JUMP CUT
A REVIEW OF CONTEMPORARY MEDIA

 

Gender role reversal is the central theme of Bend Over Boyfriend and pegging pornography more generally. At a minimum, the active/insertive male, passive/insertee female paradigm is reversed. However, this reversal is taken even further in Bend Over Boyfriend, as reversals in sexual position are accompanied by reversals in behavior. In an opening statement, Queen opines that part of the enjoyment of pegging for women is in “becoming more masculine” and “seeing their men become softer,” and we see this play out over the course of the video.[7] [open endnotes in new window] The women exhibit stereotypical masculine traits once their strap-ons are in place. They begin to stand taller, their voices become deeper and more authoritative, and they display a masculine bravado in their gestures and bodily movements. Likewise, the men take on stereotypical feminine traits. For example, while being penetrated by Cupcake, Troy allows his long and previously pinned back hair to flow down his back, which he proceeds to toss playfully from side to side like a supermodel in a shampoo commercial.

On the one hand, these moments uphold the masculine/feminine binary by (re)associating sexual penetration with masculinity and strength and sexual reception with femininity and weakness. On the other hand, these moments divorce gender from sex, suggesting that masculinity and femininity are unstable performances with no firm basis in biology.[8] In other words, the masculinized women and feminized men in Bend Over Boyfriend create an effect similar to that of the drag queen as discussed by Judith Butler in Gender Trouble. Sex and gender become denaturalized via performances that calls attention to their mutual exclusivity and reveal, as Butler states about drag,

“that the original identity after which gender fashions itself is an imitation without an origin” (175).

Key to all this gender play is the (strap-on) dildo itself. Most closely associated with lesbian and female autoerotic sexual practices, some feminists have dismissed the dildo as nothing more than a “male-identified” penis substitute, a patriarchal accomplice that impedes the pursuit of female sexual pleasure beyond the act of penetration.[9] Other feminists have disputed these claims,[10] but they are ultimately irrelevant to pegging pornography as, unlike in much lesbian pornography where penises are entirely absent, in pegging pornography penises are present. Accordingly, the dildo is best thought of not as a penis substitute but as a sex equalizer, one that allows women to “override anatomical determinism” and to switch with a queer fluidity from penetrated to penetrator (Conway 151-3). The dildo also enables a queering of the female body itself, which remains traditionally female on top and acquires a “maleness” on bottom. This fact is perversely highlighted in several Bend Over Boyfriend scenes in which the women peg their boyfriends in the missionary position, allowing the male partners to fondle their women’s breasts at the same moment that they are being penetrated by their women’s “cocks.”

Significantly, the strap-on dildo also remains at the center of the action throughout Bend Over Boyfriend’s sexual interludes. At the same time, the men’s biological penises are rarely glimpsed and are almost never a focal point. For example, in one scene, Troy gets on his knees to worship and fellate Cupcake’s “dick,” which remains in center frame, while his biological penis stays out of view.[11] Even when the men’s penises are visible, they are always overshadowed by the larger and more actively engaged dildos.

In a similar vein, male ejaculation is of less concern in Bend Over Boyfriend than in the average pornographic film in which ejaculation, as Linda Williams famously stated in Hard Core, is the “sin qua non” of the genre that provides the visible proof that “real” bodily pleasure has taken place (100-3). Thus, we see Troy cum at the end of his “scene” with Cupcake, but the other men never visibly ejaculate.[12] In fact, in an uncharacteristic moment, the film ends not with male ejaculation but with shots of Queen pumping her strap-on into her husband’s grateful bottom as she moans in orgasmic abandon.

All of this – the gender reversals, de-emphasis of the penis/ejaculation and focus on female desire and male anal pleasure – produces in combination a much different construction of sexuality than one normally finds in pornography. As previously noted, Dyer suggests that mainstream pornography constructs a heterosexist, phallic-based sexuality through its narratives which foreground the penis and male ejaculation. In contrast, Bend Over Boyfriend presents a model of hetero-masculinity that is not based on male phallic dominance but on male anal eroticism, and that depicts female sexual pleasure independent of receptive penetration and male ejaculation. This female pleasure is expressed through the audible sighs and exclamations that the women make while penetrating their men, as well as their satisfied facial expressions. This female pleasure is also decidedly active in nature: The women, who are all real-life pegging enthusiasts, not only talk openly about their fantasies and desires, they pursue and actualize them on screen.

These anti-sexist qualities of Bend Over Boyfriend are made all the more significant by the fact that Bend Over Boyfriend is an educational video that, as mentioned earlier, aims to involve the viewer on a corporeal level. That is, Bend Over Boyfriend aspires to have the viewer, in some form or fashion, physically imitate what he or she sees on screen. Dyer has argued that pornography, as

“an art, rooted in bodily effect can give us knowledge of the body that other art cannot” (27).

Accordingly, Bend Over Boyfriend extends porn’s capacity to stimulate/educate the body not only by seeking to arouse the body (as all porn seeks to do) but also by seeking to engage the body in new practices through its pedagogical interludes and film-within-a-film structure – new practices that may allow the viewer to experience her or his body and gender in non-traditional ways.

So, if Dyer is correct and mainstream pornography, with its emphasis on androcentric pleasures and male domination, is at least partially responsible for teaching us the

“worst aspects of the social construction of masculinity that men learn to experience in our bodies” (27).

Then Bend Over Boyfriend, which diverges from a traditional “masculine model of sexuality” (i.e., one grounded in penetration and ejaculation) has the potential to “re-educate desire” in the body (27). Insofar as the viewer does indeed respond corporally, either through arousal or through imitating what s/he sees on screen, s/he is receiving a much different education about femininity and masculinity than s/he would receive from more standard pornographic fare. This progressive pedagogy is made all the more remarkable by the fact that all of the “educators” in the film (besides Morgan) are women, and, if you include the director, at least one is a lesbian. For as Heather Butler has argued, the film offers a much needed space

“where the female presence in pornography can really exact an influence,” changing pornography’s educational role for the better (190).

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