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The 'most dangerous trend in porn' is disturbing, but it's far from a trend

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Warning: This story contains graphic descriptions and is NSFW.

Last week, Vice published a compelling investigation into a dangerous and disturbing new trend in porn, an extreme anal sex practice known as rosebudding

Google “rosebudding” and you’ll immediately see the reason for the nickname, but before you do, wait an hour after eating lunch.

Medically, it’s known as something far more unsettling: rectal prolapse. When the walls of the rectum collapse and slip out of the anus itself, it creates the appearance of a flower—one that “smells like blood and tastes like raw flesh.”

If the Vice piece—not to mention a response to it on Jezebel, with the snarky/hysterical headline “Here’s the Dangerous and Grotesque Anal Sex Trend You’ve Always Wanted”—are to be trusted, the practice of “rosebudding” is rampant in the world of pornography, an inevitable outgrowth (pun unfortunately unintended) of a financially beleaguered industry where companies are attempting to compete with free tube sites by catering to increasingly violent and aggressive niche audiences. Here’s what porn gossip blogger Mike South says about it:

"At first it was relatively benign—gang bangs, anal, that kind of thing," he recalls. "Then it was dressing girls up like preteens and picking them up on swing sets in schoolyards, forced oral until they threw up, forced anal… The more uncomfortable the girl looked, the more the industry would give it awards.

"Companies in porn are like blackbirds on a phone wire," he continues. "When one takes off they all follow. I think, in this case, they all followed into the side of a glass building."

The Jezebel headline is correct in the sense that rosebudding is, as you can tell from the above description, grotesque (you never want to see something on your body described as a “shiny bright red floral protrusion,” sex positivity be damned), and it’s also pretty clear that it’s dangerous. 

A New York City gastroenterologist I spoke with for this piece (who did not want her name to be used given the subject matter) says it’s mostly seen among elderly women, and is only treatable with surgery. Incontinence, bleeding, leakage, and infection are common side effects. “I can’t see how any healthy person could have this and have any quality of life,” she says. The fact that most adult companies don’t provide health insurance for performers, leaving them without a safety net should any complications arise from the act, makes it even worse. 

OK! So we all agree on what rosebudding is and why it’s dangerous. But let’s be clear about what it’s not: a porn “trend” in any sense of the word. In fact, it’s pretty damn rare.

“Rosebudding is a pretty rare genre seen in the adult industry and only produced by a small handful of companies,” says Mike Kulich, CEO of the porn film production company Monarchy Productions. 

A well-known adult performer, who contacted me on Twitter, agrees: “It’s a very rare skill and condition (depending on how you look at it, haha).” In her eight or so years in the industry, she says she has only seen it in person once. 

When it comes down to it, the reason why many performers don’t shoot rosebud scenes has little to do with employers’ concern for their welfare, nor for the fact that there’s no demand for such an act in the general market (see: Rule 34). 

Male adult performer Christian XXX suggests that the reason why rosebudding is rare is because it’s extremely difficult for performers to rosebud, requiring repeated and intense sessions of anal play with extremely large objects. In fact, Vice notes, most performers have to prep the night before by stretching out their anuses with buttplugs. “No one can do it,” Christian says. “You have to get buttfucked like 10,000 times repeatedly just to maybe prolapse. I can’t think of five girls [in the industry who can prolapse].” (He comes up with three names, two of whom are quoted in the Vice piece). 

Another reason why prolapsing is not all that common stems from adult producers’ concerns with being targeted for violating obscenity laws, as dictated by an informal set of guidelines known as the Cambria List. Although the Cambria List is not strictly adhered to—indeed, many of the acts outlined are considered mild by many hardcore studios’ standards—content producers are often concerned with being targeted by federal government officials. 

“If you look at previous obscenity trials in which pornographers have been convicted and sent to prison, a lot of them went down for things much more tame than rosebudding,” says Kulich. “I am not the moral police and not saying it should be considered obscene; I just wouldn't be involved in the production of that type of content and know a large number of other studios that would say the same thing.”

Of course, just because a large number of studios wouldn’t shoot their performers rosebudding doesn’t mean that some of them don’t. For that reason, a discussion about whether studios should shoot rosebudding, as well as a number of any other untold sexual acts that might put performers’ safety at risk, is obviously worthwhile. Yet to refer to an extreme anal act that can only be produced by a small handful of performers as a “trend” seems like it stems less from concern for performer health and safety, and more from a concern that hardcore porn is becoming too violent and misogynistic.

As Jezebel’s Mark Shrayber puts it: “Rosebudding in itself isn't the core problem. … The fact that this trend exists could suggest that rosebudding is a symptom of a much broader concern: The fact that as more and more pornographic images become readily available, it takes much more to scratch one's sexual itch. And sometimes, that leads to the necessity for extremism.”

Putting aside the claim that rosebudding is a “trend” to begin with, Shrayber makes another, more interesting point: that rosebudding is merely symptomatic of how the widespread availability of extreme hardcore porn on the Internet has created an increased demand for violent, misogynistic, and dangerous content. It’s an argument that has been made dozens of times before by radfems and anti-porn advocates, and even the most sex-positive, porn-friendly among us would be hard up to dispute it after taking even a cursory glance at some of the more hardcore offerings on Pornhub. 

But it’s unclear to me if the Internet has made our sexual predilections more violent or aggressive, or if the Internet is simply enslaved to our own sexual predilections, which were already, somewhere deep down, violent and aggressive to begin with. Are extreme porn producers who shoot rosebud scenes to be blamed for disregarding the welfare of their performers and making sex seem like something that has to hurt to be good, or are they simply catering to a deep and dark need within us to see these women get hurt in this specific way in the first place? It’s a chicken-or-egg type query: Which came first, rosebudding or the Internet? We’ll probably never know the answer. But nonetheless, for the sake of their own health and safety, not to mention the integrity of their bowels, adult performers would be wise to adhere to the old dictum that every rose(bud) has its thorns.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Mike Kulich was CEO of Dogfart. He is not. 

Photo by audreyjm529/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)