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Trump vs. Porn

Trump Love Doll.jpg

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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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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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?

house of holes Dhb lo

“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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Why Vibrators Should Be Covered By Insurance

Doctor Love

Imagine this scenario:

A woman walks into her doctor’s office complaining of an inability to orgasm. The doctor compassionately explains to her that there are millions of other women just like her, women who are also suffering from anorgasmia. An inability to orgasm can be caused by high blood pressure, aging, or other physiological reasons, the doctor reassuringly says, as she opens up a cabinet to reveal a plethora of gleaming vibrators made of medical-grade silicone and filled with the most powerful miniature motors known to man. But I can’t afford these vibrators, counters the patient. Access to orgasm is not a luxury for the rich, replies the doctor, as she explains that with a co-pay, each vibrator will only cost five dollars.

Is this scenario wildly utopian and unrealistic? Not necessarily. Insurance companies have been paying for men’s erectile dysfunction drugs for over a decade. It’s time that women’s sexual health devices received the same coverage.

Why is insurance coverage of vibrators necessary? First, it’s about access. High-quality vibrators usually cost around $100, so women on a budget frequently purchase cheaper, lower-quality versions or forego vibrators altogether, because they see vibrators as an indulgence. Second, insurance-subsidized vibrators would take us one step closer to defining women’s sexual pleasure as a right and not a privilege.

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Playtex Thinks Your Genitals Are Dirty

Playtex Fresh and Sexy Wipes Ad

How many times has this happened to you? You’re furiously ripping off your partner’s clothes in a mad, hormone-fueled dash, when you unbutton their pants and you catch a whiff of their malodorous genitals. Sighing, you zip their pants back up and tell them you’ve changed your mind, all the while thinking to yourself, “If only there were a product that could instantly remove rank genital odors…” That’s never happened to you? Well, some mastermind at Playtex seems to think it has because they just trotted out a new product to cure this problem: a wet wipe for cleaning your genitals before and after sex.

Although the product is simply another in the long line of rebranded wet wipes, Playtex’s Fresh + Sexy Intimate Wipes are the first attempt by a major company to address pre- and post-coital cleanliness (although the ad campaign exclusively focuses on the former). With clever taglines like: “A clean beaver always finds more wood” and “A clean pecker always taps it,” their message is clear: your genitals are smelly and gross and nobody will have sex with you until you deodorize them. Ironically, the opposite is true. Genitals secrete pheromones during sexual arousal that attract mates. Wiping away these pheromones may actually make you less attractive.

Although Playtex’s ads may seem novel, they actually follow a simple formula that companies have been using since the 1880s to convince consumers of the necessity of soap and mouthwash (which Julian Sikulva skillfully details in Stranger Than Dirt):

  1. Pinpoint a part of the body as particularly dirty
  2. Connect this dirtiness to social reprobation
  3. Offer a product that cleans the area, and, in turn, helps the aspiring consumer to achieve a cultural norm

What’s new is that our cultural norms have shifted. Instead of urging consumers to buy personal hygiene products by persuading them that cleaning their bodies will win them a spouse, companies are asserting that their products will bring consumers copious amounts of sex. Companies have been telling men this for years (see: the Hai Karate ads from the 1970s).  But, for the most part, they’ve shunned sex appeals in favor of marriage appeals when selling women personal hygiene products.

Listerine Ad From 1923.

Listerine Ad From 1923.

To trace this cultural shift, it’s instructive to examine the father of all orificial-odor shaming ad campaigns, Listerine’s “Often a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride”  campaign from the 1920s.  A typical ad from this era featured an image of a dour woman bemoaning her lack of a husband, a lack which the ad traced directly to her bad breath. But it was the prose that laid the message on thick, as this ad from 1923 shows: Edna’s case was a pathetic one. Like every woman, her primary ambition was to marry…And as her birthdays crept gradually toward that tragic thirty-mark, marriage seemed farther from her life than ever.” Little did Edna know, the ad suggested, but it was her halitosis that was scaring away all her potential suitors. “That’s the insidious thing about halitosis (bad breath). You, yourself, rarely know when you have it,” said the ad. The ad worked because Listerine tied their mouthwash to the aspirational goal of the middle class woman of the 1920s: marriage.

Like Listerine, Playtex’s Fresh + Sexy ads shame women into purchasing their products to achieve an aspirational goal. In their most widely run print ad (shown above), an innocent beaver makes its way through the water, gazing at the consumer with imploring eyes. Next to the furry animal is this statement, “A clean beaver always gets more wood.” The implication is that women’s dirty vaginas are preventing them from achieving a cultural ideal. But instead of telling women that a cruddy cooch will stop them from attaining their dream of marriage, Playtex has a radically different message: A dirty vagina will prevent women from having a lot of sex. Playtex is implying that the 21st century woman aspires not to marriage (or a long-term relationship) but to sexual fulfillment.

Although the Fresh+ Sexy Wipes campaign is problematic, its pro-sex message represents a sliver of progress in our consumer society. It would be ideal if its sex-positivity weren’t tied into a larger message shaming women about their naturally occurring genital odors. However, the bigger problem lies not with Playtex, but with our commercial culture itself, which has succeeded by playing on our profound fears, one of the strongest of which is a fear of  sexual rejection.–Hallie Lieberman

 

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