As some of you may know, the idea of authenticity – of realness and fakeness, what (allegedly) constitutes what, and everything in between – both compels and confounds me. I’ve written about this a lot on PVV. (for example: Girlfriends Films’ All Natural Glamour Solos here)
Social consciousness is an evolving as well as cyclic process – things change, but they also stay the same (read: history does occasionally repeat itself). Consequently, sometimes as a direct result of targeted efforts and other times with absolutely no real rhyme or reason, we end up with markers of authenticity that shift and slide over time…
…which is all totally fine!! It’s perfectly fine to shift through different markers of real and fake. *BUT* we need to own up to the fact that these markers are part of a wider social process. Far from objective, we need to acknowledge the subjective and variable bases for these markers. We need to understand that we all see things differently.
But two things happened toward the end of last week that made me realize that this is still (still!!) not so obvious: the video “REAL Lesbians React to Lesbian Porn!” and Lena Dunham’s reaction to Hustler’s parody of the HBO comedy-drama “Girls” – This Ain’t Girls XXX.
Let’s start with the REAL reactions video – it’s more direct…
For the sake of context, there’s this guy named Davey Wavey. Davey makes these “funny” “survey” and myth debunking videos (among other things) – what do gay guys think about vaginas, what to older folks think about gay sex, etc. Now obviously, these videos are meant to lighthearted and humorous..? Consequently, this one is also funny..?
“REAL Lesbians React to Lesbian Porn!” (posted May 23, 2013):
Now granted, whatever these ladies are watching sounds pretty silly, but…
1) “REAL” lesbians’ (as opposed to fake lesbians and/or any infinite number of other ways one might conceptualize their sexual identity?) sentiments about…
2) “lesbian porn” (just like “porn for women,” apparently all lesbians like the same thing… and it’s “lesbian porn”) are…
3) captured by a small handful of women (how large is your N? is it representative?)…
4) watching one bit of content? (how large is your N? is it representative?)
Davey’s wider point was maybe to make a comment regarding the quality and supposed ubiquity of girl-girl porn made for men..? (ALL men?) Or maybe it was just meant to be funny by being reductive and commenting on something he likely knows nothing about..? Something else that I’m just not getting?
Either way and regardless of all the other problematic dimensions associated with this video, it drew a line between “REAL” and fake – and thus (allegedly) authentic reactions to something vs reactions from others whose expressions are in some way inauthentic – that bothered me.
Who knew Davey was just trying to get me ready for this next round of silliness?
On Wednesday May 22, 2013, XBIZ reported that Hustler had wrapped its “Girls” parody, This Ain’t Girls XXX. I have never in my life seen even one single moment of the show “Girls,” though I have heard TONS about it…
[nothing but white people (though since changed due to much outcry), the show’s creator and star Lena Dunham is “brave” for always being naked, there was a rape scene that wasn’t a rape scene that was, and much much more]
Thus, regardless of what I’ve read, suffice it to say I’m not exactly familiar with the source material. Consequently, though the presence of my favorite quirkster Richie Calhoun…
“I tried to make it as weird as possible,” Calhoun told XBIZ. “I tried to say really weird things and do really weird positions.”
[Richie] also mentioned that, due to [“Girls'”] frequent sexual themes, “They didn’t have to do much” but roll with the original script and extend the intercourse scenes. (here)
[that reminded me of another thing I’d heard about the show: lots of sex]
…and this picture of Alex Chance (below), who plays the lead in the parody, piqued my interest somewhat, I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit in anticipation of This Ain’t Girls XXX.
(pictured: Alex Chance eating cake in a bathroom – braver than I’ll ever be)
Then of course, the very next day (5/23), some snarky bloggers and news outlets (ie) began tearing up just the idea of the film… but I guess that’s ok because even though no one has even seen This Ain’t Girls XXX some people don’t like parodies and not everyone likes porn and fine.
Then I saw these tweets from Lena Dunham (click to enlarge, posted May 23, 2013):
(pictured: screen grabbed before they were dated…)
I was immediately bothered by these statements and the powerful implications of their collective message, but I had to think about them some before I could really articulate what was the issue… Now I have a list. Here goes.
1. Hustler may not be the most genteel of production houses, nor does it have the most sanitized of histories, but mark my words – Hustler has been integral in protecting free speech in the US and, thus, protecting women’s rights to speak their minds …and create in venues like big deal cable television.
Whatsmore, women like Hustler EVP Theresa Flynt, Alex Chance, and every other lady working in adult (both in front of the camera and behind it) do their part to sustain that possibility every single day.
Because of its history and regardless of its present, one may refrain from calling Hustler a feminist project – but it has always been a humanist one. #justsayin
2. It’s odd to me that Lena Dunham, a woman whose art (her show and her performances therein) is so reliant on exploring sexualities as they operate in the US, is willing to publicly dismiss and judge others doing versions of the exact same thing.
(pictured: this type of sexualization/exploration/etc is OK/correct because it’s “real” ..?)
3. Addressing “real” (“REAL”) and realism related to sex: how can the creator of a program that’s apparently so reliant on pantomiming versions of “real” (authentic?) sex then pass judgement on others who are actually having sex..? And how are people who are actually having sex (porn folks) somehow having less real versions of sex than the gestured ones on TV?
I read this on HuffPo Women (here, 5/24/13):
[Lena Dunham’s “unsettled”] feelings are understandable, especially because [Richie] Calhoun said that they really only had to extend the sex scenes of the original “Girls” when making “This Ain’t Girls XXX,” since the HBO show already showcased a lot of nudity. He also said that the porn parody really captured “the voice and tone” of the original show.
One of the things we’ve always appreciated about “Girls” is its realism about sex and critique of how porn scenarios and mannerisms get foisted onto real sex…
To base a porn flick on “Girls” seems to seriously miss or ignore that message. We can understand why Dunham isn’t pleased. (emphases added)
So, “Girls” critiques some of the ways in which porn depictions are “foisted (read: introduced or inserted surreptitiously or without warrant) onto real sex” – awesome, but who’s doing the foisting?
The folks behind HuffPo Women are upset because Hustler parodied source material that critiques the cultural, consumer uptake of porn? How is this grounds for only critiquing Hustler then? Where is the self-reflective critique of ourselves?
Oh wait, that would involve potentially uncomfortable effort. Finger pointing is so much easier…
I get that there are problems with porn, but there are also problems with both refusing to engage the multidimensional flow of actions that go into social and interpersonal realities and calling anything that is produced/directed/pantomimed etc “real.” (this includes porn, and is also includes “Girls”)
[incidentally, is it possible that Hustler and maybe Richie in particular are actually strategically parodying what some folks think porn sex (read: post-produced versions of sex shot for professional commercial pornography) is like?]
4. When one creates a text, especially one that people like, people are going to engage it. According to that same HuffPo Women bit, “Girls” has already been the inspiration for a reality show and a “pseudo-hipster Craigslist ad,” among many other things. Apparently, these kinds of parody and engagement are ok, but porn is not? That’s some judgey bullshit.
5. Mostly because of how Lena Dunham is positioned in the public eye (the subjects she engages, the boundaries she’s breaking, etc), she kinda has a responsibility to not be a judgey hypocrite. And her attempt to cutesy up that judgement with her “porn name”? Absolute bullshit.
Chauntelle Anne Tibblas, PhD (porn name: Chauntelle Anne Tibbals, PhD)
(pictured: google gave me this, which contextualizes the image of Alex from above – score!!)
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All images from Google.
You may quote anything herein with the following attribution: “Reprinted from Porn Valley Vantage/PVVOnline, copyright © Chauntelle Anne Tibbals, PhD (www.PVVOnline.com).”