Recently, I spoke with Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals about her new book Exposure: A Sociologist Explores Sex, Society, and Adult Entertainment. During our conversation we happened upon the subject of reading and analyzing adult content the way you would any academic or commercial text, and Tibbals commented that there should be more investigative rigor when looking at the adult industry. In anticipation of the book, which comes out July 7th, we’re publishing an article series on different ways to read adult media and content, complete with wisdom from people in sex media, technology, and academia.
The director of the erotic indie flick Marriage 2.0 Paul Deeb said to me a few weeks ago that he believed mainstream pornography was shot like sports. Disclaiming beforehand that he’d ruin porn for me, he continued to describe how you could practically hear the commentary in some mainstream porn films. Contrary to ruining pornography, however, Deeb touched on an interesting way to read pornography.
Parallel to this, performer Casey Calvert said in an upcoming interview that dirty talk during shooting is actually just a real time play by play of what’s going on. It’s commentary by the players, rather than anyone off-screen. To remind the viewers at home what’s going on, on the field.
Relationship and sex writer Kate Hakala explained, “porn shouldn’t be read as a how-to guide. It needs to be read as a form of sexual athleticism. These are ‘porn stars’ not ‘sex instructors.’” In the first article on how to read adult content, there was discussion of understanding that pornography is a fantasy. The next step would be to recognize that the stars behind it are athletes in their own right, playing much harder than a civilian could ever hope to, at least with such documented consistency.
Adult media is, as Deeb mentioned, not edited to show the illusion of an extended sexual encounter. Rather, it’s cameras and lights flicked on for real time sexual performance. Forty-five minutes of on screen game time for your viewing pleasure is more or less forty-five minutes of sex, and sometimes more. Quite the stamina and ability being exhibited there. And all done to demonstrate a peak fantasy that, when tried at home, may cause injuries of the body and mind.
Sophie Delancey, one of the minds powering The Art of Blowjob and The Art of Cunnilingus, as well as numerous other podcasts and educational seminars, explained that “more ‘authentic’ porn can be troublesome for those who are tripped up by aesthetics/presentation over context as it can seem very realistic, but it’s never going to be exactly like a non-professional off-screen sexual encounter without any intended audience, so it can still set up unreasonable expectations and disappointment.” Like an athletic broadcast, adult media defies what’s realistic because the talent behind the material outmatches what’s going on under non-industry sheets. This is not to say the sex people outside the industry are having is amateurish, nor is it to suggest porn folks enjoy it any more than people far from the spectrum of pornographic performance. I’ve had numerous industry people remind me that it’s a job, like any other, and no one digs their job every day.
Let’s unpack this metaphor a bit. Say you’re watching a professional hockey game and you’re suddenly inspired to hit the ice like a real live Gordon Bombay. The game you’re going to play will likely look nothing like what you see on TV, because the players there are in peak physical condition, and are in a commercial arena playing for a massive audience. They’ve trained countless hours for the game you’re viewing whilst mushing pizza into your face.
To think about it another way, sports can often inspire you to play harder and better, to want to reach a degree of athleticism that mirrors what you’re seeing on a broadcast. The same attitude could be applied to adult media, in that instead of immediately replicating what you see, you could digest it as high level athleticism and not judge yourself and potential partners based on, as Delancey said, nigh impossible expectations. Put the practice in, and maybe you’ll get to that level. Pornography can be a model of Olympian style booty, an inspiration for training and education with the knowledge that the folks behind the camera are professional athletes in the sex world.
Also, sports and adult media both have copious butt slapping.
Stay tuned for another installment of how to read porn with your brain, complete with sexy citations from your favorites in the industry and beyond.