Why I Love Weird Porn

Noah Brand lays out the connections between esoteric culture, cognitive surplus, and furry dickgirls.

This article originally appeared at No Seriously, What About Teh Menz?

A note: as a courtesy, most of the esoteric terminology in this article will not be clarified with links. Google is your friend, but be aware that you’re rolling the dice; some of these things will be disturbing or upsetting to you, others may end up pushing buttons you never knew you had. So, y’know, heads up.

One of the most important speeches I’ve seen in the last few years is Clay Shirky’s famous “Gin, Television, and Cognitive Surplus“, in which he lays out a theory stating that we are presently enjoying an unannounced renaissance in creativity made possible by the tools of technological empowerment.

Did you ever see that episode of Gilligan’s Island where they almost get off the island and then Gilligan messes up and then they don’t? I saw that one. I saw that one a lot when I was growing up. And every half-hour that I watched that was a half an hour I wasn’t posting at my blog or editing Wikipedia or contributing to a mailing list. Now I had an ironclad excuse for not doing those things, which is none of those things existed then. I was forced into the channel of media the way it was because it was the only option. Now it’s not, and that’s the big surprise. However lousy it is to sit in your basement and pretend to be an elf, I can tell you from personal experience it’s worse to sit in your basement and try to figure if Ginger or Mary Ann is cuter.
And I’m willing to raise that to a general principle. It’s better to do something than to do nothing. Even lolcats, even cute pictures of kittens made even cuter with the addition of cute captions, hold out an invitation to participation. When you see a lolcat, one of the things it says to the viewer is, “If you have some sans-serif fonts on your computer, you can play this game, too.” And that message—I can do that, too—is a big change.

Now, I grew up around futurists, and one thing growing up around futurists teaches you is to have a hair-trigger bullshit detector whenever you’re anywhere near a futurist. If I don’t see immediately testable predictions that map to both the futurist’s theory and my own experience, I just file it away with the Long Boom and VR helmets. Shirky’s model of cognitive surplus passes that test with flying colors. People, young people especially, are getting home from work and school, sitting down, and making things. Making lolcats, fan tumblrs, stupid YouTube videos. Making indie games, webcomics, 3-D printable models. Making crazy Rube Goldberg machines because the internet gives them an audience for their silly project. Making a playable arcade out of cardboard because why the hell not?

Even watching TV is now a participatory act for many people. You vote for the winners, you jump in the online discussions, you help with the save-the-show write-in campaigns, you pick the best screencaps to put Texts From Last Night over. And the makers of TV know it. They plan for buzz, they build fan spaces, they put fan jokes into the show itself. Consumption is no longer passive; it has become a give-and-take between art and audience in which the audience is an active and necessary part of the process, shaping both the art itself and the outcome of the symbiosis between them. Tell your grandchildren that you lived in the generation when postmodernism came to life and ate the world.

Of course, technology being what it is, one of the major things people are using this incredible participation for is making porn. SO MUCH PORN.

There’s a term in the fan fiction community, “drawerfic”. It arises from the answer to “What was your first fanfic?” given by everyone who grew up pre-internet: “This thing I wrote in a notebook when I was 14 and kept in a drawer and never showed anyone.” Every little girl making porn (and not all fic writers are girls and not all fanfic is porn, but they mostly are and an awful lot of it is) thought she was the only one. Her creativity came pre-stifled and then it was back to Gilligan’s Island. Fan fiction only became a community, became huge, when these girls began meeting, began corresponding, began exchanging fictions as gifts and trades. First in homemade zines, then exploding beyond all measure on the internet. Now it’s one of the largest gift economies on earth, with untold millions of words a day being exchanged, people (mostly women) making things in exchange for other things people made. There’s your cognitive surplus right there.

Naturally, an awful lot of what’s being made is weird porn. Yes, there are many fanfics that are silly jokes, or character studies, or casefic, or otherwise not porn. There’s also universes of D/s, mpreg, knotting, and (for one-stop shopping) porn-oriented AUs like the Alpha/Omegaverse, in which the way MRAs perceive masculinity becomes literally true and a lot gayer. This is why, when Gail Dines argues that the internet has made men addicted to porn, and influenced men’s sexual fetishes until they make perverse demands on women, who themselves never enjoy porn and thus are free of sexual fetishes, I laugh until I can’t breathe.

Of course, I don’t want to imply that the weird porn of the internet is only restricted to women. Oh goodness, no. All genders and all types are accommodated, bless the internet’s cold black heart. And more and more, especially at the weird ends of the spectrum, people are becoming more than consumers of porn, they’re becoming producers. They’re using the tools technology has given them to engage with their kinks, and they’re drawing and writing and Photoshopping and molding the lovable 3-D people of Poser into configurations that god never intended. But then, who asked god’s opinion anyway?

I am not kidding when I say that I find incredibly esoteric and specialized porn to be one of the most life-affirming things in the world. Even… no, especially the stuff that doesn’t do anything for me. Every giantess crush site, every furry vore gallery, every Shintaro Kago shit-and-dissection-fest, every body-inflation discussion group, every set of specialized apron-fetish films, every dendrophile fan club, every time I learn a new word like “boytaur” or “OT3″ or “docking” or “unbirth”… all these things bring me a genuine and unironic joy.

These things, these kinks, these flights of imagination, are the impassioned obsessions of real people, everyday people. At least one of your coworkers, at least one of your family members. And that’s not creepy, that’s wonderful. Every one of those weird kinks is a shout of human individuality in a world that wants to reduce us down to buying patterns and demographic trends. “I am alive!” they cry. “I am not an emerging new style, I am not a market segment, I am not co-optable, I am not coming soon to a theater near you, I am not approved for all audiences, I am not available in stores, I am damn sure not fun for the whole family and I never will be.”

Maybe you don’t find that life-affirming, but I sure do.

This is why people become makers of porn, participants rather than consumers. If literally all you want is women with too much makeup and hairspray joylessly fucking men with statistically-improbable megadongs in a universe where pubic hair was banished by dark magics in 2001, then “mainstream” porn has you covered and you can safely be a passive consumer. For the non-mainstream other 95% of us, we must look elsewhere. If what you really want is something made by people who understand your desires because they share them, you’re going to wander into a gift economy, and once there, you’re going to be a lot more popular if you contribute.

This is, I am not joking, an improvement on the previous 10,000 years of human history. Before, people lived their entire lives feeling they could never be understood, either suppressing their weird kinks or, in a few rare cases, becoming Irving Klaw or Robert Heinlein. Now we have 21st-century technology, which smiles and says “There are people who will understand, if you find them and make yourself understood. Here are the tools to do it.”

We use those tools to keep Community on the air, and we also use them to create animated GIFs of Jessica Rabbit with a huge dick. If either of those things strikes you as a strange use of time and technology, that’s okay: it’s not for you. And that’s the point.

 

Photo—Shocked young man with laptop from Shutterstock

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About Noah Brand

Noah Brand is an Editor-at-Large at Good Men Project, and possibly also a cartoon character from the 1930s. His life, when it is written, will read better than it lived. He is usually found in Portland, Oregon, directly underneath a very nice hat.

Comments

  1. A tough story to ‘Like’ or ‘Retweet’ for anyone whose social networks include aunts and future in-laws…But a brilliant piece nonetheless. And, for a guy who only ten minutes ago thought he’s seen it all…I obviously have a LOT more research to do.

  2. 4chan is called the bowels of the internet for a reason. Lots of stuff that either make you go “What in the world is that oh god please make it stop why am I still looking at this I feel so sick” or “By god, these people understand me!” The internet is anarchy fueled creativity, in its mundane vanilla-ist or at its absolute preverse. Which is wonderful. My generation, for all its faults and shortcomings, understand the internet and its tools the best. It’s the only place we know how to change things, and since there is no structure or government on the internet, things must be done by groups. This is why we were fighting SOPA, PIPA, CISPA, and ACTA. Any threat to the way the internet currently works is taking away the only platform many people know how to do things, make things, change things. It is incredibly important to us.

  3. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    Ah, yes. But as Foucault sadly wished, it’s more and more on the surface. So much of this flies from the body (yes- the “essential,” sensual body we modernists believe in) and retreats into fetishes on fetishes. Sure, fetishes are exciting for some (I have lots of unrealistic sexual fetishes about violating social rules [none with underage I should add] but aunts, my neice, coworkers– all fair game.) Still, I think real ecstasy is going deep, not so much kinky. I’d think that people in hour on hour slow ecstasy are more similar than different.

  4. Of course the other problem is that some of these things can become horrendous tail chasing exercises. I don’t have any video games on my computer for that reason; its too easy to waste time.

    I have lost days fooling around with computer games and such stuff. I can’t sell what I did in a computer game. But one of the resons that I’m working the way I am is to be able to afford better toys. My eyes changing gave me an excellent excuse to buy a 4X5 camera (that I can focus with reading glasses) and a digital camera (that is autofocus and can easily be Photoshopped) I’m also looking forward to going to the Smithsonian (and maybe some other museums) to get close up looks at dino bones. Can you say dino-bone-bed! Gotta love CorellDraw for gettin 3D ideas outta my head!

    I always get amused when people start talking about how porn has taken over the internet. No its just people being people. Ask any Greek, Roman, or Egyptian archeologist. Find an ancient trashpile and it will be full of porn. Oh, it may be more artfully written but that was just the way they did porn. The thing that I find the funniest things is hair now being a fetish idem. For me its not something I like because I like oral sex, especially buttered buns. But it is amusing because now normal is a fetish catagory.

  5. Valter Viglietti says:

    Thank you Noah, reaaaaallly good. 8)
    One more proof that “nobody is normal” – and that’s perfectly fine! :lol:

  6. CajunMick says:

    Dear Mr. Brand:
    Never has kink ever been seen as so life affirming.
    Kumbaya, brother.

  7. This is a very original idea, and a well written piece. The Internet is wonderful in that it helps people find a place where they fit in. But I still struggle with how I view it in general.

    What would Clay Shirky have done if he didn’t feel like watching Gilligan? Would he have sought out human interaction? On the Internet, if you don’t like the Youtube video that you’re watching, you can find another video, or read a story, or play a game, or look at seriously kinky porn. The list is endless. Part of me agrees with James Love’s comment: there is a great potential to waste time. I’ll admit that there’s creative potential, but how do people actually use the Internet? My parents were anti-technology people, so after 30 minutes (tops!) of TV, video games, or the family computer, it was outside to play with the neighborhood kids. I explored the woods with my brother or played basketball with the kids on my street. Or we went inside to play a board game. That face-to-face interaction, I think, offers something that the face-to-screen time cannot.

    And there are also obvious risks when interacting with strangers. People get their identities stolen. Children become the victims of pedophiles. A lonely kid learns how to make a bomb, or gets coaxed into suicide by a stranger.

    I’m obviously a fan of the Internet, seeing as I’m writing this response online. But when I someday have kids of my own, I just might bring back the 30 minute rule.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] That’s it for me today. Fellas — single or coupled up — how do you feel about the concept of singledom? Is it all the beer commercials make it out to be, or do you agree that it may be slightly overrated? Also, ladies, are the “single man problems” expressed today at all similar to any “single woman problems?” The Good Men Project is a cerebral, new media alternative to glossy men’s magazines. Founded by Tom Matlack in 2009, it’s become a social movement: an ongoing in-depth discussion asking “what does it mean to be a good man in these modern times?” Proceeds from The Good Men Foundation are used to support organizations that help at-risk boys. This article originally appeared at GMP: 5 Reasons Being a Single Man is Kind of Overrated More from GMP Magazine: He Wants To See Other Girls, Is He Using Me? Why I Love Weird Porn [...]

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