Iowa Writes

SAMANTHA COCHRANE
How We Killed Sex and Everything Remotely Interesting


I watched a six-hour documentary on the lives of lesbian-porn stars for a class in which we, the students, would decide who would be the winner of this year's Essay Prize. The documentary was one of the semi-finalists and I watched it at the university, on a library computer surrounded by my peers. My hypersensitivity to the content had me checking over my shoulder innocuously for six hours, steeping me in a warm piss-pool of social consciousness. Throughout the film, these questions recurred: Why is the naked body such a novelty? Why is porn such a big fucking deal? It's not that porn is the problem. It's that porn has made us feel less human; as if a vagina on camera is not a real, pulsating vagina; as if the camera has made us bodiless, formless, and mindless; as if we do not possess the ability to see past the intrigue of the naked body.

I watched a six-hour documentary on the lives of lesbian-porn stars for a class in which we, the students, would decide who would be the winner of this year's Essay Prize. The documentary was one of the semi-finalists and I watched it at the university, on a library computer surrounded by my peers. My hypersensitivity to the content had me checking over my shoulder innocuously for six hours, steeping me in a warm piss-pool of social consciousness. Throughout the film, these questions recurred: Why is the naked body such a novelty? Why is porn such a big fucking deal? It's not that porn is the problem. It's that porn has made us feel less human; as if a vagina on camera is not a real, pulsating vagina; as if the camera has made us bodiless, formless, and mindless; as if we do not possess the ability to see past the intrigue of the naked body.
          Do pornographic filmmakers' approaches reveal anything novel about the way we view humanity? The artist's job is to give the audience an appetite, to create a sense of necessity and insatiable urgency in a world that wants. And we want.
          Isn't porn, then, the materialization of our inability to characterize ourselves effectively? A stab at our own prudishness and a comical mockery of the fear of onscreen sex? It's not nudity that's twitchy or even taboo; it's how the other person responds. Are we meant then to flinch at masturbation, or other forms of sexual expression? Is it okay to watch, and want, but only from a distance?
          "There's not a lot of humanity in the sex you see on the Internet," says one of the porn stars in the film I watched. Yet, what more is there to learn about sex? How extreme must it become before we realize that porn is nothing more than the framed, technological production of our true-to-life human urges? In a world where virtually every type of stimulation is a click away, does the distinction between fantasy and reality actually exist? In an interview with Slate, filmmaker Jonathan Harris says, "For most of us, porn is a series of fantasies, engineered to make us feel aroused, always slightly out of reach, and usually experienced in private." Using porn as a lens for exploring the nature of humanity creates the fiction that we are living in a "real" world that is devoid of fantasy. Porn transports us into a synthetic, schizophrenic phase in which the urges, our wants, are natural but the "thing" is not.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


SAMANTHA COCHRANE

Samantha Cochrane recently received her BA in English/Creative Writing from the University of Iowa.  Samantha is an independent poet, essayist, and hopeful novelist from Fort Dodge, Iowa, who is eager to both tame and enrage her craft.

This page was first displayed
on June 25, 2014

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