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‘INSIDE THE SORDID PORN SCANDAL THAT’S ROCKING THE ARMY’

That was the salacious front-page block-capitals headline the (now defunct) heavily-fragranced men’s magazine Details gave my exclusive ‘undercover’ story for them in May 2006.

I was reporting on the globally-covered scandal involving US soldiers from the elite 81st Airborne being courts-martialed for appearing in gay porn – from inside, so to speak, a US Army paratrooper at Fort Bragg.

The story is not available online, but now lucky Mark Simpson Patrons can now read the UNCENSORED – and uncircumcised – version of my SCANDALOUS and SORDID and decidedly un-fragranced adventures with NAKED PARATROOPERS at Fort Bragg here.

Just one of the many exciting exclusive benefits of being a Mark Simpson Patron – for as little as $1 a month.

My Details editor insisted on taking out ‘the gory bits’ to save his readers’ sensibilities – so you’ll be glad to know I’ve put them back in, and out, and in again. The piece has also got bigger – and now runs to 5000 words of sordidness.

A long, but hopefully not too hard a read.

Broadband Sodomy

The crusade against ‘fapping’ is eerily reminiscent of the anti-masturbation movements of the 19th century says Mark Simpson

(Originally appeared in the Daily Telegraph 29 April, 2016)

Those annoying porn ‘pop-ups’ are impossible to avoid these days. Especially when browsing serious newspapers. PORN HORROR! headlines zoom repeatedly into our sightlines, warning us that pornography is ‘addictive’ (despite an inconvenient lack of evidence), ‘ruins relationships’ and ‘rewires men’s brains’, turning them into sex zombie automatons.

Whether or not it’s addictive for people who watch it, porn certainly seems to light up the reward centres of the commentariat brain. Panics about porn are a habit that just keeps increasing alarmingly.

The UK Government itself is currently in the sweaty grip of this hysteria. With David Cameron’s controversial (and somewhat porous) ISP porn filters only recently installed, MPs are now turning their attention to the popularity of anal sex in online pornography. A recent consultation paper published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport pondered restricting access as a way of reducing the numbers of people wanting to try the back bottom instead of the front one.

“More young people are engaging in anal intercourse than ever before,” reads the paper, solemnly. “While the increase in anal sex cannot be attributed directly to pornography consumption, it does feature in a large percentage of mainstream pornography (for example, one content analysis found it featured in 56pc of sex scenes).”

The paper’s assumptions – as with all porn panics – appear to be entirely heterosexual, so much so that it doesn’t even bother to explicitly state them, even when talking about anal sex. Instead they just cite research which suggests that anal sex “is often not seen as a pleasurable activity for young women”.

In other words, the Government’s anxiety seems to be that straight porn is encouraging straight people to engage in ‘gay sex’.

It’s easy to forget, but just a couple of generations ago any sexual contact between two men, including of course anal sex – the sex act that male homosexuality symbolises for many – was completely illegal in the UK. It wasn’t until the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 that it became partially decriminalised in England and Wales (Scotland followed suit in 1980; Northern Ireland in 1982).

As late as 1986, the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (who also famously introduced the first anti ‘gay propaganda’ law, Section 28) demanded a mention of anal sex be deleted from a government Aids education leaflet.

Many at the time saw Aids as a divine punishment for the ‘sin of Sodom’. And the deep-seated resistance to ‘sodomy’ is of course religious in origin. But it’s important to note that the religious and legal definition of ‘sodomy’ is not restricted to anal sex – it is essentially any non-procreative naughtiness, whatever the shape of the genitals involved. Hence all same-sex sexual contact is sodomy – but so is hetero oral sex, for example. For monotheism, the point of sex is to make more uptight monotheists.

And here’s the rub. ‘Straight’ porn today is basically broadband sodomy – non-procreative sex acts piped into people’s hands for them to commit non-procreative sex acts over.

Current porn panics represent a digital-age, socially-concerned update of warnings about the terrible fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.Nowhere is this clearer than in the US, where (thanks to the First Amendment) most of our porn, and also most of our panics about it, come from. America is a complicated, conflicted country founded by Puritans, constituted by libertarians and built by salesmen.

Despite a Supreme Court ruling in 2003 that anti-sodomy laws violate the constitutional right to privacy, several US states still have them on their statutes. One such state is Utah, which just announced porn to be a ‘public health emergency’, five years after it was revealed to have the highest percentage of online porn subscribers in the US.

Indeed, one of the frontrunners for the Republican Presidential nomination race, Ted Cruz, tried in 2004 to defend a Texas law banning the sale and promotion of dildos and artificial vaginas on the basis that “there is no right to stimulate one’s genitals for non-medical purposes unrelated to procreation or outside of an interpersonal relationship”. He failed, but it just goes to show that the right to stimulate your own genitals isn’t to be taken for granted.

Nor is onanism necessarily a fundamentalist obsession. The mighty Time magazine recently devoted its front cover to a warning about the supposed horrifying emasculating epidemic as a result of of online masturbation: ‘Porn and The Threat to Virility,’ read the terrifying headline on the feature story.

America, we were warned, faced an epidemic of impotence amongst young men caused by porn and ‘fapping’, slang for masturbation, coined on Reddit’s comment boards. (The sensationalist ‘science’ of this story and many other porn panics, including ‘addiction’ and ‘misogyny’ moralising, was nicely diced and sliced by Joanne Bagshaw at Psychology Today.)

The crusade against ‘fapping’ is eerily reminiscent of the anti-masturbation movements of the 19th century, when male ‘self-abuse’ was widely-seen by respectable right-thinking people on both sides of the Atlantic – and also medical science – as a scourge that led to impotence, weakness, effeminacy, insanity, and the collapse of the nation.

That great American medical man, salesman and devout Seventh Day Adventist Dr John Harvey Kellogg, was one of the most famous foes of the ‘solitary vice’. His bland cornflakes were supposed to save you from it – like porn today, an exciting diet was thought to lead to overstimulation. Other, even more unsavoury ‘cures’ included phenol dripped onto the clitoris and circumcision without anaesthetic.

Male circumcision eventually became dominant in the US – c. 81pc today – in part because of its perceived inhibition of masturbation. Though it seems to have been about as effective as corn flakes at getting men to stop ‘fapping’.

Likewise, today’s panics about online onanism are usually based on a cherished, quasi-religious ideal of ‘natural’ and ‘normal sex’. But instead of procreation, they often assume the ‘purpose’ of sex and sexual desire to be (hetero) ‘love and intimacy’ and cast porn as the satanic lubricant of the fappers’ sins.

The US’s ‘foremost relationship expert’ Dr John Gottman praised Time’s anti-porn crusade in a doom-laden ‘Open Letter on Porn’ which labels it a “serious threat to couple intimacy and relationships” and talks a lot about ‘normal sex’. Again, as in most porn panic texts, including the Time piece and the UK Government consultation papers, the presumption is entirely heterosexual. Same sex relationships don’t exist.

There’s a very good reason for this. As gay therapist Joe Kort points out in this breezy, plain-talking riposte to Dr Gottman and the way discussions on porn as a ‘public health crisis’ and ‘addiction’ always exclude same sexuality relationships, the vast majority of gay and lesbian couples simply don’t have a problem with porn. It’s not rewiring their brains; it’s not destroying their relationships.

How can this be when porn is such a ‘serious threat to couple intimacy and relationships’ – along with the nation’s hard-ons?

Kort thinks it’s because same sex couples are less likely to believe that their loving relationship should forever satisfy the need for outside sexual stimulus for both partners – and less likely to hide their interest in porn.To that I would add that same sex couples probably have less investment in the notion of ‘normal sex’ than most hetero ones – usually having had to overcome social and religious stigma attached to their ‘abnormal’, ‘unnatural’, ‘sodomitic’ sexuality.

To put it bluntly, perhaps when you get over shame about sex there’s sweet FA to panic about.

Tongues at the Ready – Tom’s Tarty Men Appearing on Finnish Stamps

Tom stamp

 

Tom of Finland’s drawings are to appear on Finnish stamps this September. What better way to mark the global triumph of his kinky redesign of the male body?

After all, Tom’s men were made to be licked from behind.

Straight Sausagefests: The Slutty, Passive Pleasure of Porn

‘What do women want?’, is the title of a long feature by Amanda Hess at Good Magazine, based around a 25 year-old male (straight) porn star called ‘James Deen’, illustrated with some long-shot snaps of him fully-clothed, lounging around his ‘porn mansion’, looking like a young Roman Abramovich. 

Despite ‘Deen’ turning out to be somewhat less interesting than he’s billed as being (he likes burritos, apparently), the piece nevertheless throws up some interesting questions about what women want from porn. And also, along the way, what men might want too.

Essentially, Deen is a nerdy twink. (A ‘twerd’, if you will.) It seems this is big news in straight porn.

‘Deen has carved out a niche in the porn industry by looking like the one guy who doesn’t belong there. Scroll through L.A.’s top porn agency sites and you’ll find hundreds of pouty women ready to drop to their knees, but just a few dozen men available to have sex with them. These guys all have a familiar look—neck chains, frosted tips, unreasonable biceps, tribal tattoos. Deen looks like he was plucked from a particularly intellectual frat house.’

In other words: Deen doesn’t look vulgar and low-class and thus is worthy of Ms Hess’ and Good magazine’s interest.

‘It’s not that more normal-looking guys don’t want to be in porn, it’s that the industry isn’t exactly looking for them. Within the major porn talent agencies, female performers outnumber male ones almost 5-to-1. The directors and producers hiring them are mostly men. They’re staffing porn’s workforce with an eternally refreshed slate of female bodies, and a handful of guys who look like what men think women want: Big arms. Big abs. Big dicks.’

Hang on. The reason the directors and producers hiring them are mostly men is because the audience for porn as you have admitted is – overwhelmingly – men. And so it follows that the men who become porn actors are not chosen because it’s thought they will appeal to women (though this may be the ‘no-homo’ rationalisation that goes through some men’s heads).

They’re chosen because – in addition to being able to maintain a large erection for hours in front of a camera and crew, something which most mortal men can’t manage – they appeal to men. Most men like and admire big arms. Big abs. And big dicks. Men are so low-class.

‘The porn machine churns out performers to satisfy every fantasy, be it MILF, dwarf, fat, granny, or gang bang. But if you’re interested in watching a young, heterosexual, nonrepulsive man engage in sex, James Deen is basically it.’

So every male porn model doing straight porn, apart from your twinky, slightly dull, and frankly rather homely-looking Deen, is repulsive? Fine. More for me then….

Once upon an 80s time, in the early days of hardcore straight videoporn, when men were first negotiating their anxieties about masturbating over another man’s penis, it was often the case that male porn actors tended to be deliberately ‘repulsive’ – or at least, their appearance was heavily signalled to be ‘completely unimportant’.

But in recent years the appearance of male porn actors is no longer unimportant. It’s expected by the men that consume porn who have themselves become more image and body-conscious that male porn models will take care of themselves. They are not always just a self-propelled penis. More of their body and even their face appears on camera, and hence the body is usually worked on to make it ‘worthy’ of display.

At the very least, the guys watching porn today expect to see male performers who reflect their own metrosexual preoccupations. More than that, I think many young men expect that male porn actor’s bodies should give them visual pleasure. (Deen complains that he gets hate mail from men – who frequently tell him he ‘needs to work out’.) Though it’s true that at the moment there isn’t exactly much variety in that visual pleasure.

You can of course though watch lots of ‘young, heterosexual non-repulsive men’ engaging in sex – but gay-for-pay sex. While the same kind of worked out, tattooed male bodies Hess finds repulsive dominate in gay porn too, because it’s catering mostly to men who have a preference for their own sex it naturally has a much larger range of ‘niche’ ‘types’ available. Which is perhaps part of the reason why some women like it. And I’ll wager there’s at least a dozen gay websites specialising in Deen-ish ‘intellectual frathouse’ twerdy types. (And as this article states further down, they’ll be paid up to ten times as much for it as they would for doing straight porn.)

Then again, I know lots of gay men who only watch straight porn – because they say they prefer the guys in it. And because of course, no matter what kind of male models are used, or however you disembody them, or try to disavow it, hardcore straight porn is by voyeuristic definition bisexual. Gay porn on the other hand is determindedly monosexual. Sexual difference simply does not exist. You never, ever see a vagina in a gay porn flick. Unless it’s in an arthouse movie made by Bruce LaBruce (whom I suspect only puts them in to piss off The Gays).

Anyway, I’m not terribly convinced by Hess’ idea of ‘normal’. She talks a lot in the Good piece about how ‘normal looking’ and ‘naturally-muscled’ Deen is, and how unlike other male porn performers he is. But then mentions, almost as an afterthought, ‘His penis is 9 inches long.’

Assuming this has been, er, fact-checked, statistically this makes Deen literally a fucking freak. Only 0.1% of white males have a penis that ‘normal’.

According to Hess, ‘nonrepulsive’ and affectionate Deen is helping to inflate young women’s interest in porn. Maybe. But then again, young women’s interest in Deen as presented in the piece is often about anything other than the fact that he fucks women on film for a living. They treat him more like a boy-band star who happens to be working as a porn model while waiting for Simon Cowell to notice him.

“I think he is really cute (not in a sexual way),” one woman writes. “I want to talk to him and tell him why I like him,” another says. “It’s not only cause of his amazing talent, it’s because of his personality.” One woman shares a video that “doesn’t have James fucking her but he is there and he is being sweet so I think it’s cute to watch anyway.”

With their animated gifs and collages and focus on the way he gazes into the eyes of his female partners, or holds their hand, you get the impression his women fans are making a kind of fan-fic out of his back catalogue.

Perhaps Deen really does signal the beginning of a sea-change in hardcore porn consumption and production – involving women much more as consumers not just (well-paid) performers.

But probably not with porn producers like Joshua Lehman in charge:

“I get 300 dick pictures sent to my phone every day. I don’t want to see your penis. That’s not how you get into porn.” He advises straight men to “get the hottest bitch you can and make her your girlfriend,” then “go into a producer’s office and have her tell him that you’re the only guy she’ll fuck.”

So if you look like shit and you have a four inch penis you’ll have a career in porn because your girlfriend is a ‘hot bitch’? Yeah, right.

I think the guys sending Mr Lehman pictures of their cocks may have a better idea – or a more honest one – of what straight porn is about than the chap making it. After all, if you watch ‘straight’ online hardcore porn today you will probably see at least 300 (very large) penises in the space of an hour or so’s browsing. And considerably fewer vaginas. I know some working class straight guys who like to send one another pics and vids of especially large penises they’ve found in straight porn to each other’s phones. Which is sweet.

And of course, in the typical porn viewing scenario we have to always add at least one more, very, very important penis to however many there are on screen. The one in the hand of the chap watching it.

But the female porn models are undoubtedly the stars of straight porn – and get paid handsomely, compared the small change thrown at the male models. Partly because loads of gents would do porn for nothing. Partly because straight (and bisexual) fellas are, of course, very keen on the ladies. And partly because the ‘hot chicks’ are what keeps all this penis from being… GAY. Which would, ironically, spoil the virile pleasure of the penises for many of the men watching it (including my gay friends).

‘All of this changes, of course, when there are no girls involved at all. Gay porn stars make “a ridiculous amount more,” Lehman says. “The best male performers make $1,000 a scene on average. Some of the male performers in gay porn make up to $10,000 a scene. That’s why guys do it.” According to Lehman, “some of the guys who do gay for pay would rather be in straight porn,” but if you turn up in gay porn, “we don’t really want you on the straight side,” Lehman says.’

No, because that would let the cat right out of the bag, wouldn’t it? It would suggest some kind of well-lubed continuum between gay and straight porn – both of which are sausagefests. Lehman sounds like his job is keeping straight porn… straight. Less of a porn producer than a porn policeman.

‘Lehman tells me he was recently approached by “two well-known male performers” floating a DVD of their sexual exploits with women. “The box is basically them. Huge pictures of them. In the background, there’s a couple of hot chicks, but it’s real small,” he says. “I looked at it and said, ‘Is it gay porn? Because that’s what it looks like.’” Lehman cannot imagine a future in which this rule does not hold. “Even James Deen. You may see him in every movie, but do you see him at the center of a box? I don’t think so,” Lehman says. “If you put a man in the foreground on a box cover, male and female customers are going to assume it’s gay porn.”

This anxiety is, Hess suggests, part of the reason why (straight) porn doesn’t appeal to women very much.

‘The straight male performer must be attractive enough to serve as a prop, but not so attractive that he becomes the object of desire. As Curry puts it, “No one wants to alienate the male audience.”’

Of course, despite all this careful policing and presentation of hardcore male/female porn as rigidly, conventionally ‘hot chick’ heterosexual, male viewers, just like the female James Deen fans, are very capable of reading it their own kinky way.

I’ve lost count of the number of bi-curious straight men who have told me they were turned on to the joys of sucking or riding penis by watching straight porn. Never ever underestimate the greediness of male voyeurism. In the privacy of their own filthy minds men don’t conscientiously restrict themselves to identifying with the male ‘stud’. They also identify with the ‘slut’ who is ‘getting it’ – from all directions. Particularly since in straight porn she’s the one who is actually allowed to enjoy herself.

Whilst the men have to busy themselves with their ‘work’, like naked gymnastic car mechanics in a hurry to finish their ‘service’, in the centre of all this activity the female porn actress enacts and vocalises – very loudly – the slutty, passive pleasure of sex.

And judging by the number of men they’ve turned into sluts they’re doing a very good job of it.

Tip: Tobias

Why Straight Soldiers Can’t Stop Acting Gay on Video

Way back in the last century, before the Interweb swallowed everything, my friend and accomplice in literary crime Steve Zeeland were visiting, as you do, Camp Pendleton, the giant US Marine Corps base in Southern California with some jarhead friends.

We spent the afternoon watching the Marine Rodeo – scores of grinning fit Texan boys in tight Wranglers and high-and-tights bouncing up and down on broncos and slapping each other’s butts. Perhaps you’ll understand why, after having seen this, the Details fashion shoot that was Brokeback Mountain left me cold.

We then headed to the enlisted men’s club for a much-needed and, I’d like to think, well-earned drink. While we were there, some Marines came in from a week’s exercise in the field, still in their combats, camouflage paint still on their young sunburned faces. They were in high spirits, enjoying their first beer of the week, and when the DJ played the opening fanfare of The Village People’s ‘YMCA’, like Pavlov’s dogs they instantly and instinctively understood what was required of them.

They flocked onto the dance-floor, scrambling to outdo one another in their 1970s disco dance moves, and joyously spelling out the letters of the camp classic extolling the pleasures of getting clean and hanging out with all the bo-oys. ‘Hey buddy,’ one jarhead shouted to me, slapping me on the shoulder and grinning in my face, ‘you having a good time?’

Oh yes.

At this point Steve produced his mid 1990s, large, cumbersome and very, very obvious camcorder and started filming the jarhead hi-jinks. ‘Steve,’ I hissed in his ear, palms moistening. ‘Don’t you think this might, er, get us into trouble?

Copyright Steve Zeeland 1995

We escaped unscathed – though we did hear reports a year or two later that the Commandant of Camp Pendleton had ordered, like an angry Old Testament God, that enlisted men’s club be razed to the ground because it was ‘a cesspit of sodomy’.

I needn’t have worried about Steve’s camcording. But the Commandant did have reason to worry – and his Biblical efforts proved in vain. In just a few years time, military boys would be enthusiastically filming themselves acting way ‘gayer’ than dancing to YMCA – and posting it on YouTube for the entire world to see.

You’ve probably already seen the video tribute to Lady Gaga’s ‘Telephone’ made by US soldiers in Afghanistan, which has gone virulently viral.  It’s part of a well-established craze by dusty, bored and stressed military boys letting off steam, taking time out from buttoned-down masculine norms and channelling a little glamour instead. Having a scream, in other words. But the fact they are videoing it and putting on YouTube suggests that, like most like most young people in a mediated world, they want to draw attention to themselves.

Way back in the Twenieth Century again I wrote, only slightly tongue in cheek: ‘The problem with straight men is they’re repressed. The problem with gay men is they’re not.’ In the metrosexual 21st Century I think it’s pretty clear that even straight soldiers aren’t that repressed any more.  While of course gays are getting married and becoming Tory MPs.

I don’t know about you, but the scene where the soldiers are standing around admiring one another’s home-made House of Gaga outfits will stay with me forever. There’s something about Lady Gaga that seems to make funny, flaming flamboyance – Gagacity – irresistible to men, women, children, civilians and soldiers and small animals. Gay or straight.

Quite rightly, hardly anyone has suggested that these soldiers being hyper and hilariously camp are ‘really gay’. Some might be, of course. But their appearance in a video of this kind doesn’t prove any such thing. Even the gay-banning US Army put out a statement approving the video, or at least trying to exploit its popularity.

Compare this with what happened a few years back when it emerged that some US paratroopers had been ‘acting gay’ on video for private consumption rather than YouTube. Gay porn videos made by a company called ActiveDuty. A global scandal erupted and several young soldiers were arrested, courts martialed, fined and dishonourably discharged.  A lot of people – particularly gays – seemed convinced that the soldiers ‘must’ all be gay because they appeared in such videos. When in fact many did it like the soldiers in the ‘Telephone’ video – for giggles, for fun, for a dare. And, in this case, also for the not inconsiderable sums money they were paid.

Like the discharged soldier said to the shell-shocked waitress who recognised him from the ActiveDuty website and demanded to know how he could have done such a thing: ‘It was no big deal. And besides, I got paid.’

If you think my comparison far-fetched, consider that the soldiers courts martialed for ‘acting gay’ on video (Certificate 18) were paratroopers in the 82nd Airborne based in Fort Bragg. The same elite unit that the chaps ‘acting gay’ in the ‘Telephone’ video (PG) are from.

The latest YouTube video of soldiers ‘acting gay’ called ‘The Army Goes Gay’ (below) has been curiously claimed by some gay blogs as an example of straight soldiers ‘ridiculing’ Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  There isn’t really any evidence for this reading however – and in fact it could be more easily read as an endorsement of the ‘Gay Bomb’ fears of the Pentagon.

Almost certainly it doesn’t have any  message at all.

It’s just soldiers being silly and naughty. And ‘gay’.

Copyright © 1994 - 2018 Mark Simpson All Rights Reserved.