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Immediately afterward, he says Friction's stock-in-trade is just pictures of cute naked girls. Like everybody else. But he was right the first time. "Think about it," says Mari. "Every porno site that is selling some sort of niche object always fetishizes the idea that 'this is real.' 'Real teens!' 'Real Asian pussy!' 'Real lesbians!' People always want real lesbians, even though none of it is real. Because that fantasy is a big draw—that the girls really get off on it. That they're gonna go home and shoot a gun and drink a beer and see a band."
Of course, the girls on some of the punk porno sites get to represent themselves, to put across as much or as little of their own personalities as they want. Can you trust them when they say they like to drink beer and see bands? Probably—honestly—yeah, sure, they probably do drink beer and see bands. And they probably are a lot like you, the punk rock porn consumer. That's why you pay for it. See, porn can be a positive thing—Becky Goldberg and Susie Bright and Annie Sprinkle and the people behind the punk sites are right about that. But porn is also something that feeds on alienation, something punk as a subculture has up to its pierced-with-a-safety-pin ears. The idea that everyone poking around on these sites is happy sex-positive hipster couples looking to get a little revved-up is as much a fantasy as anything else they're selling. And the idea that there are a lot of lonely subscribers who don't have any other realistic way to see cute naked punk girls is something that nobody ever brings up.
There's a subtle dynamic at work here that plays to insecurities on both sides of the computer screen, but when Spooky says girls complain about not getting enough fan mail, he still means it as a joke. "After the 30-second image hunt for self-gratification purposes, people want to talk sex; they want to connect with others; they want to share their like and find the like," says Rebecca Gray, associate editor of the online Adult Video News. "It's the boards, the personal e-mails, and the chatrooms that make for retention rates on the adult web—across the board. Oh, loneliness."
* * *
Punk porn is still very virginal, as trends tend to go. Those standards of beauty aren't absolutely set—not yet; the burnout hasn't yet flared up. Maybe it never will, says Cordner—there's a future in any kind of porn. But there's no future in it for him. He removed the members-only site of his Punk Erotic, unwilling to yield to market pressures to ratchet up the raunch.
"Any time you get a little bit too immersed in something like sex, which is what porn is about, you get kind of inured to it," he says. "You get jaded. A little while ago, I was shooting pictures of someone I just met, and so I was having a conversation with this girl as she's sitting on the toilet with the bathroom door open. And I think to myself, 'Holy fuck. Here in my apartment is some beautiful girl I barely know, and she's sitting on the toilet, and we're having this conversation like it's the most normal thing to do.' And I just sort of stepped out of the line of sight—for my own sake, so I wasn't looking at her."
Art can always progress, he says—but porn can only go in one direction. And you can probably extrapolate what that is—of course, if and when punk sites sink down into the triple-X dregs, questions about subcultural viability and political integrity will look pretty pasty against questions of simple dignity and exploitation. It depends on what the people raking in all those credit-card numbers decide to do if their little basement smut factories keep getting popular: Break the rules? Or follow them?
Because when the mechanisms by which punk porn sites operate aren't too different from those already in place on many alternative porn sites, when the girls on the punk porn sites aren't too different from the girls already in place on many alternative porn sites, then you have to ask what's different besides the haircuts and the tattoos? Simply: What's punk about punk porn besides that, well, it's marketed to people who want to see naked punk girls?
Hannah, the girl who has made Victoria's Secret catalogs obsolete, says there's still a difference between the site she's on and the rest of the porno web. It's in the way her site is a little more creative, the way they treat her, the way there's something on the site besides naked pictures of her. And it's in the way she looks—yeah, she can't say she has small tits, she says, but she's not a blond porno girl. Nor does she call herself a punk. "I don't really put that label on myself," she says. "I know a lot of people that are way into punk, but I just don't like labeling it like that. I listen to punk music, and I don't know, how I dress—I guess it's pretty much normal."