Thursday, February 09, 2006

It's Still About Porn

Wow -- Writing about porn really increases one’s blog traffic.

Over the past couple of days, I learned something important: We gay boys take our porn very seriously. Reading the comments and e-mails over the last post, I found most articulated a striking relationship to porn, whether they agreed with me or not. Even some who put forward the argument that we shouldn’t take porn that seriously seemed ready to come to fisticuffs to defend their side.

It should come as no surprise, I can talk about porn all day. Alive or not, that horse begs for another beating.

I love all my queer brothers (with the singular exception of the ex, who gets nothing). It distresses me, therefore, that some felt I wanted to dictate their desires. Whatever makes an individual happy is cool with me. Let me be clear that I don’t think watching SeanCody or other porn films is tantamount to treason against the gay cause. If this was the case, I would be the queer-Benedict Arnold. Hey, I even like some elements of the classic porn films like Sailor in the Wild or the Gage films. Other elements of those films, however, make me squirm.

What I did intend to suggest is that we need to talk and think about the types of images we consume as queer folk. We don’t (and couldn’t) agree on everything. Nor does it mean that we can’t have our own internal conflicting visions.

Opting not to think critically about any form of media makes me extremely nervous. Yes, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Other times, though, a cigar is a phallic shaped object that suggests an oral fixation that developed during one’s childhood.

I agree with Jockohomo that the hetero/homo divide occurred relatively recently and only in particular places. Before the nineteenth century, most historians argue, people did not conceive of sexuality in these terms. Without a doubt, I also agree with the several commentators who suggested that some porn can serve as a type of resistance against that divide between hetero/homo. I am just not convinced that most of the porn organized around “straight” men does this type of cultural work.

Even with the recentness of the hetero/homo divide, we can’t forget that those of us in “Western” culture all grew up within that discourse and learned that the divide was immutable. We are, in other words, part of that historical specificity even as we try to undermine it. Our own ideas about our sexuality cannot be easily untangled from that dichotomy.

There is much gay men don’t have in common. We didn’t all grow up in the same place, with the same family structure, or the same class and ethnic background. Yet we do have a shared history nonetheless.

Throughout our lives, we grew up with the same unending messages about what it meant to have sex with somebody of the same sex. We all internalized at least some parts of these messages from mass media, our families, churches, and so on.

Whether gay porn leads social change or lags behind, I think, is not quite the issue. Rather, gay porn mirrors the anxieties, obsessions, and contradictions over how we are dealing with those internalized messages within our community. Almost daily, each one of us has to constantly re-rack the billiard balls of gender and sexuality that we learned throughout our lives to make sense of our place and identity. The fervent discussion on porn suggests that many of us feel tension and a conflicted relationship to gay porn.


Not all our porn is embarrassing and it’s not just irrelevant fantasy. True, some of it can be pretty darn silly – I mean, when was the last time you had sex in the middle of the Dallas Cowboy’s locker-room with three male cheerleaders and the quarterback?

Classic seventies gay-porn films, though, also testify to previous generations’ mobilization and demand to have images of queer desire. Rather than the banality of most modern gay porn, these earlier films (which, btw, weren’t the earliest, but that is another entry far from now) seemed to show genuine sexual lust and pleasure from the actors. Perhaps one of the reasons that these earlier films continue to have such a cult following is that they serve as type of scrapbook that records a bit of our collective history. Granted, it’s a triple-X scrapbook that we don’t always share with our neighbors. Still, it’s part of our collective scrapbook. During times when social forces attempted to conceal or deny these desires, these films provided individuals with acknowledgment and fulfillment, even if it was illusory.

Having conceded that form of resistance, though, does not erase the equally troubling elements of the films. Gay-porn shows tremendous contradiction. Even as they overtly celebrate the erotic possibilities of same-sex sex, they also uphold some of the most conservative views about gender roles in our society.

13 comments:

Frank said...

Bravo, again, Professor! Another insightful post; even better than the first, I think.

There are many layers and conflicts within porn. And it's hardly monolithic: there's all different kinds of porn out there, which sometimes makes me roll my eyes at the "porn just isn't any good any more" thing. I mean, yeah, there's lots of boring porn, but was every movie in the 70s geyser-inducing or is it just nostalgia and the natural tendency for the good stuff to survive and the bad stuff to fall into obscurity that makes a lot of guys talk like they were?

Personally, I often find myself disappointed in "classic porn." Seventies moustaches turn me off. And I don't like how many studios put music on during the sex, with no sex sounds to be heard. As horrible as much porn talk is, I like to actually hear what guys are saying when I see their mouths move, not a disco theme.

But then there's some really hot classic stuff, too. And there's lots of really hot stuff today, as well. There's something for everyone.

Teddy Pig said...

I think there are FAR more interesting things to discuss when talking about porn with any amount of background in it's messages and history and personalities.

During this whole topic I kept wondering how you and several other people whom have explored this topic with so many blogged words missed commonly known infamous porn icons like Jeff Stryker whom insisted for years he was not gay.

Even non-porn troubled souls like Liberace or Rock Hudson?
Not one word on those guys whose stories could easily point out this whole conflicted relationship to their own sexuality. I think that was what you were attempting to talk about.

Instead the game was just this whole push about the fantasy image of "straight guys in porn" with rape references on the side to Joe Gage whom is the last person I would point to in the porn industry for unintelligent film making or hurtful messages.

Maybe you need to go back and re-think your agendas on this topic,
or at do some more reading or might I suggest some more porn watching.

Teddy Pig said...

oh and in closing anyone looking for some really intelligent thoughts on porn go see my good friend BJ who as been blogging about porn longer than any of these guys...

http://bjland.ws/weblog/blogger.html

GayProf said...

Teddy Pig: My postings on porn weren’t intended to be all encompassing or comprehensive.

In the end, though, it doesn’t seem we are starting at the same place here. That’s cool.

Limecrete said...

True, some of it can be pretty darn silly – I mean, when was the last time you had sex in the middle of the Dallas Cowboy’s locker-room with three male cheerleaders and the quarterback?

Well, I mean...exactly. I agree with a lot of your points, but as a few people said in the previous entry, I feel a lot of porn is about the "forbidden fruit" aspect (no pun intended). Rape and soliciting straight men is unacceptable in real life, so we live out the fantasy through porn. I don't think that necessarily means that porn reflects some sort of self-loathing on the part of the gay community. Just that porn showing loving gay sex isn't as necessary because that's presumably what we're doing (or trying to do) when we're not watching porn.

jeremy said...

Is Teddy's use of 'whom' throughout his post correct? I could swear that a couple of times it should have been 'who'. Besides that, I think most of your points have been spot on, even if you did forget to mention (in the earlier post) that the straight guy sex thing also has to do with us essentially identifying as straight until we get it on with another dude. Hence my convertible theory--is he a rag top? Moon roof? Sun roof? etc. Gotta say some of the best sex I've had has been with guys who have girlfriends or are on the downlow or whatever. Don't know what that says about me . . .

Teddy Pig said...

The only people I ever identified as straight to was the US Navy. And I LIED! So that was not my take on it honestly.

Other wise yeah I went on a who whom whose binge. That was my ration for the week. Next up then and than!

~Shaye said...

Gotta say some of the best sex I've had has been with guys who have girlfriends or are on the downlow or whatever. Don't know what that says about me . .

Straight or bicurious men always add an element of that naughty forbidden fruit to the sexual tryst and it's much like the man who only likes to bed married women. There is a risk factor there and a mental stimuli that some men and women get hooked on. For instance, I like to introduce ass play to men by way of Tantra Male G-Spot Massage. I find that to be highly erotic to see the pleasure of a man's discovery in something as basic as their own ass and prostate. Now the man who has had a lot of anal play experience doesn't interest me as then it robs me of the erotic pleasure I get in being the teacher. A man with a lot of anal play mainly wants me to service his ass, which doesn't turn me on much.

Does this put the gay man who prefers sex with a straight or bicurious man in direct competition with me?
I'm not sure- you tell me.

fgfdsg said...

Shaye -

I had a friend who was basically the ADFA (Australian Defence Force Academy) Bike for a few years, (something she'd quite happily attest to).

She'd do this thing where she'd bet one of these straight young bucks that she could make them cum without touching their dicks, and they, displaying their lack of worldly wisdom, would say it couldn't be done.

She'd then show them exactly how it could be done by penetrating them anally, which afterwords led to a lot of "oh shit... oh shit... i must be gay" freakouts.

I used to thank her for this, saying "you're just paving the way for me".

And Shaye... direct competition for your men? Not exactly, though I sure wish a lot more straight women would happily share their men with us gays now and then, and be there to help put their men's mind at ease and talk them through it, which I think could be a hell of a lot of fun for all concerned. ;)

Anonymous said...

too bad i have no intelligent thoughts on porn--
yeah, know what yar gonna say smarty-crotchless-pants

being transgressive is not about reinforcing stereotypes

so how is portraying gays as weak and/or predatory in any way transgressive?

bear wabbit said...

straight guys... fuck one and what do you get? well maybe a badge of honour of some sort.... no chance he's gonna bump into you at the local queer bar and say HI!!.. the reassurance he'll go home to his girlfriend/wife feeling kinda fucked up and guilty (guiltier than you at least)...something to embellish and jack off about later...
Kinda boring (read: predictable) really...

but there's no real problem with gays being predatory...predators require prey..lots of straight guys want to be prey (for whatever reason. who knows and who cares?)
the relationship is symbiotic not hierarchial. no homophobe is going to let you fuck him/blow him etc...
the str8 that does was thinking about it anyway...

Anonymous said...

The sexual Liberation was about destroying the walls between the genders. What is more self-loathing than limiting yourself to just the gay man & tiptoe around the straight one because "he's not your kind". You're painting yourself to a corner, complete with all the self-pity & misery. Why not just admire the man, be he gay or straight. Why does it even matter if he's truly attractive. It goes without saying a swishy Adonis may not really be dream-worthy but a gay man should accept that by now. It would be the cruelest self-loathe if you'd force yourself to like the swishy guy just because he's gay. Just as it's the extreme self-loathe if you even try to change your taste just to be politically correct. I say: a gay is attracted to a man, & the most manly he is, the better. He shouldn't settle for the queer downstairs if only to be politically correct

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