Jan 112011

From Xbiz, via Warren Ellis’ Twitter feed:

Kink.com will stream the deflowering of young virgin Nikki Blue in a ritualistic ceremony live on the Internet on Jan. 15 at 7 p.m.

The ceremony will be held on The Upper Floor of Kink.com’s headquarters, the San Francisco Armory. Prior to the event, a trained expert will insert Kink.com’s official hymen-cam to validate that Blue’s hymen is still in place and that she is a true virgin. Once her hymen is confirmed, the evening will proceed, the company said.

“We will start the evening by tightly binding Ms. Blue and introducing three Kink.com legends: Mark Davis, Jack Hammer and James Deen,” said Kink.com director John Paul “The Pope.” “Fans will vote for which of them will take Nikki’s virginity. Once the voting is complete, we will move to the sanctum, which will be dressed as a ritualistic chamber with candles and ceremonial tools. She’ll be placed in the circle and the winner selected by fans will deflower her. The other two will then join the ceremony and make her airtight.”

Whats surprises me about this is just how retrograde this seems. Virginity in 2011 just isn’t what it used to be. After the invention of condoms and antibiotics, it isn’t a magic talisman against sexually transmitted diseases. Virginity doesn’t have the social weight it used to either. Few people in North America expect a woman to be “virgo intacta” at the altar anymore, or to display a blood-stained bedsheet the morning after her wedding night. 18th century libertines fetishized virginity because its removal in a socially unapproved manner (e.g. rape or “seduction”) had such huge social ramifications for the woman. Apart from the direct violation of a person’s integrity, it would also result in social ostracism. (Assuming she wasn’t of low social standing, in which case society didn’t give a crap.)

In Clarissa, Lovelace spends most of the book trying by seduction and deception to get Clarissa to give up her virginity willingly, suggesting that he still puts a social value on it, despite his libertine views. Eventually, he just gives up, drugs her unconscious and rapes her, marking him as both a failed seducer and a coward. When she comes to, finally disillusioned about him, he offers to marry her to wipe away his crime and save her from social death, but she refuses.

Fast forward about 250 years, and watch the “Like a Virgin” number on the TV show Glee, in which three different people are moving towards their first full-on sexual encounter. They are not motivated by internal lust or passion for another so much as a desire to change their social status by removing the status of virgin, which they view as a stigma. In this case, they want and need others in their community to know that they have completed sex and are no longer virgins, completing their initiations into normative adulthood. Again, the social implications of virginity and non-virginity outweigh the physiological implications.

The existence of Girls Gone Wild and Barely Legal-type porn suggests there is still a fetishization of virginity, but I think this is more of a fascination with youth and freshness. It isn’t fascinated with the almost-magical instant of transition between two binary states, virgin and non-virgin, which seems to be driving this particular scenario.

The second thing that seems just odd is the definition of virginity implied in the press release. Kink.com seems to assume that virginity is not a social or psychological phenomenon, but an empirically verifiable physiological state. In other words, what they are really showing is the presence and then absence of a small scrap of human flesh, via heterosexual coitus. Big whoop. By that definition, a lesbian woman who has never had heterosexual intercourse would be a virgin her entire life, even if her first girlfriend got rid of that pesky hymen ages ago. In fact, a woman can have a non-intact hymen for any number of reasons, sexual or not. If we sign up for the pay per view, do we get a notarized affidavit of virginity after confirmation by the “trained expert”? (And who is this expert anyway? A gynecologist? Annie Sprinkle?)

I have no idea what Miss Blue’s sexual history is. It quite likely that she is hardly sexually inexperienced, and thus is a “technical virgin” only. This particular scenario may earn her a sentence or two in the history of porn, but it won’t significantly change her social status. The sign (the intact hymen) is de-coupled than the signifier (the woman’s sexual status). When the press release uses language like “sacrificing Nikki’s innocence”, it’s speaking in an obsolete language. We don’t believe in it anymore, in the same way we’re not impressed by a white woman with an Afro representing a lost tribe of beauties.

If I’m coming across as callous to Miss Blue, it isn’t intentional. I’m much less concerned about the state of her hymen, and whether it is breached in the right or wrong way, than whether it will be good for a rookie adult film performer to be dropped into the deep end. That this will be a live show, where they are discouraged from stopping and renegotiating if something goes wrong, is even more of a concern. As we saw in that excruciating scene in Graphic Sexual Horror, live shoots can create a situation in which everybody, including the models, wants to press on instead of stopping and making sure everybody’s okay with what’s happening. Nikki Blue’s first time (however you define that) doesn’t have to be hearts and flowers and soft music, but I would rather it didn’t go haywire for her.

That said, I don’t know how this can be anything beyond an ordinary video shoot. Linda Williams in her book Hard Core says that pornography evolved a complex visual language to represent what could not be represented: women’s subjective experience of sexual arousal and orgasm. What Kink.com is doing is attempting to visually represent what exists only as physiology, and has nothing to do with the social status or subjective experience of anyone involved. There’s nothing to see.

Addendum: Clarisse Thorn has a couple of good posts (1,2) on this.

Miss Maggie Mayhem has a good discussion of what “virginity” actually means.

Also, there are rumours going around that Nikki Blue is not actually a virgin. The deception!

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