Wayyy back in June of this year, I corresponded with a writer named Amélie Quentel. Quentel was working on a story about fauxcest for Les Inrockuptibles, a “French magazine that deals with cultural and social issues. Apparently, the final piece was published on July 25th and is located behind a pay wall — bummer that I just discovered this!
(In spite of multiple requests, the writer never let me know the piece had published, which is frustrating. This is part of the reason I keep track of my commentary and contributions the way I do though. All this effort will get lost in the ethers otherwise!)
Quentel’s lede reads: “Dernière mode en matière de X, le fauxcest exciterait en jouant avec l’ultime tabou. Comment expliquer cette fascination pour les mises en scène incestueuses?” — which basically amounts to Is this a trend? How do we explain it?
As per usual, my full commentary to the writer is copied below — enjoy!
Amélie Quentel: What would be your definition of “faux-cest” porn?
DrCT: Faux-cest porn, also often referred to as family roleplay, is content that dances around themes of family members engaged in sex scenarios, but does not engage actual incest. So, for instance, sex between step-siblings (not blood siblings) or sex between step-mothers and step-sons (not actual parent/child).
Faux-cest is often conveyed by one or more of the following: titling (e.g. it says, “step something or other” in the title), an overt disclaimer somewhere in the film (e.g. there is a note at the beginning of a film or scene that says something that conveys “these are not blood relations”), and/or context of conversation or staging in scene itself (e.g. dialogue may say something like “My step-dad is so hot…” or something).
This all comes in addition to the fact that none of the performers working together are blood-related.
AQ: I read in an interview of yours for Vice that, according to you, the stats don’t show an increase of ‘incest porn’ as such, but rather a “rapid growth” in “faux-cest porn.” What difference do you make between “incest porn” and “faux-cest porn”?
DrCT: Incest porn would be content that taps directly into incest themes or depictions — for instance, “My mom’s blah blah” versus “My step-mom’s blah blah” – and/or does not feature any of the additional disclaimers discussed in the first question.
It’s important to remember too that even in instances of something that could be considered actual incest porn, we are still dealing with performers that are actors – not actual family members or relations.
AQ: “Faux-cest porn” isn’t new at all, but we’ve seen an increase of its consumption and production. How do you explain this increase?
DrCT: Well, production just corresponds with consumption. People making porn are making porn that viewers want to see. If there is a demand for content, then that content will get made. This includes faux-cest.
In terms of increases in public demand, it’s likely a combination of factors. Interest in the content has been around for decades if you look at production history. Today, everything from accessibility via the internet (which is augmented by tube site piracy – that’s more stealing than it is accessibility though) to people finding precise keywords drives demand and production.
AQ: Why do you think there is this attraction for that kind of porn? Would it be because incest is generally seen as “taboo”?
DrCT: That might be part of it, but because faux-cest is not actually talking about incest, I would say it’s dancing around a social more (a more is like a very intense norm, not as strong as a taboo though).
In Western cultures, incest is fairly taboo, but what may be a large part of what makes incest taboo (blood relations) is eradicated with faux-cest. As such, what you are left with is a highly charged type of fantasy intimacy – people who could have been sexual partners under different circumstances in circumstances that are close, but off limits.
AQ: Btw, simple question: Why is incest originally considered as taboo?
DrCT: That’s actually not a simple question at all! There is a long anthropological and social history that can explain that from multiple angles (for instance, building community populations and such). It’s important to remember though that incest as we may understand it is not universally taboo though, nor is it universally taboo over time.
AQ: Opponents of porn movies often say that watching porn could influence people’s behavior and sexuality in real life — and this, in a bad way. One could have the same reasoning for faux-cest porn. What do you think of these criticisms, especially the one related to faux-cest porn?
DrCT: These types of critiques have been levied against any and every type of art since the inception of human social expression. Heavy metal music makes people Satanists! Smart books making ladies think! Etc etc. We can look at thess types of criticisms skeptically though because we as a society have a fairly developed context for and understanding of things like music or books or mainstream film. Porn though, not so much.
Couple our wider social lack of understanding about porn production in general with sex phobia and terrible, lacking sex education, and you most certainly get a social context where some people may look at porn as an instructive (versus fantasy) device. Young people accessing content that is not intended for young viewers and viewers with no critical context taking porn as instructive material is an especially distressing issue that seems to be very real in today’s world.
Blaming this issue on adult content, however, is a false flag. Rather than dealing with any one of the real causal issues, the idea of “censoring porn will stop behavior” is off mark.
AQ: Taboos can differ a little bit, regarding the country, even though incest is generally considered as a huge one. Would you say that the attraction for faux-cest porn could be different according the place where the people live and watch it? For instance, I read in your interview for Vice that you were saying that, in America, the attraction was different from one state to another and that the popularity of such porn was greater in “states that are a bit more on the sexually repressive side.” Could the original culture, religion or education could have an influence on the attraction of people for this kind of porn?
DrCT: Absolutely. Culture, which can vary by geography and era, among many other factors, is a huge influencer when it comes to what individuals may consider desirable. Further, repressive social contexts may certainly heighten people’s interests in anything, or may cause them to find a proxy item or issue to replace whatever is being repressed. So, for instance, in places where porn was historically more difficult to access, you find heightened interest when a work-around is presented.
AQ: Do you think that mainstream movies and series in pop culture dealing with incest — “Game of Thrones,” for instance — have an influence on this phenomenon? Or, would it be the contrary – that mainstream movies influence porn?
DrCT: Maybe and both. “Game of Thrones,” though faux-cest in the sense that the actors are not related, jumps way over any line you will ever see depicted regularly in porn. Not just family members, but siblings. Not just siblings, but twins! It can’t get more taboo than that, yet people don’t bat an eye.
In terms of influence, porn has created parodies of mainstream narratives, including “Game of Thrones,” but I don’t see the level of outright incest portrayed in that program reflected in any considerable way in porn. The “off limits but not outright taboo” nature of faux-cest is something different that what we are seeing in that show.
AQ: Would you say that by working on faux-cest porn, the porn industry has reached our last taboo, or can it still reinvent itself and find a bigger one?
DrCT: Sexuality is endlessly diverse, and what we consider “shocking” varies over time and by place in the world. So no, I don’t think we as a culture have reached the end of what some may find shocking or uncomfortable.
Image of text in a French dictionary via Vullioud Pierre-André.
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