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Ho-(Book)Bag: The Tits and Sass Book Club Begins with Zone One

“A literary novelist writing a genre novel is like an intellectual dating a porn star. It invites forgivable prurience: What is that relationship like? Granted the intellectual’s hit hanky-panky pay dirt, but what’s in it for the porn star? Conversation? Ideas? Deconstruction?”

That’s Glen Duncan, over at the New York Times on Colson Whitehead’s “zombie novel,” Zone One. He made that lazy analogy in service of the equally offensive idea that Whitehead’s literary fiction talents might be wasted on readers of genre fiction. He comes around at the end with “If this is the intellectual and the porn star, they look pretty good together. For my money, they have a long and happy life ahead of them.” CAN I TELL YOU ABOUT THIS BOOK FRANKENSTEIN AND THIS GUY POE HOW ABOUT THAT TOO.

Comments like Duncan’s belie a casual misogyny and narrow worldview we at T&S love to sink our teeth into. There’s so much here! Does he think that there aren’t intellectual porn stars? Doesn’t he know about Annie Sprinkle or Filthy Gorgeous Things or even, for crying out loud, Sasha Grey? Did he not even see Joanna Angel’s reading list? Is he a self-hating genre writer? Aren’t we supposed to be past the lowbrow/highbrow thing now? How in the fuck did this nonsense get published? We aren’t the only ones who think it’s stupid; as always, The Rumpus has sex workers’ backs.

So listen, I like reading Colson Whitehead. It’s great that he got a rave in the NYT and has a bestseller on his hands. And I think all us strippers and hookers and porn performers and sex workers of all stripes should read Zone One this week (we’ve all read enough Foucault and Lacan, yeah, so let’s treat ourselves to a crackin’ genre novel). Go get yourself a copy, and come back here next week to discuss.*

*If you don’t decide, “Fuck, reading is boring. I’ve got to get out there and bang an extreme-sports athlete on blow.”

Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On—The Production

The creators of Hot Girls Wanted and Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On— Jill Bauer, Rashida Jones, and Ronna Gradus. (Still from Youtube)

I first heard that a sequel to Hot Girls Wanted was being made about three months ago. A performer I followed posted about being approached for filming. He rejected the offer immediately. I shared his discomfort.

The first Hot Girls Wanted was a documentary film carefully designed to manipulate the viewer into feeling disgust towards the porn industry. It followed a household of porn models, predominantly new to the industry, for several months as they journeyed into what Hot Girls Wanted creator Rashida Jones referred to as “pro-amateur porn.” While the filmmakers claimed a totally unbiased approach, I watched the documentary taking note of each carefully placed, mid-sentence cut designed to de-contextualize industry critiques; each depressing tone played at low volumes creating emotionally charged responses to a comment; each unsourced statistic and each citation from disreputable websites.

Porn performers responded harshly yet appropriately to the documentary. They aimed their critiques primarily at the film’s producer, actress Rashida Jones. With the announcement of a sequel came promises of an improved, non-stigmatizing, and nuanced discussion of the porn industry.

It was not delivered.

The Imaginary Choice Feminist

 

afeminismmeansWhen I make porn I find it to be a positive experience. That is based on a wide range of factors that I’ve spoken and written about in depth over the past eight years. For one, trans women’s sexuality is greatly misrepresented in media and it’s important to me to be able to create representations of sexuality on my own terms. I also take great care to address and incorporate ethics into every level of production. My porn includes Audre Lorde references. My porn has been nominated for and won several feminist awards. My porn includes complex discussion of police violence, immigration politics, post-traumatic stress, and other social issues.

Yet, inevitably, I encounter individuals who point at my work and declare that it is objectifying on face—typically without having even watched it. Then they demand that I come up with a thesis worthy defense of my claim that making my porn is a positive thing. Anything I’ve already said or written in defense of my work is ignored. Any reasoning or argumentation about my informed decision to work in porn is lost. My argument is simply represented by my detractors as “because I chose it.”

Choice feminism is the idea that anything that any woman personally chooses to do is a feminist act. The most commonly given example of this argument is that choosing to do sex work—or to take pole dancing classes, be in porn, sext, fill in the blank—is empowering simply because a woman has chosen to do it and criticisms against perpetuating objectification are irrelevant.

The problem here is that in most cases women are simply trying to point out that they know their own lives and are making an informed decision. They are not claiming that any woman’s exercise of her agency is by definition a feminist act, but that denying a woman her agency is an inherently un-feminist act— especially coming from someone who doesn’t have a shared understanding of the context of that decision in her life.

TRENCHCOATx.com: Beyond Naughty Words Mad Libs

Current offerings on TRENCHCOATx
Current offerings on TRENCHCOATx

In March, Kayden Kross and Stoya launched TRENCHCOATx.com, a pay-per-scene porn site they describe as “curated smut.” The performer-run and owned site is powered by the vision of its two partners and stands in stark opposition to the search-optimized tube sites that are closing in on monopolizing porn distribution. As Stoya wrote about tube sites, “I believe the worst sorts of capitalists would consider Manwin’s behavior a win of the highest order.” She spoke to us last month shortly after the launch about the origins and intent of TRENCHCOATx and about workers seizing the means.

Stoya: For years, because we were both under contract together at the same company, on set or when we were signing stuff together or just like sitting at a coffee shop, we would do a lot of complaining about, “This is how it should be done, this is what I think would be the right process for having barrier-optional performance choices with regards to safer sex procedures like condoms and dental dams, how adult material should be described,” and our shared distaste for the way it was moving more and more to tags. Kayden described it best as “kindergarten Mad Libs of naughty words.” For years we’ve been both sitting there saying “This is how it should be and it would be perfect and magical!”

Y’all, Larry Flynt Is Kind Of Creepy.

Did everyone else know this? Have I been in the dark? Apparently so because this interview didn’t seem to make waves at all, but when I read it I got legitimately creeped out by this legitimately creepy portrayal of a man who is, apparently, legitimately creepy.

It’s not even the beginnings as a “hillbilly” or him losing his virginity to a chicken that he later killed. It’s not even his anger at his mom’s alleged promiscuity that creeps me out. OK, that does creep me out, because I never understand how kids know about these things or how they come to the conclusion that it’s something they should be upset about.

This is an interview with well, a shell of a man. From what I have read about Mr. Flynt and his rage and his tantrums and feelings of entitlement, he seems to be all burnt out by this point. A lot of the first part of this centers on a description of him that bears witness to that: “Now he is lolling almost lifelessly in a chair. His head is barely able to look up at mine, and his hand is barely able to reach up to shake mine” or “His face is round and entirely unlined, making him appear to be a gigantic, gnarled baby.” Take your pick. Either way you end up with a huge version of this: