Thursday, September 17, 2015

One Five Six: Categories

Tonight I'm thinking about categories in erotica and how they shift and evolve. I was reading a piece by the porn star Stoya--- a kind of ask-a-porn-star feature at one of the hipster lit websites ---that brought the issue up. I'll note that I like Stoya. I've never seen any of her films, by the way. I've only and ever read her interviews and her articles and her blog. The blog is called Graphic Descriptions; it's often quite interesting. Always well-written, too. It's something I'd recommend, along with her columns at the Vice and Verge websites. Anyway--- I like reading Stoya. And a few days ago, I ran across a piece where people wrote to her for advice.

The particular question that struck me was from a guy asking about...incest-themed films. He said that he seemed to keep running across an amazing number of such films on line and he wondered, well, why. Was this the next big theme? he asked. Why, he asked, did Stoya think these films were so popular. Her answer did sound a bit nonplussed. Exactly where was he going on the web? Was he just visiting the wrong places? Or was he in some way already looking for incest-themed videos? Was there some fetish that he just didn't want to admit to? 

The question--- and Stoya's response ---raised a few issues for me. The particular category does very little for me, but the issue of categories in general catches my attention. The questioner had said "incest-themed" films--- a fairly general description of the category. Of course you can break down the obvious sub-categories: father-daughter, mother-son, siblings, and a specialized twins ("twincest") sub-category.  Cousin-incest wouldn't seem to be a category that would generate too much interest, and in-laws would barely fit at all. (Would uncle/niece or aunt/nephew just be  left inside the broader father/daughter or mother/son categories? What about aunt/niece?) The questioner  didn't specify what he was finding so much of--- what he may or may not have been looking for. Stoya's answer, though, took an odd turn.

Stoya wondered whether MILF films--- films where a young man ends up in bed with his friend's hot mom ---weren't a kind of incest-lite category. No prohibited consanguinity, true. But there is an age disparity, which is one of the great taboos in sex these days--- taboo enough to be at nearly the same level of transgression as incest. And the MILF image depends on a (late-thirties? early forties?) hot, "older" woman being someone's mom. Is sex with a friend's mom a kind of incest-by-proxy? Stoya lamented that an attractive woman of forty could only be found hot as an incest-lite "MILF" and not for her own sake. Which is fair enough. My own tastes run to beautiful Young Companions, not to the MILF idea, but I see Stoya's point.

You'll note that I'm shying away from discussing the classic pairing of the younger girl and the older man. I never minded being a co-ed's academic fantasy, but I'm not sure I'm ready to be an incest-lite fantasy figure. Fortunately, no girl has ever called me Daddy. Let alone Dad. Those are things that really would freeze my blood.

What goes into fantasy categories--- that really is a question. How do we shape and define what's inside the categories we choose for our fantasies? That's something I may want to think about at some length. Any thoughts any of you out there over the aether might have? 

I'm at a disadvantage here in that I really don't watch porn videos. I don't search the web for porn. I can't talk about what's been filmed or how it's marketed. I do know of a couple of web archives with porn stories, though. (I always go for the written word; that's something you can always count on with me. I'd rather read words on a page than watch a video.) The archives are extensive. The stories are submitted by amateurs--- call it fanfic if you'd like. At least one of the archives goes back to the late 1990s, to the early days of the web. The writing quality varies wildly, of course. What matters, though, is that the stories are searchable. They're tagged with category labels, and there's  a search feature. 

The academic in me wishes the stories were all fully cross-referenced and that I knew exactly who created the labels and definitions and what criteria they used. I'm utterly hopeless at anything like spreadsheets or graphs, but I'd like to do a basic analysis of categories and changes over time. Go back to, say, 1996 or 1997 and work forward. Which categories had the most stories per year? How did that change over time? What became more popular, what faded away? How many different (pseudonymous) authors submitted each year? How long did a given author keep sending in stories? In a perfect world, mind you, there'd be some way to know at least what basic regions/states the stories came from. What cities or states favored which categories over time? How did the number of stories sent from overseas change, and what categories did overseas writers prefer? 

Thank you, Fernand Braudel---- what do the porn archives look like over the longue durée? What's the biography of each archive? Those really are things I'd like to know. Whatever a key porn fantasy may have been in 1996, is that still a major fantasy twenty years later. Some of the stories are about celebrities (models, actresses, rock and pop stars, female athletes). The names would change, but would the kind of celebrity change? One archive does do a category for male-male stories--- more or fewer of those over time? Do the boundaries of what's forbidden change?  Yes. I would like to know. I'd like to speculate about what external events are referenced in the stories and about changes in the way the fantasy figures are presented.

I'd hate to think that I'd end up looking at the graphs and trying to decide what the Next Big Thing might be or what the hip fantasies for the current year might be. But I would like to analyze what's out there. Everything has a history. That's obvious. Even the categories of fantasy. And I would like to see what the contents of the categories are and how they change. I'd like to know what drives the changes, too.

I know I'm building a lot out of a few offhand remarks in Stoya's article.  I was born to be an academic, though. That part of me will always be there. I do want to ask the questions and I want to know the history of these things. 

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