Douglas Haddow at Adbusters takes a look at the pornification of Western culture and how it affects men's views of sex and masculinity. You can guess that he doesn't think it's done any good.
He starts off describing his first experience with porn, at a sleepover in his early years.
Beyond the faint hum of the machinery, my mates' chuckles and gasps and the crunching sound of cheesy poofs, my ears are keenly attuned to the dialogue of the "film" that's got us so transfixed.
"Fuck my pussy doctor!" the nurse commands, putting an end to the corndog foreplay that I thought would never cease. She then lays herself out on the examination table and spreads her milky thighs wide open as the shot dissolves into a close-up of a mustachioed physician's abstractly penetrating gaze.
And so it began. My virgin eyes were submerged into an ocean of luma-chroma sex acts and the outrageous poetics of consumerist eros: turgid hard-ons mechanically harpooning seeping vaginal canals and gracefully spraying sperm streams atop mountainous titties with their omnipresent nipple peaks.
I, personally, am really hoping that "corndog foreplay" is a metaphor. His point, though, is that when he was younger, porn wasn't nearly as widely available as it is today and what there was of it was relatively less violent.
But fast forward a few years and, with the advent of the Internet, a virtually unlimited — and virtual — stream of porn was at every masturbation fan's fingertips.
Buoyed by this exponential growth and the backing of media conglomerates like News Corp, the production of hard-core video increased by 700 percent from 1992 to 2005, with worldwide revenues clocking in at nearly $100 billion. Porn had officially arrived, and its enviable profit margins forced "legit" mass media to gradually conform to the aesthetic of its fleshy contours.
As more people watched porn, it began to seep into pop culture, untill Haddow himself was hired to participate in it.
I walk into the makeshift studio and there are a number of naked and semi-naked porn "stars" (white dwarfs really) floating around like wandering livestock. After drilling back a couple vodka tonics, I follow the girls over to a cheap white-paper backdrop and we get to into it. "Spread your legs," I say. "Eat her pussy out, yeah, that's it, oh fuck yeah." I'm just regurgitating tired clichés but it feels natural, like swinging a bat or popping a jump shot. Hostile facial contortions and faux cunnilingus ensue. The producer is up to his eyeballs in blow, pacing back and forth, his teeth chattering up and down like a wind-up toy.
That sounds somewhat less than actually erotic, much like Haddow's description of his first Max Hardcore film that he watched for the piece, which disturbs him enough he quits watching.
Instead, he surfs to watch a Sasha Grey film as research for their interview. He contrasts that with Grey's view that pornography serves an important — and even educational — function.
The calm, thoughtful tone of her voice creates an unsettling sensual cocktail when mixed with the vacancy of her pixilated hazel eyes, an oasis of "the real" in a desert of unreality. Or perhaps it's just a mirage or a "lovemark," as marketing guru Kevin Roberts might say. The Sasha Grey brand is an ideal vehicle for the normalization of porn because she's a willing industry activist who genuinely believes that the consumption of her videos promotes a positive understanding of sexual health.
But has our outlook on sex become so pornified that we're willing to accept 20 minutes of vacuous anal sex as sex-positive edutainment?
Haddow also has a conversation with French author and filmmaker Virginie Depentes, who thinks that porn is somewhat less necessary for a healthy sexual outlook. She says:
"Pornography hits the blind corner of reason. It directly addresses our primitive fantasies, bypassing words and thought. The hard-on or wetness comes first, wondering why follows behind. Self-censorship reactions are shaken. Porn images don't give us any choice: here's what turns you on, here's what makes you respond."
Depentes is arguing — like Meredith Chivers' research into female sexuality shows — that arousal can be pre-cognitive, stimulating us without us being conscious of why... or even liking that it does.