There’s a long-dead Canadian folk singer name of Stan Rogers who had a comedy bit in his live act where, at one point, he’d ask the audience for a show of hands from those not familiar with Morris dancers. Then he’d laugh an evil laugh and say “You lucky few!”

Well, I need to introduce this post in much the same way. Is there anybody here who hasn’t been exposed to the gonzo porn trope of the girl being fucked from behind with her head in the toilet?

You lucky few.

This trope can get almost infinitely gross and/or scary — the toilet may or may not be in use by the performers or by others, it might or might not get flushed during the scene, the girl may or may not have her faced pushed or held beneath the surface of the “water” — but it’s almost always presented as extremely degrading and disgusting.

No, I don’t personally grok the appeal, and I like me some fairly serious BDSM scenes from time to time. But I don’t have a sexual response to pee or poo or girls gasping for breath or crying uncontrollably or vomiting or screaming in terror — all of which I have seen in gonzo porn scenes of this sort.

Now, full-disclosure and eschewing all hypocrisy, back in 2005 or so Kink.com did put out one of these face-in-toilet scenes on one of its F/f BDSM sites, and I did blog about it approvingly under the title Bondage Porn, Hold The Patriarchy. Partly this was because I was in a grumpy mood after several days of wading through some really awful anti-porn “feminist” blogs. Partly it was because the face-in-toilet-ee was the lovely Annie Cruz, whose enjoyment of edgy BDSM play as both dominant and submissive is well-documented, and whose own strong will and personal agency could not be less in doubt. And partly it was because this underwater toilet-cam shot of Annie’s face remains to this day one of the most comical porn photos I have ever seen:

Annie Cruz trying to hold her breath with her face in the toilet bowl

Anyway, there are just four photos in sequence in the free gallery that touch on the face-in-toilet part of the shoot, and they struck me at the time as being fundamentally different from the usual gonzo head-in-toilet disgusto-fuck. (It would be interesting to see if that impression survived contact with the actual video, which I haven’t seen.) Is it degrading and/or humiliating? Almost certainly. Is there anything wrong with that? Given that Annie signed up for it with her eyes open, I don’t think so. But it don’t matter — it’s just one of those editorial decisions I make every day, that we all get to live with. This one I remember, though, because it tracked close to a line I don’t usually cross.

I was reminded of all this when I encountered Ms Naughty’s blog post called How Sex With Your Head In A Toilet Bowl Can Be OK. She’s reviewing a movie called Tight Places, and describes one scene thusly:

Brooklyn, the haughty, dominant lesbian pauses in her frantic fisting and then whispers in the ear of Vai, her moaning, submissive female partner. She points to the toilet her lover is leaning on.

“Do you want to put your head in there?”

Vai, panting and flushed as the result of several gushing orgasms, looks a little hesitant. “Is it clean?” she asks.

Brooklyn nods. And so the eager submissive lifts the lid and places her face into the toilet, her hair dropping into the water as Brooklyn fucks her hard with a strapon.

She then writes:

Right now, anti-porn activist Gail Dines is touring the world, marketing her book that argues that porn has “hijacked men’s sexuality.” She maintains that the current crop of porn websites and movies is far more sexist and degrading to women than ever before. She cherry-picks examples from the dark alleys of internet porn to illustrate her point. One of the regular things she mentions are sites where women’s heads are pushed into toilet bowls while they’re fucked.

How interesting, then, to encounter the very same sex act in a film that aims to be feminist, sex positive and queer- and female- friendly; a movie that features a cast of lesbians and trans-identified people but doesn’t star a single straight man.

Clearly, this movie is not following Gail Dines’ script.

Neither was Annie Cruz, blowing her toilet bubbles back in 2005. I mention this merely to reinforce the point about cherry-picking. Gonzo porn has been around a long time; I find it fairly nasty as a category (with some exceptions because there are huge diversities of presentation even within the category) but you don’t learn much about “porn” as a category by pointing out the more extravagant excesses of one of its most excessive genres.

Back to Ms Naughty and the real point of all this:

This scene is a perfect example of how consent and intent make all the difference.

Though I was personally turned off by the sex act portrayed, there is actually nothing wrong with the scene itself. Both performers consented to being in the scene and, once it’s underway, Vai voluntarily puts her head in the toilet bowl. Indeed, it seems to increase her physical pleasure by ramping up the psychological arousal. Her partner may have done it to degrade her but the intent is benign; Brooklyn seeks to get her partner off rather than to exert power or make her look or feel bad.

It’s an important difference and one that pro-porn feminists are doing their best to illustrate. It’s not the sex acts that are important, it’s the ethics of consent and how the performers are treated.

If the goal is consensual female pleasure, who cares how the results are achieved?

Indeed, I’ll go a step further in defense of BDSM and its tropes than Ms Naughty has gone here. Assuming the performers have consented to perform the scene and have adequate safewords and procedures (since it’s tough to say “Richard Nixon” with a mouthful of toilet water) to ensure that consent is maintained throughout the scene, I don’t think it matters who puts her head in the toilet bowl. Nor do I think it matters whether Brooklyn’s intent is “exert power”. Indeed, if BDSM is about mutual sexual pleasure (which need not always be simultaneous to be mutual), exerting power or inflicting degradation may be perfectly valid, legitimate, sexual, loving acts. Whether we are talking sex or sexual performance, it’s really just “the ethics of consent” that need concern us, and not the details of the acts, nor how they play out in the scene.

What, then, makes these two movies different from some of the gonzo porn flicks that disgust me, and that happen to feature men sticking women’s heads in toilets instead of women sticking women’s heads in toilets? {Carrie Bradshaw voice}Am I giving lesbians a free pass on toilet fucking?{/Carrie Bradshaw voice}

Answer: no. Speaking only for myself, there are two differences. In the case of Kink.com, at least, I have lots of evidence for my belief that they are ethical producers, and that what I see under their brand is well-consented to. I don’t have that same degree of faith in some of the gonzo producers, for reasons too subjective and particular to detail here. The other difference is purely aesthetic. In the M/f gonzo scenes I’ve seen, there’s been an element of physical overpowerment, big beefy guys “forcing” much smaller and very young and scared-looking girls and manhandling them around, usually accompanied by lot of verbal abuse. It has looked like bullying. Even if we assume it’s all high quality acting, I so despise bullies that my reaction has been a version of: “That’s not sexy, that’s just mean and pathetic. Do not want!”

And that should be quite enough about toilet-fucking to hold y’all for awhile.

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