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Don the Curmudgeon's Corner

Consumer Choices Part 2 (a rebuttal)

Consumer Choices Part 2 (a rebuttal by Don Houston)

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Recently, I wrote a blog advocating consumer choice in porn, suggesting that people be able to buy titles that show consenting adults engaging in sex without a interference from well meaning people (be they from the government, the church, or individuals) that seek to limit your access to what gets you off.  Out of common courtesy, I did not mention who was trying his best to prevent you from seeing what you wanted but he has opened the door to scrutiny by posting a copy of my blog (discarding "fair use standards") and trying again to support his failed arguments against choking in porn and then making a lopsided comparison of his review website versus Xcritic.  Rather than bash the guy, I welcome his comments as they help reinforce the mission at Xcritic to serve the public trust over promoting a private agenda.  So here are a few points to consider for those that care:

Den has long been like a kindred spirit of mine, his outlines of porn titles perhaps lacking depth but certainly making up for it in sheer quantity.  Our personal tastes in porn are quite similar and we often find ourselves at odds with other reviewers and organizations because neither one of us is a pack animal.  Lets face it, there is a distinctive tendency in the world of porn commentary to run with the pack, many waiting to see what others say before venturing into reviews or scathing comments.  Some of this is because production companies are typically run by people that make sure the rest of us march to their tune lest they apply various sanctions, this dynamic followed by most in the industry, including trade journals, gossip websites, and publicists that are unable to think of the long term benefit of truthful reviews or articles (making me appreciate the folks that are smarter and more progressive in how they view the term "Free Speech").

Mason directs gals like Alexis Texas in some fine outings!

That said, it has long been appreciated when I find folks that think outside the box even when I disagree with them.  Some, like Gram P., make a cottage industry of witty writing and contrary thought that borders on clever so often that if I were to take his prose at face value, I would probably hate anything released in adult entertainment.  Others, like Roger P., have singularly impressed me with their ability to find the best side of everything they watch, a trait I admittedly need a lot more work on.  Then, guys like Den come along and almost single-handedly manage to reset the proverbial clock by the way they show a willingness to take a stand and defend it, suffering the potshots taken by some pretty nasty industry types in the process.

With a substantial amount of respect and admiration in mind, it is with this concept that I now take my mentor to task yet again for his stance on breath play in porn, as well as his limited understanding of what makes Xcritic tick.  Please keep in mind that friends can agree to disagree (even aggressively disagree) without making it personal as some allegedly "consumer friendly" consortium websites have in the past (blackmailing production companies and initiating boycotts in a passive aggressive manner is unfair and considered illegal in some places).  My original blog on the matter was To Choke or Not To Choke: Consumer Choices and with that in mind, here I go...

Jake Malone's Bitchcraft series is not for the feint of heart either.

First off, since Den posted his response publicly instead of via email, I figure he must have wanted a public response.  I'll email him a link as he did to his recent article as a courtesy to my pal, this discussion a microcosm of what has been discussed in porn on one level or another since the 70's and earlier.  I begin by answering his question about what choking scenes were so good that I awarded.  Truth be told, this is an easy question though based on a faulty premise since I don't "award a score" so much as consider a title EARNS a rating.  I suggest Den and others simply look for titles by well known extreme directors like Jim Powers, Jake Malone, Mason, Jules Jordan, Belladonna, and several others that employ hardcore acts in their porn flicks.  Read the reviews and you will often find my comments about how the women look like they are really into the choking or pounding hard screwing.  See, it is not the choking that elevates the rating in these cases (I'm not a fan of the practice), it is the fact that the ladies are into it or at least acting that way (as evidenced by the BTS footage, their responses during the scene itself, or occasionally when they tell me as much via a phone call or email).

Den then took a fellow reviewer, Ravyn, to task on her rating for a movie called Cry Wolf from Vivid Entertainment.  I repeatedly tried to explain to him how ratings vary between websites but as long as I've been instructing people in numerous careers (successfully at that), I wasn't able to enlighten him that his 6 to 9 point scale is not universal, a "6" foisted on the title merely because it had some minor choking and drug use as part of the plot. Remember, Vivid is a company most consider to be too couples oriented with watered down sex (they have come a long way in recent years though, showing a williness to change with the times and provide some very strokable porn) so a few seconds of a single act resulting in Den lowering what would have been a top pick.  Den and I examined the particulars and found his problem though, he uses a mathematical formula that reduces any movie to a handful of numbers that are then divided for the final result (adjusted for elements he hates like choking, any sign of a gun in a shot, or any sign of fictional drug use).  Ravyn, on the other hand, points out that a movie that makes her hot and sticky like Cry Wolf, was better than the sum of its parts, the idea that the totality of the movie worked better for her than it did for a guy old enough to be her father.  Frankly, I like tech specs as much as anyone but losing sight of the forest because all those darned trees are in the way is the best analogy I can come up with here.

Cry Wolf from Vivid was "too rough?!?"

We then discovered the root of Den's initial discomfort with her review being the choking aspects, his quest to eliminate it from modern porn falling somewhat short in the last decade.  To quote his comments: "I am very happy that there have been no choking deaths on a porn set. We sure don't need any snuff movies.  My concern is the effect the choking scenes cause to the viewing public. The ole monkey-see-monkey-do syndrome. Guy tries choking his wife with tragic results."  This line of thinking would reduce all porn, and any entertainment material to the lowest common denominator.  Sorry, we can't have guns in action movies because impressionable people might decide to emulate their movie star heroes.  Sorry, we can't show sex because so many people catch diseases in real life when they also engage in risky behaviors.  We then go through his latest approach of showing a Google search of choking that yielded results of an overly zealous mother charged with choking her daughter as a form of parental discipline, an NBA star charged with choking another man in a fight, and so on.  Most people would realize the difference between consensual sex play and people trying to inflict pain/suffering on others out of anger.  At least Den will now admit that there have been no deaths in porn related to the act in question (almost all such deaths reported by the media being "Auto-erotic Asphyxiation" where a person literally hangs themself while masturbating to get a stronger rush (the mere fact that a porn set includes other people that could call for assistance, take someone to a hospital, etc, if things went too far). 

He then took Hustler to task for some of their titles lacking a Behind the Scenes feature as advertised (in at least a number of cases, they could argue that such footage was indeed present during the ending credits or before the couples had sex, in others the added expense of reprinting the box cover when the final cut of the movie required cutting the BTS or losing the far more important longer sex scenes).  Wicked Pictures served as another example of misconduct with Delilah, an artistic feature by Michael Raven, did not meet with his approval (in my review of the title, I pointed out that while I wasn't keen on the technical aspects, it was a pretty good movie) and the company refused to be interrogated over it.  Mason, JM Productions, and others were also taken to task as much as the industry itself for not adopting specific guidelines in line with Den's way of thinking, including his rose colored remembrance of the "good old days" when a single guy could force everyone to do as he pleased.

I think he got confused about some points too, suggesting he is the minority regarding mentioning choking in reviews (almost every reviewer I know at almost every website I've been to mentions prolonged choking as a sex act in their reviews), or that companies care if it is mentioned in reviews (not a single company has ever taken me to task for saying something about choking, even when I pointed out it looked too real or the gal was in pain).  I'd be exceptionally curious to know who won't send him screeners based on that point alone (many companies have cut back sending out screeners, preferring to send them only to websites that are going to thoroughly review them in depth, not quicky outlines).  The reliance on what a few industry lawyers believed at the 2008 AEE and a few unnamed companies was another red herring, most of them that I know of don't include choking because they focus on lighter sexual encounters (no cases have been brought against companies solely on choking in the past 35+ years and if listening to lawyers is a good idea, remember that virtually every company discarded the infamous Cambria List long ago).

Nikki Jayne and Hanna Hilton like Xcritic a lot!

Then he came up on the topic of condoms since my blog pointed out the lack of them has resulted in more work days missed, more tragedy, and an assortment of deaths.  Choking has not caused a single porn death and even the biggest stretch of the imagination yields no conclusive proof tying a fan to emulating a choking scene that resulted in death but a quick glance at the CDC statistics shows hundreds of thousands of deaths tied to unsafe sex.  Where is the balance in that kind of stance???

The bottom of his article then goes to a selective point/counter point regarding his website versus Xcritic.  Xcritic conceivably awards points for choking (not quite) and Den cuts them off at the knees, Xcritic is modern looking with 8600+ reviews while Den is 10+ years out of date with a great many more outlines but not reviews, Xcritic lacks an alphabetical index, he praises us for being so much higher in Alexa ratings, and missed some of the features we have at Xcritic.  Here's a few of them he missed:

Xcritic has:
thousands of pictures of performers taken by staffers at events and in the form of screen captures, not imported galleries
Den does not have pictures (though in fairness, he caught up to adding box covers)

Xcritic holds contests like the current one where Sunny Lane will masturbate for you, call out your name, and you get a copy of it or Teagan Presley will have phone sex with you, for free.
Den hands out a wooden plaque to some people each year in the industry.

Xcritic regularly publishes a Blue Room column with early looks at titles, and recaps a bunch of top picks by a wide variety of reviewers from all backgrounds
Den is a one man show without a column or regular early looks at titles

Xcritic has a large selection of Bloggers from the industry like Stoya, Penny Flame, Tricia Devereaux, Kayden Kross, Ashlynn Brooke, Adrenalynn, Teagan Presley, Eva Angelina, Riley Steele, and many more (including newcomers like director's B. Skow and Aunt Gertrude)
Den has no bloggers

Xcritic has a series of year end lists that are said to influence numerous others
Den has a single list of far smaller scope and hands out some small trophies

Xcritic has a series of forums for fans to discuss matters with others
Den does not

Xcritic has an extensive list of High Definition titles reviewed easily found via prominent links (as well as Gay titles for those who care)
Den has a link to his outlines that further link to his original SD reviews with nothing new added

Xcritic has an advice column hosted by Joanna Angel (and her lovely ass)
Den offers advice about choking in porn

Xcritic offers sales, coupons, and special deals that are unrelated to the editorial content
Den offers a link to his email address

Xcritic offers a wide variety of reviewers from all sorts of backgrounds possessing a lot of specific expertise
Den is a nice guy with a lot of titles outlined but few done in depth

In any case, both websites have a lot to offer people depending on what you are looking for, each listed on the incredibly helpful IAFD.  Den is a good guy that I agree with a lot of the time, but just as I like screen captures and trailers in my reviews, I also like seeing more detail than he tends to provide.  He is welcome to blog for Xcritic if he changes his mind because we adhere to the premise of "an open mind, not an empty head" and appreciate those that provide a different point of view even when we disagree with it.  As a consumer advocate myself, I stand behind my original blog that advocated consumer choice over marching lockstep into an series of slippery slopes where the lowest common denominator reigns, the mission of Xcritic to provide readers with the choices they need to make for what gets them off.  We're still a work in progress and have been determined to add a super powerful search engine (our website-wide one is getting exceptionally good and the reviews can also be searched via the IAFD or www.adultfilmdatabase) but need your help in figuring out what YOU want us to provide.  Feel free to email me with comments at Houstondon at my hotmail account if you are too shy for the forums...  :)

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