I agree with much of hardcorekitty's (no longer extant) write-up. (Thanks go to SpiffyBalak for pointing out that the original text can be found, duly credited to Carolyn Tiger, at http://www.generationj.com/issues/jan_1/fem_porn.html ) I feel, however, there's a slight bit of stereotyping when she writes:
What's different about our porn? It's easily accessible. Physically it is less graphic and never bizarre. Even the most detailed sex in "sensual novels" is couched in narrative and preceded by long courtships (read: pages and pages of building tension). In women's magazines it is more often biological than scatological or with farm animals. Fem-porn is never rough and never with a stranger.

Generally speaking, this is a very accurate description. What is fascinating, however, are the many romance novels and other forms of "women's porn" that include scenes that verge on rape and other bizarre behavior. In some cases, bizarre sexuality is forced on the heroine by a man or captor who must be overcome by the romantic hero in his quest for his one true love. But in some cases, there is an edge of sadism to the primary relationship itself; but, at least in the romance novels I've read, this is always framed in a way that somehow "excuses" the hero's rogueish behavior, and ends with the hero on the verge of domestication, nearly tamed (but not too tame, God forbid), or at the very least he is mellowed by the evidence he now holds of the deep love and affection that the heroine feels for him. It's hard to say what this means, but my inner cynic says that this is a clever way of having your cake and eating it too.

There is one webpage I've come across that catalogues some of the kinkier exceptions to the "soft focus" rule, and if it's still online and I can find it, I hope to add a reference.

In the meanwhile, there's this:

"Looking. Historically, it was Tom peeking at Lady Godiva, birthing the sexually voyeuristic "Peeping Tom." Today, it's more complicated. Psychiatrist Danielle Knafo believes the artist deals with "primal scene experiences and fantasies by taking control of a situation in which they were once passive." She defines "primal scene" as the child voyeur wishing to observe parents copulating.

Certainly, some sort of sexuality, which can be understood as power (or power understood as sexuality) always lingers in "looking", even if repressed or concealed. Once beyond a Freudian glossary, however, voyeurism scrambles for definition. Its inevitability in our everyday lives seems beyond the litany of social sciences and such issues as pornography...."

from Grace Roselli & Barbara Rusin "Caught Looking" webpage http://www.plexus.org/newobs/112/intro112.html (Dec. 2, 2000)

P.S. (Response to Mr. Option's w/u: I would certainly echo virtually all of what you say about the disquieting nature of male-oriented porn. Perhaps what disturbs me most about it is how it neither reflects the realities of women's nor men's sexual experiences, but seems to exist as a sort of stumbling block for males trying to escape perpetual adolescence.)

This is clever, but I have one serious exception.

Something really foul is at work in the male-oriented pornography industry. The trappings of male-oriented porn - the plastic surgery; the emotionless, guileless machine-acting... The emphasis on measurements, on poses, on the ass... domination and submission... the "money shot"...

I find it as disturbing today as I did when I first saw it - probably sometime around the 5th grade. It doesn't change the fact that I was raised in a puritanical culture (America) - granted, that's not Afghanistan, but still... in that context, it makes a serious impression when you see a girl with her clothes off for the first time. Men are visual - whatever. There are differences - whether it's culture or biology, the end result is pretty obvious and this exemplifies it.

The fact that porn seems to have some kind of bizarre misogynistic psychological baggage is something worthy of serious, earnest study - though I can't see too many grants getting written, frankly. I just realized that there's the implication here that men like porn "as is." What men like is looking at women. In a culture that stifles routine social or sexual encounters, pornography is going to be there to compensate, just as sure as drugs and rock and roll. Out of some bizarre social evolution, the industry that provides that has got serious, serious issues. The worst thing about it is that men may end up liking it (it may become a circular phenomenon) - and that, I think, is a scary thing. I find "normal" pornography scary. Maybe this is my "sensitive," "feminine" side - it's wonderful there's a backlash against even that now. It's just how I feel. Label it however you want.

What would make me happy? It would make me happy if we woke up one day and discovered that the notion that men aren't interested in "emotions" or "romance," just "mechanics" is as much hogwash as the idea that girls should only like to play house with dolls and ez-bake. I would be thrilled if we found out we were all the same inside, that it was just culture, that we're as silly today as the Victorians were, that there is no more biological basis for male-vs-female porn dichotomies than there are for the glass ceiling or housewivery. That women could feel free to like looking and men could feel free to be enthralled with romance.

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