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The Price of Pleasure

Discussion in 'General Carnal Souls Discussion' started by Dolfuss, May 17, 2019.

  1. Dolfuss

    Dolfuss Well-Known Member Member

    Aug 10, 2016
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    I plugged this documentary in this week's RQT, but I felt it warrants a dedicated thread. Content Advisory: contains explicit excerpts of real videos featuring hardcore and violent content.

    What is the purpose of pornography?

    If we presume it's simply another commodity tailored to general demand, the answer seems self-evident. But as the film underscores from the start, porn is a multi-billion-dollar business, no longer a black market of basement studios but administered by some of the most influential media conglomerates in the United States. Though pornography itself remains "underground" in the sense of government regulation, it is so normalized in the cultural consciousness that what would have been scandalous thirty years ago is now a banal punch-line in PG-13 comedies. People who have never seen porn can still smile and nod at the references.

    And yet inasmuch as we take porn for granted, do we really understand what it is, what it does, and why a serious discussion matters?

    You may be asking, "Dolfuss you idiot, this forum is for a porn game, are you trying to get yourself killed?" When I (and the film) speak about pornography, I refer to the archetypal "performance sex", videos designed to titillate, to scratch that carnal itch, and nothing more—a fire-and-forget vehicle for temporary physical pleasure. Elements of this certainly abound in erotic writing and the games in loverslab's banner ads, but as I'll discuss later, the Internet indies can (and do) shift the bar higher for standards, even as "mainstream" porn is virtually tossing it to the floor.

    I've touched on the political subtexts and implications of porn before. While that thread was more about reconciling the art of monsters and dissecting overt messaging, and nobody would mistake a tape labelled 'XXX' as trying to make a profound statement, it would be naïveté bordering on wilful blindness to pretend cultural tectonics don't feed into what we're watching at 3 AM. In a perverse way, the porn industry has more freedom than Hollywood: a big-budget film can't push the envelope on sexual relations or it will be ghettoized into unmarketability, but after contending with anything outright illegal, an adult flick can get away with whatever it wants. People (usually men) roll their eyes at feminist critiques of porn, meanwhile the pay-per-view offers a neverending parade of the most sexist, racist stereotypes of history, with scenes of degradation literally identical to torture techniques practiced under Pinochet.

    Government will resist a comprehensive regulation of porn because that would require accepting it into the mainstream—and until it does, the industry will continue to remain effectively immune to criticism. In the era of #MeToo where prominent abusers have been hauled out into the spotlight, and liberal society is re-evaluating its standards of behaviour (except in Denmark?), the pornographers have weathered the storm without even having to bow their heads.

    So why does this matter? It's an old joke that has, in America especially, become all too real: porn supplements everything that school sex ed doesn't teach. In the most conservative states where "education" amounts to "you're going to Hell if you bed before marriage", the only reference some children will have to sexuality is what they find online—and as anyone that's used the Internet for five minutes can tell you, there is a lot of garbage to choke on. Pornography is insufficient as education because it completely decontextualizes the act of sex from a larger relationship; it becomes actively harmful when it counterfeits sometimes violent fetishes as "normal", even expected behaviour. Experienced adults will (hopefully) recognize this; a young teen with no other point of reference risks taking it as gospel truth.

    So, what is the purpose of pornography? The short answer is, to make money in business's last wild frontier. In an industry of spectacle, that means digging further and further into the deepest recesses of the human id to dredge up ever-more-visceral imagery to up the dosage and sustain the thrill. How it's actually transformed society, and our view on relationships, is inconsequential to the people making it. If Hegelianism is Christianity without God, pornography is sex without feeling.

    —Heyheyhey, sit back down, I'm not done—!

    If you've read me on this forum, you know I'm into some kinky shit. Why, then, am I being so critical? Short answer is, I want to reclaim that feeling. I want to kill Hegel.

    I have never liked real-life pornography. I can count the number of videos I have watched in full on one hand, and still have fingers to spare. Part of it is sheer aesthetics, but the deal-breaker was how emotionally dead it all is. I was a voracious reader as a kid, was storytelling before I could even write, so when I entered the Internet my lewd fantasies channeled through writing circles more than pictures. Of course, Sturgeon's Law is in full effect—take a shot every time a TF short mentions knees reversing—but every blue moon I'd hit a novelette that was good enough for a print run. So as much as I enjoy simple T&A erotica, I'm always looking for a higher calibre.

    I've also always held, either because or in spite of a fairly soft religious upbringing, that sex and romance are intertwined. I'll enjoy a fire-and-forget piece (and they abound in TF one-shots), but sex for its own sake always feels incomplete to me, a sating of reflexive urges and nothing more. I also internalized sex as a mutual act: if both parties don't leave happy, something's gone wrong. Now if, as mainstream porn would have it, we were just animals acting on instinct, sure that might be enough; but if you know me by now, you know I'm a bit too over-analytical to leave it at that. ;)

    And that's where the Internet indies come in. However many female-founded pornography companies exist, they are utterly drowned out by the men's club, and the nature of the video genre means they're either a dedicated niche or struggling to make a dirty mirror just a tiny bit cleaner. Online, however, there's a lot more interpretive freedom, and women especially have far more room to explore (and propagate!) sensuality in and on their own terms. Sex can be gentle. Pleasure can be mutual. Fictional characters drawn by an invested hand can come off as far more real than live actors faking it for the sake of a paycheque. Game developers like Benji and Innoxia and Sierra Lee have the unique luxury of being able to play both worlds at once: channeling the audience's craziest fetish, yet also grounding the sex within actual human (or otherwise!) relationships. Whereas traditional porn is hell-bent on digging itself deeper into the gutter, the indies can do what the "proper" film industry so far cannot: make art out of sex.

    That to me is the beauty of eRPGs: whereas the porn industry is an intellectual wasteland, these sorts of games, when done right, both are built on the discourse of sex and society, and help to forward it toward healthier ends. One can, of course, choose to wallow in the rut of 'daily fap content', but it's also possible to explore sexuality in a richer, more personalized, more meaningful way.
  2. Benji

    Benji Director Staff Artist Writer

    Apr 4, 2016
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    I adore this post. Extremely well-written, too.

    I hope you'll forgive me for potentially hijacking the message here, but I believe this couldn't be more relevant (perhaps even your original post came off the heels of this recent announcement).

    Your post comes at an interesting time considering what my government is about to attempt. I am truly expecting protests, if not riots, when the largely unaware populace of the UK realises they have to get the government's permission to view porn in the form of buying a license attached to their passport, credit card, or driver's license. It's not going to be pretty. I suspect the database of porn licenses and their owners' browsing habits to be hacked within a week - and for them to find very few names in it. And before anyone asks - no, I don't know what this means for us here. All I can say is for now, get yourself a VPN if you're in the UK.

    The fetishisation of abuse is to many a troubling development - as you say, there's no industry more prone to pushing the envelope since governments would sooner block porn than admit to having anything to do with it, even if their role could be its oversight (Note how, even in that tweet, they dare not mention what the age restrictions are for, they leave that to their dandy little video, and even then call it 'adult', not 'pornographic'). It would be a politician's professional suicide to state they're open to a conversation about porn that wasn't exclusively 'how do we get rid of it'.

    I have no confidence this scheme of theirs will work. The UK has tried to 'filter' porn before, which failed horrendously not only because almost everyone opted out, but when it was applied, blocked sites like Childline, the NSPCC, and Samaritans. Even being so clumsily put together that it blocked the mention of the word 'sex'. They also completely outlawed depictions of certain sex acts including facesitting, physical restraint, spanking, and female ejaculation in UK-made pornography. Now they're trying to put the hammer down and it's going to hurt everyone concerned, potentially criminalising porn outlets that fail to acquiesce (£250,000 fine!!) and, after all's said and done, offering almost zero obstacle to anyone who wants to get around it, young or old (in fact the young are more likely to be far more adept at bypassing it, and they know it). Given the intensely private nature of the content in question, demanding the consumer no longer enjoy that privacy essentially will amount to a kind of prohibition. I think most of us know how well the last prohibition went.

    Your post was far more well-spoken than mine. I'm not ashamed to say that this has me somewhat distraught. It's depressing, more than anything. As you said, we're in a position to make porn better, but they don't want to give us the chance. Give it context, meaning, even love. Sure, CS will contain lots of cheap and horny smut for the sake of it, but that's by no means all I want to accomplish, it's just what some people like (and it's fun!). I want to make a game that's not expressly focused on violence. But there's no talk about filters or bans or blocks on violence alone. Mortal Kombat 11 just came out, and you can witness dozens of ways to mutilate and rip your opponent to pieces. But if that game contained an uncensored scene where two characters had the most consenting, loving sex, it'd never have been released. You're allowed to pull someone's guts out and get a good look inside their ribcage, but seeing what's between their legs is soon illegal unless you have a license to do so.

    Again, wonderful post, @Dolfuss. Sorry if I've hijacked it at all.
  3. Nechrom

    Nechrom Well-Known Member Member

    Apr 7, 2016
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    When it comes to porn, or any grey-market product, I've always been what Americans would call Libertarian (but definitely not the whole package).
    Blanket regulation of luxury products (entertainment, drugs, alcohol etc) is not effective and produces the least good for a society. If we take porn for example: rather than blanket regulation, instead try to distill it down to what the actual issues are. Is it exploitation of people in the industry? Is it young people getting their views on relationship from the wrong sources? Both of these can be dealt with without regulating what an adult can watch for their own entertainment.
    If something with a huge demand is left to grey or black market actors, there is little you can do to regulate how they produce it.

    From a personal standpoint I'm also not a fan of basically any "professionally" produced live action porn. But obviously there's a huge demand.
    The reason why I quickly fell into hentai and later interactive erotic adventures eventually leading up to CoC and this entire genre, was the incredible variety on offer, not only for specific fetish content but also pacing, tone, narrative structure etc.

    Young me didn't go searching for Gillian Anderson nudes because she's the most beautiful woman, but because I had gotten to know her character in the X-files. I'd rather look at a suggestive still image of someone I've gotten to know, than two random people hardcore banging in HD.

    I can't really speak in regards to US sex ed (or lack there of), but again I don't think that's a porn industry issue. It's a non-secular society issue.

    I believe in market forces in so far as demand being fulfilled, and we're going to see a continued shift in the erotic entertainment market as long as it's left free to transform on its own without regulatory interference.

    The Guardian....
    They asked people if they thought of themselves as being feminist. I would hands down have answered "No" as well.
    Dolfuss and GreenSleeves like this.
  4. Dolfuss

    Dolfuss Well-Known Member Member

    Aug 10, 2016
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    On the subject of privacy and e-security, there was a book I read a couple years ago by ex-NSA officer Joel Brenner called America the Vulnerable (not to be confused with a fear-mongering polemic of the same name). The main thesis is that attackers have always held the advantage; Brenner comments that law-abiding citizens are essentially defenceless, and if you really want to protect your privacy, you basically have to join one of the Russian criminal networks. The "dark web" has always been used as a bogeyman to demonize online privacy, and yet people are surprised when dictatorships seize on Facebook posts to round up the protestors. People love to parrot that we're living in an Orwellian society... Orwell could never have dreamed of the Internet.

    No worries; it's a systemic issue. :p I don't know if it started with Cameron, but British lawmaking has been in a very weird place these past couple decades. Post-script:

    Blocked off: the affected sites
    claireperry.org.uk Devizes MP Claire Perry, campaigner for tighter controls on internet content​

    The perfect summation, really. :cool:

    I think I know where you're coming from. I still find it ironic that the DeviantArt handle of a gay Muslim woman of African descent is "dontneedfeminism".
    Floppyantennae and Benji like this.

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