Not To Be Trusted With Knives

So, my most recent Facebook status has garnered some raised eyebrows and several demands that I explain what the f, how the f and why the f someone would pay me $20 to watch porn. So I suppose I should explain. It wasn’t really “pay”, it was actually an honorarium. That should explain it, right?


OK, the deal is, on Friday I took part in a research study on sexual arousal and testosterone in females. They are interested in finding out if testosterone levels are correlated with sexual arousal in women – studies have been done in men, of course, but (like many areas of medical research) not so much in women. So, as a feminist, I felt that I should participate in this important research endeavour. And when they told me that I got to watch porn and would get paid $20, I was sold!

I was told that I would be filling out a few questionnaires on sexual history and current practices, and would give saliva samples (to measure testosterone) before and after watching some porn. “You’ll be in a locked room, completely private.” Oh ya, and they are measuring blood flow during this whole thing, so that they can actually quantify your level of turned on-ness. Because nothing really sets the mood for sexual arousal like being hooked up to a machine so that the researcher in the next room can quantify your level of arousal in real time. Hot, I tell you, hot.

After I filled out the questionnaires and spit in a tube (and they even give you a piece of gum to encourage saliva production) for my pre-porn baseline testosterone sample, I got all set up to watch the movie. There was another questionnaire to fill out about your mood before you watch the film, where you have to rank your level of different moods (1 = “Not at all” to 7 = “Intensely”) such as “anxious,” “worried,” “excited,” “bored,” and, my personal favourite, “dirty.” Then the film starts – they don’t want to just throw you right into the porn, so first the word RELAX appears on the screen, in capital letters. Because nothing makes you relax like ALL CAPS. Of course, no one who has ever seen Zoolander can look at a screen with the word “relax” on it with breaking out into fits of laughter – all I could think of was Will Ferrell in a bonnet, licking an oversized lollipop and saying “little kid things.” I’d been warned that any movement on my part would register on the blood flow monitor, so I tried to suppress my giggles, which only made me giggle more. After the RELAX screen, a travel video came on, again part of the pre-porn show that is supposed to be neutral, to get you to relax before the actual “experimental treatment” (i.e., porn*). The “travel video” they chose to show was on Hawaii, specifically on the practice of making leis. “Lei,” of course, is pronounced “lay.” And when you are already suppressing fits of Zoolander-induced giggles and are about to watch some porn, hearing someone saying the word “lei” repeatedly can really put you over the edge. “The best way to make a lei is…”, “the best leis are…”, “a really good lei is…”

Now, so far, so good — filling out questionnaires, hooking up to machinery, free gum. Unfortunately, however, once the porn starts, it all goes downhill. Inexplicable, the research team who wants to study sexual arousal in women chose as their stimulus: the world’s most boring porn. They must have had to watch hours and hours of porn in order to find the most boring pornographic film ever made. “We’ve carefully chosen porn that appeals to women,” the research assistant had told me several times. Apparently then, they think that women like porn with (a) a plain looking, middle-aged man having boring sex with (b) a plain looking middle-aged women who goes out of her way to (c) show the camera that she’s wearing a wedding ring. Because clearly women only want to see a married** couple “making love.” They made sure to choose porn where they guy goes down on the woman, but not the other way around. Of course, I have no problem whatsoever with the guy going down on the woman***, but didn’t it occur to them that some women might actually enjoy giving head and so might want to see that in their porn? Or that some women might want to see a couple fucking rather than boring missionary sex, with a just a little bit of doggie style thrown in at the end? Or perhaps we’d enjoy seeing a guy with rock hard abs and 24″ biceps? Or maybe we’d like to actually see a penis in our porn?? Most offensive of all, however, was the fact that the woman in the film didn’t have (ok, fake) an orgasm. The guy did, but the woman didn’t. Porn where the woman doesn’t get off — how, exactly, is this supposed to be appealing to women??

After the boring porn was over, I had to fill out the mood questionnaire about how I felt while watching the porn**** and take the post-porn spit sample for testosterone (and remove the, uh, apparatus for blood flow measurement*****). Then I tell the research assistant over the intercom that I’m done, so she can come back into the room and give me my $20. When she enters the room, she excitedly asked me, “Did that shock you?” And I was all like, “What? Shock? I found it really tame actually.” She seemed pretty disappointed when I said that, but quickly recovered, “Oh ya, I found it tame too. But some women say, “I didn’t know it was going to be like that!!” after they see it. They didn’t know it was going to be like what? That there would be people with no shirts on? That bad actors would pretend to have boring sex? How shocking!

All I can say is – at least they paid me $20.

*Yes, I’m trying to use the word “porn” as often as I can, so as to garner more hits from Google searches to artificially inflate my stats. Like this woman I met at Northern Voice who constantly gets hits on her blog for her posting called “Beaver Shots“…

**And I’d just like to say that, as a recently divorced woman, wedding rings are not really what I’m looking for in my porn.

***Especially because it meant I didn’t have to see his ugly face anymore.

****And you can bet that I ranked “bored” as a 7! I am intensely bored by your lousy porn!!

*****Is this too much information? I feel like this is too much information.

et cetera