They do WHAT with it?
December 23, 2010 8:09 PM   Subscribe

When did porn get so ... rough? (NSFW inside)

I came of age during a "golden age" of porn - Christie Canyon, a skinny Ron Jeremy - and haven't kept up with it. I have revisited it lately and ... my god. It is so rough now. Every scene has anal, there's something called ATM (ye gods), facials seem to be mandatory, and there's a lot of stuff that is VERY rough (gagging the women, general mean-spiritedness).

Are there one or more "tipping points" where this happened? For instance, with horror films, you can point to 3-4 lynchpin films that upped the ante and made the more intense stuff go mainstream. Also, on the horror film analogy: There's the notion out there that the roughness of horror films is often a mirror for what's going on in society at large (torture porn came around when American society was grappling with its own torture issues, for instance). Is there a similar analog for porn?
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (20 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

Max Hardcore (SFW wiki). Goolge more at your own risk.
posted by sanka at 8:14 PM on December 23, 2010

OMG I was just having this conversation with my husband last night. The new Brazzers stuff is really disturbing to me. I can't believe that kind of porn is mainstream now. I have been trying to figure out a cultural pattern as has just gotten ridiculous. This new porn is sex as violence, and not in the cool kinky bdsm way where everyone is consensual. Some of these videos are too close to real rape for my taste, especially when the actress is obviously from an eastern european country and clearly in pain.

If you figure out a larger cultural pattern, I'm all ears. In the meantime, you might want to check out more sensual stuff like (NSFW) and (NSFW).
posted by whimsicalnymph at 8:26 PM on December 23, 2010 [5 favorites]

Shit got weird. That's my contribution. Things got iffy, fast.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 8:28 PM on December 23, 2010 [6 favorites]

I was just reading "Big Red Son" earlier today, the opening essay of Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace. It's his account of attending the AVN Awards in 1998 -- somewhere around the middle he talks about the big shift in porn and the "gonzo" movement that's informed the porn of the now. Max Hardcore also features heavily in that essay. It's pretty interesting and enlightening reading, I'd recommend it. I couldn't find a copy of the whole thing online, but you could definitely get more info by checking out sanka's link to Max Hardcore's wikipedia page, or the Wikipedia entry for gonzo pornography, which is basically the style of porn you're describing.
posted by palomar at 8:35 PM on December 23, 2010 [7 favorites]

Shit got weird.

A combination of this and the fact that when the internets gave us the opportunity to view/download/participate in all the porn in the entire world at the touch of a few buttons, 24/7/365, we got seriously fucking jaded.
posted by elizardbits at 8:38 PM on December 23, 2010 [10 favorites]

My theory is that as homemade amateur porn became more popular and widespread (along with often being free and reasonably well-made) the commercial products have had to pander to the more extreme stuff to remain profitable.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:39 PM on December 23, 2010 [13 favorites]

My hypothesis is that porn has always been about the transgressive, the taboo. In the 20s, 30s, hell all the way up to the 60s and 70s, the idea that a woman could be sexually free and even assertive was the taboo. Now, though, we're finally starting to make some real inroads towards actual gender equality, the transgression is in brutalization and degradation.

So kind of it's a good thing.

Kind of.
posted by KathrynT at 8:52 PM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's worth remembering that there were some extremely hard-going porn films made in the 1970s and 80s - the so-called "roughies"; these were films which regularly portrayed rape, murder, torture, 'hard' incest, and so on, along with the sex. Worse in a lot of ways than what you're talking about. See Alpha Blue Archives for more.

I would say the current wave started in the mid-1990s or so with guys like Max Hardcore or Rocco Sifferelli. Films took the gonzo template (akin to reality porn, 'this really happening') and started pushing it. First, anal became common, then DP, spitting, ATM... Like anything else, people want to ratchet things up over time.

In addition, you had a backlash against the everybody-wears-condoms atmosphere of the late 80s and early 90s; unsafe sex became rebellious, risky, hot if you will. Combine that with the discovery made via the Internet that there's a viable market for extreme porn, a market which changed dramatically over a short time and you start to see how this shift came about.

Many porn stars were horrified when Max Hardcore and his ilk began to receive mainstream attention and awards; it wasn't unusual to find stars giving such a rise as a rationale for retiring in fact. Lots of porn fans too have been very put off by the new breed. The good news is that there's porn for every taste now, and plenty of non-aggressive stuff is being made by professionals (and amateurs) who love what they're doing.

Seek and ye shall find.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:59 PM on December 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

I tend to agree with Thorzdad. Portable cameras and the internet have made it easy to distribute plenty of straight-up videos of amateurs having sex on webcams, making home sex videos, or what have you. As a result, porn producers have had to move into niches that aren't being addressed by the general public. That means exploiting teenage girls, violence, or plain old degradation. As far as I can tell, the age of pretty porn (as in artistic big cinema porn) is over for good.
posted by Gilbert at 9:21 PM on December 23, 2010

Straight Dope: Is Porn Getting Nastier?
A Rough Trade (Guardian article by Martin Amis on the changing porn industry; previously posted on Mefi, I'm pretty sure) biography of Max Hardcore

The following have NSFW photos:
Tomás Švec presents 10 roughies: disturbing, extreme vintage porn of the 70’s and 80’s (a personal selection) (from Dennis Cooper's site)
Sadistic Seventies (catalogue from Alpha Blue Archives featuring many 1970s roughies)
Classic 1970s Roughies (Forbidden Video's catalogue of same)
posted by stinkycheese at 9:43 PM on December 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

Definitely over the last 10 years, at least in porn marketed towards straight guys, there's been a lot of misogyny and mean-spiritedness that's popped up.

The big tipping point I remember was the beginning of the "Bang Bus" guys- they'd drive around Florida looking for women to pick up for sex in their van, and they'd abandon them in strange parts of town. Though at this point it's all paid-for-porn stars playing the roles, the early stuff seemed exceedingly sketchy.

A couple of years after that, suddenly we've got stuff like choking people or on-screen acts of bulemia, and basically, a lot of stuff that's literally violent towards women.

I wonder, too, how much hentai has played a part in it- hentai is flooded with rape, abuse, and murder (not necessarily in that order...)

On the flipside of that, I've heard from some women that the popularity of the Twilight Series is that the vampire isn't pressuring the girl for sex, hence the fantastic escapism of it. (Mind you, he's completely a stalker, but maybe the Overton window is that far over that simply not pressuring for sex makes the rest of it irrelevant...)
posted by yeloson at 10:29 PM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

By the way OP, Christy Canyon was no stranger to the hard stuff. And Ron Jeremy not only made more than his fair share of the same, but wasn't always such a nice guy on set, according to some things I've read.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:31 PM on December 23, 2010

I found They Shoot Porn Stars Don't They a very helpful window on these issues. It is an utterly heartbreaking read.
posted by melissa may at 10:41 PM on December 23, 2010

When I was about 7 in the mid 70s, me and my friends found a stash of porn mags in some parents stuff. This wasn't the Playboy or Penthouse. It was hardcore. And quite diverse for a single publication consisting mostly of black and white photos, from straight penetration, to double, oral, homosexual depictions of the same stuff, SM involving whipping with extension cords and cigarette burns, scat play, which really blew our minds. Clearly some of this was the extreme end of the spectrum, and would still be today.

Today, it's so much easier to produce niche stuff. All it takes is a modicum of production values to create a name for oneself doing gonzo porn. And the gonzo stuff creates a spectacle, naturally attention drawing stuff. But it's not as if it's replacing other stuff. I have no trouble finding non gonzo porn. I just have more variety.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:51 PM on December 23, 2010

I see plenty of non violent porn, I have a feeling you are just seeing more violent stuff because *all* porn is much more accessible these days. Yes anal is much much much more common though.
posted by jockc at 11:02 PM on December 23, 2010

Porn has always been rough and transgressive. How many different ways did Zeus rape women? DeSade did not start writing in the 90's. Georges Bataille made a career discussing violence in our erotic imaginations.

I can certainly recall being a young kinkster in the dial up days of the internet. It was really quite difficult to find anything at all in a sea of normative sex. Now, there are porn studios that shoot exclusively for internet consumption in every flavor of the rainbow. Entire online communities have sprung up around very exclusive kinks; hence adult babies and furries being the butt of every dull joke on the internet.

The VHS market was very dependent upon mass consumption. But internet market thrives on catering to untapped niches. Which in turn allows casual kinksters to indulge every once in a while. The various worlds of porn bleed into each other so that a little choking on cock isn't the ZOMG it used to be and thus will find itself on sites with otherwise very vanilla porn.

Culturally I think we are also allowing ourselves to more openly explore our fantasies. Many kinks are no longer pathologized. Now you can still be a red-blooded American and *gasp* eat pussy.

You see, the internet is awesome not just because of MetaFilter.
posted by munchingzombie at 11:07 PM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't think the message is that porn has got rougher, it's just that there is just more content (by an order of magnitude) and more ways to view that content. I suspect that most porn "consumers" these days dial in to the content that appeals to their particular kink, and ignore the rest, including gonzo, if it isn't their thing.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:15 PM on December 23, 2010

I think it's a combination of porn being much easier to produce and much easier to distribute widely. And the internet means it's much easier to notice all the weird shit that's out there. Rule 34 and all that. There certainly does seem to be a lot of stuff featuring degradation of women but then there's also a lot of female domination stuff, some of which is pretty brutal. I also think the extreme stuff is there because of the "jaded" factor that elizardbits mentioned.
posted by Decani at 12:56 AM on December 24, 2010

My theory is that as homemade amateur porn became more popular and widespread (along with often being free and reasonably well-made) the commercial products have had to pander to the more extreme stuff to remain profitable.

As this and other posts address, it's this and the issues associated with it. The porn-consuming audience has skyrocketed, both on the casual monthly side and the serial gotta-catch-em-all side, because there's little or no cultural shame attached with doing it on the internet (mostly because it's easy and not hard to keep discreet.) That alone means the edges of the bell curve will grow in absolute numbers.

Then, as mentioned, the marketplace changes in response. If the average stuff is running free all over, the content producers have to focus on the motivated consumers who are looking for something in particular and are willing to pay for it--the niche audiences. And over time, a general desensitization occurs in the porn-consuming public. The regular porn consumer might not notice that much, or would just shrug it off as incremental change, or avoid the violence as a matter of course. In your case however, and in the case of just about any non-regular porn consumer, the change will come as a shock (as it did for you!)

We get used to what we see regularly. Given incremental change, it's no wonder that someone who has stepped away for a few years might be shocked by what they find upon return.
posted by Phyltre at 8:23 AM on December 24, 2010

Imho it's easy enough to point to a few niche markets on, or off, the internet and, say its always been that way (hello Italian Stallion ... wtf!?), but a recent study says overall porn is getting more aggressive compared to previous years.

I'd say the internet is partly to blame for driving the current trend.
posted by squeak at 8:27 AM on December 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

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