This morning – by which I mean this evening, because a night of paper-writing has confused my sleep schedule – I read the new XKCD, as I do every Monday, and found myself confused. This was, of course, because I’d mercifully never been exposed to the horrors of Porn for Women. Ashley directed me to this recent Happy Bodies post, and I was on my way. So: what is Porn for Women? The easiest answer is, It’s really, really stupid. It’s a website that assumes that the biggest turn-on for women is, to quote Randall Munroe, “hot, clothed guys cooking, doing laundry, and vacuuming.” And has lots and lots of pictures and captions about exactly that.
Where to start talking about what’s wrong with this picture? Usually, it wouldn’t be worth wasting time over, except that it’s a nice little object lesson in the stranglehold of absolutist gender roles. Ostensibly “reclaim[ing pornography] for the rest of us,” it’s 1) not actual pornography, unless you have some extremely specific fetishes and 2) full of generalization, after generalization, after generalization. Also, can you say condescending? God, it’s like one giant jewelry commercial! The smug, obnoxious expressions on these men’s faces practically scream, “You’re a woman, so you’re really easy to please and flatter!” Christ, it’s called “Porn for Women,” not “Porn for Lobotomy Patients”!
Let’s take a quick look at some of the nausea-inspiring imagery this site provides.
God, fighting preordained gender roles is such an uphill battle. This website is ostensibly showing how men should act toward women, but their suggested course of action is to treat all women like perpetually pregnant, dainty, retarded flowers, all the time. Also, from the way he’s looking up from his coffee, it looks like the woman in question has just stumbled out of bed. Maybe there’s some sort of Stepford Wives ruse going on here? Or maybe this is Coraline 2, and he’s the Other Husband? Did I already say, “Can you say condescending?” Because… condescending!
The way this is written and designed, it feels like the creators of this website didn’t think women wanted men to treat them well so much as behave like they’re totally emasculated. This isn’t porn for women. It looks more like a mid-’70s Mad Magazine cartoon about the effects of Women’s Lib. Something else that angers me about this website: it assumes a proper course of action for men in relationships with women, based on yet more assumptions about what women like. It also treats men who follow these guidelines like they’re doing something heroic. “Wow, listening to your significant other’s desires or interests? You deserve a gold star!”
Hell, I wouldn’t want to go “NFL playoffs” in the first place, but I wouldn’t particularly want to go to a crafts fair either. And what if the woman who this “porn” is being directed at doesn’t like crafts fairs? Too bad, because she’s a woman? And what about the postcard where the shirtless man says, “As soon as I finish the laundry, I’ll do the grocery shopping. And I’ll take the kids with me so you can relax”? Wouldn’t it be a little more pornographic if the shirtless man said he’d drop the children off somewhere so they can “relax” together? But far be it from me to question Porn for Women’s universal applicability to all women.
If you see fit to visit the website, don’t miss their quiz. Each question has three totally transparent options, which amount to 1) he’s a housework-doing, gift-buying demigod, 2) he’s flawed, and 3) he’s a narcissistic, puerile troglodyte. Because it’s not like men behave different ways at different times. As if they’re, oh, people. Yet despite how little actual humanity this website tolerates in men, it’s funny how man-centric is. The emphasis is entirely on the man (’cause God knows lesbians don’t exist!) performing all these selfless acts, with the assumption that the passive female watching him will experience pleasure. These “pornographic” men are so insistently thoughtful and generous that it’s oppressive. Because isn’t that what women want? A grinning, chore-loving family man who’s dead inside?
Normally a website like this wouldn’t be worth as much attention as I’m giving it, but I think it’s a great example of how obnoxiously restrictive so many conventional views of gender are. Either he’s a normal man, or he’s this nonexistent “porn star” dream man who wants to do housework and cook! Though he still doesn’t care what you think. Oh, God, no. Could you imagine that? Like a man and woman, talking to each other about their own thoughts and feelings, communicating what they want through language? That’d be too much. Instead, men wishing to please their women should toss on an apron, light a scented candle, and throw that woman in the bath while you fix something with an Italian name. Also, tell her how much you care about her. Forced kindness is the key to every woman’s heart. (Because their locks are all exactly the same. And unlocking them means they have sex with you.)
Note: for actual porn for women (and men and queers and whomever) please feel free to click any of the options in the Alt Smut section of the blogroll. —>