Watching You Watching Them

Fair warning to any and all: This one will not be for everybody. In his film Immersion: Porn, shot for Wallpaper*, artist Robbie Cooper interviewed “active porn aficionados” and then recorded their faces as they masturbated to pornography. The end result is a number of straight and gay men and women describing how they discovered porn, their feelings about porn, why they watch porn interspersed with shots of their “O” faces. Wallpaper is quick to point out that “the film does throw up any number of questions about voyeurism and exhibitionism and makes clear the incredible nakedness of the solo sex act.”

I’ll most certainly agree with the latter half of that statement. There’s something unsettling about watching these people, completely removed from contact with another person as their faces twist and contort, seemingly comprised of half a dozen different facial expressions ranging from pain to fear, that we associate with pleasure. As for questions, I’m not so sure. It always strikes me with projects like this that the artist’s intent is so overbearing that I wind up searching for the specific question that I was meant to ask; and more often than not I cannot find it.

It seems to me that porn in and of itself raises plenty of questions without the help of any outside agents. America, as a country founded by people who banned Christmas, has plenty of incongruous and negative emotions tied up in its cultural attitudes toward sexuality. Those feelings of shame and guilt crashing up against the wall of animal impulse and desire is what makes pornography such a contentious subject. In that regard I suppose that makes the interviews like Kristin’s the most interesting in that she seems to reconcile her views of porn with actually viewing porn. Even if that means not really reconciling the two at all.

11 Responses to “Watching You Watching Them”

  1. Andy Says:

    Wow, I can only say that this little movie managed to add a few more layers thought to my own viewing habits. I think this is the first time I’ve seen footage of others servicing their needs with the help of pornography and I’m struck by how different it is from footage from sites like Beautiful Agony. It’s more than a little creepifying (to steal a phrase from Firefly) to see this and know that it’s more than likely a mirror image of oneself sitting in front of the porn. That said, I’ll probably not be changing those viewing habits any time soon, I like the freedom that porn can bring.

  2. Anjo Says:

    I thought Robbie Cooper’s previous video with footage of children’s expressions while playing video games to be strikingly similar to Beautiful Agony, and now with this current video for Wallpaper, the interview parts is pretty much the same concept as Beautiful Agony’s confession segment… so despite the video being interesting, I am not sure how I feel about it.

  3. Sam Says:

    I really don’t feel like intellectualizing this. It’s simply interesting to hear others’ experiences with porn, especially when they’re fairly articulate, and to compare them to your own.

    Oh, and since when is it news that people make stupid faces during sex and orgasm? That isn’t creepy, that’s normal … and even delightful, somehow. Humans are silly creatures and we ought to be able to laugh at ourselves, especially when it comes to an act that many take way too seriously.

  4. Andy Says:

    I’ll agree that we all make stupid faces during sex but the creepy parrt of this was that I thought it was made really obvious that the porn-watchers were only interested in their own pleasure and others be damned (no big surprise there to be honest, that’s what porn is there for) and that is never particularly pretty to watch.

  5. Damien Says:

    I think the better choice of phrase would have been “the film throws into question the nature of voyeurism and exhibitionism.” In that sense, there are no specific questions, so All of the questions you encounter are valid.

    The layering of Watching, the inextricable interconnection of voyeurism and exhibitionism– I think these are the Kinds of questions we’re meant to be asking…

    But yeah. Deeply uncomfortable, and not entirely in a bad way.

  6. ben Says:


    ok, that was HOT

  7. Jerem Morrow Says:

    I enjoyed this mostly because the people depicted aren’t at all what I go for, but I loved seeing them down and dirty, expressing why it wasn’t at all. I’ve heard “porn is degrading” so many times I could puke for months, without loss of pressure. I get that there are people out there that aren’t sexual, in any manner, but I still have trouble believing it. I also get that there are those out there who look at most porn as low brow…hehehe…but those people typically only just duck as I throw something at them. We’re all dirty little monkeys. And thank fucking heaven for that. Smut, as much as so-called artful pr0n, does it for me.

  8. cappy Says:

    I watch this, knowing that these people knew they were on camera, and knowing that it was influencing the way they were acting.

    Bah — try growing up in a huge house full of people, and then learning to masturbate silently your entire life because of it. :P I’m sure a lot of peoples’ faces are actually rather blank during the act…

  9. tyhiliet Says:

    I found this to be entertaining on many levels. and all i can say, i love all their adorible face.

    @ross you hit home on this

  10. Ana Droid Says:

    “the artist’s intent is so overbearing that I wind up searching for the specific question that I was meant to ask; and more often than not I cannot find it”


  11. Cromagnon Woman Says:

    This was utterly engrossing and not exactly what I would have expected (which is to say, that is what makes you awesome in my book, Ross).

    I found it particularly fascinating how a number of the people in the video spoke of connecting what they were watching to either someone they know/are attracted to or to their own sexual practices. When I think of watching porn, I categorize it with all of the other ways in which we satisfy our bestial needs, as something simple and basic. In many ways, however, their interviews illustrated how un-animalistic it is, how directly tied to our social networks this seemingly anonymous act can be. There was this slightly tragic thread of grasping (all puns intended) at that which was missing or unfulfilled. The video felt like something the Kinsey Institute would have orchestrated and less a work of art, except insomuch as those two worlds intersect.