Reinvention of the Body and Desire in the Post-Porn Age

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There are an increasing number of ways to experience sexuality and the body through the appropriation and subversion of pornography techniques and symbols

by José Henrique Pires cover Amanda Charchian translated by Pronoia Tradutória

Bodies, dildos, leather, sex, nature, technology, cameras, and action. Unusual scenarios and unconventional issues. The ways of making and sharing pornography have been transformed in recent years by the feminism and sexual diversity movements, creating subversive and innovative pornography productions. The labels are varied: Post-porn, feminist pornography, and queer pornography.

These are different ways of making and describing porn as a critique of the traditional forms of pornography, denouncing oppression of the body - mostly of women - and broadly challenging our society's gender and sexuality norms, proposing other notions of desire.

The post-porn movement originated in the 1990s, principally in the United States and Spain, and comes in the wake of the current post-identity, post-feminist and post-modern movements, which seek to invigorate the concepts and experiences of gender and sexuality.

Annie Sprinkle, atriz pornô na performance "Public cervix announcement". Anne abriu as pernas e deixou que sua vagina fosse vista através de um binóculo, criticando o excesso de zoom e de planos fechados nas genitais femininas nos filmes pornôs.
Annie Sprinkle, porn actress from “Public Cervix Announcement”. Annie opened her legs and allowed her vagina to be seen through binoculars, criticizing the excessive use of zooms and close-ups on female genitals in porn movies.

In the words of actor, performer, and researcher Igor Leal, post-porn is “a movement based on sexual expression, in which the sensations and possibilities of the body are expanded”. This expansion is realized mainly by shifting away from pleasure focused on the genitals and toward full bodily pleasure, taking the fluidity of pleasure into account.

This movement involves a set of texts, photographs, films and performances that concentrate on bodies and experiences neglected or fetishized in other contexts. This is the case, for example, with films involving people with disabilities, often perceived as people with unarousable bodies or no sexuality.

Transvestites and transgender people are commonly hypersexualized, especially trans women, represented in traditional pornography as objects of desire and subjected to intense fetishization. Thus, post-pornography tends to create a space for sexual fluidity in which all bodies can be liberated, subversive and potentially arousable in an autonomous and diverse manner.

Through the possibilities provided by fluid gender performances and the power of liberating sexual experiences, post-porn obscures social and cultural boundaries and opposes the categorization of individuals (male and female, homosexual and straight). Thus, it deconstructs market formulas and creates new ways not only to consume porn but also to feel pleasure.
Amanda Charchian
Amanda Charchian

Aesthetic pluralities

Because the movement seeks to undo rather than define, everything is acceptable in post-porn. There is thus an aesthetic plurality.

There are no prescribed formulas, although it is possible to notice the recurrence of "guerrilla aesthetics", in which performances become battlefields for reinvention, experimentation, and resistance.

There are films that appeal to an imagistic discourse on the use of technology. They involve scenarios and themes that simulate high-tech environments, full of accessories and elements that give the films a completely unique touch. In a film by the Rosa Quimera collective, for example, there is a whole scene of lights, metal objects, and electronic sounds. There are true cyborgs, demonstrating the hybrid nature of the human body, a mixture of body and machine, biology and technology.

Another characteristic of post-pornographic performances is the references to the world of BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Domination, Submission, Sadism, and Masochism), a set of sexual practices that are often seen as pathological. They involve collars, whips, and chains, rejecting any kind of moralism.

In the same way that futurist and technological scenarios emerge, there are also performances that opt for other means of appeal and pleasure. This film by the MUDSLUTS collective features an ecosex performance inspired by actress Annie Sprinkle. The actors and actresses are in an open and natural environment, and the performances are based on the interaction between their bodies and mud.

New means of production and other forms of pornographic consumption

Post-porn is produced separately from the traditional porn industry. The main difference is in the provision of actors and actresses. While in traditional films they are commonly contracted by highly exploitational agencies and oppressors of women, in the production of post-porn films, the cast participates in films voluntarily. Their motivation may be political, cultural, or even for pleasure. Nor is it necessary to have the “perfect body” as defined by social standards. Only initiative is needed.

Another difference in production is the preparation involved. Your body or your porn career is not important. It is more about conducting research and discussions on academic studies and social movements based on questions derived from Queer Theory and Gender Studies. Films are conceived and produced as a result of debates, workshops, and meetings (mainly in the university environment).

"Historia de 3", do coletivo Quimera Rosa
“History of 3”, by the Quimera Rosa collective

These materials do not circulate on easily accessible pornography websites. The films are only found on the pages and websites of the groups that produce them, and occasionally on certain unusual porn sites. Furthermore, because post-porn performances extend beyond a virtual interface, they can also be seen and experienced at festivals, shows, and meetings.

The changes in pornography have led to changes in consumption: no longer is consumption restricted to our homes in front of the computer and television, or in places like saunas and swing houses. Porn is moving to university auditoriums and halls, and even the streets.

Bodies and worlds of possibility

As a result of the changes in traditional pornography, there have been ruptures and a decentralization of relationships between subjects, the media, technology, and behavior. The questions are multiplying, and many remain unanswered: is post-pornography a form of art, sex, or politics? Is it going to reach more people and is its circulation going to increase? Is the order and functioning of the pornographic market going to change? Or, given all of this, what is porn?

On this unstable ground, we know that post-pornography is hybrid, multiple, and averse to categorization. Traditional pornography is being challenged by the engagement and resistance of bodily expression. Masturbatory enjoyment is giving way to the joy of subversion and creativity. This does not mean that arousal has disappeared, just that it is no longer directed solely at cisgender male pornography consumers. Everyone becomes part of a potentially arousable audience.

Cena do documentário "Yes, we fuck!"
A scene from the documentary, “Yes, we fuck!”

These challenges and questions also resound in our sexual experiences and aesthetics: what do I see as porn? What arouses me? Which bodies do I desire? How do I experience my sexuality?

“Post-pornography implodes, it is within you, in how you feel good, how you feel aroused. These experiences enable transformations that affect the deepest of our desires and senses.” — Igor Leal

Thus, the changes are not only virtual or located in small groups and spaces, but involve transformations that occur in accordance with movements that are reorganizing us as a society and changing us as subjects.

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