
    C.S. Lewiston

    “I am super-tired of pussies shaved into the Hitler moustache. ”
    Clitler? :~) (Ducks to avoid heavy object thrown at head)
    Wonder what Malvina Reynolds would have said about the subject to which you’ve applied her lyrics? No matter, it fits only too well!
    What I don’t get is the current porn industry fetish of cum facials. Seeing a woman get a blast of jism in the face just leaves me cold.
    My thing is open-source (read: amateur) porn, some of which is free for the downloading. Most of the people in these productions look average. A few are butt-ugly, but so what? At least these are real people and not Hollywood mannequins! (and FWIW, some “fat” chicks look mighty hot to this reporter!)
    What’s wrong with mainstream porn is what’s wrong with popular media in general. A few large companies and/or organizations settle on THE FORMULA, which must be unwaveringly adhered to. Indeed, music which is more than your standard teenage love ditty seldom gets on the radio or shows up at the mall record store. Movies which don’t fit into standard Hollywood pigeonholes get sloughed off to ghettoized “art houses”. And TV? The technology of TV and standards as to what gets shown have changed markedly over the years, but the fundamental plot formulas for each genre (crime drama, science fiction, etc.) have not.
    I believe that this is at least partly because mass media is a vehicle by which the ruling elite control the thought patterns of the masses. How many people form their ideas about love, sex and relationships based upon popular songs? Is it purely a business decision that nearly every song on the radio is about “love”? You might consciously resist frank limitations on sexual expression, but when you hear the same messages about “love” hundreds of times a day in the form of popular music…
    But don’t the elite try to suppress or censor porn? No, they suppress factual sex education. They suppress movements dedicated to non-mainstream ideas about sex and sexuality. I believe that they use porn to control peoples’ most intimate ideas and attitudes about sex the way they now use popular music to control their ideas about love (so-called). Am I paranoid? Check it out for yourself.

  7. 7
    Mark

    I prefer “chubby” porn, myself. Not rolls-and-rolls-of-fat, but a little extra meat.
    I don’t particularly care for cumshots, with one major exception… come on, you know you love him…
    PETER NORTH!!
    …and it’s more for the humor value than for the erotic value.

  8. 8
    Jacob

    The one thing I have not been able to find anywhere (except for genuine amature – and often not even then) is a video where the camera doesn’t make a point of showing us the cum.
    Every other thing I’ve seen.
    And the thing is, it is so incredibly unnatural.
    Aside from withdrawal method birth control, why would anyone ever do that? It feels better to both partners if during intercourse, he cums inside her.
    There are, of course, the “cream pie” movies, the “fetish” of which is internal ejaculation (how is that a fetish? Some of the variety the author suggests aren’t exactly universal, but cumming in your partner is a fetish?!?!?!)
    but even those movies, afterward, they always zoom in on it dripping back out. Maybe some people are into that. I can’t be the one person who isn’t.
    And its not that I don’t find the appeal in the facial. Its unfortunate that 90% of the bukkake movies are censored.
    But, come on, every time?
    Is Billy Bob writing to complain that his latest video had one scene in which a guy was getting a blowjob, and came IN her mouth instead of on her face?
    Who’s idea was it?
    How the hell did it catch on?
    I’ve never heard of anyone who prefers this format.
    How can it increase sales?
    Well, I tell you one thing.
    The one I was in, we didn’t do that crap.
    I pulled out only so I could keep going, cause she was close, but not quite there yet. The camera was on her face when she came (it was real), then I came a second time – inside of her. And then I held her after.
    If anyone knows the term for a fetish video which doesn’t go out of its way to show the viewers the cum, (its ok if it just happens to happen that way) please let me know.

  9. 9
    Eclectic

    You mention seeing people come. That reminds me, one style of porn that turns me on massively is the Beautiful Agony site. It’s its own narrow specialization, and I like a little more variety in my diet, but it’s something I enjoy frequently.
    It’s simply face shots of people (occasionally couples) masturbating to orgasm. Nothing visible below the neck, just eyes on the camera until they really have to be closed.
    Damn, it’s hot.
    (It’s also a fun example to cite when people are trying to define porn and/or obscenity. By what objective standard do their videos differ from Meg Ryan’s famous scene in When Harry Met Sally?)

  10. 10
    monk

    Personally, I think the whole nichefication of porn that’s being driven by the internet is a better trend. Pansexuality is just one niche among many, and I hope there’s plenty of it for those who’s boat it floats. But I also hope there continues to be lots of highly fetishistic porn for those of us for whom a have that one special “type” or sexual act that does it for them.

  11. 11
    Kade Azkyroth

    At least these are real people and not Hollywood mannequins! (and FWIW, some “fat” chicks look mighty hot to this reporter!)

    Which leads me into something I’d like to see: I wish the people labeling the “fetish” stuff would stick to a given meaning of the labels. “Mature” and “fat” are good examples; the latter seems to be used for anyone ranging from the upper third of the “healthy” weight range (which is attractive to me and in fact generally preferable to “skinny”) to morbidly obese (which, being unhealthy, really isn’t).
    Other things I desperately want: dialogue that doesn’t suck. As a consumer of internet porn, I find that for me the actual sex depicted takes a back seat to the interaction of the performers. Cute/clever/personable banter in foreplay, and mixed with unfeigned gasping in more intense moments, is really, really appealing, especially when it’s in the form of genuine enthusiasm from the women involved; “yeah…yeah…suck it…yeah…oh yeah…oh…yeah…yeah” is just plain obnoxious.

  12. 12
    Ngaio

    In response to Eclectic, the makers of Beautiful Agony have a sister site, ifeelmyself.com which is solely dedicated to real female orgasm. It shows a lot more than just the face… and here comes my bias because I work for the company… I think it’s a wonderful website.
    Greta, awesome post once again and I couldn’t agree with you more!

  13. 13
    Celine

    you know, my biggest problem with porn is that it is SO CLEARLY not made with female viewers in mind, except when it is, and then it’s this niche thing and a lot of it is still really bad.
    I’m the kind of gal who wants to see pretty straight men get the shit beaten out of them and then get fucked by women who look like someone I’d go to school with or meet at the grocery store (read: pretty but human). People tell me to go to meninpain or any of the other femdom sites, but here’s the problem: all those sites were made FOR MEN. every shot is so clearly focused on some male submissive’s idea of a dream domme that I just don’t care anymore. I want the sexy submissive male front and center, because that is what I’m interested in.
    I can’t even get a break with erotic lit! 99 percent of all erotic book covers feature women, because the publishing companies are too afraid to piss off a male audience that doesn’t even exist!

  14. 14
    Maria

    @ Celine. I so agree with every word you wrote!!

  15. 15
    Ian Ironwood

    Greta,
    As a porn industry professional, perhaps I can shed some light on why mainstream porn doesn’t appeal to you and many women:
    Women don’t buy porn.
    I didn’t say women don’t watch porn, I didn’t say women don’t enjoy porn, I didn’t say women don’t collect porn . . . but by and large men make up over 80% of the porn-buying public. And they buy far more frequently than women. The average porn-watching woman will buy 2-3 DVDs a year. The average porn-watching man will buy 2-3 DVDs a month, with some of them doing that kind of business on a weekly basis. Women tend to be pickier about their fare (hence your article) and they tend to watch their movies over and over, once they find something they like. Men, on the other hand, watch a porn DVD an average of 2.7 times before discarding it in favor of something newer.
    So why does this mean that there isn’t any good porn for women?
    Well, because the industry is going to cater to the majority of their customer base, and that customer base is primarily male. It’s not that “mainstream porn” doesn’t want to sell to women — they’ll sell to anyone they legally can — but until women start being a powerful market factor in porn, instead of a fractional consideration, you can expect more of the same.
    The good news is that the lower cost of entry and the internet have made it possible to locate just what kind of stuff gets you off. This in turn has led to several popular “niches”, like Interracial, All-Black, and MILF (HIGHLY popular) which don’t necessarily feature the sameold, sameold.
    But the fundamental fact remains that most porn is going to be like it is until women start demanding more . . . with their pocketbooks.
    Ian Ironwood
    Professional Porn Reviewer

  16. 16
    JOBS_frend

    Hi, I congratulate you on Merry Christmas!

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