I watch porn a lot differently than I used to.
When I used to sneak around and watch whatever hardcore videos beamed through the satellite dish, I would sit and watch attentively for as long as I could, taking it all in until I heard my parents pulling into the driveway.
When I moved out on my own, the interruptions stopped. With access to the internet and a small collection of X-rated DVDs, I could watch the way I wanted to: scene by scene, from beginning to end.
Then, things changed.
Not with me. I would be more than happy to watch these movies and clips from the setup to the money shot. But something happened to mainstream heterosexual porn. And now I find myself skipping through the videos I’m watching.
I’m not fast-forwarding through the dialogue — I still love giggling at the bad scripts, the awkward delivery, and the improbable scenarios. I’m not at all tired of watching people strip and fuck even though I’ve done it for years. And unlike Amy Schumer, I like watching the endings (I can handle a little splatter even though I’m a strictly below-the-chin kind of lady).
But what I can’t watch — not comfortably anyway — is gagging. And gagging is all over mainstream porn now.
A woman who walks in on a muscled guy masturbating and decides to give him a hand? A college student who will do anything for a better grade? A stepmom with some real boundary issues? Chances are good they’ll all go so intense on oral they’ll repeatedly gag, choke, and struggle to breathe.
There are things that look uncomfortable in mainstream porn. That’s part of the artifice — we’re watching flexible, athletic performers pushing themselves farther than most of us are able to.
Porn is cinematic (I know, that’s kind of a hoity toity term for an industry built on gonzo Handycam footage, but bear with me). The performers need to contort themselves into various positions not only to keep things visually interesting but to make sure the camera can see all the good stuff. Let’s face it, the last thing most of us want to see when we click on a Pornhub video is the gauzy over-the-shoulder shots that were the bread and butter of risqué early 90’s TV movies.
None of that looks comfortable. My legs only bend back so far, and only for so long. Having sex while propped up against a wall or on a stairwell can look amazing on my laptop screen but as an experience it makes you wonder how long your knees can take it.
And then there’s the sex itself. At the drop of a hat, the women on screen gleefully take cocks that are almost as thick as the business end of a baseball bat. Panties are ripped off and penetration — even anal — starts immediately.
I’m no stranger to girth myself, but I need a whole lot more preparation for it to be at all enjoyable.
But throat fucking is different. Unless you have a fetish for rough sex, intense domination, or humiliation, it’s more likely to make you cringe than get you wet.
What makes it different than the other uncomfortable stuff on screen is that it’s inherently uncomfortable. I might not be able to put my legs behind my head, but I can spread them wide enough to get the job done. And while anal sex with almost no notice and just a bit of spit would be painful, with enough preparation and lube, it can be a pleasurable and routine part of having sex.
But there’s no try-it-at-home version of gagging where you can take the discomfort out of it. If you’re gagging, you’re uncomfortable. And unless the discomfort is part of the fun for you, there’s no way to make it a normal, pleasant, vanilla experience.
Insta-anal and pretzel-shaped fucking are fantasy versions of the regular versions you do at home. But gagging isn’t just a fantasy version of a blowjob. It’s a different kind of act altogether.
Gagging’s not my thing, but that doesn’t mean that I think it doesn’t have its place in porn. It may turn me off personally, but I’m not trying to shame anyone. I’m no prude, and I wouldn’t appreciate it if someone told me I couldn’t get off on watching a bearded daddy tie his partner’s wrists and make her beg for his cock (just me?)
I’m not trying to say that gagging is wrong. My contention is that it’s a kink and it should be categorized as such. It’s not just a vanilla act and it shouldn’t get slotted into ostensibly vanilla films as a routine part of the script.
I’ve felt like this for a long time, but I never really put my finger on it. But when I was putting together this article, I think I identified the reason it stood out to me.
It’s not reciprocated.
In the old school mainstream porn I came of age to (pun intended), every act had a counterpart.
The male and female stars fucked each other. The actors stimulated each other manually. Oral sex abounded, with the men and women taking turns being on the giving and receiving end (or, if they could work the camera angle, giving and receiving at the same time).
But gagging is a one-way street. The women getting throat fucked on screen are gagging and suffocating and it’s still classified as mainstream, vanilla porn. But when the men are made to gag or suffocate, then it becomes a BDSM or humiliation video.
Swapping genders shouldn’t mean swapping categories altogether. If gagging and suffocation are kinky when it’s done to a man, then it should be kinky when it’s done to a woman.
Choking on a cock so big it gives you a throat bulge has its place in porn. But it’s the same place where all the other consensual pain and humiliation takes place — under all the right kinky tags, not just filed under “blowjob.”
On one level, I’m just being pedantic. It’s the same way I’m bothered when I come across an autobiography inappropriately filed in the History section of the library. I like things neat and organized. I binge-watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo like every other jealous woman in North America. So, it bothers me when that great big digital porn stash we all dip into feels disorganized and cluttered.
I also really want to know what I’m getting into. We all do. Porn isn’t like a blockbuster movie. We don’t want plot twists when we’re masturbating. We want to know what to expect and we want the film to deliver it.
Getting thrown into a whole new category of porn — humiliation, masochism, whatever — when I’m not expecting it, it just throws me off course. I have to skip through parts, find a new video, and usually start over and delay my orgasm. Hearing a woman gag and struggle to breathe when I just wanted to watch her suck cock takes me out of the experience and it doesn’t feel fair not to have been warned up front that I would be watching (consensual) abuse and rough play.
And I hate to be the mom here, but, well, with four kids I sort of always am. I can’t help but worry about what it means when we make a kink like this mainstream. Porn calibrates our expectations.
The vanilla material is supposed to show us basically what we can expect when we get down with someone. And for the most part, that’s fine. There are issues with how unrealistic some of the porn is and with how consent is secured too quickly (remember kids, just because consent happens off-camera doesn’t mean it’s optional). But it still gives us an idea of what regular, ordinary sex is — in the case of straight sex, it’s vaginal penetration, handjobs and fingering, mutual oral sex, and some anal if you’re lucky (and yes, that last one is more common and ordinary than many people realize).
Gagging is a kink. And like every other kink, you need to find that special someone who genuinely enjoys being on the other end of it so that everyone involved can consent to it enthusiastically. And that’s part of what makes kinks so wonderful and beautiful — they not only make you feel good (real good) but they also make you feel like you’ve found your tribe. Just throwing it into every vanilla film robs it of that intense intimacy only kinks can have.