PVV – (bad?) romance porn… some thoughts

Recently, I’ve been exploring romance…

Well, romance porn intended for women and couples.

It’s interesting to think about “romance” and the social constructs and popular notions associated with it. Because, even if you have your own individual ideas about romance, some wider cultural notions and bigger overwhelming themes still exist. Like, when I Google image searched “romance,” these sorts of pictures came up:

(pictured: awww)

(pictured: AWWWW…)

Enough already!!

None of these images are *the* all-encompassing and fully inclusive image of romance (there’s no such thing), but none of them are particularly surprising either – we, as a collective culture, seem to have some images of and ideas surrounding “romance.”

So the idea of taking romance, which comes with a collection of associated tropes and themes, and melding it with hardcore, which also comes with a collection of associated tropes and themes… well, that’s tricky stuff. Throw a target audience of “women and couples” in there, and that’s complex, tall order!!

As I’ve said, even at its most nascent and/or broad, I find the idea of porn for women and/or porn for couples extremely compelling… but also a little bit sketchy – whatever/whoever could these descriptors mean? What does such content look like? Who is it for/what’s the target audience? And is it possible that there’s content out there that can appeal to ALL women and/or ALL couples??

Definitely not.

I took a gander at three recently produced examples* from the romance porn genre in order to get an idea of what’s what. I checked out:

Adult Source Media’s Book of Love, which was god awful (in my opinion);

New Sensations’ Dear Abby, which was cute but needed some work (in my opinion);

and Wicked Pictures’ Heart Strings, which was pretty delightful from beginning to end if you like this sort of thing (again, in my opinion).

You can read each review for details and specifics, but here are some more general observations and thoughts I had about the whole romance porn thing after watching these three films…

1. It seems to me that the bulk of the content being produced within mainstream segments of the adult industry under the auspices of this genre is intended (ostensibly?) for heterosexual women and/or heterosexual couples. Right off, that limits this genre’s scope by lots of women.

Now, I know that there are some smaller studios and lines that produce romance content for lesbian women and couples. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any examples of these genre iterations on hand to explore; however, it stands to reason that there are attempts out there to fulfill the perceived romance needs of more than just heterosexual women and couples (always keeping in mind the vast diversity that exists within any category, heterosexual, lesbian, and romance included).

But this made me wonder – what about adult romance for gay men? Does this content exist? If it does, where is it? If it doesn’t, why not? It’s interesting to think about…

(pictured: Google image search for “gay romance” gives similarly-themed “romance” results, just different players – interesting)

(pictured: Google image search for “lesbian romance” gives similarly-themed “romance” results, but way fewer and with different players – also interesting)

2. In reconciling porn tropes and themes with romance tropes and themes, shooting style and performances made all the difference.

On the basis of these three films, the extreme close-up penetration shot is NOT for romance porn. Whatsmore, the “placement” (placement?) of the pop is handled in a genre-specific way. Although almost mandatory in contemporary adult content featuring a male performer, romance producers seem to restrict (confine? corral?!!) the pop itself to convenient regions of the female body that make sense given the sort of the sex that’s being depicted. Meaning, the pop shots do not end up above the waist… they’re also not on the feet or internal (for example).

But they’re still there. Interesting.

Another different element present in these films were the sex performances themselves. There wasn’t a lot of moaning or thrashing about in these romance scenes, and there was very little bang out fucking. This made sense as these sorts of things are (supposedly) commonly construed by women consumers/viewers/accidental watchers as “fake.”

(pictured: is she really enjoying that?)

Now, in all my days, I have never seen anything that substantiates the claim that “women think other women thrashing around while some dude bangs the hell out of them are offering ‘fake’ enjoyment,” but this notion is repeated over and over again in myriad discussions of adult content. So it stands to reason that toning down the moaning and the fucking and whatnot (be it “fake” or otherwise… and some performers were better at this than others), was a calculated decision on the parts of the filmmakers.

How the performers looked/were presented was also interesting. With some exception in Book of Love, which had a little more fantasy in it, the women performers in these titles looked pretty “regular” – fairly regular clothes and make-up and whatnot. Also, interesting.

3. At some point during all of this romantic reviewing, I decided to include two additional titles* I had on hand: Wicked Pictures’ A Touch of Seduction (2011) and New Sensations’ A Little Part of Me (2011). In spite of being from studios I’ve already covered in this little exploration, both films bring something unique to the porn romance table – issues of race and ethnicity and notions of feminism (respectively).

In addition to being a romance title, A Touch of Seduction could also be categorized as an all-sex vignette, “ethnic” or “all-black” title (not my terminology). The film, directed by Brad Armstrong, features an all-black cast starring in five boy-girl scenes and a bonus “deleted scene.”

Aside from having pretty bad sound, wherein the music (which was actually good) was turned up so loud you could barely hear what was happening, the movie was exceptional – beautiful scenes and scenarios and really pretty sex, with the scene between Nyomi Banxxx and Flash Brown being the best in my opinion.

A Touch of Seduction, although rather straightforward on the surface, actually gets at very complex notions of race and ethnicity and those same culturally “romantic” tropes and themes. Why an “all-black” title? Why the same “romantic” ideologies? Why the same “romantic” ideologies in an “all-black” title?

I found it very interesting and compelling to consider these intersecting issues and the implications therein… hmmm

A Little Part of Me was another fairly straightforward romantic drama, but for one thing – it won Good For Her’s Feminist Porn Award for “Steamiest Romantic Movie” in 2011 – dang!! Here’s the synopsis:

“After losing the love of her life, Linda (Bobbi Starr) finds herself in need of a new inspiration. Thankfully, her close friends have the ‘perfect’ solution as it just so happens that Linda’s lost love was an organ donor. In an effort to find closure, she seeks out each of the organs’ recipients to see the impact ‘he’ had on their lives. Will Linda find what she is looking for? What exactly is she looking for? What will she do if she finds it? Are there more questions than answers? One thing is for sure – this sexy, romantic, light-hearted tale is sure to please lovers of all ages.”

In a nutshell, Linda has three close friends: an athletic one, a spiritual new-age one, and a romantic one. Her now-deceased love donated his lungs to some athletic dude, who ends up with her athletic friend; his eyes went to some guy who connected with her new age friend, who was better at “seeing” things (or something); and his heart went to some hopeless romantic man with the same glasses as – you guessed it – Linda’s romantic friend.

Now I must confess that I was absolutely befuddled by this movie – it was fine film-wise (but with the same sound quality problems as Dear Abby) and the opening scene-ish credits were hott. The enterprise as whole, however, was cheesy and reliant on myriad one-dimensional “woman” stereotypes (and stereotypes in general). I really didn’t get the whole winning a Feminist Porn Award thing at all. Feminism and feminists are as multi-faceted as anything, but there was nothing challenging… or even all that steamy… about A Little Part of Me.

The film was also fraught with product placement, and the sex got a little too porno for what seems to be romance standards at points… Again, I just didn’t get it.

But this could go on forever, or at least for as long as there are romance porn titles to review. What’s relevant now, of course, is what’s the point? What’s to be said about romance porn for women and couples (so far)?

Romance porn is interesting, and it’s clearly different – a unique genre all its own. It’s also nascent and developing, and I perceive some titles to be better than others.

I also find it significant that only one of the five “intended for women and couples” films addressed here was actually directed by a woman – Stormy Daniels’ Heart Strings. This film was easily the best of this bunch.

Whatever could it mean?

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A Touch of Seduction (2011) was directed by Brad Armstrong for Wicked Pictures and released in July, 2011. Buy your copy here.

A Little Part of Me (2011) was directed by James Avalon for New Sensations and released in January, 2011. Buy your copy here.

 

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* The film sample I used in this discussion is based strictly on 1) being 2012 XBIZ nomed and 2) seeming to represent a diverse capture of romance porn content. I also just pulled from what I had on hand. These selections are in no way representative of all the content currently available in this genre.

Check out Romance Porn for Women and Couples Example #1 Adult Source Media’s Book of Love, Example #2 New Sensations’ Dear Abby, and Example #3 Wicked Pictures’ Heart Strings.

For PVV reviews of more XBIZ (and AVN) award-nominated titles, go here.

 

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