I don't have a TV because when I do I use it like a brain babysitter, and I end up watching way too much. But I've been going through a painful breakup the last couple of weeks, which is one of those times when you need plenty of distraction, so instead of TV I've been scrolling through Tumblr blogs.
Tumblr blogs, for anyone who might not know, are blogs hosted on a site called Tumblr, and they consist mostly of images. Like anything on the Internet, they run the gamut of quality, subject, and taste. But a subset of these blogs share a sensibility that I find endlessly fascinating, stimulating, very queer, and very sexy.
That Hipster Porn is the one that introduced me to this world and is still a favorite. (Be warned that none of these links are SFW.) All the images are framed to look like Polaroid prints. (I know I'm old because this type of Polaroid, which is vintage now, is the "new" Polaroid to me. The original, in the 60s, you had to peel apart, and it had an even border all the way around.)
I think the best of them are Sissydude and Androphilia. These two typify the kind of mix that I find most interesting in these blogs, images that reflect the mess of stuff that rambles around the male brain, which can at any time include a lot of interesting things but always a good proportion of it having to do with sex and body parts. You might see crime scene photos, illustrations from vintage children's books, fine art photography, family snapshots, new and old homemade porn, painting and sculpture from any period or place, comics, movie stills, photos of naked people not originally intended to be pornographic, celebrity and fashion photos, as well as lots of images from mainstream studio porn, and a good number of pictures you don't know what the hell they are.
There's an interesting moral evenness or overall blankness to such a wide variety of types of images. I've seen photos of prison torture, corpses, horrific bloody injuries, and autopsies right next to photos of porn stars butt-fucking, Olympic athletes, and high school swim team photos. The juxtaposition can starkly point out how images are used to titillate, to sell magazines, to sell products, to sell wars. But what does it mean to be aroused by a photo of a hot man getting his dick sucked, then, still aroused, move on to a decapitated body or a Baroque painting or a surreal 1950s children's book? It strikes me as an unapologetic distillation of our media world, where in the New York Times an ad for Calvin Klein underwear might sit on the same page with Lynndie England grinning over a pyramid of naked prisoners in Abu Ghraib.
Further complicating the question is that, because the images are out of their original context and often uncredited, it might be impossible to tell if a particular photo is actually of someone being sexually humiliated or if it's a very convincing porn reenactment. Whichever it is, it's making your dick hard. What does this fact contribute to the old argument about whether or not it's harmless to fantasize about things that in real life we wouldn't tolerate, like rape or kidnapping, for example?
These blogs are not just passively consumed like traditional porn. They become a social network with images traded, reblogged, and commented on by other bloggers. (I even started one of my own: Come Back Like Water.)
I also like Pic of the Gay and Ruffians. There are also plenty of them that only post porn, but even with that limitation the range of images is huge, from very commercial porn from big studios to ratty snapshots of guys holding their phones up to the mirror. A couple of my favorites are Filthy Bastard and A Photo Blog with Daddy Issues.
I'm not ready to posit any big theory regarding what these blogs mean in the great stream of culture -- any media scholars looking for a thesis topic? -- but they make me wonder how we arrive at what images and subjects are sexually stimulating. Can any image be sexualized? Can anything be sexy? Should anything be sexy?
What is very clear when looking at these blogs is that everything, as Susan Sontag said about Camp, is in quotation marks. I'm not sure yet how interesting that fact is -- I think we live in an age where nothing is not in quotation marks.