What’s it about? Stunk and Zel are adventurers with one goal in life: to sleep with women of every different species. Alongside recently lost-from-Heaven angel Crim and a few friends, they’re out not just to experience it all, but review it, too.
Content Warning: Sexual harassment, sexual content, rape culture, and NSFW images.
Let me spin you all a tale, readers.
I’ve always said that I prefer it when porn is honest. It’s much easier to respect, quantify, and ignore something that largely announces its purpose as masturbation material and focus my limited amount of time and emotional energy on shows like Plunderer, which purport to be Real Actual Narratives that I should invest in while also dividing their female characters into the breathtaking categories of “potential rape victim” and “breasts with dialogue.”
“But it’s porn!” isn’t a get-out-of-jail free card (witness the trash fire of the recent popular romance novel about a teenager being preyed on by her gymnastics coach), but it allows for critical engagement in a more honest way, and even allows for narrative works that can talk critically about sex because they’re explicit.
To be clear, Interspecies Reviewers was never going to be Secretary or Crash (no, not that one). But watching the first half of the episode, I found myself lulled: the opening frames include a warning that this is a Sex Show for Sex Doers that minors Definitely Should Not Watch; the two yahoos who serve as the initial protagonists bicker back and forth about their boners like cosplaying escapees from a Kevin Smith movie, except without the notes of emotional honesty at the end; and the ladies covered in buy-the-blu-ray censorship stickers are all consenting sex workers who’ve been paid for their time (is there something skeevy about women with succubus blood all being implicitly pushed toward sex work, since those genetics are legally required for the job? We don’t have time to unpack all that).
Sure, the older woman who Zel has the hots for has a Comedy Saggy Face, but the cheesecake shots of her are actually drawn to titillate! Sure, token embarrassed virgin Crim lies about having a vagina as well as a penis because he’s afraid his new Cool Bro Friends might try to assault him, but the show doesn’t comment on his gender during the rest of the episode! I made myself right comfy in the AniFem Cavern of Low Expectations, happy to ride out the titty show for monsterfuckers and tell you all: “Hey, at least it’s all about consenting adults.”
Partway through the episode, I paused the stream to get dinner. I think that may have been where it all went wrong.
You see, not content to be a show about Bros Doin’ Bro Stuff and talking about the sex they had, the show includes a waitress at the local tavern where Stunk and co. post their reviews. Her job is to roll her eyes and talk about how guys are the worst, because apparently bragging about sex just isn’t fun unless a woman can be made to feel uncomfortable at the same time.
She also happens to be one of the bird-people referenced in the review; when she gets embarrassed about all the men in her place of work loudly reading a review about how her species has such-and-such sensitivities and are total demons in the sack, Stunk then feels up one of her species’ stated erogenous zones to humiliate her. But hey, she punches him, so it’s square, right? ‘90s anime logic.
Goddammit, I thought, as I reached for my Feminist Killjoy hat.
Here’s the thing: I meant what I said earlier, that there are certain flexibilities in porn as a genre to explore more id-driven content. If nothing else, its status as a denigrated medium makes it easier to separate out from the more insidiously normalizing content that markets itself as narrative art. But the last sketch of (God help me) Interspecies Reviewers is a good example of why it’s still important to be mindful of and think critically about porn’s broader trends.
In its own braindead way, this show perfectly illustrates the way that the sex industry can be extremely fraught for anyone who isn’t cis (remember, Crim is passing as a cis man with his friends because he’s literally afraid of being raped if they found out he possesses a vagina), straight, male, and in the racial majority.
The various sex workers who are the subjects of these reviews have no voice to speak of outside of various sex noises and business niceties, while their clients gleefully list their pros and cons as though they’ve cracked what it’s like for every single woman with that particular set of characteristics.
Women who aren’t consensually offering the prospect of sex then get labelled as prudes (while simultaneously being less dehumanized than the sex workers, who are only framed through their work because they are sexually available and thus their purpose is served) while they are also meant to tolerate harassment in every social space. Because the balance of power leans so heavily toward the many, many bro-y dudes versus the one woman who is uncomfortable, she is then expected to go along to get along, and any token complaint will not be taken seriously.
Sex and sexual content are fun for many people, but it’s worth remembering that outside of indie media like comics and podcasts, there is an overwhelming narrative at work that objectifies certain kinds of bodies without giving them power to frame themselves or to push back against decades of racist, sexist, queerphobic, and transphobic mentalities buried in mainstream porn’s history.
None of this is to say that you’re not allowed to have dirty thoughts about the giant-boobied ladies on display here, but maybe we could all try having a meaningful conversation about what the medium could be as opposed to shrugging it off as a lost cause?
I look forward to lots of quote-tweets and subtweets around this review about how it’s Not That Deep.
Anyway, here is a dirty limerick:
There once was a woman quite dashing
with whom lasses were constantly clashing
They showed up with cash
And laid on their backs
So her tongue could give them a good thrashing.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was edited after publication to clarify language