Most of the new conversations I start with Eric begin with the following sentence: “So I read this article today…”
I read a lot of articles. They make me think. Sometimes, they make me want to try things. Like, you know, new recipes. Or workouts. Or BB cream. But then a few months ago, some article or another made me want to try watching a porn with him. Much like going to CrossFit or making croque-monsieurs, there’s only so many times you can read about how awesome something is before you want to try it for yourself.
I can honestly say it would take an act of God to make me try CrossFit, but porn? Surprise, surprise, but that’s a much easier sell with me. I guess we all like to #getafterit in different ways.
Anyway, I think my desire to watch a porn with Eric simply was borne out of curiosity. I don’t know how, exactly, but I somehow managed to make it to the age of twenty-eight without ever having seen a pornographic movie.
It wasn’t really like I was avoiding porn; I just never had a really good reason to watch it. That isn’t to say that I’ve been too busy having crazy amounts of sex all of my adult life; it’s more just a matter of preference. This kind of goes back to me preferring to have the TV off…that includes when I’m getting myself off. And when it comes to fantasies, I’m cheap, lazy, afraid of computer viruses, and, well, I’m a writer—so even if I lack a partner, I’ve never lacked an imagination. Basically, I just really never had a reason to seek porn out.
Because I’d never seen porn, I didn’t have very strong feelings about it. I know a lot of feminists do (and I also know these feelings differ pretty wildly), but on the topic of porn, the most I could really muster was a shrug. I consider myself sex-positive—that is to say as long as there’s safety and consent is involved, I see no reason why anyone should be ashamed for thinking about sex, wanting sex, having sex, or enjoying sex. Kinks? Experimentation? Vanilla sex? Psssh…I don’t give a shit what you do or don’t do. So, when it comes to porn, as long as there’s safety and consent involved, I was always kinda like, What’s the big damn deal?
It didn’t help that all of the people who I often hear speaking out against porn were people, who, well, people preach “family values” and then viciously go after anyone or anything they believe doesn’t fit in with their idea of what that means. The people who believe porn is corrupting America also believe gays and slutty women are corrupting America, so…they don’t have a lot of credibility with me.
So when it came to trying this thing with Eric—which is recommended pretty frequently by all different kinds of people as a fun, sexy thing to try—I thought, “Sure, why not suggest this?” So I asked him in the same way I might say, “Hey, wanna make this spiked homemade hot chocolate this weekend?”
“Hey, wanna watch some people fuck on TV?”
Eric’s response was pretty similar to his response to his approach to all other things I suggest: “Sure, why not?” When it comes to nearly all aspects of his life, he’s a very go-with-the-flow kind of person. This makes him fun to live with, cook for, and bang.
So one night, we decided to see what DirecTV Cinema had to offer on all of its SexxxxyChannels. (I may have added a few Xs in there. Not sure, because the grammar rules of porn are different than the grammar rules of the real world. Or I suppose they’d call them “rulez.”) We looked through all of our options and all the descriptions seemed pretty equally…well, I don’t want to say “boring,” exactly, but they told us very little. All of them seemed to be pretty mainstream; no kinks or fetishes were mentioned. It was, as far as I could tell, the most basic, run-of-the-mill porn offering you could get, and trying to decide felt like trying to decide between “cream” and “eggshell” colors of paint. Eventually we just chose one and moved on.
Despite the stereotypes about terrible storylines, there was no pretense of a plot. Fine. I don’t need to be told a story. (Or, well, if I’m going to get a story, I want it to be better than what we’ve come to expect from porn.) They got right down to business.
And I got RIGHT DOWN TO THE BUSINESS OF BEING HORRIFIED.
I honestly never predicted I’d have that reaction. I mean, I know what sex looks like, right? So this is just going to be some people having some sex, right? Yeah…no. I mean, maybe. But. WHAT? The entire time, I just kept thinking, “But…but…that’s not how sex looks!”
And, “WHY DOES SHE KEEP MAKING THOSE NOISES BUT NOT GETTING OFF WHEN IT’S BEEN A REALLY LONG TIME?”
And, “Hey! Hey! That looks painful!”
And, “OH MY GOD WHY IS HE CHOKING HER WITH HIS DICK? THAT WOMAN IS GAGGING! SOMEBODY CALL AN AMBULANCE!!!”
Now, before I continue, I have to say—if you like watching porn or you participate in porn, I have no problem with that. I am totally willing to accept that my personal preferences for what constitutes “sexy” or “attractive” are not something everyone is going to agree with. But what really shocked me—and I know anyone who has seen mainstream porn before is going to roll her eyes at this—was how completely unrealistic it was. It was basically like someone had told me they had made a documentary about my childhood, and then put on an episode of Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo. Like, I knew it was going to be, uh, glamorized, but I didn’t expect that it would be a complete and total deviation from my concept of reality.
Finally I said to Eric, “Uh…but…is this…normal? Like…it’s so…AGGRESSIVE? And…um…that just looks so…painful?” I was trying to figure out a way to say this calmly, as I did not enjoy feeling like a pearl-clutching prude.
He looked a little confused by my question. Then he said, “Yeah…I guess you’re right? That’s just kind of…how it all is?”
“And people just ignore the fact that this looks super misogynistic, and is not what sex looks like for a lot of people?” I said.
“Yeah,” he said, frowning. “It is kind of terrible.” He said this in a way that implied he had already worked through this and made peace with it, and then forgotten about it. It was the same reaction he would have a few months later when I was disgusted by the copious amounts of blood and over-the-top violence in my first watching of The Godfather: like I was the crazy one.
“BUT TEENAGERS MIGHT WATCH THIS!” I said. “WHAT IF A TEENAGE BOY SEES THIS AND THINKS THIS IS HOW HE SHOULD TREAT GIRLS?!?!?!”
Nothing says adulthood quite like your first “But think of the children!” moment.
And I hated that I had this reaction. I really didn’t want to find myself on the same side as anti-porn politicians. I’m a cool feminist; I’m down with porn, right? But at the same time, I couldn’t get past the problems that a film like this—again, pretty “vanilla” as far as porn goes—posed to anyone watching who didn’t have a fully formed idea of what sex is like when there aren’t cameras rolling. I don’t think that all porn was like this…but I was troubled by the fact that the most accessible stuff was.
I knew that one video wasn’t enough to draw any definitive conclusions on porn. Perhaps I just needed to find something that was created by women for women. The other night, I found myself once again saying to Eric, “So, I read this article today…” and went on to tell him about two women who are killing it writing dinosaur erotica. Like every interesting article I read, this led to further investigation; an hour later, I was reading Taken by the T-Rex, where a woman has sex with a dinosaur. And I’m glad I did. It’s good to know that despite what I saw in that movie, someone is finally making porn that’s realistic.
Photo from Rachel’s personal collection, shot by her friend Caitlin of twentyfivetwentysix studios.