Pornography / by Alex Williamson


For some time he had nurtured an obsession with a pornographic actress who resembled his wife. Not a perfect similarity, but a resemblance of her proportions and looks.

He was no longer able to recall who had come into his consciousness first: his wife, or the pornography actress. Did he love his wife because he lusted after the pornography actress, or did he lust after the pornography actress because he loved his wife? He couldn't tell. They were two different people, and yet they were not.

He systematically scoured the internet for the pornographic actress' work, returning repeatedly to those scenes where her performances appeared most naturalistic, more committed, less forced. He could discern within those performances moments when she wasn’t enjoying the performance of her male counterpart, times when she was faking her pleasure and those when she gave a true performance.

This led him primarily to the naïveté of her early work, where she appeared wide eyed and fresh faced before the lens. More authentic, less artificial. Through these dedicated, meticulous searches, he was able to trace the development of her screen persona through the trajectory of her career, from ingénue to established star, and the returning superstar after a mystery hiatus.

His internet searches eventually brought him into contact with her true identity. The discovery was entirely accidental, but there on the screen of his laptop was her name and the county in California where she now resided, following her retirement from the industry. He learned that she was married, and had taken a sabbatical from the industry to have a child with her husband.

Googling her real name uncovered a cache of photographs taken with her friends at a bar, and another photograph of her cuddling a small child. The candid photographs were old digital snaps, and lacked the high definition sharpness of her pornography work. This imbued them with a greater authenticity, which led to an inescapable revelation: her true identity was false. 

His discovery of these private moments was infinitely more invasive than watching her being vigorously penetrated by an anonymous man. It unnerved him greatly, and it was as if the boundary wall between fantasy and reality had suddenly fallen away.

He was no longer watching the coupling of his fantasy object and his faceless alter-ego, but a simulation of the sex act by a mother whose dedication of her performance was shaped by the circumstances of her reality. She was merely doing porn to provide for her husband and child, and not for the gratification of him, the voyeur. He could see now that her dedication was only ever partial, and that her mind was almost certainly elsewhere.

Returning to her early films, he saw in those scenes flickers of pain and uncertainty pass across her face. Her later films were formulaic, the performances unconvincing. He wondered how it was possible for her to give herself physically to these men having already exchanged vows with another, and thereafter having nurtured and given birth to a child.

He thought of her breasts, about which he fantasised so frequently, being greedily gnawed upon by some bearded man-child having recently been suckled by in mouth of her infant. He saw the trace of the caesarean scar just above the hairline of her pubis and pictured her lying on a hospital bed, her slippery entrails heaped on a table beside her as the surgeon eased the child from her gaping abdomen.

Slowly he began to understand that all the time he had watched the pornographic actress being fucked he was in reality watching someone fuck his wife. This was the fantasy. Unlike the husband of the pornographic actress, he believed this had been an entirely unconscious drive, but this was a delusion. He had found this pleasurable up to the point where she became a mother. Then it was unacceptable. He was no longer able to watch her films.

But the real problem came later, when he came to make love to his wife: he found himself musing on her commitment to their lovemaking, whether it was authentic or artificial, whether those tell-tale moans and sighs of pleasure were scripted, if like the pornographic actress she too was putting on a performance while planning her retirement.