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December 29, 2011 7:06 PM   Subscribe

My Hard-Core Obsession (NSFW Text). Writer and frequent This American Life contributor Shalom Auslander for GQ on hardcore pornography, obsession, shame, self-loathing and the subjectivism of thinking too much.
posted by Apropos of Something (42 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
NSFW text AND image.
posted by bleep at 7:16 PM on December 29, 2011


Somehow I read his stuff I never like him much but I'm always interested. This the same.
posted by Diablevert at 7:25 PM on December 29, 2011


It's funny that he feels shame about liking to see women being submissive but then he takes away their agency by assuming they're all fucked up and they couldn't possibly enjoy it.
posted by desjardins at 7:30 PM on December 29, 2011 [23 favorites]


I wondered if the founders of Google knew they were contributing to an exploitative, misogynistic industry that lets strange men watch this woman do these strange things.

Hmm..
posted by vidur at 7:35 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Layla Rivera thinks I think too much.

What do you know, Layla Rivera and I agree on something. Shalom Auslander is a good writer, but I guess I'd be more interested if he wrote about someone other than Shalom Auslander occasionally.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:35 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


desjardins: Isn't that kind of the point? The assumption seems to be built into the fantasy... I don't think many people watch the hardcore stuff and think "Wow, it's hot how much she enjoys getting pissed on." The shame seems to come from the idea of getting off to something that's presented as less-than-consensual, even if that's not actually the case.
posted by Misunderestimated at 7:36 PM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Hello Foreigner" is a great name.
posted by Seiten Taisei at 7:36 PM on December 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


I just wanna say that his name means "Peace, Foreigner" in Hebrew and German.

That is all.
posted by Avenger at 7:36 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Damn. My new name is "Crap, Did It Again" in Swahili and Finnish.
posted by Avenger at 7:38 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Auslander is overthinking this. I have never seen so much overthinking in a single serving. In fact, I think I might need to check my blood glucose level. Hint dude, check your self-loathing at the door before you start writing.

People like to look at images of things that they would never really want to do themselves. MY SECRET GARDEN people. AM I THE ONLY MAN WHO EVER FUCKING READ MY SECRET GARDEN?

Max and Khan are amateurs. Brent Scott did stuff to women that those idiots never even fucking dreamed about, and if you look at the documentary Graphic Sexual Horror you will see a backdrop level of consent forms and recorded interviews, double-checking, safe words, and general concern about the safety and well-being of the models that these idiots are still going DUH about. And that's even after you realize what an asshole Brent was with the fucking the models and firing them if they used their safewords thing.

Look, you like images of a certain type, it's not hard to find them well faked. Max mostly did that. Khan wasn't faking, and that is bad. Brent Scott did much worse looking much better in terms of what his models experienced, and well enough that a lot of what he did squicks me. But I know there were controls in place and even if a model was hanging by her neck while standing on an ice cube, it wasn't going to really end badly. (Insurance: The collar was really really wide, for sound physiological reasons.)

Stop asking for it not to work. It's not ever gonna stop working. It doesn't work like that. Find sources of actualization that aren't really RL violent. And assholes that get squicked, stop keeping idiots like Auslander scared of their porn because I'd really rather he get his double extreme penetration fantasy fix from someone who's trained and getting paid than from someone he assaults because he can't stand it any more.
posted by localroger at 7:41 PM on December 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


OK, I'm just a porn-for-fun guy, but I'm wondering: how much of porn is degrading and sadomasochistic and as such, changing men's perception of sex? The porn I see is mostly just regular sex (although with a heavy emphasis on fellatio - duh). This is an argument I have never had an interest in, because I haven't seen porn change in forty years. It's just suck and fuck. Am I missing something?
posted by kozad at 7:45 PM on December 29, 2011


Well, Woody Allen will be relieved to learn he still doesn't have any competion on the sex-and-self-loathing shtick.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:47 PM on December 29, 2011


It's a little strange that for all the overthinking Mr. Auslander says he does, and for all the navel-gazing, it actually seems like all he does is try to *avoid* and escape from his thoughts and feelings about porn, rather than facing them.

The disappointing result is a piece that's shallow and cliched, with an ending that's, bizarrely, saccharine. Porn stars have fetishes they're ashamed of too! Everyone does! So maybe we don't need to really examine ourselves or think anything of it when we feel guilt!

It's really a pity, because he brings up some really thought-provoking questions, and then never explores them at all:

I hoped the woman was okay. I hoped she was acting. I hoped she hadn't been forced. I wondered if the founders of Google knew they were contributing to an exploitative, misogynistic industry that lets strange men watch this woman do these strange things. I wondered if I could find her and apologize.

And I wondered, most of all, what the hell was wrong with me.


I would love to see a piece from him when he's actually ready to face those questions and really think about them.

When he's brave enough to say to himself, "when my empathy for another human being kicks in, when I feel badly about the way they've been treated for my pleasure, maybe that's something I should explore, rather than just spending years in therapy trying to be convinced I shouldn't worry" it would be interesting to see the piece he writes then.

When he's brave enough to explore WHY certain things get him off instead of just saying "I should be ashamed of this!" or conversely "everyone else has their shameful fetishes too too so I shouldn't worry about it!" that would be way more interesting too.
posted by cairdeas at 7:48 PM on December 29, 2011 [18 favorites]


The cynic in me though that maybe he just had figured a good angle for writing a piece about porn. The whole nice Jewish boy is just schtick. I am probably wrong.

Thing is, he can *write*. I really enjoyed that.
posted by Xoebe at 7:58 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll just post a link, because A Softer World put it much better than I could have.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 8:01 PM on December 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wow, what an experience reading this. He did what I also imagined doing - going and visiting Paul Little, to try to figure out what the hell was wrong with him, and me.

Fortunately I don't have the large Jewish guilt and therapy stuff, but yeah...
posted by Meatbomb at 8:03 PM on December 29, 2011


"When he's brave enough to say to himself, "when my empathy for another human being kicks in, when I feel badly about the way they've been treated for my pleasure, maybe that's something I should explore,"

By explore, you mean "feel badly about so thoroughly and for such a long time that I eventually become a better person and stop feeling that way at all" ?

And assholes that get squicked, stop keeping idiots like Auslander scared of their porn because I'd really rather he get his double extreme penetration fantasy fix from someone who's trained and getting paid than from someone he assaults because he can't stand it any more.

Uno, people who aren't turned on by images of women being degraded are assholes?

Dos, if he couldn't get porn that showed him that stuff he'd be out there raping real women in order to get his fix?
posted by Diablevert at 8:09 PM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


cairdeas: "When he's brave enough to say to himself, "when my empathy for another human being kicks in, when I feel badly about the way they've been treated for my pleasure, maybe that's something I should explore,"

diablevert: By explore, you mean "feel badly about so thoroughly and for such a long time that I eventually become a better person and stop feeling that way at all" ?


Nope, by explore, I meant explore. Those are his own thoughts/feelings to contend with, and I have no idea what the result of really facing them would be for him. Also, it seems that avoiding them/getting therapy to try to squelch those feelings, has had no result but... that he has felt badly for a long time.

I will say though, that I don't think feeling bad about things/feeling badly about oneself is a horrible outcome to be avoided at any cost. I think sometimes feeling bad about things is proper. The phrase is overused, but it's a feature not a bug.
posted by cairdeas at 8:18 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I will say though, that I don't think feeling bad about things/feeling badly about oneself is a horrible outcome to be avoided at any cost. I think sometimes feeling bad about things is proper. The phrase is overused, but it's a feature not a bug.

Eh, maybe I'm just used to his other stuff so it pops out at me here, too, but he says, repeatedly throughout the peace, that he's filled with self-loathing and shame over this predilection in particular. Everything he's every done for TAL has been either about how much he hates god, how much he hates his family, and how much he hates himself, usually all three. He revels in his own abnegation; that's why the therapy doesn't work.
posted by Diablevert at 8:27 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't think many people watch the hardcore stuff and think "Wow, it's hot how much she enjoys [kink of choice].

Really? That's exactly what works for me. I mean, I know the dazed and withdrawn coked up actress stereotype is still around in porn, but most kink works because men like kinky women.

What's hot is a woman actually wanting and enjoying what you're into.
posted by spaltavian at 8:28 PM on December 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


He revels in his own abnegation; that's why the therapy doesn't work.

You know, I totally agree with this, actually. He totally revels in it. It's part of the navel-gazing.

Maybe that's why he seems to just be grasping at different ways of feeling better about his guilt and his actions/traits that he is guilty about. Without actually taking an honest look at those things and examining them. Maybe he's enjoying it and doesn't really want it to change.
posted by cairdeas at 8:33 PM on December 29, 2011


The guilt over it seems to be part of the enjoyment of it.

You want to feel bad that you feel good.

More - if you don't feel bad, you feel worse about not feeling bad about it.

Like me with dolphins or banjo music, there's .... ah, I'll stop there.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:44 PM on December 29, 2011


I don't think many people watch the hardcore stuff and think "Wow, it's hot how much she enjoys [kink of choice].

You don't know many kinky people do you?
posted by desjardins at 8:45 PM on December 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


I just wanna say that his name means "Peace, Foreigner" in Hebrew and German.

Um... Shalom isn't a German word. It's Hebrew or Yiddish. The German word for "peace" is "Frieden".
posted by hippybear at 8:54 PM on December 29, 2011


Oh, wait, I see what you meant. Nevermind.
posted by hippybear at 8:54 PM on December 29, 2011


Well, Woody Allen will be relieved to learn he still doesn't have any competion on the sex-and-self-loathing shtick.

I started getting the Woody Allen vibe from the first paragraph. It was moderately funny five or six decades ago when Allen started his whole routine; Auslander's tired copy of Allen is neither funny nor compelling.
posted by Forktine at 8:58 PM on December 29, 2011


Maybe he's enjoying it and doesn't really want it to change.

No, i don't think it's quite that either. This, I admit, is a reading I come to more from the sum of his stuff I've encountered than this particular piece. But I think it's more like if he was whole he wouldn't be himself. Difference between a renegade and a rebel; he has an old thing he wants to destroy but no new thing he wants to build. Someone who saw the flaws of the world he came up in and rejected it because of them, but could only have been whole in that world. The identity is the breakage, the rejection, the willingness to risk the pain of estrangement; to be healed and reconciled is to devalue that sacrifice because it no longer stings. Same theme is a minor key here.
posted by Diablevert at 9:00 PM on December 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


I disagree in the strongest possible terms that not having porn that caters to your kink leads to you raping people.

And for the silent: yes, I found these admissions to be straight up vanilla baby school as well.
posted by Poppa Bear at 9:24 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


IKR? I read all four pages because i kept waiting for the shocking part.
posted by desjardins at 9:28 PM on December 29, 2011


I have to differ slightly on the Woody Allen comparison, because Woody Allen annoys the Hell out of me, but I found this article pretty amusing and well-written. Though the periodic repetitions of "I am on Prozac and I hate myself" felt slightly out-of-place. And I wonder how annoyed the people quoted herein will be by the admissions the author chose to include.
posted by Because at 9:44 PM on December 29, 2011


Another thing that kind of irks me about this is -- if you believe, as Mr. Auslander clearly does, that you are harming people or creating a demand for something that harms people, the appropriate response is to look for ways to stop doing so. (For example in this case, he could easily find porn created and starred in by women who do it because they love it.)

To respond instead by just looking for ways to feel okay about harming people or reasons you are justified in it or shouldn't bothered by it, just strikes me as so distastefully self-pitying and weak.

Honestly, if porn done by women who truly enjoy it wouldn't get him off because part of his thing really is the idea that they actually are suffering in real life, I think it would be almost better if he just owned up to it. Rather than the self-pitying guilt act. He could just straightforwardly say, "I know I'm creating a demand for something that harms people, but I'm not even going to try to find a way to change that," that would almost be more respectable.
posted by cairdeas at 10:48 PM on December 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


And the winner? The shrink: 15 years X 50 visits @ $200/hour = $150K, give or take.
posted by lometogo at 10:54 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


This thread is making me feel angry about the metafilter holier than thou brigade.
posted by aspo at 10:54 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Years ago I was in a club, a really hardcore club - I won't mention it's name - but it was known for attracting the weirdest freaks. Mind you, I was there with a friend. I had nothing to do, so I asked the bartender "what's the sickest thing you've ever seen here"?

I expected answers like this: "One night we had a guy who came in wearing a dress and he climbed up on the bar and started pissing left and right and three other guys and a cat danced around under him". Or, "One night we found a beat-up whore and two sailors in the bathroom and each had needles stuck in their eyeballs". Or, "One night this chick came in, offered to blow the entire bar for some crack, and ended up settling for a couple cigarettes." It was that sick a place, and I expected that sick an answer. But that's not what I got.

The bartender thought about it for a moment, carefully, and said "the sickest thing, I mean, really, the sickest thing I've ever seen is when friends are unkind to friends."

I've thought a lot about that answer and I think it's right. It doesn't matter if you want to stick your square peg in a round hole. It matters why you do it.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:23 PM on December 29, 2011 [17 favorites]


just an academic question, but how do we know that the people who are into extreme/ violent/degrading porn aren't in fact vicariously sympathizing with the object of the violence and not the perpetrator? if that writer's fantasies of being revenge-abused are any indication...

also, god*dammit* that writer called too much attention to himself. ruined the fucking piece.
posted by facetious at 12:47 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


This reminds me of a bit in "Chelmsford 123" which went something like:

Roman Emperor: "I'm so bored with it all. Man, woman or animal, it's all the same. Stick it in, jiggle it about, feel guilty."
Slave: "You don't have to feel guilty, master."
Emperor: "It's the feeling guilty I like!"
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:49 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


"What's hot is a woman actually wanting and enjoying what you're into."

Yeah. Sometimes I feel like my taste in porn just doesn't fit in with our culture because, like most men, I prefer it explicit and certain things really visually push my buttons, but at the same time, nothing turns me off more quickly or thoroughly than anything that's intended to be misogynist. And the combination that works the best for me is explicitness and all that but where I can see the woman's face and she's having fun. A smile is extremely sexy to me.

I downloaded some Max Hardcore videos one time a few years ago, not being familiar with them, and they upset me. It sets up some ambivalence in me because while BDSM doesn't resonate with me, I've come to understand it as just a part of the normal sexual spectrum, as long as it's consenting and all that. But with straight BDSM porn with women submissive, it can be confusing to tease out whether and how much sexism and misogyny is involved. And although it may not be involved at all for the porn performers and they're just playing out a fantasy that pushes the buttons of an audience that largely is turned-on by straight BDSM that isn't about sexism and misogyny, it still can function as misogynist for others. And sexism and misogyny is so prevalent, it's very difficult for me to watch scenes like those and not interpret them as a woman-hating sexual fantasy. And that's about as far from a turn-on for me as anything could possibly be.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:32 AM on December 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sadism is not about whether the other person is getting off; it's about whether they are in pain. Masochism is probably even less about whether the sadist is getting off than sadism is about whether the masochist is getting off. You want the other person to get off? Good for you. You may now consider yourself a considerate person and so forth. Have a cookie. I'm sure Shalom Auslander wants you to get off too, but he's a masochist and getting you off is not what gets him off, see? It's all about getting off. The important thing is that someone gets off. Preferably me, but if you get off that's OK too. I'm a nice person, after all. I get off on being a nice person.

"the sickest thing, I mean, really, the sickest thing I've ever seen is when friends are unkind to friends." I've thought a lot about that answer and I think it's right. It doesn't matter if you want to stick your square peg in a round hole. It matters why you do it.

If sticking one's square peg in a round hole means being unkind to friends, then one does it because it gets one off, obviously.

I once came across a discussion involving a model/sub who worked with the above-mentioned Brent Scott, and eventually progressed to domming in porn as well. At some point she mentioned that the most extreme thing she did with her boyfriend was essentially ego destruction play (they were switches and went back and forth IIRC). When you know someone well, who needs whips when you have words?
posted by the atomic kung fu panda bandit inquisition at 2:07 AM on December 30, 2011


Sadism is not about whether the other person is getting off; it's about whether they are in pain. Masochism is probably even less about whether the sadist is getting off than sadism is about whether the masochist is getting off.

This could not be farther from my (albeit limited) experience with consensual sadomasochism. Many sadists really get off on the fact that their partners get off on what they're dishing out. And as a low-level masochist, I don't get off on just any pain (a stubbed toe is a stubbed toe) - it's only hot for me if I know my partner gets off on dishing it out.
posted by the essence of class and fanciness at 7:39 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


just an academic question, but how do we know that the people who are into extreme/ violent/degrading porn aren't in fact vicariously sympathizing with the object of the violence and not the perpetrator? if that writer's fantasies of being revenge-abused are any indication...

This has been my experience, but then again, I've tended to date masochists.
posted by desjardins at 7:49 AM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ugh, listening to someone go on and on about his own self-loathing is really wearisome.

*makes note to self*
posted by ms.codex at 12:33 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Either you like it or you don't. You jerk off to it or you don't. This article doesn't add anything to the discussion because it's one that's already been had...like by Philip Roth. There's some real 50's and 60's sexuality going on here. I enjoyed Foreskin's Lament when it came out, but I'm sexing guessing myself now. He seems astonished by the way people can make dirty movies without guilt. To be surprised by this in 2011 seems incredibly naive and I'm surprised that I didn't find his other works to be shallow. Perhaps this is because they dealt with the world of the orthodox. Outside of this world, he really seems lost.

Seems like Auslander really got played by Max Hardcore. I'd forgotten about this guy but now I'm curious as to how he could have made a movie so filthy that he got locked up for it. I bet I'm not the only one.
posted by shushufindi at 1:12 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


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