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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.”

Porno-Enlightenment: How Pornography Propagates A Liberal Worldview

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“Modern industry, in overturning the economical foundation on which was based the traditional family, and the family labour corresponding to it, had also unloosened all traditional ties.” – Karl Marx, Capital

I open up my browser and type “pornhub.com” into the search bar. Once the page loads, I hover my cursor over “videos” and click on “most viewed.” This is a type of occupational research for a sex worker like me. The ad on the right side of the page says “small, tiny, teens gettin’ fucked!” It’s an animated .gif: the male performer wraps his hands completely around the circumference of the female performer’s torso, demonstrating just how small and tiny this teen getting fucked is.

Of the four videos displayed at the top, only two of them feature third-person cinematography showing the whole body of both performers. One of them is a lesbian incest fantasy video, the other is an interracial video, the title of which refers to the white male performer as “innocent” and the black female performer as “his First African Princess.” The other two videos feature a mix of first person, or “POV,” shots and third person shots which barely show more of the male actor than his dick. One of these videos is an internal ejaculation, or “creampie,” video; the other is an incest fantasy video. Both feature an all-white cast and heterosexual sex. Naturally, the white man is the absolute Subject, and everyone else is the Other.

According to a study featured in an early 2016 issue of sexology publication The Journal of Sex Research, porn viewers have more egalitarian views about gender than non-viewers. The specific metrics used by the study to assess whether participants have “gender egalitarian views” are a series of questions which gauge the extent to which they agree with contemporary liberal status quo with respect to gender and the family. The study shows that porn viewership is positively correlated with the beliefs that abortion should be legal, and that women should be allowed to work outside of the home and hold positions of power in society. Other studies have shown that pornography exposure is correlated with positive attitudes about premarital sex among younger adults and that women who view pornography are more likely to hold sexually liberal attitudes as well as have engaged in sex work. A plurality of Pornhub.com viewers support Bernie Sanders; most support marijuana legalization and federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

Porn is a form of media which typically delivers images of women’s sexual objectification – the camera focuses on the woman’s body and her affective performance while the male performer seldom exists more than a few inches above his navel or below his knees – and where genres commonly cater to exploitative sexual proclivities (incest, “barely legal” teens, gangbangs, exploitation of domestic laborers such as maids and babysitters, and so on). It might seem counterintuitive that consumption of this media would correlate to liberal ideas.

.XXX Domain Ads: Creepy “Porn Is Moving to .XXX” Print Campaign

The .xxx domain is nothing more than an efficient means for domain registrars to extort money from businesses and organizations afraid that their names will be bought and used by porn sites, and from adult site operators who must purchase their .coms in .xxx format, lest someone else do so and hijack traffic. They basically said as much themselves with the “Can You Afford Not To?” video ad campaign. You have to give them credit: When they finally approved the .xxx domain, ICANN created worth out of thin air by allowing domain registrars to run what is essentially a protection scam: “That’s a nice brand you have there. It’d be a real shame if it redirected to a porn site.”

Fuck Your Feminist Porn

(Still of 1920s silent film porn by Narisa Spaulding)
(Still of 1920s silent film porn by Flickr user Narisa)

Last year, I was short on cash and struggling with full service work. For the first time in my life, I approached a porn company.

This was no ordinary porn company—they made this known every step of the way. They were “alternative” and “empowering.” They were “feminist” and made “erotica.” They were a company that was not like the others.

They were full of shit.

Here’s what working for them looked like:

They had me sign a form in which I promised that filming for them was just a hobby, not my job. It was a lie—one that was already pissing me off. They handed me a camera, took my passport for collateral, sent me home with a list of very exact specifications for what to film, and had me shoot my scene myself. Then, they had me come back to deliver the work. They complained about the amount of makeup I wore—said it didn’t fit their more “natural” style, though it was the same amount of makeup I had worn every day for the past 10 months—and handed me $200. They didn’t invite me back. They did invite back my skinnier, scar-free friend.

So feminist, right?

The Silver Lining of FalseFlesh

I just finished reading a story in the latest Utne Reader about this ultra-creepy software that came out last March. Check it out: FalseFlesh is an image editing software program that lets users apply X-ray vision to people in fully clothed, G-rated photos. So, without being a real life stalker or rapist, you can create homemade non-consensual nudie pics of anyone you like, and they’ll never even know. Getting consent to see someone naked can be such a hassle sometimes and—let’s face it—also a letdown.