Perfect Porn and Other Myths

This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog. Please note: This piece discusses, not so much my personal sex life, but my tastes and preferences in porn, and it does so in some detail. If you don’t want to read that, please don’t.

It’s almost a throwaway line. And yet it’s stuck with me for weeks.

“I figured out pretty soon that, to get a video that pushes all your buttons and doesn’t grate on any squicks, you have to win the lottery and produce it yourself.”

Adele_schoolThis is spanking model Adele Haze, in a blog piece titled Why I Modelled for Lupus Pictures. It’s a smart, insightful piece about why she was willing — not just willing, but happy — to perform in a spanking video for a production company that she knew was going to physically push her much, much harder than she liked. The piece has some compelling implications, not just about spanking porn or even porn in general, but about any kind of sexual relationship, and indeed any kind of job.

I’ve written about those implications elsewhere. But right now, I’m fixated on this one comment she made almost in passing. Again:

“I figured out pretty soon that, to get a video that pushes all your buttons and doesn’t grate on any squicks, you have to win the lottery and produce it yourself.”

I think this is one of the smartest things I’ve read about porn. I think it has important implications, for both porn critics and porn consumers alike. And I think it has even bigger implications for porn creators.

Fashionistas_safadoI’ve been a porn consumer for close to thirty years now, and a porn critic for over a decade. And as both a consumer and a critic, I’ve definitely fallen into the trap Haze is talking about. I’ve griped about porn — videos, stories, photo collections, comics, whatever — being too arty, and I’ve griped about them being too raw. I’ve griped when porn took forever to get to the good parts, and I’ve griped when it rushed to the sex too soon. I’ve griped when the porn I was watching was too soft-focus and romantic, and I’ve griped when it treated its characters like meat. I’ve griped because the performers didn’t spank as hard as I liked, and I’ve griped because they spanked too hard.

Masked_charadeIn other words, I’ve definitely griped about porn because it either didn’t push all my erotic buttons just right, or because it grated on some of my squicks. I’ve griped when it hasn’t fallen into my perfect window: the perfect amount of artistry without sacrificing spontaneity, the perfect amount of teasing and buildup to get me worked up without getting me frustrated and bored, the perfect degree of roughness or kink to be convincingly real without being terrifyingly brutal.

And I — along with every other porn consumer and porn critic — have to acknowledge that this really isn’t fair.

Elevator_buttonsOf course I have a right to my erotic buttons. I have a right to express those erotic buttons. And I have a right to seek out porn that pushes them. Absolutely. But it isn’t right to act as if porn creators have done something wrong for failing to push them.

Besides, and much more to the point…

Lostgirls_01The porn that I’ve loved most passionately hasn’t necessarily pushed my erotic buttons at all. And some of it has definitely grated on my squicks. The porn that I’ve loved most passionately has been the porn that most effectively got across how the people in it felt about the sex they were having — regardless of whether the sex they were having was sex I wanted to have, or even wanted to fantasize about.

Casual_sexIf I can be drawn inside the head and the skin of the performers/ characters/ models, if I can be made to really feel what it feels like to be this person/these people having this sex and to feel what they find hot about it, the actual content can be just about anything. It can be content that would usually bore me, and it can be content that would usually squick me. If I can get why they find it hot, I can generally find it hot myself.

Ashley_and_kishaThis is the main reason I’m so rabid about authenticity and enthusiasm in video porn. An authentic, enthusiastic performance in a porn video will completely bypass the presence or absence of my erotic buttons, and will turn me on by the sheer force of the performers’ own excitement. A competent piece of push-the-buttons porn will only get me off if it hits my buttons successfully.

AvnredcarpetvidsAnd I think that’s a lot of what’s wrong with so much porn. Mainstream video porn especially, but it’s true of almost any commercial porn. I think way too much porn focuses way too hard on maximizing their button pushing and minimizing their squick-grating (emphasis on minimizing their squick-grating). They spend way too much time and energy checking off boxes on the “positions and sex acts” checklist (did we get the blowjob? did we get the reverse cowgirl? did we get the anal?) and making sure none of the “avoid at all costs” boxes get touched (did the guys’ dicks touch each other? does the girl look even slightly fat?). And as a result, they all too often forget the entire point of the exercise — namely, to show how exciting it feels to have great sex.