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Fragments of Evolving Manhood: Thinking About Pornography 1

September 27, 2010

Translation work has taken me away from this series, and I have been missing it. A conversation I had today with a friend reminded me, though, of the conclusion to an essay about pornography called “Inside The Men Inside ‘Inside Christy Canyon,’” that I published in 1994 in the now-defunct literary journal called “The American Voice.” This is a slightly edited version of that conclusion.

Male dominance instructs men that our bodies are tools. By turning male orgasm into the "cum shot," heterosexual pornography reflects and perpetuates this image of the male body. Yet it does not have to be that way. Erection, for example, the gradual hardening of a man’s penis–in the hand or mouth or inside or against or at the sight, sound or smell of the body of his lover, or in his own hand–is the physical corollary of, a concrete metaphor for, that man’s capacity for trust, something Sharon Olds explores in her poem "The Connoisseuse of Slugs:"

When I was a connoisseuse of slugs
I would part the ivy leaves, and look for the
naked jelly of those gold bodies,
translucent strangers glistening along the
stones, slowly, their gelatinous bodies
at my mercy.  Made mostly of water, they would shrivel
to nothing if they were sprinkled with salt,
but I was not interested in that.  What I liked
was to draw aside the ivy, breathe the
odor of the wall, and stand there in silence
until the slug forgot I was there
and sent its antennae up out of its
head, the glimmering umber horns
rising like telescopes, until finally the
sensitive knobs would pop out the
ends, delicate and intimate.  Years later,
when I first saw a naked man,
I gasped with pleasure to see that quiet
mystery reenacted, the slow
elegant being coming out of hiding and
gleaming in the dark air, eager and so
trusting you could weep.

That trust as a necessary condition for sex, as that without which sex becomes exploitation by definition, is what is missing from the male performances in movies like Inside Christy Canyon.

I want a mainstream heterosexual pornography in which this male trust is eroticized, in which the places we have not been, I have not been touched, the places it is in the interest of male dominance to keep hidden, are lifted into the light and brought into knowledge. I want a heterosexual pornography in which the sensations of the penis are not limited by the in and out and up and down that leads to ejaculation; in which our availability, my availability to the eyes and hands and mouths of my lover(s) teaches me what it means to be known and desired entirely, only and wholly for myself; in which the touch of sex–because at the level of the body touch is all sex is–creates a space where the embodied life of one human being opens to the embodied life of another; in which what is made from that opening is understood to be what the love in making love is all about.


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