Porn for Women

When I hear that phrase, I usually think of the mom in Disney’s Mary Poppins who chants “Votes for Women!” but instead she goes “Porn for Women!” Just think about it. It scans.

So there’s this book out from the “Cambridge Women’s Pornography Collective” called Porn for Women. The foreword to the book says

We asked young women, old women, rich and poor, “what really, really gets you hot?” Armed with our findings, we then locked ourselves in CWPC laboratories and worked day and night to create Porn for Women –porn unlike any porn you’ve seen before. It’s so provocative, so incendiary, that we advise each of our readers to find a safe place to sit down before opening these pages.

Prepare to enter our fantasy world, girls (or guys who want to learn something): a world where clothes get folded just so, delicious dinners await us at home, and flatulence is just not that funny.

This is one of the images you will find in Porn for Women.

*eye roll*

This is a bit better for hot factor. The dude’s kind of cute.

This is cute. And problematic.

This is hella better.

Is anyone looking at the vacuum? Really?

The book is tongue in cheek. I think. It would still piss me off as a Valentine’s Day gift. And xkcd agrees with me. (Warning, bad word.)

Seriously, as I’ve already explored, Freud wasn’t the only guy who didn’t understand female sexuality. Yes, women are often characterized as being more romantic than men. In theory, there are supposed to be evolutionary reasons for that. Women get pregnant, so it helps to have stability and support during that process. But that’s not necessarily always the case. Just as there are men who don’t want children, there are women who don’t. There are women and men who don’t want to get married. There are men and women who enjoy house cleaning.

And now 30 Rock is in on the action. In this sharp episode, the hilarious and sweet Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon, The Queen, and Twilight: New Moon *rolls eyes*) plays Wesley Snipes (a tool-ish British dude, not the lead in Blade.) He and Liz Lemon have each other listed in their phones as “Future Wife” and “Future Husband” after a visit to the dentist’s office for surgery. It turns out they have exactly no chemistry. Wesley has a strange way with words. He calls his bike a “foot cycle.” He likes Scottish white wines. They keep running into each other, like the universe is pushing them together. Wesley believes that the universe is telling them that they have to settle for each other.

The whole episode centers on this question of settling. Tracey is exposed as a happily married man who can’t manage to sleep with anyone but his wife. (This is a problem because his public persona centers on adultery.) Jack is figuring out whether he’s got to settle for lesser career ambitions. After Liz asks Jack to help her figure out what to do, and he doesn’t really want to listen, he develops “Porn for Women,” where attractive men will “just listen” to you and “say stuff like ‘uh huh’ and ‘that’s annoying.'” The episode ends with Liz ordering some “Porn for Women.” Liz, Jack, and Tracey end up refusing to settle, even though Wesley tells Liz she’ll give in in a few months. In typical 30 Rock lamp-shading mode he says “I’ll see you for sweeps. That’s what we call spring cleaning in England.”

My friend Kendra and I were trying to decide together whether the episode was problematic or not. Partially because I really trust Tina Fey, I’m voting it’s just really spot on satire. In fact, the idea of Porn for Women being men listening to and understanding them is a lot less offensive than the housecleaning Porn for Women. Emotional intimacy is sexy, and that’s really what romantic love is about. Without the Tracey storyline, I’d be unsure if 30 Rock was suggesting that Liz was being a pathetic single lady, but with Tracey you’ve got the suggestion of romance as a viable possibility. I really admire the nuance of this episode because you find yourself cheering for the pairing of Wesley and Liz because it sets up the romantic comedy expectations so effectively. Then you realize that they’re not good for each other. And you want Liz to be happy, but you also realize that single and neutral is better than settled and miserable.

In fact, when you’re single and neutral, you can order whatever kind of “Porn for Women” you want, whether it’s 30 Rock, housecleaning, erotic fan fiction, Brokeback Mountain, or, (God forbid!) actual pornography.

Well done, Sister Suffragette.

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2 thoughts on “Porn for Women

  1. Hey,

    If “Porn for Women” book was trying to convey the romance of daily domesticity and caring, I would not turned off by its tacky offensiveness. Bill Holm’s “Wedding Poem for Schele and Phil” does the domestic-and-caring shtick well:

    But the dark secret of the ones long married,
    A pleasure never mentioned to the young,
    Is the sweet heat made from two bodies in a bed
    Curled together on a winter night,
    The smell of the other always in the quilt,
    The hand set quietly on the other’s flank
    That carries news from another world
    Light-years away from the one inside
    That you always thought you inhabited alone.
    The heat in that hand could melt a stone.

    http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2003/05/22

    For me, this stanza is *hot*; perhaps because it confirms that hard relationship-work is worth it in subtle and beautiful ways. If the “Porn for Women” book was less snarky, less anti-men, made fewer assumptions about its reader’s peeves and turn-ons, the subject matter would be fine.

    It’s the spin, not the hotties to blame.

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