Sunday, April 25, 2010

Letters from men who watch pornography

If you've read this blog previously, you may be aware of two projects I've done involving letters. The first installment in The Letters Project was Letters from Johns, which featured letters from men about their experiences paying for sex. The second was Letters from Working Girls, which featured letters from working girls about their lives.

Both projects lasted one year. The johns project featured 51 letters. The working girls project featured 18 letters. I wrote about The Letters Project for when the Eliot Spitzer-call girl story broke. The project was mentioned on And Susie Bright proclaimed it "riveting reading."

In the last six months, I've been trying to decide which project I want to do next. I have a day job, I'm working on a novel, and I'm blogging at True/Slant. I have another project in the wings, but I'm not ready to launch it yet. Last weekend, I took a break from my novel, and I came across this post by Richard Galbraith. I'd read the post before, but for some reason it caused something to click in my head, and I realized that I wanted to do another installment of the letters project, this time focusing on men's relationship to porn.

I don't know why this idea hadn't occurred to me already. (Or maybe it had.) After all, I've been writing about the adult movie industry for 13 years. The idea of The Letters Project is simple. A call goes out. A letter comes in. A cacophony of voices tells a story that had remained untold until now.

The third installment of The Letters Project is Letters from Men Who Watch Pornography. I thought about calling it Letters from Porn Marks, which is a derogatory term used by adult industry insiders to describe men who consume copious amounts of porn, but I thought that might be too inside baseball, not to mention off-putting. I found this title amusing.

When I started the johns project, I posted a note on the site that warned something to the effect of: "These are not jerk-off stories." I was attempting to discourage anyone who was thinking about sending me a tale better suited for publication on The Erotic Review. Those types sent their letters anyway. They were also the types who wrote follow up letters, first wondering, and then complaining, when would their letters be published? They never were.

There is much known about pornography, or at least much of it to see, but less is known about the reasons why men consume porn, outside of scientific studies and biased pseudo-research. This project pretends to be neither a study nor scientific, but it may bear fruit that sheds interesting light on the intimate relationship between men and porn.

All letters remain anonymous. The best letters are unabashed in their honesty. (See: #30, #25, #21.) If you're interested in submitting a letter to Letters from Men Who Watch Pornography, you may do so here. (NB: The other two projects are closed and no longer accept submissions.)

And, no, I won't be creating a Letters from Women Who Watch Pornography companion project. Yes, women watch porn, too, but men are the primary consumers of pornography [link via Siege], and I don't expect that to change any time soon.