Dirty Little Secrets: An Assessment of Porn

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   Disclaimer: I’m not a sexual beast, nor am I sexually preoccupied. 

   Yesterday’s entry was about a hypothetical porno movie about lechon, and it makes me kind of rethink the whole idea of porn in general.  Even if pornography is a multimillion dollar industry, it’s still pretty much illicit.  “Immoral,” even.  The conservative right would rather have it that the mere possession of porn be made illegal and criminal: Sen. Loren Legarda, for example, made waves in shutting down BoyBastos.com.  “Investigative reporters” with weekend shows make headlines out of busting porn rings and nightclubs.

   Like marijuana and herpes, having porn is one thing: hiding it is more important.  DVD hawkers, for example, sell X-rated DVD’s behind displays of pirated martial arts movies that feature Jet Li or Chuck Norris.  In Internet shops, surfing porn means really small browser windows.  Internet-sourced porn are hidden in folder trees or in ZIP files.  There’s no shortage of gay and lesbian MPEG files in the Internet.  This basically means that if you really have to have porn, you have to hide it.

   Rather than talk about porn movies, I delimited this experiment to kinds of porn accessible to many people: novels, magazines, and Internet porn.

Smut novels

   Before the Internet, “porn” was more of “smut.”  This basically meant sexually-charged novels.  (Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita” is not “porn” per se, but a classic piece of 20th century literature.)  Novelists like Harold Robbins and Irving Wallace, for example, became famous in discount bookstores for their very libidinal works that dealt with showbiz and sex: Robbins, for example, peppered his novels with sex on every chapter, and Wallace’s formula for sexing up his novels was to do it in each quarter of the novel.  Sidney Sheldon’s familiar solution was to put mild descriptions of sex in the beginning and towards the end, but puts graphic detail in the middle.

   But even before the romantic American novel, there were really “pornographic” novels that surfaced and made their marks in literary history.  The French are particularly famous for this, like Pauline Réage and Anaïs Nin are particularly good examples.  Réage’s “The Story of O” dealt with sadomasochism, and proved to be the quintessential model of hardcore porn films in the 1970s to the 1990s.  Nin’s “Delta of Venus,” considered by many literary critics as the most erotic novel of the 20th century, was basically a collection of short stories that talked about sex from a feminine viewpoint.

   While Réage and Nin are considered to be the mistresses (no pun intended) of porn, I think that “real porn” was “invented” at the turn of the 19th century by the Marquis de Sade, in his works “Justine” and “The 120 Days of Sodom.”  “Sodom,” in particular, would have even the most perverted of Literotica.com subscribers cringe with its graphic descriptions of torture, rape, and murder.

Tijuana bibles, “Heavy Metal,” and smut periodicals

   “Playboy,” “Penthouse” and “Hustler” are tame, and even classy: there’s nothing morally wrong with the photographic portrayal of nude women in my view.  There are, however, certain exceptions to the rule: in this section, I tackle a few of them.

   Tijuana bibles – or “Playboy of the 1920s” – are short pamphlets that tackle such sexual themes as bestiality and interracial sex, among others.  In “The Green Mile,” for example, a Tijuana bible is shown being read by one of the prison guards, concealed under a thick book.  Basically, a Tijuana bible is like a “Bazooka Joe” strip.  With the advent of glossy magazines, porn really came to fruitition.

   In the 1990s, the comic book “Heavy Metal” was the dirty little secret of many an elementary school kid: back then, some of my classmates were corporeally punished for having the magazine.  It’s more like hardcore sci-fi that involved muscle-bound women and machines.

   For the masses, though, P5 street tabloids became their dirty little secret.  Until now, sex tabloids represent a powerful force in shaping public opinion.  While “Bulgar” and “Tiktik” represent the archetypal smut tabloid, more and more tabloids have surfaced that serve the public right to be informed… about sex.  You have “Nightlife,” “Ang Playboy,” “Toro,” the list goes on.  National issues take fourth fiddle to the things that matter more to the readership: showbiz, sex crimes, and sex.  The reportage encompasses rape, sex scandals, and tips on sex.  There is no shortage of “news” in 75-year-old women getting raped on a news week.  “Xerex Xaviera” and “Roma/Amor” became part of Filipino popular culture for sex stories.

Internet porn

   With the Internet, porn became much more ubiquitous, even omnipresent.  Havoc was wreaked in flash drives and computers all over the world for viruses that came from searching porn.  With the Internet, porn became readily available and readily consumable: it’s no longer like an awkward moment in a drugstore to buy condoms.

   Internet porn made even illegal and morally-bankrupt porn readily available, raising global concerns on the proliferation of child pornography.  Global legislation and action made watchdogs like Cyber Angels and the End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT).  This raised – and continue to raise – debates on the matter of censorship and free speech (more on that next time).

Porn: quo vadis?

   The debate on porn raises so many questions: is porn the cause of sexual crime?  If we see porn as an effect, what causes porn?  With the Internet, new directions for porn have risen that it almost becomes a Quixotic struggle to battle pornography.

   As a passing “anthropologist,” I look at porn as not a dysfunction of society, but has become a function of it.  I did not define porn here because there is a certain stigma attached to porn: a moral stigma, an ethical stigma, a political stigma.  Sex, hidden from view for so long, has taken the character of the monster under the bed.

   Like I said before, if you have porn, you have to hide it.  Not because it is meant to be hidden, but because the function of it in society is to be hidden and deemed to have a corrupting value.  Porn is like many things we hide: corruption, Angst, among others, that contribute to how our society works.

   Eliminating porn, to me, is not only a matter of factoring out porn from the complicated equation that is society, but to reconfigure society in general to situate where porn belongs in the order of things.  This will involve a lot of critical assessments and debate: meaning we should take all sides into account.

   The dirty little secret that is porn will continue to hamper free and open communication.

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