…pawning eroticism for its mere image
Written by N.O.
Sent to me for publication back in May 2018, I decided not to put it up as it was already on the internet and I have a policy, applied almost invariably except for texts written by myself or, occasionally, by a friend, of not publishing something that’s already on the internet. I have just discovered that the original internet page on which it was published has disappeared and so I’ve decided to put this up. It was originally called “Planet Porn”. It has been impossible to contact the guy who wrote it and sent it to me as he’s changed his email address.
Back in the day, I worked at a smut shop, maybe more than one… after all I’ve seen, celluloid semen boils my blood more than anything else. Just like fast food, alcohol, and sugar water, porn’s most profitable secret is how addicting it is. Try working at a seedy video store sometime.
Back in 1967, Guy Debord wrote, “It is the sun that never sets over the empire of modern passivity. It covers the entire surface of the globe, endlessly basking in its own glory.” When he wrote that sentence, the late Monsieur Debord may have been under the impression that “it” was his “spectacle,” but it may as well have been porn.
“Porn is the sun that never sets over the empire of modern passivity. Porn covers the entire surface of the globe, endlessly basking in its own glory.”
Back in the day, I worked at a smut shop, maybe more than one, and as much as I hate Joe Chemo and the “Flo” always selling me insurance, after all I’ve seen, celluloid semen boils my blood more than anything else.
Just like fast food, alcohol, and sugar water, porn’s most profitable secret is how addicting it is. Try working at a seedy video store sometime. You’ll see people come in to rent a porno and come back three hours later for another one. You’ll see people rent four one-day-only new releases and return them on time the next morning, and grab another few new releases. You’ll see those people come in before work, on their lunch break, after work, and by night.
Another quote from Society of Spectacle applies:
“[T]he time that modern society is constantly seeking to “save” by increasing transportation speeds or using packaged soups ends up being spent by the American population in watching television three to six hours a day. As for the social image of the consumption of time, it is exclusively dominated by leisure time and vacations — moments portrayed, like all spectacular commodities, at a distance and as desirable by definition. These commodified moments are explicitly presented as moments of real life, whose cyclical return we are supposed to look forward to. But all that is really happening is that the spectacle is displaying and reproducing itself at a higher level of intensity. What is presented as true life turns out to be merely a more truly spectacular life.”
The reference to television is antiquated; Wi-Fi killed the daytime star and there’s no going back now. Smut stores might even be headed to history’s dustbin, but no one is seriously going to suggest that such a trend would indicate an “end of porn” — right? I don’t have to go over the fact that whatever I saw in a smut shop is just a microcosm of what’s happening on the Internet? Surely no one is going to force me into the tangent of reciting how porno “tube” websites are some of the most visited in the Western world.
Guy Debord was right on point. As middle class wages stagnate and crash, all that “stuff” so loved and accumulated by the West, most stereotypically in the 1980s, has gotten a bit pricey. Not so long ago you justified your terrible office job by buying a flashy SUV or useless gadgets from Sharper Image. That’s not in the cards anymore, so cue the spectacle. The Internet and cheap DVDs will set you free with infinite recyclable entertainment.
Indeed, not only is the reference to TV antiquated, so is the reference to “vacation.” Who goes on vacation anymore? Your work e-mail is on your phone anyway, and cellphone service just keeps getting better. Way more logical to vacation every night, to even more spectacular worlds than a beach in Jamaica or a museum in Paris. Is accumulating capital too hard? Collecting commodities too pricey? You should try the spectacle.
Everyone can see this superficially. Remember when everyone talked about American Idol? More recently it was Breaking Bad, these days I can’t seem to escape conversations that take place entirely in the world of Game of Thrones. From redneck noble savages trying to be the next Britney Spears, to a boring suburbanite hustling meth, to incestuous nobility slaughtering one another in a distant parallel universe. It’s like the ante keeps getting upped or something.
Is picking just three data points and declaring a trend unfair? I guess it would be if it weren’t for the gushing rivers of porn that rage beneath the bucolic pond of Netflix. Because if you hate your job, don’t know your mom, can’t get a date, and just don’t have the salary to drown out the noise at your local mall… well Netflix might be for you. And if cyclically returning to the wealth and style of an early 1960s ad firm isn’t killing your angst, you should try watching a perfect ten get a facial from a huge black cock, and watch another perfect ten lap it all up.
Even more than the Mad Men of yore, the dirty sluts of the most recent high school graduation date will keep your mind at ease. Just like those Mad Men, you can return to those dirty sluts night after night, you can let it become a readily available better reality… and if you think Netflix binges eat up your time, remember that the dirty sluts aren’t nearly so finite as episodes in a series.
But I digress; Guy Debord has more to tell us:
“When the real world is transformed into mere images, mere images become real beings — figments that provide the direct motivations for a hypnotic behavior. Since the spectacle’s job is to use various specialized mediations in order to show us a world that can no longer be directly grasped, it naturally elevates the sense of sight to the special preeminence once occupied by touch: the most abstract and easily deceived sense is the most readily adaptable to the generalized abstraction of present-day society. But the spectacle is not merely a matter of images, nor even of images plus sounds. It is whatever escapes people’s activity, whatever eludes their practical reconsideration and correction. It is the opposite of dialogue. Wherever representation becomes independent, the spectacle regenerates itself.”
Porn can’t be competed with, and it can’t be segregated from the rest of your life. Like most smut shops, the one I worked at had porn playing all the time on TVs spread throughout the store. So when I worked a regular shift, I’d watch eight hours of porn. When I worked a double, I’d watch sixteen hours of porn. It drips into your brain. On a break I’d sometimes go out and buy a sandwich or something and my grip on the real world would sometimes start to slip. I’d be at the cash register and the high schooler making my change would tell me that her boyfriend was out of town. Then she’d ask me for a big tip, she’d assure me that she knew it’d be big. She’d take my bottle of soda and slowly slip the whole thing, base-first, down her throat. I’d take my sandwich and walk back to the smut shop. I’d be waiting at a redlight and look at the others waiting there with me, unable to understand why none of them wiped the cum off their faces before heading out for the day. I’d cross the street and the ass walking in front of me would be asking me to measure it, to test it, to see what could fit inside it.
Before I completely lost my shit, right there on the street, I’d make it back to the safety of the smut shop. Breathing the air outside of planet porno can be hard.
Porn is the death of dialogue, and while we’ve all heard the argument that it objectifies, on top of that it specializes. Humans can do so many things, and so can computers, even hammers and hoses have a certain versatility. But at a certain point, bodies am become cum dumpsters.
If no one at your office touches you, and no one wants to fuck you. Why not drift off into a better world where everyone touches, where everyone wants to fuck everyone? Where no one gets dumped, hearts are never broken, and the guy always gets the girl. It’s like a Buddy Holly song that makes you hard. A John Hughes movie guaranteed to shoot your endorphins off. Sure, planet porno might start to seem more real than the daily commute — but what would be the trouble with that? To again reference the late Debord’s all knowing Spectacle:
“The fetishism of the commodity — the domination of society by ‘imperceptible as well as perceptible things’ — attains its ultimate fulfillment in the spectacle, where the perceptible world is replaced by a selection of images which is projected above it, yet which at the same time succeeds in making itself regarded as the perceptible par excellence.”
Ask yourself, are you willing to walk up to the next cubicle rat you see and tell him his real life is better than a babysitter sucking the cock that just popped out of her ass? Is her begging to have hot cum shot all over her eighteen-year-old face really inferior to the next time human resources hosts an all staff meeting about what is okay to Tweet? The images are better, and in time, become more real merely because of that.
Guy said that, “The spectacle is a permanent opium war,” but conceded too that the spectacle is “…nothing more than an image of happy harmony surrounded by desolation and horror, at the calm center of misery.” For those of you who remember the Matrix, recall that Neo is a hero because he chooses the red pill, forcing him into a life of combat and sacrifice, instead of the blue pill. No one would make a movie about taking the blue pill, because a movie about an average Joe’s average life would be boring. Indeed, “The spectacle is the stage at which the commodity has succeeded in totally colonizing social life.” At the proverbial “water cooler” you don’t talk about your hated job, or your non-existent hobbies. You talk about those better worlds you share with your co-workers: Game of Thrones, Star Trek, and Survivor. It is only the lingering self-shaming of our Christian heritage that keeps us from talking about the even more spectacular worlds we share with our co-workers: twenty-man gangbangs, milk enemas, and bukkakes.
After all, “The world at once present and absent that the spectacle holds up to view is the world of the commodity dominating all living experience. The world of the commodity is thus shown for what it is, because its development is identical to people’s estrangement from each other and from everything they produce.”
While it is true that watching Sasha Grey getting “throated” is better than increasing a client’s Facebook engagement rate, none of us is truly immune from that sinking feeling that maybe holding witness to “throating” after “throating” isn’t as fulfilling as it sometimes seems right before you cum. Ever see a man in his fifties count out loose change to pay for his porno rental? Ever rent porn to someone who smells so bad you gag when they approach the counter? No? How about guys refusing their receipts so they don’t have to worry about their wife finding it? Maybe you haven’t seen that, but surely you’ve seen someone refuse a receipt so that there mom can’t find it, right? When the mail arrived, in addition to catalogues from new S&M equipment companies and ads for mail-order brides, we’d get hand written letters.
Can you guess what they were? Who writes to smutshops? They were requests to refuse service. Mostly they were written by guys who had just joined some kind of “porno-holics annonymous” group and wanted us to never let them rent anything again. You’d rip open the envelope, take a look, turn to your co-worker and say, “Shit, George Dallas quit.” And your co-worker would say, “Ha, give George another two months and he’ll be demanding we give him friend prices again.” And your co-worker would be right. If you think the lost souls behind the counter of a smutshop are no help to a recovering addict, you should check the attitude of your local ISP.
Weirder still was when George Dallas wasn’t the author of the letter, sometimes it would be George Dallas’s girlfriend. We’d always wonder if George knew his girlfriend wrote that letter, but we’d never ask. For the most part, we just reminded George that there are no friend prices on Planet Porno.
In the end though, working at a smutshop is fucking boring. It’s about as boring as the boring jobs that induce normal people into porn addiction are boring. For all the variety, for the all the madness (ever see a bare foot shoved up an asshole?), the hollowness of it all eventually becomes inescapable. Do recall that Debord wrote, “The false choices offered by spectacular abundance — choices based on the juxtaposition of competing yet mutually reinforcing spectacles and of distinct yet interconnected roles (signified and embodied primarily by objects) — develop into struggles between illusory qualities designed to generate fervent allegiance to quantitative trivialities.” All porn is just people you don’t know fucking. What could be more dull? Society of Spectacle didn’t lie when it wrote, “Behind the glitter of spectacular distractions, a tendency toward banalization dominates modern society the world over, even where the more advanced forms of commodity consumption have seemingly multiplied the variety of roles and objects to choose from.”
What I mean to say is that life is boring; and watching teenage girls drink their own piss while they get sodomized only abates the boredom. So learn how to build a bike from spare parts, and then ride it out of Planet Porno.
Sticker produced by Sam Fanto, mid-1970s