Monday, November 05, 2007

Porn*ol*o*gy by Ayn Carrillo-Gailey

I can swallow a lot of things when I'm reading. (It helps if the book is labeled as fiction, but I'll give non-fiction the benefit of the doubt as well.) But when someone expects me to believe that her actual life closely follows the plot of Bridget Jones' Diary -- complete with even-less-likely slapstick humiliations -- my willing suspension of disbelief just snaps.

Porn*ol*o*gy -- and, yes, the title has those annoying dots in it everywhere it appears, so they're official -- claims to be the story of an ordinary "Good Girl" who decided to investigate "porn" (her umbrella term for everything and anything sex-related, from actual porn to brothels to strip clubs to sex toys) after her then-boyfriend called her "pornophobic." Along the way, she Met Cute -- repeatedly -- with the proverbial Great Guy who was at first put off by her zany pratfalls, but who finally succumbed to her feminine wiles.

At least one part of that is true: Ayn Carillo-Gailey knows nothing about any bit of the sex business, and doesn't even manage to look up from her own navel long enough to even think up any good questions to ask about it. I can believe the general outline of the story she tells in this book, but the details -- trying on a cock ring as a bracelet and getting it stuck, dancing spastically on the bar at Coyote Ugly and losing her shirt to the ceiling fan, not bothering to do basic research on the "radio sex therapist" whose show she's going to see -- are too sitcom-y and doofy to be believed.

I also find it difficult to believe that there are grown women, working in the media, living in such supposedly cosmopolitan cities as Los Angeles, who are as ignorant about sex and modern culture as Ms. Carrillo-Gailley claims to be. Maybe if she was living in a hovel -- or in Kansas City -- this would be understandable, but the woman has obviously seen Sex and the City, and otherwise is a functional member of modern society.

(Of course, the pose is presumably deliberate, either on Carrillo-Gailley's part or on that of her publisher, and a lot of the modern ambivalence towards women's sexuality is encoded in that, and in the book in general...but Carrillo-Gailley isn't an interesting enough writer to make reading her for pure subtext particularly enjoyable.)

Oh, and one more thing: Ms. Carrillo-Gailey has not one but two comedy-relief ethic parents (different ethnicities, too). She seemed to be thisclose to dragging a wacky, smutty grandma out of the closet of tired cliches as well.

There are two reasons to read a book like this: for information or titillation. Any male readers, such as myself, are reading for the second reason, and will be vastly disappointed. (Unless they are even more sheltered than the author, in which case they are either Mormons or Amish.) Female readers, at whom the book is squarely and deliberately aimed, are more likely to be similarly innocent of the ways of the modern sex industry, and so they may find this of interest. However, women on the Internet have probably repeatedly stumbled across references to things that would make Ms. Carrillo-Gailley swoon at the mere thought of it's my belief that anyone who might possibly be reading this review would have no need of, or much interest in, Porn*ol*o*gy. So do yourselves a favor and avoid it.

Note: I read this because I was poking through the new non-fiction section of my local library a week or so ago and the word "porn" jumped out at me -- I'll admit that. But I'm very happy no money changed hands.

Postscript, two years later: This post seems to get a hit most days -- I don't know if anyone is actually reading it, or if the vast Porn Engines of the Internet are just casting smut-seekers up on my shores randomly. But I did want to add, for the benefit of anyone who might be reading this review, that I now think I was entirely too mean about Ms. Carillo-Gailey and her book. I still don't think Porn*ol*o*gy was very good, but I was definitely trying to show off above, which is generally not helpful. So take all of this with a large grain of salt.


Ayn said...

Thank you, Andrew. Strangely exciting to read someone getting so heated about how much they hate my book. If only I took myself so seriously. Really, for the record, the book was meant for fun not serious enlightenment. I really do have two parents of different ethnicities, and I really was that sheltered sexually. And, I am afraid I do have a knack for embarrassing myself. Because I was hyperaware that critics like you would criticize me for it, I actually did grapple with altering reality so that the book, especially my mom, would not seem so sitcom-like, but obviously I decided against that. Thanks for the attention.

Ayn Carrillo-Gailey

p.s. you spelled my name and the word 'ethnic' incorrectly.

Anonymous said...

I also found the book to be highly implausible, not very funny.I definitely felt misled about what the book would hold.

Jada said...

I am mere pages away from finishing Porn*ol*o*logy (I enjoy the dots) and I have found each bit of it entertaining. Maybe Ms. Carillo-Gailey did embellish the truth or create entire stories out of thin air (who really knows), but honestly I find that it is a good, light-hearted read. I don't really know if you realized this upon picking it up, but it wasn't exactly written to target the male audience - It deals with women's insecurities in themselves, the way that porn makes the majority of us feel and the growing phenomenon that it is. For some it is a foreign language that is becoming so prominent in our society that the rest of us are trying to learn it as well.

I suppose the point of critics is to distinguish certain aspects that you have pointed out, however I also believe that if you are critiquing something you should be able to come from the standpoint in which that target audience will relate and in this case, if you have a dick, you can't really relate.

Jada the pornologist in training

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