feels about porn. feelings like woah.

So, have you heard of the “Hysterical literature” series? It’s conventionally attractive women, sitting at a table reading sexually explicit material, while (under the table), they are vibrated by a nice person.

Here’s the first one (like WAY WAY WAY NSFW):

It was pointed out to me by a student, so I went and looked to see what the kids are watching these days, ya know? It sounded funny, cute, and sexy, all at the same time, right? Smart. Interesting.

And I was really surprised by all the FEELINGS I had about it. Like, all the feels, right in the feels. So much feels.

FEELINGS.

Why?

I thought long and hard (…ladies!) about it. It has taken me weeks to write this post because, no foolin’, FEELINGS. And here’s what I realized:

Watching the videos in the series felt exactly like being on the playground in the 6th grade, and that’s why my blog is called “the dirty normal.”

See, from fourth through eighth grades, I was a social bottom feeder. I had literally no friends.I was poor and unpretty, with a chaotic family and a budding mood disorder, and kids can spot a weirdo a MILE away. I managed my isolation by reading a lot, and when I was between books or otherwise couldn’t find somewhere else to be at recess, I would stand on the playground with my hands stuffed in my pockets, and watch the other kids play.

Feeling lonely wasn’t the hard part. That got easy really fast. The hard part was not feeling like I was a member of the same species – not only would I never be one of them, I couldn’t even begin to understand them.

And that’s how it felt watching these videos. The Hysterical Literature project felt exactly like they were the cool kids and I not only am not one of them, I’m fundamentally different.

When I teach about sex, I’m all trying to talk about science and methodology and epistemology and homology and all the -ologies, because SCIENCE, ya know? But what students learn is that they are normal.

I rarely felt sexually abnormal myself. In fact, I’m one of the 10-20% of women whose sexual functioning has mostly mapped onto the standard male model of sexual response: spontaneous desire, concordant arousal, and penetrative orgasms. But I’ve felt abnormal in just about every other way.

So watching these videos and having all these feelings and then sitting and thinking really carefully about WHY I was having all these feelings, what I realized is that my mission with the blog is to help people feel normal when they have been made to feel abnormal, just as I was made to feel abnormal all through my early adolescence.

How?

Well (1) conventionally attractive women. Thin, pretty, long hair, young, dressed fancy. Having spent the last 5 years focused more or less exclusively on the wellbeing of young women in America, I am sensitive to the impact that the normalization of the thin ideal and feminine physical appearance has on their body image and their overall ability to live peacefully inside their own skins. Nothing in the world wrong with being young, thin, and feminine; it’s just that ALL of the women in the series look that way. The feeling this gave me was frustration and anger.

(2) Male gaze. The filmmaker is a guy, and he does not make himself inconspicuous in the production. Just… I mean, I’m clearly spoiled by ultra-feminist, woman-made, DIY porn, but… the feeling this gave me was contempt. (I am definitely not the target audience.)

(3) The story. Is this what counts as smart, sexy erotica? It was entertaining, absolutely, interesting, yes, literate, uh-huh. But hot? Really? The feeling this gave me was bafflement, confusion… I also felt old.

(4) Is this what people are referring to when they say they find intelligence attractive in a woman? I’m genuinely asking, because it SEEMS like they were aiming for a “smart woman” vibe, even though it also seems like that’s not what they got. I’m surrounded by women – faculty, staff, students – with big giant brains; giant brained women are the air I breathe, I know what it feels like to be in the room with one, and it doesn’t feel like this. I thought about this one long and hard, because each of the women in the series comes across with definite intelligence and personality, so it’s not that I don’t think they’re bright women. So what am I reacting to?

Don’t get me wrong, I’d probably have a hell of a good time hanging out with these folks for an evening, if they’d have me. Which – and this is the problem, I guess – I feel sure they wouldn’t.

If this is the way media represents smart women… well… the feeling this gave me was sadness.

(5) It COULD have been all the things I was sorta hoping it would be when I checked it out. It could have been feminist and hot and funny all at once. But instead? Basically? It’s a video of a cute girl having an orgasm. While reading, uh-huh, that too. It’s… ya know… nice. And this might be my strongest specific reaction: it makes me want to make my own video in response, something that actually is feminist or hot or funny or all of the above. Something that’s BETTER. I want to make a video of me sitting at a table, reading the Affordable Care Act, with a vibrator between my thighs. Or Erick Janssen’s Psychophysiology of Sex. THAT would be funny. And feminist. And hot.

Obviously I’m not the target audience. I know that and it’s fine. Lots of people may LOVE the series. To each her erotica.

And maybe the video was successful, insofar as it definitely made me think, it definitely got a reaction from me, hell it motivated me to write a whole blog post about it.

Anway. I felt sad after I watched it. Not so much because of what it is, but because of where it fits in the world. Or maybe because of where it suggests *I* fit in the world. I dunno.