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© 2019 by Bo Fan.

Quitting Porn:

Representation in Male Gay Porn and Construction of Porn Narrative

 

In Nguyen Tan Hoang’s book A View from the Bottom: Asian American Masculinity and Sexual Representation, he defines the term “Bottomhood” as not only a gay male sexual position but also a “social, affective, political, aesthetic” position (Nguyen 2). After analyzing featured Asian men archives, which include Asian diaspora queer documentaries, gay pornography, Euramerican films, and gay online profiles, he points out that Asian men are always stigmatized as effeminate also condemns heteronormative respectability. Pornography is one of the most afflicted fields racializing sexuality and full of misrepresentation. Such phenomena can be analyzed through Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of practice. Bourdieu describes fields as a structure that certain practice occurs according to particular rules and of one’s habitus, which is “the embodied history that is manifested in our system of thinking, feeling, perceiving and behaving” (Walther 15). In the field of sexuality, pornography is a method of “education of desire” (Dyer 27) which helps construct one’s habitus – sexual and social position and self-imaging. Deconstructing the white supremacy hierarchy in the gay community, both Canadian artists of Chinese ancestry Wayne Yung and Richard Fung use pornographic material as their approach to expose the problem of Asian representation.

Yung’s 1000 Cumshots (2003) unfurls a lightning montage of shots extracted from mainstream gay pornography. At first glimpse of Yung’s work, he uses porn images that are largely diminished in resolution and quality. According to Hito Steyerl, the poor image accelerates as it deteriorates; it tends toward abstraction (1). By losing visual substance, Yung resurrects the “political punch (Steyerl 8)” of poor image. The hierarchical relationship between the high-resolution image and poor image transforms into an analogue of the white supremacy and Asian misrepresentation. Utilizing poor image that performs against “the fetish value of high resolution” (Steyerl 7), he questions the legitimacy of only presenting white male in gay pornography. He directly illustrates the promotion of certain types of desire by letting viewers confront dreadful texts such as “GWM Gay White Male”, “No Fats Fems or Asians”, and “White Party” over the top of pornography. It is still not surprising yet unfortunate to find the same phrases on gay online dating site even years after 1000 Cumshots is made. The fast-speed barrage of images establishes a manifestation of commoditized and permeated pornography.

By juxtaposing flashing images with fast tempo heavy metal music,Yung creates a vibrate visual impact. Sociologist Deena Weinstein suggests that the core value of heavy metal music is power – the timbre, value, and feel of its sound (Weinstein 23). Its call embodies in the ability of “empower” social groups that have “less valued” habitus. Yung regards the images as a political act. He creates his work as a means of taking hold of image production that largely conducted by white men (Hoolboom 179). With a closer observation on 1000 Cumshots, a distorted black-and-white video layer of a non-white male face, indistinctly in masturbation movement at times, is intergraded with the porn images and texts. It becomes a metaphor of the self as his works are often interpreted as oblique autobiography (Hoolboom 174). Counterpoising the fluidity of the pornographic poor images and the self, Yung reveals the inevitable misfortune of people in media aggregation.

Different from Yung’s direct political appeal, Richard Fung’s Chinese Characters (1986) contemplates the same subject matter in a subtler and more whimsical way. Fung unfurls his intertextual essay by appropriations of iconographic commoditized videos and the creation of a complex juxtaposition of mainstream pornography and fiction (Waugh 235). In his landmark essay Looking for My Penis: The Eroticized Asian in Gay Video Porn (1991), Asian actors in porn are always a metaphor of passivity, they are feminized, desireless, and “desexualized Zen asceticism” (Fung). In Chinese Character, he interlaces two sets of imagery, an “oriental” stage with clichéd scenes and music; and blond-surfer-orgy footage (Marks 23). Both sets develop into their journeys. Within the frame of a traditional Chinese legend – search the source of Yellow River; Fung Combines staged interviews, fantasy voiceovers, and re-enactment of classic gay porn. By juxtaposing blond and bronze white men orgy imagery and Asian protagonist’s monologue of seeking their desire and expressing their gayness within the affirmation from white gay porn, Fung exposes the problematic influence of mainstream porn on sexual self-image and self-identity of gay Asians. His work is an intervention to white mainstream pornography with a playful present of Asian characters, as Laura Marks comments, “Fung’s clever porn montages try to force gay white porn to admit Asian men as sexual protagonists and viewing subjects.”

This perpetual frustrating phenomenon draws my attention to view gay pornography in a sociological way that allows the realization of my work Flytrap. Beyond the misrepresentations, there is an essential factor in porn that celebrates the heteronormative respectability – its narrative. Therefore, the project places its focus on the narrative of contemporary major-studio-based gay porn. Richard Dyer argues, “Porn is part of the experimental education of the body”. The education of desire is manifested through its narrative (Dyer 27). It reinforces the legitimacy of the masculine model, which implied the subordination of femininity and effeminacy (Dyer 27), of gay sexuality. The narrative constructs the “reality” and operates as rules in porn. It allows individuals to acquire its education of desire and reinforces one’s habitus (the internalized rules) in a sexual and social field. To deconstruct the narrative, I become interested in the non-explicit scenes and shots in porn. I intend to create an ambiguous montage that is exclusively made from different porn clips. With the alteration of soundtrack and disruption of stories, I invite viewers to question what they are watching. Focusing on suggestions and connotations – eye contacts, background, non-human objects, and movements, it raises the subtleness of desire gradually as the sequences unfold. Flytrap exposes the invisible construction of sexuality of gay males through a poetic abstraction of the narrative in pornography.

Although we are having a more fragmented media market – different voices can speak through various webcaster, specialty DVDs and alternative film festivals (Hoolboom 179), the misrepresentation and absence of Asians are still largely exist in the mainstream industries. From Aline MacMahon in Dragon Seed (1944) to Linda Hunt in The Year of Living Dangerously (1982), or even Emma Stone claimed to be part-Chinese in Aloha (2015), Asians have been invariably casted by white people in Hollywood films. The more Asians being misrepresented, the more stereotype and stigmatization will be reinforced. In terms of gay porn, it not only reinforces mainstream preference and heteronormativity but also construct the public understanding of social and sexual position. To break the vicious cycle, criticism should invite viewers to reflect on the education (of desire) we are receiving.

 

 

Watch Flytrap on Vimeo.

Works Cited

Dyer, Richard. "Male Gay Porn: Coming to Terms." Jump Cut, vol. 30, 1985, p. 27.

Fung, Richard. "Looking for My Penis: The Eroticized Asian in Gay Video Porn." A Companion to Asian American Studies, 2007, pp. 235-253.

Hoolboom, Mike. Practical Dreamers: Conversations with Movie Artists. 2008.

Marks, Laura U. "Sexual Hybrids: From Oriental Exotic to Postcolonial Grotesque." Parachute : [revue D'art Contemporain], 1993.  

Nguyen, Hoang T. A View from the Bottom: Asian American Masculinity and Sexual Representation. Duke Univ. P, 2014.

Steyerl, Hito. "In Defense of the Poor Image." Journal #10, Nov. 2009, pp. 1-9.

Walther, Matthias. "Bourdieu’s Theory of Practice as Theoretical Framework." Repatriation to France and Germany: A Comparative Study Based on Bourdieu's Theory of Practice, Springer Gabler, 2014, pp. 7-16.

Waugh, Thomas. "Sex, Money and Sobriety." The Romance of Transgression in Canada: Queering Sexualities, Nations, Cinemas, McGill-Queen's UP, 2006, pp. 236-240.

Weinstein, Deena. Heavy Metal: A Cultural Sociology. Lexington u.a, 1991.