Saturday, March 29, 2008

Thinkin' Bout Porn.

Porn. I love the theory and hate the practice. Aesthetically, not politically; any porn of consenting adults has a right to exist and I don't even want to debate that. But... gosh, why does it have to be so ugly? It seems like the vast majority of mainstream porn conforms to the same unwritten stylistic constraints and they're terrible ones.

To briefly put on my analytical hat, I think that ideas that porn is dirty and ugly have actually made porn dirtier; when Warm Mutual Loving Part 86 gets called filthy misogynist trash, I think it scares decent people out of the business and makes other pornographers throw in the towel, say "we're damned if we don't anyway," and produce Fuck Pig Cunts 92.

There's a long, semicoherent list-form rant below and I have to admit that everything in it is a generalization. Most of these points only apply to mainstream, LA-produced straight porn, and even then not always. They're based on a very general impression from having a membership to this site (NWS--and man, a great value and interface wasted on terrible content) and watching about 15 minutes apiece (heh) from a wide variety of randomly selected pornos. I'm sure there's porn out there that defies every one of the following generalizations, and... if you know any, tell me about it. Please.

(Actually, Kink.com produces the best porn I know and does break a lot--though certainly not all--of the bad habits, but... man, $30 per month per subsite? Daaammmn.)

That said, the rant:
48 Things To Hate About Porn

1. Men who stop sex to have orgasms in their own hands two feet away from the woman.
2. Women who act like they enjoy this. (I just spent four days furiously ranting that you shouldn't tell other women they don't really enjoy something. But I think you know what I mean; maybe someone has a thing for missing the best part of sex, but I doubt it's one hundredth as common in life as porn.)
3. Scenes where the woman moans and moans but never even pretends to come.
4. The phrase "fuck pig."
5. The disturbing preponderance of videos not marketed as BDSM that feature yelling and slapping and facefucking. (Always male-dominant; femdom porn is very clearly labeled and never sneaks up on you.)
6. Women making horrible gaggy noises during facefucking.
7. Clear plastic platform heels.
8. In fact, heels in general. Normal people fuck barefoot.
9. A2M.
10. Real-world guys thinking they're poorly hung because they only have seven inches.
11. Real-world guys thinking anything from porn should be applied to sex.
12. That weird little pussy-slapping thing.
13. Hideous, obvious, painful-looking plastic surgery.
14. A beauty ideal that literally cannot be obtained without surgery--in the real world, you don't see huge boobs without at least some tummy.
15. Treating non-white women, women over 120 pounds, and women over 30 as specialty fetish interests.
16. Over-categorization that treats everything like a specialty fetish interest.
17. The Barely Legal fetish, and accompanying implication that only the goshdarn law keeps them from filming twelve-year-olds.
18. Putting pigtails, plaid skirt, and candy-colored makeup on a totally indifferent 29-year-old: you're a creep and you're not even good at it.
19. Women who moan with constant ecstatic fury and absolutely no relation to the actual action. The best is when the guy pulls out and the moaning doesn't skip a beat.
20. Intro segments with a "plot" and "acting."
21. No kissing.
22. Practically no touching.
23. No missionary position. I know it's not the most body-displaying, but... it's hot, dammit.
24. Obviously bone-dry, unaroused vulvas.
25. "Lubing" something by hocking up a gigantic, loud, horrible loogie on it. GOD EW.
26. Promoting racial stereotypes that would get you boycotted and probably beaten in the real world.
27. Seriously, the title of every interracial title ever. Not made up: My Hot Wife Is Fucking Blackzilla 9, Service Animals, Black Dick in Daddy's Daughter 2, Abominable Black Man, and, spectacularly, Affirmative Action.
28. Except in Asia-produced titles, the total absence of Asian men.
29. "Interracial" as a fetish.
30. Piledriver.
31. Scenes featuring really hideous men with gorgeous women.
32. Absolutely none the other way round.
33. Male performers who give off a really threatening ex-con vibe.
34. Drug use.
35. The more intense the scene, the older and sadder-looking the woman.
36. Creampies. How do they even do that? I have sex without a condom, and obviously the semen has to come out eventually, but it's not in one giant disgusting glob.
37. Men who don't make a single sound.
38. Men who monotonously go "OH YEAH" over and over and over and over.
39. The only rhythm is as hard and fast as possible, at all times, from beginning to end without variation.
40. Everybody's circumcised.
41. People who don't act like they like each other. At all.
42. People who give absolutely no impression whatsoever that they want to be doing this. I don't mean coercion, so much as just... somehow managing to have sex without seeming at all horny.
43. Not enough cunnilingus, and when there is, it's done from maximal distance with the very tip of the tongue. Get your face wet, fellas.
44. Titles, Part II: The ones that clearly have some sort of serious Issues With Women: Sperm Drains, Filth Cums First #2, Assault That Ass #11, Flesh Hunter #7, Cock Pigs.
45. Really really long "glamor" shots of a woman awkwardly posing around by herself. It's possible I just don't appreciate this because I'm not gay enough, but even a superhot man would be awkward to statically ogle for that long.
46. Performer interviews revealing that the performers have the articulacy and insight of a drunk high-schooler.
47. "Amateurs" and "first-timers" who ain't fooling anybody.
48. Finally and most damningly: the widespread failure to do the simple and obvious thing. Find a good-looking highly-sexed couple, set up a camera, and have them do their thing. Their actual, what-we-do-at-home thing, without all the damn performance. There's so many damn categories, but all I really want out of porn is to see the sort of thing I do with Alan caught on tape. It seems like the most obvious thing in the world, but I've never seen it, and I don't know why.

37 comments:

  1. I agree with you on a lot of this list, especially how much the whole no kissing/no touching/no passion thing you see in all-too-much porn sucks.

    As for looksism and ageism issues, I think, really bad-looking plastic surgery notwithstanding, porn is in the same place as modeling or regular movies – its just delivering on images of the type of beauty that a lot of people happen to want to look at. If there's a kind of girl or guy (lets not leave gay porn out) that any significant number of people actually consider hot enough to shell out money to see naked, hell yes, somebody is going to capitalize on that. I hear a lot of people say they want to see more body types in porn, but it remains to be seen if those people are going to shell out for it the way more "traditional" youth- and beauty-chasing straight and gay men have been willing to. Then again, the success of Abby Winters on one hand, and MILF porn on the other, indicates that there does seem to be an audience for this. How much that will displace traditional "young pretty girl" porn remains to be seen, though.

    As for porn that's sexy and well-produced, its happening around the margins. You touched on one, Kink.com, and I think there are a bunch of others, mainly over the internet, that offer higher-quality niche porn than your typical San Fernando Valley porn studio. The tradeoff is that its going to cost more, since they're not dealing in huge volume ala Vivid. (Porn has an economy of scale like anything else.) Porn videos that look professionally-shot and generally like a real movie do exist. Check out this site for Viv Thomas Unfaithful 2 for a really good example. (Though its probably more lesbo than your tastes run, I realize.)

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  2. You might really dig Comstock Films, which I learned about from this Susie Bright blog post.

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  3. I just love that list. I think that is why the porn that gets me the hottest is the stuff that we make ourselves. It really is hot being able to go back and watch yourself like that.

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  4. That's 48 reasons why people are becoming disenchanted with mainstream porn. It doesn't show sex. What it portrays is extremely mechanical, plastic, fake... everything that sex is not.

    You should try some actual amateur porn, people who are filming porn because they want to. You get women of all creeds, none of them supermodels, having actual, chemistry-driven sex. Although, yes, facials are still rampant here.

    As for high-budget mainstream porn, I'm not holding any expectations for change.

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  5. Of all places, I found this site at Wired.com: http://burningangel.com/ Aside from the tats and the piercings, these people look like normal folks. And honestly, it's very fun to watch.

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  6. IACB - I partly agree. Obviously porn stars have to be hot, and "hotness" is going to be mostly defined by young and skinny. However, I think the worst abuses of the cartoonish-surgery-body could go away without everyone turning ugly.

    "Unfaithful"... I dunno about "professionally-shot," to be honest, but sure they do look like they're enjoying themselves. :)

    Anonymous - Oh wow. I watched the trailer for "Matt and Khym" and now I know what I want for my birthday.

    Matty - Honestly I've never tried that. Some combination of body insecurity and "you're going to put this on the Internet, aren't you?" mistrust.

    Owen - I've seen a lot of "amateur" porn that was indistinguishable, but these Comstock films look like the real thing there.

    Scott - I've heard people claim that Burning Angel is "same old, with tattoos," so I hadn't really checked it out before, but I just watched a trailer and--natural bodies! Likeable personalities! A sense of humor! KISSING!!! I am in love.

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  7. A few quibbles:
    1. missing the best part of sex You mean having the guy orgasm in you? I'm not sure how common it is to think of that as the best part.
    2. in the real world, you don't see huge boobs without at least some tummy It happens. I know at least two women with D cups and no significant fat anywhere else.
    3. Really really long "glamor" shots of a woman awkwardly posing around by herself. They can be overdone, but I generally like these.

    For all the reasons you mention, almost all of the porn I use is still images of women. It's hard for me to get turned on by a woman once I've listened to her stumble through idiotic dialog or fumble through an interview -- or once I've seen her do something repulsive. (For me, smoking is on that list, which is really inconvenient.)

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  8. Bruno - 1. Well, I think it is. I've had guys be unable to come from sex and finish themselves a couple times, and I always feel all disappointed and disconnected when that happens.
    2. Oh, okay, I stand corrected. I know lots of women with big breasts who aren't fat, but I just don't personally know any who are porn-skinny. Apparently it happens though.
    3. Your deal, man.

    And I'm not quite sure what you mean by "repulsive," but I definitely agree that once I hear a woman stumblingly giggle out "I, uh, I'm here cuz I like to get fucked, cuz, um... tee hee! I'm like a total slut and stuff um," I don't really want to see her naked.

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  9. Well Holly, I try to only have sex with people I trust. I am just going to have faith that the couple women I have done that with will never put it online.

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  10. Matty - I think "is this going on the Internet?" is less genuine suspicion and more just a half-joking way of expressing general discomfort with the idea.

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  11. No. 48: YES. Porn of real people doing their thing with real chemistry? I could watch that all day. Especially since...well. I'm a lesbian, and goshdarnit, there are a LOT of really very attractive lesbians out there who just don't fit the mainstream ideal, so they don't get into porn. And I feel like turning porn production into "find a cute couple, film them for an hour" would make it low-budget enough that we might begin to see some more alternative stuff. Stuff that appealed to, like, women. Porn that isn't hideous.

    I dunno, I guess that's kind of incoherent. Now I am imagining a beautiful porn utopia, in which everybody has porn that isn't gross.

    Yay utopia.

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  12. Hi,

    I found you via the discussion of Sex-pos feminism (I identify as a sex-positive feminist, and in fact am in grad school working towards a career as a sex therapist). I just wanted to let you know how much I loved what you had to say over there, not that it really went over well.

    I have some serious issues with porn, and in fact have my husband watch it in advance to look for anything that would squick me. As is, pretty much everything does. Which is too bad, because watching porn is arousing and fun and WAY less work than constructing an elaborate fantasy myself and then visualizing it. Also, my favorite porn is import stuff, mostly so I don't have to listen to horrible misogynist phrases or poor dialogue. The language barrier helps.

    I have to say that I've seen some homemade porn, and mostly it makes me sad. The people in it were attractive, bright, and enthusiastic, but without professional lighting, nobody looks good on film. It's a skin tone issue, I think.

    Anyway, thanks for you perspective on the sex-positive thing. You win.

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  13. For Jess: http://crashpadseries.com/

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  14. ahh...well fuck me, I didn't catch on to the obvious

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  15. Ditto on high recommendation on "The Crash Pad" if your tastes run toward "real" butch/femme lesbians. (Excuse the ironic quotes around "real" – not implying the performers in the Crash Pad are anything but actual lesbians and bi women, I just hate the terms "real women" or "real lesbians".)

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  16. #41 is the problem with 99 percent of commercial porn all right.

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  17. You know, I don't think I've watched a mainstream porn movie in quite a while. I enjoy the amateur stuff and some of the gonzo type porn going around. It still has several of the negative points you mention, but for the most part, a lot of it is real people enjoying what they do.

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  18. I love that you actually answer posts, Holly. Kudos.

    And, Bruno, I completely understand the turnoff of the wrong voice. We used to look at girls in the lunchroom in college and assign them personalities and voices that were in line with our desires (They were smart, self-actualized, clever... y'know.) and when we'd meet many of them and find that actually they were kinda empty-headed, we were always disappointed. Still images kinda keep that from happening. Honestly, how many times can you hear someone tell you how to fuck her cunt without getting a little bored of it?

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  19. Scott and Bruno - you guys suck at objectification. Are you secretly women or something?

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  20. #4 "Fuck pig"? Really? Huh. Never even heard the term.

    #7 I gather that some people are *really* caught up in feet issues.

    #18 Funny. And true.

    #19 Such a constant in the genre that you wonder if it's not dubbed over

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  21. "#19 Such a constant in the genre that you wonder if it's not dubbed over"

    Often it is, actually, particularly in older porn.

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  22. "Fresh Thai Cream Pies" contains the bizarre and nearly unheard of fetish of a man ejaculating inside the vagina of the female "lead" who is obviously an off the street prostitute.

    I have to agree that it's odd after a while to watch couples having sex but touching ONLY at the genitals.

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  23. Holly, your italics hurt me most. *sigh*
    (grin)

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  24. Those are like the 48 things I love about porn

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  25. As mentioned already - Comstock Films and anything pretty much from Shine Louise Houston.

    http://www.curvemag.com/Detailed/711.html

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  26. Couldn't agree more! And amen!

    Check out anything by director Tristan Taormino. Good stuff.

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  27. Completely agree on the point about commercial porn feeling dead, fake, plastic, aggresive and more than often sad. It's those shorts from what seem like real-life people filming themselves the ones that still pack the real vibe, the electric charge of real sex.

    But the problem with that kind of material is that more often than not, it's illegal, due to age issues, or due to consenting; how can one enjoy what is obviously a covert filming, or a consensualy taped act that then is distributed as revenge by some assholic, bitter ex?

    That makes home-made porn such a thorny issue; even when you do get to know someone that trusts you so much as to accept (or bring!) a camera in the bedroom, you know that that tape will someday be the cause of a conflict.

    The 'ugly bodies, bad lightning' aspect is inevitable unless one is in the business, still I've seen a couple clips from non-actors that, with some good eye and natural lights, were as beautiful and much more sensuous than any commercial gag-and-slap fest.

    Home-made porn is fun, it's hot, but can be dangerous if mishandled. Nothing sadder than having to burn a tape in the presence of a partner, but still, nothing is more arousing than replaying past acts.

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  28. Anonymous - I'm not talking about literally homemade porn, I'm asking for the production of home-style porn by commercial producers.

    (I think it's usually easy to tell the difference--if the lighting doesn't suck, if the camera moves and/or cuts to different angles, and if the company has 2257 documentation, it's not sneak porn.)

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  29. White male here. Fantastic list. The ones that especially affect how much I enjoy porn include numbers 5, 6, 10, 19, 20, and 25. I'm only turned on when it seems like the woman is actually ENJOYING it! (Generally that's how I feel about sex, too.) The rest really sum up why I feel guilty about watching porn -- I know it promotes twisted views of women, minorities, and other groups. Hopefully being able to see these themes presented in plain English will make it easier for viewers of porn to avoid being affected, to allow for a kind of deconstruction.

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  30. Thank you for the interesting list.

    There is a difference between erotica and pornography, but much of what is cited as erotica by the so-called "pro-sex" people is still pornography, just dressed up in different wrapping -- it is objectifying people (with particularly negative consequences for women) and treating sex as a commodity to be bought and sold.

    There was an excellent interview recently with Robert Jensen discussing his most recent book, Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity. I've also read the book, and it is a disturbing but deeply profound work which I highly recommend. An interesting point he makes is at the end of his interview when he argues that the feminist anti-pornography movement should be a part of the progressive/leftist political agenda: pornography is relentlessly misogynistic and racist, and part of the increasing corporate control of our culture. I found it to be quite a compelling argument.

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  31. Steve - Honestly, I don't really like distinctions between "erotica" and "pornography," because when someone tries to define it they always end up just calling the porn they happen to like "erotica." My view is that any sexually explicit material created to sexually stimulate the viewer is porn.

    That said, there's good porn and bad porn. And I believe that most of the problems and failings attributed to porn are really just the fault of bad porn, and that porn can be (and is!) produced without harming anyone.

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  32. Holly, thanks for your reply. I would recommend reading Gloria Steinem's essay about pornography and erotica in her book "Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions".

    It is interesting to look at the etymology of the word "pornography". It comes from the Greek "porne", meaning "the buying "a female slave sold for prostitution". I believe labeling something as "good porn" is problematic given the origin of the word.

    I also feel it is problematic on many other levels as well. As a former consumer of pornography, I can attest that it did have a negative impact on my relationships and how I viewed women. It is essentially making women into objects for sexual gratification and turning sex into a commodity to be bought and sold. It is hard to argue that this is not harmful.

    There have been studies indicating that many prostitutes have a history of sexual abuse and a large percentage of prostitutes suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Pornography by its very definition is prostitution, and it is not that far of a leap to suggest that women involved probably have similar histories and suffer similar levels of trauma.

    It took me a long time to finally reach the point where I was able to reject pornography. It is something I am still struggling with. Our culture is saturated with it. Men are taught to view women as objects for their sexual gratification and women are taught that their primary worth is through their physical attractiveness to men. I think we need to really examine what effect pornography and the pornographic culture is having on our society and the very real and significant consequences that it has for both women and men.

    I am glad you are writing about it on your blog and that we are having this conversation. I wish this were being done more.

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  33. I love this list! Spot on!

    But I have to admit, I woke up this morning feeling randy. I'd had a dream about this very tall, redheaded Russian woman in her late 20s. She had short hair. Okay, she actually looked like Franka Potente (German, I know) in Run Lola Run with the build of a volleyball player. Even the clothes were the same. Anyhow she was trying to tattoo my arm and anyone who knows me knows I'm not big on tattoos at all. On anyone. So the fact that in my dream I let her tattoo a heart on my arm in exchange for some of her... is a big deal.

    So I wake up. Do I wank it to my dream? No. I decide to go to the interweb to do that. I have long since realized that Rule 34 is bullshit. You could argue that since the woman in my dreams does not exist, rule 34 cannot possibly apply. But I was trying to be as general as possible in my searches.

    All I get are gross sites. Why can't they make porn that is not gross? Every thing on this list is true. Although, I saw a film recently with Ashley Long that had about a five minute intro that was quite funny and included the "actress" standing about in a mini skirt. A schoolgirl outfit. It built up the sexual tension just right, was light hearted fun and let's you ogle the girl the way us men do in real life. She wasn't posing to obnoxious music. She was just standing there in a skimpy outfit having a conversation. It helped that the guy she was talking to was not the guy she ends up screwing because that would have imbued the scene with cheesy come-ons. So dialogue and plot aren't always a bad thing. Porn should have some comedic elements. The greatest films from the golden age of porn had plot like any other movie. Sadly, the clip I just mentioned, which started off with promise, did end in an anal gangbang. Ew. Not my thing. It could have worked.

    Besides, if you want porn to be at least a little closer to real sex with real people you'll have to admit that there are plot elements to any real sex scene. There's mental and emotional foreplay. There's seduction. There's chemistry and biography between the participants. It isn't just two random people fucking.

    And I know you don't like the schoolgirl uniform, but it's not all bad. I'll admit I don't like the pigtails or candy colored make-up either. I'm into women, not children. The "classroom scenarios" creep me out. But how can I say no to a short skirt and white blouse? You've got to be mad!

    I've watched "porn for women" thinking maybe this will have a bit more of the romantic, realistic vibe to it. To tell you the truth, as a guy, I'm not looking so much for that stuff as I am looking to get AWAY from the stuff seen in most "straight" porn today (straight is the wrong word for it, although definitely hetero-oriented). I watched one that involved about 10 minutes of kissing, only two of which were pre-coital.
    Boy, was that awkward!
    The guy still gave off that creepy ex-con vibe (most of them are, as the sad tale of photgrapher Jim Jager will show). The kissing was about as romantic as watching two fish lock jaws and fight to the death. Violent kissing which didn't convince anyone that passion was on display... A lot more time spent sucking the woman's breasts...and still with the dog-lapping, tongue tip cunnilingus!! Come on now!!

    Well, you've got to work with what you've got and these performers and directors are probably still getting over the habits they learned in the "straight" industry.

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  34. Sorry, continuing my train of thought here:

    Maybe what I really want after all is real sex filmed like softcore-porn. Something with a touch of class and beauty. You don't need to "prove" to me that it's real, I'll know by the expressions on their faces and the movement and position of the bodies. No need to get medical on me and stick the camera right into the orifices and show every human secretion.

    People are sick and tired of porn stars. Maybe that's why amateur porn has taken off so much. There's no glamour in them. For glamour guys will watch Angelina Jolie. For sex they'll watch those two kids with the camera in their bedroom.

    Maybe some day someone will learn to shoot porn with the same care and eye to detail as the best photographers used to spend on pinups since time immemorial when the camera was first trained on a nude female body. Although if you look into the history of film porn the same nasty habits have always been on display. And that damned fake cunnilingus!


    I should have stuck with my dream.

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  35. First of all, I KNOW this is a gigantic necro.

    @Steve: Porne does not mean slave, porne means prostitute. Or really more like "whore", it's not a nice word but there's no connotations of coercion in it. (The etymology.com meaning involves the origin of the word porne, not the origin of the word pornography. By the time it was used as part of "pornography" it had meant "harlot" for a long time.)

    But this is all pretty irrelevant. What a word used to mean shouldn't have any bearing on how we use the word now. I'm sure you don't think of yourself as a crown , or of Holly as prickly.

    ----
    Besides that, I agree with Holly that erotica, when used by anti-porn feminists, means only "porn I don't like". And I think furthermore that sharing a position with the far right is a very bad sign, even if it were for different reasons.

    But it isn't really for different reasons; the essential reason behind both the oppositions is that sexuality, or sexuality outside a small set of approved types, is seen as dirty and bad. I mean, you yourself said porn is "turning sex into a commodity to be bought and sold. It is hard to argue that this is not harmful. " I don't see how it could be harmful. I don't see how you could think it could be harmful, unless you were under the impression that the only "good" sex is sex in a loving monogamous relationship.

    You might not think that's an illusion, but I assure you it is: all (consensual) sex is good and valuable no matter who does it or what they trade for it.

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  36. Trenton, I... I think I love you!

    "No need to get medical on me and stick the camera right into the orifices and show every human secretion."

    "...and still with the dog-lapping, tongue tip cunnilingus!! Come on now!!"

    Couldn't have put it better myself.

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  37. That. List. RULES.

    (Straight, male, 33)
    I never liked any porn that doesn't seem both consensual as well as enjoyed by both parties. For the most part, I like "couples" and "romantic" as far as categories. I guess I'm old fashioned like that.
    Here are the ones that hit me.
    #1. No shit. Who has sex like THAT?!? Full disclosure, my ex would never let me finish inside, but I don't think that had anything to do with porn. Therefore, this has always been a huge pet peeve of mine in porn, and would therefore add "creampie" to my preferred categories.
    #43. My girlfriend says I give some mighty fine oral. She also feels that i'm only doing it right if she has to lick my face clean afterwards. No guy in porn ever gets more than the tongue on clit, tongue on labia. Don't they want the girl to enjoy it? oh... they don't... now i get it

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