I’m sitting in the Salt Lake City, UT airport. I’ve been here for almost four hours already and I’ve got a few hours to go before my redeye back to New York. Stupid, stupid awesome fun times in Colorado causing hangovers that cause the missing of flights. Gr.
But I’ve got some quality time with my computer, which is pretty ok. Over the weekend I got to thinking about the interesting position I inhabit as a woman who writes about but does not participate actively in the porn industry. I’m kind of a middle ground between the average consumer/appreciator of pornography and an industry insider. I know a lot about people on both sides of the spectrum, but I fall in the middle of it. I know many people in and out of the industry and see the perspectives of both. I know specialized industry language, but as a mere observer and commentator, I retain a lot of the curiosity and confusion of an outsider.
All of the above is kind of “duh.” But the thing that’s been capturing my attention lately is how OTHER people respond to me when they find out that I occupy this space between “in” and “out.” I end up acting as confessor for some, and as a mostly-blank projection screen for the fantasies, fears, and insecurities of others. I don’t come across, at least I don’t think I do, as a “porn person.” I look like any other person you meet at a party or a bar. But when I’m introduced as “This is Lynsey. She writes about porn,” people either open themselves wide and ask questions, or they start to see me in a new way and assume they know things about me. The first few sentences of conversations I have with people I’ve just met are incredibly revealing about them. Just a few memorable first lines:
“Do you do sex work?” (no)
“I don’t like porn at all.” (yeah right)
“I’m addicted to porn.” (oh?)
“Do you know Sasha Grey?” (no)
“Do you know Jenna Haze?” (yes)
“…how did you get into… that?” (needed cash)
“I watch porn, but I know that every time I do, I’m emotionally damaging myself.” (…wait, what?)
“How do the guys groom their pubic hair? Do they wax?” (I have no idea, actually!)
…and so on. When I meet a new person, I never know if our introduction will be perceived as an opening into a new and interesting world or a terrifying opportunity for revelation. I’ve heard confessions of addictions, joy about those same addictions, come-ons, put-downs, and everything in between, and it’s fascinating. Once that initial, “This is what I do” card is dropped, all bets are off, but I often cease to be a real person for those I meet. I become a repository for fears, a source of information, an interesting curiosity. And most the time, I’m happy to be such. I feel like a priest in a confessional, a fly on the wall of the lives of people who often have not taken much time to think about their relationship to pornography until that moment… or who have spent entirely too much time thinking about it and cannot come up with any response other than shame. I enjoy pointing out to people who feel guilt about watching “violent” porn that the vast majority of it is made by people who very much enjoy that kind of sex–that watching a woman get “demeaned” in porn is often documentation of an empowering experience for that woman. I like to provide much-needed facts for people who have long wondered about the “mysteries” of pornography but never had the initiative to seek answers. I am a debunker, a lending library (literally–I’ve lent out dozens of DVDs), an insider and a myth, all in one.