Please note: This piece discusses my personal sexual fantasies and tastes in erotica, in a whole lot of detail. Family members and others who don't want to read about that stuff -- you really don't read this one. This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog.
I was writing recently about acquired tastes in sexual fetishes. I was writing about how being repeatedly exposed to certain images in porn can inspire you to pick up a fetish -- not a true, clinical, "can't get off without it" fetish, but a more casual, peripheral, "I really like to do this/ see this in my porn/ think about this when I whack off" fetish. I was giving, as an example of one of these pornographic tropes that I've acquired as a personal fetish, crying. Specifically, crying in spanking porn.
And I started wondering:
What's that about?
Other standard tropes of spanking porn make more obvious sense to me. The classic implements, the classic outfits, the classic roles being played -- they're mostly pretty straightforward, and they don't take an expert in semiotics or psychology to analyze where they come from and why people find them hot.
But the crying trope is, at least on the face of it, a little more unsettling. It's the sort of thing that rabid anti-porn activists point to when they're trying to prove that all porn actresses are forced into the business, either by financial hardship or at gunpoint. I mean, if the actress in a spanking porno is dressed as an underaged schoolgirl... well, even if you find the fantasy disturbing, you can always remember that this is adults consensually playing out a fantasy they both enjoy, and not actual child abuse. But if the actress or actor is actually crying, the line between "acting out a fantasy" and "genuinely upset" is a whole lot more blurry.
And it occurred to me:
That's the point.
The point is that it's real.
Crying in spanking porn is like cum shots in regular porn.
Not in the sense of "a trope that's become so ubiquitous it's now just part of the background noise." That's not what I mean. It isn't. (I actually wish it were a little more ubiquitous, since I find it really hot.)
Crying is like cum shots because it's proof that what's happening is real. It's proof, not only that the actors are physically engaging in the sexual acts they're portraying, but that they're feeling them.
There are lots of analyses out there about why cum shots are so ubiquitous in porn; why heterosexual men are so fixated on watching other men ejaculate, to the point where they won't be satisfied with porn unless they see it. But the most convincing analysis I've seen is that the cum shot is proof that the male actor was really feeling it. It's proof, not only that the sex was real, but that the sensations were real. (The man's sensations, anyway -- which is what hetero porn aimed at a male audience tends to prioritize.) It's proof that the arousal, the excitement, and of course the orgasm, all felt real to the man having the sex. Which makes it easier for the male viewer to project himself into the fantasy.
And that's what crying is in spanking porn.
I've seen plenty of spanking porn where the spankings themselves were obviously real -- you could hear the sounds of the slaps, you could see the impacts and the reddening bottom -- but where I had no idea whether the person on the receiving end felt anything at all about the matter. I've seen plenty of spanking porn where the recipient was so silent, so stiff, so unresponsive, that even with the sights and sounds of the smacks, I still had no idea whether the performer was feeling helpless, or defiant, or turned on, or anything at all except bored. The sights and sounds might as well have been done by special effects. The only reason I trust that they weren't special effects is that special effects are a lot more expensive than just paying someone to get their butt smacked.
But if the recipient is crying... I know they're feeling it. Not just that they're feeling the physical sensations of skin or wood or leather striking their skin. I know they're feeling it inside: the helplessness, the fear, the shame, the pain. The good stuff.
And that makes it easier for me to project myself into the fantasy. Regardless of whether I'm fantasizing about receiving the spanking or giving it. If I'm fantasizing about receiving it, and if the actress or actor is crying, I can project myself into their helplessness, their fear, their shame, their pain. I can feel these emotions and sensations myself. If it's a really good video, I can practically feel the tears welling up in my own eyes. And if I'm fantasizing about giving it, I can project myself into how powerful it feels to make somebody else feel all this: to make someone else feel so helpless, so frightened, so ashamed, so much in pain, that I make them cry.
You know. The good stuff.
It is sometimes unsettling. If a spanking model is crying, then that means the fantasy of helplessness and fear and shame and so on have crossed over into some sort of real feelings of helplessness and fear and shame. And that can be a little unsettling to watch in a total stranger. If you're the one who's crossing that line, if you're the one who's experiencing these difficult emotions and who knows exactly how you eroticize them -- or if it's your lover or fuckbuddy or whatever, the person on the receiving end of your chastisements and whose blend of arousal and suffering you're reasonably familiar with -- that's one thing. If it's some spanking model you've never seen in your life... then that's a little unnerving. It is to me, anyway.
But that unnerving quality -- the place where fantasy crosses into reality, the place where pretend situations conjure real emotions, and where difficult emotions cross their wires with intense sexual arousal -- that's a huge part of what makes kinky sex interesting. To me, anyway. It's a huge part of what I get out of my kinky sex life. It's a huge part of what I think about in my kinky fantasies. And it's a huge part of what I look for in my kinky porn.
And crying is what shows me that it's real.
Diet Coke and Mentos picture by Michael Murphy.