A childhood friend and I — both of us seventy-reaching-for-eighty — were talking about porn. To her it was trash, always there, sliding along in the gutter. My contention was that porn has been part of the mainstream for years now. Also, a classic element of transgression and rebellion. As well as a marker for elitist privilege. She suggested that she’d read one of the “Fifty Shades” books and it was worthless, cheap and predictable. Even boring.
So I had to come up with some evidence and I didn’t think I’d be able to get her to read some of the things I encountered on my short literary tour through pornville. Luckily, on You Tube there are perfume ads for men. No need to read at all.
These links are to Paco Rabanne, non-conformist. Born Basque.
This first lovely fellow is starring in a “concept” ad. The idea is that he’s fabulously attractive to women, at least the ones living in his walls, and that they are overwhelmed when he’s wearing only the perfume.
In the next one the production is amazing. I can’t even imagine how they figured out how to shoot it. The storyboard alone must be a work of art. You’d have to watch it many times to figure out what’s going on. I don’t know whether that would be very erotic since you’d be on the wrong side of your brain. Just go with it.
This last boy is so much like one of the Paris Cinematheque boys that it’s spooky. He was at risk because people got obsessed with him, because he took advantage and had no boundaries, because he did one thing too dangerous and was killed by it. But the message is joy, movement, and — check those eyes — the male exotic gaze.
"Boys at risk” don’t have to be starving, living on the street, getting beat up for money, catching deadly viruses to be at risk. They might be as beautiful and invulnerable-seeming as these perfume models. They still could be exposed to HIV, Hep C, STD’s. They still might be emotionally agonized. They still might be hooked on drugs. They still might not be able to locate a home or maintain a relationship or even manage the considerable amounts of money they can make — while they’re young. Being “at risk” doesn’t necessarily mean being deplorable or any one gender.
It’s a matter of selling what you’ve got — youth, personality, flesh — by converting it into “merch,” something to sell. I wonder whether these men were forced to fuck to get their jobs, like Weinstein starlets. I wonder whether Weinstein himself was treated that way when he was young and pretty. Now just passin’ it on. Like frat hazing. The whole culture revolves around sex power, with the military acting as a kind of “cargo cult”.
The most interesting category of porn I found (it won’t be for everyone) is tentacle porn, not even about humans. In graphic versions they’d have to be CGI. Here’s a history.
Imagine the little kisses of suction cups all over your body! A famous male prostitute used to go to the beach and kiss the sea anemones — not the big deep water floral ones on reefs, but the little round green ones on tidal rock. They still pack an electrical jolt.
There are no famous erotic individual octopuses (some species are deadly), so they have to be graphic. I mean, there are no octo-porn stars. I’ve never been able to forget a graphic story in “Heavy Metal” magazine about a narcissist octo that divided itself in half, made love to itself, and then merged back into one creature. What made it so memorable was not the sight of penetration but rather the philosophical content, like the theory that human lovers are really two people who have been separated until they find each other — and reunite. This story was not loving the Other, but the Same, like right wingers.
Octopuses have no spines, nor any bones at all. But they have “boners”. “Unlike females, "males have a modified third right arm called a hectocotylus, which has a sperm groove down it and a specialized tip," . . . To mate, a male will insert his hectocotylus into the female's mantle cavity and deposit spermatophores (sperm packets). In some genera, particularly those in which males are far smaller than females, such as Argonauta (argonauts, or paper nautiluses) and Tremoctopus (blanket octopuses), males have a detachable hectocotylus, which they break off after inserting it into the female's mantle.”
“Females store their spermtophores until they're ready to lay their eggs. Typically, males die within months after mating, while females watch over their eggs until they hatch and then die shortly after. In one deep-sea species, Graneledone boreopacifica, females may brood over their eggs for up to 4.5 years without ever leaving to eat.”
“The larger Pacific striped octopus, which doesn't yet have a formal name, appears to break the octopus mating rules. In this odd social species, mating takes place mouth-to-mouth and sucker-to-sucker — and these females don't practice cannibalism.”
How did I wander so far from porn? This is not even anthropology! But it’s almost sci-fi. And some porn does indeed get this far away from the plain unadorned act of human coitus. It is, after all, wreathed with memes of bliss and intensity, jingling with insertions and embroidered with tattoos. We don’t make it as “pretty” as it used to be — we have an awful taste for agony, trauma, pleasure mixed with pain. Kink. Gothic. Punk.
When my friend and I were in grade school we walked together, planning our lives. She had a lot of children but lost her first husband when death’s hectocotylus thrust into him. I had no children. We both know a lot about boys-at-risk. We are old ladies at risk. There have been times and places when we would have been demonized, outlawed, fictionalized, and killed by the righteous.
This time of year in Portland was less green, more gray, more than fifty shades. When the first snow came, we walked farther than usual, down NE 15th towards the Columbia River. In those days there were phone booths and we carried dimes. No one interfered with us — we never thought about that, but eventually we wore out, miles from home, and called our mothers to come get us because it was getting dark, almost supper time.
There are many ways to organize a culture. Right now people are hungry and far from home, but there’s no one to call on this tidal surge of history -- not even with a cell phone. If someone, disguised, knocks on the door, will we feed them or betray them? Traditionally, angels are represented as young men.