There’s a genre of pornography called “sex positive”. It’s a reaction to the idea that so very much porn is “sex negative”: treating it as something dirty, degrading, and disgusting. It’s a valid criticism of much of the mainstream porn industry. And in principle I’m very much on board with providing alternative porn that celebrates sex as fulfilling, fantastic, and fun. For example, I’m a fan of Smut Peddler, Oh Joy Sex Toy, and Sticky Graphic Novels (for whom I illustrated a story).
But apparently that isn’t the kind of porn I often create.
Nobody’s been giving me grief about this, so don’t get defensive on my behalf. But as I navigate the porn comix community, I see the idea of sex-positivity come up fairly often, and I’m enough of a navel-gazer to realize that my work probably doesn’t always qualify.
You could probably fill an entire psychological academic journal with an analysis of why I make the porn I do, and conclude that I tell stories about unhappy or unhealthy or even illegal sex because I’m full of the sex-negative garbage that my religious upbringing and the commercial porn industry have fed me. I can’t dispute that. But it’s an incomplete picture.
When I write porn, I’m looking for it to reflect some mix of reality and fantasy. Writing about reality was the initial impetus behind JAQrabbit Tales, and there’s a thread of it in even the more fantasy-leaning tales. Reality, as I’ve experienced it, can be positive or negative… usually something in between. Sex can be anywhere from dissatisfying to traumatic, and for the kind of biographical focus that the Tales have, it’s important to me to reflect that. That doesn’t necessarily disqualify them from the “sex positive” label, though.
During development, the Tales also started to deal with fantasy, because – let’s face it – my reality isn’t interesting enough to sustain hundreds of pages of stories. Sex-positive porn does the same thing, but this may be where I part ways with it. That’s because I see fantasy as sometimes based on the idea of sex being dirty, degrading, or disgusting. One of my tongue-in-cheek disclaimers is that I can’t promise that you’ll find JAQrabbit Tales arousing… but I also can’t guarantee that you won’t. And even if I write something that I didn’t intend to be arousing, but it still gives you a stiffy… I’m OK with that.
One of the goals of sex-positive porn is to give people good models to emulate, because a lot of us do get ideas from porn, about how to have sex ourselves. It’s also important for people to see representations of “themselves” in the media (including porn). I try to incorporate that into JAQrabbit Tales, in other ways.
The main idea I try to promote is variety. The main character has sex with bears/jocks/twinks/etc, plays “top” or “bottom” as if those labels didn’t exist, and has everything from anonymous hook-ups to (serial) monogamous relationships. Which isn’t to say that there’s anything wrong with people having preferences, but I celebrate the fact that we don’t need to.
That dovetails with representation. It’s rare to find bisexuality reflected in porn (even then it’s usually a “kink” added to make a homosexual or heterosexual scene more “exotic”), and even more rare in porn comix. (Let’s see, there’s John Blackburn’s “Coley”, and… um…) How often do you see sex between people of different colors (again, unless that’s a specific fetish they’re catering to)? The script I’m working on right now includes a guy with cerebral palsy, and I’ll definitely be doing one involving a deaf character… both disabilities that feature in my life.
There’s another kind of “representation” I am for, and this is part of why I include stories that aren’t… nice. For example, there are Tales about reckless or self-destructive sex, sex for money, sex while drunk or otherwise impaired, and even statutory or forcible sexual assault. These are real things in the real world, and I think there’s value in depicting them. On one hand, people who’ve experienced these things can see that there are others who have. And on the other, people who fantasize about it see that there are others who do that. I realize this is a bit of a “cheat”: trying to have it both ways by presenting them as part of the ugly reality of life, and as fantasy material that some readers will just jack off to. It’s messy, because I’m messy… and remember, I conceded at the beginning of this article that I’m kinda fucked up about this. :/