Why Porn Sucks (Pun Intended)

As I look at my one-year-old who has yet to talk, but to whom I read stories about Mr. Brown and all the amazing sounds he can make, or about water water everywhere with the anthropomorphic octopus illustrating this truth, I think about how we humans inherently love storytelling. We crave narrative, real or not. In keeping with the wonder and fantasy of childhood, my wife and I have decided that we will tell our daughter all about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. And I play with my daughter, pretending that her stuffed bunny’s dancing and talking to her, and even now, though she’s so little and cannot say so, I can tell that she understands that I’m making the bunny do this, but the idea that bunny could do it all on her own — my daughter loves it. We love stories and fantasies, and using our imagination — everyone knows this. So why do I find pornography to be so disappointing?

Few things are more fictional than porn. Narrative or not, pornography is all about the fantasy of an outrageous sex life, while most of us have fairly staid and uncomplicated relationships (sexual or not) with the other humans in our lives. Since the internet came along there’s been a burst (dare I say ejaculation?) of porn genres and subgenres. Largely gone are the traditionally plotted and acted pornographic feature films that were popular from the 1970s into the 1980s. Those old movies might serve better as warnings to aspiring actors of what not to do. Don’t overact, don’t stumble over your lines, don’t give empty, vapid performances to your speaking parts. The writing is not even worth mentioning, except to say that these films were typically built on full-scale premises and plots. They were actual fantasies.

For a while it seemed that what took the place of plotted porn was simply sex scenes by themselves, spliced together in a particular pattern of fellatio + (occasional cunnilingus) + intercourse in a variety of positions = money shot. You never saw how the “characters” ended up having sex with one another (or with however many partners). What mattered was the sex. I mean, pornography serves a basic purpose, right? Who cares about “story”?

But it seems that, since around the mid-2000s or so, the trend in pornography has been to mimic reality. Inherent in this facsimile of real life is narrative. The viewer has to see how the “characters” end up having sex and that requires a story. Take the Bang Bros. Bang Bus series of videos, for example. A porn producer/cameraman, along with a performer and a driver, cruise around LA in a windowless van, scoping the streets for beautiful — and solitary — women. They seem to stumble across one of these beauties and convince her to get in the van. They say they’ll give her a ride where she needs to go, or that they’re producing a college film and they want to ask her some questions. Once the woman’s in the van they slowly talk her into having sex with the performer and all this is “caught” on camera. There’s a variety of these so-called “reality” or “gonzo” pornographic films. There’s College Fuckfest where porn people go to college parties and have sex on camera. There’s Book Bang where porn people go on college campuses and talk a college girl into having sex on camera for money so that she can buy whatever.

Anyway, the genres aren’t the point; the point is that it’s painfully obvious in most cases that the people involved in the sex act in the pornographic film are far from amateurs and are certainly paid performers. For one thing, each production company would find itself in some serious trouble should it go around filming people having sex without first getting said persons’ written consent to distribute the images worldwide on the Internet or wherever else — and for compensation. On top of this logistical reality, there’s the fact that Los Angeles — or wherever — is simply not filled with people who are willing to have sex with complete strangers for money or not at the mere suggestion of such a situation. And this is all too easy to see in the performers’ “acting.” Thus, porn returns to narrative, but like in earlier eras the fantasy crumbles around the break in verisimilitude.

But like I said before: who cares about the story or the “reality” of the story? It’s about the sex, right? But here’s where I say that’s it’s not about the sex, really, at all. Sex is, of course, a wonderful, surprising, necessary, and meaningful part of life. But what makes sex so great is the fact that the person (or people) with whom you’re about to have sex are into you, and you’re into them. Like the sex act itself, 99% of it is the build-up. I’m not saying that every time people have sex they ought to be in love; I’m not even saying that when people have sex they need to “like” each other’s personality. But I would hope that when most people have sex they do so because they are attracted to at least the idea of having sex with that other person. And this is the part of the formula that pornography can’t seem to “nail.” No matter what the plot might be, or lack thereof, no matter how many different picking-up-girls-in-a-club-type scenarios pornographers invent, the performers do their jobs just like that: like jobs. No wonder it’s called a “blowjob.” You never get the sense that the people engaged in the leading-up-to or the sex act itself are doing so because they’re actually attracted to their partner or partners.

While I’m not advocating that people stop watching pornography — far from it, after all one of my friends, when I told her that I was writing this, said, “Sometimes you just want to see wieners” — I will say that if you’re looking for sexual gratification in life, you’ve got far better chances if you try finding other actual humans whom you like, and who like you back. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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