On Brazilian porn by Anna B. Volk 8.2.12

On Brazilian porn (part 1)

Many thanks to Christian Madsen, without whom this article would still be a draft. 

If you are a woman, just mutter the words “I am Brazilian” and watch as heads turn and people look at you under a different light. There is no escape: Brazilian women are regarded differently from any other nationality when it comes to sex, and the reason does not rest on Brazilian porn. Or does it?

 


One of the first porn films I watched was one of Buttman’s adventures in Rio. I remember back then – still a teenager and with no idea I would somehow work with the porn industry – to be uncomfortable not with the sex, but with the way Brazilian women were portrayed in the film. The scenes bordered women abuse not in the nature of the sexual content presented, but in the positioning of the performers in relation to each other and to the roles they were developing. There was some kind of veiled violence that had nothing to do with the roughness of the sexual act, but still underlined all movements, utterances, and visual aspects of the film. It looked as if the women were being punished for being Brazilian, as if they were being treated as less than, say, American counterparts would be under the same circumstances.

It wasn’t until I started reading about post colonialism and subaltern colonization that it all made sense to me. Social constructs that go back to the colonial era are strongly influenced by the phallocentric prejudice that classifies “native” women as passive and inferiors. In fact, many of the representations of the female “native” figure in literature and art perpetuate the myth of the erotically overcharged female: the exotic gives room to the erotic, and the unknown, dangerous body represents a threatening jungle that contains too many dark secrets and must be ravished. Add to that the correspondence between the land and the female body – where invading the latter would consolidate conquering the former, a common practice with the invasion of a land eventually leading to the raping of its women – and you have “the parallel between the relationship man-woman and the relationship empire-colony or colonizer-colonized [which] has often been cited in postcolonial theory as well as the “double colonization” of women in colonial situations.” (VIJOEN, 1996).

We must recognize that imperialism is essentially a form of patriarchy that diminishes any opportunity for identity formation in its subjects. In other words, the vertical structure of a patriarchal structure limits action of any Others – women, mostly. However, the subjugation generated in that kind of pornography blurs gender and race borders: it involves both racial inferiority and the belittling of female sexuality. In Gayatri Spivak’s terms, epistemic violence results when in (post)colonial discourse, the subaltern is silenced by both the colonial and indigenous patriarchal power. (SPIVAK, 1992) In the neocolonialism practiced inside the adult industry, the female indigenous body is suppressed by both a masculine and a colonizer’s body; that is to say, the double oppression gender – race places her on the lower hierarchical levels, reducing her to an object which would lose to no other in any rank – not even to the American woman herself.

My question is: WHY does this happen? Is it just a consequence of the economic differences between countries, or is it a result of a way of perceiving sexuality, and mostly, Brazilian female sexuality? Is there any possibility of re-inscription as a subaltern to the female agent, or is she doomed to be under dominance of both male and white race forever? By inhabiting a space which is violent and marked by ultimate physical degradation, could the Brazilian woman speak?

In Foucault’s analysis of power/knowledge dynamics, an episteme consists of the “unitary body of theory” which tends to privilege some knowledges while it subjugates certain others, ranking them low in its hierarchical paradigm. These disqualified knowledges pose challenges to the power and organization of the dominant episteme by claiming attention to their oppositional emergence. As Hayden White, in his interpretation of Foucault’s tropology has explained, the dominant discursive metaphor of a given community determines both “what can be seen” in the world, as well as “what can be known about it”. Therefore, the results of what can be seen and known about the Brazilian woman is filtered through the Eurocentric patrilineal white male eye.

It was, then, epistemic violence what I saw in that Buttman video. The question of epistemic violence is related to issues such as who produces knowledge, or how power and desire appropriate and condition the production of knowledge. The exploitation of the female body as it is constructed by patriarchy, together with patriarchal values aimed at the victimization of women and the destruction of a female sense of selfhood, has led to the double erasure of the female persona in this kind of adult films because it justifies the permanence of established moral codes which, if shaken, might deconstruct not only social but also economic relations. It is, then, reinstating the colonization process by reinforcing the idea of inferiority based on two axes: one, the female identity; the other, the racial/ethnic difference.

But how does all this play out in films produced in Brazil, by Brazilian directors?

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Written on the body

The roof flew from over my house – I have a house in the mountains – and I had to rush there and try to beat the rain. And while I was moving books around, I came across something I wrote when I was fourteen. I was in love then, and the back of my notebooks were filled with initials and hearts and arrows. Among all that, my first attempt to write erotica: only seven lines, scribbled in purple ink, so bold and strong for a fourteen- year-old. But I was in love. And I felt like I could do it.

***

I was too embarrassed to have even written it, though it did give me a sense of power that I had never felt until then. I never showed it to the boy.

***

I am terrible at writing erotica. Throughout my life, because of the nature of the work I do, and my own personal interests, and what I say inside the academic world, I have been invited more than a handful of times to write erotica. I never went through with it. I have turned down anthologies, double spreads, have risked and failed terribly at writing for videos: all because I just cannot find inside me words enough, I tell myself. The descriptiveness needed for erotic writing is an art that I just cannot master: it requires a plethora of vocabulary that I do not possess, structures which I cannot comprehend, and mechanics which are way beyond me.
I am not a good erotica reader, either. Sometimes it is impossible for me to disconnect from the structural part of any writing, and I see myself looking for figures of speech and word repetition and oxymoron. I cringe at redundancies, and that is why I am a terrible erotica reader. Long descriptive lines do not succeed in arousing me, but rather have me building in my head a blueprinted design of how things are supposed to fit together in that given position. I approach erotica with technical glasses and gloves, and both the literate and the architect in me just will not let me enjoy it.

 

That is why, when I find erotic writing that physically affects me, I fall in love. And this recently happened when I crossed this . I met Liza on Twitter, some joke about being sick and doctor prescribing hotel sex, and it led me to her blog. Maybe she does not even write erotica: maybe she just writes life. But all I can say is that her words have left me speechless and unable to think for some time after I read the first lines. Maybe it is not even a story. Maybe it just happened. All I know is what happened to my body after I was done with her lines. And I fell in love.

***

On the same note, Natasha Gornik always wins me over in a heartbeat: “i want to lick Prague”. If you haven’t read it, you should. It is right here.

***
It is easy for me to write about sexuality and pornography. It is easy to do it, because – if done according to academic standards – there is very little of me I need to put into my work. I have had students inquiring me about my own sexuality and it never surprises me when people are amazed that they cannot grasp ME from my writing. It is academic pornography: in the academic world, the academic has the least important role in the play. We celebrate the work we are studying, its author, its audience. We are always hidden behind quotations and syntaxes. We are even, I dare say, supposed to remain apart from whatever it is we discourse about. Any of our own personal preferences slides inside an article or seminar and we have just put into question everything we have just said. We suppress “in my opinions”, “in my point of views” because we are merely reporting what, yes, we have concluded and, yet, is everything but our own thoughts. That is why I don’t find it strange when people ask me my own sexual orientation, or preferences, or fantasies. I might even give them a direct answer now and then.

***

All this is to explain why I have been MIA from Darling House. I am in love. With a person, with their words, with how things are said to me. But, mostly, I am in love with this whole new world of erotica writing which, slowly and out of necessity, is welcoming me. Maybe nothing will come of it, maybe I just need to go through this scary phase, where I cannot think about anything else. Maybe it is theory coming into practice – and what a frightening thing that is! Maybe it is something more. Maybe. Just bear with me for a little longer: I don’t remember the last time I felt like I was fourteen. And it feels fucking great.

***

The new boy reads my erotica in full. Maybe it is not even erotica. Maybe it will just happen. But it still makes me feel empowered. Even after all these years. The difference is that, now, I write for him to read. And I show it to him: pieces of me, written on my body.

 

 

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“Dear daddy: love, a porn scholar” A letter to my Father by Anna B. Volk

This is an open letter I wrote to my father. As an academic himself, he is able to understand my work; as a father, he debates over whether his only daughter should be dealing with “pornography” at “such an early age”.  I hope this helps him understand how deeply rooted within him social prejudices and categorization tools are.  

 

The academic world seems to think that pornography is too unrefined, too raw, basic, instinctive, too primary and not rational enough for “men and women of letters”. What they fail to see, however, is that any form of art, any format of art as cultural manifestation has per passed pornography at some point in history, be it writing, sculpture, dancing, painting, cinema, music. Yet, pornography is erased from all art forms that involves nudity and sex the minute the academic world requires justification to allow it in: think of Rubens, and his naked chubby ladies, and how we are immediately taught that it is not about nudity and sex, but about female body adoration; Michelangelo’s David and the denial there is any sexual intention in the portrayal of the masculine body, the work being justified as a semi-mathematical ode to human form and proportion; Rodin’s Kiss being deployed of sexual content, explained as belonging to a realm which goes beyond the physical one, at some point even sublimating his relationship to Camille Claudel by restricting it exclusively to the artistic realm. By eliminating pornography from art pieces it becomes acceptable to observe it, to debate it, to enjoy it, because an art which would aim at sexually arousing people is immediately regarded as less valid than arts which appeal to less carnal senses.

Carnal relationships are understood as being less noble than love, spiritual, or even intellectual ones. However, what signifies a relationship that belongs exclusively to one of those spheres to one person, for another might blur boundaries and penetrate more than one of those territories, this way working in double reference and functioning as sexually arousing at the same time that it holds some other significance. For these people – to whom sex and sexual desire are intrinsically connected to other less “mundane” aspects, such as relational skills, intellect, or even religious experiences – to dichotomize sexual arousal from other interests becomes impossible. For these same people, however, the secondary aspect of the artistic intention works as a solvent to the pornographic tone of the artistic matter, if so they wish, and they are able to justify the sexuality in their art under the scope of other sciences.

Sexual art, on the other hand, holds its place inside the academic world as a matter to be approached only under the lenses of other disciplines: sociology, psychology, history, all disciplines can be asked to harbor pornographic art under their scope, if this means securing the place of those works inside the academic debate. Therefore, photographs by Nan Goldin, for example, are constantly justified as being an account of contemporary sexuality, often being taken only as registers of the sexual atmosphere of a certain time and place. Di Cavalcanti’s mulatas are supposed to represent an emerging Brazilian culture, which intentionally promotes the Brazilian woman as a means of reinforcing a national identity. Dash Snow’s “F*** the Police” should represent the ever going clash between power and sex. And, if everything else fails, the naturalist argument that “there is nothing wrong with flesh” comes into action, as to eliminate any underlying meaning of sexual provocation. It is as if the idea of sex or nudity as a sexual arousing tool tinted any art piece, draining its artistic value and relegating it to a category of intentionality that does not comply with that which is expected from the ”fine arts”. After all, art’s objectives should tangent exclusively spiritual elevation, and never, ever inflict body reactions to its observers – or at least not physical reactions which would remind them or their own condition as irrational, impulsive, instinctive animals.

In a Platonic concept of ideal world, where arts is a threat permanently confronted with the necessity to be censored and regulated in order to formulate good citizens – remember, Plato proposed sending poets and playwrights out of his ideal Republic – the state’s interference in artistic endeavors would work more like a tool to eliminate or belittle the power of the arts to influence, and potentially to corrupt. In a Foucauldian analysis of all “neoliberal governmentality” and the institution of inner-regulatory strategies, aligned with the standardization and normatisation of sexuality, sexual acts, expectations, and what is acceptable to desire, would function as a much more solid regulatory tool. In other words, it is by installing a regulatory apparel inside each active citizen that a system is able to secure that any threat is immediately eliminated by the same subjects it intends to corrupt. Therefore, to perpetrate ideas of what is “normal” or “healthy” sexuality and, at the same time, to impose locale in which the expression of sexual desire should be delivered is a way to make sure that people would reprimand any form of artistic expression which does not comply with said rules.

The academic world, therefore, presents itself as a perfect space for the categorization and dissection of erotic and pornographic art, embedded in pseudo-intellectual pre-concepts of what is art and what only mediates social discourse. It is about time the academic community worldwide understands that pornography is as a valid form of art as any other, and the fact it emerges so instinctively to all societies should, alone, advocate for the need of facing pornographic artistic expressions as valid and subject to deep intellectual analysis. Without, I beg, over extending it to find hooks where to peg more moral issues in order to hide it from the faint-hearted.

 

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TStimonies: transforming pornographies into historiographies by Anna B. Volk 6/29/12

                           Testimonies are held up as exemplar forms of live that have resisted or transcended the strong arm of domination.

- George Yudice

 

What happens when porn becomes political discourse? Which mechanisms transform footage into spaces of resistance, belonging, and community? Who are the groups that have taken pornography to another level, registering it as their own site of struggle and social recognition? Once published, whatever path taken by a singular individual is transformed into paradigm inside – and out – the group they belong to. The technical reproducibility of modernity, aligned with an emergence of testimony as a genre of discourse, cast light on social actors who are now protagonist of their own history, albeit once silenced by normative social regulations such as alterity. In Postcolonial times, the Other is in me. And in this forged identity of subaltern and excluded groups, social and economic structures are being transformed.

In a society in which the post-utopic is distopic, marginalized groups must rely on alliances with mainstream and alternative media to attempt at the eradication of stereotypes and prejudices. Their condition as citizens is in itself the questioning of the process of construction of their own identities: to be accepted as social subject, the marginalized must promote a self-displacement that generates a radical change in society’s perspective in order to claim any rights on the construction of their identities. Thus, the creation of an autobiographical discourse must follow strict protocol to be regarded as contemporary testimonies of historic realities. However, when such realities have been written on the body, a shift in strategy must come into action: bodies are now modifiable, generating possibilities of new identity constructions. This new body, in constant mutation, now represents what Stuart Hall dubbed a “mobile celebration” (HALL, 1987): it refutes fixed, essential, permanent identities, being formed and transformed continuously in relation to the ways in which we are represented or challenged in the cultural systems that surround us.

Political contemporary identities are essentially constructed based on gender matters (KRAUSE, 1996). When gender is liquid, it becomes impossible to be contained in one or two receptacles, giving birth to new identities which are as fluid as they are interchangeable. Since a neoliberal politics aiming at inclusive societies would be a contradiction, as the differences which defy the universalization of consumption patterns constitute one of neoliberalism’s most dreaded nightmares, such identities pose as a threat to the maximization of profit, creating new groups of consumption directed at the ratification of such newborn identities. In other words, what Ruth Benedict foresaw becomes reality: the market depends on marginalized groups to form new area of consumption which, by their turn, will demand new products aimed at what they expect to be an inclusive social tool, at the same time that said products solidifies the marginal aspect of such groups and demands.

Nevertheless, some “outcast” groups have found in pornography a way through which they can challenge social stigmas, such as compulsory heterosexualization and binary gender dichotomy. Having operated for ages on the assumption of the existence of two genders and multiple sexualities, the porn industry now faces a plurality of genders being presented not as complementary or secondary identities, but as the core for a large amount of groups and consumers without any hint of the system of punishment and reward expected to be found in stereotypes which are reproduced and repeated. No longer does being “different” mean remaining unknown, secluded, made mute by normative expectations; nor is it to be celebrated as a “positive” mark of difference which, nonetheless, still keeps the different at bay . On the contrary, it is to be dealt with as if there was no difference at all. This identitarian normatization happens not as a result of mainstream oppression, but as a true form of inclusion: by eradicating differentiation strategies, it has become possible to promote “alternative” gender identifications inside the pornographic industry and market it not as different, but as same. The neoliberal dilemma, thus, is solved: these new fluid identities have found a loop hole in the system, and returned to society a product which society is unable to refute as marginal.

And it is under this light that works of artists such as Buck Angel, Nica Noelle’s TransRomantic studio, Loren Rex Cameron, to name a few, have found space inside the pornographic industry to exist without being excluded. Ironically, it was the suppression of the mark which distinguished one group from all others what originated a new space of resistance, inclusion, and valorization of such identities. Not only the porn industry has a lot to gain – and to learn – from the newcomers: society as a whole must understand that different means equal, after all.

 

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Pornmodernism: parodying the fuck out of your films

“A Parodie, a parodie! to make it absurder than it was.”

Ben Jonson, 1598.

 

 What generates the amount of porn parodies that are out there nowadays?   They are everywhere and range from The Avengers to The Smurfs: believe me, there is more under the sheets than porn parodies let out. Rather than being a blunt statement on the end of creativity in porn, it actually mirrors an industry which is, at best, suffering the setbacks of online piracy but is still able to subvert what is known and established, raising havoc that promotes its own permanence.

 In a Jamesonian analysis, to whom “postmodernist art forms were peculiarly expressive of the logic of the contemporary economy” (JAMESON, 1984 apud DENTITCH: 2000, 155), having the adult industry duplicating a recontextualized version of a movie only reflects an economy in which the means of production are based on the copying and distribution of copies – we have the Bauhaus movement to thank for that, for starter, and a globalization which has as basis the massification of culture and goods, more often than not at the cost of local, subaltern cultures.  On this light, a recovery and reevaluation of a film under the scope of pornographic art is explained as the mere reconfiguration or redistribution of assets, if those could be measured in terms of cultural and economic values.

An adult parody version of a movie does not propose to be the movie itself, but an allusion to it – even if the box cover sends us to the non-adult version of the feature, the separation from the original is made explicit in the title – with all puns intended. It is what Gérard Genette sees as reprising a known text and giving it a new meaning (GENETTE, 1982: 16) Thus, following a Marxist line of thought, the production of parodies is the result of an economy which thrives not at creating, but at recreating assets and values, in an attempt to mimic the revenue produced by the original – something we, as postmodern beings, cannot rant about; after all, we are all consuming replicated goods and ideas ad nauseum.

 On a more interdisciplinary approach, the appropriation of common cultural elements and their rewriting under a new light – in this case, as the object to which pornography must be applied , not always at the expense of the object being imitated nor trivializing an original work – implies a more politicized approach to art itself.  In this repetition with critical vision without necessarily maculating the original work of art, the political characteristics of postmodernism jump to the eye: it is subversive, questioning, and blatantly outrageous for it defies established values.   By opening spaces for social critique through a parody that deconstructs official, culturally accepted discourses, porn parodies are able to bring to light the debate on its position inside the same society it imitates and retorts.  It is “this kind of wholesale “nudging” commitment to doubleness, or duplicity” pointed out by Huctheon (1989) that underlies the entire proposal of a porn parody. After all, who would have thought the Smurfs have a sex life? 

According to Docker (1994) parody does indeed characterize postmodern culture, having its source in popular culture now validated by the collapse of the elite commitments of modernism. This way, it is parody what sociolinguist Mary Louise Pratt identifies as one of the “arts of the contact zone” through which marginalized or oppressed groups “selectively
appropriate”, or imitate and take over, aspects of more empowered cultures, (PRATT, 1991), parody and its power to locate the adult film industry inside the mainstream, non-adult film universe by approximating realities which, in fact, are more similar than different. 

 

So what makes porn parodies so distinct from other kinds of movie parodies?

 

The fact that it eliminates the boundaries between what is socially acceptable and what is not. When Duchamp painted a moustache on the Mona Lisa, the debate generated concerned art, validity, mockery. It was a matter of having tinted the classic, of ridiculing a social construct which was valuable for its own format – a painting by Leonardo DaVinci, maybe his most prominent one.  But when the adult industry takes, for example, a cartoon – something which would hardly receive high consideration by normative social institutions -  and transforms it into an adult film, it cannot be accused of corrupting or diminishing established icons or paradigms, leaving it in breach of any moral laws.  Nevertheless, the playing with current cultural elements promotes the perpetuation of said elements, something which only gives force to anything fighting the ethereal and transitory aspect of postmodern culture, allocating a differentiated value to the element in question. It is as if The Avengers gained more power because there is The Avengers XXX: something which corroborates with positioning The Avengers inside a society which tends to forget as fast as it consumes.  The protest of non-conformists just reinforces a parody as a “relatively  polemical allusive imitation of another cultural production or practice” (DENTITH, 2000: 37), to say the least.  At its best, it can multiply the visibility of the adult version of any film, be it through generating discussion, be it by means of forbidding. And we all know what happens to forbidden fruits. 

 Ironically, this has not been noticed by the non-adult film industry yet. And the reason there should be no fighting or screaming, no combating the adult parodying of mainstream movies is because the validity of the adult version of a movie lies precisely on the juxtaposition with the non-adult value of it. In what Hutcheon would dub as taking “the form of self-conscious, self-contradictory, self-undermining statement” (HUTCHEON, 1989), an adult film parody of a mainstream film is aware of its position as parody and as marginal production – and I use marginal here in the original meaning of the word, which is non-central. It does not propose to be equaled to the non-adult version of the film it dubs, but the other side of it. Or one more side to it.

 The belief that there is such a thing as a neutral or non-ideological position does not fit nowadays society anymore. To assume porn parodies are not political statements or just plain mockery is naïve and superficial. Or this is what they want you to believe, while you watch – amused – a porn version of the Cosby show.

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Finding the L in Love, a review by Anna B. Volk

Every once in a while we are granted a surprise: something which – unexpectedly – is able to captivate us and make us feel good about finding it, as if it was a little secret we had discovered ourselves. This is the case with Filly Films’ Finding the L in Love (2012).

The setup is simple: Karlie Montana has a radio show in which she narrates some of her sexcapades, and the scenes happen in flashbacks after some narrative.  Inside what seems to be the main line of Filly Films, which proposes to give performers a go behind the cameras, Finding the L in Love is directed by Montana, who also appears in two of the four sex scenes – with Zoey Holloway, and in a threesome with Samantha Ryan and AnnaBelle Lee.  The third scene presents Jessica Bangkok and Alyssa Reece in a humorous set up, leaving for Georgia Jones and Shyla Jennings a more romantic approach in the fourth scene.

The scene with Zoey Holloway happens around Montana’s first experience with a MILF. Montana contacts Holloway through a bed sale ad in the newspaper, and a Friday evening conversation dipped in a glass of wine sets the mood. The dialog in this scene flows and rings spontaneous at the same time.  Once again Holloway delivers an exquisite performance, and Montana is not behind: both performers seem genuinely into the scene. There is enough foreplay in the building of a scene directed at an audience which wants to see two women enjoying each other, and not “only” sex.

The threesome scene forges a past relationship between Montana and Samantha Ryan, who calls in during the radio show and reminds Montana of their first threesome, which they did to celebrate their anniversary.  AnnaBelle Lee comes in as the waitress at a cafe where the girlfriends are having lunch and who is more than happy to join then in their anniversary celebration. Although this set up risks being a pizza-delivery-guy cliché, it is actually dealt with in a very special manner, and it stays far from falling into another porn common place.  I particularly do not care for the setting in which the sex scene happens, without a doubt it does not harm the quality of the scene.

In the third scene Jessica Bangkok and Alyssa Reece answer Montana’s invitation for listeners to call in and share some of their caught-in-the-act stories.  Bangkok and Reece are excellent playing radio program fans, and the house sitting set up is funny, to say the least.  Montana plays with the camera forging a video call between Bangkok and Reece which emphasizes how beautiful both girls are, at the same time that it introduces the set up.

The fourth scene follows the direction of the previous one.  Georgia Jones calls in to tell her romantic proposal story, which involved high school sweetheart Shyla Jennings.   The dialogs and the setting are so well constructed it is easy to erase all disbelief in relation to the feelings the girls have for each other.

Montana’s camera is simple, direct, and warm.  It more often than not participates in the scenes as a third person, eliminating the distance between the on screen action and the spectator.  She is able to integrate the viewer and the cinematography by approaching camera work directly and without resorting to much gimmickry. The lighting in each one of the scenes is something to be observed, since it looked carefully planned and creates a warm, intimate setting for each one of the set ups.

But most importantly, to my view: Montana is able to restore something that seemed forgotten by the industry, which is a simple, more romantic story line with hot, passionate sex, but without resorting to taboos or more complex hook ups.  A refreshing, delicious tasting movie.

 

 

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The female gaze, Zoey Holloway style, by Anna B. Volk

Back in January, I was in the middle of writing an article on pornography and the sexualization of the gaze, and for that I watched around 20 or more scenes. Suddenly, the direction of the article changed dramatically: I was no longer writing about the gaze, but about one specific performer, and the way she uses her eyes on camera. It was too biased. Although I intend to mention her in the article, here is a little introduction, and what I had to leave out.

-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves.

[Berger, John. (1972): Ways of Seeing, p. 42]

I want to talk about the gaze, this underestimated, underrated tool which can be the most powerful sexual lure between two people. More specifically, I want to talk about the feminine gaze, which hides behind the veil in eastern civilizations, was directed to the ground in Victorian times, and still thrives to find a space into today’s society. Lacan’s appropriation of the term; the dichotomization of the gaze into male and female, perpetrated by Laura Mulvey in 1975; Teresa de Lauretis’ discussion on the adoption of the gaze by male and female spectators (1984);  Jackie Stacey’s question: ‘Do women necessarily take up a feminine and men a masculine spectator position?’ (Stacey 1992, 245); Bracha Ettinger’s Matrixial Gaze (1995): none of these theories approach a topic I am interested in, which relates not to the spectator, but rather the gazer themselves. What gender is the gaze that comes from female XXX performers? To what extent are they participants in the scene in which they perform, and to what extent are they mere spectators? How much objectification really takes place in girl/girl porn scenes, and how much of that is a response to a feminine gaze being masculinized by the demands and expectations of the industry itself?

Those are questions that are currently guiding me throughout my studies, and it is not easy answering them. Very little literature is produced academically from the perspective of porn performers by scholars who are not performers themselves, and the positioning of the eye/I which might change the outcome of a research is quite powerful here. Virtually next to nothing is written about the porn industry that does not come with latent categorization and, therefore, judgment: it is depreciative, belittling, vicious, gynophobic, phallic centered, plastic, fake.

In “Teach Me” (Elegant Angel, 2011), erotic performer Zoey Holloway answers the pre-scene interview the following way:

“What do I feel like I can teach a younger girl?

Maybe that whole sensuality part if they don’t already have that within them, maybe teach them to slow it down a little bit, and, and just, you know, just some little basic things sometimes can feel so good, just like kissing right under here or on the back of the knee, just places that you wouldn’t think of.

Or just a lingering look into each other’s eyes can say a lot as well.” [my emphasis]

It is Halloway herself who brings in the discussion of the gaze, whether intentionally or not. It is with no surprise, then, that Holloway stands out exactly by the use of her own gaze over her partner in a girl/girl porn scene.  Moreover, she actually verbalizes the scopic function by punctuating her actions with verbal comments that demark the territory of the gaze in her performances:

“Let me see that again. Let me see your eyes.” / “Let me see your tongue.” / “Let me see.” / “Let me see it right there.” / “Let me see your teeth.” / “Let me see you.” / “Let me look at you.” / “Look how wet you are.” / “It was either that or go blind.”

Holloway derives pleasure from watching: she is part of the scene and spectator at the same time, and this allows us to experience the scene with her eyes, in her eyes, and through her eyes. She enjoys looking at the other, looking at herself touching the other, looking at the reactions the other has, and experiencing them on a physical level: first through her eyes, then through her body. The intensity of her gaze is self-gratifying; she thrives on how much pleasure she is giving her partner by closely observing them rather than reading more “visual” clues that could easily be simulated. She is the kind of woman who understands goose bumps to be more revealing then a moan, and who notices the after sex glow as if it was a Hollywood sign (with Veronica Avluv: PMMAL2, and with Missy Martinez: WSW76).  She teases her partners, inviting them to look at themselves and at her, to share with her (or learn from her) the pleasure of looking. She lingers with her mouth open over cunts and nipples, allowing them time to feel pleasure by imagining her next move before she moves an inch. When she finally reaches for them with her tongue, they are ready.

And so are we.

 

 

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A nation of peeping Manuels – the future of porn looks raw, by Anna B. Volk

Throughout the world, there are plenty of social rules against “staring” and deep-rooted cultural taboos which forbid us from looking too closely at other people. The cinematography experience seems to be a rare exception, being one of the only spaces where it becomes both safe and acceptable to observe the lives of others. While the cinema satisfies a primordial wish for pleasurable looking, it feeds on us the hope of seeing the more base side of human nature.  More recently, the proliferation of reality TV shows proves that such quest for scopophiliac pleasure does not have to be restricted to the two-hour movie experience only: we are now able to partake on the events around someone’s life 24 hours a day, thriving on observing what unfolds before us as if a game which does not depend on our participation or opinion but, at the same time, is being played to please us as audience.

And scopophilia is not a male only pleasure. Reality TV is aimed at a female audience the same way soap operas are, and some might even argue there is no difference between them, not even in terms of fictionalization.  According to Robert Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University, reality TV represents “a new way of telling a story which [is] half fiction — the producers and creators set up a universe, they give it rules, they make a setting, they cast it according to specific guidelines as to who they think are going to provide good pyrotechnics. But then they bring in non-actors with no scripts and allow this kind of improvisation like a jazz piece to occur.”  Psychologically, the popularity of these shows is due to viewer’s identification with the ordinary people who are chosen as participants, and viewer watch tantalized by the voyeuristic thrill they get from peeking in.

Voyeuristic pleasure derives from objectifying a character, and narcissistic pleasure from identification with a character in film (HOOFD, 1996).  But what happens where there is both objectification and identification? And in a world where the cult of celebrity has already surpassed that of gods, the concept of being able to witness celebrities’ private moments shines like gold.  As a result, the once unauthored pornography might be replaced by celebrities’ sex tapes which mirror reality TV in several ways, including the level of fictionalization that is present in such videos.  Therefore, by objectifying myself through the image of the other, I am able to embody both the passive and the active agents of sex, this way subverting commonly held notions which establish a said order in what I know as the world.  Moreover, if the other in question is a celebrity, there is the possibility of overlapping narcissistic pleasure with identification, therefore creating a new paradigm in which I am aware I am not the other but, nonetheless, I am able to forge a temporary bond in which my own needs for self-assurance will take place on the same figure I refuse to leave, but cannot identify with.

When it comes to pornography, the voyeuristic fetish already so exacerbated takes an even bigger form because what is being watched resembles genuine personal footage, or reality porn.  The cinéma vérité set ups enable the audience to elaborate a new level of perception in which the boundaries between reality and fiction are blurred precisely because there is no previous agreement between the audience and the film about what is real and what is not: at the same time it all rings true and false, giving spectators room to pretend (or fantasize) that what they are watching is, in fact, lost footage which was supposed to be private but, somehow, is at that moment allowing them to observe the intimate moments of a porn star.

Manuel Ferrara’s series RAW (Evil Angel) is referred to as the director’s private collection: in one-on-one scenarios, Ferrara takes the audience into private and public places in what seems to be uncommitted documentation of real dates, which later translates into unedited scenes resembling informal home videos. Ferrara keeps the camera work to a most basic – gonzo style, his only camera sometimes is on the hands of his partner, who might be filming herself on the shower, a drive to Santa Monica beach, or even talking to the camera as if it was Manuel himself. By mixing POV and voyeur-style shooting (by placing the camera on a dresser, for example), Ferrara makes use of pornographic content and techniques in a way that makes it possible to metaficcionally interrogate porn in its own engine and machinery.  RAW does not seek to emulate the style of amateur pornography because it deliberately plays with exhibitionist awareness and gonzo basic features.

It is not “only” porn.  It is not a celebrities’ sex tape either.  What Manuel Ferrara has inaugurated here differs from the porn we are used to watching because we do not want to feel like we are part of it. On the contrary, the series eliminates entirely the relationship between watching and participating by making explicit that there is no participation of the spectator to what unveils before their eyes.  If anything, the spectator might derive pleasure from knowing that “looking itself is a source of pleasure, just as … there is pleasure in being looked at” (MULVEY, 1975, 200-201), but the commitment between Ferrara and the audience never mentioned this tacit agreement. Instead, it ignores the audience entirely to achieve a form of linguistic pornography that it able to critique the genre itself, without eliminating any of the elements we as audience expect to find in this sort of production.

Manuel Ferrara’s RAW series is initiating a new poetics of porn: one which delivers an exquisite and unique pornographic experience enclosed in a feature with lack of zoom, no anatomy lesson shoots, no forced vocalization, very little camera movement during sex. The realism Ferrara is able to conjure is unprecedent, and there is no doubt he is filming more than just his sexual encounters, but what starts to take form as the future of pornography.

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15 top reasons why I don’t want to be a feminist anymore, by Dr. Anna B. Volk

I refuse to be a feminist anymore.

I have spent the last 20 years of my life baring this flag, but I refuse to be a feminist anymore.

When I joined the feminist movement – and this happened while I was still in high school, and started to debate on women’s rights in the (accidentally) all-girl school I attended – I believed the feminist movement was about protecting and fostering opportunities for women in order to grant everyone a better world. Twenty years later, I read a couple of articles written by feminists. I do not want to be like them anymore: they are bashful towards men, irrational about media, and their irony is acid towards their own kin. So I refuse to be a feminist anymore.

I resent having said that feminism was the answer to all the world’s maladies, and I am ashamed to have supported so many bras being burnt.  If I could, I would take back all the books I have read, the conferences I have attended, the marches I have walked. Because I refuse to be a feminist anymore.

I do not want that for me anymore, but I want to address some topics raised by those articles before I can move on. Take it as you want: I call it my 15 top reasons why I don’t want to be a feminist anymore.

 

1)      FEMINISM is not about treating other women with respect, it is about treating human beings with respect.  So stop being bashful towards people without a cunt.

2)      YOU are not supposed to feel bad for not liking all women. Some women are assholes, like some men are assholes – in fact, some people are even less than assholes, so there is no problem in hating some of them.

3)      I DO NOT care if corporate media feeds the fire of female competition; it does the same to males and they did not turn out as nasty as some women can get, specially towards each other.

4)      MEN are not enemies. So enough with looking at them suspiciously, as if they have a hidden agenda from day one: they might just really like you, and some of them might even have been brought up by a woman who does not see men as enemies and, therefore, was able to raise a nice one.

5)      MEN are not a prize, either. So enough with competing for one, most of the time reducing another woman to nothing based on (a) her intelligence (b) her looks (c) her moral standards.

6)      I CANNOT be nice to people who choose not to be enlightened, so if you belong to middle class – regardless of your ethnicity – and you choose to act like a jerk despite having access to information, I will treat you like the ass you are. This is valid for both genders – don’t think I will be lenient if you are a woman.

7)      ACTUALLY, time for leniency is over. No more excusing women’s behavior by regarding it as a result of male dominance. This was good forty years ago – not anymore.  If you are a woman and you choose to be submissive, please, do so away from me.  It was your choice.

8)      NOBODY over the age of 20 in America – or in the majority of Western countries – is allowed to be ignorant anymore. Hiding behind dated excuses from the 60s which exempted women from responsibility is a coward act, to say the least.

9)      BE a woman. Don’t expect the world to be nice to you just because you were born with a cunt between your legs. If you want respect, demand it by acting in ways that would assure you some.

10)   DO NOT act like a fake plastic being concatenated by masculine minds. If you are overzealous of your body but not protective of your mind do not complain when men treat you like the dumb thing you are.  And, if you are reading this, chances are you had a lot of opportunities in life – you know how to read, to start with – so there are no excuses.

11)   IF YOU are ok with being labeled a man-hater because it means to you that “feminism can better serve those it is meant for”, think again. Feminism should not exist to serve women, but to make the world a better place for everybody.

12)   IF YOU are a lesbian, stop acting like you are better than me because you do not have sex with men. As you yourself advocate, it is not a choice – and if I like dick, there is nothing wrong with me, just like there is nothing wrong with you liking pussy. Some might even like both – equally. That doesn’t place you in a higher sorority in the echelon of life.

13)   STOP thinking everything a man does carries a deep, heavy anti-female meaning. Sometimes they are just being people. It is up to you to be one too, and that means being able to perceive human beings as isolate instances instead of a collective of jerks defined only by their gender. Or would you like me to do the same to you?

14)   IF “men interrupt women more than they interrupt men”, it is because women digress more and are not as objective as men are. Learn to be straight forward or quit whining.

15)   BEING called a “bitch”, a “whore” or a “slut” is not detrimental to women, but to anyone who gets called that. This is convention and will not change. Stop taking it personally. Actually, stop taking everything so personally. Language is only oppressive if you let it oppress you.

 

Just a final note: as a feminist, I do not have to like you because you are a woman. I have to like you despite of the fact you are one.

 

 

 

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An open letter – and calling to arms – to Amanda Marcotte by Anna B. Volk

An open letter in response to Slate’s magazine article “Lady Problems – If Larry Flynt, Hugh Hefner, and Bob Guccione hadn’t had personal issues with women, would today’s porn be less awful?” by Amanda Marcotte.

 

Peter Driben - Flirt Magazine, Feb. 1949

Dear Ms. Marcotte,

I have just finished reading your article, and I felt the need to write back to you with my views to try to establish a debate over a topic which, it seems, both of us hold close to our hearts and write passionately about: the pornographic industry and its portrayal of female sexuality.

First, however, let me just separate porn performers from actors. These are different categories. To perform sexually in front of camera requires different skills from those who take up acting classes in order to deliver lines and convey emotions in a mainstream, non-sexual film or in a theater. To a certain extent, it might even be said that pornographic performance demands more, for there has to be such a deep physical commitment to the work that it is hard to parallel that to conventional acting. That is not to say that porn performers cannot act; on the contrary, most often than not they are so good on “faking” emotions that we do not even acknowledge that they are not really feeling all that.  But to mix these two categories – performer and actor – is to inhibit any possibility one might have to explore different aspects of the adult entertainment industry, and to belittle performers who are not exemplary in “acting” but, nonetheless, deliver exquisite performances in pornographic film.

Second, anyone who claims that all pornography is degrading to women is looking only at one part of pornography. There are actually films, directors, studios, producers, and performers nowadays worried about empowering the female persona on camera in porn films.  To beat over the deadest of horses, meaning the misogynist side of pornography, is to draw attention to a corpse that should not even be rotting here anymore, but yet remains unburied precisely because we fail to ignore it. It might be that for some people the degrading of women work as an aphrodisiac, and for those I am sure the industry will always carry special features.  What concerns me is not that these films are being made, but that the line between female degradation and female abuse might be crossed at any time. What I mean is that female degradation CAN and SHOULD be staged to please those who are sexually turned on by it, an audience which not necessarily only includes men. I personally do not find that attractive, and politically I can even oppose to it, but that would be restricting sexual fantasies when, in reality, I would rather see men and women acting on their private fantasies aware that those must be staged and consensual.  It is the non-consensual part of female degradation that concerns me, not the degradation per se.

Third, the idea that violent sex is degrading to women is, at the same time, a way to put them under the sex-less category AND a way to perpetrate female submission. Some women like it rough, and there is nothing wrong with it. Yes, there has been an increase on the number of more “violent” acts on pornography, at the same time that old/young roleplaying seems to be what motivates the market now, but that has to do more with the new economic position of porn than on the degrading of the female body itself. Examples can be found on girl/girl movies which explore bondage, spanking, or emphasis on certain body parts without any male participation.  To say, in 2012, that porn is degrading because it is still being ruled and shaped by men is to ignore that a great quantity of films are in the hands of women, and they are the ones who are making the decisions today. Pornography is no longer a man-only realm, it is actually being thought up by women right under our noses.

What you have failed to understand is that if we regard pornography as women degradation we are exempting women from taking part in it when, in reality, they should be active in how their sexuality is portrayed and perceived by any audience. Yes, there are women who are still mimicking what we used to know as “porn”, meaning a world where the female participation is static and submissive and her presence is not really pivotal. It is all about men popping and the female orgasm being faked. That kind of porn still exists and will continue to exist, since it is hard to change not only the male attitude towards women, but also women’s attitude towards themselves.  However, what can be seen in the porn industry nowadays is a change towards a more female encompassing aesthetics; one which observes male and female as equal and is able to free sexualities from pre-concepts, such as that all porn is degrading to women.

I am sorry if I sound too harsh, but the idea of looking at porn as a tool to degrade women sounds just too passé for me, like sitting around burning bras or dissing men – men which we, as women, raise.  I belong to a new generation which has chosen to wear a bra, and who considers men allied and not enemies.  It is time we prove bell hooks wrong, and show the world the master’s tool will, too, dismantle the master’s house… if only we choose to take it in our hands.

Some of us have already taken up the fight. As a woman, what are you doing?

 

Here is the link to the article: http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2011/11/larry_flynt_hugh_hefner_and_bob_guccione_would_modern_porn_be_less_awful_if_its_founders_hadn_t_hated_women_.html

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