Anal Acrobats 8
30 October 2013
“A censor stops things from going too far. We stop them from not going far enough.” Thus the chief objective of the fictional Sportsex Corporation is laid bare by one of its senior executives, in the mostly forgotten 1968 BBC teleplay The Year of the Sex Olympics. In the film, organisations like Sportsex thrive in a dystopian future where Britain’s downtrodden masses (or ‘low-drives’ as they’re officially classified) are pacified by a constant stream of X-rated broadcasts, culminating every four years in the staging of the Sex Olympics — a lengthy public spectacle in which couples strive to outdo one another in a parade of outlandish sexual acts. Those who emerge triumphant are elevated to celebrity status, bestowed with ostentatious vanity titles and ‘Kata Sutra awards’. Those who fail to impress fall quietly into obscurity, doomed to rejoin the low-drives in their collective carnal stupor.
Nigel Kneale, who was commissioned by the BCC to write The Year of the Sex Olympics following the huge success of his earlier serial Quatermass, was unimpressed by what he called the ‘let it all hang out’ mindset of the 1960s, and sought to ward off any further loosening of morals with a stark warning of what was, to his mind, the sexual revolution’s inevitable endgame: an Orwellian surveillance state of psychosexual mind control. His apparently paradoxical theory — that bringing sex into the open might ultimately lead to a bored, sexless populace — proved unconvincing in 1968, but has gained some off measure of credence in the years since. Just last year, New York Magazine’s ‘Drowning in Porn’ issue fretted that contemporary porn consumers are ‘just not that into anyone’, drawing on a shallow pool of anecdotal evidence to conclude that pornography is shaping our ‘physical and emotional interest in sex on a very fundamental neurological level’. In other words, we’re fast becoming a generation of low-drives.
Whether or not you agree with such a doomy diagnosis, there’s no denying Kneale’s prescience in visualising a porn industry governed by the pursuit of increasingly extreme physical feats. In the late 1960s, when Kneale first envisioned the grossly permissive world of The Year of the Sex Olympics, pornography was still at the mercy of the censors. Envelopes were pushed millimetres at a time, for fear that overstepping the mark could result in an obscenity trial, or a theatre raid (for all the publicity such controversies might generate, the associated financial costs would often be overwhelming). Today, with the vast majority of pornographic content distributed over a censorless internet, the sky’s the limit for modern-day analogues of the Sportsex Corporation. Like it or not, we’re living in The Year of the Sex Olympics and just as Kneale predicted, the greatest peril facing the modern porn industry is not going far enough.
The Anal Acrobats franchise has thus far brought eight films into the world, most of which run about the same length as Gone With The Wind. The first edition, starring Sasha Grey and a host of stars who have yet to make the jump to Steven Soderbergh movies, was released in 2007, establishing a basic formula that’s changed little in the six years since. In each film, a band of performers take it in turns to insert ever larger spherical objects into their own — and one another’s — anuses. Each scene is loosely themed, though there’s no apparent through-line to tie the themes together. In the inaugural Anal Acrobats, Grey appears dressed as a rabbit (in the heavily anthropomorphised, Playboy sense) and proceeds to place within her body an assortment of black golf balls, seemingly intended to resemble droppings. In an adjacent scene, fellow performer Sophie Dee is depicted as a schoolgirl, the tools of her trade recast as gumballs.
To identify the franchise’s stars as ‘acrobats’, with all the co-ordination and agility that suggests, is perhaps misleading when the principal entry requirement is a high calibre of muscle control. Nonetheless, there’s an undeniable psychical prowess on display — one that’s not entirely dissimilar to more traditional forms of athleticism. The competitive environment of Anal Acrobats even has its own clearly defined measure of achievement, namely the diameter of each sphere successfully inserted within the alimentary canal. (N.B. Jay Sin, the auteur behind the series, has another franchise in which depth is prized over width: Deep Anal Abyss.)
While the format has changed little since 2007, the bar has been raised dramatically. Where Grey’s bunny rabbit could manage just two golf balls at any one time in the first Anal Acrobats, the stars of Anal Acrobats 8 — the franchise’s latest outing — can capably take on as many as four successive spheres, each one considerably larger than any known golf paraphernalia.
In one particularly memorable scene, purple-haired performer Proxy Paige is dressed as a kind of fetishistic flight attendant, wielding an array of miniature globes that — we’re told — will soon find themselves within the body of co-star Sandra Romain. “I just travelled all the way around the world, to come and put a globe in this first-class bitch’s ass,” explains Paige, quite literally promising Romain the earth. In little over half a decade, such astronomical accomplishments have become de rigueur for the franchise, and they’re no longer the only belief-defying sights the series has to offer. In the all-female threesome that concludes Anal Acrobats 8‘s first act, Eastern European star Alysa is penetrated by a colossal phallus affixed to co-star Holly Hanna’s anus by suction alone. My description really doesn’t do it justice.
Alysa made a name for herself as the star of a series of anal-fixated home videos shot in her native Russia. One so-called ‘gape video’ in particular proved an unlikely crossover success, reaching the front page of Reddit in .gif form and confounding commenters who refused to accept its veracity. Perhaps inevitably, she was soon lured Stateside by Californian porn studios whose homegrown talents found themselves unable to compete.
The borrowing of performers from countries that lack functioning porn industries has grown apace in the last few years, especially in stunt-based franchises like Anal Acrobats that require a very particular set of skills. It’s bad news for the American stars who once cornered the market, but a blessing for the transcontinental credentials of a series that seems determined to market itself as world-class. With Alysa representing Russia, and the aforementioned Sandra Romain originally hailing from Romania, Anal Acrobats 8 is only 201 nations short of a bona fide Olympic competition in rectal capacity.
The British anti-porn campaigner Gail Dines begins her book ‘Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality’ with an assessment of the current state of the industry. Like so many outraged commentators before her, she begins by tediously detailing the process by which one can locate porn on the internet (‘I was directed to hundreds of sites that offered a whole range of sex acts’) before listing some of the more extreme acts she’s uncovered in the familiarly disapproving terms of any self-appointed moral safeguard. For Dines, perhaps the vilest act imaginable is double penetration, a disgraceful activity that was never enacted — much less depicted — prior to the invention of the internet, unless you count the erotic carvings of the 10th Century Khajuraho Temples, or various other ancient works of eroticism that Dines ignores in order to validate her point.
Dines uses clinical descriptions of such acts to shock her readers — an easy feat when the acts in question fall outside of contemporary sexual norms. Sex is rarely rational, so little can seem more irrational than the sex that other people have. Take this entry, dated May 5th 1974, from the diary of renowned British theatre critic Kenneth Tynan:
I read in Alan Watt’s autobiography, In My Own Way, that alcohol is best taken rectally instead of orally. Since I know this to be true of sleeping pills (suppositories are much healthier than the oral kind), I madly determine to try it. So Nicole and I return from eating a peppery Indian dinner to Emma Gordon’s flat, where we are spending the weekend, with a half-bottle of vodka with which to make the experiment. Nicole injects a large wine-glass of vodka into my anus via an enema tube. Within ten minutes the agony is indescribable. I am squirming as if Prussic acid had been squirted into my colon. The astringent vodka tightens the rectal passage and inflames the mucous membranes: so that I spend a sleepless night, followed by a tormented day, interspersed with visits to the loo every ten minutes — most of them abortive, since the diarrhoea is denied its natural outlets by the tightly compressed anus. In addition to the pain, I am bleeding copiously from the rectum. Poetic justice is thus visited upon me, anal fixatee that I am, and translated into farce. It takes forty-eight hours for the after-effects to subside (N.B. three days later I am still seeping blood). Oh, the perils of hedonism!
For many, Tynan’s entry will evoke the kind of horror that Dines is looking for with her affronted descriptions of modern porn trends, but unlike Dines, he also hints at the subversive power of these extremities. It’s hard to read his account without feeling some modicum of jealousy — if not for the experience itself (which sounds pretty unpleasant) then for the sheer inquisitive audacity of actually trying it out. There’s an enviable absence of doubt in Tynan’s decision, having heard tell of some unknown pleasure, to put theory into practice.
(Alan Watts, incidentally, wasn’t half so adventurous. The autobiography Tynan mentions, In My Own Way, refers only to a conversation Watts had with the psychiatrist Oscar Janiger, in which they jokingly postulated ‘a new kind of cocktail bar based on the fact that alcohol is more easily assimilated through the rectum than by the mouth’. Neither Watts nor Janifer claimed to have tested the notion.)
In The Year of the Sex Olympics, only the top tier of Sportsex’s contract performers share Tynan’s sexual ambitiousness, while the hushed low-drives are — precisely according to plan — content simply to imagine such matters, like Watts and Janiger imagining their rectal watering hole. “They found that if they screened everything,” explains a veteran Sportsex producer to a new recruit, “that basically the audience would make do with that, in place of the real thing. Take all experiences second hand. Just sit watching, calmly and quietly”.
It’s a bleak picture, but not one that’s necessarily reflective of reality. On a recent edition of his ‘Savage Love’ podcast, outspoken American sex columnist Dan Savage inadvertently reiterated The Year of the Sex Olympics’ conflation of pornography and professional athleticism, when asked by a listener how best to explain porn to her teenage son. Savage’s outlook, however, was decidedly less apocalyptic. In describing porn as an ‘olympic’ parallel to everyday sex, Savage suggested that pornography might in fact serve as a source of inspiration to the common-or-garden fornicator, as long as they understood the lofty heights to which the anal acrobats of this world aspire, and the potential limitations of their own bedrooms.
Figures from Sport England revealed that 750,000 Britons took up sporting activities in the wake of the 2012 London Olympics. For every low-drive beaten into submission, it’s safe to assume there’s an acrobat somewhere, warming up for action.