Don't believe any guy who tells you he's never seen porn. Just about all men (and many women -- note dyke classics like How to Fuck in High Heels) watch it, or have at one time. Ubiquitous in its myriad forms -- television, films, videos, magazines, the Internet -- it's nearly impossible to avoid if you're a sentient, horny human being. The occasional foray into XXX terrain is no big thang, a naughty secret you, um, wash your hands of once your -- I mean, the film's -- climax is reached. Sometimes it can even spice up a less-than-thrilling sex life like a jalapeño pepper added to yesterday's pot roast.
But porn can become a fixation: if you're so wrapped up in the money shots and ass-play that you can't leave the house, or if you ring up a $10,000 cable bill for too many visits to the Spice Channel. For some addictive personalities, skin flicks can become a way of life, a disturbing obsession that debilitates romantic relationships. Or at least that's the message behind the dark psychological stage drama Watching Porn, written by, directed by, and starring Paul Mendoza, the artistic director and founder of Bare Bones Theater.
As Mendoza describes it, Watching Pornis the "solemn version of [the teen flick] American Pie." It pokes into the polluted psyche of Richard Montoya, a latter-day, porn-driven Hamlet of sorts, a perv for whom pornography is such a guilt-inducing compulsion that he is unable to act on anything. Prematurely exposed to explicit images at the tender young age of 4 by an older brother, Montoya ponders the impact of unbridled flesh and fornication in his life after yet another relationship bites the dust. Told through a series of flashbacks, the play challenges male bonding rituals -- bachelor parties, strip joints, swapping worn Penthouse magazines in a dark alley -- that revolve around the sex industry. In an uncomfortable conclusion, Montoya is able to communicate only with an escort he hires, much like a junkie might reveal his fears of addiction only to his supplier.
For Mendoza, writing this play helped him come to grips with his own feelings about pornography. "It's something I've struggled with all my life, trying to understand my own intimacy problems," he reveals. Emphasizing that porn is "something men are encouraged to take part in and also be shameful about," Mendoza struggles to strip this taboo topic of its shame. "It's that search for being completely open and intimate with somebody" that drove Mendoza to pursue the issue as a playwright.
For all you hard-core voyeurs out there, Watching Porn is not X-rated. Although it includes simulated sexual activity and suggestive scenes, there will be no nudity or live sex. The play is intended to ring bells for people with a range of connections to porn, from dilettante to aficionado, says Mendoza. "People will think, "Oh yes, that's happened to me before.'"