Subscriptions



Filth and Sexual Excess

Some Brief Reflections on Popular Scatology

1Pornography can appear as a staid genre with a rigid series of rules and representations, each video consisting of a specified number of liaisons and pre-designated sexual acts, but it is also a genre that has developed and focused its numerous activities. What was considered to be an arousing taboo in the 1970s would not, for example, be considered as such today. Anal sex, while once comparatively rare in pornographic films, is now commonplace, and, while once utterly unspoken in mainstream heterosexual culture it is now acknowledged and celebrated, even by female targeted films such as Brigit Jones’ Diary (Sharon Maguire, 2001).

2Pornography, however, has raised the stakes again. Hardcore is dependent on so called ‘nasty girls’ and most interviews with starlets focus on their ability to enjoy being ‘nasty’, to enjoy what are considered or labelled as ‘perverse’ manifestations of sexuality by the normalising discourses of dominant culture and society. While once a porn star merely had to enjoy – or pretend to enjoy – sucking cock, now it is expected her repertoire will include a wider range of activities.

3With anal sex, an event that transpires in most modern pornography, the site of penises – either singularly or in pairs – pushed into swollen sore assholes is a visual commonplace. In the 1980s and 1990s (when the representation of heterosexual anal sex became truly dominant in pornography) there was a recognizable process of sexual acts, between penetration of mouth, vagina, and asshole. Each penetration would be edited and between each take the male star would wipe down his penis.

4Until somebody in hardcore pornography developed the A-to-M, a.k.a ass-to-mouth aka A2M.

5In this move the male pulls his cock from the asshole of the female and then sticks it straight into her open mouth and down her throat without wiping it clean first. All of this is presented unmediated to the viewer, in one singular shot that follows the penis as it moves from one willing hole to the other (and the body must be understood as fragmented, it is a collection of zones and areas, in this instance orifices each with their own signifying practices, not a singular organic whole). Even assuming that the nubile starlet has had an enema to blast clean her rectum prior to filming there will still be microscopic traces of her shit and rectal mucus on his penis. Indeed the pleasure for the viewers is in the knowledge of the authenticity of the movement between ass and mouth, in the knowledge that there will be small flakes of shit stuck to her lips and teeth (a variant of the ass-to-mouth sees the penis being pulled from one starlet’s anus and inserted into another starlet’s gaping mouth, again in one unedited shot).

6Shit escapes simple ontology it is opposed to all manner of being, all manner of knowledge and of existence yet it is also intimately linked to self-presence and continuity. From earliest infancy we are encouraged not to engage with it, rather it is that which is to be flushed away immediately, it is everything about being human that is repulsive, rejected and denied. Shit escapes simple symbolism; it exists in its own discursive zone. While death may be similarly horrific to us, it is so because it is utterly unknown shit, however, horrifies precisely because it is known to us. Like death, shit makes us all equal, but shit is familiar, we know its fragrance, we know its texture, we know its colour, and – yes – deep down, repressed in our animal brain we know its taste. Its familiarity results because it is a part of us, yet it is no longer of us. In death the cadaver can be theorized as the body without a soul, without spirit, or without personality, but with shit humanity does not have this luxury, shit is the part of us that both defies and defines humanity. Shit is that which was us but is no longer, yet it never fully stops being part of us, it contains traces of our genetic material, pieces of our diet, even as it is flushed more is already being pushed down our intestine. Shit is substance and process.

7If the act of fucking is that which affirms vital existence against death, then introducing shit into the equation becomes utterly transgressive. Defecation and copulation are antithetical St Augustine’s recognition that we are born between piss and shit – inter faeces et urinam – understands the animistic nature of existence and sex as contaminated by sin, but he does not conflate the act of shitting and fucking as the same, his description is powerful precisely because they are not understood as the same.

8Introducing shit into sexual activity is culturally forbidden, genuine scatologists, coprophiles and shit fetishists are rare, and most keep their desires secret even from their closest companions. Even the few that confess to enjoying ‘brown showers’ do not admit to eating raw shit, either their own or that of somebody else. The practice is considered to be too dangerous, too unhealthy, and too disgusting. Even amongst the radical sexual communities many find that it stinks of excess, as if desires and fantasies had limits.

9In Pier Paolo Pasolini’s cinematic masterpiece Salo (1975) the quartet of libertines and their fellow explorers in unleashed lust – both the willing and the coerced – indulge in a vast coprophilic feast, but in this film the shit that is slathered over the bodies of the young charges and greedily scoffed down is not real. However there are a handful of directly scatological pornographic videos, often they depict people crouching down and shitting, the shit being rubbed on to nude bodies and eventually consumed. In some videos hungry mouths open directly under the puckering asshole, allowing the brown turd to plop directly onto the enthusiastic tongue and into the mouth. Cameras zoom in to show the shit-smeared lips and teeth. Like the image of ejaculation manifested in the cum-shot of mainstream hardcore pornography this sight is a vindication of the authenticity of the action. Such videos are watched by both fetishists and the curious – commonly teenage males trying to out shock each other. Unlike ‘traditional’ heterosexual hardcore pornography, which depicts explicit penetrative sex, scatology films rarely appear on the shelves of video stores and enthusiasts are compelled to search the dark bowels of pornography to find them.

10Yet the popularity of the ass-to-mouth sequence in hardcore suggests that there is an interest with such faecal taboo acts that may be more common that previously imagined. This is not to suggest that the audience who witness an ass-to-mouth scene want to go and eat shit, or want their partners to, but it does suggest that there is an interest in the transgressive potential of shit or the idea of shit on an erect penis. Watching these scenes the audience’s attention is drawn to the movement from the locus of defecation to that of consumption. Perhaps the visual pleasure lies in the degradation of the ‘nasty’ girl, in the knowledge that she can taste her own mucus and faecal matter. But if the pleasures are purely sadistic then these films fail, they do not (just) depict the starlets ‘suffering’ as they engage in these activities, in contrast, they are ‘normalised’ into the sexual conventions of the form.

11Hardcore pornography is about the depiction of literal excess; about multiple penis plunging into one asshole or one vagina (or even both) about orgies about the world’s biggest gang bangs and facials in which a dozen or more men shoot their genetic material onto the grinning faces of starlets as cum slathers their forehead, cheeks, chin, lips, and teeth. The sheer unremitting quantity becomes an object in itself. Nothing can ever be enough.

12This excess is also philosophical; all non-reproductive sexual activity belongs to the category of excess expenditure, where the unrestrained pursuit of pleasure becomes in itself both object choice and subject. Some would see such pornographic activities as anti-humanist, as cold, and as nihilistic, but such an interpretation fails. In watching these films, in seeing the penis move from asshole to mouth the audience are compelled by the authenticity of the gesture to read the starlet as human the ‘pleasure’ is in knowing that she can taste her own shit on some anonymous cock. Finally, she is smiling through its musky taste so we do not have to.

Appendix / Sources / Notes / Parallel Text

13Throughout this paper I am referring only to pornographic material marketed to an audience who are identified or identify as heterosexual. These films may contain scenes with multiple males and females having sex at one time, however while there may be what the industry refers to as girl-on-girl action there will be no direct male-on-male contact (although often all that seperates two male penises is the paper thin wall of fleshy tissue between the vagina and anus).

14The socio-cultural history of heterosexual anal sex is a complex one, made more so because of its illicit and, in some jurisdictions, illegal status. It is safe to assume that many people have engaged in it even if they have not subsequently undertaken an active interest in it (statistics published in Exploring the Dimensions of Human Sexuality 2nd Edition suggest that 28% of male and 24% of female American college graduates and 21% of male and 13% of female high school graduates have experienced anal sex [377]).

15In hardcore pornography it is the male who penetrates the female, who presents her asshole for the viewer’s delectation. In personal sexual behaviour heterosexual males may also enjoy anal penetration from a female partner both in order to stimulate the sensitive tissue around the anus and to stilulate the prostate, but the representation of such activities is very rare in the mainstream of American hardcore porn. As inventer of gonzo porn John Stagliano commented when interviewed about his sexual proclivities in The Other Hollywood , “…you know, admitting that I really wanted to get fucked in the ass, and might really like it, is not necessarily a socially acceptable thing for a straight man” (587).

16Anal sex was most coherently radicalised by the Marquis de Sade, the master of sodomaniacal literature, who understood penetrating male / penetrated female anal sex as a way in which erotic pleasure/s could be divorced from any reproductive metanarrative.

17The scene in Brigit Jones’ Diary is made all the more strange because there is no mention of safe sex. There are, however, repeated references and representations of the size and shape of the heroine’s buttocks and her willingness to acquiesce to the evidentially dominant will of her ‘bad’ boyfriend the aptly named Daniel Cleaver.

18For more on heterosexual anal sex in cinema see my ‘Hot, Hard Cocks and Tight, Tight Unlubricated Assholes.Transgression, Sexual Ambiguity and ‘Perverse’ Pleasures in Serge Gainsbourg’s Je T’Aime Moi Non Plus’, in Senses of Cinema 30 (Jan.-March 2004).

19Hardcore pornography commonly means that which features a depiction of penetrative intercourse and the visual presentation of male ejaculation as a climax to a sequence. For more on the contemporary porn scene and the ‘nasty girl’ see Anthony Petkovich, The X Factory: Inside The American Hardcore Film Industry, which contains numerous interviews with porn starlets and industry insiders.

20While pornography is remembered for a number of key texts such as Deep Throat (Gerard Damiano, 1972) or Behind the Green Door (Jim & Artie Mitchell, 1972), these were shot and marketed as erotic narrative film and released theatrically (albeit to grindhouse and specialist cinemas). However since 1982 and the widespread availability of video – and more recently DVD – pornography has been produced almost exclusively for home consumption. The increasing demands of the consumer, combined with the accessablity of technology and cheap production costs of video when compared to film have led to a glut of available material. Now videos/DVDs are often released in series with absurdly self descriptive titles such as Anal Pounding, Lesbian Bukkake, and Pussy Party, most of which provide examples of the mise-en-scene of contemporary hardcore, specific ass to mouth series include Ass to Mouth (vol 1 – 15), Ass to Mouth CumShots (vol 1 – 5), Her First Ass to Mouth, From Her Ass to Her Mouth, From My Ass to My Mouth, A2M (vol 1 – 9), and no doubt many others.

21For more on hardcore pornography and its common themes and visual styles see Linda Williams, Hardcore.

22Wikipedia suggests that the director Max Hardcore was responsible for introducing the form in the early 1990s in his series Cherry Poppers. The act is now a staple of the form. (Note that while Wikipedia can not normally be considered an academic source the vagaries of the subject matter necessitate that research takes place where necessary).

23All pornographic positions and gestures have a nickname, industry shorthand, thus there are terms such as the DP (double penetration) or the reverse cowgirl. These names are no more or less shocking than the translations for sexual positions offered in ‘classic’ erotic guidebooks such as the Kama Sutra.

24This fragmented body is a result of the cinematic gaze of pornography. Lenses are able to zoom in and focus on the body, and especially the genitals, in minute detail and present the flesh enlarged to proportions that are impossible to see in actual sexual encounters. The body viewed under such scrutiny but devoid of singular organic plenitude echoes the body without organs of Deleuze and Guattari (in contrast some radical feminist writers such as Andrea Dworkin would merely interpret such images as reflecting the misogyny of male dominated discourse).

25For more on the psychological development of the infant and the construction of the clean and unclean see Julia Kristeva Powers of Horror.

26It should be noted that commonly those who enjoy enema play – klismaphiliacs – are not related to scatologists, and often draw a distinction between their play, which is seen as a process of cleansing, and scatologists’ play, which is understood to be a celebration of the physical shit itself.

27Salo has undergone numerous sanctions, been banned, scorned, and even been interpreted by some as a metaphor / allegory for the director’s subsequent murder. Such understandings and pseudo-explanations do not do justice to either the director or to his film and its radical engagement with de Sade’s literature.

28These videos always come from ‘elsewhere’ of course, never close to home, thus in Different Loving the authors note “the Germans seem to specialize in scat” (518).

29Correspondence concerning the infamous bestiality film Animal Farm (197?) in the journal Headpress (issues 15 and 16, 1998) suggested that the audience was made up from teenage males watching it as a rite of passage, rather than by true zoophiles.

30Those I have seen were on shock and ‘gross out’ Internet sites rather than pornographic sites.

31Disclaimer – I have no interest per se in scatology, but an ongoing interest with the vagaries of human thought, and desire in particular, necessarily involves exploring areas others turn their noses up at.