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The Comments on Stormy Daniels’ Porn Videos Are Now a Riveting Political Forum

That a woman received $130,000 to keep silent about an alleged extramarital affair with a man who went on to win a presidential election for the party of conservative values with an overwhelming share of the evangelical vote isn’t entirely unexpected. Sex scandals are nothing new in Washington, nor are attempted cover-ups this messy and convoluted. Some of us are old and jaded enough — and Trump’s chaotic tenure in office has felt so interminable — that we’re tempted to call it business as usual.

Yet Stormy Daniels, unlike most women who wind up in the headlines after an intimate encounter with a politician, has made a very public living in the adult film industry. The current news cycle led to a new deal between her and the porn producers Brazzers and Digital Playground; Daniels will perform in new scenes for the former and release her full-length directorial debut with the latter. In the meantime, her numbers on streaming sites like Pornhub have been skyrocketing to match her newfound notoriety.

Think about it: when else have we learned of a president’s liaison and had instant access to videos of his paramour engaged in almost every conventional sex act with a rotating cast of professionals? Daniels’ vast archive — she’s a hall-of-famer within the world of adult entertainment — is now a historical curiosity. And though the Library of Congress may not see fit to preserve them for generations to come, these clips are driving 2018’s most fascinating political discourse. Seriously. Look up “Stormy Daniels” on any streaming porn platform that hosts comment sections (especially the ever-popular Pornhub), pick a scene, and scroll to the bottom of the page to see.

Overwhelming much of the masturbation chatter you typically find down here is raw commentary on Trump, this scandal, and the state of the union. Many people remark that CNN spurred their interest in Stormy; others mock the hush-money settlement and speculate as to Trump’s bedroom inadequacy; still more are horrified that Stormy would willingly sleep with him, or vice versa. There are loyal Trumpers shouting “MAGA!” and critics calling him the dumbest leader in living memory. Daniels’ body becomes a site of vile critique and metaphor, drawing not a few comparisons to Kellyanne Conway and Ivanka, though she also earns rapturous praise from fans who would eagerly risk a relationship for a Trump-like assignation with her. As with all comments sections, emotions are running high.

From what I can tell, this one-handed commentariat is no less polarized than the country itself, with support for Trump roughly equal to its opposition. The difference is there are no filters here. These aren’t family arguments playing out before all your relatives on Facebook, and they aren’t the repetitive, internecine feuds that animate Twitter’s various hardline factions. They are the tossed-off talking points of dudes who paused a hog-cranking session to check out the porn actress who says she spanked our commander-in-chiefwith a copy of Forbes. His decision to pursue Daniels and the negotiations that followed would have to influence any assessment of his character and avowed genius for deal-making, but her career and explicit output invite us to imagine the encounter more vividly than we might have. On Pornhub, users are joking that Trump contracted an STI from Daniels (she says they didn’t use a condom) or saying they can no longer enjoy her work now that she’s been “tainted” by his touch. When they’re not offering nuanced takes on nuclear non-proliferation policy, that is.

Is there anything to be gained or learned from these exchanges? I’m impressed, for one, by how they approach Trump’s corruption as one contiguous blur. You find references to his “shithole” insult and “grab ’em by the pussy” soundbite, as well as some misinformation on who appears in the “pee tape” hinted at in the notorious Steele Dossier (“Is anyone else here cause you thought you would see [Stormy] pissing on Trump?”), disagreements over the 2016 electoral map, and insinuations that Russia has played the president for a fool. The blackmail, the fraud, the obscenity and illegitimacy — they whirl together in a vortex of confusion that, in fact, amounts to a fairly comprehensive snapshot of the tabloid reality we’re stuck in. It’s quite a distance from this lurid locker-room discussion, punctuated everywhere by spatters of jizz and stolid breast implants, to the rarified culture war fought in op-ed pages. It shows you just how many people would rather read about the size of Trump’s dick or how long he lasts than another column that attacks college students or calls out persistent gender inequality.

But if there’s a unifying theme to the ribald debates now simmering under all of Stormy Daniels’ greatest hits, it’s this: Trump having sex with a porn star is funny. That he got busted for it, that he unsuccessfully paid more than twice the median annual household income in the U.S. to shut her up, that the entire episode could be what brings him down — that’s hilarious. It’s thematically perfect. A man who should have been disqualified for office when he revealed to have bragged about his sexual assaults, undone by a consensual fling. A man who, were any of his enemies even faintly rumored to have engaged in this behavior, would not hesitate to launch a string of vulgar tweets hoping to score a laugh at their expense. As a political forum, the Pornhub crew are throwing Trump’s crude and hackneyed sense of humor right back in his face.

And these horn-dogs have something else in common with Trump: they’re out to get theirs, led wherever by a libido they basically refuse to control. They display the false superiority and me-first ethos that mark his staunchest allies. Trump may not have to fret over the legal fallout from his relationship with Daniels so much as losing face in this community. Because when depraved trolls start to ridicule him, who will he have left?