Porn & “Plot”

12 Sep

[Trigger warning for descriptions of pornography.]

Many women who say they like porn often include a caveat: “But I like it to have some plot”. So-called “feminist pornographers” and production companies who specialize in  “woman-friendly” or “couple’s” porn know this market well. The explanation provided for this reported taste discrepancy between women and men usually involves an allusion to hunters and gatherers and/or a reference to a caveman dragging a woman by her hair back to the cave. Where patriarchal paleo fantasies and evolutionary psychology fail, some kind of anatomical hypothesis is provided. Dudes get obvious erections. . . lady bits are so static and mysterious!

I have a new hypothesis. Women report to want “plot” in pornography because it makes the porn look less overtly like rape.

When a scenario such as PIV or any other penis-centric sexual act just suddenly happens, without any discussion or anything, that can look pretty scary. (Who is that man and why is he shoving his dick down that woman’s throat?) To take the edge off of what would potentially appear “iffy” in some way, plot comes in to smooth over the more clearly disturbing aspects of what you’re watching.

Additionally, plot in porn further mainstreams pornography, and, as with ‘features’, make the movies appear Hollywood-esque. This added legitimacy also gets used against feminists or anyone who dares to call porn violent or misogynistic. They say that anti-porn feminists overstate our case just because there exists a niche market for porn that isn’t as upfront with the “we hate women” message. Either way, it’s still there. Another way in which porn’s violence is excused is by giving the token example of female, nay, FEMINIST!!1 pornographers. As shown in this study of aggressive acts within mainstream pornography, female directors aren’t much less likely to tone down the violence. [Male-directed: 85.2% of scenes included agression, female-directed: 77%. Email me if you would like the entire article. More on the results of the study can be found here.]

Several years ago, I was one of the women who claimed to like her pornography “to have a little bit more of a story to it”. I said this after my then-boyfriend had shown me some ‘funny’ parts of porn one night. One of the noncontextualized clips he showed me was of two women giving blow jobs to over a dozen men who were all standing around a pool. Each man ejaculated onto the women’s faces, and then each woman would move onto another man. Nothing was funny about this, obviously. I was upset and confused as to why my boyfriend would think this was funny (though he wasn’t laughing either). He asked what I though, because he could tell I wasn’t into it. Having not read any porn critiques, all I could communicate was, “I just. . . feel sorry for those women.” He replied immediately, “You’d feel differently if you knew how much money they were making.” I didn’t have a response at the time, so I submit the following reply retroactively: no, I do not feel fucking differently, you porn-addicted jackass.

Around this time, I also had told him about my extensive NC-17-rated film collection. Looking back, I think I did it to impress him and show him I wasn’t a prude. He scoffed and said, “That’s nothing.” I guess something like that is ‘nothing’ compared to the afternoons he’d spend watching a plethora of cum shots.

Interestingly, this was also a period in my life when I was writing a lot of erotica. Believe it or not, though, none of my stories were simply: “They fucked and he came on her tits THE END.” Indeed, I included both plot and character development to buffer the PIV-centric narratives I was so fond of writing back then.

Even with some semblance of half-hearted plot, porn still looks violent to many women (because it is violent). While the storyline of a couple being on their honeymoon covers up some of the violence with cheesy romance, the violence remains. The use of women for men’s sexual purposes is still the subject. Debasement is always porn’s plot.

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8 Responses to “Porn & “Plot””

  1. Kelly September 12, 2011 at 7:07 am #

    Porn propaganda tries to make look innocuous and/or glamorous but the reality is women in porn don’t actually make much money. Not that the money worth what those bastards do to women. Aside from the few and far in between who are just there to make it look like women can make it. Jenna Jameson for instance and even she has had a hard life even before she entered the Industry. The money at the start is to lure young naive girls and women then their earnings go down once they aren’t a fresh face prices drop unless they can do more extreme, degrading, cruel and physically demanding things to earn. It’s systematic and brutal young girls and women don’t know what they are getting themselves and porn culture isn’t doing them any favors.

    • lishra September 12, 2011 at 8:39 am #

      Thanks for commenting, Kelly. You’re absolutely right. And even if they did make a ton of money like the one or two well-known faces (Jameson, Grey), it’s still awful. If someone showed me a video of sweatshop workers and claimed they were making a lot of money, I still wouldn’t care. That isn’t the problem there!

      It’s not about the money that any porn performer makes, it’s about the degradation and how it harms women *as a class*.

  2. BK September 12, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    “Women report to want “plot” in pornography because it makes the porn look less overtly like rape.”

    Agreed.

  3. BK September 12, 2011 at 3:23 pm #

    “Additionally, plot in porn further mainstreams pornography, and, as with ‘features’, make the movies appear Hollywood-esque”

    Sorry for all of the bits and pieces – anyway, I also agree with this statement and I think it will get a lot of people thinking more deeply and critically about popular media and pornography’s larger influence on our mass popular culture. Porn seems to be becoming more and more embedded in every day life. For example, whenever I grab a copy of this local and free art magazine and flip it over I find misogyny. On the back of the paper is a young-looking woman in full body leotard posing for the scum bags over at American Apparel. The women featured on the back of EVERY issue (it almost NEVER features men despite their men’s line) are constantly posed in submissive positions whilst barely dressed. Often they look disheveled, as if they have been laying in bed for several hour or were recently hooked to an IV of morphine…

    The images themselves reek of poor attempts to use a “amateur porno chic” style of advertising so that always look purposefully “amateur.” This is just a common ad, everyone has become desensitized to the woman-as-fuck-object propaganda because of the pornography industry. It’s so normalized now. Men look at hardcore porno on their iphones – while they ride buses, while they sit in their office cubical – It’s EVERYWHERE and it is always based on sexist ideology because it stems directly from patriarchy AND capitalism. If these systems did not exist, if they were phased out – then pornography would have no place in our world because we would see each other’s humanity. These so called “feminist pornographers” can’t just “make it better” when the entire idea of it (pornography) is based on inequity and oppression. I am growing so tired of this, “if you can’t beat em, join em” attitude that is growing in popularity in some feminist spaces. Why are we so afraid to take a stand against this post-computer age hate propaganda?

    Anyway, this was a great post! Will share 🙂

  4. FCM September 13, 2011 at 7:07 am #

    thanks lishra, thats a great point! PIV without context indicating consent, or reasonably implying consent *is* *rape*. thats what rape IS. and these “plots” are exactly what you say they are: consent-indicators.

    women know this, but to men its all just “sex” anyway, which is why they cant tell the difference, and they try to tell *us* theres no difference when we know better. its a mansplanation and male-centric perspective of the highest order. thanks for making the connection!

  5. DaveSquirrel September 30, 2011 at 12:58 am #

    I have a new hypothesis. Women report to want “plot” in pornography because it makes the porn look less overtly like rape.

    I would agree too. I would also add that dudes like their porn without plot, because it does make it look more rapey. As FCM said, dudes can’t seem to tell much difference between sex and rape – it is actually just on a continuum to them. The main thing though, is that rape is more exciting to a dude because of the power trip attached to it. The more resistance on the part of the woman, the greater the challenge and conquest, equals power buzz. This also goes for the het ritual of the female ‘playing hard to get’, all part of the same ‘game’.

    • lishra September 30, 2011 at 11:55 am #

      You’re absolutely right that the converse of it is true too (men tend to like no-plot porn because it looks more like rape). Good point.

      • DaveSquirrel September 30, 2011 at 1:39 pm #

        Without any kind of context or pre-context, no onlooker can tell the difference between sex and rape.

        Although, porn, when it isn’t ‘genuine rape’ goes all out to make it look like rape in the actual act itself. Which gives the clue that that is what the dudes are after in ‘their porn’.

        It is rather scary when you get to know what goes on in dudes’ heads.

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