Wednesday, May 1, 2013

This isn't what you think

Here is an erotic video with no nudity, no vulgar language (although she almost says something), in fact, with no explicit sexual content.

Explanations below the fold.

The reason this works is that what happens on the screen is pretty much the exact opposite of what you think you are seeing.

Here is Tracy Clark-Flory at describing what she thinks is happening:
The black-and-white video begins with a woman sitting at a table with a book in front of her. She looks into the camera and states her name, the name of the book, and begins to read. It seems she’s overwhelmed by the words — there’s a slight twitch, a smirk, a straightening of the back, a desperate breath in — and she struggles to continue reading.
Here is Aja Romano at The Daily Dot commenting on another one of the videos (there is a whole series of them):
There’s a different sort of pleasure in watching Teresa wrestle with her own pleasure. At one point she interrupts her narration with a polite, “Excuse me.” At others she pulls herself together with a concerted effort to continue reading before finally giving in after the line, “There is no earthly power but Satan.”
 There is lots more like this. You find that view repeated all over the internet by feminists who see themselves as sex positive.  In this view, a woman is trying to read a book and is slowly overcome by pleasure because someone under the table is holding a vibrator against her. We see that because we want to see that. Under this view:

The challenge is to keep reading even though you are being aroused and, as a consequence, the video is one in which the woman is ultimately defeated.

Keep that in mind and let's think this through together.

 In the first place these performers (they are performers and not just random women) were told what was expected of them. They were to try to read in a normal tone of voice while being stimulated to orgasm. So the real challenge was:

To have (or credibly fake) an orgasm despite having to perform a distracting task and, as a consequence, the video is one in which the woman ultimately succeeds.

The real challenge is not to keep reading but to come. The problem is to not let the task of reading the book distract you from your pleasure rather than what we think we see which is a woman being distracted from her reading by sexual pleasure. The struggle is to keep reading while maximizing the pleasure and not, as Romano imagines, to control the pleasure so you can keep reading. If you don't come, the director thanks you politely but doesn't put your video up for anyone to see. If you do come, you get fame and exposure, which is clearly what these women crave.

The reason we reverse this is that we make what we see into a sexual fantasy and in sexual fantasies an orgasm is surrender and not an achievement. If this sort of fantasy excites you (and it excites almost every woman and man) the thing that turns you on while watching the video above is the thought of a helpless woman trying to resist pleasure but failing.  That's clearly what the two commentators I quote above thought they were seeing.

Imagine for a moment, however, how a woman who was really trying read a book in a public setting while being stimulated by someone under the table with a vibrator would react. In the first place (assuming she didn't just scream and ask someone to call the police), she probably wouldn't come because she wouldn't want to. In the second place, even if she did, she'd have as quiet an orgasm as possible, which is clearly not what these women are doing. (A woman can hide her orgasm just as she can fake it. Think of a woman having sex with her boyfriend but resenting him and deciding to have an orgasm but deny him the satisfaction of thinking he brought her to it. Don't think she could do that?)

Everyone, even women, watching these videos wants to see the woman they are watching get conquered by the unseen vibrator. Assuming the whole set up isn't fake, it's quite likely that some of the women seen reaching orgasm imagined it in those terms too; allowing their fantasy to get them off and thereby meet the challenge of coming for the camera. But to really experience that—being brought to orgasm against your will—would be a horribly invasive experience, a kind of rape.

The paradox, however, is that the best orgasms come when we can experience them as a kind of defeat; when we can experience them as a moment of being completely overwhelmed for not just our own pleasure but for that of our partner as well. That is what the video mimics, but only mimics for it is fakery even if the orgasms are real. It's not fakery because fantasy is involved but because no genuine relationship is involved. 

What the video does do, in ways that porn with all its explicitness tends to hide, is to show us the how shocking sex is. As I say above, to actually be brought to orgasm against your will would be a horrible, violent and degrading experience but to fantasize about having it happen to you or to fantasize about watching another person have this experience (or tell you her fantasy story about this) is absolutely normal. I'm not the first person to note this by a long shot, but it is one of the oddities of sex that the thoughts that will put us over the edge are not the kinds of thoughts we normally feel comfortable with. As Natasha Vargas-Cooper once put it:
The heated act of sex often expunges judgment, pushing the participants into territory they hadn’t previously contemplated. The speed at which one transgresses, the urge to reach oblivion, the glamour of violence, the arbitrary and shifting distinction between acts repulsive and attractive ...
The key phrase in that paragraph is, "the urge to reach oblivion". And it's not hard to think of evolutionary reasons for why humans, especially women, would be genetically programmed to think that way when they get aroused during sex. It creates huge moral challenges for some people, however, because, while they get huge pleasure out of responding this way, they don't think it is right to have those thoughts and they don't like to think of the person they love seeing them that way. And yet, it will enhance your orgasm wonderfully if you can allow yourself to think thoughts that will make you feel completely vanquished, even in very shocking ways, just before you come. It will enhance it even more if you can share these thoughts in cooperative role playing during sex with someone you love and trust.

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