“Be like Belinda
How a porn character can make one rethink sex
“The following podcast contains adult themes, sexual content, and strong language. Basically, all the good stuff.”This is how every episode of My Dad Wrote a Porno begins. One evening, Jamie Morton’s father gave him a copy of “Belinda Blinked”, a porno he’d written under the pseudonym Rocky Flintstone. At first horrified, Jamie eventually decided to get together with his friends James Cooper and Alice Levine to read the book together and comment on it – one chapter every week –and record the whole thing and put it up as a podcast. My Dad Wrote a Porno (MDWAP) started in 2015 and is still going strong, as the author churns out more books in the Belinda Blinked series. MDWAP takes us through the life and times of Belinda Blumenthal, the “sexiest sales girl in business”, who works at Steele’s Pots and Pans in London. Belinda, with her “amazing tits and clit” will stop at nothing to close a sales deal – resulting in a dazzling variety of sexual experiences that could leave the podcast listeners baffled and in stitches. I discovered MDWAP when I was recovering from surgeries in 2017 and desperately wanted something to laugh to. It was already wildly popular then. The Belinda Blinked series (now in its sixth book) is a heady mix of crass writing, poor knowledge of physiology, and one of the most nonsensical plots one could ever find. The podcast hosts take it a notch higher with their witty commentary and detailed analyses on the plot (or lack of it) and the writing. Especially enjoyable are their comments on lines describing a woman’s nipples that are as large as "the three-inch rivets which had held the hull of the fateful Titanic together", or why the headquarters of a pots-and-pans company in Amsterdam will get terrorist threats.
Image Source - Amazon Belinda Blinked is a jackpot for someone like me, who’s into writing and editing and works in the area of sexuality and wellbeing. I mean, consider the title of the first book: “Belinda Blinked; 1 A modern story of sex, erotica and passion. How the sexiest sales girl in business earns her huge bonus by being the best at removing her high heels.” Yes, the entire thing is the title, including the semi-colon that I’m sure wonders why it’s even there. And then there is the abysmal knowledge of female anatomy. Rocky’s idea of good sex basically involves the woman’s reproductive organs getting a bashing – so an erotic scene involves someone’s penis (or a dildo) penetrating Belinda “all the way up to her ovaries”, or of nipples getting “extended” (like the three-inch rivets described earlier). There are also multiple references to “vaginal lids” (yes, he means the vulva) and of Belinda “leading” people to her “vaginal area”. The podcast and its absurdist excess, have been a true saviour during the work-from-home phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, giving me innumerable moments of stomach-clutching laughter. At the end of many workdays I download an episode, slip on my earphones, and walk in a park, laughing loudly – once laughing so hard that I doubled over gasping for breath, prompting a jogger to concernedly ask me if I was okay.
Image Source - AmazonBut a few weeks into it, I realised I was also mildly shocked by the complete abandon with which Belinda approached every sexual encounter. Moving on with nonchalance after being unceremoniously left at a party for another woman! Wondering how many people saw her in action when she was tricked into sex in front of a red-light-district window in Amsterdam! Noting the presence of CCTVs in her bathroom – and then proceeding to shower like it didn’t matter! My work mode was kicking in, and subconsciously, I began analysing Belinda’s activities for consent (mostly assumed, only rarely asked, and nearly never a no from Belinda), safety from violence (how is it that all people Belinda sleeps with are…nice?), and from infections or unwanted pregnancies (never a mention of a condom or a pill or an STI test), among others. Her appetite for sex is baffling as she can’t go one evening without sex. I was evaluating a poorly-written porno for how it dealt with safer sex! When had I stopped appreciating the idea of someone enjoying sex without thinking too much about its consequences? Rocky Flintstone may not have written Belinda to be a model for being sex positive, but here she was, subverting for me everything that sex had nearly come to mean. Why was pleasure sounding like a chore in my head? When did pleasure become such serious business? With these thoughts coming up with each new episode, I could tell that this was how I had begun engaging with pleasure in my own life. Without realising it, my mind had – and I don’t really know since when – begun associating the idea of sex with a range of things, few of which I would call pleasurable. As friends have babies or get ready to have one, and I have to confront my indecision about having children, the idea of sex-for-procreation takes precedence. Stories of rape and violations of consent from near and far creep in, and sex-as-abuse-of-power fills my head like fog that obscures the idea of pleasure. My own little medical history rears its head every so regularly, reminding me of my time in the hospital as a non-mother and a non-child in the mother and child ward, waiting for my treatment to kick in (it didn’t; I needed surgery eventually). Sex-as-everything-that-can-go-wrong painfully frequently drags me away from the present to a past. As I hear and read tales of others’ distasteful online dating experiences and unsavoury sexual encounters, it becomes sex-as-yucky. Ideas of sex-for-intimacy and sex-for-connection are thankfully still prevalent, surviving even during the bleakest of pandemic days. All these ideas of sex jostle in my mind whenever I think about pleasure, almost asking if pleasure should be a priority when there’s so much else about sex to worry about and so many not-nice outcomes to control. But, so much of pleasure has to do with risk – risk of being disappointed, rejected, hurt in all kinds of ways, small and big, and well…simply not finding joy, maybe even feeling icky. Even with the consent of all parties involved, sex could be all of this. And seeking pleasure requires one to accept all those ideas of sex-that’s-just-not-pleasurable, with some lightness. Without the weight of political correctness that seeks to classify people and behaviours into black and white, leaving little space for the greys that fill our lives. Without the pressure of seemingly axiomatic ideas about sex and pleasure which could make one afraid to confront the murkiness of it all. This little fact of pleasure as risk would feature in various ways in many of my discussions on sexuality, be it in a training or with a friend. What made me forget it?! Health scares? Working in this space that regularly feeds me bad news? The lack of travel-led distractions in 2020? Social media? Pandemic stress? All of the above? Whatever it was –– I’m glad Belinda reminded me of it.
Image Source - AmazonNot that things have changed and become rosy now, mind you. All those associations with the idea of sex are still definitely there, like the many emotions in the movie Inside Out. But slowly, like Joy discovers the importance of Sadness and learns to deal with her in the movie, my mind is relearning that pleasure has to coexist with everything else about sex that it knows. The other associations – the confusion about children, the medical history, living in a world where abuse is rampant – these associations make me who I am; they help me be vulnerable to, and try to understand, my partner; they strengthen my empathy muscle to accept diversity in sexual interactions, both in mine and in others’. It feels like acknowledging these is a reward in itself, a slow-cooking lesson in the complexity of sexual life. Maybe, just maybe, it could help me seek to control outcomes a little less and enjoy the risks – and the open-ended experience - more. My baby steps towards reclaiming pleasure include a haircut that lets my curls fall rather than be bunched up into an unobtrusive high bun. Randomly catching myself in the mirror and admiring my legs. Taking the time to dress up, to laugh, to admire and feel admired. Simply reminding myself that pleasure is okay, even if the world outside seems to be falling apart. That pleasure must be a need in my own head before I can expect it from anyone else. I may not say yes to everything sexy that comes my way like Belinda, who sleeps with literally-drooling men, men with literally-flaking penis transplants, and women with paper-thin breasts. But as I walk in the park laughing along to Jamie, James and Alice ripping apart another chapter of Belinda Blinked, pleasure feels slightly less serious and slightly more fun. Basically, good stuff. Vani writes to make sense of her days and thoughts, sometimes spinning sentences in her head even as she observes something. She works on sexuality, wellbeing, and external communications, and runs Spark, a ten-year-old online literary magazine.