I’ve actively resisted as many cliches as possible for my entire life. I’ve never gone with the flow, so to speak. Something in my basic genetic makeup makes me want to be different. As does, as far as I can tell, everyone else in my generation. Hence, hipsters.
And yet I’m slowly realizing that I can’t avoid all of them. Like wearing business-casual clothes to the office. Just can’t get around that one. And, dammit, I look good in a pencil skirt! But the one that’s really getting to me right now is the whole, “Women like story in their porn” thing. I’ve strained against this one for a long time. Part of me really wants to be the exception to that worn-out old rule. I want to be able to flaunt my visual porn-watching prowess and make people be all, “Oh, you’re so atypical! And it’s so cool!”
But the other day, for the first time in ages, I sat down with a romance novel, and damned if it didn’t get me all kinds of worked up! I was kind of taken by surprise by how swiftly I got carried away with the action in the book, even though the characters were badly developed and the story was, as Maude Lebowski would say, “ludicrous.” But something about the slow build-up of the sex scenes, the pages and pages of preliminary tension, the fact that I could pace my reading speed to suit my mood… I really liked it. It got me all tingly. Much more tingly than video porn has gotten me for a long time now.
Well, actually, that’s not entirely true. A few weeks ago I held a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show followed by The Rocki Whore Picture Show: A XXX Parody at a friend’s apartment. I invited a group that was completely, patently platonic, and we sat around and watched a sexy movie followed by a sex movie. It was around 6 hours of nonstop sexual innuendo and sex. And though we all made jokes and discussed the things going on onscreen the whole time, keeping the tension in the room to a dull roar, by the time I left, I definitely needed new pants.
And it strikes me, when I compare the reading with the tension, that I’m a total “chick.” I totally get off on context. And I’m kind of disappointed in myself. Falling in line with tired tropes about womanhood is just not my thing. But at the same time, you know what? Context is hot. It’s the thinking woman’s turn-on. I don’t know if the back story and slow build of excitement would affect me the same way now if I hadn’t spent the past four years getting inured to watching straightforward porno films that are light on the story and heavy on the humping. Maybe I’d still find filmed sex a total turn-on by itself if not. But these days, I find that while I certainly can get turned on by porn, I have to either already be aroused in some way (ie, “Man, I’m horny! I’ll watch some porn!”) or have some sort of constraint placed on the situation that makes it impossible to do anything about my arousal (ie, the party the other night) so that what could otherwise be a passing flush of excitement is turned into a long, drawn-out event that leaves me breathless.
It’s not about the bodies going at it for me, I guess. It’s about why and how those bodies are doing what they’re doing. And I think that’s why, in the end, so many women go for romance novels, story-heavy erotica movies, and “feature” porn: we need to be stimulated mentally first and only then move on to the physical. That’s why so many of us love foreplay. Why sex in romance novels is so hot for us–even if the writing is abysmal, we can still paint a rich picture in our minds about these people. They can look however we want them to. They can think and feel and emote as much as our brains allow them to. That’s what makes it interesting, and if it’s not interesting to us, it’s not hot. And while there certainly is sexy film out there that meets these standards (see: Erika Lust, Jennifer Lyon Bell, Tristan Taormino…), the majority of porn is just the spectacle. There are surely some porn performers out there who can act and do so quite well, but the adult industry isn’t exactly famed for its nuanced performances. Although it bears mentioning that porn scenes in which the actors are obviously completely into each other, in which they are so chemically matched and turned on by one another that the viewer can tell in an instant that they’ve been wanting to bone each other for ages… Those go a lot farther toward my arousal than do standard in-and-out. You don’t need nuance when you’ve got raw desire–its peaks for itself. But we lady-folk, I think, often get the nuances we seek, those initial gasps of pleasure, from a book or a situation that brings together people we can more fully understand and get into. And get off on.