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ONLINE VIDEO: Porn 2.0 September 22, 2008

Posted by Aymar Jean Christian in Uncategorized.
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Porn 2.0

By Aymar Jean Christian

Talking about porn is like talking about money. In America, it just isn’t done. So it’s a special day in life of every boy—and some girls’—when one day a friend pulls you aside and asks: “have you heard of XTube?”

Or YouPorn, YouPornGay, RedTube, Pornotube, Pornhub, Megarotic, Spankwire, TNAFlix, even DList, well, you get the idea.

What are these sites? If you don’t have friends like mine, then maybe you haven’t heard of the newest wave in porn, or Porn 2.0 as it’s being called. It’s YouTube but hardcore, Vimeo uncensored, and it’s become extraordinarily popular. Some of the sites attract about as many monthly viewers as popular news sites like WashingtonPost.com, and by my count the top six sites get as many eyes as CNN.com (27 million), though far less than the smut-free YouTube (75 million). That’s pretty impressive for a bunch of sites that have few outlets for advertising. Most people find out about them during indecent conversations with friends or lovers, samizdat-style, the same way porn’s been historically disseminated.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been living in a cave. These sites aren’t that new. They started getting noticed in the second half of 2006, according to Fleshbot, who’s been documenting the trend with diligence. They grew quickly in 2007. Now in 2008 it seems like it’s past the trend stage and become a staple of porn consumption.

XTube is, in my view, the best of the sites, even though it’s not the most popular. It is the perfect synthesis of what the Internet means today: connecting with others, generating your own material and, in some cases, profiting off that material. Of the top 25 XTube videos viewed recently, only three were clearly “industry” porn, the rest were uploaded by less (financially) endowed individuals. The top five videos have gathered a collective 25 million views, and only one of those was professional. Amateur porn has been around since the home video, but until now most of it has been confined to industrious entrepreneurs with lots of time to market and distribute. Now distribution is easier, the audience bigger and more eager to watch. Amateurs can actually sell their videos online for a few bucks on XTube. Those homemade sex tapes have become a business venture.

That’s because today—correct me if I’m wrong—people are yearning for authentic, sincere experiences. XTube allows people to create profiles, make friends, comment on videos, and subscribe to channels just like YouTube. And most comments are celebratory, a pat on the back for someone else’s good fuck. Sure, production quality isn’t always fantastic, and while some of the most popular videos on XTube will never win awards, they are visceral and raw (yes, very often not “safe” in the traditional sense). Some are sloppy—in real life things don’t always slip in as easily as with professionals! Most of the sets are dull—no posh couches and fantastic lighting. But you get the sense that the aches and groans are genuine, and that makes it hot.

Of course part of the appeal is that it’s fast. Remember the days of getting porn off P2P networks like KaZaA? Waiting 30 minutes for a download could really kill a hankering. No longer. Porn 2.0 sites promise thrills in seconds.

One of the greatest pleasures, besides the obvious one, of these sites is the chance to encounter something new. XTube has a fairly open door policy. There are fat people, ethnic people, old people, fisters, gay people, bi people, ugly people, hot people, S&M people, self-suck fetishists, dildo-play lovers, etc. all one site. Community sites like Ning, which hosts all sorts of communities have flourished by offering people with specific tastes a venue to share videos. (A large part of Ning’s four million regular viewers partake in porn). Porn on the web used to be quite segregated. If you wanted interracial porn you went to this or that site, straight porn at this site, twinks at this site, silver daddies at another one. But many of those sites dump short clips of their videos onto porn 2.0 portals like Redtube and YouPorn. The industry does it for promotion, to drive subscriptions. But for cheap people like myself, a 30-second to one-minute clip is all that’s necessary! You know what I’m saying!

All these sites constitute a profound development in the history of film and porn. Yes, porn is still, mostly, a solitary act, but these sites tell us that we all like sex—all sorts of us—and it’s all okay. It connects us through intimate networks. In the early 20th century, porn entrepreneurs would travel from town to town with a projector, round up interested men, and they would watch it together. Things have come full circle, and we’re all watching each other get off. It’s time to be honest about it.

FILM: Leave The Women Alone! September 16, 2008

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Leave The Women Alone!

The Women is being misunderstood as some kind of feminist tract, as if there was room for only one definition of womanhood in the world.


The Women (1939) starts by introducing its characters with a picture of the animal each represents. A fawn as Mary, the everywoman; a cat for Sylvia the gossip; a tiger for Crystal the mistress, etc. That’s right, women as animals. Feminists unite in rage!

The Women (2008) starts with a montage of shoes walking on the New York city streets, stilettos, flats and clogs—mostly stilettos, in flashy styles—the whole thing very “Lipstick Jungle,” very Sex and the City, very Nine to Five, now such a cliché. But that’s right, women as shoes. Feminists unite in rage!

Like every movie with a female in it, there’s much for feminists to attack about the new version of The Women, out this week. It’s hard to be a staunch feminist these days. The word is dirtier than “liberal,” even though Sarah Palin has Republicans blurting it out like they have Tourette’s and a lifelong addiction to amphetamines. Feminists have a lot to gripe about. They (we) always have. But it’s an increasingly challenging position to hold. Most feminists would watch The Women—old and new—and cringe, writhe and twitch their way through the entire male-gazing bitchfest. That is, if they even see it all. I did, this weekend, and it was all right. I liked the shoes!

It’s hard to be a feminist because, well, no one really knows what a woman should be. Talking down to housewifery hasn’t been all too successful. Recent reports of women with Harvard degrees becoming stay-at-home moms have feminist professors running in circles, panties in a bunch. And several books have come out making very rational arguments as to why a woman—particularly middle class women—might actually forsake a career for life on the sofa. Yet some women do manage careers and balance children and marriage well, like my mom, and still some do it poorly and need government help. Yet even working moms want men, or other women, talk about their relationships endlessly.

Ah! So many damn choices! Which one is the right one? No wonder The Women ’08 feels all over the place. George Cukor’s 1939 classic benefitted from a sharp, misogynistic focus: all women want men and nothing else. The tagline for the movie makes it plain: “It’s all about men!” (Gloria Steinem just slit her wrists). We have these women figured out before they open their mouths. Only two characters have even a hint of a career—Nancy, an old maid and likely lesbian who writes novels, and Sylvia, who writes a column—and we never really hear about those jobs. Instead gossip is their trade and men are their product, a product the audience never sees but is highly valuable. If the 1939 version did anything for feminism it objectified men by cutting them out of the movie. Castrating them, if you will.

The new Women cuts out men as well. They are nowhere to be seen, and to its credit, the new one builds on the old plot, adding some penis-less dialogue here and there. We actually get to know about some of their careers and aspirations, even if they are the-all-too obvious “magazine editor” and “fashion designer.” But the bar wasn’t high for Diane English’s new flick. The old Women showed female in a terribly male-dependent light, with aneurysm-inducing lines like “Pride…is more than a married woman can afford,” said by the main character after she goes running back to her husband, literally dashing to the camera! In 1939, marriage was success, divorce failure and a career a non-issue or meaningless luxury.

What to do with all this history and baggage? How do we makes sense of Sex and the City, Devil Wears Prada, The Women and all the other recent movies where women want men, kids, careers, marriages, designer shoes, luxury bags and respect for all those choices?

The new Women has an answer to all the feminists: “I don’t want to have it all. I just want a piece of it all.” Having it all takes too much work, Mary Haines (Meg Ryan) says. Well, this isn’t new. This has been the conventional wisdom for about 30 years. In 1987’s Baby Boom, Diane Keaton plays the traditional high-powered businessperson with kids who can’t seem to have it all. Until, in the end, she finds a way to make it work for her: no world domination, no housewifery, something in-between.

In the real world, women make these compromises all the time. So do men, though their choices aren’t framed as compromises. Critics, feminists and everyone else hate on movies like The Women because they assume these movies are telling women how to live and belittling them in the process. I think Diane English would probably say to the men, feminists and everyone else: leave us alone!

No wonder the title song for the movie is Duffy’s “Mercy“: “I’m begging you for mercy! Why won’t you release me? I said you better release me!””

FILM: Milk! September 5, 2008

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Gus Van Sant's Milk

Milk is here! I’ll forgive Gus Van Sant the obvious semen joke (will Middle America get it? Will Middle America see the movie?) The film looks delicious.Van Sant was smart enough to find hot actors to play the leads — he knows his base…why do you think Brokeback did so well? The studio is marketing it as a political romp, for those ignorant to the fact that it ends badly. One question: why did he use the same Baroque choral standard in the trailer that HBO used for Angels in America? Was it deliberate, trying to latch to one of the few good gay movies out there? It worked for me, now I really want to see it (but then again I always see the new Van Sant)