Wednesday, May 25, 2011

beautiful male bodies

Rachel Rabbit White's recent post about the gross male body got me thinking about how much I love male bodies. The slim yet fit body of my husband, the shape of his hands, the firm feel of his abdomen, the way his buttocks casually strut when he walks, the curve of his collar bone, his arms, his deep blue eyes and thick blond hair.

Of course, I'm biased towards my husband, but I love looking at men in porn too. -- In new porn by women, that is. I'm not so fond of the porn studs in mainstream porn. But I do adore the man who performs as the "TV Idol" on Candida Royalle's Femme; his kind and handsome appearance, his head covered by dark blond wavy hair, his body naturally fit. And the pizza deliverer in Erika Lust's "The Good Girl" (Five Hot Stories for Her) with his dark, almost Italian-like look, in a charming, unthreatening, and kind sort of way. The dreamy appearance of the young guitar-playing man in Lust's "Love" (Life, Love, Lust). And Tucker with his dark curls down to his shoulders in Audacia Ray's The Bi Apple.

And I love not only the look of Dax in Peggy and Tony Comstock's pornumentary Xana and Dax; I love the way Xana describes his body as well; the compelling love and kindness in her voice, filled with desire and admiration, smiles and warmth.

White's thoughts on how women come to think of the male body as gross--"that men are creepy"--are interesting, however, for how they touch on the way women still struggle to own their desire; "it’s become okay, post Sex and The City, for women to use vibrators–but jacking it to hot dude porn? “Ew.” That gives masturbation a desire."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Bi Apple and Gender Bending Sex Films

(This post, which was originally published online at Good Vibrations Magazine, includes an excerpt from my forthcoming book After Pornified: How Women Are Transforming Pornography & Why It Really Matters.)

Bringing up the rear recently featured an article—Bringing up the rear—on the growing trend of more straight men exploring a formerly taboo hot spot: the male anus. A national sex survey published last year in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found eleven percent of men ages 20-24 reporting that they've been on the receiving end of anal intercourse at some point in their lives. Says sex educator and editor of Good Vibrations Magazine Dr. Charlie Glickman: “more heterosexual men are discovering prostate and anal play with their female partners than ever before.”

Often compared to the female G-spot, the male prostate is surrounded by two bundles of nerves and plays an essential role in ejaculation. Some progressive sex pedagogical films released since the late nineties reveal the sex positive feminist potential of female-on-male strap-on sex where women’s active role is advanced as gender differences fade away. Among my favorites are:
  • Bend Over Boyfriend: A Couple’s Guide to Male Anal Pleasure (1998), a Good Vibrations’ best-selling tape in the years after it came out, and the top rental, it features Good Vibrations staff sexologist Carol Queen demonstrating female-on-male strap-on sex.
  • Bend Over Boyfriend 2 (1999), which features more demonstrations of female-on-male strap-on sex.
And then there are Tristan Taormino’s several anal-sex focused films, including:
  • Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women # 1 (1999),
  • Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women # 2 (2000),
  • Expert Guide to Anal Sex (2007), and
  • Expert Guide to Anal Pleasure for Men (2009).
New progressive porn is also picking up on the potential of anal sex play to transgress conventional gender stereotypes through a floating exchange of sex roles. Taormino’s porn reality series Chemistry includes female-on-male strap-on sex amongst famous porn performers acting in a way you won’t see them do in mainstream porn.

The Bi Apple
Sex activist Audacia Ray (1980) confronts the homophobic fear of the male anus head-on in her edgy gender bending porn film The Bi Apple (2007). The film follows Simone, a sex researcher who is on a visit to an apartment called “The Fuckhouse” where open-minded women and men hang out and, well, fuck. With notebook and pen in hand, Simone studies a wide range of different kinds of sex play in the apartment’s various rooms.

In one room, Simone meets Tasty Trixie and Tucker Lee (a real life couple who runs the website – Authentic homemade porn). Trixie and Tucker are sitting cross-legged on the floor meditating; she deeply concentrated, he rather fidgety and impatient. The point, explains Trixie, is to balance the chakras and open the senses to attain even greater sexual pleasure. While Trixie shows a genuine interest in experimenting and expanding their sexual repertoire, Tucker always just wants to be “fucked up the ass.” Simone is invited to observe their sex play, which evolves effortlessly the way it does between two lovers intimately familiar with one another.

Friday, May 13, 2011

objectify me

Anne G. Sabo (Photo: Agnete Brun)
Feminist sex blogger and woman oriented porn producer Ms. Naughty recently posted about how anti-porn feminists can't acknowledge feminist porn. It's a good read, in particular for Ms. Naughty's deconstruction of anti-porn arguments about porn as something inherently bad. 

Linguists have critiqued language as essentially flawed at least since the days of Friedrich Nietzsche. And as film scholar Linda Williams points out in her historical analysis of porn, HardCore (1999; first ed. 1989), porn is just but another language; specifically a discourse about sex -- and sex has historically been defined and discussed from men's point of view (ref. Michel Foucault’s discourse analysis). We have no choice but to speak with the language we have at hand; but we can seek to re-vision it. 

What truly intrigues me about good new porn by women, is its ability to re-vision and recreate porn as a filmic genre and as a discourse with which to approach (hetero)sexuality, in fact liberating more room for women, as well as men, and help them break out of traditional gender roles and explore and expand their sexual repertoires.

I also appreciate the issue Ms. Naughty takes with the typical accusation against porn as discriminating "objectification," usually of women, as if this is an essential characteristic of porn while in fact it is a human trait. New porn maker Anna Span makes this point too: 
She believes that to sexually objectify, that is to fleetingly view a person's sexual attractiveness separately from their personality/person, is a natural human experience NOT just a male one, as traditionally depicted.
I think Span’s emphasis here on the fleeting gaze—rather than thinking of objectification as a discriminating fixation on body parts—is interesting.

In my book, I further write about how objectification in some new porn by women is turned into an affirming, adoring act:

Monday, May 9, 2011

Blue Artichoke Films: Cinematic Quality Porn

(This post, which was originally published online at Good Vibrations Magazine, is an excerpt from my forthcoming book After Pornified: How Women Are Transforming Pornography & Why It Really Matters.)

Jennifer Lyon Bell
Blue Artichoke Films in Amsterdam is making a name for itself by producing cinematic quality porn. US-born Jennifer Lyon Bell (1969) is the creative force behind its three films, which are of notable atmosphere and texture. Feeling that her own sexuality is not reflected in mainstream porn, Bell is using film languages and styles to re-vision pornographic films. In fact, her first film, a ten-minute short, doesn’t even show explicit sex; yet its sexiness rises up into the frame from what the viewer doesn’t actually see.

Headshot (2006) literally shows a man from his shoulders up – as he’s getting a blowjob. As Bell explains, the point with this film being to see how it can be erotic not so much because of what you see, but because of what you do not see.

We hear a woman enter through a door, and the man briefly speaks with her before she kneels down in front of him. We only catch a glimpse of the back of her head. Then there’s the sound of her sucking and pumping. But first and foremost the man’s face is in full view and speaks to the viewer: the shivering contractions of his features, the expression in his eyes, his breath, moans, sighs; how his face shuts and opens when he comes, his big charming smiles afterward, and the look of WoW! that he radiates. Headshot screened at the Cannes Films Short Corner (2006) and won the award for Best Short Erotic Film at the Atlanta Underground Film Festival (2009).

Pre-show rehearsal
Matinée (2009) is Bell’s first explicit sex film, presented as “a fresh look at what erotic film can be … [an] erotic film for people who like film.” It’s about Mariah and Daniel, two theater actors who perform the parts of lovers on stage: Lola and Tony in the play Two Days in Berlin. In the story, we learn that reviews of the play have critiqued their performance for lacking chemistry.

At the beginning of the film, Daniel suggests to Mariah that they improvise in a significant reunion scene to make it more natural. — A talent agent will be in the audience, meaning this could be a big break for either if the performance goes well. Mariah is skeptical at first, but later decides to give it a go – placing a condom in the pocket of the kimono that she will be wearing during this scene.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Smut City with Café Flesh: exploring the erotic in porn together

Smut City made its debut last night at the New Movement theater in Austin, Texas with a screening of Café Flesh (1982), a post-apocalyptic science fiction porn film. Hosted by F*Bomb, Smut City avows to rescue the erotic in porn by encouraging people to come together to watch and discuss erotic sex films:
Without being able to openly discuss why we like certain porn or how it makes us feel, we lose our powers of critique and our taste becomes less discerning ... We believe that while sometimes it’s nice to watch porn all by your lonesome and do the deed, it’s also important to watch sexually explicit films in a public setting and have a dialogue with your peers about quality, aesthetic, taste, and meaning. 
 Anne G. Sabo (Photo: Cupido)
I applaud Smut City for its request that we "put down the cheap malt liquor and join [them] at the bar for a classy cocktail." As I've said before, journalists have labeled the porn I research as "gourmet" and "humanist;" metaphors that appeal to me. I don't care for crass porn; I appreciate porn that speaks to my senses and intellect, including new porn by women and some of the porn chic classics from the seventies when porn makers with artistic ambitions set out to make quality sex films. At the public Good porn? event I co-hosted and emceed at a downtown theater in Oslo, Norway, I showed clips from my "gourmet" porn to initiate debate about how to qualify quality in porn, presenting my personally developed criteria as a proposition for us to develop a more informed public language, so that our discussions about porn can become more critical and nuanced than the superficial and polarized debates that still dominate discussions about porn.
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