Hey folks. So, as I noted in my last post, I attended the Adult Entertainment Expo (AEE) and the AVN Awards last week in Las Vegas. It was my second time, my first time being in 2008, and many of the same thoughts popped into my head while I was there this time around, predominantly to do with being a young woman at a porn fan convention. First, let me say that I was able to meet some folks I really admire that I had not anticipated meeting -- people I saw wandering the expo floor and I plucked up the courage (thank you Mr. GGG for the multiple prods) to go up to and introduce myself. But of course, even while I was nerding out, my feminist analysis hat was not far off my head, and I encountered several pretty interesting (and sometimes simply aggravating) situations, all to do with the fans.
The most noticeable thing in terms of gender and performers is that none of the male performers are signing (other than Ron Jeremy), and even though you can tell the male fans know who these performers are, they simply do not approach. Rather, they line up for the women who are signing, and then constantly eyeball the male performers who are casually hanging out all over the place. Being a woman, I can easily go and talk to these male performers without the fear of some kind of homophobic stigma. I could tell a lot of fans really wanted to go and tell these guys how much they loved their work, but I didn't see a single guy go and shake the hand of a male porn star. Of course, because I was the initiator, Mr. GGG was able to chat with the male stars along with me without fear of reproach. It's that old homosociality thing again -- with a woman as a buffer, men are able to interact in these kinds of settings. Without a woman present, the situation alters profoundly.
While Mr. GGG and myself were standing in line for Jenna Haze, a dude came and asked us if we would have her sign something for him -- the line was being cut off because Jenna had been signing for five hours straight (!) and understandably she needed to clock out. This guy was a superfan of Jenna, so he told us, and because Mr. GGG was only in line -- only in the expo, in fact -- because of me, we told him, sure. In fact, when the dude asked if he could just jump in line in place of Mr. GGG, we said that was no problem as long as Jenna and her people didn't mind. As a result, this guy kinda hung around by us and made chit-chat, and it wasn't long before he was informed that it was me, not Mr. GGG, who was the porn enthusiast. What followed was pretty aggravating, but interesting from a feminist perspective. First, the guy high-fived me (I reluctantly held out my hand -- I admit it...), and then he told Mr. GGG that he had "won the lottery." This is problematic to me in a couple of ways. First, of course, there's the idea that our relationship is rooted in some kind of draw, and that Mr. GGG as the man is the one plucking out numbered balls. I just happened to get plucked, apparently, and oh my goodness, he lucked out because I watch porn. Second, I find it really irritating that because someone is biologically male, and lives as a man, he must obviously watch and be interested in porn. The assumption made by this guy (and I can't really blame him -- he seemed nice enough, but was simply regurgitating what mainstream culture spits at us every day) was that Mr. GGG, as a dude, was already totally into porn and then met me and it was simply, "Oh sweet! She watches porn!"
Aside from the fact that I don't simply watch porn (I'm in that weird fan/scholar no-woman's-land), Mr. GGG is really just along for the ride because he loves me and takes an interest in the things I enjoy, research, and write about. Y'know, like, my career and stuff. He really only had a fleeting interest in x-rated material when I met him, and once my research took off he took an interest in that research. He made futile attempts at explaining this to our new friend, saying, "It's really not like that," and, "Well, she's also a great person," to which he assured, "Oh sure, sure." But really, I think both of us were reluctant to justify ourselves and our relationship simply because of assumptions made about our gendered viewing habits. I certainly wasn't about to explain the complexities of my interest in adult film, and Mr. GGG wasn't interested in explaining the complexities of our relationship or himself as a man. Again, I don't think this dude was a bad person, and I wasn't mad at him, per se -- it simply made me think.
Anyway, that was all pretty interesting for me and Mr. GGG, and we had a really rich discussion over some beers afterward. There were several examples during my time in Vegas of how people view gendered porn viewing, but that particular instance stood out. I had a lot of fun at the expo, and the awards were...an experience. Thanks to all the porn folks I met for being good sports -- this really is a unique industry in terms of fan contact, and it's refreshing that so many performers, producers, and directors take an interest in feminist approaches. I think many people would be surprised at the level of engagement with feminist/queer ideas that is present within much of the "mainstream" adult industry. It's not marketed as a site for progressive ideas, like the Feminist Porn Awards for example, and yet I had about the same level of disconcertion and refreshing hope at both events.