Trump vs. Porn

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Pipedream’s Donald Chump Love Doll, available at Amazon.com for $17

Pornographers love Donald Trump. There are already over two dozen erotic e-books, three porn parodies, a blow-up doll, and a butt plug. The ever-growing Trump pornographic oeuvre has been widely ignored in the media, and when it has been noted, it is dismissed as a mere curiosity. It shouldn’t be. Porn may be the only media that can take down Trump. Political satire through sexual means can be a shockingly effective antidote to demagoguery.

To be sure, Trump isn’t the only presidential nominee getting enshrined in sex memorabilia. Hillary Clinton’s likeness has also been placed on butt plugs and blow-up dolls. Sadly, Bernie has only garnered a “Feel the Bern” condom. Trump wins this contest hands down. There is far more pornographic merchandise devoted to Trump than to Clinton, a reflection both of Trump’s oversize personality and the outrage generated by his xenophobic policies.

Using sex to parody politicians is neither new nor uniquely American. Political pornography played a part in the French revolution, helping delegitimize king Louis XV by depicting him with a limp dick. According to historian Robert Darnton, portrayals of Louis XV as impotent “drained him of his charisma and emptied the power from the symbolic apparatus of the monarchy…. Instead of a divine monarch, they spread the idea of a ‘feeble tyrant.’” (165)

While virility was a mark of political strength in France, in America it is the opposite: a sign of weakness. We want our politicians happily married and monogamous. Bill Clinton’s wandering penis got him impeached. Trump’s pride in his sexual conquests and his bragging about the size of his penis are seen as prime evidence that he is unsuitable for the Oval Office. But mainstream media critiques of Trump’s sexual braggadocio have fallen flat. Attacking Trump’s sexual persona requires more suitable media, media as crass, unapologetic and id-driven as he is: the worlds of pornography and novelty sex toys.

So instead of portraying Trump with a flaccid penis the Donald Chump Love Doll  portrays him as perpetually erect. His vinyl penis, although of average size, seems at odds with the doll’s nude, hairless, feminine body. Yet somehow the mismatch seems appropriate, as Trump is made both virile and emasculated at the same time.

But the sex doll is merely an empty vessel for its packaging, where the true political critique occurs. Emblazoned on the box are a series of Trump endorsements from the likes of A. Hitler (“He’s mein kind of guy”) and David Duke. Smaller print lists Stalin, Mussolini and the Ku Klux Klan as Trump supporters. A wall cut-out spray-painted with “No Immigrants” adorns the back of the package. The parody is neither subtle nor sophisticated, but neither is Trump. He is the only presidential candidate whose policies can be fully explained on the back of a blow-up doll package.

Yet only in porn can Trump’s persona be fully taken down. Trump’s xenophobia and misogyny are not cloaked in euphemism, which makes his prejudices perfectly suited for a parody. And in these porn parodies, at least in their trailers, the political critique is front and center, the sex secondary. Consider the trailer for Hustler’s The Donald, which first shows Trump fully clothed, reading Mein Kampf for Dummies. Even when his half-naked female advisors appear, the policy critique continues. Trump proclaims that he is going to “destroy the middle class” by “fucking it hard.” Similarly, Donald Tramp: A XXX Parody focuses more on Trump’s misogyny than the sex, with Trump spouting lines like “I love women—just not the fat and ugly ones.” Even when sex is front and center, the political message is inextricably intertwined with the sex, as in the female-directed Make America Gape Again. In the Gape trailer, the director intersperses footage of Trump’s vitriolic campaign speeches with the key scene of the film: a woman clad in an American flag being gangbanged by five men in Donald Trump masks. The porn may turn you on, but you will never forget it’s a metaphor for Trump’s danger to America.

Although the satire may be crass, the political message is serious. The director of Make America Gape, Maitresse Madeline Marlowe, told adult industry website XBIZ, “We didn’t want to show Trump as a comic figure; we wanted to show him how we see him — as a powerful but frightening force…Of course, the truly scary thing has been his rise to power. Even a five-person gangbang can’t compete with that. At least a gangbang is consensual.” And the producer of The Donald is Hustler founder and free-speech activist Larry Flynt, who has compared Trump to Mussolini.

Pornography can be a more effective media to critique Trump than a “serious” news source. Like Trump, pornography is assertive, loud, and appeals unapologetically to basic human drives. His policies are driven by emotion, not logic. They are grounded in our base emotions: fear and a desire for safety. This is why serious critiques that wonkily parse Trump’s policies fall flat. They can only be properly critiqued in a format that is also based in reptilian emotions: pornography. You may not like pornography, but it may be the only thing standing between us and Trump for president. Thank God the First Amendment protects this form of speech. That’s what really makes America great.

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Is Magic Mike XXL the Most Feminist Movie of the Year?

Magic MikeAs I watched Magic Mike XXL I couldn’t help but wonder: have we reached a tipping point where the female gaze is not only acknowledged, but celebrated? Where women are assumed to have a raging sex drive, not slut-shamed when their sexual desires come to light? In an earlier post, I argued that we lack strip clubs for women because women’s sexuality is so threatening that we have created myths to diminish its strength, one of which is that women aren’t sexually aroused by visual stimuli.

But Magic Mike XXL gave us a glimpse of what the world would be like if women’s love of gazing at male bodies were allowed to run free: and boy is it a beautiful world. It’s a world where strip clubs full of gorgeous undulating be-thonged men exist, where perfectly tanned male buttocks shake in front of women’s faces as women sip Grey Goose martinis, while the Childish Gambino lovingly composes personalized rap songs extolling the beautiful personalities and bodies of the guests.

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Why Outing Bruce Jenner is the Right Thing to Do

Bruce Jenner Star

After Bruce Jenner’s tragic car accident this weekend, stories on celebrity websites quickly devolved from discussions of the tragedy to the fact that Jenner may have been taking “heavy doses of hormones” when he got in the accident. The former Olympic gold medalist has not confirmed that he ingests a dose of female hormones on a daily basis.  But one thing is for sure: we can’t stop talking about Jenner’s rumored transition to womanhood. And contrary to what some trans and LGBT activists have said, that’s not a bad thing.

Because Jenner has been silent on whether or not he is transitioning, LGBT groups, such as the Institute for Transgender Economic Advancement and GLAAD, say the media should stop speculating on Jenner’s sexuality and allow Jenner to come out on his own time. Yet for all intents and purposes Jenner has come out. As a seasoned celebrity who has lived the past seven years of his life on TV, Jenner would have to have been acutely aware that if he walked around LA displaying painted nails and a visible sports bra, the paparazzi would take pictures, which would lead to national speculation about his gender. In a perfect world that lacked repressive gender norms such displays would not warrant rampant speculation about gender transitions. But we don’t live in this world, and Bruce Jenner knows it. It’s even plausible that Jenner is trying drum up interest in his upcoming reality show.

So why are so many LGBT organizations urging the media to stop the speculation about Jenner’s gender transition? Most likely it’s because outing a private citizen as trans is a terrible thing to do and could potentially lead to a loss of a job, homelessness, and even death. If Jenner were a private citizen, I would be appalled by all the coverage. But Jenner most definitely is not. And outing a celebrity as trans is a different matter, especially this particular celebrity. Continue reading

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Why We Should Study Gigolos

 

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James, a gigolo featured on Cowboys4Angels.

Some nights I lay awake thinking about gigolos. Not whether or not I should hire one. Nor whether or not gigolos are real. But I think about their history. I ponder who the ur-gigolo was, and I imagine that a sketch of him gallivanting around with his merry female client is carved into the rock at the Lascaux Caves. For the past decade I’ve casually studied gigolos, but I could never find answers to the questions I was interested in:  How do they get new clients? And how have they done so throughout history?  So I searched the academic literature, and I came upon this disappointing sentence : “Research on male prostitutes who advertise to women in any format remains virtually unexplored.” (Gonyea, Castle, and Gonyea, 2009)

And once I read that sentence, I realized that my next project would have to incorporate gigolos in some way. So as I continue working on my history of sex toys, I am also planning my new study on the history of prostitution advertising (both male and female). I fear that sources for gigolos will be much more difficult to find than those for female prostitute because many people don’t even believe that gigolos exist, as if they’re some sort of cryptozoological creatures: porn Yetis that reside only in the minds of the most desperate, horny women. However, the reason gigolos are invisible is not due to the fact that they are imaginary, but it is instead the result of the cultural norm that women’s sexual behavior must be confined to monogamous romantic relationships.  I will not stand here and let the gigolo remain a mythological creature because of female stereotypes that insist that women are incapable of separating sex from love, that they abhor no-strings-attached sex. Like those who asserted, in the face of doubt and ridicule, that the giant squid was real, I will trek to the edges of the earth hunting down these sex workers, bringing back photographs or live specimens if necessary.

But I don’t even know where to start. I’ve never met a gigolo (as far as I know),  nor have I been able to verify that a gigolo advertisement was, in fact, legitimate. How do you find evidence of a doubly stigmatized category? Even our popular culture stigmatizes gigolos. Female sex workers are somewhat acceptable in film.  Actresses who play hookers win Oscars.  But nobody is bestowing awards on Rob Schneider’s career-making performances in Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo and its criminally underrated sequel Deuce Bigelow: European Gigolo. Of course, both Bigelow movies are severely flawed. They present gigolo customers as pathetic or revolting–obese, 7 feet tall, etc.–as if the only types of women who would pay for sex would be doing so because they had no other choice. I suspect that this is far from the truth.

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Are Men Afraid of Sex Toys?

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Has this man just seen a dildo?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imagine for a minute that your female friend were contemplating purchasing a masturbation sleeve for her boyfriend. What advice would you give her? Would you tell her that giving him a masturbation sleeve would jeopardize her femininity? That her boyfriend would become addicted to the pleasurable sensations produced from the masturbation sleeve? That such a purchase would augur the end of the relationship? That woman cannot compete with machine?

Such statements would be absurd. Yet if a male friend were purchasing a vibrator for his girlfriend, such a conversation would be likely. When I discuss my research, usually someone tells me that men are intimidated by sex toys, and consequentially that sex toys will always be taboo because of this male uneasiness. On the surface of it, the argument seems to be logical: How could a man not be afraid of a powerful mechanical device that produces consistent orgasms that are sometimes more pleasurable than those provided by their penises or tongues? So I set out to investigate one of the most persistent claims about sex toys, in an attempt to discover the origin of this belief in the male fear of sex toys, as well as whether or not data back it up.

There’s no way of knowing for sure how men felt about sex toys throughout history because surveys of sex-toy attitudes only came about in the 21st century. Even The Kinsey Reports  in 1948 and 1953 did not include much information about sex toys, aside from the finding that a few women masturbated with vibrators. But this idea has existed for at least a century, as warnings about women’s dependency on vibrators show up in sex guides fromthe early 1900s. However, it’s in underground erotic comics from the 1930s and 1940s ( known as Tijuana Bibles or Eight-Pagers) where the theme is most vividly articulated.

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Guess Who Finished Her Dissertation on the History of Sex Toys?

Dildo TrophyAfter writing nearly 300 pages on the history of sex toys, you would think that I would be burnt out, that I would shut down dildographer.com and open up an Etsy boutique selling artisanal hazelnut butter and cardamom-infused rum. And I did have a two-day post-dissertation melt-down (sample thought: “Now that I’ve finished my dissertation, and I’ve run out of junk food blogs to read, my life is not worth living.”) Once I clawed my way out of the post-dissertation sinkhole, I realized that devoting the past three years of my life to sex toys had not dampened my love for them, that, in fact, I loved sex toys even more than I had when I started. I guess that’s what true love is: Even when you’re at your lowest the thought of your beloved brings you immense joy. In this case, as I was weeping in bed, thinking about my uncertain future, a penis-shaped beacon shone in the distance, shiny, glittering, burning my eyes with its brilliance. It reminded me that I still have a lot of work to do on the history of sex toys, and the current status of sex toys, and the future of sex toys (sex robots remain woefully ignored by the academy). It reminded me that I have to transform my dissertation into a trilogy of books on the history of sex toys, and that if I don’t nobody will.

But first, a few insights from my dissertation (and committee members, if you’re reading this, these are your Cliff Notes for my defense):

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It’s Time for the Clitoris to Get Its Due in American Cinema

Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) meets his clitoris-free lover for the first time.

Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) meets his clitoris-free lover for the first time.

Here’s what I learned about the future from Her, the Spike Jonze science-fiction movie about a man falling in love with his operating system:

1. We’ll all wear ugly high-waisted pants

2. Our operating system lovers will fake orgasms.

In the climactic Her sex scene, Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is lying on his back in bed, dreamily talking with Samantha (voiced by Scarlet Johansson), his operating system. I wish I could touch you, he murmurs, wherein the conversation shifts into full-on Harlequin Romance mode and the screen goes black. Theodore then begins intoning about kissing her lips and her nipples, while Samantha moans appreciatively. All is well and good, if you enjoy watching phone sex masquerading as sex from the future.  Then Samantha purrs, “I want you inside of me,” and we hear Theodore and Samantha have what sounds like a simultaneous orgasm.  That’s when I began to get annoyed. “Why does Samantha have a virtual vagina but no virtual clitoris?” I whispered to my friend. Samantha never asks Theodore to fondle, lick, or in any way stimulate her clitoris, leading to the conclusion that the future looks bleak for all but the minority of women who receive orgasms from penetrative sex.

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A Pegging Primer

Pegging Santa

Picture Credit Meghan Boehners

There’s no better way to get locked out of a party than by bringing up the subject of pegging. It was 2010 and I was sitting on a porch in St. Petersburg, Florida, with a bunch of friends from high school, when I drunkenly shouted, “I love pegging!” A heated conversation ensued, and ten minutes later, the host’s wife had locked the front door, and we had to beg to be let back in. I talk about a lot of things that other people are afraid to discuss, but nothing makes people more uncomfortable than discussing pegging. So consider this my PPSA, Pegging Public Service Announcement.

Pegging is a neologism coined by Dan Savage to describe when a woman dons a strap-on dildo and sodomizes her boyfriend. Nobody surveys how many people engage in this practice, so I can’t give you exact figures on how common it is. What I can tell you, though, is that judging from the private correspondence I get, pegging is on a lot of people’s minds, yet few people dare to discuss it publicly.

So, here’s a primer on pegging for women.

1. Pegging isn’t gay. Just because a man wants a dildo in his rectum, it doesn’t mean that he’s gay. In fact if he doesn’t want to be pegged, he’s probably gay, or at the very least, uncomfortable with his sexuality. A man who’s confident in his heterosexuality won’t be worried that enjoying being penetrated by a be-dildoed woman will make him spend his nights dreaming about Neal Patrick Harris. Gay men don’t want to be pegged by women.

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Why We Need a Porn Portal For Teens

A still from the anti-porn movie "Don Jon."

Joseph Gordon-Levitt in “Don Jon,” a porn-addiction dramedy.

When I was a teenager, the only way to get porn was by traipsing down to the Adult Fun Shop, where I pored over such titles as Gee Your Cunt Smells Terrific and Itty Bitty Bang Bang, with the enthusiasm of a sex-crazed scholar who believes the secret to life is scrawled across the back of Seymore Butt’s Cream Pies 12. I felt initiated into a hidden world of pure sex that legitimized my adolescent sexual desire. The commodification of erotic fantasies made me feel as if I wasn’t alone. My desire for older men was accepted in this world of ever-present orgasms, while it also confirmed my belief that the world was driven by sex, that Freud was right, that my Mom’s admonishment against sex before marriage was wrong.

But I knew that at some level this porn was “bad.” It was illegal for me to buy it, though compassionate (or sleazy) adult-store employees let me do it. I had to hide it from my parents, even though I felt a strange pride in my collection of videos. I had to defend my interest in porn to other teenage girls who had a knee-jerk porn-is-misogynistic reaction. Of course some of the porn I purchased  was misogynistic. One of the first porn films that I bought, Bagladies, had the following slogan: “Every Chick Looks Hot With a Bag Over Her Head.” But I chose Bagladies knowing that it was misogynistic,  that it portrayed women so badly that it actually rose to the level of sick art. I felt a particular form of glee that only comes to those who wade so deeply into transgression.

My limited access to porn as a teenager makes me insanely jealous of the current generation. They grew up having access to millions of videos, and they didn’t have to pay for any of them, nor did they have to leave their houses to get them. I know, most people bemoan the fact that porn is widely available to teenagers. And their concern is valid. Porn isn’t realistic. The performers frequently have perfect bodies and hairless genitals; they have unprotected sex with seemingly no repercussions; and women always have orgasms even when they’re not being clitorally stimulated. But not all porn is like this. A lot of porn focuses on women’s sexual pleasure. It shows clitoral stimulation via cunnilingus or manual stimulation, and it shows dominant women sexually manipulating men. And, for all of porn’s flaws, it does have the virtue of showcasing different body types (if you look beyond run-of-the-mill porn) and sexual positions.

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What Are The Best Erotic Books Ever Written?

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“Nicholson Baker does not look like a dirty-book writer. His color is good. His gaze is direct, with none of the sidelong furtiveness of the compulsive masturbator.”-  The New York Times, August 4, 2011

From the opening three sentences of this New York Times magazine profile of NIcholson Baker, you would assume that Baker was a writer of 50 Shades of Grey-style books. But he’s not a writer of fan fiction-turned erotica. He’s a revered prose stylist and winner of the National Books Critics Circle Award. So why did a journalist from The Times presume that Baker must be a masturbating sexual deviant? Because he’s written books with sexual themes. Journalists would never assume that murder-mystery writers have a history of homicide. So why do they treat writers of erotic books as if they must be morally unhinged?

In part, it’s related to our American value system that celebrates violence in cultural products but pillories sex. One need only to look at the MPAA to get an idea of how Americans view sex. To take one example: the heart-wrenching drama Blue Valentine (2010) received an NC-17 rating because it has an oral-sex scene between a married couple in it, while the dismemberment and cannibalism-filled Hostel 2 (2007) received an R.

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