Tag Archives: porn

Beautiful, Joyful Porn

Still from Hysterical Literature. Image for Beautiful, Joyful Porn - Malin James

Still from Hysterical Literature, Session 1: Stoya (one of my favorites)

I’m kind of embarrassed to admit it, but I’m not that into porn. Sort of. Okay, it’s complicated….

I like porn in principle, but scripted porn doesn’t tend work for me. I’m hyper-aware of stories and how they’re told. Unless they’re done really well, a lot porn scenarios yank me out of the sexy place and drop me into my head, which is kind of a shame, since most of those scenarios aren’t designed to withstand a critical eye. They’re designed to help the viewer get off, which is excellent in and of itself.

One of porn’s traditional conventions is to provide a narrative, even if the narrative is just randy pizza guy or threesome for his birthday. The problem for me is that I have weirdly specific taste, so pre-packaged scenarios don’t tend to turn me on . That’s why I’m more likely to trawl Tumblr for a quick fix than I am to watch a full length porn video. Sorry, porn – it’s not you, it’s me.

For me, porn is defined by efficiency. It’s like the media equivalent of the vibrator I keep at my desk for when I just need to get off. I’m not looking for a sexual experience, I’m looking for mental clarity, so I pull out the vibe and five minutes later, I’m back to work. For me, most porn serves the same function. If I’m already horny, it can be pretty useful, but if I want to rev myself up, it probably won’t do. It’s the difference between the vibe and a beautiful glass dildo. If I need to get off, the bullet rocks, but I’ll enjoy the glass in a whole different way.

Luckily for me, there are glass dildo equivalents in porn.

Last year, I wrote a post about a video called The Slap, a satirical riff on an ad called First Kiss. The Slap riled me up so much it shocked me. There isn’t an ounce of sexual content in this video – it’s literally a bunch of strangers slapping each other in the face – but the visceral, impulsive joy of it never fails to turn me on.

The only way I can think to explain it is that this crazy sort of intimacy develops between each pair, regardless of the race, gender or sexuality of the individual participant. That intimacy underpins their shock at hitting someone and taking a hit and it informs their joy at being given permission to do something taboo. In fact, it’s so fucking intimate that it makes me want to slap someone too…and then fuck that someone a lot

Sexual mechanics are cool for a snack, but if I want a pornographic meal, I go straight for intense, voyeuristic intimacy – intimacy that stands on its own without a scripted story. That’s why I go to Beautiful Agony or  Hysterical Literature when I want raw sexuality without the side of narrative.

Beautiful Agony features videos that people submit of themselves masturbating in front of a camera. All you can see are their faces, so the way they experience pleasure is displayed without distraction. Watching one of their videos is like being in a room full of laughter. You can walk in cold and miserable, but give it enough time and you’re going to be laughing too, which is to say that I can pop on one of their videos while I’m tired and stressed out, and by the time it ends, I’m after the glass dildo.

Hysterical Literature is also wonderful. People sit at a table and read from a book while someone under the table uses a vibrator on them (or jacks them off). The participants choose their book and that book is the single thread that carries you through to their orgasm. On a personal note, I’m a fan of reading while being pleasured, (and of torturing someone by making them read while I pleasure them), so Hysterical Literature is tailored made for me. And oh my god, the people who participate are happy. It’s beautiful. And hot! It makes me think of the times I’ve laughed after coming, because it felt so good.

In both cases, watching someone go from zero to climax over the course of 5-10 minutes is sexy and I love it. It’s infectious, and that’s the beauty of it. It’s the ultimate form of sexual sympathy. The people in the videos are having an amazing time, which makes me want to too. And, as a added bonus, Beautiful Agony and Hysterical Literature mean that I don’t have to spend the rest of the day itching to slap someone before ripping off their clothes. That’s what I call a gourmet pornographic meal.

Kinky People Sex

Art by Franz von Bayros

Art by Franz von Bayros

I’ve been thinking about labels recently. It started with the resurgence of the erotica vs. porn debate (which Tabitha Rayne addressed beautifully in this post) but quickly spun out to include people, sexuality, kink and the labels we use to describe ourselves.

I’ve written about my own system of genre classification and many others have addressed the question from different angles since. But when the issue was brought up again, I was struck by just how subjective labels like “erotica” and “porn” are. Yes, there are standards most people agree on – erotica has a narrative focus while porn is primarily concerned with sex – but beyond that there’s a lot of grey area defined mostly by an individual’s impression of a work.

I’m not saying that literature and genre defy definition (I may be a lot of things, but I’m not a post-modernist). What I am saying is that regardless of what label we place on a thing, that thing’s identity (or classification) will likely retain some level of fluidity. Anais Nin called a great chunk of her work pornography, while today we consider her catalog one of the foundations of modern literary erotica. A group of Christian moms considered this fondant teddy bear’s seam to be an overly sexual image. I can’t say I agree. The point is that a thing can shift labels depending on who is viewing it.

Which brings me to my actual topic. Labels and people. People use labels as a short-hand for larger, more nuanced identities – are you one of us, or are you “other”? In this way, labels can be incredibly useful. But if you become unquestioningly wedded to your label it can box you in, because labels can’t always keep up with the fluidity of a person’s experiences.

If you’re primarily straight but have slept with someone of the same sex, does that make you bi? If you’re primarily dominant but sometimes like to sub, are you a switch? If your experiences or beliefs are non-binary, then labels may fit accurately, but if you inhabit an ideological or sexual grey area, it often becomes a curiosity when you deviate from the behaviors your label dictates.

Kink is a great example of this. Kinky people are generally thought to be those whose interests fall outside the sexual norm (whatever the “norm” is). I’ve identified as kinky since my early twenties when I realized that threesomes (and foursomes) were a thing. Adopting that label was liberating at the time. As a result, for much of my twenties, I allowed the “kinky” label to direct my sexual interests. I played in ways that I might not have otherwise done and, for the most part, I loved it. I also enjoyed a ton of sex that I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed if I hadn’t also adopted the label of slut. But I also remember feeling that my occasional desire for straightforward, vanilla sex didn’t adhere to my label(s), so I often went without the no-frills missionary I also craved.

At that point in my life, I thought that kinky people were supposed to have kinky sex all the time, which isn’t necessarily true. For many people, kink defines their sexualities in a very whole and satisfying way. But for others, like me, identifying as any one thing excludes five other labels that I could just as easily adopt. It wasn’t until I was in my early thirties that I made up my own label – sexually omnivorous. I want a helping of everything and always have. Or, to put it another way, I have a very fluid relationship to my sexuality and kinks.

Now, just so you know where I’m coming from, I’ll toss out a few of the labels that I do feel comfortable claiming:

Bisexual

Non-monogamous

Voyeuristic (with an exhibitionist streak)

Dominant (though not a Domme. I’m more of an alpha who likes D/s. Domme implies things I don’t want to claim.)

I also like rough sex and boundary pushing. I like feeling vaguely uncomfortable and I like it when my partner feels vaguely uncomfortable too (within the bounds of consent). More than anything, I love intensity. If a sexual experience serves up intensity, odds are I’ll be interested. It doesn’t matter if the intensity is emotional or physical. Even better if it’s both.

That said, I also love vanilla sex (which can also be emotionally and physically intense). I love missionary. I love waking up, having slow, drowsy sex and then going back to sleep. I love catching a quickie before running out for drinks. I love oral – both giving and getting. I love Sunday mornings in bed. I love entire week-ends spent doing nothing but straight up fucking – no games, no trappings, just hungry-for-more fucking. I even love making love with the right person.

So, do my more conventional tastes cancel out the kinks? I don’t feel they do – I think my sexuality covers a lot of ground and that exercising all aspects of it gives me pleasure. I’m hardly going to lock down the snuggly-missionary-loving part of me in the name of kink, any more than I’d give up D/s play because it doesn’t fit conventional sexual tastes. What I want has everything to do with who I’m with and what we need at the time. Sometimes, it’s rough. Sometimes it’s sweet. Unlike my young self, I’m not interested in missing out on either.

So, to bring it back around. If a person dedicates themselves to writing “porn” that’s great. If they claim the label of “erotica” (or “erotic romance” or “smut”) for their work, that’s great too. The danger is in becoming overly committed to a label – whether it’s porn, romance, kinky, straight, feminist, Christian, atheist or anything else. My concern is that, when a label becomes an ideology, it can curtail the intellectual, creative and sexual fluidity that makes you an individual, rather than a component of a larger, homogenous group (kinky people sex aside); or, in the case of erotic fiction, it can needlessly limit your work in a falsely simplified genre.

Erotic Fiction: Coming Pretty

"Lying Nude" by Egon Schiele, (1911).

“Lying Nude” by Egon Schiele, (1911).

I want to come pretty, she thinks.

She likes being polished. It’s comfortable and safe. But the climax that bows and contorts her body is a tangled, jagged thing. It lingers and lashes and loosens her. It pulls at her veneer.

Her hips jerk. She bites her lip, and sucks the wound. Oddly, she often comes pretty – controlled, obedient orgasms with lovely, feather-light sighs. The sighs are sexy. Beautiful. Hot. But never pornographic. No. Never that. She has a fear of sounding porny. She’s not the porny type….

She sounds porny as hell with him.

I want to come pretty, I want to come pretty.

She doesn’t come pretty. Not close. She comes as she did the first three (or four) times – messy and out of control. It’s terrible. Scary. Contorted and ugly. Her lip’s bleeding. She’s four orgasms in. But something inside her is shifting. She’s starting not to care. Incredible, she thinks. She never doesn’t care.

She shudders. He makes her want too much. His fingers find her hips. She lives balanced on a needle, straining, resisting. She can’t afford to fall. She is charming and lovely, delightful and sweet in restaurants and bars. But in the warm half light of the small, quiet room, she is a thing that needs to be fucked.

She rises up above him, temporarily distilled. She’s become her body’s response. Jerking hips. Grinding thighs. Slick, plump, cunt. Her muttered curses sound scripted. Porny. Awful. But they are real. Honest and un-pretty. Raw and authentically her.

His tongue and teeth push impulses up through layers of ego and skin. She feels giddy and young, in thrall to herself. She would love to give him orgasms that show her at her lovely best, but the weight of his pleasure cracks her veneer. He will always get her instead.

Coming pretty is not enough.

On Rom Coms & Porn

Ryan Gosling Hey Girl meme - boyfriend materialA version of this essay first appeared on my other blog before I’d conceived of having a site devoted to erotica and sex writing. Now that this has become my primary home online, I’m dusting off the relevant content and moving it over here. I hope you enjoy. xx.M

Sometimes you overhear things that you’d rather not hear… like a relationship-ending fight. And yet, even as you desperately study the pastry case, part of you is fascinated and can’t tune out. This post, dear readers, is the result of one of those overheard fights.

The combatants in question were a couple in their early twenties, obviously past the relationship’s first blush. According to what I, and the rest of Starbucks, overheard, she was “pissed” and “revolted” that she had caught him watching porn. She felt that it was a “betrayal of the relationship” that he should get off on fantasies of other women.

The fight progressed along these lines for several uncomfortable minutes. Just when the two marketing-types in front of me started placing bets on her soon-to-be ex’s imminent castration, the boyfriend countered with what I considered to be an interesting point:

“What’s wrong with me watching porn when you watch The Notebook on loop so you can off on Ryan Gosling?”

To quote the skater at the corner table, “Dude. Good fucking point.”

Now, I’m going to leave this particular couple so I can focus on the general usefulness of the boyfriend’s question. Because it is a useful question. Is there a substantive difference between his porn and her Ryan Gosling fix? Adjusting for their private history and the terms the girlfriend asserted when she called pornography a betrayal of their relationship, there isn’t much of one. Here’s why: The issue at the heart of the boyfriend’s question isn’t betrayal or even sex. It’s intimacy.

Let me say up front that I don’t believe there’s anything inherently wrong with watching porn, (or romantic comedies for that matter). As long as a person doesn’t allow media to subsume real life, both are perfectly acceptable forms of entertainment. That said, no matter how good the entertainment is, ultimately, it’s just a collection of manufactured experiences projected for the viewer’s proxy enjoyment. Real life has to win. The question is, are you fostering intimacy with real people as well, or are you engaging exclusively in solitary fantasies of intimacy?

In this, porn and romantic comedies pose a similar challenge. Porn sells the representation of sexual fantasy while Rom Coms sell emotional fantasy. Both fantasies treat intimacy as entertainment which, in and of itself, is generally fine. Watching porn or Rom Coms, (or anything else for that matter), only becomes a betrayal when it begins to interfere with real life, when the viewer eschews real intimacy with real partners for fantasies in media.

The woman in the unhappy couple felt betrayed by her boyfriend’s use of porn, so much so that she felt justified in engaging him in a public fight. Now, had his porn become a habit, or were he rejecting her sexually, there might be a legitimate problem, but, thanks to lowered inhibitions on the part of both parties, I, and everyone else, found out that they had sex fairly frequently and that porn was, apparently, an occasional indulgence for him. Granted, one has to take the participants at their word, but for all intents and purposes, it didn’t sound like he was glued to a screen. It was her shock at the discovery, after all, that prompted the fight.

She, on the other hand, acknowledged that she did watch The Notebook a lot, but that it was only because he “sucked.” So, at this point, we have a guy who, (apparently), watches porn on occasion while still having sex with his girlfriend, and a girlfriend who watches a romantic fantasy because her boyfriend sucks. If we’re talking about betrayal stemming from intimacy rather than from sex, her emotional / romantic fixation is as much of a betrayal as his porn watching.

At this point, we’re entering into highly subjective territory. If the guy doesn’t care that his girlfriend fantasizes about Ryan Gosling, there’s no betrayal because his feelings weren’t betrayed. That said, I’m going to stick with the general principal from here on out – the comparability of his sexual fantasies and her emotional, (and sexual), ones.

This guy was caught watching other people have sex. By his girlfriend’s analysis, he engaged in a sexual behavior without her, and which is why she felt betrayed. And yet, it would appear that she, in her own way, did the same thing when she watched The Notebook on loop and engaged in emotional and sexual fantasies, (to give full credit to Ryan Gosling), without him. Her romantic fantasy excluded her boyfriend just as much as his sexual fantasy presumably did her. It’s the exclusion that takes each of them out of their relationship.

Drilling down through hurt feelings and knee-jerk morality, it’s the exclusion that was the actual betrayal, if one is going to start thinking about fantasy as betrayal, which I patently do not.  After all, what is so wrong with occasionally indulging in separate sexual and emotional fantasies? Nothing that I can see, but then, my moral compass has always pointed to a slightly different North.

In the end, I’m simply going to suggest that what’s good for the gander is good for the goose. If she wants her boyfriend to give up porn, it’s only fair that she give up The Notebook. If it’s the betrayal of shared intimacy that she objects to, she might do him the courtesy of leaving Ryan Gosling alone.

Stunt Porn / People Porn

Burlesque contortionists, c. 1910

Burlesque contortionists, c. 1910

What is it about erotica that allows it to cover so much ground? I’m mean really, what’s up with a genre that contains everything from Anais Nin to poorly veiled twilight slash, (sorry Fifty Shades)?

The way I see it, erotica falls into two basic categories. I’m going to label them People Porn and Stunt Porn. These two categories cover a lot of territory but, in the end, they have less to do with the “quality” of the writing than they do with authorial intent.

People Porn is erotica that features some form of emotional or psychological arc. Failing that, there is some sort of thematic point to the story. While the stories are explicitly sexual, they are so for a reason. Think The Story of O, Anais Nin and yes, Fifty Shades of Grey. I know many people have issues with Fifty Shades, and that’s perfectly fine, (I have them too), but no matter how bad it is, the sexual acts depicted are depicted to a purpose – a character’s exploration of BDSM.

If you want to see an example of what I mean by People Porn, read a piece I wrote called “The Second Letter.” You can also listen to “Bound / Unbound,” a story I wrote for The Kiss Me Quick’s Erotica Podcast.  Those stories are People Porn. Graphically sexual? Abso-fucking-lutely, but very much to a point. “The Second Letter” is about the end of a relationship, while “Bound / Unbound” examines how easily control crumbles beneath sexual pressure. Those stories require sex, but they aren’t strictly about the sex. They’re about the people having it.

Stunt Porn on the other hand, is exuberantly and un-apologetically hot for the sheer, filthy joy of it. Stunt Porn doesn’t want to make you think. Stunt Porn wants to get you off. The whole point is to make you wet, to make you hard, and to make you want to fuck. Think everything from Anne Rice’s The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty to Babysitting the Baumgartners by Selena Kitt. Yes, Rice’s Beauty series is gorgeously written and very literary in style, but in the end, it’s really just a beautiful set-piece in which various characters have sex in supremely interesting ways. Characters aren’t examined and emotional depths aren’t plumbed, but if you’re looking for the prettiest pony play in literature, you’ve found your book.

There is no value judgement here. Stunt Porn is awesome. I’ve written Stunt Porn and will continue to do so, (though, I must admit that, as my writing matures, People Porn attracts me more). In fact, if you want to read an example of my Stunt Porn, check out “Spin Cycle.” That’s Stunt Porn and it still makes me happy, even though I wrote it three years ago. Stunt Porn is as awesome as People Porn – it’s just different. It’s literally about the animal joy of having sex, which, I think, is worth writing about.

Ultimately, figuring out how erotica can contain so much variation is less important than removing the value judgement inherent in erotic classification. I’m not suggesting that we remove the classifications, (I used to be a librarian – I love classifications), but I am just suggesting that rather than slot things as “good” or “bad,” we look at what the author is trying to do.

Stunt Porn and People Porn both serve equally valuable purposes. For me, as both a writer and a reader, it’s important to remember that and to treat both sub-genres with equal consideration. Whether my characters are fucking for the sheer joy of fucking, or fucking as part part of a larger arc, the story needs to serve it’s intended purpose. It either needs to turn you on, or it needs to turn you on and make you think. Either way, reading erotica should feel intimate. As an author, that should always be my primary intent.