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Fragments of Evolving Manhood: Thinking About Pornography 2

September 29, 2010

A white woman’s mouth in the act of swallowing a white man’s penis fills the screen of my TV. Almost directly in the center of the picture, the shape of his organ glides back and forth against the inside of her left cheek. Panning back, the camera shows her kneeling on all fours in front of him, her lips engulfing and expelling his genitals as if she were the only movable part of a well-oiled machine. She looks up at him and asks, with a lust-filled and mischievous grin, “Does that feel good?”

“You suck a mean cock, Cherry,” he answers, his tone flat, as if he were reading her name out of the phone book.

In response, she gazes worshipfully at his erection, sucks air hungrily through her teeth, and moans with the pleasure of pleasuring him, with the joy of being able to take him in her mouth; and then the scene changes to a picture of the same woman doing the same thing to a second man. Then the scene changes again, and again, and again, and each time the woman is with a different man, and each time the man shows about as much passion as he would if he were lifting heavy boxes. His erection signifies both his desire and his arousal, but he rarely moves his hips, he makes almost no sound that could be mistaken for an expression of pleasure, and, throughout the oral sex she performs on him, his face remains more or less emotionless.

From the way the camera is aimed at the point of oral-genital contact, I know that I am supposed to imagine the penis on the screen and the perspective of the lens as mine. I know that my hand is supposed to acquire the shape of the woman’s lips, that the orgasm to which this movie—a compilation called “Inside Christy Canyon”—is intended to help me bring myself is supposed to become the orgasm to which she has brought me. Yet neither my pleasure nor the pleasure of the men who stand in with Christy Canyon for me seems to be at the center of what the movie is about. Instead, the film focuses on her, minutely transcribing each of her responses to the sex she is having. She moans, she screams, she gyrates her hips. Her arms and legs flail with pleasure, and when she is fucking, she grabs at her partner to pull him further inside herself. Even when he orgasms, at the moment when his body and his pleasure should logically occupy the movie’s foreground, Christy Canyon almost always dominates the picture, grinding, panting, moaning beneath the ejaculating penis as if it and the pleasure it is supposed to represent were her own. I’m reminded of the stereotypical scenes of idol worshippers working themselves into an ecstasy, hoping vainly to elicit some sign of life from the stone or wooden figure that is their god. In Christy Canyon’s case, however, the worship works. God speaks. The phallus ejaculates.

Yet if the “cum-shot” is supposed to represent the pinnacle and proof of male pleasure, I find—except for my prior knowledge of the physical fact—little male pleasure in it, and even less pleasure in watching it. A man thrusts into a woman, or a woman takes a man into her body. He exhibits little or no sign of the sexual pleasure, the tension towards orgasm, that must be building in his body, but then, when the “magic moment” arrives and he pulls out of his partner’s body so we can see that his orgasm is real, he allows himself the further release of a scream or a grunt. Yet I know that I am supposed to identify less with what this man feels physically than with what he does, or with what is done to him. This is the homophobia at the core of most mainstream heterosexual pornography. When he enters Christy Canyon, I am not supposed to imagine his interior experience of that action; rather, I am supposed to imagine that I have entered her. When she takes him in her mouth, it is not his pleasure that is supposed to arouse me, but rather the fact that she has, metaphorically, done the same to me. Everything sexual this movie wants me to feel, in other words, is directed not towards an identification with the body that is like mine, but into the experience of possessing the filmed image of her body. Our roles, in other words, have reversed. I have become the worshipper who, with the sympathetic magic of my desire, desires to breathe life into the inanimate body of the film that is all I have of her flesh, while she has become the inscrutable object before which I must finally know that I am alone, holding in my hand the proof and the residue of my own mundane humanity.

Cross-posted on The Poetry in the Politics and the Politics in the Poetry


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