Sunday, July 4, 2010

Masculinity and the Flaccid Penis in Porn

Not to be confused with "wood problems," the flaccid penis is rarely glimpsed in pornographic film. In fact, the penis itself is rarely seen in media, while porn emerges as the most cock-dense media form currently on offer. These porno cocks tend to be big, hard, and always ready to fuck, and I think over the years the demand for the ever-ready erection has become more intense. You used to see flaccid penises during the preliminary moments of fellatio much more frequently than you do nowadays. In fact, I can't think of a movie from recent years where this has been represented.

However, the subject at hand for this post is a little more specific: flaccid penises in non-sexual scenes. So, in other words, full frontal, unaroused male nudity in narrative stretches of the film. The scarcity of this image in porn is conspicuous, as these perfectly natural moments of nudity are generally avoided in favor of the sexually active male and reassuringly erect cock, preferably fucking or being sucked. I say "reassuringly" because so much of porn (and media as a whole) carefully navigates masculine anxiety, typically placating it. Peter Lehman argues in his book, Running Scared: Masculinity and the Representation of the Male Body, that naked male bodies rarely feature in popular media, and when they do the male body must be active. In this way, the oiled and naked bodies of action movies are mediated by the high levels of violence, and the constantly moving male form. Passivity, associated with femininity, is generally forbidden when it comes to representing the male physique. Lehman also notes that when the flaccid penis is represented, its representation is carefully constructed to suggest either its sexual shortcomings (if the penis is small and shriveled), or to deny any difference between a flaccid and erect penis (if it is large or partially engorged, as in Boogie Nights). "If we are going to show the flaccid penis, in other words," Lehman concludes, "it had better look as much like the supposed awesome spectacle of an erection as possible" (250).

So, in a pornotopia of always-erect penises, when a flaccid one shows up in a non-sexual scene, it's worth taking note. And I have done just this, jotting down every flaccid penis I see outside of a sex scene. Accidental shots don't count -- they happen, but I don't include them because I am interested in premeditated, narratively-integrated soft dicks. It's worth considering why the filmmakers chose to represent something so culturally taboo, particularly in porn, and it is also significant that the frequency of these representations declines as time goes on.

I have argued elsewhere that, aside from changes in format from feature to gonzo, this decline and a heightened awareness of gay/straight divisions in general is ironically due in part to increased visibility of sexual minorities, as well as a proliferation of sexual categories. Such visibility seems to have intensified the homosexual taboo, a taboo that is condensed in heterosexual pornography. In other words, the increase in specific categories of sexuality has in some ways fractured sexual fluidity to the point where any perceived homoeroticism or "unmasculine" behavior can immediately label a person "gay." I think these anxieties are interlocking, affecting attitudes toward women, shifts in male bonding patterns, and various other signifiers of masculine crisis. In this way, pornotopia is more strictly regulated than ever, and cocks must be big and hard at all times.*

Without further ado, here is a selection of flaccid cock moments from the porn vaults:

Jekyll & Hyde (Paul Thomas, 2001)

There are several unconventional and risky representations of masculinity in this adaptation, this torture scene, where Molly's "Hyde" persona tries to force Utterson to tell her how she can find an antidote, being the most striking. Not only is a flaccid penis on display, but the male body is prone and passive.





'F' (Svetlana, 1980)

Cannonball (John Leslie) escapes from a romp with a couple of cavewomen, and is stopped on the stairs by a rhyming clown midget. Naked in all his flaccid glory, the camera lingers all over John Leslie throughout this weird scene (part of a generally weird and fantastic film).






Hot Legs (Bob Chinn, 1979)

Jessie St. James is a model late for a photo shoot because she's busy fucking. Once she finally decides to head off to work, she chats to her lover for a bit, before leaving him and his penis snoozing on the bed.








Jack 'n' Jill (Chuck Vincent, 1979)

Jack and Jill are a role-playing husband and wife, and though memory fails precisely, I'm sure this scene where Jack Wrangler is dragged up some stairs naked and tied down by a couple of men is part of some elaborate sexy role-playing game. Once again, forced passivity and unflinching flaccid nudity. The homoerotics of this scene are perhaps counteracted by a later sexual servicing by Annie Sprinkle in the same posture.



Tomboy (Hans Kristian, 1983)

Teenager Ted (Marc Wallice) is casually towelling off after a shower, providing an extended (and doubled via the mirror) view of him unaroused before Mrs. Robinson (Kay Parker) barges in an embarrasses him. I'm sure you can guess what goes on between them later in the movie.






Hot Rackets (Robert McCallum, 1979)

The Holy Grail of flaccid cock porn, this film about a tennis club where anything goes and everyone goes around without underwear, has a whopping seven scenes where soft dicks are depicted and no sexual activity is taking place. I can't show all the images, so I picked my favourite. Sexually frustrated wife, Candida Royalle, goes to her husband's tennis club to see what's going on. The pro-shop worker instructs her on the fine art of fantasizing, and encourages her to visualize him naked. This is what she sees.



* NB. I am addressing heterosexual porn, and the heteronormative masculinity that dominates Western culture. I'm not as knowledgeable about gay porn, but I wonder if there are different patterns of representation in this genre, or if it has inherited the same "rules of cock." In my limited viewing experience, it would appear to be the latter, but if anyone has any insight please do enlighten me.

4 comments:

J. Astro said...

"...but I don't include them because I am interested in premeditated, narratively-integrated soft dicks. "

Ha. Priceless. :)

Nio said...

Every now and then, I'll see or read something that makes me think about things in a different way. This particular blog entry has done that for me.

Recently I've been trying to confront some of my own hang-ups about male sexuality, specifically the erection and the anxiety I can feel when engaging in sexual activity with a male partner and noticing they're not erect.

I've been working on ridding myself of this stupid hang-up, and have been dissecting the reasons why I might have it. I realised I had internalised some messages about men and how they're "always wanting it and if they don't, there's something wrong" even while I never really believed the messages.

It interests me to think about what an erect penis means in pornography , what an erect penis means in the bedroom and the crossover there. Beh, it's a Monday night and I'm not especially articulate right now but thanks for this blog entry, it's got my tired brain chugging away!

Gore-Gore Girl said...

Astro: haha! Thanks! ;) It sure is good to see you back, old buddy. I'm really happy things are settling down for you.

Nio: thank you!! Being told I made someone think is the highest compliment. I appreciate it. Your thoughts highlight a very important part of feminism that can aid men as well as women. Of course, sexism and patriarchal systems are far more oppressive to women then men, but while men enjoy powerful positions and privilege, they also endure crippling consequences that they often do not recognize. This is why feminism is a movement that men can benefit from and should feel speaks to them as well as women. Of course, ideally men would support it simply because it is good for women, but you know what I mean. :)

Nio said...

I totally know what you mean and absolutely agree!

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