MAINSTREAMING: JOANNA ANGEL
Here’s what I’m into: Joanna Angel. I wanna get off to her and I wanna be her. Like me, she’s a petite, curvy, Jewess with pink streaks in her hair and an attitude to match her aesthetic. Fierce, educated and in control of her own image. Writer, producer, director, and starlet. Businesswoman. Most importantly, industry influencer. Back in my grad school days, I saw her at Audacia Ray’s Red Umbrella Diaries, a monthly storytelling event for sex workers held at Happy Ending Lounge. Yes, she’s even more adorbs and relatable in person. Didn’t realize there was gonna be a merch booth. My friend and I scraped together just enough money to fall a few dollars short of the cost of one Burning Angel DVD. Joanna was eager for two chicks to see her naked. She signed the cover in almost illegible scrawl: “Genie & Alana— C ma pussy bitches!”
Some aspects of the video (Joanna’s Angels 3: Douchebag Resurrection) are totally hot. First of all, the chicks are my style: cute, natural bods; tats, piercings, and punky colors. Under the category of alt porn or punk porn. Sweet. Also, Joanna is very vocal about how she wants the dudes to fuck her: Gives them feedback and orders them around. Delivers cleverly-written lines. Actively participates. Still there are many unpleasant remnants of the mainstream: Over-groomed vaginas, purposely gaggy blowjobs, fake noises, big penises, porno dudes. You get the impression that Joanna likes it but is largely faking it to extend footage.
Then there is the excess of anal. Which I find somewhat confounding. For the record, I used to almost exclusively watch gay porn and for a few years I had to stick medicine up my butt every night. I’m no poop chute prude. But I also don’t need every scene to end up the butt. So, I wonder, does she just love taking it up the ass? Are her films her fantasies? Or is there some expectation that alt porn will be especially edgy, gritty, literally filthy? In a sense, she is mainstreaming the extreme. (Once my GI tried to convince me that anal is the extreme sport of sexing). In the spirit of the chicken or the egg, is Joanna supplying to meet preexisting demand, or does exposure condition desire? Ultimately, regardless of whether her fantasy is depicted and regardless of the degree of control she has over its reception, she is selling an image. Consciously distributing films laden with certain content. Influencing culture.
Are we responsible for the culture we create? Are we more or less morally accountable if it is classified as a counter-culture? Is it better to be inflexible or to submit a watered-down message with the potential to reach more people? Perhaps we can analyze this with the same criteria we’d use to assess a candidate who moves closer to the middle during a general election. Or maybe Joanna just loves taking it up the ass. Watching one of her scenes, I admired balls smacking against her vag while she was being fucked up the ass, and I felt wistful for the days when I craved ball—asshole smackage while getting fucked up the front. Grabbing the guy’s ass and shoving him in me ballls deep. DEEPER.
For sure, it is positive to have a role model who embraces and explores her sexuality shame-free. Who mainstreams sex and elevates stigmatized acts such that they are no longer closeted, such that they are deemed worthy of inclusion in the cultural vernacular and subject to debate. Exposing the world to offbeat practices can serve as implicit approval for a plethora of preferences. It is better for people to worry about not meeting sexual expectations (in the event that kinky sex is presented as the norm) than for them to worry about whether their desire is legitimate (in the event that missionary position P-in-V with no external clitoral stim is presented as the be-all and end-all). Specific sexual acts aside, Joanna Angel is challenging gender norms in communication by modeling ENTHUSIASTIC consent. For that, I applaud her.
And one more special question to go and then I’m done and I can go home. ATM: who is that for and what finishing school did they go to? Never would I ever put my ass in my mouth, and I have handled my own vom-shit many, many times out of medical necessity. The one time I had a tongue up my ass, I was awfully grateful that the guy did not expect me to kiss him afterwards. Cum swapping: yes, please. Shit swapping: no thank you! Do guys really think, “Lick your ass off of my dick, giggity giggity, yeah!”
How can I claim an alternative and marginalized position while my own body, gender presentation, and beauty aesthetic reinforces stereotypes for some viewers? I struggle to blaze a trail for women while accepting my own whiteness and privilege. I “get” to be in porn, to raise my conceptual first to the mainstream because I am close enough to the mainstream to even be let inside in the first place. This has been a bitter pill to swallow, but it reminds me that the deeper work of change to the representation of women in porn has to occur beyond me.
–Dylan Ryan, How I Became a Feminist Porn Star
The most fucked up part of sexual storytelling is that when I speak of sex, it’s a jaw-floor moment for my spectators. I’m a spectacle. And I’m, like, tame. French vanilla. A connoisseur of casual kink; a hobbyist, otherwise. So my sexual proclivities need to be concealed, WHY? Through disclosure, I can chip away at the standard, but I can’t snap it in half.
In a sense, I am the standard. Every prototypical guy’s wet dream. It doesn’t gross people out to think of me naked because I’m cute. My socio-economic and educational privilege protect me from being grossly devalued. I’m viewed as enlightened rather than trashy. Liberated rather than a slave to a stacked system. As if my body is worth more than anyone else’s because critical analysis prevails over base impulse. As if bodies are somehow sacred, not merely casing that holds our brains and allows us to entwine.
“How about this: Aren’t we part object? Isn’t there a part of us made out of stuff? What’s so wrong with appreciating that aspect of ourselves? Why is that “dehumanizing”? I’m not sure why you think bodies are such an unimportant part of being alive… Matters of the heart are just matter. We’re biological robots. But you’re not complaining about that. Shouldn’t you be complaining to the neuroscientists and biologists about objectification?”
–Conner Habib, What I Want to Know Is Why You Hate Porn Stars
It’s so funny (not ‘ha ha’ funny; utterly bizarre) to use the word ‘mainstreaming’ to describe making sex mundane. It’s like referring to women as a ‘minority’ or a ‘special interest group.’ Sex is ubiquitous. The end. People like it different ways. Deal with it.