By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
I just got back from a weekend at the University of California at Santa Barbara, where I attended "Console-ing Passions: An International Conference on Television, Audio, Video, New Media, and Feminism" (filmandmedia.ucsb.edu/cpt v/cptv.html). It was three days of geeking out with academics about TV, the Internet, and various kinds of media studies—who knew that people are getting their Ph.D.'s in Battlestar Galactica and The Hills these days? Naturally, the first panel I went to was all about porn, with four scholars presenting papers on lesbian identity politics and pornography, the 1980s cult hit Café Flesh and its '90s sequel, the industry in Vietnam, and bad-boy director/current Justice Department target Max Hardcore, that last topic featuring the best title ever: "Scrunchies, Braces, and Throat Fucking: Performances of Girlhood in Gonzo Porn."
(Click to enlarge)
A bunch of women stuck around afterwards to continue the discussion that the panel had, um, stimulated, and we began talking about the kind of porn we all watched. Someone brought up the work of Shine Louise Houston's Pink and White Productions (pinkwhite.biz), a San Francisco–based company that describes its mission as creating "adult entertainment that exposes the complexities of queer sexual desire . . . dedicated to producing sexy and exciting images that reflect today's blurred gender lines and fluid sexualities." She thought it was amazing; I chimed in and said, "Yes, it's diverse, radical, and I totally applaud Houston's vision."
Another person chimed in: "Do you like fag porn? All my queer female friends do." Hers wasn't a surprising question. I know lesbians who dig it more than any other kind of hardcore fare. I briefly dated a genderqueer dyke who just loved gay male porn: She ran out and got the newest title from her favorite company the day it came out. In this case, she adored movies from Bel Ami (belamionline.com), which feature young, hairless European lads (think the boy-on-boy version of the straight barely-legal genre). The boys are very pretty and androgynous, and some of them could definitely be mistaken for dykes with their clothes on. But other girl-loving girls love über-butch men, leather daddies, and big hairy bears, so it's not always about androgyny. By now, I think it's commonplace to accept that queer women love queer male porn, but what is that all about?
First, let's acknowledge a practical reality: There isn't a whole lot of lesbian porn produced by and for lesbians, or that feels authentic to lesbian viewers. Some dykes can get their fix of queerness—both the lust and the cultural aesthetics—via gay porn, even though it features people of a different gender than those they fuck in real life. Queer is often attracted to queer first and foremost, like when the guy I lusted after in high school turned out to be gay—it makes sense in some way.
And speaking of gender, plenty of lesbians identify with various forms of masculinity: Their own gender expression may be at the masculine end of the spectrum, or they may like to fantasize and play with gender and sex. Gay porn gives them a range of masculine desires to relate to or lust after. For those dykes who themselves identify as fag—or who like butch/butch, boi/boi, or transman/transman sex—they can see a hyper-masculine version of their own sex lives and/or fantasies performed on the small screen.
The phenomenon of straight women who love gay male porn has been documented and was discussed plenty when flocks of females gushed over Brokeback Mountain. When women came out of their fag-loving closet, it illustrated the flip side of a common theory: Plenty of straight men love girl/girl porn because they want to see lots of who they lust after. The same is true for het women: They like to look at hot naked men fucking, and it doesn't really matter that they're fucking each other. I think it may also be true that while pornos full of romance and mood lighting are marketed to women, some prefer a sweaty, get-right-down-to-it romp in the locker room any day. Wired.com columnist Regina Lynn, author of Sexier Sex: Lessons from the Brave New Sexual Frontier, writes that it's not always about identifying with someone in a scene: "For me, gay porn has always been arousing because of its masculinity. The strength and power, plus the double dose of raw male drive and sexuality, add up to more than the sum of their parts."
On Nerve.com, journalist Kera Bolonik admits that she gets off with men onscreen, but not in real life: "Nothing makes me hotter than watching two men going at it. There is something really admirable about gay male porn, at least in principle: it's egalitarian. Everyone gets a turn at the top as well as at the bottom. Everyone comes, and often they do it together." I'm not sure this concept of equality is attractive to everyone (I personally like a hefty dose of power dynamics with my sex), but it supports the notion of seeing some kind of sameness, something non-heterosexual represented. And it also raises the issue that many women, regardless of their orientation, have with porn: their ambivalence or discomfort with seeing female performers when issues of consent, enjoyment, and pleasure are unclear. Somehow, our concerns and feminist politics don't overshadow the sex when women are absent (as if a man could not degrade or coerce another man, which is obviously flawed logic).
I like gay porn for the hot dudes, the overflow of testosterone, and the unapologetic sexual desire. I also like straight porn. But that's a subject for another column. For more information on Tristan Taormino's work, please visit Puckerup.com.