Reading Gonzo Porn

Curator's Note

When I have attempted to explain how gonzo might mobilize dynamic forms of agency, complex articulations of female sexual power particular to porn, or helpfully disrupt traditional notions of film and narrative, my musings are generally met with skepticism. Indeed, it is hard to explain the nuances of gonzo to someone who only watches it when decontextualized and uploaded to tube sites; when that person has already decided what gonzo (and by extension porn) is and is not. When pondering these issues, my mind tends to go back to Mason’s gonzo showcase Kristina Rose is Slutwoman (2009). In particular, I think about Rose’s famous scene with Manuel Ferrara. The scene won best boy/girl scene at the AVN Awards that year and is described by Rose as “the best sexual experience I’ve ever had and I don’t think I’ll ever have another one like it. That was a very special day for me and it still is.” For many, this scene will represent a host of negative understandings of gonzo: stereotypically gendered power dynamic, physical violence, and a scenario that seems to depict non-consent. Rose also sheds tears near the beginning of the scene. How could this text offer anything other than sexist messages concerning a woman’s love of abuse? Fan discussion of the scene reveals the specialist understanding of porn among these communities that must be attended to if we are to discuss pornography with any degree of insight or nuance. “Intimate and strangely sweet,” says one fan; another observes, “It’s really beautiful and sweet and a little sad. A very special, unique scene. I loved it. To me, this is porn as art - arousing the senses and emotions.” Reviewer and fan Diville notes, “In an era of porn where the zenith of a star’s popularity is reached when she finds the nadir of her depravity, we have now a movie in which the star is, yes, depraved, but far, far from humbled. Here, Kristina Rose doesn’t sink to new depths, but attacks them.” Here, we have a scene that can also be read as romantic, startlingly intimate, the culmination of two performers’ celebrated work together, and a demonstration of how gendered displays of power often function differently in porn. 

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