Archive for April, 1999

Money-Shot Fever

Saturday, April 24th, 1999

The current displays of jism only prove how passe men have become.


It may be a coincidence that in the time of the Starr Report, the money shot so beloved of porn finally made it into mainstream film. Or maybe it’s not. In the box-office smash “There’s Something About Mary” and the edgy art house release “Happiness” we saw a substance that, until the episode of “the dress,” had never explicitly entered American political discourse or mainstream film. It’s not just a taboo of good taste that Monica’s dress and these very different movies smash. They signify our anxiety about the end of male importance in reproduction.

The money shot once had a very specific purpose. Viewers of porn films supposedly want to see that actors are “really” having sex. Because the female orgasm on-screen can be faked, male privacy is more open to cinematic violation than female. Thus the depiction of the male orgasm became the litmus test for pornographic authenticity. Such verisimilitude isn’t required of actors in other genres; our enjoyment of a western does not depend on the actors being shot by real bullets. But the pleasure of porn is about voyeurism, not imagination. “Happiness” and “There’s Something About Mary,” though, are not porn. They suggest rather than depict sexual acts, and solitary male masturbation (even in the world of gay porn) rarely ranks high on the voyeuristic menu. Lonely and mechanical, it’s too close to pathos.

The grunts and sighs we hear in these film masturbation scenes, the strenuous arm motions, and the little gob of goo that follows them, make masculine sexuality seem silly. As a current Diesel ad puts it: “Men. Who needs ‘em?” Above the caption, three comely young women pose in Diesel products at a sperm bank. One is selecting a test tube containing white fluid — probably the first appearance of semen in a magazine ad — from a rack held by an elderly nurse. The clothes the young women wear are sporty, not sexy, but then, who needs sex? (more…)