JUMP CUT
A REVIEW OF CONTEMPORARY MEDIA

 

Pegging is porn

In June of 2001, three years after the release of Bend Over Boyfriend, columnist Dan Savage, writing for Seattle’s The Stranger, ran a contest to determine the neologism that would subsequently be used to describe the act of a woman penetrating a man anally while wearing a strap-on dildo. The top three contenders included “BOBing,” after the initials in Bend Over Boyfriend, a testament to the success of the film, which upon its initial release was the fastest-selling video for the San Francisco-based sex shop Good Vibrations (Nathan 16). The other two contenders were “punting,” for “kicking the ball to the other team,” and “pegging,” the term that won the contest. One respondent claimed that pegging was historically significant:

“Pegging was a position in Her Majesty’s Navy. He was the boy available for the after-hours pleasure of the sailors on those long nights at sea. To keep loose for his hard night’s work, he would sit on a peg during the day” (Savage, par. 7).

Other respondents preferred the term because “Peg” is a woman’s name and, thus, evokes the biological sex of the person doing the pegging, and because “getting pegged” just sounds like a great deal more fun than getting “bobbed” or “punted” (Savage, par. 1-15). Yet, whatever the reason for the term’s selection, “pegging” is now a part of the U.S. sexual lexicon.

In the years since Bend Over Boyfriend and Savage’s contest, discourses on pegging have increased and communities centered on female-to-male penetration have emerged via blogs (e.g., http://www.pegging.
thumblogger.com
) and websites (e.g., http://www.take-it-like-a-man.com)[13] [open endnotes in new window] Pegging has also begun to be recognized within popular media. In 2003, electroclash singer Peaches included an ode to pegging, “Back It Up Boys!,” on her album Fatherfucker. In 2006, an episode entitled “Crush Girl Love Panic” on the television program Weeds featured an instance of pegging between Andy Botwin (Justin Kirk) and his lust interest, Yael Hoffman (Meital Dohan), who to Botwin’s surprise removes a large harness and strap-on dildo from underneath her bed during their first sexual encounter. And in the 2008 independent film Zack and Miri Make a Porno (Kevin Smith), sex worker Bubbles (Traci Lords) pegs cherubic ingénue Barry (Ricky Mabe) in a semi-pornographic scene, while co-director Delaney (Craig Robinson) looks on and nervously remarks,

“I’m disturbed by how turned on I am by this.”[14]

There is also evidence to suggest that pegging is becoming more popular among folks in the real world; according to at least one retailer, the sale of strap-on dildos to straight couples has risen dramatically in the years since Bend Over Boyfriend’s release.[15] Perhaps most significantly, since Bend Over Boyfriend’s emergence, the quantity of pegging pornography being sold has increased dramatically. Whether a momentary fad or sign of things to come, this substantial subgenre currently includes everything from popular titles like Babes Ballin’ Boys (now in its nineteenth edition) and Strap On Chicks (now in its twentieth edition) to Xtube videos[16] of amateur straight couples experimenting with strap-ons in the comfort of their own homes. In the following two sections I analyze two examples of this subgenre. These examples are intended to provide the reader with some information about the types of films that are being marketed to consumers as pegging porn. However, given the sheer number of pegging porn titles on the market, this is far from a comprehensive survey.[17]

There are some observations that can be made about pegging porn in general. For one, all of the pegging porn that I have come across is marketed to straight men and heterosexual couples (as opposed to gay men). This is made clear by their categorization as “straight porn” on the various websites and catalogues (e.g., TLA video) in which they are advertised, as well as by the trailers for generic straight videos that accompany their releases (the DVD release of Strap-On My Man, for instance, includes trailers for the titles Cream Pie for the Straight Guy and 10 Hot Chicks). Unlike Bend Over Boyfriend,most pegging pornography has no aspirations to be educational. But, like Bend Over Boyfriend, most pegging pornography actively promotes gender-play and sex role reversal. This is made clear on the packaging for the videos and DVDs. Take, for example, the following blurb from the back of the Strap-On Addicts 4 DVD:

“Boys will always be boys, but sometimes girls wanna be boys too! And it’s easy...all they gotta do is strap a big hard dildo over their snatch, grease it all up and slide that plastic cock deep inside some lucky dude’s waiting ass! So check out these ‘well-hung’ chicks- they love doin’ the screwin’ as much as you do!” [sic]

However, beyond heterosexual address and the recurring themes of gender play and female-to-male penetration, there is little that ties all pegging porns together. Some films include other forms of heterosexual sex, while others do not. Some focus on one-on-one encounters, while others feature gangbang scenarios (i.e., scenes of several women pegging a single man). Some showcase interracial and/or bisexual sex, while many do not. The following films – Strap-On My Man and Take It Like A Man – have been chosen as they represent two dominant strands in pegging pornography: non-violent pegging porn and violent/sadomasochistic pegging porn.

Strap-On My Man

Strap-On My Man (Unknown, 2003) begins with three white women, one dressed in a long black gown, on a couch discussing their sexual fantasies, which include rimming (anal-oral contact) and female-to-male strap-on sex. The woman in the black gown tells her companions that a mutual friend will soon bring over a guy (later identified as Sonny) who has a fantasy of being fucked by multiple women, a fantasy that “his girlfriend won’t let him do.” Soon Sonny, an African-American male, is standing before them, fully clothed and wearing a blindfold. One of the women jokes that, with the blindfold on, Sonny will not see who is fucking him, and it “could be anyone . . . even the cameraman,” to which Sonny reacts with a nervous grin as the other women shout “no!”

Sonny’s grin and the women’s reaction reassure the audience that Sonny is a straight man. This can be read as homophobic gesture but is also key to pegging porn’s heterosexual male address. The verification of the male performer’s heterosexuality presumably functions to comfort the straight male viewer in the knowledge that one does not have to be homosexual to enjoy the sight of male penetration. Thus, while pornographic films such as Strap-On My Man may encourage straight men to imagine non-normative sexual possibilities for themselves, these films do not necessarily encourage straight men to question their core sexual identities. Indeed, these films often go to great lengths to mark themselves and their performers as heterosexual and clearly to dissociate male anal receptivity from the “taint” of homosexuality. This works toward breaking the persistent link between gay men and anal sex, making heterosexual sodomy and perversion known in the process, but also (re-) establishes gay men as the abject ‘other’: that which it is ultimately not ok to be.

Following this moment of verbal heterosexual reassurance, the women persuade Sonny to take off his clothes, before they ask him to turn around to show them his body. As with Bend Over Boyfriend, Sonny’s derriere and not his penis remains the center of visual attention throughout most of the scene that follows. This is not only significant in terms of breaking with pornographic gendered convention (as previously established, in mainstream commercial pornography the penis is generally the narrative focus) but racial convention as well. Sonny is a black man in a society that de-humanizes black men and reduces them to the level of genitalia and the sexual threat that this genitalia connotes in a racist society. As Frantz Fanon famously stated in Black Skin, White Masks,

“The Negro is . . . turned into a penis. He is a penis” (170).

Accordingly, while this scene involves the domination of a black man by several white women and can thus be accused of reiterating harmful black/white power dynamics, this de-centering of the penis also works against racist representational tropes.

Also, in light of the fact that the women remain at least partially clothed in the scene while Sonny is fully naked and the center of visual focus, a provocative question is raised. For whose pleasure is the film being made? If it is for straight men, then the film appears either to present a fantasy of erotic self-attention and objectification or more subversively to allow straight men to take pleasure in the male body under the “cover” of heterosexuality. If it is straight women, the fantasy seems to be in the creation of a space where women can gaze with desire at the male body with impunity since the blindfold denies Sonny the power to look back at the women, and the women’s clothed bodies hinder the objectifying gaze of an extra-diegetic male audience. Whatever the case may be, it is clear that, as with Bend Over Boyfriend, Strap-On My Man diverges from traditional phallocentric pornography in its deliberate eroticization of the male backside (as opposed to the penis) and de-objectification of the female body.

In the ensuing scene, the women place a makeshift jock-strap made of red masking tape on Sonny before they ask him to “get on all fours” on the couch. They then proceed to penetrate him with their fingers and several different butt plugs and dildos and finally with the strap-ons they are all wearing. The mood throughout the scene is one of playfulness, spontaneity, and erotic communication as the women joke, talk, and have fun with their appendages. This casual lighthearted mood culminates in a moment of surprising self-reflexivity, when one of woman acknowledges that they are all performing in a video and giddily suggests they call the porn, “Surrender Yourself to Sodomy.”

As with Bend Over Boyfriend, the women are also quite vocal about their pleasure throughout the scene, making such comments as, “I think I’m going to cum watching this.” They are also quite respectful of Sonny and his boundaries. At one point, Sonny cries out in pain and the women stop penetrating him. At another moment, they tell him, “Yell if you need us to stop.” Sonny, however, remains silent during most of the scene, only occasionally emitting a groan of pleasure or a sexual request (e.g., “go slower”). His pleasure is made obvious, however, by his erect penis and the copious “money shot” that concludes the scene: After being fucked by the women for about fifteen minutes, Sonny stands up and ejaculates while standing over the couch. This ending to the sexual number momentarily aligns Strap-On My Man with more conventional straight pornography and demonstrates that pegging pornography does not always break from the narrative pattern of mainstream pornography. Although, at the same time, it is important to note that this clichéd ending does not necessarily erase the “difference” that has preceded it.

The scenes that follow this “opening number” mostly feature Sonny in one-on-one sexual encounters with various women. In these scenes, pegging is smoothly integrated with more “traditional” forms of heterosex – cunnilingus, fellatio and vaginal intercourse – through jump cuts that remove the transitional moments between sexual acts, such as the women actually putting on their strap-ons before penetrating Sonny. In other words, moments of pegging are incorporated into the larger sexual scenes through cuts that suture the various sex acts together in a free-flowing and diverse amalgam of (hetero)sexual acts. The abrupt but smooth transitions between these acts, and the lack of any anxiety surrounding the incorporation of female-to-male penetration create the impression that pegging is just one of many perfectly natural practices that can be enjoyed by men and women during their (hetero)sexual interludes.

This is perhaps the film’s most interesting and progressive element. Strap-on My Man reiterates certain masculinist, pornographic conventions: as mentioned, scenes end with close-ups of male ejaculation, and one scene ends with Sonny ejaculating onto the face of his female sex partner. However, through smooth integration with other more commonplace sexual acts, pegging is situated as a “natural” heterosexual practice and desire. If Strap-On My Man has a message for straight male consumers, it seems to be that there is nothing wrong with being pegged and that it is relatively easy to integrate such practices into one’s sex life. Furthermore, as with Bend Over Boyfriend, Strap-On My Man demonstrates that women can derive pleasure from being in the “driver’s seat” and that men can and do enjoy the ride.

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