Which Big Porn Trend Is Coming Next?

Will we all be watching miserable Trump porn in 2017?

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18 November 2016, 1:39pm

A promotional image for Donald Tramp – The XXX Parody (Photo: woodrocket.com)

We like to think that our sexuality is innate; that our base desires are hardwired and our kinks and tastes unyielding to outside influence. Following that logic, we believe we watch the type of porn we do because it addresses our specific needs. We watch "chav porn" because we've always been hot for men in tracksuits, milf porn for a reason that definitely has nothing to do with our own mothers.

But when strange porn trends come and go, slipping up and down the league table of search terms, how far do outside sociopolitical forces affect what we want to see? Are porn trends more subject to the wider world than we think?

"Relationships between media consumption and wider social or cultural context are really complicated things," says John Mercer, a Gender and Sexuality Professor at Birmingham City University, who specialises in gay pornography. He says that on the most basic level, developments in technology have pushed specific trends of porn to the fore.

"There's an inevitability to the fact that the social media era, which is about people being exhibitionists presenting their lives to the world and sharing their intimacies, has produced phenomena like X Tube [the first site to allow users to upload and share adult videos]," he says. "Really light and portable hardware has become available to people. Meanwhile, people are thinking so much more about how sexualised their bodies are." As Mercer points out, within the massive growth and popularity of amateur porn, the GoPro and similar technologies have pushed forward interest in Point Of View porn. "That's a piece of hardware that enables POV porn to be way more sophisticated and voyeuristic than gonzo porn – where someone has a handheld camera pretending to be the eyes of the person."

Similarly pharmacology has changed trends in gay porn. Up until eight to 10 years ago, there was mandatory condom use across gay porn. "There were niche producers who specialised in bareback porn and that was positioned as a rebellious, marginal, radical practice," Mercer says. "It was the equivalent of something like fisting or piss play now. It was presented as very out there activity too. With the advent of PrEP, increasingly condoms have been coming off – now bareback or raw sex has just become a repertoire of sexual practices in mainstream porn."

Technology and pharmaceutical innovation are very tangible changes that have influenced porn trends – but it can also be attached to events in mainstream culture too. Clarissa Smith is the Professor of Sexual Studies at the University of Sunderland and co-editor of Porn Studies, the first peer-reviewed journal dedicated to exploring porn. "Porn follows trends and changing attitudes and ways of thinking about the world," she says. "Porn is in the business – just like any other media outlet – of maximising its reach at particular times. If there's someone who is making waves in mainstream culture, porn will find a lookalike or some aspect of that person and you'll get an element of that in a particular form of porn. There are ways in which porn is not separate from mainstream culture even if we pretend it is." Essentially: anything happening in the wider world reaches the porn world too. The industry doesn't exist in a little bubble.

Take an example from a few years back when "BBW" and the the celebration of "thick" African American women by Drake and Nicki Minaj became a cultural phenomenon – appropriated and adopted by white women around the world. It's no coincidence that Pornhub's 2015 statistics showed that the word "black" as a search term jumped 16 places to become the 10th most popular search worldwide. Similarly, "black teen" had 424 percent more searches in 2015 than the previous year, and "big ass white girl" rose 190 percent. In the US specifically, "black" jumped 9 places to become the 5th most searched term. This sits uncomfortably when you consider that race relations remain poor in much of the US – and the continued racial violence propagated by police.

"Porn pushes against a lot of our feelings around tolerance," says Smith. "It can be an irritant rather than a cosy reflection of culture. When you're talking about mainstream forms of television or film we look at the BBC perhaps as being tolerant – 'Oh, look how it reflects back to us how we've become such nice people and we don't go in for race hate'. Porn puts it upfront and central that actually, there are problems around our supposed tolerance of race or mixed race relationships."

Similarly, in the UK, PornHub's 2015 review uncovered that Brits are heavily into "chav" porn, at a time when the poorest in the country are being beaten down by austerity. "When David Cameron was talking about wanting to 'hug a hoodie', [British porn director] Anna Arrowsmith British made a film using that as a title, which played off that idea of sex with 'chavs'," remembers Smith. "That was a very direct response to something happening in wider culture."

On the day Trump officially became president, PornHub found that searches for "Donald Trump" increased 874 percent and. But the 15th November, Tiffany Trump had become a trending search on the site, up 9128 percent based on previous averages. "No doubt we will see some Trump based porn," says Smith. In fact, there's already some grim orange impersonators with big dicks and a lot of views out there but I don't want to tell her. "I think he's very ripe for some parody and also for some quite unpleasant types of porn that tap into his misogyny and his racism as a particular narrative trope."

The general air of desperation, angst and confusion felt both sides of the Atlantic in the wake of 2016 will no doubt affect porn habits in some way or another. Smith did an extensive study and found that people turn to porn in times of stress or anxiety. "Porn becomes a relief. Existential angst could be one reason people watch porn. There could be that with Trump. The world is so awful you might as well engage in something sexual. For others, feeling enraged about porn could make them turn away from porn altogether."

It'd be interesting to know whether periods of economic uncertainty and social upheaval change porn trends – or even the frequency with which porn is watched, but there has been very little in-depth research into our porn habits.

"We all like to think we know what people are doing with pornography but the fact is we don't. It's much more complex than we might want to allow," says Smith. Mercer agrees. "We know so little about why people watch what they do and what desire is, even. Porn is so much more of a rich cultural expression than people want to think of it as being." Until people see it as such, we'll never have a clear picture of why we wank to what we wank to.

@hannahrosewens

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