Paradox of Popular Taboo Pornography
By Ryan Macpherson
Illustration by Mia Maric
You're in a grocery store of all places, surrounded by food, only some of it packaged thick enough. It's been twenty minutes since, and you can still feel it on your hands, it's like a sweat, but your hands are dry. Can these people smell it? You washed your hands three times before you left home. But they are slicked with the kind of filth that no amount of scalding water can scrub clean.
The truth is that twenty minutes ago you were doing what 79 percent of young men (and 34% of young women) admit to doing. You were watching porn. You have been watching porn since you were about 14. And since then you’ve enjoyed it as much as anyone. Only something has changed in the last year or so compared to your previous porn watching history; mainly that you now, apparently, seem to watch incest porn.
So far this article doesn't paint a very flattering portrait of you, some may even say that this article has painted the portrait of a degenerate porn addict. After all, watching incest porn is surely a sign of someone who has over consumed, to the point where the respectable, vanilla and popular porn that "normal" people watch, has become too boring. Surely this is what they would say. But, (luckily) they would be wrong.
The truth is that you have what you believe to be a reasonably healthy relationship with porn. You watch it when you want to. It's not often and it's not necessarily rare (you probably fall well into the average category of consumption for your age, gender and relationship status). So all this begs the question, why are you, a self-proclaimed "average" porn user, watching what is considered to be an incredibly taboo category of porn? You don't seek it out, and you don't have any desire to enact some Freudian orgy fantasy with your family. So what's happening?
Before we speak of this writer’s theory, let's first make it clear that it’s not just you that's watching this stuff. In fact it's very popular. After all it was popular enough to have attracted the attention, and even a Twitter "like", from senator and attempted president Ted Cruz. In fact, as of the writing of this article (January 30th, 2018) nine of the top ten most viewed videos on Pornhub from this year are incest themed. Some of the titles include, but are by absolutely no means limited to, "Horny Boy Fucked his Step Mom.", "Step-Sis Promises to be a Good Girl in Bed", "Mom Caught me Fucking my Step Sis", "Mom Rides her Step Son and Begs for Creampie" and of course, "My Step Sister with Big Tits" It seems that the age of “vanilla” mainstream porn has ended.
But the simple "vanilla" porn as I referred to it used to be naughty enough for you right? After all it satisfied you for years. So what has changed? Why do you now prefer more “taboo” porn? In order to find out we have to go back in time a little. Not too far though, the early nineties will do.
Imagine yourself again. It's the summer of 1987. You’re single and you're a little lonely. It's been a few months since you've had sex and you don't feel like going to the bar and trying to get laid right now. To put it plainly, you're in the mood for a porno. If it were 2018, you could simply go home, go to your computer or smartphone, light a candle if you really wanted to set a mood and be satisfied. But it's 1987, and you have to do something that by 2018 standards is pretty insane, you have to go talk to someone in order to get your porn.
So, in search of pleasure, you go to your local mom and pop video store (Big chain video stores such as blockbuster often refused to stock pornography for moral reasons). You walk in and, trying your best to be inconspicuous, saunter towards the back of the store, you go through the salon doors and into the adult video section. You browse around quickly, painfully aware of the people around you, and feeling a little dirty, you pick a video to rent, maybe something with nurses in it, that’s a little risky right? You bring it to the counter, avoiding eye contact with the cashier, and pay. He bags it well and you head on home through the streets, the world around you oblivious to what's in your bag. You (finally) get home, light your candle, and have a fun night.
Now there are two important takeaways from this pre Internet scenario. One is that the act of obtaining and thus consuming pornography was at least in some aspects a public one. You had to face the world as you got it, so even though you rented a "vanilla" movie, the act of obtaining it made it quite "taboo". The second take away is that obtaining porn was time consuming and relatively difficult. Especially when compared to the mere seconds that it takes to type a porn search into your phones browser.
So you can understand how the act of watching porn in the pre Internet age, no matter how "vanilla" the movie itself was, was quite the exciting and taboo experience. Since the act of obtaining it was itself taboo, and importantly; taboo enough to make it taboo regardless of its content.
But since the summer of 1987 the internet has, hand in hand with pornography, made leaps and bounds in terms of popularity, functionality and accessibility. In fact if it weren’t for the popularity of pornography the internet as we know it today may not exist. In the early days of the internet, when all you could do was send email and watch porn, the main driving force for technological growth was actually pornography. The very first working internet video streaming service was invented by the Dutch porn company “Red Light District” in 1994, beating YouTube to the punch by eleven years, and the bandwidth extensive nature of such streaming services created the need to increase internet infrastructure.
As this internet infrastructure was increased, so too was the internet’s potential and functionality. Soon people were able to design and create more uses for the Internet via websites. Extending the internet’s applications beyond pornography and email and into the realms of music, gaming, news, entertainment, communication, and beyond. Soon the internet even begins to grow its own complex culture, emerging itself from the cesspools that were early message boards and forums. This increase in application, along with increased power and functionality of hardware and decreased price, led to an increase in PC purchases. Within the decade most households have a PC, and the internet passes a tipping point, becoming, or at least seeming to become, unstoppable.
By 2018 you are in the full swing of the internet age, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Reddit and hundreds of other social and entertainment websites leave you living more and more of your life online. Social media changes the fundamental nature of society’s social functions, the astronomical amount of now easily accessed information allows for the exponential growth of worldwide education, and the utility of the internet is realized in ways that allow for increased productivity in all aspects of society, from Uber to democratic voting. But even with all of the new features that the internet offers, it is still estimated that porn compromises 30% of all internet content, that 20% of all mobile searches are for porn. And in 2015, it is even estimated that were more than 2 billion web searches for porn worldwide. In this internet age, the scenario of buying porn from a public place has become an artifact of history, nothing more than a nostalgic memory in the minds of the few who were old enough to remember having to do such a thing. Replaced instead by a two second google search in the private solitude of one’s home. You no longer have to go in public, you no longer feel taboo for simply obtaining or watching a porno. You now have it all at your fingertips.
This increased ease of access to pornography helped to further the success of various modern progressive social movements such as feminism, the LGBT movement, and the modern descendants of the sixties counter culture, which together led to the sexual revolution of the first world. The post sexual revolution world in which we now live allows women, as well as men, to be more open and honest about their sexual lives and desires. The Victorian days where sex was taboo to the point of being unmentionable are over. Sex is now normal, being featured more often and more explicitly in movies and television shows, as well as being spoken about more freely and openly amongst friends or peers. This loss of the taboo nature of sex and sexual desire has turned what was once a “sinful”, “shameful” and “hidden” act into an “acceptable”, “healthy” and socially “normal” thing to do. To put it bluntly, the internet has increased the ease of access to pornography, which in turn helped societies to adopt more progressive views towards sex, culminating in the current state of affairs, where sex is not regarded as taboo, but in fact encouraged as healthy behaviour. But what does all this have to do with you watching incest porn?
To explain that, we have to start off by understanding what makes porn arousing, and in turn popular. This writer humbly believes that the draw and appeal of porn is not the act of viewing the actual "in out, in out" of sex. (If it were then why even bother with the incest titles in the first place?) But instead its appeal lies in the "taboo", the "risqué" and to put it more fittingly, the "naughty". Essentially, It’s not the content of the porn itself that turns us on (This is evident by the fact that the sex itself is the same in an incest video as it is in a "vanilla" one,) but instead the fact that we are doing something taboo. Sociologist Chauntelle Tibbals, author of Exposure: A Sociologist Explores Sex, Society and Adult Entertainment, agrees with my theory, stating in an interview with MIC magazine that: “"Historically, as well as culturally, part of what makes porn titillating is its 'taboo' factor” and that “our digital access to sex via porn has perhaps made porn itself less taboo. It's not surprising then that fantasy depictions of more taboo sorts of sex start to emerge as a focus of interest."
To put it frankly, it’s the fact that we are doing something "naughty" that turns us on, and since we feel that incest porn is unpopular, it becomes arousing. Since it is arousing, it becomes popular.
And this is where we find our paradox; in order for porn to be popular it must be arousing, in order for it to be arousing it must be unpopular. Thus “unpopular” porn is popular porn due to its arousing nature. But this relationship between the two is essentially impossible, it is under flex and stress and can only exist for a short moment before being corrected and brought back to the realm of non-paradoxical reality. As soon as unpopular porn is discovered to be popular it becomes immediately un-arousing and thus loses its popularity. But what happens next? Where do you go for your pleasure? What happens when the unpopular porn becomes popular?
The natural and obvious outcome of this scenario is that this paradox leads to an endless cycle of progressively taboo pornography. The logic being that the requirement for popular porn to be taboo requires the further degeneration of pornography’s themes as each “taboo” theme becomes popular and thus un-taboo and thus un-arousing. We can see this in the history of pornography, the progression from still nude photography in magazines, to the poorly written filmed scenes of the “golden age of porn” (nearly to the point of parody for us, but certainly they were genuinely arousing enactments of often forbidden fantasies for the porn watchers of yesteryear) to the now popular taboo of incest porn. But what happens when we look forward?
The obvious prediction being that the required progression of taboo in pornography will soon bring about the popularity of more taboo themes in your porn. This writer humbly believes that the immediate future of popular pornography lies in the realm of “blackmail”, “extortion”, and “coercion” porn. After that it is difficult to say with any form of certainty where the industry will move, other than to assume that whatever themes are created will be increasingly more and more taboo. It is worth noting that the sex itself in these themes (as this writer discovered through “market research”) remains relatively vanilla, and remains similar to what is currently shown in incest porn, the main difference being the progressive tabooness of the theme, since as was stated earlier, the content of the porn itself is not what makes porn attractive, but instead the taboo and risky nature. Such videos can already be seen to be gaining traction in the form of “caught shoplifter” films where girls are forced to perform sexual acts against their will in order to escape the repercussions of shoplifting. The girls, though at the beginning are resistant, often times come around to enjoying the sex themselves. When incest porn becomes overly popular and un-taboo, these videos may very well be the next big taboo thing to get your rocks off. Check them out here. You know you want to.
Imagine yourself again. It's the spring of 2020. You’re single and you're a little lonely. It's been a few months since you've had sex and you don't feel like going to the bar and trying to get laid right now. To put it plainly, you're in the mood for a porno. You go home, light a candle and grab your iPad. By now incest porn is as boring as pool boy scenes. So what do you search for? Maybe it’s shoplifters being blackmailed into sex, maybe it’s a lost girl on the side of the highway begging for a ride home. Who knows? Maybe it’s something entirely different. All this writer knows is that you’re going to be satisfied.