If you are a man in his mid-thirties, you probably have a highly tuned sense of what really turns men on. In most cases, these tastes have evolved over time, their genesis rarely eliciting more than a passing thought. As such, you probably don’t spend too much time considering the larger meaning behind, say, a fresh desire to wear black jeans or enjoy an ice cube in your single malt. However, if you woke up tomorrow a sudden big toe fetishist, you would probably give it some thought. You may even go see someone about it.
As a man in his mid-thirties, you probably watch a lot of pornography. And it is unlikely that you are spending much time intellectualising said consumption, predictably sneaking in brief, cheeky viewings whenever you can: rumination typically takes a back seat to action – especially if you are time restricted. On the surface, this may seem somewhat sad, maybe slightly depraved. But the truth is that many of you are far more satisfied today than when you were sleeping with fitter, younger (hopefully legal) partners. It may seem somewhat paradoxical being easier to please now than when you were far more eager and far less discerning. Part of the answer may come from the fact that women continue to gain in sexual maturity while men, well, don’t. Of course, this assumes that the age of your sexual partners has climbed with you. Part of it also comes from the fact that men learn what they like and become much more efficient at finding it. And what it is may surprise you.
As a porn consumer, you demand to know the full context – the gender of all participants and in what form they are being manipulated (I mean this in the strictest physical sense) – well before you make an investment. This is very cut and dry. What makes it particularly interesting today is the speed with which you can find exactly what you need and in total privacy. Gone are the days of subtly scouring the top shelf at an airport magazine store because you heard that Katarina Witt had exposed herself and you were worried that that particular issue would not be available in Europe. But I digress.
We seem to be entering into a new golden age of porn that is beautifully catering to current mainstream western society’s proclivities. The volume of quality pornography (and I do not offer praise lightly) is on the steep ascendancy. To deny that the porn industry is very in tune with shifting tastes is, I believe, naïve. Without going full creep on you, the adult film industry is tapping back into a niche that virtually vanished as of the early nineties: erotic realism, soft exposure, sensuality, music, passion and, yes, gender obfuscation.
Hairless women have been replaced by tapered women; grotesque men have been replaced by good-looking, hairless men; long fingernails, garish makeup, leather, pleather, heels, teased hair: all gone. Also, say goodbye to potbellies, beards, moustaches and oversized (frankly, terrifying) penises. The overt femininity in modern porn has been greatly muted, and the guys who like their girls in baseball caps and loose jeans (i.e. all men) are finally being rewarded. This now begs the question why. Is it lazy to say that wanting to sleep with a girl who dresses like a boy is gay? Yes, but it is hard to articulate. Why does a guy love seeing a woman wearing his favourite pair of boxers? Does it enhance her femininity? Or does it blur it?
To offset this reversion, it stands to reason that the male porn actor would become manlier, more protruding, animalistic. Not so. The men have become softer, cleaner, gentler and less endowed. In fact, most good new porn has gone so far as to fully anonymise the male participant (and not in the awful POV sense). That his hair and giant cock have been reduced is suggestive; that his face is no longer visible is very telling.
Porn is going girl-next-door retro but with a modern complexity. And it is gorgeous.
On a less subversive scale, modern popular media is a harder nut to crack: gender lines are far easier to cross when not infiltrating our most private moments. It is an accepted truth that Natalie Portman is the perfect woman and men will secretly watch any film in which she stars (even if they involve Ashton Kutcher). There is a very unambiguous beauty that she exudes and men don’t feel the need to justify why they fawn over her. Take her recent film, No Strings Attached.
The cover photo is calculatedly designed to appeal to men who find her, well, appealing. Let’s face it, who would not want to be Mr. Kutcher in this scenario? What is noteworthy here – and you will likely accuse me of reading into things – is that both are wearing shirts that are traditionally masculine. Of all the culturally relevant symbols of female sexuality that she could be donning, it is very relevant that the film creators settled on a men’s button-down Oxford. That they are both wearing such a shirt kind of hits you over the head with it. And as a man, you would be lying if you said that it didn’t turn you on.
Many of you would call this gender equality and that I am taking a misogynistic viewpoint: modern culture has far more room for female dominance and that is what is being manifested in the dirty movies that men watch. Women in their natural state are far more beautiful than a 1997 porno would have demonstrated. That men are now making love to women on camera instead of fucking them is merely reflecting the paradigm shift that modern gender politics have affected; women are no longer victims to giant cocks but rather manipulators of faceless men.
Yes, the post-modern feminist explanation fits; but I can assure you, that is not what turns men on.