Between The Sheets: In Favor Of Drawn Porn

For some reason, there is a large overlap in the population of kinksters and nerds, which means the two alternative communities, though separate in scope and interest, tend to...

For some reason, there is a large overlap in the population of kinksters and nerds, which means the two alternative communities, though separate in scope and interest, tend to have a lot in common regardless. At the intersection of kinkiness and nerdiness is one of the most treasured aspects of geek culture: comic books. There is a long history of BDSM making appearances in comics, mainstream and alternative alike. Just as an example, Wonder Woman was designed to evoke a fetishistic fantasy with her headstrong personality, super strength, and penchant for tying up criminals (or being tied up herself) with her Lasso of Truth. But straying from the more PG side of drawn stories, it’s easy to find people who have taken the medium one step further and dived headfirst into straight up comic porn.

And you know what? I’d argue that’s a very good thing indeed.

The thing about drawn porn is that it fulfills nearly every quality that’s missing from pornographic video. The two mediums both go almost as far back as it’s possible to go, with the earliest pornographers filming sex as soon as the camera was invented and historical artists putting the first sex scene to the drawing board before they knew the earth wasn’t flat. But drawn porn and filmed porn have diverged so drastically in the intervening time that now, they’re entirely different beasts. And of the two, I prefer porn comics for a variety of reasons.

For one thing – and this may be surprising to some – but drawn porn can actually be an effective educational tool. Erika Moen demonstrates this in Oh Joy, Sex Toy! which began as a straightforward review of sex toys, in comic form, but has now expanded to include how-tos on cunnilingus, long distance relationships, DIY kink kits, and more. Moen’s drawings aren’t necessarily meant to titillate, even though almost every one of her comics features a naked person or four. But they definitely include drawn sex that just so happens to be intended as an instructional guide. In addition to the didactic nature of these comics, Moen doesn’t shy away from different kinds of sex, which is why her sex toy reviews are so illuminating – they show exactly how the toy is being used.

On the other side of the scale is filmed pornography, which is so notorious for teaching the wrong things about sex – how big a penis is, what an orgasm looks like, and so on – that California recently instated a law demanding porn performers use condoms in all scenes filmed in that state. Just because it’s so clear that young people are taking away lessons from porn that won’t necessarily reflect their experiences in real life. Me, I’d way rather have a kid stumble upon a sex-positive, friendly, informative webcomic than MisBehavin’ or Playboy. (Moen also makes sure to include accurate depictions of condoms in her drawings of penetrative sex.)

But another reason drawn porn can be superior to filmed porn is just the opposite of the above: it’s pure fantasy. And I mean fantasy as in literally impossible to perform in real life, not something that gives folks unrealistic expectations for their own experience. The best example of this is the wide world of tentacle hentai, a genre that incorporates – you guessed it – tentacles in a sexual context. Fans of tentacle porn are perfectly aware they’re not going to meet Mr. Tentacle Man on FetLife, yet the comics remain arousing – perhaps because they’re so far from reality that they give free rein to one’s sexual imagination. Sometimes a healthy dose of the impossible adds just the right flavor to an otherwise mediocre, unappetizing porn situation – much like the kinds of stories that get recycled over and over again in the mainstream pornographic film industry.

And speaking of story! Porn comics are still comics, sequential art and words arranged in some kind of narrative. That means there’s plenty of room for stories that engage the brain even as the hands, eyes, and other various parts are busy. The popular webcomic Starfighters caught readers’ attention with its steamy first chapter, which was mainly taken up by the seduction of one character by another. But fans kept reading because those characters are Abel, a naïve but determined pilot, and Cain, his hotheaded, dominant fighter. Both are soldiers in an intergalactic war, and the comic expands to show the detail put into this setting, as well as introducing other characters whose motivations may lie alongside or contrary to the protagonists’. All this makes for a really satisfying read – and the interspersed sex scenes, no less steamy, ensure that readers’ interest is caught and held.

Drawn comics are much easier to define as art than porn on film, if only because it takes an entirely different set of skills to represent a person on paper than it does to have sex with them on camera. Illustrated porn can cater to an aesthetic desire to see certain parts of the body featured, besides the usual ass, breasts and genitals showcased so heavily in filmed porn. One artist, Rachel Elm, now sadly retired from Tumblr, put such love into crafting the little details of the hands in her drawings that you almost forgot some of them involved people having sex. A certain facial expression that really turns you on can last for a moment on a porn performer’s face, but may be frozen in time when depicted by an artist’s lines. My preference is for porn that treads the fine line between realism and caricature, a grey area in which the most beautiful representations of the human form can emerge. And that’s just not something you get from the unforgivingly accurate eye of a camera.

One thing I can’t leave out about drawn porn is that you know 100% that the sex acts you’re seeing are consensual. Or rather, consent is moot, because the “performers” are fictional. The porn industry has a problem with consent: it tends to take in young women, chew them up and spit them out after exploiting every part of their bodies on-screen (and sometimes off-screen as well). Read up on Linda Lovelace if you don’t believe porn can be produced by horrific acts of violence, even when the end result is something wildly popular and apparently consensual. The truth is, there’s no real way to know whether a performer you’re watching in porn is doing the scene out of their own free will. Too many factors are at play to make an accurate guess. Many people are working to change the conditions that make it easy for big players in the porn industry to continue exploiting and abusing its victims, but until then, drawn porn is the more ethical choice for me.

“Okay, I’m convinced. Wait, hang on a sec, you haven’t even mentioned what BDSM has to do with this!” you, a hypothetical reader, shout. “Get back to the kink already!”

If you insist. A final reason I love porn comics is because of the abovementioned niche they occupy in the cozy intersection between nerds and kinky people. For a lot of people, comics can introduce them to new worlds or ways of thinking that they never could’ve explored if they weren’t interested in the medium. A geek who loves hitting up their local comic book shop discovers a BDSM-themed erotic webcomic at home, and instead of writing it off as “weird sex stuff,” finds that the out-of-the-way format actually makes the weird sex more accessible. We know that comics aren’t just for outcasts who get shoved in lockers anymore. They’re becoming normalized, just the same way as BDSM is slowly gaining acceptability in the public sphere. In the meantime, those who frequent the niche market of comics already know they’re in an alternative space. So what’s another alternative sexual preference when you’ve already gotten used to men who can shoot beams from their eyes and women who can turn into solid diamond?

A lot more people can be introduced to kink just because they decide to read their porn instead of watch it. And for that, I’m grateful – if a BDSM comic helps a confused person realize what they want from their sexuality, I can’t see that as anything but a good thing.

Porn comics can still be problematic, even dangerous. “Shota” and “loli” hentai featuring underage participants can encourage pedophilia, and this and other kinds of unacceptable porn has been known to be used to groom sexual abuse victims. I think, however, that overall the drawn porn industry has nowhere near the same problems as filmed porn does, and what issues it does have, I have hope that they can be solved. So in the meantime, I’ll be flipping through Smut Peddler, digging the sweet illustrations and sexy stories, and generally having a grand old time with the printed page.

Want to share your thoughts on illustrated porn? Lay ‘em on me in the box below!

Ariel Rose is a senior columnist with the Rainbow Hub
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Sexuality

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