by Calico Rudasill, Sssh.com Porn For Women
It’s often been said, but it’s worth noting again: Context matters. Especially when political correctness is involved.
Recently, I read about an offensive cartoon which went viral, generated a great deal of angry criticism over its perceived message, then turned out to be not quite what people had assumed.
Buzzfeed has republished the cartoon and several examples of reactions from social media users who were upset by it. Along the way in her post, Rachael Krishna does a solid job explaining the phenomenon of “bimbofication erotica,” to which she applies the shorthand “niche kink that involves a person transforming into a hypersexualized caricature.”
What interests me here isn’t so much the social media reaction to the cartoon (which I completely understand), but the broader interaction of political correctness and erotica – and the implications of such for people who create, promote and/or sell porn.
Ethical Creation, Yes. Ethical Depiction? That’s Significantly Trickier
Some years back, I was working for a porn company that produced a (cliché and rote as fuck) series of videos in which the male performers drove around in a truck pretending to pick up girls, and the female performers pretended to be the sort of women who would hop in a truck with a stranger simply because he had a video camera, some “interview questions” and a paltry sum of cash.
This may come as a surprise to harsh critics of the porn industry, but at the studio where I worked, there was robust internal discussion as to whether this sort of video (and the studio’s other “reality porn” offerings) were ethical, not in terms of how we made them, but in terms of the content itself.
The reason we weren’t worried at all about these videos were made was quite simple: Our director was an in-house employee we all knew quite well, and a more trustworthy, respectful, courteous and professional person would be hard to find – not just in porn, but anywhere. (Seriously, the man is an absolute gem of humanity, and I say this fully realizing it’s going to be hard for some people to believe about a director of reality porn.)
The debate, then, was mostly about whether such videos encouraged bad behavior on the part of viewers, or was otherwise something with which our (largely female) executives were uncomfortable.
An intrepid young coder from our IT department chimed in at one point in a full staff meeting with an important observation: Most likely, every person who has ever lived has fantasized at some point about things she or he would never actually do, but for some reason, we only seem troubled by fantasies which involve sex.
“I’ve fantasized about robbing a bank many times, just as an idle mental exercise – could I get away with it, that kind of thing,” he said. “But there’s no way in hell I’m ever going to rob a bank for real, no matter how many times I watch Heat. Do you guys seriously think a bunch of our customers are going to watch these videos and think: That’s it! I’ll drive around near campus asking random college girls to answer some interview questions on film, quickly transition to offering her money to take off her clothes, and a few minutes after that, we’ll be banging for sure. Somehow, I doubt it.”
Some in the conference room that day were offended by what they perceived as ridicule of a sincere and serious concern, but I immediately saw his point. Fantasies are one thing, behavior another – and to the extent we can even argue the former greatly influences the latter, we must at least concede the degree and effect of this influence is going to vary like crazy from one viewer to the next, and sure as hell isn’t a simple matter of cause and effect.
I Don’t Want To Be Tied Up And Flogged, But Some Others Absolutely DO
Years earlier in my days as porn company employee, long before I worked for the company which produced the reality porn described above, I was tasked by my first adult industry employer with finding some content for a BDSM site the company maintained, but for which it produced no original content.
A day or two into my search, I was ready to stop looking, not because I’d found a great source, but because I turned out to be unexpectedly squeamish where certain forms of kink were concerned.
Every time I looked at a picture (this was in 1997, and online adult video wasn’t much of a thing yet) of someone being burned by hot wax, or tied to a post and flogged with a tool which looked like it had been handed down generation after generation by descendants of Spanish inquisitors, I became profoundly uncomfortable.
Finally, I went to my boss and told him I shouldn’t be the person in charge of acquiring this kind of content – and maybe he ought not to offer it at all, because “nobody would willingly subject themselves to this kind of treatment” or something to that effect.
My boss leaned back in his chair and chuckled lightly.
“You know, I felt the exact same way, once upon a time,” he said. “But just because that sort of thing ain’t for you or me, don’t be so sure some folks don’t love every minute of it, because I’m here to tell you they absolutely do.”
He went on to tell me about an old friend of his who produced BDSM for a tiny little adult production company in New York. She had gotten into directing BDSM porn in the late 80s, after years of being a more-than-willing sex slave off camera within the BDSM community in Manhattan.
“You’d like her,” my boss said. “She’s actually really nice, super smart and funny as hell. Her contact info is on the list of people I suggested talking to; you should ring her up.”
He was right: I immediately liked her – quite a lot, in fact. An email introduction from my boss and few phone calls back and forth between me and his friend, and our company was busily digitizing her work for distribution on our websites.
In one fell swoop, I’d gone from the highly presumptuous belief nobody could ever want to do these things, to the recognition the world of sex was a much bigger, more complicated and variegated thing than I had realized.
Looking back on it now, I’m embarrassed by my initial naïve, judgmental and, frankly, insulting initial reaction to the kinkier side of the industry in which I have now worked for over 20 years. Political correctness at its worst! On the bright side, however, I believe my crash education in what BDSM isn’t made me far more openminded, in general, than I would otherwise have become.
All of this is a longwinded way of saying if you ever find yourself tempted to pass judgment on the sexual fantasies and tastes of others, step back for a minute and ask yourself: If the world could read my mind and literally know my every thought, how rosy a picture would this comprehensive telepathy paint of me, really?
That said, just in case, maybe don’t watch Heat too many times; trying to rob a bank by overwhelming force is really nothing more than a good way to end up riddled with SWAT team bullets.
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