What do we ask of actors? What about in porn?

By , January 23, 2012 10:21 am
Dot Matrix printing at its finest

She can't even read that! It's facing away from her! Stop looking so shocked!

I recently had a discussion with a friend of mine, Rose, about pornography and acting. She is involved in the sex industry, has worked as a prostitute and escort, and occasionally does both photographic and film pornography. She mentioned she’d recently finished a shoot where she had earned more in five hours than I’ve yet to earn in all of January.

Curious about her experiences, I asked what being in porn was like. Specifically, whether she viewed it as a sexual experience or a ‘this is an action I’m doing because I’m getting paid’ experience. Rose said that it was the latter: really not much more enjoyable than serving coffee or collating copies, just quite a bit more lucrative.

The conversation got me thinking about what we – as audience members – ask of actors. Because going to a play almost always involves some suspension of disbelief.  Perhaps Chicago’s Neofuturists toe the line  of theatre which requires no suspension of disbelief, but they’re in the minority. For the most part, going to a show involves allowing ourselves to believe that the actors are their characters. That they’re falling in love, planning for battle, forging alliances, destroying relationships, and on and on and on. When I go to a play I could sit there the entire time thinking, “Well, she’s not really in love with him. He doesn’t really find what she says so funny as to laugh out loud.” But that would make me miserable, so I suspend my disbelief and allow their actions to read as true.

That’s not how viewing porn seems to work, however. For whatever reason, audiences want to believe the people they’re watching are really attracted to each other (even if only on a physical level) and do reach a real, satisfying, climactic (natch) orgasm.

Why is that?

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