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Pornhub Has Created The Democracy Of Your Wet Dreams

Culture
Photo By Maggie West For Pornhub.

Nothing but respect for my president

Given our current state of affairs, any attempt to envision the world in 2069 is not going to be pretty. But maybe it will be full of dildos? Thanks to a new Pornhub-funded art installation in L.A., it's now possible to at least pretend that a portion of our tax dollars is going toward dildo-festooned botanical gardens and the very noble endeavor of screwing in space.

Aptly titled "Pornhub Nation," the exhibit is the fantasy of photographer Maggie West, who was eager to create a respite from our current political hellhole. Granted complete creative freedom to craft a completely off-the-wall world, in which Asa Akira is one of four porn star presidents and the National Silicon Reserve is just a pool of breast implants, West produced an outlandish, fantastical reimagining of a world in which liberated sex rules and sex work is destigmatized. 

Working alongside Ryder Ripps, West started this project as a proposal for Pornhub that envisioned an American future fueled less by partisanship and more by hedonism. The result? Six different rooms that cheekily parody various government organizations, including the ASSA space program and a new twist on the DMV—the “Domination Masochistic Vroomvroom.” 

Though the installation is currently only available to tour if you’re 21+ in L.A., we managed to get West to give us an exclusive glimpse into a government that’s only marginally more ridiculous than the one we have now. And if you're in L.A., make sure to pop by the exhibit's closing festivities this weekend for concerts, industrial goth parties, and meet-and-greets with some of Pornhub Nation's finest. Read our Q&A with West, below. 

How did Pornhub get involved with this project?
I just thought the concept of a six-room, immersive “museum of the future” was just really fun. But something like that is also pretty expensive… But Pornhub has been doing a lot of really interesting things, recently. They sponsored an Italian swim team and they made a program to help you get fit while having sex, so I figured they might at least be open to hearing me out. 

Honestly, they’ve been really cool throughout this whole project, and just let me have the creative freedom to kind of do what I want. They will occasionally give a note, but for the most part, they are like, "This is cool, run with it." So that was really nice, especially as somebody who works for companies a decent amount. It’s not always like that.

What about the concept? Were there any particular themes you wanted to address?
The overarching goal is just for people to have a fun experience, because I consider this project as a bit of a reprieve from everyday life, culture, and the news. You get to go into this elaborate, sexy, fantasy world where we don't have Donald Trump, everything is great, and you can have the type of sex you want to have. 

For me personally, I also [wanted to see] porn performers depicted in ways they're not normally shown. Basically, taking them out of a sexual context. I don't think it completely solves this problem entirely, but I do think that in some ways, it helps destigmatize sex, sex workers, and what they do. I think that if people have the ability to see them as something other than a sex worker, maybe it will put all of this into a little bit more perspective.

Again, I don't think it's going to change the world, but I hope that just maybe somebody gets some of that out of it in a small way.

Would you consider your vision a semi-utopia ruled by sexual freedom or a surveillance-laden dystopia? 
I would call it more of a utopia. There are definitely some jokes about surveillance and stuff like that within, though. Like, we have a character called Watchie, because everybody is super-exhibitionist, and they like being watched. He’s a weird lovable cartoon character who's watching you all the time, but everyone loves it.

There's definitely a lot of satirical comedy or commentary on our contemporary culture present for sure. But overall, it's a positive place where [adult film star] Riley Reid can be president, and the space program is just about having sex in space. 

...So how exactly is this "interactive?"
The whole thing is like a fixed-room install that you go through, and each room is like a different parody of a government organization. So the first room is like the National Gallery, and it's my version of what the National Gallery would look like. But interactive elements vary from room to room. Like in the DMV, there's some stocks that you can put your head into and act like you're being punished by our [“Domination Masochistic Vroomvroom”] agents. 

For the National Silicon Reserve, we have a ball pit that you can go in. And the joke is that all of our nation's silicon implants are in there.

And then we have a VR game in the IRS, which is one of the last rooms. You can throw sex toys at Harvey Weinstein, and for every dildo you hit him in the head with, you get a credit on your taxes. So in the new world, that's how you get a discount on your taxes. You'll play the game for a few minutes and it'll be like, "You got 8 percent off your taxes."

Wow, talk about a dream.
Yeah, totally. It's like if you had a crazy dream where everything was sexy and awesome.

What was fabricating the install like?
I use colored lighting in almost everything that I do, so in addition to colored lighting being present within the photos, I actually used a lot of neon lights in the install, too. So in almost every single room, the only lighting is ambient—from the neon and from the dollar signs. And the photos are actually displayed through light boxes, so all of the light coming off them is colored too… It’s essentially as if you were walking through one of my photos.

Also, I'm primarily known as photographer, but I have a background in a lot of other art forms. Like in college, I did illustration, and when I first moved out to L.A., I did production design. So for this installation, I actually hand-painted and physically constructed a lot of the stuff myself. Like, I did a lot more physical fabrication. I did a lot of the electrical work, and in the dick flora room, I hand-painted 467 dildos with an airbrush or with patterns and stuff like that… In terms of physical construction, it's been kind of nice to go back to some of my art department roots and physically make stuff for the first time in a long time.

Join "Pornhub Nation" for its closing weekend events.
8/9/18: Our House will include a meet-and-greet with Leigh Raven and Nikki Heart, sounds by DJ GOODBOY and Madame Ghandi, and stand-up by local womxn from acts like Act Like A Girl. (21+)
8/10/18: Das Bunker, L.A.'s top industrial party, will be hosted by Joanna Angel, and feature sounds by Franck H-Bomb, The Operative, Maldoror, and Rev. John. (21+)
8/11/18: HAM On Everything will include a meet and greet with Riley Reid, live performances by Father, Lil Aaron, and Dana Dentata, and DJ sets by Softest Hard, Bella Ferrada, KO AKA Koala, Ka5sh, and Dem Ham Boyz. (18+)

Anna Foxxx By Maggie West For Pornhub.

Nail polish is for novices

Fashion label The Blonds is known for its high-intensity looks that you'd only wear if you wanted to stand out (and who doesn't?). For its runway shows, wild press-on nails are the beauty step that can't be missed. So, since the brand has partnered with CND since it was founded, we thought it best to get prepped for the show with Jan Arnold, CND's co-founder.

See why you should take your nail look from a zero to a 10, in the video above.

Credits:
Shot by Charlotte Prager
Edited by Gretta Wilson
Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Production Assistant: Polina Buchak
Featuring Jan Arnold of CND Nails and The Blonds

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Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

It would've been nice if someone said the word "fat"

Back in November, Rebel Wilson claimed to be the first plus-sized lead in a romantic comedy when she appeared on Ellen to talk about her role in Isn't It Romantic. Wilson was not only wrong, but she was—even if inadvertently—erasing the work of Black plus-size actresses like Queen Latifah and Mo'Nique, both of whom have expansive resumes that include romantic comedies.

Wilson's comment isn't the first example of white women taking up a little too much space in the fat acceptance ethos. It's actually quite common. But there is a reason why women like Wilson—women who are blonde, pretty, successful, and white—get put front and center in calls for body positivity. In the same way that feminism—the movement from which body positivity was born—has often failed to address how gender intersects with other identities like race and class; so, too, has body positivity been championed as a cause for otherwise privileged women. And that's why it's no surprise that Isn't It Romantic, which aspires to be both a spot-on mockery of rom-coms and a celebration of body positivity, is actually a perfect example of how very white both the movie genre and the body positivity movement tend to be.

In the film, Wilson plays Natalie, an architect based in New York, who is single and plus-sized—the archetypal rom-com underdog. Very early on in the movie, she endures the double humiliation of both being hit by a runaway food cart and then accosted by its owner for not stopping it with her "cement truck"-like body. At work, Natalie is similarly disrespected: The office manager hands off troubleshooting tasks to Natalie; another colleague always tasks Natalie to throw out his trash; her assistant Whitney (Betty Gilpin) won't stop watching movies (rom-coms, naturally) while in the office; and Natalie is so afraid to present her ideas for more innovative parking garage designs that she isn't even widely known in the firm as an architect, and is treated like an intern.

But is Natalie just a doormat? Or is it that she isn't asking for what she wants? And isn't very nice about not getting it? If Natalie's life is any example, the bar on suffering is set pretty low for white women. In her personal life, Natalie lives alone with her dog, and seems to be pretty well-off, financially; her best friend is actually her slacker assistant, Whitney, and she's close with another coworker, Josh (Adam Devine), who gives Natalie constant emotional support. She's decidedly anti-romantic, having been told by her mother from a young age that there's no such thing as real-life fairy tales; she's level-headed and practical. But also, she's filled with self-loathing. This leads her to be crass, sarcastic, and disconnected from people. And it was this last part that was hard for me. As a fat Black woman who grew up broke, does not have an assistant, and would get fired if I didn't do my job well, it was hard, if not impossible, to root for her.

For Natalie, though, everything changes when she bangs her head while fighting off a mugger. Her mundane life is tinted through rosy rom-com glasses. Suddenly, all the things that sucked about her life are gone, and everything is beautiful and perfect. But was her life so bad before? It didn't really seem to be.

And yet, looking around the theater at the mostly white, female audience, I accepted that my feelings didn't seem to be shared. But that almost seems to be by design; this feels like a movie for a white, female audience. There is only one person of color in the movie who even has a name: It's Isabelle (Priyanka Chopra), who shows up about halfway through the film—after everything has been rom-com filtered—as a yoga ambassador and swimsuit model. But a name is all Isabella has. A supporting character at best, she doesn't have any connection to anyone other than her white boyfriend, and is sketchily drawn. We learn nothing of her familial or ethnic background, and, even when she is shown at her wedding, there is nobody from her family celebrating with her. This huge oversight is particularly bizarre, given that Natalie has already bemoaned the lack of diversity in romantic films.

Another huge oversight? The presence of the word "fat." I don't think I heard it used a single time. Natalie only references her weight indirectly, by commenting on the appearance of straight-sized women; when talking about her own body, the word "fat" is replaced with "girl like me." But by ignoring this aspect of herself, and refusing to address it head-on, Natalie is succumbing to the same fatphobia that shapes her world, whether she identifies it as being a problem or not.

Before her life becomes a rom-com, Natalie feels invisible at work and in the world. Some of this is certainly her fault, but fatphobia is also at play. Fatphobia chips away at the humanity of fat people from different angles. It means that Natalie gets used to being dehumanized; she doesn't expect others to have empathy for her when she's physically hurt, because they don't value her body. And it's no coincidence that Natalie's fantasy world includes a magically bigger apartment with unlimited clothing options, because discrimination against fat people isn't just a matter aesthetics and preferences—it affects everything from our ability to dress ourselves to our ability to make and save money, since there's a price to pay for being fat, even if it's just having to pay more to travel. Just as much as gender and race intersect with fat bodies, so, too, do economics and class.

I knew I could count on a plus-sized white comedian to take down a genre of films that prioritized thin women. But I ventured to see if Wilson could go further than that, and challenge what it means to be white and well-off and fat in the process; it isn't just about taking down rom-coms but about doing so in a way that isn't just a mouthpiece for white feminist values. But, in the end, that isn't what happened. Isn't It Romantic is fine, but it needed to do more than target an audience of girls who are 10 to 30 pounds overweight and still too jolted by the word "fat" to ever apply it to themselves, so they go for acceptable alternatives, like curvy, plus-sized—or thicc, if they're hip. But I'm not afraid to say I'm fat, I'm just disappointed I will be waiting even longer to see a realistic reflection of that experience onscreen.

Isn't It Romantic is in theaters now.