Beautiful, depraved

Intimacy. Debauchery. Irreverence.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The oblique gaze and something real

These two photographs by Araki are the most erotic pussy shots I've seen in a long time. It didn't sink in, at first glance, that I was looking at pussy, but a little tremor went through me and then I smiled.

Debauchette and I spend a lot of time talking about what makes compelling visual sexual content - in photography and film. When I think of films I've seen that I was really aroused by, I think back to Belle de Jour, Story of O. I like art. I like sex. I like depth. I like the combination of it all. Those viewing experiences are memorable and convey a richness that few others do.

The obvious thread in the films I've mentioned is that they actually tell a story. In the way that one dimensional sex is typically less satisfying than something richer and multi-layered (with many levels of connection), it's the same with films. The porn plots of: "Barbie came over to borrow a cup of sugar. Boy, did Candy give her some sugar!" are the Dick and Jane of porn. We can all predict the poses and shots from there. The former movies I mentioned are largely about sex, but it takes a role amongst other stories. In so doing, it's more palatable, much deeper and far more erotic.

I remember going to see a live sex show in Amsterdam. I was so excited. I'd met a local guy who volunteered to take me. We sat in a small movie theater showing porn before we could actually go inside. Though I'm disparaging simple plots, the film we watched ran perfectly along the lines of most of my masturbation fantasies: woman needs something, must fuck to get it. The woman in question had an unfortunate vehicle break down on a deserted road. Two men come along and offer to help, but not before she fucks them both. I liked it. I was getting aroused.

We went inside a small bar and there were some random acts of weirdness before the main show on the stage - a woman and a banana that a man eats out of her pussy, another unusual object that I can't remember. Finally we came to the main act. A motorcycle descended from the sky in a cloud of smoke. A man and woman came out, naked, vaguely attractive. And, well, they just start fucking on and off the motorcycle. It was literally 15 thrusts in missionary, 15 thrusts with him on top, another 15 with her ass in the air. They were absolutely expressionless.

I was so disappointed. What would have been the pinnacle of my visit to Amsterdam (I was 20), amounted to so little. Which pretty much summarizes my experiences of mainstream porn: empty, mechanical and mostly boring. Given the impending launch of our haute porn magazine, I also spend a lot of time asking other people what they like in porn. I find a surprising number of people telling me they don't actually like porn because it tends to turn them off rather than turn them on. Generally, I have to agree.

I think it has a lot to do with the oblique gaze - or the act of looking indirectly at something in order to see it better. To me, sex responds in the same way. As does love. To analyze it too much or speak of it too overtly diminishes it so that it eventually fades. The intricacy and delicacy of it doesn't survive a harsh spotlight.

Photos: Nobuyoshi Araki