Survival of the onanist

Ambarish Satwik | Updated on January 23, 2018

Photo: Shutterstock

Ambarish Satwik

How pornography inverts and contradicts a very basic and evolutionary behaviour in men

Seminal ejaculate, reportedly, has a strange, shortlived umami flavour. Or so the bukkake stars tell us. Bukkake is a humiliation ritual in Japanese porn wherein a demure young woman kneels in the centre of a small room. She knows well the value of slobber and its application in oral servicing. There’s an assortment of unexceptional naked men surrounding her, about 50 or thereabouts, regular people, touching themselves (while they’re waiting), who will then proceed to throat-f*** her. Or if not that, ejaculate upon her, in a processional manner. At that point, she’s not exactly euphoric, but is eager to accommodate any and every sexual request. The activity is over and successful when the last man has spent himself.

The narrative conclusion of bukkake sexual action is the woman whimpering and wallowing in the many varietals of the batter. The amorphous glop streaks her hair, adheres to her face and breasts. The camera doesn’t court stylistic or thematic possibilities; it just stays on her face, as it expresses complete moral obscenity. It is the enactment of a state of abjectness in which the aesthetic and the ethical are one. There’s a lively variant of the whole thing called gokkun (gulp) where the men make their deposits in a container, and she’s required to ingest it. Due to the embargo on genitals and pubic hair in Japan, the male copulatory organ isn’t really seen in these films. The penis, in compliance with Article 175 of Japan’s rather vaguely worded obscenity laws, is digitally covered by a mosaic of obfuscating pixels.

Bukkake and gokkun, Japan’s cultural exports to the rest of the world, came about because of the ban on genital realism and the mandatory mosaic. Porn-makers had to find newer and alternative ways of providing satisfaction without violating Japanese law. So they brought about the education of the porn spectator on how to be a porn spectator. Japanese consumers of pornography (in the ’90s) started saying they preferred adult movies with the mosaic, because then it’s not just a set of genitals. The videos (they said) should be about the entire person. A whole new succession of diegesis for the defilement of the flesh billowed forth. Contemporary Japanese porn is not about anal reaming and spit and gape gonzo action. It is the great Pavlovian trick. It converts its viewers into twitchy, intra-diegetic voyeurs. It is the world of gameshow cuckoldry, public transport frotteurism and omorashi (bladder desperation).

The primary function of pornography is to serve as an abettor for masturbation. But, for the most masturbatory species of them all (and perhaps the only one that masturbates to orgasmic completion), what is the physiological (and evolutionary) function of masturbation? Well, there’s a Divinity that shapes our ends. All human biological affairs are governed by Natural Selection. There’s a reason why breasts are binary (twice the normal litter size in humans), a reason for our ventral-ventral (face to face) copulatory position (for accidental clitoral stimulation), a reason for scrotality — the external dangling of male gonads in a scrotal sac (non-galloping mammals have intra-abdominal testes; gallopers, if they had them in the abdomen would’ve expressed their sperm into their bladders with abdominal heave and exertion).

The masturbatory impulse is, I think, related to the human circumstance of being a permanently sexed species. The human male is a reluctant and facultative monogamist. Since a male can hope for an offspring from every sexual intercourse with a fertile female, he seems biopsychologically programmed to be readily aroused whenever an opportunity presents itself. Females cannot profit from unthinking sexual promiscuity: a woman can bear no more children if she mates with many males than if she mates with one. So then, what’s the evolutionary purpose of monogamy? Pair bonding to solicit paternal investment in the neonate. The investment of the female is particularly relentless because of the utter helplessness of the human neonate. Human neonates actually require an extra-uterine gestation. And paternal investment.

The sporty hand of Dame Natural Selection slipped another one on the male: concealed ovulation and the loss of estrus (aka evolutionary instruments to thwart polygyny). If women no longer signalled the time of ovulation, men didn’t have a clue about when they’re fertile. This led to a reordering of their mating tactics: rather than rutting multiple women in the hope that some of them might be fecund, it would make more sense to stick to one particular woman throughout her menstrual cycle (Alexander and Noonan 1979).

One wouldn’t be far out in saying that polyandry, for human females, is actually pernicious. It leads to preeclampsia in pregnancy. Which can rather messily kill the foetus and the mother. Preeclampsia also manifests in females who have not sexually cohabited with their male partners for four to five months prior to conception. It seems that the longer the male has exchanged bodily fluids with the female, thereby exposing her to his antigens, the lesser the chance for preeclampsia. There’s an evolutionary purpose to fidelity.

Pornography creates a world of polygynous (and polyandrous) fantasy. It provides the incitement to pleasure oneself without consequences. Masturbation, to state the whole nub of the thing, is the evolutionary answer to the query: how to satiate the polygynous wolf and protect the monogamous lamb.

Coming back to bukkake and the mosaic, there’s another reason for the ventral-ventral position in humans — to develop a correlative set of affective pleasures between the male and the female. It might even be supposed that everything has been quite satisfactorily arranged particularly for the male. The facial contortions and vocalisations of the f***** woman form a performative response that is almost never seen outside of sexual congress. It is the deliciously drawn out display of facial physiognomy brought about by a commingling of pain and pleasure, shame and trauma, defiance and surrender.

In sooth, the face of the f***** woman is the pornographic stimulus. In pornography, what supplies the frisson and the jouissance is what is truly obscene — the violence, the inequality, the humiliation, the debasement, the intrusion. And modern Japanese pornography designates the face as the privileged site of these readings. The culmination of most scenes in Japanese porn are close-up shots of the faces of the female performers, smeared with urine, semen, makeup and saliva.

Pornography is myth-making, to invert and contradict a very basic and stable evolutionary behaviour. Most men use masturbation as a surrogate for what they’d actually want to do to a woman. In Thomas Mann’s words, ‘a resisted temptation is not a sin, but a test of virtue’.

Ambarish Satwik is a Delhi-based vascular surgeon and writer

Published on May 08, 2015

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