Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Stuff I don't understand no. 63

Daddy porn.

I don't understand why it's become so popular in the last 1-2 years.

I'm guessing, since the readership for most erotica appears to be female, that it's primarily read by women. Which suggests it strikes a chord in the psyche and, presumably, the desires of many North American/European/Western-orientated women.

My initial thought when it first rose to prominence, around the back end of 2011 and early 2012, was that it might be a reaction to the economic situation.

The idea that a strong daddy figure could bring order to an unstable life, that the world could be reduced to a sexualised version of a father-daughter relationship that might serve the needs of adult women whose own lives were complex and chaotic, that it would simplify issues of identity, security and sexuality in one psychological archetype - that kind of made sense as a place where many women's heads could go.

And then we started having sex scandal after sex scandal. Women (and occasionally men) describing how they'd been traumatised through abuse by those who were, if not parent figures, then having some combination of being in loco parentis, having some kind of authority, or misusing influence and celebrity status that had resulted in their being trusted if not idolised.

Did that change the context of daddy porn? Does it mean we're looking at writing that tries to negotiate a way through the idea that some form of sexual relationship based on the authority, privilege and control of older males - and the dependence and voluntary subjugation of younger women, who are expected to not grow up - might be acceptable and even desirable to some women?

I don't know the answer to these questions. What I can say is that:

- in the sociology of literature there's a strand that considers the writing of any particular era as reflecting the 'zeitgeist', the spirit of the age - and its problems (though the how, why and what of this is contested).

- in the sociology of literature there's also a strand that says the 'zeitgeist' approach is reductive and that writing is always exploratory and imaginative, actually constituting new ways of being.

- in any psycho-analytical approach to writing, you have to recognise that there can be no legislation of desire. Desire is never subject to minor details such as whether the things held to be erotic are legal, moral, acceptable, and so on. In fact the reverse is often the case: things acquire erotic fascination and strength because they're illegal, immoral and socially unacceptable. Because they represent an 'other' that isn't part of how we live our day-to-day lives.

I'm sure there are many other literary, sociological, psychological, semiological, psycho-analytic and, for all I know, astrological and pataphysical theories. Not to mention post-structural variants of all of the above. So I wouldn't want to say this particular kind of porn is a direct consequence of the economic climate, nor that it's a conscious and deliberate working through of issues thrown up by abuse. But the ideas that there's some kind of link, something that underlies and explains the growth in this particular kind of porn, is tempting.

Then again, maybe it's just that one of my kinks is a need for theory.

What do you think?


In case you didn't know: 

- pataphysics is 'the science of imaginary solutions, which symbolically attributes the properties of objects, described by their virtuality, to their lineaments'. It was invented, if that's the right word, by Alfred Jarry, one of the forerunners of surrealism. The quote is from his book Exploits and Opinions of Dr. Faustroll, Pataphysician.
- post-structuralism is not pataphysics. Or at least it's only a distant relation.



  1. Hi Fulani. You are searching for a theory and I don’t think that you are going to find one -- or if you do, it’ll be In Freudian or Jungian psychoanalysis. I’ll be surprised if you find anything in Critical theory or Structuralism.

    Although digging around in my brain, maybe Barthes could help? I recall he wrote a lot about “myth” -- I’m trying to think of examples of the older man, young girl kink in film and literature. Do you remember when ITV dramatised Andrea Newman’s book “Bouquet of Barbed Wire”? The incest idea was both implicit and explicit -- from both father and daughter’s point of view. And didn’t the mother end up having sex with the daughter’s fiancĂ©? The series shocked, but was invigorating too -- giving young women permission to have thoughts and fantasies about a “Daddy” figure. And for older men to have desires for younger women.

    Maybe “Bouquet of Barbed Wire” was the zeitgeist for that era.

    I often think about our kinks and how discomforting they can be if you start finding real life parallels. I’ve written a novella about a woman who is aroused at the idea of being a sex slave. Then I think of the case of Josef Fritzel, and how he kept his own daughter as a sex slave for years. A real little Daddy’s girl story if ever there was one.

    I shudder when I think of anyone being tortured. Yet my stories regularly feature shackles, cages, cock cages, nipple clamps; all the paraphernalia that can either be associated with both torture and bdsm.

    And as I write, I am aware that in my newly opened file, there is a Daddy’s Little Girl story waiting for me to do some work on for Diabolic Muse. I work on my little tale, I am most definitely turned on by my thoughts and what is appearing on the page. So it is a major kink for me I guess -- why? I have absolutely no idea. I never had incestuous thoughts about my own father. The only notion that I can relate to is that over the years, I have often thought that I was an idiot to have embarked on my sexual journey at the age of 15 with clumsy boys who said they knew what they were doing, but did not. How seductive the idea is -- that I should have waited for someone with sexual experience.

    That’s the closest I can get to -- dunno if it helps…

  2. I think you raise at least two interesting issues here.

    I don't remember Bouquet of Barbed Wire, but I guess the daddy thing has been part of our culture for a long time, perhaps a century or so? We've seen a gradual change in ideas about the appropriateness of wide age gaps in sexual relationships and it's created a line in the moral sand that may be tempting simply because it exists. Or at least, and maybe it's an idea worth exploring, being excited by the very thing that repels.

    On a related note, that 'tempting because it exists' thing possibly explains some issues around kink. While we're all clear about what constitutes rape, some women (and presumably some men) are attracted to forced sex play, I guess on the basis of wanting to experience what it feels like to be forced - and getting a sexual high from it.

    In business studies there's a proposition about motivation to the effect that someone can be motivated by a particular job situation but demotivated by the context in which it is placed. A parallel would be that we can be excited by a particular idea while acknowledging that in another context, its occurrence would be morally repugnant. Context is everything.

    As to theory: the post was speculative simply because I'm aware that seriously trying to apply any theory would involve a huge amount of work - and I don't have the time or motivation to conduct a full-scale analysis of the kind that you might find in, say, Barthes' S/Z or Mythologies, a Lacanian-style poststructuralist psycho-analytic approach to the issue, or a critical theory model based on, say, Marcuse's One-Dimensional Man. But probably someone, somewhere, will do exactly that for a PhD and if that happens, I'll be wanting to read it.