So I’ve been mondo busy with out-of-town visitors and general holiday preparations (by which I mean I’m completely unprepared but trying really hard to be prepared) and… cookie baking. You heard me! That’s right, this seasoned smut scribe is also a damn fine baker, and last night I made around five dozen cookies to prove it! Too bad you suckas will never have the pleasure of eating them! But you WILL, if you stick with me, have the pleasure of picking my big, delicious BRAINS.
See, I’ve been thinking late at night about the implications of some of my favorite porn. With a friend in from out of town who doesn’t know much about what I do, I’ve been spending a lot of time explaining the world of porn and how I relate to it. I was telling her on Saturday about how there are a lot of people out there making porn who aren’t just doing it to have sex and get paid, but who really believe in expressing themselves sexually as an artistic and even political statement. People who are trying to move forward out of the “nipple ghetto” as Nina Hartley once called it in an interview for WHACK! People who believe that sex is a beautiful and powerful thing and that it should be celebrated and understood are out there filming it so the world can see its beauty. People who are forging ahead into unexplored or still-misunderstood sexual territory in the worlds of fetish and queerness and more are showing the world how incredible being different sexually can be. They are seeking understanding and acceptance by showing, rather than telling, the rest of us what their experience is like. Porn, for them, isn’t just (thanks, Madison Young, for pointing this out to me) the commodification of the human body for everyone who makes porn: it’s the truest expression of self and sensuality, and it’s not just a job–it’s vitally important.
And these are the people I find fascinating. They make it worth my while to get up in the morning and sit down at this computer before I’m fully rested to read, review, explore, e-mail, and watch more porn than I ever thought I would. I am amazed by the energy and beauty and their willingness to lay themselves out, bare and brave, to show the world how much they believe in what they’re doing. They are inspirations.
These are people whose self-exploration takes thousands of viewers along for the ride. They aren’t just pretending to have great sex on film because they hope someone will pay to jerk off to it. They are honestly making love on camera, to themselves, to each other, to the idea of making artistic pornography in general. And what they make is a beautiful testament to the white-hot passion of the human connection. The difference between big-studio or low-budget gonzo porn that throws two performers into a scene and lets their bodies do the work, and many of the scenes made by these companies I’m lauding in which two or more people, carefully chosen for their off-screen chemistry and passion for their work, is astounding. When what you’re watching has in it a genuine human connection, rather than a pair of perfect anatomies operating in robotic, pre-approved routines, the results are intensely erotic. The viewer can feel the passion and connection between the performers, and it’s a challenge to review these movies instead of just masturbating furiously (though I’ve found a nice middle ground exists between the two).
But here’s the thing. I’ve been thinking, while lying awake at night waiting for sleep to find me… If the best porn out there is the porn in which the human connection between performers is the centerpiece… If chemistry and authentic sexual expression are the holy grails of indie and artistic porn… If the stripped-down sexiness of the performers and their need for each other is what makes a scene, instead of the set or the lighting or the costume or the soundtrack… And if the goal is to turn the porn industry from a bunch of automatons boning mindlessly into a storehouse of real human eroticism (and I think it is, because I think the ever-more-aware porn consumer is getting sick of the tried-and-true formulas and seeking more these days, and will continue to do so)… Then where will the line eventually be drawn between porn made by earnest artists trying to make realistic but beautiful pornography… and amateur porn?
I don’t mean to demean amateur porn. In fact, by equating it with exemplary porn film-making, I’m exemplifying it. Just like with anything else, there’s a lot of it out there that’s terrible (perhaps more of it, relatively speaking, since the oceanic depths of amateur porn are simply getting deeper every day), but there’s also a lot of it that’s fantastic. People making porn with the cameras they’ve got at home, doing the things they like to do, simply and unabashedly, with perhaps even more authentic passion than many performers can muster because they are with their real-life partner… It goes beyond the eroticized realism of the new porn, because it IS real. There aren’t lighting crews or elaborate sets or makeup artists hanging around watching. There aren’t breaks for coffee or time for editing between positions. It’s just sex. Real, honest, relatable sex.
And there’s TONS of it out there. It’s burying the old, less-exciting porn market. YouPorn, PornTube, RedTube, and others have millions of clips, with thousands more uploaded daily. They are free, they are simple, and they are WILDLY successful. Of course, a lot of the “amateur” porn you see on these sites is anything but amateur, but the point remains: if the goal of good porn is to capture that human, unaffected connection between performers, then where does the art stop and the amateur begin?
I think the answer, from the consumer’s perspective, might be, “Who cares?” If the same wad can be blown from watching both, and if the same authentic peek into the sexualities of new and varied people can be gotten from both, then it hardly matters if the lighting is good or the sound levels are balanced. The bodies in amateur porn might be less agreeable to look at, but that can be a turn-on by itself for people who’ve gotten tired of looking at Barbie-doll bodies.
But it makes me worry to think such things because, well, I think the porn community is important. I want the industry to continue, in a more grass-roots way than it has, to operate and make money and provide people with sexual options and ideas. I think that most of the indie and art porn studios are fascinating and the people who work for them are amazing. I want these people to continue what they’re doing and to keep making important statements about human sexuality. But even though their statements are important, even though their performers are beautiful, even though they can make cinematic films that look beautiful while offering important looks into fringe sexualities… Someone out there can do it cheaper and offer it for free.
I don’t think this will necessarily happen right now, or that amateur porn will necessarily flood out professional fare. There will always be a crowd of us out here with an interest in the quality products put out by artists and impassioned sex workers. And I may just be blathering unnecessarily. But it’s food for thought. Where is the line between excellent pro and excellent am, and is it going to be able to stay afloat, or sink beneath the waves of amateur fare the world at large will never stop producing?