Thursday, May 15, 2014

Heavenly Spire (Pink & White Productions)

Elsewhere on the internet this week, I uttered the following: "The anxiety surrounding the depiction of men is at the root of a lot of bad porn, imo." For, while "straight" pornography is typically quite comfortable portraying bodies that are female or gendered feminine, and seems to be willing to celebrate female sexual fluidity, there is a great deal of anxiety concerning depictions of male bodies, whether gendered masculine or feminine.

I'm thrilled, then, to be reviewing Heavenly Spire. I was given free reign to choose whichever Pink & White products I wanted to cover, and surprise surprise I picked the one devoted to representing masculinity and men. HS is a new series from P&W that "focuses on masculine beauty and sexuality, and how it manifests on different bodies." For those of you who are not familiar, P&W is one of the most important and celebrated feminist porn studios. Owned by feminist and queer porn icon Shine Louise Houston, P&W pursues the feminist porn goals of what, in The Feminist Porn Book, Bobby Noble calls "a sexual grammar that desires to see differently" (309). In this way, through its cis, trans, and genderqueer performers, HS seeks to disrupt and reconceptualize masculinity, male bodies, and masculine desires. Yet, from the vantage point of mainstream heteroporn, the simple act of depicting men as sexual subjects without tagging (pegging, femdom, cuckold, gay) is a subversive gesture in and of itself, and to me quite thrilling.

I watched several scenes available on the site. Each scene is quite short, at around fifteen minutes, which will come as good news to those of you out there who spend so much time complaining about the length of porn scenes these days. I know from experience that the pre-sex segments in porn (whether they be interviews or teases) are often as popular with fans as the hardcore action (they certainly are with me). So it is even more exciting that the fifteen-or-so minute runtime includes a brief introductory interview segment where the performer is asked, "What is your current favourite jerk off fantasy?" Be still my beating heart.

Ned Mayhem
My hands-down favourite scene so far is a solo scene starring Ned Mayhem. As he explains, he is super into his frenulum, which is "the closest thing I have to a clitoris." When I say this is a "solo" scene, what I mean to say is a solo scene that involves butt plugging, wand vibing, and ass fucking along with the jerking off you would expect from a "solo" scene. Dynamic and awesome stuff. Maybe it's the cigarette, which he wields like an erotic tool (Jack Wrangler...), but Ned is...wow.

It is pretty sad that one of the most exciting aspects of HS is the fact that they dwell on men's faces. While mainstream heteroporn might be anxious about depicting men, they really only have trouble depicting men as embodied subjects. This generally means being afraid to show male faces. Seeing Essex laugh and smile in his scene with George, especially post-cumshot, is a stark reminder of what is sorely lacking in so much porn. At HS we are treated to men's faces smiling, in ecstasy, longing, gasping, lusting, enjoying.

George and Essex
The shooting style is of the organic and unobtrusive, yet somehow cinematic, indie style that Houston has become known and celebrated for. After brief musical interludes at the outset, the sex scenes are unscored other than the sounds of sex. It all works marvelously.

My only complaint is the lack of post-sex time on film - I love the post-sex pieces in porn as much as I enjoy the pre-sex interviews and teases. There were some scenes where I wanted to see the post-orgasm bliss, even if it was simply a silent recording of the performer in a sweaty, gasping heap. This is a triviality, though. I am most impressed and delighted with this site and I urge you to check it out. As Shine Louise Houston puts it, Heavenly Spire "is just pure self-indulgence for a feminist interested in cock" (quoted in Noble 318).


Monday, May 12, 2014

Some brief thoughts on Asa Akira's NPR interview

The wonderful Asa Akira appeared on NPR's All Things Considered yesterday for a 6min 35sec interview. I was excited that Akira is earning so much mainstream attention for her recently-released memoir, Insatiable: Porn - A Love Story, but was also skeptical. While Akira responded to the simplistic and worn out questions with her usual candour and grace, I nevertheless found the line of questioning to be unhelpful, cliche, and condescending. I understand that the interviewer may have been uncomfortable with the subject matter (the pauses and flase starts were bad even for an NPR host), but I would have appreciated a little more depth and intellect seeing as they are dealing with a deep and intellectual woman. Would they have treated a different subject matter with the same superficiality? Doubtful.

Let's take a look at the questions posed, which I have rendered applicable to any line of work. Do we pose these questions to people of other professions? Comedians, lawyers, doctors, actors, models, teachers, housewives, textile factory workers, fast food servers, waitresses, babysitters, football players, chefs, landscapers, painters, flight attendants, light riggers, boxers... What would happen if we posed the same or similar questions to these people? Why do we not pose these questions to them, and what might we learn from asking them? Rather than attempt to stop people from asking these questions, how about we start broadening our scope and posing them to people of a variety of professions? I believe we might learn something not only about sex workers, but also about the nature of a variety of forms of labour that we would prefer not to think about in these terms. It's much easier to locate injustice, exploitation, racism, and misogyny in an already-ostracized industry than it is to reflect on the way our society operates as a whole.

  • [On posing the idea that some people find the porn industry to be inherently degrading and damaging to women to which Akira says no, she does not think that is the case; that yes, it objectifies women but it objectifies everyone] But you don't think that women get degraded a lot more? Think about race. Your ethnicity is fetishized and you make money off that. You don't think that's destructive?
  • Is there any dark side to the [industry] for you? [Workers] who are exploited economically at least?
  • For those women who come from more difficult circumstances, do you feel the industry supports them once they get in the business?
  • If you had kids, how would you feel about them going into the industry?

Anyone who would like to answer these questions, I would love to hear your response.

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