A Thought about Porn, Context, and Kink

This morning I was scrolling through my feeds, looking for something to help me deal with my morning wood, and I ran across a video someone had retweeted. The retweeter had said, in essence, “this is how an alpha treats a fag. He fucks him hard, breeds him, and then kicks him out to the curb.”

The video turned out to be a muscular guy aggressively fucking a twink. But it didn’t have any breeding and it didn’t have the muscular guy kicking the twink out. There was nothing in the video to explicitly suggest power exchange except that the top was pretty aggressive.

It was clear to me that the guy who retweeted that video was projecting an entire fantasy of his own onto the video. Retweeter clearly gets off on the idea of ‘alphas’ treating ‘fags’ poorly. He saw a video that fit part of that fantasy–muscular top, twink bottom– and that was sufficient for the video to take him into the rest of his fantasy.

That’s pretty standard stuff. When I watch porn, I look for videos that touch on the things that get me hard and I ignore the stuff that doesn’t fit in with that, if I can (if I can’t, I just look for something else). Part of what makes porn so commercially successful is its ability to be read differently by different viewers. I might really like the breeding element of a video while another guy might really like the contrast in body types. We can both enjoy the same video while finding different fantasies in it. The lack of a wider context makes porn flexible and adaptable to many viewers’ needs (I think that’s why porn without a larger plot has come to dominate over the past 20 years. It’s more likely to appeal to a wider audience and thus make more money.)

However, I think the fact that porn can be read in multiple ways creates a problem when it comes to kink. A porn video usually captures only the Outer Layer of kink, not the Inner Layer. We get to see the bondage, the torture, the fucking, maybe the role-playing that sets up the scenario. But we generally don’t get to see the non-sexual relationship between the performers, the negotiations over what sex acts will be performed, the safety precautions, the moments when the sub safe-words, the enema the sub takes before filming, and all the other stuff that porn studies consider unsexy. (Here’s a very enlightening exercise–next time you watch kink porn, try to figure out when they stopped filming because the sub safe-worded or needed a break or farted loudly or the dom had to put on a condom or started to lose his hard-on or the rigger had to step in and tie someone up or fix a tie that had slipped. Once you start looking for the stuff that got edited out, you can often figure out where it happened and what happened, and it will change how you watch porn.)

One of the things I really like about Bound Gods is that their videos open with a discussion of the negotiations and the safe word and the other safety precautions, and they end their videos with a post-shoot discussion of what the experience was like for the participants. I admire that because it helps restore the context. It reminds the viewer that there is an Inner Layer to the scene.

Because the context of the kink scene is so critical (it’s where the consent happens, it’s where the sub’s needs and safety are addressed), the decontextualized nature of modern porn becomes problematic for kink porn. Those of us who are experienced in kink understand that the porn scene isn’t the whole story–that there’s a whole lot being left out–but those who aren’t very experienced with kink–the young guys whose first exposure to kink is the porn and not a negotiated scene, the people whose entire formal sexual education was “don’t do it, that’s nasty”–are going to tend to get the mistaken idea that the Outer Layer is all there is, that the harshness the dom directs toward the sub is the reality. If the porn is your model for how power exchange works, you’re going to learn horrible lessons that doms treat subs brutally, exploit them however they choose, and then discard them. That sets doms up to harm their subs and sets subs up to think they deserve to be harmed.

When I watched that video, I saw two guys fucking, and I immediately wondered what their relationship was. Were they a long-term couple or was this just a one-time hook-up? Had they negotiated that the top was going to be rough with the bottom but he wasn’t going to breed him? Did they see themselves as two kinksters doing power exchange, or did they see themselves as two vanilla guys having a good time?

But when Retweeter saw that video he thought “Yeah! Big muscular guys get to treat twinks like shit!” He learned the lesson that the world includes ‘alphas’ who get whatever they want and ‘fags’ who can be freely abused because no one cares about them. That’s clearly a lesson that a lot of young guys are learning these days because of how easy it is to find kink porn online.

That’s why I’m writing this. I’m hoping guys like Retweeter will see this and start to realize it’s way more complicated than they think it is. Do the subs you know a favor–once you’re read this, repost it somewhere to help raise awareness of what healthy, ethical kink looks like. Our subs need our support and protection.

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