Better Porn, Now

A skinny blonde girl periodically stops to spit vigorously on a gargantuan penis, and then gets right back to work. Her brow is knitted with fierce concentration as her mouth works back and forth, sucking and licking with painful earnestness. By the end of, say, an eternity, rivulets of sticky drool are running down her chin and perky breasts.

And that was just the opening scene of the porn flick I'd ordered on pay-per-view. How much more could I take?!

Fortunately, the spit and suck scene was not a recurring motif in "Sex Nymphs 2." But I never quite recovered from the blow to my libido, going from interested to bored to downright queasy within an hour. It's a shameful confession for a sex-positive feminist to make.

The unfashionable truth is that I have mostly embraced pornography on principle rather than as a personal practice. The last time I watched a smutty video was as a freshman in college, in the company of giggling, wide-eyed girls. From what I can recall, we were mostly bemused and a little bored -- even though half of us were still virgins. Fifteen years later, my sexual tastes are still lagging stubbornly behind my political beliefs. The monotonous blur of clits, tits and dicks, delivered in vivid anatomical detail, quite frankly makes my head ache.

Really, who gets off on this stuff?

The obvious answer, of course, is men. The bulk of the run-of-the-mill porn I "researched" for this column was patently male-oriented -- as in, the men were either repulsive or mercifully out of sight. So is egregiously bad porn yet another social woe we chalk up to the Y chromosome, right alongside war and poverty?

No way, says David Loftus, the author of a newly released -- often times shrill -- defense of men's relationship with pornography, "Watching Sex." Based on an online survey of 150 men, Loftus's book claims that men are just as disgusted with standard porno fare. As one of his respondents puts it, "What I wish were eliminated is the formula ... which every scene follows: Kiss. Get undressed. Girl sucks guy. Guy licks girl. They screw missionary. They screw doggie-style. They screw female-superior. Back to the missionary. The 'cum shot.' Same old thing, with minor variations, over and over ..."

You can say that again, brother.

Loftus argues that just because an industry churns out a shoddy product, we can't assume that it reflects what the consumers want: "Are Pintos, Edsels, red dye #2, and thalidomide what consumers wanted?"

But Pintos didn't sell very well. When it comes to cars, bad porn is a lot more like an SUV. Methinks the gentleman protests too much. "Watching Sex," however, is valuable in revealing a rich diversity of sexual tastes and preferences among men, both gay and straight. It's nice to know that not all men turn to porn to discover their inner Kid Rock.

The true debate over pornography today is not over censorship but over diversity. The Andrea Dworkin/Ed Meese alliance lost the porn wars of the '90s -- though Loftus is still busy beating up on them. But now that pornography is sooo mainstream, maybe it's time to challenge the ridiculous assumptions that the average smut makes about what women want.

So-called Chick Porn -- which is often dubbed as "alternative" -- is just as rife with gross stereotypes about female sexuality. Here's a reality check. Not all women want romance, soft-focus sensuality, or even a good plot line. Many do, but there are plenty of exceptions. For a start, most women I know (me included) find sappy porn just plain silly. A classic example is the "women-friendly" soft porn that Cinemax trots out with regularity: Boy meets girl; boy loses girl; boy wades through a hazardous obstacle course of intervening genitalia to find girl again. Darling, I knew I loved you the moment I saw you humping that awful man in the hot tub. Enough, already!

As for all that gentle stroking, Candida Royalle's genteel smut has her share of fans, but give me Andrew Blake's latex-drenched, MTV-style porn any day. A friend of mine is sick of what she calls "that touchy feely stuff" that runs rampant in lesbian porn -- in itself a scarce commodity. No, girl-girl sex doesn't count. And there are plenty of women who like it rough. Just take a peek at "slash fiction" (gay fan fiction put out by mostly straight or bi women), in which S&M and rape scenarios have become increasingly common. It ain't your grandma's sex fantasy.

As a porn-savvy friend of mine points out, this is a prolific business that spews out thousands of films each year that cater to every fetish known to humanity. So why am I complaining? Sure, there is a perfect porn video out there for each one of us. But an average Jane like me has to wade her way through reams of unadulterated crap to find it. Most of the smut out there is tailor-made for the misogynist, beer-swilling Baywatch fan. Like any good capitalist enterprise, the porn industry reflects the tastes of its most ardent patrons.

The rest of us just make do or do without. Let's face it. Even in this oh-so-hip porn-positive era, most of us women are too shy to openly ask for what we want in porn. Maybe it's time to start. We need to drag that smut out of our bedrooms and into the streets. Here is an industry that has bad working conditions, huge profit margins and still puts out a lousy product. It's just crying out for some good old-fashioned consumer advocacy.

Paint your picket signs, gals. It's time to put an end to that god-awful music and pancake makeup and demand our Denzel look-alike. We want better porn, now.

Lakshmi Chaudhry is a senior editor of AlterNet.

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