Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Gay Porn Makes You Straight ...

... or so goes the transitive operation implied in Michael Schwartz's recent comment on the psycho-sexual impact of pornography. That's not just a cheeky blog title; I intend to prove that gay porn does, indeed, make Michael Schwartz straight. Behold:

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Maybe I'm only alert to the subject because I'm buried in Angels in America rehearsals right now. After all, some closet case blurts a hilarious projection of his own cocklove onto an unsuspecting target every 32 seconds in this country ...

TOM: Hey man, can I borrow your pen?

JOE: Faggot.

So why harp on Schwartz? Well … the idea that sexuality lurks outside the self and threatens to pounce like a fabulous jaguar and then stroke us to death with its speckled mane, leaving us no choice but to grip its fuzzy junk betwixt the prone cheeks of our fragile, homo sapien asshole while thrusting helplessly against ...

Sorry. I got lost in my own metaphornication there. But you see where this is going. Homosexuality is "inflicted" on people, says Schwartz. The classic Freudian drama tracks this paranoia back to repressed desire. For the paranoiac, homosexuality floats invisible like an airborne toxin. It seeps through living room walls and leaves other cherished fortifications -- church, school, government -- porous and vulnerable. This paranoia craves a localizing Object (a pen, say) on which to vent and validate the governing hatred.

For the past five years, same-sex marriage legislation has given this psychodrama its political coordinates. But back in the 1980s, the AIDS epidemic concretized the "airborne toxin" metaphor by converting private homophobia into public hypochondria. What was previously a floating, elastic concept (gay = "virus") became literal (gay = virus!). And just as the invention of Viagra allowed Jay Leno to make 14,926 dick jokes without losing his audience ... so did AIDS allow President Reagan to smirk away 20, 849 dead Americans without losing his job.

WHAT A TOOL

Let's blame the Internet, shall we? They say only three seconds elapsed between the invention of the photograph and its use as a pornographic medium. To date, only 9/11 and Barack Obama have punctured the high-water mark set by our prevailing search for sex online. Porn may not be the dominant activity in cyberspace, but it remains the dominant quest. So maybe Schwartz's homophobia fascinates me because it provides a live specimen of last century's "airborne toxin" mutating into today's Wi-Fi Trojan Horse.

Or maybe it fascinates me because Schwartz is half right. On balance, we experience the Internet as more of a convenience than a nuisance. But the medium does have an invasive nature that cannot be extracted from its benefits as a communication device. Not just the pop-up ads of yore, but also the fact that a cybernetic society cannot experience warrentless wiretapping as a violation when each of its inhabitants is already some kind of avatar or exhibitionist. I wouldn't have gone voluntarily to the Values Voters Summit where Schwartz was speaking; I needed the Internet to bring me there. To judge from the shaky-cam footage, it doesn't look like this event was being archived for distribution beyond the modest crowd in attendance. We now have a voyeuristic perspective on a man talking about the effects of a voyeuristic medium like pornography. To paraphrase the man himself, Schwartz is inflicted on people.

My artsy, leftest colleagues and I usually find it easy to dismiss people like Schwartz. When we've exhausted the Freudian formula above, we remind ourselves that pornography and art are different things (that nevertheless deserve similar protection under the First Amendment) and that anyone who doesn't know this is unworthy of consideration or sustained debate. End of discussion. But I submit that pornography is an art because it requires the suspension of disbelief to facilitate its particular ... ahem ... catharsis. A woman stares into a camera, presenting herself for undiminished reproduction as an Object. But the male viewer must pretend past his own disembodied presence in this exchange, for he secretly knows the woman was staring at an Object, too. Before the man can commodify the woman by fucking at her image, she has commodified him by fucking around his camera.

So what would Pirandellian porn look like? I don't care, really, my only point is that pornography doesn't offer sexual liberation for either party. If anything, it fulfills the capitalist ideal better than prostitution because it converts Desire into a purely abstract relation between Things: the image/woman and tool/man. Perhaps for this reason, online porn consumption is comparatively higher in the deep-red states of Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho, where Schwartz might expect to find a sympathetic audience. Now, what happens when this fluid abstraction comes back into the world of bodily fluids?

MONEY SHOTS

Another recent survey of porn trends found that most kids today believe sex is supposed to end with the man ejaculating on the woman's face. Here the copulation of Image and Tool achieves its full performative expression after the solo dress rehearsal has ended. The climax is no longer an interior, inter-subjective moment shared (or at least offered) between partners. If you cum inside a woman, and there’s no camera to record it, did it really happen?! Now the orgasm is an exterior moment that allows the man to behold his own contempt as an image he quite literally inflicts on his partner from a distance. So Schwartz is half-right when he says that porn directs your sexual drive inward: not because it leads to masturbation, but because it requires you to re-cast yourself as an outside observer of yourself having sex.

Like most spectacularly offensive moral pronouncements, Schwartz’s comment accidentally taps into a genuine psychological phenomenon. But here the tragic reversal doesn't turn on the tidy binary of gender preference, as exemplified by Schwartz's "friend with a homosexual lifestyle." When we get lost in porn, we sacrifice the subjective self to the super-ego -- that component of the psyche that has always been watching you have sex. (Since before you knew you were alive, in fact, but Schwartz’s admiring nod to eleven-year-old boys makes the point just as well.) Our attempts to transgress the super-ego through porn are doomed to failure and repetition because they only ever place us at the foot of the bed, perched side by side with the voice and vantage of that same super-ego as it continues to judge or command a mutual desire unfolding spontaneously outside its grip.

So what offense could possibly match Schwartz’s prepubescent hatred of gay men? How to account for naked homophobia that wants to cover itself with half-baked psychology?

Simple: Schwartz fears porn because it threatens to replace the same-sex union he’s already forged … with his father. To paraphrase Ron Jeremy, Who’s your daddy, Schwartz?

4 comments:

Mark Ward said...

An Old Person's Guide to 'No Homo':

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJnlPP7jm5s

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Being gay, as far as I can see, is really fun. They live their lives to the fullest, they could always do what they want without hesitating and thinking of what other people would say, and one of these enjoyments is indulging themselves with these pleasures.

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