Here are some preliminary thoughts about something I see pretty often in pornography, especially BDSM (or kink-wanna-be) porn, that I don’t like. Men in such pornography, regardless of whether they are dominant or submissive, gay or straight (as if men’s sexuality is as binary as that), or most any other characteristic that I can think of, are often seen wearing masks, hoods, or other items intended to hide their identity and render them, mostly, anonymous. This is very frustrating for several reasons.

  • It is an obviously gendered inequality; that is to say it is downright sexist. Women, again regardless of their sexual orientation, role, or other characteristics, are never seen wearing such anonymizing devices unless the purpose of the pornography is to accentuate (presumably) consensual objectification (which I have no problem with and think is very sexy).
  • It tells men that our sexuality is expendable and replaceable. This is probably a bigger issue than I can do justice (due to a lack of education on the subject), but this is also showcased quite profoundly by the fact that men are universally paid less for their participation in pornography—if they are paid at all—than women are.
  • It tells men that we are unsightly. I’ve even seen gay porn in which the only actors are men who are all wearing masks. I mean, really, what the fuck? Do these pornographers think that gay people do not like seeing the faces of their sexual partners?
  • It makes ignorant or uninformed people believe that participating in sexual acts such as the ones portrayed is something to be ashamed of, so much so that even the actors fear for their identity.
  • It makes for worse porn.

First of all, I am not talking about the kind of sex that happily incorporates hoods and masks into the sexual act. I am instead talking about the kind of porn that uses hoods and masks specifically for purposes so obviously not related to the sex I’m watching that their mere presence becomes distracting in the best case and downright insulting in the worse. Frankly, I am insulted by the insinuation that the only valid part of a man’s body worthy of being filmed is his penis. It’s simply untrue and unfair.

It is absurd to watch Men in Pain clips in which the naked guy is being interviewed about his experience while he is wearing nothing but a locking leather hood. It is similarly absurd to see clips or pictures of bound women being fingered by men who walk in and out of the frame, fully clothed and masked, in an obvious attempt to be as stealthy as possible.

The standard disclaimer from the pornographers is this: most people who buy our porn are men, so we want to make it as easy as possible for men to feel like they can imagine themselves as the man in the video/picture/whatever. First of all, completely sidestepping the circular point that most porn is made for men and that’s obviously why most of the pornographer’s customers are men (it really isn’t rocket science), they need to understand that as a submissive guy, which is indeed part of their claimed target audience, the person I see myself replacing is the submissive. If the submissive is faceless because he is hidden by a hood when he shouldn’t be, then I lose a big chunk of information about how that submissive is feeling and thus the porn becomes less valuable to me.

In other words, I would prefer to wank to pictures of men being tortured than pictures of women torturing men. This is why I tend to enjoy femsub porn more than most malesub porn out there. At least in those instances I can actually get the emotional content from the submissive’s point of view and vicariously feel that. Porn that hides the submissive man behind a hood is taking the hottest part of the picture, the bottom, out of focus.

In every instance of viewing the hooded or masked man the message is the same: the man is just “some guy.” He could have been replaced by anybody, and the effect would be identical. All the value to the product is brought by the women. And in gay porn where everyone’s wearing masks? Again, what are they thinking the value is in that if it’s not some sort of plot device?

There is a paradox here. The women are at once more valuable and less protected than the men. Think about it. Why else would someone want to hide their identity while doing porn? Duh, it’s not okay to do porn. Doing it is wrong, something to ashamed of, something you need to hide for fear of being outed, as sex worker, a pervert, or maybe something even worse. Yet only the men are hiding. Does the fact that they are mean they are so much more fragile than the women? Please.

What is most personally disturbing to me is the instance when submissive men are involved in some porn scene and yet the porn scene is so obviously not about submissive men that one would think submissive men was not actually a sexuality.

The most striking recent example of this occurred the other weekend at Black Rose XX, where in the Oasis Room a table full of fetish photography postcards was laid out. Out of the more than 20 available photographs, a grand total of 2 showed submissive men at all. One image showed a woman looking over her shoulder (dressed in formal fetish fatigues, you know the kind) and in the background, literally about 2 centimeters high, was a small image of a submissive man—hooded, of course—doing absolutely nothing interesting. The second postcard was a close-up picture of a torso in a waist-cincher, extremely shapely and made-up, whose only hint of maleness was the few pixels of clear testicle peeking out between the legs.

The experience of seeing those postcards was saved a little when Eileen and I overheard two women looking at them muttering to themselves, “It’s all female submissives.”

“Didn’t you know?” Eileen sarcastically jabbed at them, “Men aren’t pretty enough to photograph.”

This sent one of the women on a very welcomed, short rant about that fact, paraphrased below.

[The photographer] told me he doesn’t photograph men because those pictures wouldn’t sell. Hah! I laughed at him, and told him I’d have bought pictures of men and how could he possibly think there wasn’t a market for such work? Just look around us! Most of the women here have come to this event with their men, dominant or otherwise. I mean, one picture, he can’t do one picture where maleness is the focus?

Of course, people know that women aren’t “the real market” for images of men, because only other men are, right? This woman clearly didn’t seem to think so. Neither does this more famous one.

More to the point, though I hate to admit at times because it lets people too easily lump me into that category of men-who-would-buy-porn-of-men, I would like to see porn of submissive men where submissive men are actually the focus of the porn because then I could actually believe that I’m not the only man in the world who wants to do those sorts of things. Why else do you think people look at porn? It’s because they are using it as an instructive example of figuring out their sexual likes and dislikes. I look at porn to go, “Holy fuck, that looks awesome, I want to have the things that that girl is having done to her done to me!”

I’ve gotten really good pretending all the tied up women in porn are really tied up men, but it still angers me that I have to do it. It is endlessly frustrating to see an endless stream of so much very good pornography, excellent bondage, extremely hot fantasies-come-true only for the women who bottom. There is precious little good male bondage, and even then, there’s no sex. This is why so much of my personal porn collection that has anything to do with men getting fucked is drawn art.

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