- No Sex in Newark: Postindustrial Erotics at the Intersection of Urban and Adult Film History
No masterpiece of pornography by most standards, Newark Penn Station Pt 1: Dude Fingering My Musty Booty (neanea14, 2015) consists of fifty-six seconds set in a restroom that foreground a man’s thrust-out ass. We peer up into it from below, as another man sitting on a toilet in an adjacent stall reaches under the divide to, indeed, finger it. The man being fingered shoots the scene from his phone camera, held in one hand as he strokes himself with the other, leaving us with a shaky and constrained view. Just before the minute mark, it abruptly stops. [End Page 175]
Fortunately for viewers left disoriented or seeking narrative or sexual closure, our cruising pornographer, known only as neanea14, posted a short sequel to his XTube channel. In the caption to Newark Penn Station Pt 2 (2015), he explains, “i went to the urinals and we went into the stall to finish what we started at the urinals. my dick was musty as fuck. hope you enjoy.”1 This fifty-seven-second scene brings the video to an orgasmic conclusion, as the two men, now standing inside one stall, jack themselves and each other off to completion, ejaculating in turn into the toilet bowl. In the next stall, a man stands to pee and flushes, seen only by his feet.
We never see faces in the two videos, which afford us mere snippets of the men at play: black, with tight athletic abdomens, dressed casually in sweatpants, jeans, and sneakers. From neanea14’s profile, we get an expanded sense of an attractive twenty something very interested in public sex, public masturbation, and the act of recording himself. Much of his erotic circuit seems to follow the route of the northern New Jersey Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) train itinerary, with similar encounters recorded at the Journal Square stop in Jersey City and elsewhere.
Much could be said of the sometimes charming, sometimes troubling erotic subjectivity that neanea14 charts over the course of his fifty short videos, all posted to XTube between approximately 2013 and 2016. As a proud versatile bottom and self-identified Christian, his stated turn-ons include mustiness and men of all varieties, with the exception of “fat guys and Caucasian men.” As an exemplar of Black queer autopornography, he represents do-it-yourself (DIY) culture work of the sort that still receives too little scholarly attention.2
The work of neanea14 also points toward the ways pornography proves useful at the intersection of urban history, film studies, and the history of sexuality, especially when traditional archives fail us. Both the production and the exhibition of porn offer rich resources for documenting precarious postindustrial erotics that too often go overlooked. Notably, neanea14’s “hit me up” geography does not include New York City—a mere three stops and ten minutes past Journal Square on the PATH, and so easily accessible for him. Instead, it comprises a North Jersey nexus of Jersey City, Bayonne, Newark, Hoboken, and East Orange. Nor is neanea14 the only DIY pornographer working in this space; XTube user deesoul87 offers Penn Station Head (2011), seventy-five seconds of blow-job footage riskily shot on an elevator inside Newark Penn Station.3
Clearly, Newark affords space for pleasure and desire. One would not know it from the existing scholarship on the city, however. In the dominant national symbolic economy, Newark remains an overdetermined metonym of urban decay, eternally trapped in the shadow of 1967’s long hot summer and its incessant renarrativization everywhere from PBS to Philip Roth novels.4 When anthropologist Ana Ramos-Zayas [End Page 176] studied how Newark was rendered legible to Brazilian and Puerto Rican immigrant communities, she found that blackness registered as an affect, defined through aggression, which in turn became the “meta-narrative of emotion in Newark.”5 In this reading of the city, otherwise-marginalized groups partook of hegemonic consensus.
Indeed, postindustrial blackness seems to foreclose the sort of urban erotics bestowed on other cities. To pluck from eclectic historiographies for effect: eighteenth-century Philadelphia begins with Sex among...