by William Dean
"Porn for the soul" is a relatively new catchphrase that I've caught wafting out of knotty anime-manga discussion groups, and just before the occasional dramatic pause in on- and off-campus conversations. Reminiscent of those trite "chicken soup for the soul" self-help books and corporate motivational speakers, anything "for the soul" is often pop-psych speak for cozy aphorisms people write on post-its and stick up on their cubicle walls to remind them all is not lost, hope is around the next corner, and quitters always lose. So, in that context, "porn for the soul" has to be a good thing, right?
The question is, is it really? Reducing human sexual needs and desires to clichéd phrases dilutes their impact just a bit. Repetition, as any Net-savvy types will tell you, is the sincerest form of boredom. Cynical Web-chatters, for example, especially those engaged in what used to be called "cybersex," quickly turned derisive when online seducers resorted to old standards such as "What are you wearing?" or "On your knees, bitch!" And no wonder. Few things are more organic (and therefore adaptive and changeable) than human sexual responses. The most consistent complaint of sexually active folk paired with not-so sexually active ones is the boredom factor. "We're in a rut" is not a sex-positive soundbite. The same-old, same-old sex routines, schedules, practices, and even government policies are heading for the extinction roundup.
I'm inclined to register "porn for the soul" as a cry. A plea for something richer, deeper, more meaningful -- in other words, what we all want out of our sexual lives. The faking-it route must be closed forever, and detours carved out of the still fascinating wilderness of activity and response. Lest I start sounding too intellectual -- this is not a polemic by Camille Paglia or an admonition by Gore Vidal -- let's be clear about the topic here. It's all about you. Okay, and me. And all those folks on both sides of denial.
All the faked "ooohs!" and "ahhhs" and "Harder, babys!" are as spurious as the soundbites coming out of your television or screaming off the hardcopy newspapers. That's what a glib, terse little phrase like "porn for the soul" is trying to express. While the WWW is stocked to the gills with everything you always wanted about sex, the genuine sex and desire is MIA. Is this controversial? No, it's simply anti-commercialization of some basic human wants and desires.
It's easy to point fingers (rude, I know), to cry "Havoc!" Easy to say "Oops, got a problem here." The difficult part, however, is in suggesting solutions or even side-steps to avoid the problem altogether. This is why I say that this topic is about you, me, and the folks down the block. We're in this together, like a massive world-wide orgy at which, not surprisingly, we're seeking meaningful connection of genitalia and "soul." The slick lounge-lizard and the street 'ho put up interesting facades, but somewhere inside the vacuous and maybe ill-defined "wants" area is starving for attention.
Right. Soundbites. I was coming to that, too. Have you considered the possibility that freedom of speech can be a trap when used injudiciously? Just because you can hear "fuck" blasting from the nearest auto soundsystem, along with bitch, 'ho, pussy, etc., etc., doesn't mean the context has suddenly gotten deeper and more intrinsic to society. In fact, it reminds me too much of the old joke about the two guys talking where one says:
Man 1: "Oh, fuck, man, I met this fucking babe last fucking night, and we fucking hit it off right a-fucking-way, and we got to fucking drinking, and fucking dancing, and then we fucking left the fucking club and went back to her fucking place. It was fucking great."
Man 2: "And then what did you do?"
Man 1: Oh, we had sexual intercourse."
Compare this to the audio impact, say, of hooking up with someone you genuinely desire, having some good intimate conversation, sharing some quality time, maybe wordlessly getting physical to the max, and then having them hold you tight and whisper "I love how you fuck me." As Court TV is fond of blurbing: "You be the judge."
What the import here is that context in soundbites, in audio stimulation, is everything. But, wait, you say. "Can't we have both?" Of course you can. You can also have vastly diluted Kool-Aid and pure, concentrated fruit juice, but which is tastier?
Intrinsic values -- yes, even in sex -- are significant. How you talk about sex and sexuality is reflective of your thinking and feelings. The more you signify and slam "bitch" and "'ho" about, the more you take any real power from the words themselves. The more you daily fling out "cock" and "cunt" out of sexual context, unless you're a performance poet, then perhaps the next time you want them to have meaning in an intimate circumstance, you could find yourself thinking "Oops! Cliché." or "Damn, now it sounds just funked up."
Erotica writers continually stretch their creative imaginations to eloquently generate new and exciting ways to depict sexual acts, sexual relationships, and "the hot stuff" we all enjoy reading -- sometimes aloud to partners -- so maybe you can take a page from their books. Put your sexy soundbites in perspective. Consider the circumstance. Whether they come out in a growl or a purr, the important thing is to make them meaningful. To yourself and your sexual partners.