Wink Wink, Nudge Nudge
Looking at the evolution of modern porn as it moved from playful tease to slick business of fetishized-nearly-to-the-unrecognizable genitals and acts.
I was reading SPS's post on the vintage Playboy cover designs and had a few thoughts, too many to post there as concise comments...
Shon Richards commented:
I remember flipping through a gallery of Playboy covers and being struck by how they peaked in the 70's and then devolved into tackiness. The colors and composition in the 70's were never matched again.
What strikes me about these covers is until you mention the copy/paste nature of them, I had never noticed it. I always thought it was some sort of minimalist approach. It is funny how the shoddy workmanship of an earlier period becomes hidden by the distance of time.
I believe what both he and SPS are feeling with this "kitschy cut-and-paste-y" cover design is a sense of playfulness. Those old men's magazine covers, both Playboy's and other vintage publications, are clearly saying, "Hey, isn't this naughty and fun?!"
It was wink-wink nudge-nudge as we hoped we'd get to the bump & grind; and it was heavenly.
The decline in the playful design was due to the tail end of the Golden Age of Porn, and the growth of the video market. I recall several conversations with burlesque legend Satan's Angel in which she describes how the tease of burlesque couldn't compete with the onslaught of video porn. She recalls vividly how she stood on stage while the hungry audience was awaiting a porn starlet, the club's main feature, to get on stage. Her comments were something to the effect of, "No one wanted to see me twirl with tassels ~ on fire or not ~ when some girl was going to sit on stage and insert things into herself."
Video didn't just usher in the prolific business of pornos you could watch at home & masturbate to, the lighter equipment and 'new' directors meant a change in how films were made. And not just in terms of technology but what could be done. Beauty was nearly abandoned & stories suffered as camera men sought to put the lens right inside the action. It was unnatural to see some of these things, especially so large on a screen; the graphic nature had changed from playful to aggressive. It was new, and it was uber arousing because of it.
Naturally, the old men's mags needed to move from 'playful' to 'aggressive' too. They weren't, couldn't be, just good old boys having fun; this was not just aggression to compete in business, this was a cultural demand for the aggressive exploration of anatomy and sex.
Where once the female body was put on display to be ogled & masturbated to, now people wanted more. They wanted to see the act, and they wanted to see what they might otherwise be missing either due to position, the natural visual obstruction of one's own body (and their partner's), or even just due to their eyes being rolled back in their heads in bliss.
I'm not saying that the graphic aggression was bad or purely misogynistic or exploitative in a horrific way (although there certainly was some of that); but it was questing & pushing boundaries ~ going deeper, as it were.
Certainly there were penetrative photographs, even movies, before video; but now with this cheaper medium of video, no longer did a producer need to appeal to a general audience. Now porn producers were able to focus, fetishize the parts, the acts, and even the results of the acts. Perhaps this was all heightened by the need for instant gratification... we were headed into the glutinous 1980's, after all.
Originally, models where photographed alone, and it was rare to see any man near, let alone part of, the action. (Of course, I also believe this has much to do with male homo-erotic fears of seeing a penis; but more on that some other time.) It was a more voyeuristic, peeping, look, which surely started arousal and ended for most in climax; but it didn't show that. The details of what the viewer could do, would do if given the chance, was all inside their own heads; viewers were therefore their own directors. But with porn and video the action was no longer inside our own heads, others directed it. All we had to do was add lube and work our hands.
Sometimes I am convinced that what most people are complaining about when they say they hate porn, even wanting to restrict it further, is not that they are against publications or films which are solely for sexual arousal and release but rather that they are unmoved by it. Porn has in many cases removed the imagination of the viewer, directed us not as we desire, but forced us to see things which remove the mystery. We no longer have time to be seduced by the people before us before we are tossed into the action; graphic images of genitalia spread across our screens before we've even decided we'd take him or her home.
But this unhappiness & dissatisfaction with porn need not mean we throw the babe out with the hot steamy shower fluids. Perhaps we just need to be more selective in what we consume.
I'm all for putting smiling babes back into champagne glasses of bubbles; for putting riding crops into the hands of smirking scantily clad women who beckon, wither and command with their eyes and thighs; and for couples which I am seduced into wanting to see get naked and fuck. (Ironically, it is mainly the so-called fetish publications which do this the best.)
Those are the erotic components which many mistake for 'the plot' in porn, but in all honesty, we don't need a clever set-up for the fuck; we just need some time to look, to imagine. It isn't 'romance' which is missing either; it's seduction. We don't need to love them, but we sure should want to fuck them. And since the porno persons cannot touch our hair, blow into our ears, kiss us softly, or smack our bums, they need to seduce us visually. The best way to do this is to tease us.
The adult publications & films need to feel playful again. It may not take kitschy cut-and-paste-y to get us back to wink-wink nudge-nudge, but lets stop looking for slick covers and productions which convey the equally slick business of fetishized-nearly-to-the-unrecognizable genitals and acts.
Let's look for wink-wink nudge-nudge.