If you want to boil Porn Panic into a single concept: It’s about the breathless trembling shock people write about facials with.
In porn, it makes a great visual to have the guy finish by wanking all over the model’s face. The visual nature of the medium means that the positioning and nature of communication of the erotic puts the semen produced somewhere into the picture and facials are an alternative to creampies, pearl necklaces, whatever slang term for festooning the buttocks, etc. Something particular about putting semen on the face causes a tizzy.
It’s a newer behaviour in the sense that it meandered over from Japanese porn in my teenage years to be a standard in pretty much all western porn. It is extremely fair to say that porn influences the sex we are having because of it’s ubiquity. And inevitably the discussion leads to articles like this., in the NYTimes, discussing what teens might be learning from getting a sexual education from porn.
Writing about the influence sexual media has on sex is hard to do without tut tutting.
I hypothesize that the piece we are missing from all this is that sex is supposed to be a conversation, not some static, platonic idea of sexy, and porn influencing sex is a feature not a bug.
For a while, after he came, LDR style, Brick would send me a snap of a palmful of cum, all shiny as “proof”. I don’t know if he found this erotic for the sake of the act or presumed that I must like “proof” and was doing it for my benefit. It’s not something that, prior to him, it would have occurred to me to ask for. But curiously enough, he stopped doing it (probably because changes in living situations eliminated privacy for him) and I find with this introduction of what is in effect a fetish activity, I actually kinda liked it and now miss it.
Sexy is social. Social is communication. Art is communication. Sexy is art.
I don’t think we’re very good at acknowledging the flow of sex-as-a-conversation without bringing in mortality. For example recently as a think piece, Hylas and the Nymphs, by Waterhouse, was removed from it’s place in the gallery it lives in. I think it’s a beautiful enough painting I put a print of it in my bathroom. It is, however, a pretty good piece to use for the conversation about why great art so often means shit that gets a wealthy straight male audience off and we value this sort of thing so much we don’t think particularly hard about trotting people we want to be educated past glorified excuses to look at idealized titties.
Framing matters. Sometimes literal framing in gilt. Porn gets slapped around because it doesn’t even get to wear the crown of art (and people sneak their porn in by calling it ‘art’ because we’re bad at acknowledging that lowly pop art is still art but Hylas and the Nymphs is no more or less dignified than the carefully made up fake PoV shot of a model getting cetaphil flung at her face because it makes a better visual than the variable amounts of semen produced by a human male.
I’m going to go against the grain and make a statement: Sex is supposed to be performative.
That’s the weirdness about all this, an unspoken part of the conversation where people have an idea of pure and good sex that is normal, a porn influenced sex that is a cabaret show of perversity, but sex doesn’t actually work like that, and what sex it, is a variable conversation and set of fungible norms. It is not a penis churning a vagina, although it could be.
For example, a performance: Brick likes mouths a lot when we have sex so there’s a particular maneuver I do where I lift my head a little bit to flick my tongue over his nipple while getting my long dark hair out of the way that really Does It For Him. Why? He learned his nipples are sensitive from a past partner with outlandish oral skills, but who knows where she picked up the idea of putting her mouth on nipples. No single sexual behavior is universal across all humans. It didn’t occur to him to ask her to do that until she put her mouth there and from whatever source she learned it from, now I get asked to lick because we’re smart adults who can talk about desire.
Why am I going to the trouble of slightly angling my neck so her can see my tongue pull over his nipple? There’s a diagonal perspective where I can watch him react to what I am doing and if I get it just right, his eyes take on a haze I find incredibly sexy. Although I like his penis and this act is usually accompanied by him with is clutched in his fist wanking into the general area of a potential orgasm, the social and psychological aspect of sex means where we put our eyes and the emotional intimacy is a huge part of this.
Bless the NYTimes article I linked to, they at least mentioned that part of the appeal of people doing facials (from the awkward teen conversations) is the eye contact with the people involved. I wish we could get beyond the idea that porn is teaching kids to be rapists, which is one of the points that that NYtimes article was hammering out. (I don’t think that’s porn, I think the norms of the factor we call rape culture are in every facet of our life including porn- people raped perfectly happily before the wide availability of porn, and even if civilization and its medias vanished they will carry right on raping until our species fundamentally changes.)
When we try to talk about sex, it’s such a big topic that bits and pieces get left out.
For example a significant percent of women get pain from vaginal intercourse or no orgasm from any sexual activity ever including masturbation (1 in 10) and we don’t know why.
Millennials as the TNG Munch demographic, the people aged 18-35 to whom the internet was a factor in our life but not simply the background radiation. Usually we get lumped into the batch of up and comers, that next swathe of kiddos maturing away- although Gen X is somehow able to keeping well clear. And the inevitability of this is that people will also talk about the peculiar challenge that is Porn and Sexual Norms.
The internet exploded the community around having sex, by allowing disparate people wealthy enough to afford a connection the ability to access material for titilation. Everything about the modern BDSM community is not, despite what some people wanking themselves into a coma will tell you, the work of Old Guard guys, although they were a culturally relevant factor, but the newsgroups crawling out of the medium of safe communication behind usernames and into the first “Munch”. Which, btw, was organized by a woman. But the other side effect of internet connectivity was a golden age of relatively unfettered access to sexual materials.
Porn drove internet innovation- technologies to deliver video and static images, like it or not, were motivated in huge part by desire to look at things that got people off. They sure as skippy didn’t invent sex though- porn is ancient. The oldest known paintings include illustrations of little stick figures with erections, including fucking wildlife. (Ahem it’s about man’s dominance over ANIMALS, OK! It’s SYMBOLIC! Not! Freaky! Prehistoric! Beast! Porn! Side note: although the cave paintings usually depict skinny tanned white guys doing the painting 3/4 of the handprints in the work appear to be women based on typical sexual diamorphism in finger length, so this is another case of women making nasty tumblr worthy filth about boys) .
But Porn Panic should not supersede nuanced critique
When I say Porn Panic, I mean the idea that somehow erotic art is a thing that is actively inherently toxic, and gets combated as an intrusive external force.
We’re in an awkward period right now, where enough people have gotten on the web that rather than being the privileged domain of largely straight white wealthy people with leisure time and some specialized knowledge, enough of the population enjoys connectivity that there’s a backlash- places like the UK are not entirely comfortable with the idea that huge amounts of sexual materials are out there and thus because porn makes a part of a conversation about what people Should Be Allowed To Have.
This is the wrong conversation- excepting naked imagery produced in the absence of consent, which is a separate issue to image content, the idea of toxic art is pernicious.
The conversation about how media was teaching people they were doing sex in a problematic fashion did not start with internet porn- prior to this there was “MTV music videos” or other fretting about
Make Love Not Porn and Porn Literacy are both trying to combat that, but the former bites the hand that feeds, seeking to define porn as the things that do sex in a way that they do not agree with, with the idea that they should from there make explicit erotic art they get to call not porn. Basically it’s Porn Panic with the idea that if you rebrand things “erotic, softcore, Not Porn) you are excising the poison without losing the medium. This is implausible, and more than a little be self-deluded that you don’t have your own norms that may be equally problematic- particularly if you become the new dominant voice.
For instance, we live in a culture that penalizes being fat, and prioritizes being skinny. Good work is done to help people who are not skinny feel sexy. However, cultures that are fat dominant in their aesthetic are not any less oppressive.
Where Porn Literacy can, but not necessarily, fall flat is that while they are correct that the larger world of sex exceeds the limited window of what porn lets views see and is a dialogue of norms not passive entertainment, there remains this search for innocence as a moving target, a time before the nastiness intruded.
This is why while it would be socially beneficial for me to say I write “erotica” or dress myself in the language of anti-porn, I prefer to say I write and consume porn