midporn

‘Middle America’ Porn Is on the Rise in Our Bleak Capitalist Hell

If porn is supposed to be a fantasy, why are people starting to get off to reality? Especially when it’s as bleak as, say, going to Costco?

In a recently uploaded Pornhub video entitled “Walmart Worker Helps Customer Then Fucks Her Brains Out,” a blonde woman in a matching gray beanie and sweatsuit slides up to a tub of milk-chocolate M&M packages that retail for the low price of $2.84. She looks bashful and excited in the store’s fluorescent lighting, but you can barely hear her voice as she starts to speak over the clamor of a big box store at what appears to be peak hours. 

“Thank you so much for helping me with everything,” she says to the camera, and therefore to you, an apparent Walmart employee whose point-of-view we, the audience, are witnessing. “I just have one more question: Do you like white girls?”

I’m sure you can guess how things progress from here — and boy do they ever — but not before the blonde says something memorable to you from atop her plush brown American Furniture Warehouse sectional. “I always shop there,” she coos, referring to Walmart, the world’s largest company by revenue. As she kneels before you, clearly excited by your place of business, the camera pans down to a view of your work vest. Clearly emblazoned on the front are the three little words that really get her going: “Proud Walmart Associate.”

Ladies, gentlemen and everyone in between: Welcome to the world of Middle America porn. 

“Middle America porn” isn’t a searchable category, kink or fetish, at least not yet. Rather, it’s a catch-all term I invented to describe the recent surge in videos I’ve noticed on Pornhub that sexualize the most basic, pedestrian and commercial parts of American existence, the parts that are so commonplace and uneventful that you never even think about them, let alone sexually. 

Going to Costco to pick up some soft comfort pants? There’s porn for that. Gearing up for some sick Black Friday deals on flat-screen TVs? Yep,  there’s porn for that, too. Clinically depressed and just trying to deal, like 17.3 million other Americans, most of whom live in — you guessed it — Middle America? Okay, pal, here you go

There are Middle America videos for Starbucks. Middle America videos for going to the DMV. Middle America videos for John Deere tractors to plow the heartland for corn and potatoes. There’s even allergy porn. There are lots of videos about shopping carts, and more than a couple tributes to the most Middle America place of all, Hobby Lobby (people really like to masturbate there, it seems).

And while I’d hesitate to say my amateur and unscientific trendspotting is worthy of a Pornhub infographic or an academic paper, the proof is in the pudding: People love this plebe stuff. Walmart videos rack up millions of views; the search term “blue collar” brings up 1,550 search results on Pornhub alone; and videos where people do nothing more extraordinary than fill up their cars with gas while wearing barely revealing clothing get 91 percent approval ratings. 

Most of this stuff is earnest, honest-to-goodness porn you’d be forgiven for growing tumescent to. For instance, our blonde from earlier really does blow a “Proud Walmart Associate,” and this couple really is fucking at Dunkin’ Donuts. Other Middle America videos, however, are obvious jokes that are intended more to amuse than arouse. 

For example: In “Depression Fucks Me Hard While I Do Nothing About It,” a man wearing indoor sunglasses and what looks to be a Winnie the Pooh blanket does nothing but sit in silence for two full minutes and stare off into space. During this little show, you, the viewer, have ample opportunity to take in the familiar banality of his surroundings. All he’s got is a white board with various manga characters and unrealized ideas tacked to it, a desktop computer screen open to Pornhub and a sad string of Christmas lights dangling in the corner, the type that single, straight men often hang to add some semblance of “Hey, I’m nice, I won’t kill you!” to their bachelor pads. The whole thing is drab and more than a little depressing, but it’s also popular. It has 107,000 views and a 97 percent rating. Yes, that’s because it’s objectively funny that there’s a non-porn video on Pornhub, but on a deeper level, could it also be that because America is one of the most depressed countries in the world, making the kind of ennui, apparent isolation and acceptance of one’s own mediocrity seen here seem titillatingly relatable? 

All this begs the question: If porn is supposed to be a fantasy, why are people starting to get off to reality?

And I don’t mean “reality” like “amateur porn” or “there are no dragons in this bukkake video.” I’m referring to the realities we all face on a day to-day-basis. Like that we’re sad. Or in need of a six-pack of hot dogs and a 136-ounce thing of Listerine from Costco. Or that we’re craving a huge, diabetes-inducing caramel frappuccino from the Starbucks inside the fourth Target located within the 10-mile stretch of interstate that connects one suburban town to the next. 

Maybe the appeal is that in a very real way, Middle America porn depicts you. You go to Walmart. You have to wait in line at the DMV. You have impure thoughts about the Starbucks barista. It’s an entirely different you than one you curate for others, and perhaps not a version of yourself you dedicate much brain space to, but it’s still you, and possibly an even more authentic version at that. On websites like Pornhub or YouPorn, where we’re constantly bombarded by the prefabricated glitz and fantasy of porn, maybe something “normal” is just what the doctor ordered. 

Not that “normal” is always something we’re comfortable with. The normalcy of Middle American life can be painful and awkward (see Esquire’s inane feature on a 17-year-old Middle American white boy or the photography of Gregory Crewdson, if you need proof). It’s so far from the high-octane, glamorous and leisurely activities we’re told are adventurous or desirable that it’s often represented somewhat ominously, and with a not-so-covert tone of ridicule, misinformation and stereotype. Normal Middle American things are “boring.” “White-bread.” “Vanilla.” Regardless of how accurately those words describe us or our psychosexual situations, it’s hard to escape the fact that partaking in the sort of activities and feelings portrayed in this kind of porn knocks us down to a level where what we’re doing is so pedestrian that, at least for a time, we’re just really not as special as we think we are. 

Perhaps another take on Middle America porn, then, is that it helps us process the low-level excruciation of normalcy by exalting it on platforms that peddle desire. Maybe ordinary, everyday Americans need to see themselves represented in spaces like Pornhub or YouPorn where their mere presence signifies sex appeal, regardless of how ironic the intent. Maybe Middle America porn videos are normal people’s revenge: a sexual reclaiming of the middle class and everything it holds dear. 

And maybe, as some experts suggest, it’s that some things are so vanilla, so absolutely ordinary and so universally nothing that they’re actually kind of, well, erotic. “People have a strong need for sexual novelty, and as a result, they’re always looking for new and different things to experience,” says Justin Lehmiller, a research fellow at the Kinsey Institute and author of the blog Sex and Psychology. “While these scenarios might sound mundane and kind of boring, another way to think about them is that they’re actually a novelty in the sense that there really isn’t much other porn out there quite like it. So I suspect that a big part of the appeal of this kind of porn resides in the fact that it’s just different.” 

That’s more true now than ever, I think. In a world where our value is increasingly judged on the expansiveness and inclusiveness of our attitudes toward sex, taking a break from the culture of seemingly competitive sex-positivity to beat it to something as quotidian as Walmart might actually be as thrilling as the crack of a whip or the feeling of a silky blindfold running over our eyelids as its tightened from behind. 

And if that means “I’m just a small town girl who loves God and her family” is the new “I do anal,” then so be it.