That Limp Sensation: Web Porn And The Architecture of Desire

All we need to see is the opening scene of Superbad to know that web porn has, uh, penetrated the American psyche. And we all know there’s some pretty crass stuff out there that is easily accessible. But allow me to go deeper, and broader, and to offer some thoughts, at once practical and philosophic, on this somewhat hard subject.

Web porn fundamentally shifted the architecture of private desire. No longer would we slink through beads to collectively survey the fantasies of oddly hairless men from Van Nuys. That is, just as bottom up media dethroned the media kings, it has dethroned the porn kings and their poor taste in erotica. No more are we at the mercy of this very strange and grotesque vision of the erotic — with faux-breasted giggly girls being abused by old, ugly, shaved men who sweat profusely under the probing lights, all the better to see the close ups of gaping orifice.

The rise of the digital and the web ushered in a proliferation of pornographic possibility and access. Sure, niche porn was always there, somewhere, in specialty porn shops that hovered in peripheral urban moments. Before the net, a man had to do some work to see his bondage and foot videos, his smoking and diaper and shemale porn.

Not anymore. A few clicks, a little poking around, and voila: a man being tied down, blindfolded, and tickled before having his prostate milked. No skulking perverts over your shoulder — just you and these beautiful visions splashing across your blue screen.

Now, while there may always have been niche porn, the breadth and depth of content has exploded. One effect of this is that our tastes are regularly challenged and, on occasion, expanded. You may never have considered pregnant women sexy but after seeing a group of men jerking off on her great swell of a belly, your views may change. The very definition of the erotic — and of the pornographic in particular — is multiplied every which way.

Meanwhile, the rise of web 2.0 has revolutionized the online pornscape. The Internet now runneth over with videos — ranging from 12 seconds to multiple hours — of individuals and couples in sundry states of eros. No producer, no actors, no plot or lighting: just people alone — or not — in their house, shooting video on phones, webcams, Flips — and uploading them to one of the dozens of sites such as YouPorn, Spankwire, xHamster, xVideos, BurningCamel, Tube8, RedTube, and so on and on and on.

Of course, there are still remnants of the old porn — now readily available for free, pirated by the kids. But such remnants are fading fast.

We are finally alone with our perversions and predilections, even those we dind’t know existed.

Infinite Seduction

This new architecture fundamentally shifts the temporality of consumption. Whereas the video enjoyed a certain discretion — two hours, sometimes four hours — web porn knows no such limit. Surfing porn is very different than watching porn. One’s ability to surf is limited only by external circumstances — time alone, duration of wood, the pain of blisters.

But it’s not just the content that is unlimited — and it is unlimited, there is an infinite bevy of porn out there — it’s the very structure of the experience itself. Porn is about the incitement of desire, not its consummation. No, it’s the enticement, the lure, the seduction of the image. And, with the web, this seduction, like the supply of content, is infinite. This movie is pretty good, you say to yourself, now let me look at that one — and that one and that one and that one ad infinitum.

And soon you have 20 browser windows open, each with its own promise, each satisfying this or that component of your manifold desire — a man being penetrated with a strap-on by a lovely co-ed; a Japanese AV star performing a nuru massage, a seaweed based lotion she covers the man in before licking every, and I mean every, part his body; a homemade clip of a college couple enjoying oral copulation; a photomontage of what’s called “almost nudes” — a hail back to the days of the pinup which, somehow, seems even more perverse. Link after link, windows popping up everywhere, some leading nowhere, some to temporary nirvana.

What’s to stop you? How will you finish? Hours pass by, your eyes are bloodshot, your visiion blurred, your lotion is on its last legs, your cock is numb. Your orgasm, if it comes, is perfunctory and weak, a last gasp rather than an apogee.

The web is a relentless seductress.

Meanwhile, the ephemeral nature of it all can seem less than satisfying. And so we turn to the right click, the save, the download. Every right click is a thrust deeper into your hard drive. The right click is the closest thing to consummation, more satisfying than your weak ass orgasm but still lacking.

In the end, it’s all so humiliating. The day is gone, you’re nauseous, you ache. And so it goes until tomorrow.

Opiate of the Impotent

Web porn is the new opiate of the masses. Religion, these days, has people up in arms. Look at the fundamentalist Muslims and Christians: they’re raising hell out there. No, it’s web porn that sates this deprived populace. Better you should sit home all day surfing porn than actually becoming healthy or, god forbid, interested in doing something other than work. Porn is a sedative. It makes you feel that, at least for the moment, everything’s ok — even though your job is miserable, your wife hates you, and your kids are a pain in the ass. Just go to YouPorn and all is right with the world.

Web porn is capital’s answer to religion. It distracts you from the horror of your lives while following the very logic of commodity — endless seduction. More, cries web porn, more! More niches! More content! More time! One more link — always, one more link, one more click, the click to infinity that goes nowhere but still drives you harder and longer until there’s nothing left but that limp sensation of life passing you by. TC mark

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