CYBERSPACE—Porn may be a broadly used word that remains open to definition, even by judges and juries, but the fact that creative uses of the term (food porn, war porn, etc.) are in vogue is no reason to abuse it beyond all recognition. But that seems to be exactly what is happening, and with a frequency that remains adamantly resistant to change.
Two very recent examples make the point. First comes with the launch of a new site that oh so cleverly found its name by combining "masturbate" with Netflix to create ... Bateflix, which is being called the Mr. Skin for Netflix, which itself begs the question, doesn't Mr. Skin do pretty much the same thing?
It does, but that never stopped the mainstream press (and now, sadly, us) from slathering attention on any product or service that claims to squeeze the porn out of the mainstream. The problem, of course, is that there isn't much actual porn to be found in the movies listed on Bateflix. Rated from one x to three to indicate sexual explicitness, the site filters the movies by sexual activity (massage, group sex, shower scene, etc.) and also provides consumer-written reviews that at this early point in the site's life can best be described as moronic.
The most recent review posted on the site, for the movie Lost in Beijing, reads simply, "Just some old lady in a bra," which, come to think of it, may actually be a succinct description of the film's erotic achievement. Most of the other "reviews" are similar in tone and quality, which may be what visitors to the site want from them. But labeling the site as a porn filter, which most of the articles seem to be doing, still seems to be a total misclassification of what the site is. It's not a new trend, but it remains irritating and certainly counters any attempt to engage in real talk about real porn.
It's very much like the complaint lodged Monday by TechCrunch that "Windows phone has a Nasty Porn Addiction" because the Windows Phone Marketplace features apps such as Sexy Bomb, iKamasutra and HD Babes, which are clearly risqué but do not feature any explicit sexuality. Of course, that didn't stop the writer, Matt Burns, from labeling the apps as "porn" and "smut."
Burns labels himself a "family man first" and a writer second, so maybe he feels it's his civic responsibility to call anything that has any sexual component to it porn, but in doing that he only reaffirms his limitations as a writer, including the inability to characterize a thing correctly.
What bothered me most about the TechCrunch article is that I simply could not find a Windows Phone app that contained actual nudity. They all seemed to promote pictures of girls in bathing suits, and even the iKamasutra, which is obviously about sex positions, showed them not with real people but with non-explicit illustrations. Despite the relatively tame fare, however, Burns actually calls Microsoft out on not hiding those apps where the most vulnerable cannot easily find them reeks of the ridiculous.
"Keep the porn," he then claims. "I’m not attempting to persuade Microsoft to take Apple’s PG-rated stance. As far as I can tell there’s no way to filter the raunchy material from the platforms. Windows Phone is being marketed as a low-cost smartphone, perfect for the younger crowd and first time smartphone owners. I for one would pause recommending the hot Lumia 900 along with other Windows Phones for younger kids because of the amount of sleazy apps."
The problem with Burns attitude is that being unable (or unwilling) to distinguish between "sleazy" and "sexy" is as dangerously ignorant as being an outright censor. If one sees porn where it does not exist, one is really just projecting ones infantile approach to sex where it does not belong. It's embarrassing to the individual and the organization for which he works.
The same cannot quite be said of Bateflix, since the site does catalogue some movies that do contain explicit content, such as Caligula, which in its unedited version goes all the way, and Brown Bunny, which contains an explicit blowjob.
However, other films listed on the site that receive an XXX rating similar to the ones given the abovementioned include Clockwork Orange and American Psycho, neither of which contain anything remotely explicit. In the site owners defense, it's the mainstream and not them that are labeling the site a Netflix porn filter. They just want it to be a means of masturbation, like Mr. Skin.
Bateflix is a far cry from Mr. Skin in every metric possible, however, and will probably not achieve its depth or richness of content. The latter site, by the way, understands only too well that it is a portal to more explicit fare, as evidenced by the ads on the site promoting actual porn. That makes sense. It's a solid business model based on content that actually delivers what it says it will deliver as "the world's foremost authority on celebrity nudity."
Call it anything you like, except porn.