I recently spoke to Jennifer Swann at MEL Magazine about a number of things, namely the use of genitalia referents in porn. Our correspondence did not make the piece, though many of the relevant themes did!

You can read Jennifer’s piece on MEL here — “Porn Stars Are Trying to Make ‘Pussy’ Great Again” (1/17/17) — and our full correspondence below.

JS: As a sociologist, what effect do you think that politics and political rhetoric has on couples’ sex lives, if at all?

DrCT: Politics are one of the strongest and diverse social forces shaping human culture, and these forces can manifest in a variety of ways. In terms the contemporary US political climate and people’s sex lives, I would expect the impact to be across the board – fiery sexual stimulation as people celebrate wins or hate-fucking their politically discordant partners, sex for comfort or as an attempt to mitigate despair, a total sexual shut down – the iterations are endless. The simple fact is that something as emotionally charged as politics, especially during this particular election cycle in the U.S., is going to have an impact.

 

JS: For example, I wonder about how private citizens’ behavior in the bedroom may have changed after Donald Trump’s “grab them by the pussy” comments. Of course there’s no data on this, but I wonder, for example, if that might change people’s associations with the word “pussy” and trigger a change in sexual behavior and/or personal relationships. 

DrCT: It’s possible that Trump’s use of the word “pussy” (in context) may have caused some people change their behavior surrounding the word. Some people may have decided to refrain from using the word themselves as a result. I noticed many people doing the exact opposite though – enthusiastically reclaiming “pussy,” using it that much more frequently and openly, putting it on T-shirts and in avatars, etc, much like what people did with “nasty woman.”

 

JS: Is there any sort of precedent that you can think of for the type of election we just experienced — in which, for example, a candidate has talked openly about sex, attraction, relationships, etc — and if so, how do you think it has influenced the national discourse on those issues? For better or worse? 

DrCT: Though no comparable example in terms of intensity during a presidential election comes to mind, sex scandals in politics are basically the norm at this point. And as every corner of our lives seem to become increasingly monitored, I imagine this pattern is not going to go away.

 

JS: Do you think there will ever be a more popular word (or has there ever been) for female genitalia? Why does it seem like there are so many more words to describe male genitalia, particularly in adult media as opposed to clinical research?  

DrCT: I have not observed these same patterns, especially not in adult media. Though if you search extensively enough, you can certainly find a litany of different refrains for all different genitalia, pussy and cock seem to be the overwhelming frontrunners in contemporary porn.

 

JS: How has porn historically explored politics and political issues? I’m thinking about the countless porn parodies including ones involving Trump and Obama caricatures, and I’m wondering if there’s anything you might add about the connection between our sex (and fantasy) lives and the people we elect into office.

DrCT: There have been a few political satires in porn over the years – in my opinion, the best is Goodnight Media’s Here Cums the President (2011), in which an older George Washington character reflects on five vignette scenarios featuring a young George Washington, FDR, JFK, LBJ, and Richard Nixon respectively. The Nailin’ Palin (also Paylin) films – there are six, I believe – have their own cultural significance, and there are a few others. But truthfully, in terms of parodies that overly engage real life political figures, there really aren’t all that many. Those that do exist capitalize on what’s appealing about parody porn overall though – a recognizable figure or narrative with a sexy twist/tie in thrown in. It’s another mode by which people are able to connect with the real purpose of porn, which is sexual stimulation and fantasy.

In porn, in terms of content, the truly political work comes out of queer porn. This is where you see filmmakers and performers challenging wider social narratives around everything from sex and gender to housing and mental health. Certainly there are radical messages in content produced outside this genre, but queer porn in my assessment is essentially necessarily political.

(pictured: image via MEL)

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Got a sociology question? Need some social justice informed life advice? Contact Dr. Chauntelle right here.

Get Exposure: A Sociologist Explores Sex, Society, and Adult Entertainment on Amazon and CT.com.

One thought on “Making “Pussy” Great Again (lost commentary for MEL Magazine)

  • February 9, 2017 at 3:31 am
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    Words being windows into the universe and sex being a window into awesome human interaction means that the words we have to open up experience are all so important! In pornography, we focus on the parts that make sex possible and so we need words that intensify focus. The gynecologist doesn’t examine a “pussy”, the gynecologist examines a “vagina” eventhough a vagina is a pussy. Politics is supposed to be about “vaginas”, “reproductive rights”, and “women” -not- “pussies”, “fucking”, and “nasty women”. This election season we had a crossover and suddenly “pussy” was on the national stage. As much outrage as it produced, it also seems to have normalized the term and many people were much more comfortable with pussies and even used them to get politician agendas across. Maybe society is getting tired of vaginas and wants to get more comfortable with pussies? Porn then would be the advant garde of pussy!

    Reply

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