Alas! You Have Mail

I have grown very fond of the God-Devil conceit that opens the Book of Job:

God: Devil, where have you been?
Devil: Hanging out, checking out stuff.

There’s something very convivial about it. And I like conviviality.

Earlier this AM, I decided to browse around stuff, following the Devil’s example, and discovered Kenya’s leading online porn distribution company. In my mind, it will forever more be known as Alas! You have mail!

Many years ago, when reprobates such as Mutumia still haunted the online world, I had suggested that we should start a line of Kenyan porn tapes. We had, in fact, gone as far as suggesting categories that made sense. Now, since Mutumia claimed to have disappeared into the thickets of other living, I cannot claim that she is behind this website, though some titles sound suspiciously likes ones we came up with—No one does ethnic porn like Kenyans!

In addition to locally-produced porn featuring a range of Kenyan men and women—mamaz and supuz, as the website claims, none of which I have seen, nor am I likely to, this not because I do not watch straight porn, and, rather, because I prefer not to own pornographic movies. Live streaming is a good thing.

Sorry, lost the thread for a moment.

In addition to locally-produced porn, the website also sells a range of what might be termed “kinky” porn and gay porn. What strikes me as interesting is that the elaborate schemas of classification used by, say, xtube, do not apply here. Categories blend seamlessly, and there’s an implicit argument that, for instance, geography rather than race, sex, sexuality, or species, is what counts. It’s important that it’s a Luo mama with a Coastal accent—these markers have a currency that others might not.

Being a good ethnic person, I had to check out the gay section, and that, too, is intriguing. While, as far as I can tell, it does not feature any local productions—those who know better can tell me better, as I am interested in what local gay pornography looks like and sounds like—it offers intriguing narratives and counter-narratives about gayness.

Take, for instance, this description of a muscle-head film:

Whenever you think about a gay person, the first image that comes to your mind is a skinny dude in tight jeans and a silver stud on his left ear. Oh how wrong you are! Meet the “Stone cold steve austin” of the Gay world! These white men have cubes the size of adult fists and they do each other like there is no tomorrow! WoW!

Or this one,

It is one thing to have a great Gay Dvd, its quite another to have a great outdoor gay DvD with ‘Africa like’ Drum rhythms in the background and a scenic forest to complete the panoramic shots. Shot in a beautiful setting with some really cute jamaaz (No wonder they are gay – too cute!) and some nice white gay action at the end, this is a DvD that must be in your Personal library.

Of course, good marketing means finding something good to say about the product one sells. But I am also struck by the kind of cultural work these particular descriptions undertake—to think about gay aesthetics and politics in quite complex ways. And it’s not quite clear that “gay” and “heterosexual” pornography are sold to different viewers. Indeed, as the marketing prose reads, “this is a DVD that must be in your Personal library.” (There’s something else to be said about how pornography circulates as a scene of sociality in Kenya–one invites one’s friends to watch pornography, and this is intriguing.)

More broadly, I am struck by how Kenyan pornography offers different imaginative strategies to think through how pornography is consumed, as opposed to adopting the readily available classifications of xtube and similar sites. It opens up new(er) (or new to me) ways of thinking about the erotics of the imagination and the labor such erotics might be able to perform within a range of spaces. And to think of bodies as sites of pleasure and play helps to shift us away from counting panga-severed limbs.