August 9, 2014

Monotony and the Male Gaze

In watching some videos recently, mostly from Erotica X, we have often found ourselves complaining that a certain scene goes on too long and feels monotonous. Interestingly, we have also noticed that we have usually also found ourselves complaining, with these same videos, that the camera work has poor gender balance, i.e., that the focus is too much on the woman and does not include enough shots of her male partner. All of this, of course, just means that a lot of porn suffers from what Laura Mulvey called the "male gaze".
Ms Naughty has frequently complained about the same thing, largely in terms of how the male performer, or at least most of him, is frequently cut out of the frame in most porn. It is very easy to spot once you know what you're looking for. At the bottom of the post are a bunch of examples, chosen a while ago from some DaneJones videos we happened to be watching. And we don't mean to pick on them. We could have chosen such shots from almost anything we have ever seen.
We'd be the first to say that there is nothing wrong with shots that focus on the female performer. Sometimes. But in a lot of porn, even otherwise good porn, that's often the only kind of shot you get. (Except for closeups, with which there is nothing wrong either. In moderation.) But the real problem is that one almost never sees this kind of shot of the male performer. That's why we talk in our reviews about "gender balance".
I'm not sure why it took so long, but it occurred to us the other day that maybe the two complaints we mentioned are related: Maybe it's not an accident that some of the same scenes that seem to us to get monotonous are also scenes that have a prominent male gaze and poor gender balance.
Let's face it. It's arousing to watch people fuck, if they're into what they're doing. But the repetitive in out, in out, in out, while it may feel good, doesn't exactly make for variety. The way to keep the viewer engaged is to vary the shot: to move between closer shots and wider ones; show her face and his; and so forth. But that's exactly what you don't get if the director is shooting the sex in such a way that the male performer is out of frame. That totally limits what kinds of shots you are going to see, and it speaks to a lack of creative thinking. Not to mention that it screams at female viewers: We totally weren't thinking of you when we shot this.
There are people who do this right. Ms Naughty is probably our favorite example, and a lot of Jacky St James's work is exceptionally good in this respect, as well. Many of the videos we have rated most highly also have good balance in this respect. So check them out!