Photo ganked from hamsBlog.
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?
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.