I was recently interviewed for hotwifeblog.com by a dear friend of PVV, Ken Cuck. As per usual, Ken asked all sorts of thoughtful and super challenging questions. We discussed changing trends in gender, marriage, and sex depictions in adult content within the context of cuckold relationships (among many other things!!).
I’m reposting the interview text here in its entirely – it’s a great, informative read that took me a really (really) long time to complete!! Thank you Ken, and thank you hotwifeblog.com!!
(original post here – February 24, 2012)
“A great post today on hotwife blog. I love these posts into the psychology of what drives our sexual needs and fantasies. My good friend Ken has been chatting to Sociologist Dr. Chauntelle about the hotwife and cuckold lifestyle. I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a great read and insight into what makes us tick and what keeps us stimulated and love the lifestyle we all love. Thanks Ken and Dr. Chauntelle, we hope to hear from you both soon. Post your appreciative comments below.
Ken for Hotwifeblog: Why don’t you tell the readers of hotwifeblog what your academic specialty is and where they can read your work?
Dr. Chauntelle: Hi everyone!! So lovely to have the opportunity to share some of what I do with you all! As you may know, I’m Dr. Chauntelle – sociologist, researcher, feminist-informed social justice advocate, blogger, and eminent pornologist extraordinaire!! The best place to read me is on my blog – PVVOnline.com – and on twitter at @dr.chauntelle.
I have a PhD in sociology, and my areas of interest (broadly defined) are gender and work. I study sex, sexuality, and sex work within this context, specifically all aspects of adult content production – the workers (both in front of and behind the camera), the history and development of the industry, current trends and issues impacting the business, content and content production, novelty production and trends, you name it! If it has to do with porn, I probably have at least a finger in it.
I’ve found that the adult industry, while being socially and culturally significant and hugely influential, is widely misunderstood and intensely stigmatized. With my work, I try to bring a little more balance and nuance to what we all think when we think “porn.” I found, however, that academic writing and scholarly circles were not always the most effective way to reach people… so I started my blog – PVVOnline.com – in 2010.
On PVV, I comment on industry happenings and mainstream-relevant events, write film reviews that attempt to establish connections between adult texts and the wider world, and interview all sorts of folks working in the industry (not just performers). Ideally, PVV is a place where people can go to learn a little bit more about what’s actually happening in the adult industry in a balanced, accessible, and kinda fun way.
Sooo… if you go to PVV, you can find that sort of stuff along with link to all my adult-relevant academic writings, my bio, PVV’s stated mission, etc etc. You can also get a taste of all my musings and such on my personal twitter – @drchauntelle – and/or on my more general PVV space – @PVVtweet.
Ken for Hotwifeblog: Cuckoldry may have always been around in some form (think Chaucer), but it seems to have become much bigger in recent years, especially in porn. Undoubtedly, the reasons for this are complex and won’t be able to be completely processed for a long time. But, given your professional expertise, if you had to take a first stab at trying to explain the reasons for its recent prevalence, what would you guess?
Dr. Chauntelle: Hmmm… well, first off I would have to agree – cuckoldry has always been around in some form; and although it has always been viable, cuckoldry has certainly become more visible, at least in terms of adult content, in recent years. I think there are at least two significant socio-cultural developments that have played a part in this…
I would say that the first and probably most obvious reason has to do with technology. As technology advances – and advances rapidly – the demand for more types of content becomes clear and the provision of said content becomes easier. Consumers and communities can now make their desires known easily and en masse. Content providers at all levels can then work to incorporate those wants into their products.
Second, somewhat synergistically, and operating on a deeper socio-cultural level is sex – specifically, our society’s regard of sex. I think most folks would be hard pressed to deny that our culture has liberalized in terms of its general attitudes about sex… but this is complex and multi-faceted – many people out there think the level of liberalization we have already achieved is a bad thing, while many others think we are nowhere near where we need to be. Whatsmore, even though we may have evolved in many respects, cultural attitudes about sex work and porn (two very sex-related things) are often still stuck in the dark ages…
What’s specifically relevant here is that the presence of liberalized and variable attitudes about sex, controlled for individual and community preferences, have carved out a space for individuals to explore their own sexualities. This is not to say that everyone wants to or that everyone does; it’s more that the possibility is more apparent nowadays. Technology has helped facilitate this.
I think that these two things, the impact of technological advancements and the presence of sexual liberalization in our cultural, have opened the door for all sorts of things, be they brand new, slowly emerging, and/or always present but formerly off the mainstream radar.
This definitely includes cuckoldry.
Ken for Hotwifeblog: What do you think cuckold erotica says about the changing position (no pun intended) of women in society vis-a-vis sexuality? About women’s expectations of their own lives? About their expectations of men?
Dr. Chauntelle: That’s a complex series of questions!! …but let’s make it even more so – what about men? I think men’s expectations of sex, themselves, and women are also at play here.
In addition to women’s changing positions in society, assuming heterosexual desire and couplings, one could say that cuckold erotica is but one artifact of men’s liberalization from contemporary versions of hegemonic “masculine” gendered strictures. Men parent more nowadays, men’s emotional health is something we talk about, men’s physical health is not something that’s just assumed assumed assumed until the guy turns up dead, etc etc. Similar liberalizations from a different, but equally repressive, series of gendered strictures have also impacted women (and everyone else too).
Nowadays, many (but not all – one can never assume!!) women and men seem to seek out something different from their lives – something different, something “better,” something that’s more fulfilling and/or open and/or supportive and/or independent and on and on. This includes what they seek out from their romantic and/or sexual partners.
I think that the wider social liberalizations that I was discussing earlier may have something to do both with people looking to seek out new and different lives and with being OK with that. These are very different stages of action, wanting and doing; but regardless, I think some folks’ desires a la these changing tides may be reflected in cuckold content (and its increased popularity in recent years).
Ken for Hotwifeblog: One of the more interesting aspects of cuckoldry is the nature of the men doing the cuckolding (commonly called bulls). Unlike in more “typical” porn, the men are the ones being judged for “adequacy” in a one-dimensional way. This reverses the usual, expected order of things where the women are the ones who are expected to be “objectified”. While it isn’t true that the physical appeal of men’s talent has never been relevant, it’s also probably true that cuckold porn emphasizes men’s (bull’s) sexual desirability more than is typical. Do you see this as a challenge to traditional attitudes about what porn is? Do you see this as part of a larger pattern in pornography where men can be appreciated and judged more than in the past? Or does it perhaps only seem that way?
Dr. Chauntelle: If you’re asking just me, yes – cuckold content is pushing on conventional boundaries and conceptualizations of what porn “is” in at least that way; but if you’re thinking about reactions to cuckold content in the context of the wider social world, I think there may be some issue…
To me, the ways in which cuckold content may/can destabilize some tropes in heterosexual adult content – by raising the bar for men in some respects and by challenging conventional notions of what porn is in others – seems clear.
But some might say that making things more intense for some guys by offering up an “impossible” image of virility is simply another version of a series of problematics that have always been done to women – setting “impossible” standards for men is just as bad as setting “impossible” standards for women. And one could also offer up all sorts of ruminations about women being objectified even further by an even greater amount of men (the husband and the bull and, presumably, the viewer) in cuckold content. I don’t buy this one at all myself, but the “women being objectified” theme has shaped pretty much all of what porn critiques have said since they started talking.
So herein lies the issue: the anti- position has legs in the sense that it has been said before… a lot… and it’s likely that it will be said again. And it’s possible that, since cuckold content has not (yet) become a fully fixed part of the mainstream porn canon, some folks may take this more seriously than they would about, say, big-budget featurey porn.
It’s too early to tell, but as cuckold content becomes more and more popular and widely viewed, it will be interesting to see if this same old “anti-“ adage is picked up again.
Ken for Hotwifeblog: A typical criticism of pornography is that it creates “unreasonable expectations” about what sexuality can provide and, in so doing, makes it harder for people to form and maintain relationships. Yet cuckoldry porn actually seems to challenge that assumption insofar as it allows husbands and wives to engage in an activity that would otherwise be expected to threaten marriages. Do you see a connection between cuckold porn, or any other sorts of porn for that matter, and the changing ways, for better or worse, that we think about marriage?
Dr. Chauntelle: Ahhh Ken, you and your questions!! That’s also a really complex question on so many levels…
It gets back to what we’ve been discussing (sort of) in terms of expectations for/of men and women in life and in romantic and sexual heterosexual couplings… and conventional ideas surrounding marriage are so contested in today’s social world (at least in the US). So right off, we have the shifting institution of marriage operating in conjunction with a changing society filled with evolving individuals. So where does porn, cuckold or otherwise, fit in?
Porn is fantasy, all sorts of fantasies, some of which may be yours or all of which may certainly not. Porn is a product of creative people and business people and creative business people looking to capture a vision and/or produce a viable product. Porn is not a teaching tool. It’s not meant for education or as an example, just like the Mission Impossible films aren’t there to teach you how to be a spy (or whatever it is that the Tom Cruise character is supposed to be).
Point being, in terms of your question – Do I see a connection between cuckold porn, or any other sorts of porn for that matter, and the changing ways we think about marriage? – I would say yes and no. It depends on the individual consuming the content, the person who is taking all these moving parts into consideration.
All texts, from mainstream films and classic literature to trashy novels and all sorts of adult content, are socially produced artifacts that are then handled/interpreted by the individual consumer within the context of their own experience.
If someone watches Content XXX and that inspires them person to explore their sexuality, have a conversation with their partner, find new ways to meet their and their partner’s needs, then yes – that content may be contributing to new ways of thinking about romantic and sexual relationships, even those framed by marriage!!
But that could also go another way – if someone internalizes Mission Impossible Porn out of context or thinks that, just because they like or dislike the content they are engaging, their partner must also or something like that, then no – that content may be contributing to imbalanced ways of thinking about romantic and sexual relationships, including marriage.
This applies to cuckold content in many specific ways, namely that it certainly may contribute to new ways of thinking about marriage in terms of sex, fidelity, expectations, etc etc etc. Those new ways could be “good” and/or “bad” and/or something entirely different …that depends on the person(s) consuming the texts.
Ken for Hotwifeblog: One of the themes of your research is the role of women behind the scenes in the adult industry. To what extent do you see a connection between that and any empowerment within actual depictions of porn?
Dr. Chauntelle: This gets at an interesting phenomenon…
Women have always worked behind the scenes, or “below the line” as it were, in adult production. The idea that porn is or was ever an industry wherein men ran the back end while women only worked in front of the camera is a deep-seated and wholly inaccurate cultural fiction. I think that, as this fiction is deconstructed and debunked (which is one thing I strive to do in my work), empowerment is only natural. Truth is a source of power, and knowing that women have always worked in adult content production is important.
If you’re curious, you can read about women working behind the scenes in adult production in my paper, “Sex Work, Office Work – Women Working Behind the Scenes in the US Adult Film Industry.” It was published in the journal Gender, Work & Organization in 2011 and is, to date, the only work of this kind. I point this out only to show how entrenched this “women only above the line in adult” fiction is.
One further complicating dimension of this phenomenon is women moving from above to below the line – women who were once performers making the transition to directors, producers, and any other number of jobs behind the scenes in production. As women like Stormy Daniels and Bobbi Starr transition from hugely influential performers to hugely influential directors (both women are highly respected, award-winning members of the community), that “porn is oppressive to women” argument is complicated, if not severely compromised.
And if you bring in women like Joanna Angel, women who have performed, controlled and directed their own content, and ran their own companies, for the duration of their careers… well then, that argument gets turned fully on its head.
So I would say yes – closing the door on the fiction that women don’t work behind the scenes and revealing the evolving creative control women have in adult content production certainly impacts the empowering capacity of porn. But like I said before, ultimately it depends on how the individual interacts with those texts… because you can lead a horse to water (read: porn), but you can’t make them drink (read: interpret content a particular way)!!
Thanks so much for the opportunity to share, Ken and hotwifeblog.com readers, members, and friends – I really appreciate you indulging my chatter!! Come on over to PVVOnline.com or visit me on twitter at @drchauntelle and/or @PVVtweet if you ever have any questions or comments or just want to say hi :)
Ken for Hotwifeblog: And thank you for your time and expertise. You’ve given us a lot to think about.”
Wow, that was intense, right?? What do you think? Post your questions, thoughts, and appreciative comments below :)
And thanks again to Ken and hotwifeblog.com!!
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Questions? Comments? Email Dr. Chauntelle!!
You may quote anything herein with the following attribution: “Reprinted from Porn Valley Vantage/PVVOnline, copyright © Chauntelle Anne Tibbals, PhD (www.PVVOnline.com).”