Violet Blue - Smart Girl's Guide to Porn

Porn Studies

Pittsburgh City Paper, 5/2/07 - It's a long and torturous wait for the money shot in The Smart Girl's Guide to Porn, and when it finally comes the payoff is paltry.

Blogger, sex columnist and porn pundit Violet Blue sets out to explain how and why women of all types and sexual orientations can, do and should incorporate pornography into their romantic repertoires, be it for self-gratification or for enhancing things with a lover.

Blue provides a brief history of porn, and of the porn industry's glacially slow acknowledgement that it's just not "raincoaters" ... skanky, lonely old men compulsively wanking in the back rows of seedy theaters ... who consume its product. "Mainstream" porn films like Deep Throat, Behind the Green Door and Debbie Does Dallas ushered in a new era, one that recognizes that couples, and thus women, are occasional porn consumers.

But for a porn guide, Smart Girl spends an awful lot of time bashing the genre it purports to advocate ... especially because, to anyone with any degree of sophistication, much of what Blue says is not news. Guess what? The bow-chicka-wow-wow music is still there, and it is still wiltingly, distractingly crappy. The men in straight porn haven't gotten much better looking than Ron "The Hedgehog" Jeremy. The boobs ... and the womens' orgasms ... are still mostly fake. And much porn still trades on tired racist and sexist characterizations.

OK, then why bother? Blue goes to great lengths to argue that there are gems out there if you look hard enough, and that if racist, sexist, silicone-enhanced cheese-fests get your motor running, that's fine, too ... it's not a moral shortcoming to get your rocks off in an un-p.c. way. Moreover, to help readers avoid the horror of renting a DVD that might suck, Blue lists lots of blogs, Web sites and trade magazines that review porn, so that a viewer won't accidentally rent, say, a gang-bang feature when what she really wants is elaborate Japanese rope bondage.

But such advice seems a little overwrought ... a lot of effort to avoid blowing a few bucks on a rental. Plus, porn-video covers are not known for discretion: Most feature tiny stills from the film crammed onto the back, giving you a pretty good idea what you're taking home.

The main thrust of the book, meanwhile, is that the porniverse is unbelievably vast, and that if you're willing to search, you'll find whatever your filthy little heart desires. Basically, Blue says, if you can think it up, it's out there.

Yet even in making this argument Blue comes up short. True, the book provides useful clues for the total neophyte to plumb the depths of her fantasies and translate them into a favorite director, production company or actor. Alternative porn genres are explained and touted: Want to see really, really hot guys? Try gay porn. Real boobs, and people of all shapes and sizes? Indie companies.

But while Blue's slips into hetero-normative assumptions about her readers are kept to a minimum, she also, sadly, gives short shrift to magazines and written erotica. And in a book targeted at women, female directors get only glancing reference. Moreover, Blue has a disconcertingly weird tic of referring to female porn consumers' erect penises.

Meanwhile, the book's key strength doesn't appear until 100 pages in, with material on the single greatest resource ever for the porn consumer: the Internet. For anyone who's haplessly Googled "naked ladies" and wondered where the supposedly vast warehouse of porn is, this is the really useful part of the book. It explains how to find free porn, streaming video, thumbnails ... every nook and cranny of the World Wide Porno Net. Blue even delves into decidedly unsexy territory, explaining which browser is best and how to quickly cover your smut-seeking tracks, all in detail so simple a horny Luddite could handle it. A quick list in the back provides an easy reference to sites she mentions.

If Blue had gotten to these real goodies much sooner, and spent less time explaining what all but the most nave women already know, The Smart Girl's Guide to Porn could have put her encyclopedic knowledge to much smarter use.

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