The art of phwoar
Free websites like Pornhub mean that explicit sex films are only a click away. But are they any good? Michael Bywater offers a classical critique
The scene is a suburban house. A man with the voice of an Essex train-spotter arrives. Wen-day (a pretty thirtyish blonde, which makes me inexpressibly sad) opens the door. The gricer points his camera up her skirt. They go into her sitting room. "Oo, what a lot of books you've got, Wen-day," he says, and introduces his assistants. There is talk about moving the table, talk about getting the gear in from the car, talk about should she pull the curtains, which is odd since the whole thing is to be put out in public. One of the assistants extracts his penis and frots it sadly. Wen-day is quite excited; she has found some pornography under her husband's side of the bed and this is her revenge. They go for her, including the gricer, who is working the camera, working Wen-day and squeezing out an excruciating commentary. "Is that juice I can see, Wen-day? Oo, yes, it's definitely juice." At one stage the camera widens to show the second assistant fiddling with what he undoubtedly thinks of as his "todger". As he realises he's on camera and it's not his turn yet, he looks shifty and stuffs it all back in his trousers. Wendy is done - I use the word accurately - in every orifice with the same joy as an undertaker plugging a stiff. Eventually she has an orgasm, then several more. She's enjoying it: the men are at least proficient, and she is getting her own back on her husband. Of course she's going to have orgasms.
And she squirts. Look it up. I'm not going into it here, but it's the new thing in pornography: the outward and visible sign. Once, it was the money shot. The man ejaculated outside the woman's body to show he really was doing it. Now women must deliver the same proof. "Squirting", a semi-mythologised female ejaculation, is the new proof.
British Wendy is oddly antique, in the sense that there is at least a vestigial storyline. We are, after all, storytelling (and story-watching) animals. But there is little in the annals of storytelling analysis to help us. Aristotle's Poetics is disheartening; his tragic hero must have a certain nobility but not so much that we cannot empathise with him, and his downfall is both wildly disproportionate and tightly reasoned: cause and effect, entirely absent on Pornhub.com (where a woman can be transported by fellating a dildo), are essential to Aristotle, as is a strict sequence of events. I'm so distressed by the poverty of Pornhub that I want to cheer myself up by writing them out in Greek, but I'll resist; in Roman type, they are, in order, hubris, hamartia, peripeteia, anagnorisis, nemesis and (in the audience) katharsis. Do they fit? (see table)
So, no; Aristotle would seem not to work here, except vaguely in the area of katharsis and the less said about that the better.
But perhaps we shouldn't expect too much from Pornub.com as a narrative art. After all, even when they're paying for it, like a Minister's husband with a Sky Plus box, the viewing time is brief. How long, O Lord, how long? About twelve minutes (or inches, depending which side you're on).
But don't bother even looking. It's nasty, misogynistic, anatomically improbable, hideously normative of deviance (I'd hate to be a teenager now, frankly, in a world where 14-year-old girls wax themselves and give blowjobs, where boys think buggery is in the standard-issue sexual encounter), narrow-minded, narratively impoverished and unspeakably dull. One would be enough.
The technology of the internet was designed to stop us all being blown to buggery. Didn't work, did it?