Posts Tagged ‘asexy’

Porn: You’re Doing it Wrong!

June 25, 2009

bunny pr0n

Photo ganked from hamsBlog.

Asexuals read Playboy for the articles.  Asexuals watch hotforwords to learn the etymology.  Asexuals… watch PG Porn and analyze it so thoroughly they lose the joke. 

Ok, so actually the last of those blanket statements applies to me, and in spite of how logical the ace identification would be, I still — er– don’t identify as asexual.  (After all, when have I ever been logical?)  I was, however, intrigued by the notion of PG Porn, which I first heard about on an installment of Loveline last month, (listening goes against my prudish tendencies, but I’m a wee bit obsessed with all things Dr. Drew), and which sounded like potentially good material for a post.  After all, I more than owe a blog post at this point, owe a bone thrown to any loyal readers still loitering about after all those months of silence spent bartering my life for a degree. 

PG Porn, the brainchild of filmmaker James Gunn, is described as “non-sexual” pornography.  In fact, at least one of the videos features a “non-sexual content warning” — (“this video contains graphic footage of some really happy guys in a bus […] who are totally awesome and just want to be nice”), — which also happens to predict (and attempt to pre-empt) my over-analysis.  (“If you are still reading this, you may be taking your PG Porn viewing just a little too seriously.  Not that we don’t appreciate the close attention, but it might be just a bit obsessive.  That said, we like you better than the people not reading this.”  Aw, shucks.  Thanks, PG Porn.)  The warning bodes well for the films; likewise, the hilariously off-beat description that first led me to Gunn’s page: “How many times have you been watching a great porn film – you’re really enjoying the story, the acting, the cinematography – when, all of the sudden, they ruin everything with PEOPLE HAVING SEX?”  The seemingly delusional perspective on porn’s filmic merits aside, the blurb reads like a plug ganked directly from the AVEN boards.  I decided that a parody of porn, some ace-approved Bizarro-world version of the stuff, must await.  Right?  A less beastial (technically speaking) version of asexualporn.com must be a click away.  Mustn’t it?

Well… maybe.

The issue, (at least, if you’re hoping PG Porn will represent more than an amusing premise well-executed), lies in the ongoing difficulty of defining what is “sexual.”  After all, any claim of non-sexuality requires an understanding of “sexuality,” in order to decide what it’s rejecting, what it’s rebelling against.  Consider the e-mail conversation I had with a friend last year, in which we discussed my involvement with the asexual community and my own questions about whether or not I identified as asexual.  At one point, he suggested I had “fallen victim to the media’s narrow definition of sexuality as things a person does with her vagina,” an uncharacteristically pointed line that irked me for a few reasons.  Not the least of those reasons is this: if I’ve made that mistake, and one could argue I have, then I am most certainly not the only one.  Perhaps it’s the lack of comprehensive sex education (although my health class film-strips thankfully pre-dated the abstinence-only Bush years ), but an increasing number of people these days seem to equate sexuality and genitalia, from the preteen girl who claims giving oral sex is non-sexual (after all, it doesn’t involve her vagina) to the right-wing fundamentalist whose concept of homosexuality directly resembles the “adult” video rack.

Likewise, what’s been removed from porn to create its PG counterpart, is the physical act of sex, not sexuality as a whole, or even more than that layer of it.  Take casting in the films, which combines mainstream actors with adult film stars, and note that the vast majority (potentially all) of the women involved fall into porn star category.  Why?  Because by cladding these women in the same skin-tight, low-cut tops or short skirts that they wear in their non-PG porn roles, the tittilating sexiness of porn’s premise is preserved, in a new “tv-friendly” form.  (Since the films currently air on Spike, the tv channel that originally marketed as “the first network for [misogynist heterosexual] men,” the inclusion of male porn stars apparently made less sense.)

If I’m starting to sound something like Tipper Gore circa the late ’80s, I apologize.  In many ways, the PG-porn premise requires that the majority of more X-rated porn be left in tact.   Doing so helps the films read as spoofs on the “gutter” minds of viewers, in much the same sense as the card game Dirty Minds:  “If we set up this entirely nonsexual premise,” both game and films argue, “we bet you’ll mistakenly presume sex!”  In truth, however, both entertainments rely, if not on sex, than on sexiness.  As David at Love from the Asexual Underground, pointed out in a post late last night, “sexiness” is defined as

1. concerned predominantly or excessively with sex; risqué: a sexy novel.
2. sexually interesting or exciting; radiating sexuality: the sexiest professor on campus.
3. excitingly appealing; glamorous: a sexy new car.

at least, according to Dictionary.com.  If that’s true, and if Gunn’s joke is any indication, it’s significantly easier to remove the sex from porn than it is to remove the sexiness.  And of course, the more that other layers of sexuality — beyond physical sex acts — were stripped away, the more the films would begin to resemble other forms of cinema: a romantic comedy, maybe, or a Disney film.  Or just a plain old, plot-free box-office flop.

The point that struck me when I first watched the videos, which David’s post has in some ways helped me articulate, is that while PG porn may (or may not) be able to claim a “non-sexual” identifier, it simply cannot qualify as “asexy.”  Because while non-sexual — and in some uses even asexual — can (and increasingly is) defined simply as lacking sex, asexy implies something more.   Paul on urbandictionary.com defines asexy as “an adjective used to describe an asexual person showing intelligence, confidence, style, physical attractiveness, charming personality, baking skills, or any other combination of sufficiently positive and unique characteristics” — an explanation that nicely underlines David’s assertion that “being true to oneself and one’s passions makes you desirable, hands down.”  (Incidentally, this may explain why I’ve never been able to define what I find aesthetically appealing in people, falling back on seemingly vague statements such as, “I like people who look like themselves.”)

Sexiness, even its relatively non-explicit manifestations — like PG Porn, just does not necessarily equal asexiness.  Certainly, there’s a section of the Venn diagram where the two overlap, but increasingly — particularly in media — the asexy elements of desire (and desirability) are ignored.  Like its more graphic predecessor, PG porn lacks something fundamental to asexiness: character.  Without character, without identity, there’s no sense of uniqueness, quirk, self-actualization, passion, or any of the other things that give relationships meaning.  Perhaps the asexual, in particular, needs sex to bear “meaning,” but I doubt the asexual is the only one who feels a loss at the increasingly reductive definitions of sexuality.  After all, I don’t identify as asexual.  Yet, the ace community often comes closer to reflecting me than the cult of sexiness.  Maybe that’s because of the thought some asexuals put into sexuality, into what it could be, how it could develop, what it could include to better meet individual needs.  Or maybe it’s because while I’ve never been able to see myself as sexy, (or particularly wished that I could), I do aspire to asexiness.

After all, if — as David claims –“typeface nerds are hot, drag queens are hot, [and] line-dancing biophysicists are hot” in asexy terms, maybe the overly analytical blogger has some asexy steam as well.   “Asexy people suffer through porn for the blog posts”?  Hawt.

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Now The Story is Different.

July 7, 2008

I may have mentioned this before, but given that I’m perpetually indecisive so multifaceted, I’m currently double-majoring, pursuing degrees in social work and English (while minoring in gender studies).  This translates into a projected graduation date some time around my eightieth birthday, but I still like to daydream sometimes about what I might choose to do with my degrees, should I ever successfully finish earning them.  My most recent thought, resurrected from a daydream I had roughly a decade ago, is to pursue a hybrid of writing and therapy, something that resembles art therapy, basically, with creative writing (my first rather passionate, asexual love) in the place of visual art.  Not long ago, I discussed this possibility with a (new!) friend, and he suggested I work with the LGBTetc population.  I filed it in the “not a crazy thought” drawer of my mental desk, since I’ve learned through the LGBT-related activism I’ve helped spearhead on my campus that this is actually a population I rather enjoy working for and with, despite my early resistence to allowing my orientation — (which is, not surprisingly, what sparked my interest in the population to begin with) — such a defining role in my life.  However, as a week or two has pushed itself between this moment and that initial conversation, I find myself more and more drawn to the possibilities of story therapy with the LGBTetc community, and I can’t help myself; I want to share why.

There’s a thoroughly unsubstantiated theory budding in my brain at the moment about marginalized populations, such as the gay and lesbian population or the asexual population.  It links, in some ways, to the point identified in that Peggy McIntosh article I mentioned in an earlier post, about the fact that only dominant groups see themselves consistently represented in media and mainstream art.  Because only dominant groups are allowed to tell their stories (or have their stories told), I suspect that the experiences of non-dominant communities are doubly collapsed.  First, of course, they’re collapsed by the dominant population; the stories that are told about them are only told about them (as opposed to by them) and have their basis in stereotypes.  Perhaps more disturbingly to me, the individual stories are squashed a second time by the individuals of the population itself, as they attempt to secure their own rights.  In an effort to create a unified front, I think marginalized populations start to minimize diversity within their groups; we pretend that we’re all the same (or closer to the same) than we actually are because we think it makes it easier for us to work together.  As a result of both of these pressures for uniformity, only one story of what it means to be lesbian (or gay, or trans) seems to get told consistently. 

I find this easiest to explain in terms of lesbianism, because that’s the area where I can start to identify key points of the story.  (The U-Haul comes to mind.)  But I know it’s applicable in other portions of the group as well.  Let’s start with this example, though.  When members of the gay and lesbian population are interviewed about their story, one of the questions asked so consistently it appears mandated is “when did you know?”  “Mr. or Ms. Gay Person, when did you first realize you were gay?”  The answers vary, obviously, but there’s an aspect of them that I notice so frequently, it seems unrealistically, disproportionately uniform.  Regardless of when Mr. or Ms. “Gay Person” knew he/she was gay, they speak of the sense, from a very young age, that they were different, different in a way that perhaps they didn’t understand, but markedly and noticeably different from their (presumably straight) peers.

This… strikes me as inconsistent.  On the one hand, it seems like an odd story for the LBGT community to offer if it’s not consistently the case, given that one of their — (I’m compelled to distance myself from this particular claim; hence the third-person pronoun) — claims is that we’re exactly the same as the non-queer folks, except for this minor issue of orientation.  Still, I really cannot wrap my head around the idea that the majority of queer folks knew they were different somehow, in relation to their queer identity, from the time that they were very young children.  To begin with, I’m a queer person who can’t do this.  Did I feel different in childhood?  Certainly.  But not for any reason I can logically connect with my (a)sexuality and orientation.  I felt different for economic reasons, religious reasons, and so forth, but as far as sexuality, well, as I recall it was perfectly normal to have no interest in boys until I was ten, and perfectly acceptable until I was twelve or so.  (As a sidenote, I can see this being very different for trans folks, as people start socializing you into your gender before you’re even born.)  Still, I don’t remember sexuality, even a child’s version of it, being clear enough for any of my friends before the sixth grade or so for anyone (including me) to recognize mine as potentially deviant from the mainstream.  I also can’t see any statistically significant tendency to bond more with other folks who would later identify as LGBT in some way.  And while this is one only one girl’s story, it’s still one girl’s story, and that … is kind of my point.

When the culture — and even the “subculture,” the non-dominant population itself — insists that something like this is a common-to-the-point-it’s-uniform component of a gay or lesbian individual’s identity, it’s completely reasonable that gay and lesbian individuals begin to look for that aspect of their own story.  We internalize what we’re taught to expect, after all.   Right?  The more that one story is touted, the more that we lose the diversity of the population itself, and we lose track of individual voices, and speaking as someone who was borderline mute for a few years — (heh, “speaking as someone who was borderline mute”… now there’s a noteworthy phrase) — I consider that a seriously dangerous possibility.  I consider it extremely important to my mental health to keep track of my own voice, and I don’t think that’s entirely due to the fact that one of my primary identifications is as a writer.  One of the reasons I’m compelled to write this now, and here, is that I think the asexual community, specifically, has a somewhat unprecedented opportunity.  In contrast with several other queer populations, asexuals — largely because of their “newness” on the social radar — don’t seem to have a consistent story that’s being touted.  That’s one of things I’ve found most striking about the asexual communities I participate in, actually.  Given the various subcategories of “aromantic,” “biromantic,” “heteroromantic,” and “homoromantic,” and more surprisingly even within those categories, there’s an unbelievable sense of diversity among people who identify as asexual.  At least, there is for now.  I wonder, though, how long it will last as asexuals fight for acknowledgement and representation (particularly in media).  One of the reasons I think the community of asexual blogs that is sprouting across the web is so powerful is because people are telling their own stories and giving their own perspectives.  Plural.  I don’t doubt that it will be more difficult for this community to affect change while maintaining that sense of pluralism, but it’s something I would really love to see.  Asexuality is revolutionary partly because it offers people a chance to define their story outside of the “we are all fundamentally sexual beings” template, challenging the very definition of “sexuality.”  It gives people the opportunity to define for themselves who they fundamentally are.  I would really hate to see that compromised, to see it transition to the point that it offers only one alternative story, the collapsed Asexual Person’s Narrative, instead of a space where people can explore themselves and define their “character” in their own terms. 

The job security that such a move would potentially grant me aside, I would very much like to see us prevent that.