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Jenni Miller

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Jenni Miller is a freelance writer in New York City. Inquire within!

Filminism: Lena Dunham and Why XXX Porn Parodies Are Here to Stay

Like almost every TV show or movie that you could possibly think of, including but not limited to “SpongeBob SquarePants,” there is going to be a porn parody of the HBO show “Girls.” The show’s creator, star, head writer, and co-show runner Lena Dunham is not thrilled, to say the least, and she took to Twitter to express her feelings. To wit:

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This article isn’t intended to be an attack on Lena Dunham. I would probably feel weird about having a porn made about something I created, wrote and starred in, too.

There are tons of things that I think are great about Dunham’s work, most of which boil down to, “Yay! A high-profile woman who isn’t afraid to call herself a feminist in public!” and “Yay! A woman who’s defiantly imperfect in front of the world!” and “Yay! A woman is making stuff that other people are watching and talking about, even if they don’t agree!” I guess that could be construed as taking what I can get when it comes to female-centric media; sure, there are plenty of things that are problematic about “Girls,” but can we at least be a little psyched that we’ve got something happening here?

(Speaking of crumbs, it is a crying shame that the media and viewers got drawn into “Enlightened” too late in the game, and that HBO didn’t renew it. It was a far better show in every way, ecstatically painful and beautiful in equal measures, and just as uncomfortable, if not more so, than “Girls.” The cynic in me mutters that a fallible, childless, divorced middle-aged woman is perhaps less of a commercial draw than a quartet of twenty-somethings faux-slumming it in NYC.)

I have a lot of empathy for people in the public eye, and people have been especially vicious towards Dunham. Like, everything she writes or does is endless scrutinized and attacked; hell, even when Lisa Lampanelli tweeted something about Dunham, she was expected to address it as if it were somehow her fault.

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But about that porn…

Look, I don’t know why Burning Angel didn’t get on top of this before Hustler, but making a “Girls” parody is a no-brainer. Porn parodies are so popular that they have their own award category at the yearly AVN Awards. The Hustler brand has so, so, so many parodies. Things you’d never think would lend themselves to porn – “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Dirty Jobs,” “Hollywood Squares,” ESPN, commercials – have been transmogrified into XXX bonanzas.

As for Hustler itself, I can’t speak to its labor practices, the personal safety and happiness of its performers, or the ethics of everyone involved. The definition of feminist porn is currently a hot subject for debate, but I feel pretty confident that Hustler doesn’t fit into that rubric. So, yeah, I get it. It wouldn’t be my top choice, either.

Is Hustler really just monetizing women’s sexuality, as Dunham wrote? Well, “This Ain’t Girls XXX” stars Richie Calhoun, a guy who appeared in a parody of “The Notebook” because he looks so much like Ryan Gosling. So. Do with that information what you will. The female lead is Alex Chance, who looks like Annie Sprinkle in her heyday – cute, curvy, and natural. (Full details on XBIZ.com here. NSFW ads.) Ladies consume porn, too, you know.

The thing is that once you put something into the world, you don’t get a choice as to how people interact with it. There are plenty of people who watch “Girls” or snippets thereof simply for the sex, even if the scenes are actually far more complicated. There’s an oft-cited scene between Adam (Adam Driver) and Natalia (Shiri Appleby) that, taken in context, bring up all sorts of questions about consent and how we define rape. Out of context? It’s a guy having rough sex with a girl and ejaculating on her breasts. I am positive that there were people who watched it in context and still felt aroused. Fantasy isn’t a crime, and it shouldn’t be, even if it makes you feel icky about it.

Making a “Girls” parody porn is not “a violation” of or “hostile” towards Dunham’s creation, as Amanda Marcotte wrote on Slate. It’s not part of some agenda to undermine her agency. Spinning the scene from “Girls” with Adam and Natalia into a BDSM scene in “This Ain’t Girls” with the Adam and Hannah characters – a scene that was written into the script and, we assume, was approved and/or discussed by the performers ahead of time — doesn’t mean what Adam did on “Girls” was okay.

If you buy that porn influences sex negatively, the answer isn’t to stop making porn; it’s to make better porn. Not that I expect miracles from “This Ain’t Girls XXX,” but I will probably watch it. I still wish Burning Angel had done it, though.

Read the previous installment of Filminism: “Frances Ha” and the Heartbreak of Female Friendship


Categories: Columns

Tags: Filminism, Girls, Jenni Miller, Lena dunham, Porn parodies, XXX, Zosia mamet