The Gross National Debt

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Of Shakespeare, Nina Hartely and confusion

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Othello Act 1 Scene 1: I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs.

HUZZAH! Having successfully taken the moral high ground because this Shakespearean play is taught in public schools around the nation, I can now dive to whatever depths I feel like. Which I was gonna do anyway, but when I launch a discussion on sex, I like to be highbrow too. I could quote graphic stuff from the Bible as well, but I shan't.

The very medium through which you are reading this column has been advanced over and over and over again because of the sex industry. Live chat. Streaming movies. Web cams. Sex websites pioneered much of this work because of demand by customers.

Of course sex has been around before Turing even came about. It predates the abacus.

With all this in mind, I direct you to the sex industry.

Someone is now going to go off on me. I retreat behind George Carlin and ask this: Which is more life affirming? Watching people have sex or watching people kill each other?

Anyone can log into Youtube and watch video of people being killed. You can see it in the news. I mean real people, real death. Not actors. People being blown up, shot, run over, etc etc etc. And what about actors being killed?

Now what ya gonna do with that big ole rock?

Lemme slap this on you as well. Malcolm McDowell and Peter O'Toole also appeared in a porn film that is available in many public libraries around the nation. Yes huh.

So. The first sex film is credited as being a strip tease filmed in France in 1896. What we call "hard core" porn was first filmed between 1907 and 1912. Call it more than 100 years old. So as long as we've had movies, we've had porn.

I recently watched several documentaries on the porn industry and came away with a startling revelation. May catch damnation for this as well. So be it. I seek understanding.

All but one of the women interviewed in these films was looking up, down and away from the camera-interviewer the vast majority of the time.

The sole exception is Nina Hartley.

All the men looked straight forward, with only a few letting their gaze and face shift a bit. They always almost immediately turned back to the camera-interviewer.

When being interviewed outside the documentary or outside porn settings, all the women (Hartley was not so interviewed) were highly animated. To me this is indicative of much stress and nervousness. With more than 25 years of interviewing people under my belt, I rather think I'm correct in this assessment. The men were calm in comparison.

One female performer appeared on the Jerry Springer show. Clips of the show were interspersed in the documentary. On Springer she acted like she was jacked to the gills on speed. Elsewhere, far calmer. When interviewed for the documentary, she spent a lot of time looking away from the camera. When interviewed in porn settings, she kept her eyes locked on the camera.

Not making any kind of judgment here. Merely pointing out a reality. Also wondering, why? Really.  Why? There appears to be a serious difference in how male and female porn actors view their work. Why?

I shared these thoughts with Mary Anderson. In case yer wondering, no we never danced the naked tango. Toward the end of our conversation, she summed things up nicely.

MA: Don't think it's for everyone. You would have to have shed a lot of cultural baggage.

Anyway, she had some thoughts which made me think. With her permission, I share some of these with you.

MA: It's hard without seeing it myself (the documentaries). It may indicate that they feel uncomfortable with their profession. That doesn't necessarily mean that they think porn is wrong, but possibly they feel judged by others. After all, a woman who has sex for a living, whether in porn or prostitution is a whore or skank in our culture. After all, we "fragile flowers" are only supposed to want to have sex with Prince Charming. And even then real "good girls" aren't supposed to like it. Taking money for it is supposed to cheapen it in our eyes.

As MA will freely admit, that ain't the case in reality where sex for gain is concerned. It's perception. If you disagree and say that kind of naked twister is wrong, answer this question: Is it wrong for a woman to have sex with a man for material gain? If your answer is yes, then you have real problems with a whole lotta marriages today.

Oops.

You may argue a religious ritual makes it entirely proper. So if a rabbi blesses the set, the actors and the action in a porn flick, that'd be OK?

You may also argue a state-approved contract makes the sex for economic gain in a marriage OK. I point out to you the top porn producers have state licenses and permits for their business. Does this make it OK?

Oops.

It's fang'd hard these days to find a movie which does not have simulated boot knocking scenes. And yet these movies are not subject to protest, recall, court inquiries and threats of jail time for the performers. Full nudity is not an issue either, at least when compared to a porn flick.

In porn there's yet MORE double standards. Most of it is produced for men. Most of it involves women. And yet there's that whole "skank" thang MA mentioned above.

MA: Men don't get the same judgement. Being a porn star is a job other men (supposedly) envy. It's kind of like being fat. Even if you're healthy & fine with it yourself, as a woman, the judgement of others can be very stressful and unhealthy. You shouldn't have to explain yourself all the time, but people, even total strangers, feel like they have a right to an explanation. Men in the past haven't been treated the same way.

True dat. Definite double standard. Speaking as a fat man, I can also say there's plenty of multiple standards where fat and thin guys are concerned and then where fat and thin women are concerned.

Despite this multi-level standard in porn, there is another oxymoron. Women are the real force behind porn. Women decide what they will do, how they will do it, when and with whom. They are also paid considerably more than male actors. As one veteran male actor once said, a man in porn is nothing more than a life support system for a penis.

MA: Yeah, other men think it's a great job. But they're definitely second class citizens.

Some of the women interviewed said there is a disconnect when they appear on camera. In other words, they see themselves as physically in one place and yet emotionally and mentally in another. I strongly suspect a LOT of women who have mattress adventures (an RNG original phrase) with their husband also feel the exact same way. (See above discussion on marriage.)

MA: Women tend to see themselves as parts rather than as whole bodies.

Der yaggo. I have seen a number of women with this same attitude. Fully expecting to torque a number of women now, I point to the ladies who spend plenty of time with hair, makeup and clothes, all done to impress someone else.

MA: I think there's a freedom angle there. And maybe taking women off a pedestal.

MA: People think it's nice, but it's very stressful. You have so much maintenance.

It is probably the hardest form of live performance there is. Live in that the people are real, engaging in being totally exposed and filmed doing something which would see them be arrested if they did it on a street corner. As one of the male actors interviewed in California said, "If I pay you $50 for a (sex), we can be arrested. If we have a camera recording it, it's art. Explain that." Long pause. "See? You can't."

MA:  And let's face it. Sex isn't abstractly pretty.

None of this really explains why the women acted so differently when being interviewed in different settings. MA again has some insight.

MA: I was thinking about something similar yesterday. Everything I do, I consider how it will affect those around me. I feel like I'm always reacting to others instead of just acting how I want to act.

MA: I get the impression that men don't live like that.

Now I am reminded of of my all time favorite movie, M*A*S*H. Sally Kellerman played Hotlips and had a nude scene, less than a second. She was concerned. Not because people would see her breasts but because her thighs would be naked. Really. Robert Altman, Gary "Radar" Berghoff and the camera man were the only three people, other than her, who were on the set for that scene. They were also naked.

While I never saw it, the stage production of Oh Calcutta has an act in which the entire cast appears on stage naked. It's also a movie.

Researchers interviewed say the women in porn are in for the money, the fame or the sex. Rarely the sex. Many of the women say it's the money too. They can work two days a week and make more than $2,000. The average life expectancy of a woman in the performing side of the industry is about two years.

MA: Women are the property, though. It's like having a really valuable horse.

Sorta. As I note above, the woman run the sets. This true outside porn to some degree. Years ago I worked for a professional modeling agency. When I held the camera, I was a god. When I put it down, I was lower than dirt. But yeah, women are used and when done, turned out.

The smart ones, in porn, build up savings and learn the rest of the industry. Hartley, for example, directs and produces now.

Mary raises another question:

MA: It would be interesting to compare to call girls (not streetwalkers) and see how sex for money without being filmed changes your satisfaction level.

MA: There's a book called "Working: My Life as a Prostitute" by Dolores French. Very positive view. She says that the happy ones fly under the radar and never get interviewed.

Xavier Hollander wrote "The Happy Hooker" in the 70s describing her life as a prostitute and brothel owner. It was a best seller in its day.

In the end it comes down to cultural conditioning and a very real difference between men and women, I think. I still don't understand, but then I can't understand it completely.

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