I&I

A good week for porn

It’s been a good week for porn. Of course I have to write about it, because it’s almost never a good week for porn. It’s so bloody difficult to find anything that might have even a glimmer of something interesting and worth watching. What can I say, I got lucky.

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1) Destricted. Recommended to me by the Queen Video staff, it’s a collection of sexually explicit short films by different visual artists. It’s hit and miss, with the films ranging from moody to hilarious. My favourite film was Green Pink Caviar by Marilyn Minter, which is a gorgeous, hypersaturated study in colour, texture and flesh. The extreme closeups of a woman’s tongue, lovingly lapping up viscous liquids and seed pearls are extremely sensual and in a way, more explicit than anything else in the collection. The other film that stood out, which was vaguely exploitative but also revealing, was Larry Clark’s Impaled. Clark interviews a number of teens who grew up watching porn and he gets incredibly honest responses from a usually reticent demographic group – although how he accomplishes this is rather unfortunate. Aside from his interviewees expressing feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, most shocking to me was the unanimous agreement that it feels better to pull out. Destricted also includes Matthew Barney’s marriage between machine and male member, Hoist and Gaspar Noé’s We Fuck Alone (are you at all surprized by the title) in typical, seizure inducing form.

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2) Maidenhead by Tamara Faith Berger. I almost passed over this book because of the synopsis on the back cover: precocious horny teen girl has a lot of sex. I must have hit my saturation point years ago when it comes to stories about young people fucking. And I have never read a story about a teen girl’s sexuality that I could relate to. (In fact, the only person that I feel has ever accurately captured a teen girl’s sexuality – stripped of any sentimentalizing and fully aware of the power dynamics that enclose her – is filmmaker Catherine Breillat.) But luckily, the first page of Maidenhead piqued my interest.

Our unsentimental young protagonist starts off the book with her thoughts on slavery. The story then proceeds to explore various forms of slavery, exploitation and freedom through the lens of gender, race and class: slavery in American history, Korean comfort women, online porn, the employment of foreign domestic servants, etc. A lot of my favourite writers are directly referenced: Agamben, Bataille, Weil. And as I see it, it is from this context – one of power, subjugation and selfhood – that the story unfolds.

Maidenhead is explicit but it is not strictly a pornographic/erotic novel. I suppose you could say it straddles genres. In any case, it is really fucking hot. It’s extreme, not in terms of the actual sexual acts depicted, but in terms of Myra’s pursuit of and total commitment to a state of abjectness, or perhaps, because she is so fond of Simone Weil, we can say it’s her growing desire for affliction. Affliction not only in terms of her sexual debasement, but in her unflinching gaze upon all the myriad forms of slavery she encounters and how she grapples with the power dynamics such forms present. Berger also includes the sardonic input of two other female characters who observe and comment on Myra’s story, offering a more distanced counterpoint and some breathing room to contrast with Myra’s obsessive and insular writing.

Maidenhead blew all my expectations out of the water. It’s basically exactly the kind of story I want to tell, that explodes our ideas about power structures by examining sexuality. Highly recommended.

mr-benson-preston

3) Mr. Benson by John Preston. I picked up Mr. Benson, because I learned it is a classic gay SM text. Unfortunately, I found it disappointing and couldn’t finish it. I’m sorry to write this because the author is described as a gay rights pioneer in Wikipedia. But the protagonist, Jamie, struck me as a complete twit with nary an interesting thought nor turn of phrase in his head. His Master doesn’t fare much better; Mr. Benson has the psychological complexity of a sea slug. A giant, uncut, pulsating, perma-hard sea slug.

So why am I writing about Mr. Benson? I immediately found it fascinating how Patriarchal the story was. I don’t just mean the “leather Daddy” terminology but the fact that Mr. Benson has all the qualities of a Patriarch (save one critical factor which I will pick apart in a moment). Mr. Benson is not only a sadist and rigid dominant (double entendre intended – obviously) who demands complete obediance, he is rich as Croesus and exists in a world devoid of women. He rules a cadre of top men, he’s the top of all tops. There’s also a lot of gender essentializing that goes along with this; Mr. Benson is continually, and unironically, defined as a “real man.”

But for all the assertions that Mr. Benson is a “real man,” he is more accurately described as fetish of masculinity, male drag. Because he lacks the one foundational element of Patriarchal power: fatherhood. Let’s get one thing straight. The Patriarchy is not the rule of all men; it is the rule of the father. The second you forget this basic fact, you’re going to get sidetracked and you’ll lose your ability to understand the Patriarchy at anything except the most superficial levels.

So basically, with Mr. Benson, you have this uber-Patriarchal characature divorced from the very power structure that created him: the management of reproductive energy and fatherhood. The result is quite brutal. Poor little Jamie has to drink piss out of toilets, get gang banged, endure all kinds of physical torture, etc. Basically, he is subject to all manner of Patriarchal dominance and humiliation – except there’s no end goal, no bun in the oven to bake. So you end up with this never-ending fetishized loop of dominance and violence that is quite spectacular. It’s a spectacle you see, because all this violence serves no purpose but to propagate itself. All there is left is masculinity in its purest state. Mr. Benson is a Baudrillardian wet dream. Friends, this what a “real man” is in a Patriarchal world: a big fat gay SM fantasy. SUCK IT boys.

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