Meet the Neighbours: Feminism. Art. Porn. Sex.

Howdy folks! Another little interview with a neighbouring blogger – actually, it’s a rather long interview, but I refused to trim it because it’s so damn good. I won’t even bother to do any introductions – I’ll let Nio, of Feminism. Art. Porn. Sex. do that herself. Enjoy.


Tell us about yourself! Who are you, and what has led you to this point in life/work?

I’m 25 years old, grew up in small town New Zealand then moved to Melbourne, Australia in 2007 to do my Masters in Fine Art.

The conceptual aspects of the art I did at university revolved around gender, cuteness, performative identity and sexuality. When I completed my MFA, I got some fantastic feedback from the assessor who observed that though my art had sexual undertones, he would really like me to explore the sexual aspect more overtly. That comment really stuck with me, but then life got busy, I needed money and I had to get a job. I ended up working in a call centre collecting credit card debt for a bank, until I decided I needed a job that allowed me to eat chocolate and watch porn all day.

That is when I found my current work as a video and image editor for an “ethical erotica” company. I was interested in the company’s mission statement which seemed to be about subverting the dominant paradigm when it comes to consumable depictions of sexuality – ie, making porn that was different. I felt this could give me some experience and insight into various ways that sexuality can be depicted – with the idea that my work could help inform my art and politics. I actually ended up contributing a little to the company’s projects myself which basically involved taking naked photos of myself and wanking on camera! Obviously, the work I did was low-key and soft-core, but I still feel as if it’s given me a little more insight into how it feels to be in front of the camera in a sexual context. Something that struck me was how much fun I had, how much of a non-event it was otherwise and how it felt less exploitive and soul destroying than working for a bank had been.

I’ve recently gone part time at my job to concentrate more on my art and keeping in mind the comments I got from that university assessor, I am now attempting to bring the things I have been learning and thinking about sex and porn into my own artistic practice. Today, I spent almost an hour examining wooden fruit in an interior decorating shop, wondering if I could paint them pink and use them as dildos in an installation.

Tell us about your blog - what is the focus? What are your goals?

My blog is a space where I can give a more coherent form to the thoughts that have been floating in my head for many years now about some of the things that I think about the most – feminism, art porn and sex!

The goal started reasonably loose but I am starting to realise that though I am not an overtly political person, this blog is also somewhat politically motivated. The climate in Australia is disturbingly conservative with the Church having far too much power. It also seems to me that certain groups of people have become more vocal in their moral hysteria about “porn culture”. I find a lot of their arguments frustratingly simplistic, especially as they often don’t tend to define what “porn” actually is, and in fact seem to mean mainstream heterosexual porn, which while being the most widely available type of porn, is not actually all that porn can be.

Basically, it seems that everyone wants to take the moral high ground and that nobody wants to be the pervert standing up for porn and sex. I decided I wanted to be one of the perverts who does! My aim is not to uncritically talk about porn, sexuality and their relationship to art, but to attempt to discuss them as the complex subjects they are. Though I am a white, cisgendered female and therefore have my own perspective and privileges, I hope not to be too preachy but rather encourage open dialogue about the things I wish we’d discuss more often without getting hysterical, judgemental, moralising, or seedy.

You identify as feminist - how do you define feminism? What do you find are the most common misconceptions of feminism?

I indentify as a feminist because I believe feminism is still relevant and important, not only for what it has given women but for the conversations it continues to create. Yes, women in the West have come a long way as far as their rights go, but I believe we need to go further. And while I do not believe in imposing Western feminism on women of other cultures, I feel feminist discourse can be useful for women everywhere.

I get frustrated when feminists are lumped together. There are a million different forms of feminism, but I feel that the thing that binds us together is the belief in women’s rights. Because of my specific stance in regards to porn, sexuality, BDSM etc, I actually like to further clarify my stance by calling it “sex positive feminism”; this is not totally necessary but I find it useful for positioning within the much broader spectrum of feminism.

The most common misconception I come across is that feminism is about women being superior to men, which is ludicrous. People complain about the wording, that “feminism” means it’s all about women and, well, duh. Feminism IS about women’s rights and equality because we still need to fight for these things.

A more modern misconception seems to also be that feminists are silly women who are just imagining their feelings of being oppressed, that feminism is no longer necessary in Western society and that feminists are just a bunch of white, middle class whiners. As a white, middle class whiner… I resent that! In seriousness, I find that argument offensive as it invalidates the perspective of a large group of people without seriously considering why they might feel this way.

I personally have gone through several "evolutions" of feminism due to various experiences, books, classes, and a multitude of other influences. What has been your own "evolution" or "journey" through feminism? What or who have been the biggest influence on your perspective?

I grew up with parents who very much nurtured my feminism. However, the early manifestations of feminism I went through involved a period where I couldn’t even wear a skirt without feeling I was bowing to the patriarchy and I never, ever wore makeup. I was basically denying my own desires to sometimes dress and act “girly”, because I seemed to be making the mistake some people make in thinking that to be equal to men, one must act like them.

Then I went through a phase in my mid-to-late teens where I decided that feminism was no longer necessary and I started making art exploring sexuality as well as posing naked for photos and posting them online on (perhaps in rebellion to a boyfriend who told me that if I ever did nude modelling, he’d dump me). A few of the nude photos received a reasonable amount of popularity but I was shocked by some of the hateful vitriol spewed my way by people who seemed to despise me, simply because I was a 19 year old posting naked photos of herself online. What had originally felt like a fun, liberating and revealing experience became one that was complicated and upsetting because I realised my body was a playground for projections not just from creepy men but also judgemental people. This was my first real understanding of how loaded it is for a woman to reveal and own her body/sexuality.

Somehow, this led me back into feminism because I realised I don’t live in a world where my body only belongs to me. But I still felt frustrated by a lot of feminist discourse I was exposed to at the time, which often made me feel hopeless, helpless and guilty about my own desires to dress nicely, expose my body in an exhibitionist manner, be sexually submissive and so on. In a funny way, feminism often felt oppressive because everywhere I looked, there was the patriarchy and how the hell was I supposed to be myself? How was I to avoid being a female chauvinist pig?!

Then I discovered sex positive feminism and the conversations surrounding it and this is where my feminism is at right now. My current stance is also influenced by people working on sex workers’ rights. I can’t point to one specific influence but I’m certainly inspired by people such as Susie Bright, Dorothy Allison, Annie Sprinkle and Audacia Ray. I enjoy the sex positive feminist stance because it has helped me learn to acknowledge and accept aspects of my own sexuality and self. My relationship with my desires and with my feminism is still a complicated one, often fraught with contradiction and uncertainty, but I think it’s valuable to always question ourselves and accept our contradictory nature. We’re complicated creatures, we human beings.

You explicitly invoke porn and feminism as core aspects of your blog - what is your perspective on how these two subjects intersect? How do you feel about the various ways feminism and porn have clashed and bonded? Where do you situate yourself in the "sex wars"?

As a woman who enjoys using pornography as a masturbatory tool, and who is interested in exploring it artistically, I want the right to be able to do so. So in that sense, I am distressed by the anti-porn stance certain feminists take, specifically those who want it outlawed as I am very much against censorship. I am against paternalistic laws that deny women the right to bodily autonomy and moreover, make criminals out of sex workers. So, as stated earlier, I identify as a sex positive feminist.

That said, there’s one hell of a lot of mainstream porn that I find incredibly disagreeable; its depictions of women are often misogynistic, violent without contextualisation, and it tends to sideline women’s pleasure to concentrate on male fantasy and orgasm. In my mind, there is absolutely no doubt that porn is a feminist issue and as such, should be critiqued, deconstructed and reconstructed into something smarter, more female-friendly and therefore sexier. The answer, to me and others such as the wonderful Violet Blue, is not to censor porn but for women to demand better porn. Organisations such as the Feminist Porn Awards, which have been running since 2006, are doing a great job of encouraging porn through a feminist lens.

It’s certainly not an issue without complexity, and I’m not even necessarily against porn that does display idealised female bodies, as obviously porn is fantasy, but I simply want there to be more alternatives and rational discussions about the topic. I’m not interested in the “for” or “against” sort of attitudes of some, as I think when you’re discussing a topic as complex as human sexuality and the depiction of it, you can’t discuss things in simplistic black and white terms.

Art and porn are two typically binarized spheres, in both legal and cultural contexts. What are your thoughts on the way society locates these spheres in opposition? What is your perspective on the relationship between art and porn? How do you define what you have referred to on your site as "art porn"?

Several years ago, I read an essay by Alan Moore called “Bog Venus vs Nazi Cock Ring” that spoke of the way Victorian attitudes towards sexuality basically ghettoized pornography and left it in its current ugly state. I don’t know just how historically accurate this essay was but I certainly agree that the reason we polarize art and porn is because we tend to hold art on a pedestal as a higher human endeavour, something beyond the flesh, but culturally we tend to see sex as a dirty, irritating aspect of our animal selves; something lowly, based only upon bodily function (like shitting or sneezing).

I tend to think of human sexuality as far more complicated than this, and as such it should not be beyond exploration in art. Nothing should be beyond ethical exploration in art. Of course, a lot of artists explore sexuality in various aspects, but when it comes to imagery that is explicitly sexually arousing, that seems to have become an almost entirely exclusive domain of pornography. But I think if art can make us laugh, cry, think and feel… why can’t it make us horny?

Of course, this is where it gets tricky: how do I define art porn? Well, that gets to the question “What is art?” That’s a hard question! Art is subjective and I think the same is true of porn. In 1964, Justice Potter Stewart said of hardcore pornography “I know it when I see it." I’ve heard people say “I know art when I see it, and that’s not art,” of Marcel Duchamp’s work, so it’s obvious to me that when it comes to what is art and what is porn, it’s in the eye of the beholder.

But as for my own definition of “art porn”, to me art is a creative endeavour that attempts to express complexities… so art porn, to me, is either art that tries to be arousing or porn that tries to be complex. In my mind that’s how you get art porn, but whether it makes GOOD art porn is an entirely different matter. I’m not yet sure what makes good art porn – I guess I’ll know it when I see it!

Is there anything about the porn industry that troubles you from a feminist perspective? What, if anything, would you change about the industry in its current form?

Oh there is fuckloads about the current porn industry that troubles me. The first thing I’d like to change is how the industry aims almost exclusively at an audience that is the stereotypical notion of a heterosexual man – no wonder so many women despise porn, it’s like a parody of the patriarchy except it’s not a parody! I’d really like to see porn producers consider their female and queer audiences a lot more, humanise their female actors, think more, explore human sexuality deeper, become more imaginative – gah! Just… get… better!

But I really don’t think the onus can be put entirely on porn producers. Just as we’re buying fair-trade chocolate, free range eggs and locally farmed carrots, we need to become ethical consumers of porn. Know where your porn has come from, question the producer’s practices, put your money where your mouth is and support ethical and indie porn companies. We all know about supply and demand; we need to demand better material to wank to.

Finally, we need to stop vilifying porn producers and actors and start respecting them as human beings. If we stop marginalising sex review and sex workers, perhaps more artists will venture into the territory and transform the landscape. If porn is currently a dangerous monster, this is only because we have made it so. I believe we can change that.

What are your Top 3 favourite XXX movies, and why?

1. The Opening of Misty Beethoven. A friend of mine lent me this old classic and so far it’s been the only feature length porn film I’ve been able to sit through in its entirety. I love that it is clever, funny, sexy, has high production values and subversive power play (one scene has a woman fucking a man with a strap-on, I want to see much more of that!), and the movie ends with the woman in power. Oh and I totally came about six times while watching the film.

2. The Fashionistas. Actually, I watched this high budget BDSM film years ago and can’t remember much of it, but one scene really stood out for me. One of the stars, Belladonna, is sexily stripping and watching herself in a mirror, obviously turned on by her own image. This really struck a chord with me – a wonderfully sexy sort of narcissism.

3. Stage Left, which is a short film on Haunting music as a female clown walks onto a deserted stage, lit by two spotlights. She starts masturbating and the music gradually fades out as her cries get louder. Her orgasm is intense and emotional, then she takes a bow, exits, and returns to her work sweeping the stage. It’s a quick film, erotic but also kind of alienating, emotional and haunting for me. It speaks to me about the performative aspect of sexuality and of loneliness in a way that is almost surreal. Also, I like it when scary things are eroticised and clowns are the height of scary!

You can read the wonderful blog Feminism. Art. Porn. Sex. here!

"...not the kind that will inspire female laughter": Garage Girls (1982)

Hey folks! Some of you may remember my critique of Robert Rimmer's review of Stiff Competition a little while back, where I took Rimmer to task for misguidedly presuming the film to be misogynistic, based on his own (and by extension, society's) attitudes toward sexuality, physicality, and gender. Rimmer is a curious fellow. His reviews are an invaluable resource, but he frequently baffles me with his assertions that "women will love this one" or "women will be repulsed by the tone of this sexvid." Peoples' expectations of male and female porn consumption is a view on this website little bee in my bonnet, but more broadly something that fascinates me. In my experience, people seem to think that women want no close ups of genitalia, and no "nasty" content, while men of course desire exactly these very things. Men and women aren't so simple though y'all, and I do enjoy going into a film Rimmer has promised me I, as a woman, will love or hate, just to see who he thinks I am, and to ponder what this says about cultural attitudes toward gendered sexual desires.

Rimmer remarks of Garage Girls, "The humor in this one, which is almost continuous, is not the kind that will inspire female laughter. Rather, it is male barroom or fraternity humor. Thus in 1982 not all adult filmmakers agreed with Chuck Vincent." Hmm. I love Chuck Vincent, but I love Robert McCallum too...and what in the hell is "barroom humor"? Fraternity humor sounds really unfunny, so I'm join here already on the fence about this pic. Don't get me wrong -- even though assumptions about gendered behavior/interests irritate me, certainly there are some themes and forms of humor that are misogynistic, and could be regarded as something women (and like-minded men) might not want to watch. There's a homosocial form of bonding that can often be extremely alienating to women (necessarily so, in fact), most obviously in jokes that are at the expense of women, sexualizing them in dehumanizing ways for the cackling benefit of groups of men, and generally mocking them as a way of securing a hysterically insecure masculine heterosexuality. Clearly, if Rimmer were referring to this form of humor, I would likely give him a hearty Amen! But alas, as with Stiff Competition, I found myself watching Garage Girls in disbelief -- what on earth was Rimmer referring to?

First of all, lets break down the plot: a group of four women have just graduated from a mechanics school, have purchased a little shop, and are starting a business together -- their "dream come true" -- but face problems in the form of sexist expectations of women mechanics. As Lisa DeLeeuw tells the gals, "Men are gonna give us a rough time, customers and competition." But they're in it for more than just money -- they want to prove they're independent. The gals set to work fixing cars, and indulge some of their own sexual desires with customers along the way, including a sweet budding relationship between Lisa DeLeeuw and Duke (John Leslie), a supportive cop who is helping the girls out with security. There's more though, as you shall see...

From the get go, it's clear that the female protagonists are interested in independence, both economic and sexual. It's not uncommon for a film to preach feminism but fail to deliver via sleazy and one-sided sex scenes, but Garage Girls really seems to make an effort to depict female autonomy and sexual pleasure. When Duke offers his help to Lisa in the wake of an attempt at sabotage ("Somebody just doesn't like girls being mechanics!"), he clarifies that his protection would be solely as a civil servant, and it's Lisa who entices him into the shower room (why they have a fancy shower room in the back of the shop is anyone's guess, but I like it). The sex that ensues is egalitarian, and when the other girls get a look at Duke, they're cheekily imploring him to whip his cock out so they can see. Clearly, these women are interested in sex, and for the most part set the boundaries. In a genre where cunnilingus and attention to female orgasm is so routinely neglected, Garage Girls features plenty of oral loving for the ladies, and verbal articulations that they're climaxing. In addition, the women have subtly defined sexual characters ranging from monogamous (Lisa) to totally and casually obsessed with sex (Dorothy) that render each of them unique, thereby avoiding simply depicting them all as liberated sluts.

Later, still battling saboteurs, the girls have to contend with Bonnie and Clyde, who are on the run from the cops and attempting to stick up the garage. Luckily, Dorothy LeMay is a "karate expert", and a pretty kick ass scene where the women handle their business ensues. I wasn't expecting this kind of silliness, but it was certainly welcome, and a refreshing change that the women kicked ass without the assistance of their cop buddy. Once Duke does show up, he simply takes Bonnie and Clyde downtown, and the gals get back to work.

One of the more interesting scenes happens toward the end, where Lisa is called by Georgina Spelvin, Youth Corps leader, to fix a flat tire on their bus. Lisa not only fixes the tire (jacking it up with all the "kids" inside, no less), but keeps Georgina busy so the horny teens can fool around for a while. Finally, Georgina literally falls in on the action, and discovers her own awakening, crying out "Praise the Lord!" It's a curious Mary Poppins-esque scene, with Lisa serving as a kind of sexual assistant who also changes their tire on the side, and cruises off with a smile. It's just all so goddamn good-natured.

When the saboteur, now dressed as a gorilla, takes things too far by trying to blow up the garage, the second car chase of the film takes place and the whole caboodle ends up with a weird showdown on the beach between Duke and Lisa on one side, and the gorilla/saboteur on the other. "Me and my buddies don't want the competition," the gorilla explains, "And we don't like women's lib!" Why should they share their mechanics' business with women? he reasons. And here comes the ickiest part for me... When the gorilla tells Duke that "us guys have to stick together," Duke protests, "You gotta have women!" Lisa concurs, adding, "unless you're a homo!"

Yikes. That old homophobic chestnut. A shame that they had to throw that in there, as though the reason men should support women's rights is because if they don't, they must be gay, which by extension implies that supporting women is equivalent to wanting to/being able to fuck them. Oh well, maybe Rimmer was dead on regarding this little exchange. That doesn't discount the whole film though, in my opinion, unless we are to go back over everything and read it simply as feminism = cock hungry sluts. I don't believe that's what the film suggests at all though. In fact, I found the film to be a refreshing antidote to the anti-sex stereotype of feminism without resorting to the insulting converse stereotype that feminism is great because it means all women want sex all the time and can no longer be raped. I can see how one of the scenes (the first scene in the bar) could be read in this latter way, however.

Of course, everyone lives happily ever after (including the gorilla!) -- Duke and Lisa remain an item, the other gals are sexually satisfied, and the film ends with a toast: "Here's to the Garage Girls! They're off to a great start!"

Rimmer concludes his review by saying, "Men between 18 and 40 may laugh their heads off, but most women won't." I didn't just laugh, I applauded! Maybe I'm not most women? Maybe Rimmer was watching a different movie? Maybe times have changed? Who knows, but I find it honestly baffling that such a blatantly pro-women, pro-women's lib film, with all its frivolity and sexy silliness, could be marked off by anyone as a prime example of porn that would turn off a woman, unless it is presumed that women openly enjoying sex is insulting. Maybe it's the dungarees with no bra? I recommend this flick to women *and* men who like fun and sexy XXX which doesn't dehumanize its subjects. Just be aware of that groan-inducing homophobic snafu.

"Here's to the Garage Girls!"

"I'm Gonna Fill That Belly of Hers With Black Power!": Hot Summer in the City (1976)

Hola! It's been a while. I was perusing the web today, when I came across this article from March, a nice trip down memory lane for me, saying all kinds of nice things about my site, and concluding with those ominous words, "If only she'd post more..."

Well, you asked for it, here ya go!

I first heard about Hot Summer in the City when I stumbled across a quote from Quentin Tarantino saying it was the best porno ever made. I figured that would make it grimy, sleazy, and probably cool in a retro way with groovy tunes, but almost certainly not the best porno ever made, what with the likes of Pamela Mann and Misty Beethoven strolling around in the ether.

With that said, it certainly intrigued me, and after watching Gail Palmer introduce the life-altering The Italian Stallion, I figured I should check out some of her other titles.

I understood going in that I was pretty much guaranteed some degree of near-parodic racism and sexism, yet I was interested to see what this kind of racially charged sex/blax/exploitation genre would look like through the eyes of a white, female former sex worker. Maybe the fact that Palmer directed the movie steered me toward deeper thought, but from the outset it was clear to me that underneath the sleaze lay at least some rumblings of social commentary. Palmer appears to be trying to satirically point to something regarding white women, black men, and the implicitly present white male patriarch, most obvious in the "fucking the white woman to get back at the man" motif that underlies so much interracial porn then and now. It's also indicated in the scene where our "heroine" Debby runs away from the black rapists to a suburban house, crying for help. An old white man emerges from his home, sees the black men roughing her up while she screams, kinda nods, and goes back inside. This struck me as Palmer's indictment of middle-class, white male indifference to sexual violence against women, as well as a tendency to isolate racial issues to the periphery of "normal" society. In essence, what has this got to do with him?

Following this, the men carry Debby back to their HQ, where they are apparently hatching some kind of scam involving terrorism against cops, staged to look like it was committed by black folks in order to start a race riot. Some rich white dude stands to benefit from this somehow, and the crew are sure to get away with it in such a heated civil rights climate. Why they are doing it, or who gains from what, I cannot tell you - either the film doesn't explain it, or I wasn't paying attention, or maybe it's simply the film's way of saying white men are racist, and black men are complicit in that racism. Perhaps someone can enlighten me otherwise? Either way, this particular group of black militants have no political agenda, and no quarrel with profiting from the good efforts of MLK.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, they all have to rape virgin Debby, in a not particularly convincing frenzy of violent homosocialism. They really don't stop talking to each other -- it's almost as if she doesn't need to be there. But of course, homosocial structures must have that reassuring female body in order to function. And in this context, a white female body signifies in very specific ways. Our main man Duke effectively claims Debby as his own, positioning himself as her pimp, so the other men have to jump through hoops, and win at poker, in order to gain access to his property.

Effectively, that's all there is to the film, but for me the intriguing parts lie in the gendered and raced characterizations, particularly Debby's curiously instantaneous transition into housewife and domestic servant. It's a racist, sexist stereotype that white women are submissive to men, while black women are not, leading to all sorts of cringe-inducing comments in the real world a la Wesley Snipes. It's very interesting, then, that Debby is immediately put to work cooking beans and pork chops, a rather surreal sight to see immediately following her forced deflowering. However, it's also a scenario that whiffs of white sexual fantasy and guilt. Later, she is the appointed whiskey-pourer during their poker game, and in general a quiet, meek little lady who dotes on the guys and never indicates any desire to escape (though she seems a bit down in the dumps). Let's face it though, and I suspect this is the point, she doesn't have a lot to go home to as established by the opening scene where she tells her boyfriend about the physical abuse she experiences at home, and then walks in on her mother fucking two guys.

Things certainly take a turn when a tough talking woman, Jody, shows up and starts verbally abusing Debby, growing jealous of Debby's "relationship" with her man Duke, and generally fulfilling the aforementioned black female stereotype. Well, she too gets raped when she puts up too much of a fuss about her boyfriend screwing Debby, but it all starts to wander toward the consentual, romantic rape formula that I have seen in dozens of porn flicks from this era, with Jody seeming to get into it while Debby is fucking her once-was-rapist in the other room to some soft and groovy tunes. It is here that the film starts to posture as a celebration of ebony and ivory and all the joys of interracial eroticism as Debby and Duke's bodies intertwine. (Following this, Duke tenderly orders the others to tie her up so she won't run away while he's out...).

By the end of the flick, it's not entirely clear what it all means, if indeed it means anything at all. What is clear is that Jody becomes the demonized obstructor of interracial love/lust, while the male sexual aggressors are vindicated. Jody orchestrates Stitch's anal rape of Debby, and when she tries to cut off Debby's tit, Stitch tries to stop her (what a hero!) and gets knifed himself. Just as Shorty goes to slice and dice the aforementioned white titty, Duke arrives, shotgun in hand, and literally blasts the meddling Jody across the room. He then seems to just leave Debby to wander the dusty roads while he drives off and presumably engineers a terrorist attack that we never get to see.

It's all a little too reminiscent of the complaints of black feminist theorists such as bell hooks and Patricia Hill Collins that social justice for "blacks" effectively means "black men," while "women's liberation" effectively means "white women's liberation." Furthermore, the film depicts a sense of how marginalized and oppressed groups tend to marginalize or oppress other groups as a way of highlighting their own plight, or to assist in their own enfranchisement. An example of this would be the early women's liberation movement using racist tactics to campaign for the right to vote; another example would be the general tendencies of "horizontal hostility" and resentement present in the racism and hostility directed from one oppressed racial minority toward another oppressed racial minority, something that stems from an overarching white hegemonic structure that encourages and thrives on such in-fighting and competition. It seems as though whatever Palmer was trying to say about race, she ended up letting the men off the hook, while the black female is rendered the "problem." Of course, this might all be trivial fluff, haphazardly blowing in across a muddled series of random exploitation tropes, but it's there nonetheless.

With all this in mind, I found Hot Summer in the City to be a grimy and confusing affair that had pretensions to political commentary, and a few unexpectedly interesting nudges and winks at broader social issues, even if at the expense of a third party. In addition, Palmer's own fantasies of interracial lust and forced sex surely figure into the mess. The overwhelming reason to see this film, however, is for the jive talking banter amongst the men, and the steady stream of presumably illegally used hits from the 60s and 70s.

Vote: 100 Sexiest Pornstars Ever!

It seems that Elegant Angel are putting together some kind of documentary type thing that will countdown the 100 sexiest pornstars, based on viewers' votes. I checked on any limitations, and I am told there are none. So, go here and email your personal choices - golden age, feature, gonzo, male, female, trans, gay, straight...whatever you want!

I encourage you to come and tell us who you voted for!

Meet the Neighbours: The Morning After Podcast

Hi folks! Some of you may remember my efforts a while back to highlight what scant porn blogs and podcasts are available out there, and I'm still on the hunt. I recently noticed and subscribed to a new podcast, The Morning After, which brings comedians and porn stars together for an hour of conversation each week. I must admit, I was very skeptical going in to my first episode, but quickly realised that the hosts Eli and Jake are not interested in playing their subject for cheap laughs, nor asking their XXX star guests stupid or insulting questions. Phew! On the contrary, I found myself being happily carried along by the mellow and good-natured conversation, at the same time as I was itching to join in. Social issues such as race and gender are frequently addressed, as well as the things that I always want to know about porn: conduct on set, the process behind getting booked, relationships (both professional and romantic), star backgrounds and anecdotes, and a whole host of other interesting nuggets of porno BTS.

Anyway, I figured these fellas would be a good choice for the first installment of what I plan on being a series of interviews with the good folks out there who dabble in XXX interrogation. Enjoy!


Tell us about yourselves! Who are you, and what has led you to this point in life/work?

Jake: I am an aspiring stand-up comedian/writer/documentary filmmaker, a cat lover, a brother, a son, a Jew, a nice guy, a closet semi-feminist, and I tend to get very angry at homophobia.

Eli: I am a comedian and writer in Los Angeles. I met Jake at an open mic a while back and we got along really well. We both followed a lot of porn stars on Twitter and Jake had a habit of retweeting ridiculous stuff they posted. Eventually, I pitched a loose concept of the podcast to him and he was all for it. Jake didn’t think I was going to act on it so quickly. As soon as the show we did ended, I went home contacted a few porn stars about doing it. All three of them got back to me almost immediately. I got a friend of mine to do the tech work and we were good to go.

Tell us about your podcast, The Morning After - what is the format? what are the goals of the show?

Jake: The format of the show is loose and simple. Eli and I serve as moderators, and before each episode we come up with a list of questions and topics we want to discuss based on research we have done about the guests, but we don't hold the interview to any strict boundaries. We invite one comedian (who will usually be funnier than both of us) to provide comic relief, and one member of the adult entertainment industry (performers/sex bloggers/lawyers/producers/etc.) to discuss his or her career and involvement in the adult entertainment industry and whatever else comes up.

We are intent on discussing pornography in an interesting, enlightening, non-exploitative way. There are so many stigmas and misconceptions about the industry, and it doesn't help when shows like Howard Stern ask adult performers to get naked and act like idiots. That's fine if people want to listen to or see those kind of fireworks, but we prefer to keep things mellow and have normal pleasant discussions with and about the everyday lives of people in the industry. We want to get to know and portray our guests as fully dimensional people, which is not how people in the industry are normally portrayed in the media.

Eli: The Morning After to me is a roundtable discussion between Jake and myself, along with two guests: somebody working in the adult entertainment industry (generally porn stars, but that isn’t always the case) and a comedian. We talk about the business and tend to theme out the shows based on the guests. The guest comedian acts almost as a third interviewer and adds extra humor, which is nice for Jake and me, because there is less pressure on us to keep the momentum going.

At the end of each episode, we ask our guests if they consider themselves a cat or dog person, since Jake is super into cats and I’m a big-time dog enthusiast. Depending on the guests, it usually turns into a big debate. The reason we made this the final question is it keeps the show from ever getting too serious. If we had the most serious, non-comedy based show, we could get to this question and know there will be funny stories, etc.

The goal of the show is to highlight aspects of the business that are mostly sidelined. We aren’t trying to break barriers or uncover something people didn’t know about – most of it’s been found (be it race, feminism, etc). But we get to explore it for an hour each week and peel more layers from the onion. A lot of experiences the guests share are very personal, but a lot of is revealing parts of the business in a more day-to-day aspect, which I think is just as fascinating.

Why did you choose to make pornography the subject of your show?

Jake: Eli and I became friendly because we were always at the same stand-up comedy open mics around Los Angeles. Both of us told jokes about porn, so we started discussing it, and it turned out we both had a similar curiosity about the industry (as consumers and also on a sociological level). As a comedian in LA, you have to hustle and do whatever you can to get your voice heard, and many people have podcasts for that very reason. Because there are so many podcasts, it's hard for any particular one to stand out, especially if you are not famous (which neither of us are). We thought that since we both had an interest in the porn industry, and since the idea of a funny but informative porn podcast was a little different than most straightforward comedy podcasts, it was possible that we could have our voices heard through the help of the other guests on the show, considering the astounding number of followers so many porn stars have on Facebook and Twitter. So, it was a combination of our mutual interest in the industry as well as what we saw as an untapped niche in both the comedy and porn communities.

Eli: Starting a podcast was always a fun idea. There are so many good comedy podcasts, but there are a lot that are really self-indulgent and I didn’t want to do one unless there was a good idea that I could run with. Since Jake was as interested in the business as I was (and we both followed a fuckton of porn stars on twitter), it naturally progressed from there. Bringing on a fellow comic takes some of the weight off us and be it male or female, they are genuinely interested in our other guest and what they have to say. I have always been fascinated by the adult entertainment industry. I initially wanted to do something about it in a media outlet. For some reason I saw the finish line at film or television, in a scripted format. I felt this was a better way to analyze it by going straight to the source: people who work in the business, telling it their way, without adjusting it. That said, we do cut out some bits from the show just to keep it from running longer than it already is. Sometimes we go off on tangents that are really not germane to the episode.

Who are your audience? I have found that, in general, people tend to be either dismissive of any complex discussions about porn, arguing "it's just porn," or they tend to be very serious about it and shrink from any frivolous approaches. Have you found this to be the case? How do you think your show fits into what is currently available?

Jake: I'm not sure who our audience is. I know some of my friends listen to the podcast, as well as my family, and I am sure that many people who follow our various guests on Twitter are listeners, but it's difficult to figure out exactly who is listening. The important thing is, with the number of listeners in the thousands, the podcast is definitely being heard by people outside of my social circle, which is one of the main goals of the show.

I agree with how you characterize people's reactions to porn. People either seem to have the unfortunate, classic view that all of the performers were molested and are addicted to drugs, or they seem to understand that there is nothing inherently wrong with working in the porn industry, and porn is just another career people can choose for themselves nowadays. I can understand both sides (but I agree with the latter), and one of the reasons we do the podcast is so people can see beyond the absurd myth that you have to be damaged and destroyed as a human being in order to work in porn.

I think our show is relatively unique, which is why I enjoy doing it. Ironically, although our podcast is about porn, we don't even talk about sex that often. We are much more interested in people's career goals, their reasons for doing porn, how they deal with relationships, and social and political issues within the industry.

HBO makes some fascinating and insightful (and non-exploitative) films and series about the adult entertainment industry, but besides that I don't think there are too many podcasts/tv shows/movies that deal with porn in a sociological rather than exploitative way.

Eli: We’re still learning who our audience is. A lot of other comics have been very supportive in listening to it and people we know from prior to comedy are downloading it. We would love to get more feedback since some episodes are averaging 3,000-4,000 downloads and we’ve deducted it’s people googling the girl we have on that episode. We’ve gotten some kind words from a variety of places. A guy from London gave us a shout out on Twitter, as did a woman from Toronto. Fortunately, the responses we’ve gotten have been a varied demographic, which is great.

You couldn’t be more right about preconceptions with the podcast and the people we feature. A lot of people harbor this classic 1990s point-of-view that it’s the devil’s work and all the people operating in it are either a step above drug dealers or girls with daddy issues. I’m sure there are still cases of that today, but the majority of the people working in the business are doing it because it’s good old-fashioned capitalism. A close friend of mine and a fellow both talked it about in those pragmatic terms and really don’t plan on changing their opinions (it’s worth noting both the guy and girl are very liberal) and that’s a demographic that is always going to exist.

As Jake mentioned, we kind lucked out in combining the porn/comedy aspect. That's not to say we were the first to do it, but I think our genuine interest in the business, coupled with humor that comes from the atmosphere (rather than having cheap, hacky jokes about sex) carves into a nice, little niche. The things we pride ourselves in the most is not being sleazy or misogynistic and a lot of the stuff we talk about is not just based on our guests lives in the industry, but before and what they plan to do after. A lot of it is looking through the lens of someone in the business and how they deal with the outside world (relationships, family, etc).

Which of your episodes so far is your favourite? Why? And which of your guests made the biggest impression on you (positive, negative, or otherwise)?

Jake: I can't pick a favorite, but the Tyler Knight episode was specifically fascinating to me, because it went far beyond simply talking about porn and the industry. We were able to seriously discuss literature, racism, relationships and many other topics. I really felt like I came away from that episode with knowledge I did not have before.

That being said, I have learned something during each taping that I did not know before, and have made new friends in the process. Although I considered myself an open-minded person before we started the podcast, I now realize I had certain preconceptions and misconceptions about the industry that have since changed.

Eli: It’s a tough one because some episodes are a lot funnier than others, but others are much more informative. I think I’ll always have a place in my heart for the first episode because even though Jake and I had a format, we still didn’t know what to expect. Dana DeArmond was our first guest and we were freaking out because we couldn’t get a guest comedian on, our initial sound mixer was analog, and we couldn’t believe Dana DeArmond was coming onto the episode. Luckily, she was a firecracker and Jake, along with myself, were completely at ease. The stuff we learned, and the comedy that came from Dana, Jake, and me was note perfect. There was an Escape from New York/No Way Out debate that Jake and I got into around the 9 minute mark that still cracks me up.

Dana was also a huge help in spreading the word of the podcast and introducing us to future guests, not to mention vouching for us to other girls we were trying to book. In fact, right after we recorded this episode, she invited us to a party happening that night and introduced us to a ton of people that were totally interested in doing the podcast. I had been in touch with two of the girls by e-mail (Andy San Dimas and Bobbi Starr) and putting a face to name for both sides in person, was really cool.

What are your Top 3 favourite XXX movies, and why?

Jake: I wish I could give a good answer to this question, but most of the porn I watched growing up was on blurry VHS tapes, and it was usually only specific scenes, as I was always hiding my porn watching late at night so nobody in my house could know what was happening.

I was more inspired by narratives or documentaries about people who worked in the industry. Boogie Nights, though obviously not a porn movie, was a huge inspiration for me, in terms of wanting to be a filmmaker and it also gave me a lifelong interest with the porn industry. I also love the documentary series Pleasure for Sale (about brothels) by the Gantz Brothers and Taxicab Confessions was another HBO series that changed my life, considering how frankly and uniquely it discussed and portrayed sex.

Eli: Since Jake copped out; I’ll offer a few. Granted, I also didn’t seek out specific titles, and had to take what I could get way back when. These are things I found along the way, one in I found in high school, the other was studied in a feminist film theory class in college. The final choice is just plain goofy.

The Devil in Miss Jones: An obvious choice, but one that deserves to be on a list of best/favorite xxx movies. I felt like this is the movie Jack Horner was working up to in Boogie Nights. Like any coherent, narrative feature, there is a theme here: life is short. You spend all this time trying to be a “pure” person, but you don’t know what’s waiting for you after, so live it up. Of course, the movie does this by saying “fuck anything and anyone while you still have a libido,” but the message is all the same. Everyone involved took it seriously and the National Film Registry needs to deem this culturally significant already. (Also, the film’s director Gerard Damiano went on to direct Let My Puppets Come, which makes Meet the Feebles look like Sesame Street).

Bad Wives 2: It seems like Vivid doesn’t have the same notoriety they used to, but they were the closest to mainstream in the 90s with narrative features that had great sex and interesting stories. This is one of them. Raylene, one of my favorite porn stars, is the lead and Randy Spears was the antagonist (I think he and Evan Stone have great comedic timing, but are great at playing it straight too, no pun intended). It never goes over the top. I remember watching it in high school thinking in the last sex scene: that’s a scary looking devil! (Note: that devil in the movie no longer scares me, he looks just plain silly)

Tie: The Big Lebowski and Batman: A XXX Parody: This might be too soon, but I think it’s the right choice. Let me put this in SAT form.

Vampires: Teen Girls.

Porn: Parodies.

Porn parodies are all the rage right now and a lot of them, even though they're comedy, are taken very seriously. I think both of these productions organically fit the sex with the story and they are both vital to the production. I have to admit, I skipped a majority of the sex scenes because a lot of girls that have been on the podcast have scenes in the movie… it’s kind of awkward. Andy San Dimas and I bonded over B-Movies of yesteryear and Dana DeArmond and I talk about comedy all the time. It’s kind of like watching a sibling do porn, so I tend to skip those scenes.

You can find Eli and Jake's show on itunes, and check out their website where episodes are listed and all manner of twittery and facebookey links can be found.

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.


Copyright Info.

XHTML/CSS validations
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Valid CSS!