The Weird Things People Say When They Comment on Porn Videos

Culture and technology.
Aug. 24 2012 2:57 PM

The Dirtiest Comments in the World

Why do people comment on porn videos?

Why do people leave comments on porn video sites?
Why do people leave comments on porn video sites?

A few months ago I fell into a drunken, late-night conversation with a bunch of fellow straight dudes. One of them posed an unexpected question. “So,” he asked, swigging his drink, “what kind of porn do you guys watch?”

Seth Stevenson Seth Stevenson

Seth Stevenson is a frequent contributor to Slate. He is the author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.

Answers varied. Certain sexual acts were mentioned. Then one guy recommended a website he liked, describing it as a sort of Facebook for porn. People could create profile pages. They could curate collections of their favorite raunchy video clips. And they could post comments. Indeed, whole strings of comments would appear beneath the most popular scenes.

I’d kept pretty quiet in the conversation. Maybe I’m a prude, but the idea of talking openly about this stuff over a beer with buddies made me a tiny bit uncomfortable. Weirder still was the thought of this porn social network, where thousands of strangers communed with one another over snippets of hard-core sex. But it turned out this was not uncommon—apparently, lots of porn sites have commenting and other social media elements.

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I guess I’d just always assumed that viewing porn was not a social occasion. More a solitary endeavor. Or something couples might do together. Surely not a team sport. The only times I’ve watched porn in a group are 1) at a bachelor party, where it mostly served as background ambience, and 2) in sixth grade, when a friend found his dad’s VHS stash and screened it for his prepubescent pals. In neither case did anyone pay rapt attention to the screen. There was lots of nervous chatter and side conversation. We didn’t feel comfortable sitting in silence, listening together to the moans.

Of course, it’s different online. You can gather with far-flung companions from the comfort of your own bedroom. You can be alone, yet together. You can be unapologetically pantsless.

Curious about how folks bond over smut when granted the privacy and anonymity that the Web provides, I visited the very not-safe-for-work porn site my friend had recommended. It had the expected array of thumbnail links to video clips. It had lots of ads for sites promising sex with local women. But it also had a tab labeled “Community” (where people posted their profiles) and another labeled “Forum” (where members could start message threads with themes such as “Guys, where do you ejaculate?”). And yes, when I clicked on those thumbnails, the spaces below the videos teemed with comments. (Warning: I will be quoting some of these comments, so click away now if you’d rather not know what sorts of explicit things these people say to one another.)

I’d wondered what kinds of comments viewers might append to videos of people having sex. Would there be imagined narratives? Would viewers invent elaborate backstories explaining how it was that these two women came to be naked together in a Jacuzzi? Might there be philosophizing—discussions touching on sexual power dynamics, Freudian archetypes, postmodern notions of the erotic?

“Damn she is hot!” “Oh GOD that was hot!” These were among the first comments I saw. Countless others echoed their sentiments but used more aggressive language. So, OK, perhaps this wasn’t quite the intellectual salon that I had imagined. Still, there seemed to be distinct types of responses.

Some viewers enjoyed posting detailed rundowns of the clips, as though recapping a popular sitcom: then 30m in we meet the "18 year old" babysitter… at 62m we see another couple f***ing … at 103m she licks his ***** and *** while he ***** ***.”

 

Others would suggest alternate endings: “What would have made it perfect woulda been a cream pie followed by a snowball.”

Some praised the performers’ credible passion: “massive turn on … there appears to be a really strong connection and attraction between these two. Real lust. The best kind of porn.”

Occasionally, a commenter would recognize an actor’s dedication to craft: “She took it so calmly when he got a bit rough.” “He had some soft cock in the middle but recovered well.”

 

There were even a few nods to the crew. Commenters acknowledged good lighting, well-scouted sets, and inspired bits of costuming—in particular, the cat ears that one woman wore while administering fellatio.

It’s impossible to be sure (on the Internet no one knows if you’re cisgendered) but a sizable minority of these commenters seemed to be female. I noticed that while the male commenters were prone to wistfully wishing it was them in a scene instead of some other dude, the female commenters skipped the wishing and dove straight into fantasy. “I love how he licked the girls bum in the beginning,” wrote one woman. “That was my bum and oh did I get shivers.”

In general, though, most of the comments I saw—from both men and women—were pretty straightforward exclamations. “Wow! Maybe the hottest cumshot ever!”

What pleasure do commenters derive from writing this stuff? Why pause from masturbating to type a quick summary of your inner feelings? What is the point of horndogging out for everybody else to see?

When Fred Willard was arrested for touching himself in Hollywood’s Tiki Xymposium porn theater, many had similar questions. There’s plenty of porn on the Web, so it made little sense for him to take that sort of risk in a public place. But, as Amanda Hess noted in Slate, the publicness can make watching porn feel more transgressive, and thus more sexy.

The same dynamic is at work in porn comment threads. People clearly turn themselves and others on just by talking dirty. People talk dirty in bed, so it’s no surprise that the same urge might crop up when the sex is virtual. It enhances the eroticism.

But there’s something more. These commenters aren’t just getting rocks off. They’re succumbing to a very human, very communitarian impulse. They vote clips up or down to help others sort through the avalanche of videos. They carefully note the time stamps of key moments in scenes so other viewers can skip right to the good stuff. They second one another’s “That was hot!” assessments. They seek camaraderie.

If you love anything enough—model trains, Silver Age comic books, videotaped sodomy—you will eventually want to share that joy with other aficionados. You will feel driven to analyze nuances with fellow experts. Past a certain saturation point, porn becomes more than just a tool for aiding lonely self-gratification. It’s a broader universe, with its own clichés, star personalities, and societal norms. And some people are avid, and vocal, observers.

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