Sex and Porn: Everyone’s Talking About It… (Shh! We’re Trying to Sell it Here!)

It was Michel Foucault who busted a few myths about the previous few centuries’ ignorance and censorship of, and prudishness about, sex, in his first volume of The History of Sexuality. In the epochs in which it seemed that nobody was talking about sex, in those eras which ostensibly wanted to be seen as having nothing to do with the dirty subject, it was in fact being evoked more than ever: everyone, indeed, was talking about it… ‘Around sex,’ claims Foucault, there originated ‘a whole network of varying, specific, and coercive transpositions into discourse.’

‘Nobody’s talking about sex’ is the message of Cindy Gallop’s latest TED talk. The founder of makelovenotporn.com is calling – in no uncertain repressively desublimated terms – for an ‘open, healthy, honest conversation around sex and porn’The theory of repressive desublimation is Herbert Marcuse’s; it claims that a liberalisation, which gets branded a ‘liberation’, of sex and sexuality comes about in a top-down manner to make of them socially subservient phenomena, and to quell any subversive or radical potential they may have. Amongst the throwaway references in Gallop’s business pitch, to (a) the problematic educative uses to which porn has been put by young autodidacts, (b) the possibly anxiety-provoking performative standards porn sets (‘our tagline is ‘pro-sex, pro-porn, pro-knowing the difference’’), and © its status as what she calls ‘artificial entertainment’ (as if entertainment in itself was a category demanding of Kantian disinterestedness), there are the giveaway hints to this venture’s true modus operandi. Finding the niche in the markets of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, Gallop wants to give sex its platform in this format with makelovenotporn.tv, a site where users will be able to upload their own video content and view others’.

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, however, both the uploading and streaming of this content is feed. There used to be a lot of money in the pornography industry, but since the rise of the internet and porn’s dissemination over peer-to-peer networks and free streaming sites, the filthy lucre has started to dwindle (see Louis Theroux’s 1998 Weird Weekend, ‘Porn’, and its 2012 follow-up, ‘Twilight of the Porn Stars’, for a good overview of this downward trend). This is where Cindy Gallop comes in with her championing of ‘not amateur, but real-world sex’, a tautology the negation of which is never satisfyingly explained… She attempts to distinguish ‘real-world’ from amateur and general porn by suggesting there’ll be ‘funny’ and ‘messy’ content categories (condom blips and queefs, it seems, over premature ejaculation and tears) – categories findable in a lot of alphabetised porn lists already – but then she reverts to the use of definitions for the content such as ‘hot’ and ‘most-arousing’: ‘whatever turns you on’, an all-encompassing porn tagline if every there was one (that’s not to mention the more dubious comments such as: ‘if you cannot laugh at yourself whilst you’re having sex, when can you?’, and the claim that by making available a film in which you see a condom being put on ‘there’d be a lot more safe sex happening, a lot less STDs, and a lot less unwanted pregnancies’).


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Amateur, as a type of porn, is, however, an extremely durable and popular category (Wikipedia calls it one of porn’s ‘most profitable and long-lasting genres’), and, of course, a lot of what Gallop is calling for is readily searchable, findable, and available, for free, as amateur porn. It gets worse; two examples: (1) the promotion of, in Gallop’s own words, ‘sexual social currency’; ‘taking everything that makes Facebook, Twitter, tumblr, instagram, so addictive to people, and applying it to the one area those guys will never go’, that is, sex, (2) the site’s ‘system of rating and scoring’.

In response: (1) Two of the most addictive areas of online activity are already porn and social networking, thus the attempt to capitalise on addiction is clear. Plus, this new site does not go ‘into the one area those guys will never go’, which supposedly is sex, because (a) these platforms do go there; status updates have been known to concern the subject, and (b) sex isn’t that area at all for these sites, payment for their use is. (2) How a scoring system, based on ‘most hot and compelling’, will dispel performance anxieties and encourage the less courageous of us to step up and share our oddly-shaped and blunder-ridden content isn’t really addressed (the joke about its ‘one-hand’ usability suffices to paper over this crack), nor how it differs from other free streaming sites’ rating systems (already based on the Facebook ‘like’ model); worse, it’s something of the ethos of ‘Rate Your Shag’ (a phenomenon spread over Facebook no less) given business credentials. Then come further dirges about ‘self-expression’ and ‘self-identification’, as well as the innovation of awarding cub-scout-style badges for performance across the site. As for Freud in all of this; karmaozer’s satirical comment on the YouTube video says it all: ‘I am looking forward to wanking to a flabby couple having humdrum sex, while fantisizing they are my parents as beautiful people having fabulous sex!’ (Once again, Gallop’s anticipative rejoinder to this sort of criticism here falls short of addressing the loci of desire or anxiety…).

A lot of things are going on in this entrepreneurial venture, involving a lot of contradictions and aporias, which, if they can cohabit anywhere, despite their mutual exclusivity, it’s in capitalism. We have the attempt to discover, or rather to force, a gap in the market of porn, and to fill it with a porn rebranded ‘sex’, whose ‘socially beneficial’ advantages seemingly exist only in these words ‘socially beneficial’ themselves, and not beyond them. Yet there is an inextricable link made to these words throughout the rhetoric of the pitch; ‘sex’, or ‘love’(making), must be sold as an alternative to porn, yet it must keep porn in the name (makelovenotporn: Gallop talks about refusing to omit the latter word). Demographically, this thus ticks the boxes of the prude who guesses they can stretch to watching ‘love not porn’; the ‘healthy’ consumer who wants that ‘honesty’ in these videos; the porn consumer, who will no doubt be the main target, despite all the talk to the contrary; and even the pervert, who will watch it as porn, despite its being sex…  Not only to fill this desperately-sought-for gap in the market, then, this is also an attempt to counter porn’s decline as a market, that is, to attempt to re-win sex as lucrative; it is an attempt to hijack its evolution, to monetise Porn 2.0.

By giving the myth back to sex and porn that nobody’s talking about it, the attempt is simply being made to silence it to the non-paying customer. The language of its presentation here, however, aims at sex’s repressive desublimation (though it might not know it), yet is riddled with further aporias (the call for a ‘healthy discussion’ – for example – which promotes an idea of being unashamed about sex, is rather a shameless call in itself; as Georges Bataille describes, it is a ‘step from transgression to the indifference that puts the most sacred on the same footing as the profane’, which can’t but aim at destroying both these categories, constitutive of desire, themselves, in the process; luckily, however, customers’ sexualities will find ways of resexualising such denials…).

Wilhelm Reich saw sex as revolutionary. Cindy Gallop sees it as business. Whilst porn is certainly not revolutionary in itself, revolutionary potential is nonetheless portrayed through its medium,that is, modes of functioning that are fundamentally non-capitalistic (from sex itself – which, ‘during working hours’, as Bataille puts it, ‘a community committed to work cannot afford to be at [the] mercy [of]’ – to its scenario; the ‘outdoors’ film, for example, may betray a latent desire to transgress certain property-relations). These modes of functioning, which are constantly discursively evoked and yet remain elusive to sovereignty, are thus potentially dangerous to the very functioning of capitalism itself; they must thus be both opposed and exploited by it at once; that is, capitalised-upon, at all costs. Sex is the markets’ holy grail; in the dangers and aporias that it presents to the market, as at once its biggest seller and the harbourer of the revolutionary potential to derail it, it is the very manifestation of its discontinuity, that which may always explode inside it.

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