Let’s get my book list out the way first so I can tell you what I really want to tell you. I’m a promiscuous ADD addled reader who leaps like a trout snatching flies from book to book, which is probably why I write short stories. I don’t have the synaptic stamina to endure most novels much less write them. These days I’m reading, all at the same time:
1) “The Case For God” by Karen Armstrong (an audio book, this book is profoundly rearranging my approach to religion and symbolic imagery. )
2) “Die Ring de Nibelungen” by Craig P Russel (A graphic novelization in two volumes of Richard Wagner’s operatic “Ring of the Nibelungen” cycle which I’m also listening to. Yeah, I’m cultured. I pause for your admiration. I love this story. And if you marry a Valkyrie, seriously dude, do not piss her off. It’s bad.)
3) “Revising Prose” (Exactly what it sounds like. I’m a word nerd. )
4) “Sex for One” by Betty Dodson. (Like Stephen King’s “On Writing”, this is a combination How-To book and autobiography, in this case of a sexual goddess. The How-To side is just what you think it is. )
5) “Weird Tales: The Unique Magazine #359” (Digital version, of the great old pulp which has been around since the Great Depression and the showcase for horror and fantasies greatest names, including H P Lovecraft and Ray Bradbury. How I long to get a story in there.)
I mention all that to give you a snapshot of the inside of my head. This is pretty typical of my mental promiuscuity. Think about God. Feed the muse. Improve my artful craft and dodge. All of them.
But what I’m reading is not as interesting as what I’m watching under the radar.
Lean in close oh Friends of the Inner Sanctum, so no one will hear my shame.
I’ve been thinking about pornography lately, who had not thought much about it before. I’ve been exposed to very little pornography in my life, not so much by inclination as by a prohibitive life style. The first half of my adult life was a semi monastic religious life. The second half I’ve been married, which has been only a variation of the first.
I’ve been dully curious about pornographic movies but never gone out of my way for them until recently. You’ll have to trust me on how I explain this. I’ve been fascinated and of course envious of the success of E L James “Fifty Shades of Grey” and most especially for its ability to get the ladies all hot and bothered. I’m also a little frustrated when there are so many better books in this genre languishing on the shelves. Did she make a deal with the devil? Where can I get that deal?
I like to think among the genres I write, that I write literary erotica. Which is clearly the least popular form of this genre. People compare erotica to pornography, especially as in E L James case when it works so inexplicably well. So I’m wondering – how does pornography work?
I rented two movies from different sources. One is “Hypnotic Sensations” from VCX, the other is “Eyes of Desire”, by Candida Royalle for Adam and Eve videos. I chose them after some studied consideration. No – really, I did.
VCX, which has a link at ERWA, specializes in the sort of “golden age of porno” films dramatized by Paul Thomas Anderson in his movie “Boogie Nights”. These are porno movies made in the ‘70s and ‘80s, back in the days of the Pink Pussycat theater, attended by guys in raincoats with collars turned up and later on VCR cassettes sold in the back rooms of video stores. These were porno movies made by men for men. A few years ago I heard of Candida Royalle and became interested in her films for a very specific reason. She was one of the big name porno stars in the VCX era who later decided to make porno films – for women. So I watched these two films for craft reasons – I swear I did – to try to find out what the difference would be for an adult film made for men and an adult film made by women for women. I was especially interested to see if a little of that E L James fairy dust might rub off on me from Candida Royalle, whose movies have been a major success among women.
Hypnotic Sensations stars Cristy Canyons who later went on to write an autobiography of her time in the blue movie business. The premise, you can hardly call it a plot, has to do with a clinic for sexual therapy in which the doctor uses hypnosis to treat sexual problems. The plot is just a clothesline to pin up a continuous series of sex scenes. A man has impotence problems. The doctor waves a pocket watch and offers a few magic words in a soft commanding voice. A minute or two later a chesty nurse is leading him downstairs to see how his impotence problem is working out. A big breasted, not too bright woman comes in next with her reluctance to do threesomes which her boyfriend is pestering her to do. A few waves of the pocket watch and a threesome is in progress on the doctor’s couch. Another pretty piece of ass walks in with a problem and out comes the pocket watch, then out comes the dick and so on.
This is male oriented sex. Cristy Canyons is an especially intelligent woman who has the ability to look pliable and dumb on camera. Her breasts are more mesmerizing than the pocket watch and she has the curvy body of a Rhine Maiden. There is a heavy emphasis on male-initiated sex which gets down to business pretty quickly among strangers without any sense of intimacy beyond that waving pocket watch. There is no relationship required or even much foreplay. The women are generic receptacles for men to insert their phalluses.
Eyes of Desire was written and directed by Candida Royalle. The plot is fairly bare bones, but it does exist more or less. A woman photographer has made a series of color slides for a magazine and has brought them out to her clients country home to discuss them. There is a huge Celestron telescope by the window. The employer is a sophisticated urbane woman who looks to be in her MILFy mid 30s or so, compared to the sweet young things in the VCX film. What strikes me right away is that they have conversations about feelings. The photographer has broken up with her boyfriend and is pretty down on herself. The other woman shows her how to use the telescope to spy on her studly neighbors; some are hunky boner ponies along with a few couples who like to have sex with the shades up. Let’s jump to that. There are immediate differences in the woman-directed sex scenes and the male-directed sex scenes. In Candida Royalle’s woman oriented approach there is a relationship between the man and woman. They seem to know each other. The woman is waiting for the man in a room with romantic lighting, a blazing fire place, candles and wine in nice glasses. She is wearing fish net stockings, black high heels and a bright red vinyl tunic that unbuttons easily from the top. When the man comes in wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase, weary from his day in the cubicle, the woman greets him with a passionate kiss and rubs herself against him. They chat. They laugh. They snuggle. They kiss each other on the lips. The man sets his brief case down and they sit on the sofa. They kiss on the lips some more. They kiss a lot. His hands roam and they whisper and laugh – and kiss. The man unbuttons her tunic, slips it off, unfastens the black bra and reveals a pair of natural, smallish, size B breasts, nothing exaggerated. The sex appeal doesn’t come from the woman’s body, its all in her assertive, expressive attitude. She climbs all over her man mountain and goes after what she wants. She essentially commands the extensive foreplay and the lovemaking.. When at last he turns her over and mounts her she works her own clitoris with her hand while he’s thrusting and she orgasms again way ahead of him. She doesn’t rely on him for her satisfaction. She is in complete command of the foreplay and the love making, he is essentially a dildo with a heartbeat. It is the reverse of the woman’s role in the Hypnotic Sensations film where the man is the almost predatory aggressor and the woman is a pliant repository for his dick.
As the great moment arrives the man grabs a fistful of her hair, crushes her in his arms, dominates her with his whole body and finishes in spectacular fashion, a tribute to her sexual mastery. They snuggle in each others arms and cuddle for a while. She whispers something in his ear and they both burst out laughing. These are established lovers who are light hearted with each other. They know each other.
All the time I was watching this performance I was thinking – damn! I should be writing this down!
What impresses me about both films is the quality of audacity which I prize above all other traits in story telling. I can forgive a lot if the writer surprises me. It occurs to me these early porno films were the first Indie films. They were outside the industry, outside the fences, totally renegade. I’ve often said erotica writers are the literary equivalent of punk rockers. We’re the fringe writers which is why its such a vicarious thrill in some ways when someone like E L James hits the big time and proves it can be done.
As I was sighing over the Candida Royalle feast for the eyes I was thinking how much I wished films like this had a more accepted exposure because it would be so healthy for women to watch and so educational for their boyfriends. Look how she seduces him and he allows himself to be seduced. Look how she skillfully takes command until his passions are so out of control he overwhelms her and she allows herself to be overwhelmed. And look how she takes responsibility even as he thrusts for making sure she achieves her satisfaction by her own hand. A man in the throes of release grips the woman tight and whispers love words in her ear. He expires and lays his head on her chest. The women in these scenes own the sex. They absolutely own their sensuality. That is the most erotic thing of all.