by Jon Pressick, Sex in Words
Eye spy with my little eye, something that is…
Beautiful. Pretty. Sexy. Hot. Ravishing. Handsome. Alluring. Stunning.
In concluding this series on sex and our five senses, sight was specifically left for last because it is the most dominantly referenced and most readily connective. How we visually encounter sex is a common thread across media and appearance. There are countless songs and literary passages detailing falling in love and lust the first time seeing someone. Dating app usage is predominantly based on photos, ensuring users can get a good look at a potential playmate before actually connecting (and pity the fool who uses an old and misrepresentative picture in their profile!). For the most part, it is easy to believe that connecting visually is the primary meeting point and beginning of sexual engagement for most people.
However, when it comes to sexual imagery, be that in advertising, porn or even while actually enjoying sexytimes with another person, those identifying as men are widely believed to be far more visually stimulated than those who identify as women. So many products—both sexual and non-sexual—are marketed in such a way to seemingly appeal to men or women along these supposed visual preferences. It is believed men want to see and enjoy more explicit images, more nudity (or perceived nudity) whereas women are believed to want softer, more sensual depictions of sex.
A shift in this perception is coming about. Dr. Justin Lehmiller, in replying to a reader’s question about the differences in male/female visual stimulation, suggests that this belief has more to do with sexual freedom and porn than it does our particular desires and tastes. And past experiments conducted with porn are central to his point because, regardless the influence of non-explicit media, porn is a dominating force when it comes to our visual ingest of sex.
Kate Sinclaire works in promoting the sexy, visual aspects of sex as the purveyor of Cherrystems and the soon-to-launch Ciné Sinclaire. “For me, pleasure includes not only shots of crotches bumping together, but also the look in someone’s eyes, the anticipation, surprise, and unabated release that is a sexual experience caught on film.” While some erotic and porn producers are firmly entrenched in the idea that shots of direct genital action are paramount to depicting sex—and for some people that is definitely what they want to see—Kate feels porn is evolving to include a wider scope in sight. “I feel like this is the next step that the porn world is making – showing more than just a simple formula. Realizing that there are people that want to see different visual stimulus, and that those things are indeed appreciated – they’re just not usually available. Those elements are generally assumed to be extraneous and cut from the scene or never shot at all.“
This new formula, in connection with the changing ideals of women’s sexuality, emboldens a shift in our perspectives of and appreciation of images of sex. We are starting to see a wider variety of people represented in both porn and mainstream sexual imagery. People of colour and people with disabilities are being represented as the sexy folks that they are truly not—not just as fetish or novelty objects as has so often been in the past. There is an abundant and array of beautiful bodies to behold out there, more than our minds can even imagine.
Of course, imagination plays a key role in our appreciation of the visual elements of sex. While we certainly always remember our other sensual engagements, visual cues are a consistent reminder of what really got us going. We often play things back in our “mind’s eye” over and over when we’ve encountered a particularly sexy sight—and these memories are often the fodder for our erotic imagination.
At the same time though, new and refined technologies are allowing the “visual” to be seen in different ways. People who are visually impaired have long used braille to read, but over the past few years, new projects have re-imagined tactile reading into tactile visualization. Lisa J. Murphy created Tactile Mind, a picture book of sexual images raised up of the page to be enjoy by touch. Swedish artist Nina Linde also brought some bawdy into braille by making a sexually stimulating picture book, Occasionally Blind, complete with braille text.
There are new advances in technology and pornography that are also revolutionizing how we see sex. With the growing popularity and imminent release of the Oculus Rift, the sex industry has already investigated and invested much into this potentially game-changer. One of the most aggressive groups heading into this future sex is lead by porn superstar Ela Darling and her team at VRTube.xxx. Their sexy 3D holograms will put your fantasy person right in front of your eyes and can be customized to ensure you see exactly what you want, need and desire.
It is hard to imagine any time when the sight of sex won’t be the dominant sexual stimulus. Whether you are admiring your lover’s body in a close and intimate moment, or catching sight of a sexy person across the street, visual connection is, for lack of a better term, the most ‘simple’ way to connect. Is seeing truly believing, when it comes to sex? Maybe, but remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder—as it should be.
– Jon Pressick
About the writer: Jon Pressick is a sex-related media mogul. He is also a writer, the editor of the Best Sex Writing series from Cleis Press, co-host and producer of Sex City Radio, event organizer, workshop facilitator, (very occasional) burlesque performer and general sexual gadabout. Jon Pressick also won the prestigious 2010 TNT Favourite Adult Journalist Award and has been named as one of Broken Pencil’s “50 People and Places We Love.”