My position on porn

There’s a reason why I’ve never really stated whether I’m pro- or anti-porn: my position is not that simple. And I don’t understand why anyone thinks it can be that simple. Not everyone’s working from the same definition of “porn”, for one thing. But there are so many elements to this conversation.

In fact, forget porn for a minute. Anemone distilled something for me a while back: in mainstream film, actresses are practically required to get naked and do sex scenes a lot – far more than male actors. This creates a situation of institutionalized sexual discrimination. It’s not that no actress ever happily and willingly filmed one of those scenes. It’s that very few (who, other than Julia Roberts?) manage to choose not to do those scenes and still have a great career. It’s not that women don’t have any other choice for how they can earn their living. It’s that they should have the option to work in film without facing special requirements their male counterparts don’t. Imagine being unable to get a promotion in your field of, say, telecommunications, without letting your bosses photograph you naked, and you begin to see a glimmer of what actresses go through. And the guys you work with get to skip that step.

This is wrong. And a lot of what happens to actresses in porn is equally wrong. The consequences can even be worse, given that commercial porn has gotten so hardcore that it seems likely actresses are being physically damaged for it. I know that link’s not the best source in the world, but when I searched the engines for links about women/actresses being hurt in porn, all I got were links salaciously offering to show me women being hurt in a sexual context. That says a lot, right there. (I got the Gail Dines link from Reddit Feminisms.) [ETA: a better link here.]

I have a problem with all that, and if it causes you to label me anti-porn, whatever. But you should also label me anti-film, I guess, since because I think both Hollywood and the porn industry are fully capable of providing fair working conditions for women but all too frequently don’t, my feelings on both industries and their treatment of actual women are pretty much identical.

Which brings us to the content of porn. As you know if you read this site, I object to a lot of mainstream movie content that I consider misogynistic.  I feel the same way about porn. I have a problem with misogynist content wherever I find it. That said, I see the potential value of porn as sexual fantasies on screen, if the industry would (1) look after the well-being of actors better and (2) offer at least some non-misogynistic and midandrist content to balance out the misogyny. That certainly makes me anti-porn industry – at least the mainstream commercial industry as it is now. But then again, I feel pretty much the same way about Hollywood’s attitudes toward (simulated) sex.

I also see a desperate need for some realistic media representation of sex and sexuality (which some people would consider part of porn – I personally do not, but I’m including it to be complete). Perhaps some parts of the world are luckier, but in the US, we’re all caught between (1) people who refuse to talk about sex because that’s dirty, (2) people who blither on about it but actually don’t have a clue what they’re talking about and (3) porn, the most readily available of which is misleading about sex and the human body to say the least.

But perhaps one of the most puzzling aspects of the “pro-porn” position to me has always been that its proponents often see themselves as anti-prudery. I don’t get this, because porn conflates rape and sex even more frequently than religion. And that’s the most prudish belief anyone could harbor: to see sex as something so ungodly ugly and vile, that you can’t distinguish it from a form of torture.

One commenter at  the above-linked Alternet article says: “I would say that we should be more worried about a sex-negative culture and attitude that has hijacked our society, necessitating porn.” That sounds good on the surface, but it actually misses the point. Prudishness does not force people to seek out porn; it encourages them to obsess on sex, because that’s what our brains do when you tell us something is forbidden. It’s the obsession with sex, fed by both prudishness and pornography, that causes a lot of problems both for individuals and for our culture in general.

Prudishness and porn both need to get out of our way, because both forms of sex-obsession are frankly just not merited. Sex is something that some people do (not all). It ranges from great to extremely disappointing. Sometimes the participants are gorgeous, but most often they’re just ordinary-looking. Sometimes there are yucky smells. Sometimes there are rude sounds. Sometimes it involves certain numbers and types of partners, other times it involves other configurations. Sex never involves seriously or deliberately hurting someone (outside of a safe BDSM environment).

Truth is, sex is just not that important, in the final analysis.

And that, ultimately, is why I don’t see much difference between porn, mainstream media and organized religion: they’re all just trying to manipulate us by generating an obsession with sex and then preying on it.

Comments

  1. The Other Patrick says

    Great post!

    I would characterize my position more as being anti-bad-porn or anti-mysoginist-porn. Similar to my stance on prostitution.

    In fact, I recently saw the documentary “Graphic sexual horror” about a bdsm porn site whose producer at least skirted the borders of consensuality. I think the documentary does a great job of both presenting what happened and not taking a position. Some scenes are very uncomfortable, and not because of the actual practices, but because of the connotation that here, limits were disregarded. At the same time, the film argued that porn is still a reasonably safe way for lower-class women to earn a lot of money, safer than stripping or prostitution, at least.

    And yet, mainstream porn has taken so much from niche porn; you can find quite a number of fetishes in mainstream films nowadays, and so-called “rough sex” certainly feels ubiquitous. And in the age of the internet, anybody is constantly barraged with these images, you can get them anywhere and everywhere. I don’t think you can argue it doesn’t have an impact when even a 14-year-old pupil of mine showed me some scat porn on his mobile (it was done as a prank, with bad consequences for him).

    The problem is, I don’t know how much in a porn film is really consensual. There was a film company in Poland (I think) that used regular models for hardcore bdsm (e.g. extreme caning). The models did it for the money and nothing else. They had no fun getting their bums beat, and with no experience in bdsm, did they know what they were getting into? Could they really make informed decisions to do this? On the other hand, these films were mostly presented as straight punishment scenes, there was no obvious misogyny like in many mainstream flicks – and still, do you know what happened off-camera?

    In the end, I won’t condemn porn, per se. There are great independent porn flicks where you actually see the chemistry between the actors. And there are sites like Kink where at least it seems clear enough that the women are treated well.

    Is porn really that different from other jobs? From modeling, or acting in mainstream fare? From working at a diner and having the guests ogle at you? At least in porn, women can hold positions of power, i.e. open their own studios, direct their own films, etc.

    Though I agree on the realism issue. Just like life is not like life in Hollywood movies, sex is not like porn.

  2. Vee says

    Brava. I’ve had trouble articulating why the pro-porn activists sometimes really bother me and sometimes have excellent points, and this post, yes. Yes, exactly. Prudishness and porn go together. YES.

  3. Adamantine says

    I remember reading something by Gloria Steinem in which she said that you might very well feel attracted to something and know, at the same time, that in a more egalitarian society you would be more likely *not* to feel attracted by it. That’s how I feel about pornography. I do like porn, inasmuch as I watch porn and feel aroused by it, though on the other hand I know some of the things that I enjoy seeing on screen are wrong from a moral/feminist/egalitarian point of view. And I suppose that makes me a typical viewer, as I can easily imagine that this is precisely the attitude that porn film makers trade on.
    Not so long ago, I used to think in the simplistic “pro-porn is anti-prudery” way you describe, and one of the things that made me change my mind was that when I read stories written by actresses themselves (such as Raffaella Anderson and Ovidie, both French) I realized that even the most pro-porn of them had more contrasted views than mine — and they obviously knew the industry better than I do.
    Though I’ve been a feminist (at least in theory) for a long time, I’m only beginning to realize that if I enjoy seeing women demeaned on-screen, it’s only because I’ve been educated to enjoy it, not because being an inferior being would turn me on. Apparently, one-third of mainstream porn viewers are women. I don’t know how serious these figures are, but it wouldn’t surprise me were they accurate. We (women porn watchers) do enjoy it: we’ve been taught to.
    In the end, I don’t know what to think, really. I think the personal definitely is political, but how do you suppress or change your own desires? It’s a very long process and you have to be very steadfast to undertake it.

    • The Other Patrick says

      if I enjoy seeing women demeaned on-screen, it’s only because I’ve been educated to enjoy it, not because being an inferior being would turn me on. Apparently, one-third of mainstream porn viewers are women. I don’t know how serious these figures are, but it wouldn’t surprise me were they accurate. We (women porn watchers) do enjoy it: we’ve been taught to.

      I disagree; not that it makes much difference, but I don’t think the case is so easy. Not all porn demeans women. Not all women watch demeaning porn, not all who watch demeaning porn like the demeaning part, not all who like it have been taught to do so by society (or at least I don’t think one can prove one way or the other).

      Why doesn’t it make much difference? Because if you think demeaning porn is wrong, then it doesn’t matter why people watch it. It’s part of human successes that we managed to seperate ourselves from our baser instincts, at least partially, so fighting our own lizard brain is absolutely possible.

      I see a different problem, though. Not with porn that demeans women. To me, the problem is twofold: porn that demeans the actresses, not the characters, i.e. the production is demeaning, not the product on screen; and porn that demeans women without knowing what it does and what that might lead to. That means that I think a consensual, play-acted denigration scene can be done, if the producers know that there is a context to such a scene.

      Just like I don’t argue against all films where a woman is the victim of a crime, but against those who employ this unthinkingly, naively.

  4. The Other Patrick says

    I just followed your second link, and I do have an issue:

    Scientific research indicates that sexualized media content, regardless of whether it is violent or not, increases aggression in viewers. Like media violence, it increases violence in society, which affects all of us, women, men, children. This is not a “maybe” finding. Researchers agree that media violence and erotic content increase aggression and contribute to societal violence. It is a risk factor the way smoking is a risk factor for cancer. We may like it because it’s fun, but it’s bad for us, so it’s time to quit.

    I would have to dig into some old notes or look the studies up again, but as far as I know, the most that could be said is that scientists disagree about the exact implication of media on aggression, not least of all because of the way aggression is sometimes measured and the question whether those measures actually translate into real-world behavior. And looking at crime stats doesn’t bring up any strong correlation with, say, the rise of video games or internet porn, either, which makes me doubt this assertion.

    I’m also hesitant about the other points, at least the way they are presented there, as mere assertions. It’s perfectly possible she explained those ideas elsewhere, though, and I don’t have anything to back up my skepticism, either, other than a vague feeling of unrest whenever I see statements encompassing all situations and all the people always.

    • says

      I was only linking in reference to her remarks on the harm actresses had suffered, not the whole article. And I did mention it wasn’t the best source even for that, but I had little choice since Google just wanted to show me violent porn.

      • The Other Patrick says

        …and I absolutely don’t want to say that actresses don’t suffer harm or experience a harassing environment.

        I’m still pondering your point, too, about porn working in concert with prudishness. I never thought about it this way, which makes it a little hard to do now, but it’s a good point and the conclusions might be some I’m not comfortable with, so I don’t want to risk simply disagreeing with it because I don’t like what it meant.

        As I said, thanks a lot for writing this.

    • Anemone says

      I base my opinions on two 2003 books by researchers, in which they state, among other things, that by this time researchers have reached consensus (the exceptions are people like Friedman who don’t actually do research in this area). It is possible they wouldn’t phrase things exactly the same way I did (science is like that), but I think I’m reflecting what they wrote.

      My opinions are of course biased by my own experiences as a researcher (I have a rough idea what science can and can’t do), my experience as a child trafficked into prostitution and what I learned about attitudes there, what I’ve learned about healthy behaviour while recovering, and my experiences as an acting student, plus some autistic pedantry thrown in for good measure. Most people come at this subject from a somewhat different angle – I think my experiences are an unusual combination.

      I would definitely be interested in people’s reactions to the two books I cite. I discuss them elsewhere on my film blog: The 11 Myths of Media Violence by James Potter, and I can’t remember the other longer more detailed one’s title.

      I should say, though, that I was *surprised* to find sexualization and violentization linked by researchers. I thought they were separate issues.

      For the record, I have no problem with erotica produced by people for free. I only have problems with it when it’s a paid job, because of how money can distort consent, and content.

      • The Other Patrick says

        Anemone: I think that this really is an area with great emotional investments, and where books even by scientists can reflect a one-sided view. I haven’t read the Potter, but in Germany we have our major proponent who always comes up regarding computer game violence and similar topics, and he has a lot of dissenters that never get heard. I know Spitzer is cautious about media violence, and Neil Postman probably is.

        Here’s a forum comment I once wrote about computer games, specifically; my comments are German, but I cite several studies, which are English.

        The Skeptical Inquirer had a similar article: “Violent Video Games: Dogma, Fear and Pseudoscience” in their issue 33.5 by Christopher Ferguson.

        I don’t see why this should not be transferable to pornography. And especially with this being such an ideologically charged issue, I haven’t seen the kind of consensus I would like to see here.

        After all, I rarely see scientists standing up against violent or pornographical books, and I wonder how much of it is just part of the woes of progress? Goethe had a book in the late 1700s where people claimed he was responsible for teen suicides, but nowadays books just aren’t “in” anymore. Nowadays it’s films and games and, with the internet, ubiquitous pornography (and films and games).

        Not to say there’s no effect; Bandura’s Learning from Role-Models does suggest there are learning effects. But is the solution condemnation or education? And how large and harmful is that effect?

        • The Other Patrick says

          Wow. And re-reading my own forum comment, it turns out those studies are pro aggression. Heh. And I seem to remember (now) that I got convinced by the SI article. Give me a minute to get that, but these links more support your idea.

          From the SI article:

          »Friedman found about 200 studies in his 2002 review (including non-peer-reviewed studies) which were about evenly divided between those that did and those that did not find effects« (on violent behavior).

          »Summations of the research on video game violence find that they have either no effect or only very weak effects on aggression. Data from youth-violence statistics reveal that the explosion in popularity of video games, including those with violence, has clearly not produced a youth-violence epidemic, as your violence has declined precipituously during the same period.«

          Mentioned analyses:
          Anderson, C (2004): an update on the effects of playing violent video games. Journal of Adolescence 27 (1), 113-122.
          Ferguson, CJ (2007): Evidence for publication bias in video game violence effects literature. A meta-analytic review. Aggression and Violent Behavior 12 (4), 470-482.
          Ferguson, CJ and Kilburn, J (2009): The public health risks of media violence: a meta-analytic review. Journal of pediatrics 154 (5), 759-763.
          Mitrofan, Paul, Spencer (2009): Is aggression in children with behavioral and emotional difficulties associated with television viewing and video game playing? A systematic review. Child: Care, Health and Development 35 (1): 5-15.
          Sherry (2007): Violent video games and aggression: why can’t we find links? In Preis, Gayle, Burrell, Allen, Bryant: Mass Media Effects Research: Advances through Meta-Analysis (pp. 231-248)

          Just the same, if porn had an aggressive effect, I would expect the rise of the internet to coincide with a rise in violent crimes, or maybe specifically rape crimes, since not only are a lot of people now very easily subjected to porn, but mainstream porn has become if anything, then more violent, more misgynist. AFAIK, crime rates don’t go up, however, and I wonder why – if the effect is real and large, then something else must work against them going up, and I have no idea what that might be, so perhaps the effect is small or nonexistent?

          And yet, in theory, there could be an effect. Hrm. As I said, I think it’s murky.

          Plus, it’s quite possible that those video game things don’t that much transfer to porn.

          • says

            To both Patrick and Anemone:

            Just tossing this in: according to the profilers I read, pretty much ALL serial killers have a nice big stash of porn – sometimes niche stuff that’s particularly violent. Serial killers don’t suddenly decide one day, “I think I will kill people – it sounds like fun, and I’m confident I won’t get caught.” They work up to it, using fantasy and real-life practice to get there.

            Most of them have sexual components to their crimes, and the pattern of escalation is so reliable it can be used in profiles: they start out fantasizing and/or watching porn, then they start acting out their violent sex fantasies with partners or prostitutes, then if that’s not enough (and for some would-be killers, it is), they start preying on victims.

            So the idea of a strong link there makes sense to me. We may not understand exactly how it works, but it looks to me like people already prone to violent behavior use sexually violent media to fuel their urges.

            NOTE: What I’ve read about this is US and UK based research. Could it work differently in Japan because of cultural differences? Quite possibly, for all I know.

          • The Other Patrick says

            Jennifer, I don’t doubt that at all.

            But is this about violent people searching for violent media, or violent media making people violent? It’s the cause and effect question.

            As far as I know, there’s no such thing as catharsis, so watching violence doesn’t make your violent urges go away. You might be able to choose violent media to substitute becoming violent yourself, but that would have to be a conscious choice, just watching it won’t help. And it’s possible these media will even enhance your urges.

            But do they make you into a (sex) criminal? I’ve played some violent video games, I’ve watched some slasher films, I’ve read some horror fiction and I’ve consumed quite an amount of bdsm pornography, and yet even my fantasies are more or less consensual.

            But I certainly don’t want to argue that there aren’t reasons for people not to like porn; nowadays, I’m not much of a porn watcher, myself.

            • says

              If you have developed empathy/conscience, *nothing* can turn you into someone who feels the urge to go around hurting people. People with empathy *notice* when they’re becoming desensitized, and back off the desensitizing influence. This is why I kinda doubt Gail Dines’ conclusions. I think someone who keeps watching porn until he’s lost the ability to appreciate ordinary sex or romantic relationships must have already had some kind of sex-related issues that kept him from backing off when porn started to interfere with his real life. (ETA: I’m not saying THIS person is on his way to becoming a predator, either. Could just have some big sex hang-ups, which are sadly easy to develop in societies where double messages about sex abound.)

              Violent or wannabe-violent people definitely go searching for violent media to fuel their desires. Profilers don’t talk about the violent media escalating their desires. It’s more a tool that enables them to escalate their desires.

          • The Other Patrick says

            Fair enough.

            Also, I may just start to believe in God again because I want to blame someone for making things so complicated. Why can’t issues be black or white? Why can’t humans be perfect and consistent? Why can’t there be just one good value we all hold dear?

          • Anemone says

            Violence is more than just serial killers. It’s also bullying and sexual harassment in schools and at work and in the street, etc, plus rape and aggravated assault.

            It takes more than porn to turn someone into a serial killer, but porn may contribute to ideas of who to hurt how, plus it may desensitize other people in the environment who might be in a position to notice something wrong.

        • Anemone says

          I don’t even know if they’ve studied books. TV’s been studied because it’s relatively new, and because people watch it so much. And porn because of the explosion of porn in the 1960s. It would be interesting to see research on books, too.

          And yes, it’s an emotional subject for some of us. I’ve always been honest about where I’m coming from. And I know that scientists can be earnestly dead-wrong: you should see what they publish in autism research! But I’ve also seen how earnest people are in promoting sexualized media, insisting it sells when it doesn’t, really (it’s strictly a niche market, from what I can see). Everyone’s got a bias.

          • says

            Violence is more than just serial killers…It takes more than porn to turn someone into a serial killer, but porn may contribute to ideas of who to hurt how, plus it may desensitize other people in the environment who might be in a position to notice something wrong.

            Yes, and I didn’t mean to break it down that way.

            While violent media can’t desensitize someone with empathy to the point of becoming a predator, it does do two other equally worrying things:

            –Desensitizes people with empathy to OTHER PEOPLE’S horrible experiences. It can render you apathetic, making you feel like problems in society can’t be fixed, so why not just go play a video game and forget about it?
            –There are in every generation a number of teens who didn’t learn empathy when they should have (by age 4), but they have a chance to learn it now – or decide “fuck it, I only care what I want.” By mainstreaming violent media, we help ensure they will make the latter choice. They may not become predators, either, but they will make you feel stupid if you express concern for, say, sexual violence in the Congo.

            And their outlook will become increasingly common, and more and more people with empathy will just shut up and keep it to themselves. In fact, I think this has already happened.

            I think another component in the equation is the realization that society really doesn’t give a rat’s ass what happens to you. I mean, the body count in Western TV shows in the 50s was pretty high, yet I don’t think that’s what led to Baby Boomer “me me me” apathy in the 80s. I think it was the footage of Vietnam, shown on TV news, which was violent as hell AND backed up by the reality that the US government cheerfully shipped the less privileged kids over there to die while protecting their own young’uns from any such fate. If I’m correctly informed, that was the real beginning of violent media in the US, and because it WAS backed up by the reality that your leaders considered you cannon fodder, the impact was to teach a whole generation that their society, like a sociopath, didn’t see them as deserving to live.

            Since then, at least in the US, every bit of violent media, real or simulated, has been backed up by that overwhelming cultural awareness: no one’s looking out for me.

            Just as violent media is a tool for a budding sociopath to get over his last inhibitions and start hurting people, it also serves as a tool to help society’s leaders get over their last hang-ups about *appearing* to give a fuck about anything but their own wants and needs.

            And what’s good about living in a society like that?

  5. Firebird says

    When I was overcoming the prudery I was raised in (extreme fundie religion), I listened to teenage sex and addiction call in show. To keep the interest up, they had high profile guests on like (apparently fairly major) porn stars, music bands, plastic surgeons, etc. What really stuck with me that one of the porn actresses said, was that what is filmed is optimized to look good, not necessairly to feel good. She said it over and over again, but especially in response to a young male calling in to ask how something was done that he had seen, that as he was describing was not safe for the woman.

    I thought it was a very interesting point – many people are getting their ideas, education, and visual reinforcements about sex from images designed not from what feels good but from looks visually appealing, and then consciously or unconsciously, imitating it. That’s one reason I have for being concerned about the way that porn is created and used in our society.

    On the other hand, while porn is not interesting to me (I am not personally visually stimulated) I once had a boyfriend suggest it to me and very carefullt watch it with me to help me get past some lingering fear of the very natural activity of sex. I wouldn’t have had the extra fear if not for the extreme prudishness of my childhood, but given that, the vanilla porn did help. *shrug* It’s complicated.

  6. Anne says

    Another vile way porn damages women and healthy sexual practices is the childification of porn, in which porn actresses over the age of 18 are made to look much, much younger, often in scenarios involving them losing their virginity to men in positions of power like teachers, coaches, and fathers. It’s imitation child pornography. And not only that, but most of the time it portrays the girls as the seekers of the sex, taking any responsibility away from the viewer and predator alike. Because she literally “asked for it.”

    The essay I read about that was the most difficult part of the 85 page honors thesis I wrote on the ways in which Disney heroines are bad role models (and that Miyazaki’s make a pretty good alternative).

    • Anne says

      I read the alternet interview and realized they go into this briefly, mentioning it’s a sort of “gateway drug” into actual child pornography as well. Ugh.

      • The Other Patrick says

        but is it? Or is it a safe way to explore fantasies, is part of the attraction that the women are verifiably not underage, and not children?

        I would agree that some ephebophiles watch this kind of porn, but again, the actresses are not underage. On the other hand, I’m not sure I agree that ephebophilia or pedophilia can be “contracted”, that an adult would grow to become a pedophile from reading pedophilic stories or watching (fake) porn.

        And might this not even be an outlet for the poor people who feel that attraction and try hard not to follow up on it?

        It’s a murky issue; I think it’s definitely possible to learn behaviour from films, i.e. role models. But learning about what turns you on? I don’t know. Are threesomes in porn a gateway drug to becoming bisexual or homosexual? And while that sounds silly, maybe it does raise the possibility of trying things with people of the same gender, maybe it does serve as a starting point for some.

        Hm.

        • Anne says

          It is a murky issue. I’d recommend reading the essay on it. I found it in this book: http://newarrivals.nlb.gov.sg/itemdetail.aspx?bid=13188471

          I would definitely not posit that any person that watches this variety of porn is automatically a predator, wrong, or on the way to being into child pornography. I just don’t know enough about it to do anything but mention that the article says that :)

          The essay kind of details how there has been this transition into younger and younger looking actresses and I wouldn’t be able to go into with any mastery of the subject.

          I think porn can be a great thing and a not so great thing due to a lot of factors. I’ve read another article on porn in Japan, and if I remember correctly the conclusion was that the abundance of hentai and fetish porn, including childified women, may be helping to lower sex violence and abuse irl.

          And yes, I think that many porn fetishes would probably be a great way to explore fantasies one wouldn’t pursue irl.

          Also, I always forget that word though I know pedophile doesn’t apply to teens. Ephebophilia is the attraction to teens, right? (looked it up, right, adolescents 15-19 generally).

          • Lux says

            Reported incidences of sexual violence in Japan, you mean.

            Japan has no laws protecting the privacy of rape victims, a six month statute of limitations on reporting rape, the victim must prove that s/he attempted to resist the rape, and only really forceful rape is considered rape. Victims of domestic abuse are encouraged to remain silent, to “save face”.

            Just because the stereotype of Japan is a bunch of passive salarimen doesn’t make it so. Rape, sexual violence, and domestic abuse are prevalent as much as it is in the States.

            That attitudes that lead to sexual violence are being challenged or mitigated at all should not be credited to the porn industry, but the humanity of the men and women who were trying to do something about changing those attitudes.

          • Anne says

            @Lux–I couldn’t get the reply button to function.

            Seriously? Oh. That’s troubling. I mean, I certainly knew there was violence and that that stereotype of Japanese is false (being an anime fan I’m more prone to imagining school girls and blue hair, gothic lolitas and those stereotypes anyway), but I had no idea there were no privacy laws and everything else.

            I guess really what I should do is stop bringing up barely-remembered essays. I fail like that.

            Thanks for the insight.

            And the last paragraph is so true. I was falling prey to the correlation/causation thing, and not even with (any) facts to back my assumptions. Thanks.

        • Savannah says

          I don’t see the marketing of very young women in porn as a niche category, really, and I think that’s the problem. I feel like it’s pretty much the mainstream. While I questioned a lot of what was in that AlterNet article, I feel her most important point was that stuff which was once hardcore, niche, fetish material is now mainstream. It made me think about how the dirty magazines I used to find as a kid in the 90s were so much more consensual, so much less hateful and brutal than the stuff I encounter today on the Internet without even meaning to look for it. Mainstream porn– the stuff that I encounter either by accident or during a rare actual effort to find decent porn, anyway– seems to normalize ephebophilia, among other things. Everything is “BARELY LEGAL” this and “JAILBAIT” that. I feel like society at large, even, is always giving a wink and a nudge to men who want to have sex with underaged girls.

          I would like to think that someone who isn’t into ageplay or underaged girls would just avoid that sort of porn, but I think it’s a lot more complicated than that when “regular” culture is always implicitly condoning the sexualization of young girls at the same time as porn culture is aggressively pushing “jailbait” pornography. I mean, at this point, I imagine a lot of men might have wondered was wrong with them that they weren’t counting down to the day of the Olsen twins’ eighteenth birthday with everyone else.

          I didn’t think the point of the AlterNet article was that “ALL PORN IS BAD, MEDIA VIOLENCE IS HARMFUL” so much as “This is the kind of stuff that young people find when they search for porn, and it is much more hardcore than it used to be.” I do wonder what the effects are if you’re an 11-year-old today and the first message you receive about what is “sexy” is today’s hateful mainstream porn. To me, that’s different than playing a video game where you shoot cops, because kids are taught from an early age that that’s wrong. It’s not so much that I worry looking at violence will make them become violent, but in a society like ours, how long is it going to take before someone sits them down and says “Making women feel good is sexy. Consensual sex is sexy. Humiliating and hurting women is not sexy”? If it ever happens at all? (Of course, I’m not saying that consensual humiliation/pain fantasies aren’t okay, but I don’t think a kid presented with today’s brutal mainstream porn is going know to make that distinction.)

  7. says

    I’m pretty much with you about sex not being a big deal. I mean, it’s a fun thing, and it is–for a lot of people–a basic instinct like eating, but we tie it into a lot of ideas about success or failure, shame or glory, that really make very little sense.

    As far as porn content goes…I’m with the author of The True Porn Clerk Diaries : not all porn demeans women, but some does. With some, that’s the point–and while I’m all YKIOK about humiliation fetishes, the fact that a lot of the misogynistic content isn’t “tagged” as fetish stuff freaks me out.

    I mean, I don’t particularly want to see or read about disappointing sex, sex with gross sounds, or sex between ordinary people (one of the reasons I don’t watch mainstream porn is that the guys are *stunningly* ugly in most cases): my media consumption tends very much toward the escapism/fantasy angle, particularly the media involving sex. However, the assumption that women in a standard straight fantasy must be unwilling/reluctant/demeaned is offputting, to say the least.

    I would also really, really like to see more workplace standards for porn, and sex work in general. Not that other kinds of employment don’t also suck–heh–as far as treating people right…

    …okay, it’s 11 AM and I already need a drink.

    • The Other Patrick says

      not all porn demeans women, but some does. With some, that’s the point–and while I’m all YKIOK about humiliation fetishes, the fact that a lot of the misogynistic content isn’t “tagged” as fetish stuff freaks me out.

      Oh, yes! Well put.

    • says

      –I mean, I don’t particularly want to see or read about disappointing sex, sex with gross sounds, or sex between ordinary people (one of the reasons I don’t watch mainstream porn is that the guys are *stunningly* ugly in most cases):–

      It’s kind of sad that if I want to watch porn with pretty boys, I have to look for porn designed for gay men.

      • The Other Patrick says

        So true!

        Also, I’d like to see if not disappointing sex, then at least un-perfect sex, fun sex, you know, with a laugh and maybe some mishap. I don’t think that would take away the sexiness at all.

        But yes, sexy men, I’m up for that.

        • says

          Maybe we are just developing whole new fetishes. I mean, sex that is fun between people who respect each other? Surely that’s a fetish, right?

          It’s sad that there is more out there devoted to foot fetishes than there is devoted to sex being good, clean, wholesome fun.

          When I win the lottery, after I am done starting an video game company that respects women and a movie production company that treats women as people, I’m going into porn production.

        • Patrick McGraw says

          fun sex, you know, with a laugh

          For me, one of the sexiest things a female porn performer can do during a scene is laugh.

          • Raeka says

            Haha. Porn bloopers entertain me more than actual porn itself. Nothing funnier than seeing two people going at it in a completely improbable position and then one of them falls backward off the couch…

            And there was this other short vid of a bunch of coworkers surprising a girl in the middle of a porn scene with a birthday cake and song xD

      • says

        Seriously, my God. I mean, I’m not really into gay porn or slash in and of itself, but…apparently there’s some kind of thing where men in het porn have to be eye-searingly hideous.

        And no, twelve inches does not make up for the fact that you look like an uncooked turkey with a bad mustache glued on. EW. NO.

        • sbg says

          I’ve found this convo super fascinating. I’ve stayed out of it because I don’t have much experience – I read porn, but all my visuals to accompany the words are in my head.

          But this made me LOL.

        • says

          And let’s face the simple fact:

          If someone whipped one of those 12″ monstrosities out at me I’d screech and try to kill it with a stick, then burn it to be sure.

          If it’s bigger around than my wrist, it’s goin nowhere near my nethers, thank you very damn much.

          I mean, seriously, I’m 5’2″ tall and you want to stick something 1/5th my height inside me? And that’s supposed to feel GOOD? I don’t think so.

          The average index finger can do the job quite nicely if used by someone who cares about what they are doing, so why exactly am I supposed to be drawn to some of these Biggus Dickus guys? It sure isn’t their looks or winning personalities.

          • says

            Hee! See, I’m about the same size, and, er, not to be TMI Girl, but…yeah, I like it when they pack a lot of equipment. However, I can *buy* the same damn thing through any number of reputable retail outlets, without the accompanying fugliness, so I’m really not seeing the point of sleeping with the dude whose only asset is in his pants.

            I mean, I still would have to look at him, right? And even in the dark…ew. Also, ew.

          • Savannah says

            This is something that has always fascinated me about het porn, in that straight men are almost always the ones who fetishize huge penises. Which I guess is partly about competition, and partly about the misogynistic appeal of making sex painful for women.

          • Patrick McGraw says

            If someone whipped one of those 12″ monstrosities out at me I’d screech and try to kill it with a stick, then burn it to be sure.

            Well, you have to negate the regeneration save somehow.

            As for why the fetishization of penis size shows up much porn aimed at het men: The “monster cock” genre varies in the narrative presented, some of the very misogynistic. Others simply seem to be feeding fantasies of being better-endowed.

          • Maria says

            I think it’s such a thing now because if you’re watching porn on your laptop, and have it positioned right, it looks like it’s your dick in some positions. So it’s a fantasy not just about sex but about being a better/bigger/manlier man.

          • Patrick McGraw says

            Yep, there’s even an entire genre of POV porn, where the camera is positioned next to the male performer’s head.

        • Casey says

          I remember when I was REALLY young (like 9 or 10) and me and three friends (one girl, two boys) were at my girl-friend’s house looking at hentai on her computer…I complained “WHY ARE THE GUYS SO UGLY~!?” and the two boys responded that guys in hetero porn/hentai are ugly (or just plain non-existent) so they don’t accidentally turn on the MALE viewers…however, a few years later they came out as gay and bi (respectively) so how they personally felt obviously colored their theory…I think male porn stars are ugly so the guys watching can identify with them more or something, isn’t that it??

          • says

            I think what they said probably still stands. I was given the same reason (by people working in film) when I asked why you can’t show dick in R films but you can show entirely naked women and simulated sex that leaves nothing but dick to the imagination.

            Of course, most guys will tell you that it simply grosses them out to see another man, but if you, a het woman, express that you’d rather not see naked women, you’re a terrible prude. So whenever guys express distaste at seeing naked men, I make sure to call them prudes.

          • says

            That’s my guess, yeah. I used to think it was the “women have to act, men have to perform” thing, and that guys who can keep it up in front of a camera are rare enough for the producers to be non-choosy…but then we have gay porn, so I don’t know.

            Anyhow, het porn goes with sitcoms on my list of things that perpetuate the fucking irritating “guys, you can be Jabba the Hutt with more body hair and still get hot chicks” myth.

          • Patrick McGraw says

            According to a number of male performers and directors, it is mainly a performance thing. One needs to be able to repeatedly achieve and maintain an erection on demand over the course of a shoot that can last anywhere from four to eight hours, often in uncomfortable locations and with no help from one’s co-star. A female performer, on the other hand can get by with (to quote veteran performer Nina Hartley) “lube and acting.”

            According to veteran performer/director Ernest Greene (Nina Hartley’s husband), failing to perform two shoots in a row can end a career. He states that ED medications have not actually changed things, because one needs to perform on demand under the changing conditions of a shoot – Viagra, for example, takes an hour to kick in and if there’s a technical problem at that time, you’re SOL.

            This is also why there are comparatively so few male performers – producers are hesitant to work with unproven male talent.

            Again, this all relates to het porn – I haven’t studied the gay porn industry at all.

  8. Casey says

    That Altnet interview gave me nightmares about anal prolapse (and I have a weird trigger when it comes to guys who like hetero buttsex…I start freaking out and denouncing them for it and I feel as if I can never properly articulate why, I end up saying “it’s unnecessary/women don’t have prostates so they can’t enjoy it/I had a traumatic experience with an enema when I was younger so I don’t like it” and they insist “BUT THEY LIKE IT IN PORN AND MY GIRLFRIEND DOESN’T COMPLAIN SO IT MUST BE OKAY!”…*sigh* I don’t know what I’m trying to say here).

    • says

      Actually, not to give everyone way too much information, anal sex can be quite enjoyable for a woman. It’s not like they show it in the movies, though, with the guy hammering away. I’m just saying that a prostate isn’t necessary.

      • says

        Casey, perhaps you could just tell them that you don’t like it/aren’t interested in trying it, and it doesn’t matter what any other woman in the world thinks about it, period, end of story. Some women do like it – as Godless Heathen is pointing out – but others don’t. So what? Men need to realize women are not the borg. You like what you like – other women’s mileage may vary. Besides, anyone who tells you you SHOULD like something because other people who resemble you like it strikes me as VERY manipulative. I’m not sure that’s someone I’d want to keep around.

        • Casey says

          Luckily the guys whom I’ve discussed these issues with were either already in a relationship or not interested in me, and after I found out they were…eh, unsavory(?) characters I never interacted with them again (thank God), one guy I knew said he thought a girl’s “plumbing was broken” because she ejaculated (a squirter, I guess)…that’s when I knew to sever my ties with him (I also found it odd that a total “bro” was bragging about his sexual conquests to a group of 3~4 young women, I mean, isn’t that something you do with other guys and try to at least keep up a facade of being a decent human being when you’re around girls?)

      • Casey says

        I had been thinking that I’d LIKE to at least give anal sex a try, provided I/we take it slow and use plenty of lube, but I’m so scared that any/every het guy I meet might be so desensitized due to porn that they’d just do that awful jackjammer sex…I’ve got to keep reminding myself that MEN aren’t the borg! >_<V

    • Cinnabar says

      Okay this doesn’t really add to the discussion but “they like it in porn”?? Anyone who uses that excuse is in dire need of a brain adjustment.

      And I’m guessing “my girlfriend doesn’t complain” is really shorthand for “women aren’t taught to put their own wants first and I’m still at the stage where her thinking ‘Well I don’t HATE it, I guess I’ll go along to avoid the passiveagressive tantrums later’ is good enough for me!” Ugh. ~_~

      • Casey says

        “Well I don’t HATE it, I guess I’ll go along to avoid the passive-aggressive tantrums later.”

        This is really cringe-inducing for me to reference, but that reminds me of the Kiss song “Nothing To Lose” (which is about coercing a girl into having anal sex): Once I got a baby/I tried every way/she didn’t want to do it/but she did anyway

        Boo….>_>VV

  9. Patrick McGraw says

    Excellent article! I’ve avoided mentioning porn here for many of the same reason you have. I ”especially” agree with your point that people aren’t always talking about the same thing – the porn industry just in America is far more varied than the Hollywood industry, exponentially so due to low production costs and internet-based distribution.

    There are a few points I’d like to make, though.

    Gail Dines is not a reliable authority. She lies. A lot. I found her work engrossing at first, but watching one of her presentations two things flipped my suspicion sensors due to how they conflicted with what I had already learned studying the American porn industry:

    She claimed that “gonzo” porn is essentially defined by the work of Max Hardcore, which is absurd. Hardcore’s work was very niche, especially when compared to the work of John Stagliano, widely recognized as the most significant producer of gonzo porn. Hardcore’s work is repulsive, Stagliano’s far less so. This is in keeping with the Dines’s pattern of presenting the more extreme fringes of porn as the mainstream.

    The third one was the one that made me stop the video, and I could not finish it until I had taken time to calm down. It’s a position that Dines has articulated several times, essentially boiling down to: the consent of female performers in porn is not legitimate. However much they have have consented initially, “something changes” on the set, and their consent is voided. (Apparently consent is a warranty and not an ongoing process.)

    Dines quite simply tells female performers that they have been raped, and she, not they, is the arbiter of that fact. I’ve read a number of blogs by female performers full of a great deal of rage at Dines over this.

    • Patrick McGraw says

      Er, sorry, that “especially” in the second sentence was supposed to be italicized and thus emphasized, not in scare quotes. Comes from trying to switch between different websites with different typey protocols.

    • says

      I’d really like to see the article she cited in regards not to rape of female performers, but of physical damage they had to be treated for (which I find plausible, and obviously if we could see her source it would be much easier to evaluate). But I couldn’t find it online.

        • says

          And yet I find it very plausible that people get hurt making these films. I mean, the most plain vanilla sex had by loving people can cause muscle spasms and various minor injuries. Throw in more exotic acts/positions, the thrusting of things into orifices designed to expel stuff, and a demand the sex be rough, hard and fast, and how could it not be pretty hard on human bodies?

          • The Other Patrick says

            Well, they are, as MTV likes to say about Jackass, trained performers. Maybe they actually are much less brutal than it seems on film, maybe they know some tricks or simply have adapted to certain… intrusions, and maybe they accept the risk of injury as part of their job.

            Though I’m sure there are injuries, overall.

            • says

              Well, that’s hopeful. Sorry, I just find it hard to imagine the porn industry carefully training people and making sure they understand what they’re getting into when there are no protections or regulations requiring they do so, and certainly no consequences for it.

          • The Other Patrick says

            And you’re correct to do so. Just playing devil’s advocate here – at least I didn’t quote some blog post about “I personally know women who gush positively about the most degrading porn because off camera was such a great experience”.

            But individual porn performers might still educate themselves on good behavior.

          • says

            Yes, I didn’t object to what you were saying or how you said it – I just disagree. :) For me, additionally, it’s not a question of what porn performers might do for themselves and each other to make things easier. It’s been established to my satisfaction that anytime you get enough people together to form an industry, there are a lot of people involved who don’t give a shit about anyone else’s well-being, and that’s why we need regulations.

            I mean, as much as I think is wrong and even abusive in H’wood, at least there are consequences if they get actors hurt in a stunt.

          • The Other Patrick says

            Oh, all for it, in all kinds of jobs. But regulating porn… imagine how loud certain politicians would scream and shout.

          • Patrick McGraw says

            Veteran performer and director Ernest Greene has written a fair amount about what goes on during porn productions. Basically, while injuries can and do happen, most people are concerned with trying to avoid them. If a producer displays a lack of concern about their performers, word will quickly spread . It’s certainly not an ideal system and would benefit greatly from unionization, but it isn’t the travesty that teh detractors make it out to be.

    • Anemone says

      I considered reading her book until I read that she quotes the $12 billion a year figure, which has been deconstructed elsewhere. The true figure for porn in the US is probably more like $1-2 billion. Makes it a little harder to take her seriously.

      • Patrick McGraw says

        In one presentation (or an article, I forget which), she presented figures that shows that the porn industry was bigger than Hollywood – I have no idea if her numbers were real, but it involved comparing total gross of the porn industry, including video sales, internet subscriptions, phone downloads, etc. to… Hollywood box office receipts. No video rentals or sales, no merchandising, nothing like that. It was one of teh most dishonest uses of numbers that I have ever seen outside of political elections.

  10. Karakuri says

    This might be going off-topic again, but it bothers me that people take as natural the fact that most porn is for men. If not nearly all.

    • says

      Not at all off-topic. It reinforces the idea that sex is something the universe created for manly men, and everyone who provides sex to men comes in a distant second on the natural hierarchy.

      • Karakuri says

        Ok, heh, just that I’m always introducing new points and not discussing what’s already being discussed in the thread – because I shouldn’t until I’ve done more research, imo.

        This is a field I’m really curious about, though. How would it affect women’s minds to be exposed as much as men are to fantasy made by and for them? Would it empower them on some private level?

        • The Other Patrick says

          There’s a nice blog post by Furry Girl here where she writes against “porn for women” – at least the way it’s made.

          NSFW link, btw

          • Karakuri says

            Thanks for that. It’s sad to see the “safe” stuff, which tends to be full of gender baggage, sells so well. Which then goes on to make a bad name for “women’s porn”.

          • The Other Patrick says

            One thing I found extremely hot was the Crash Pad Series. It was just so obvious these people were into it, that they had real off-camera chemistry.

  11. The Other Patrick says

    I just came upon this blog post by Clarisse Thorn: “Sympathy for the Anti-Porn Activists that might be of interest or even relevance, since it also mentions Gale Dines.

    • says

      Well, I have to take serious issue with an article that makes the statement: “Anti-porn folks are shaped by society’s irrational sexual fears and stereotypes.” How would it sound to say, “Pro-porn folks are shaped by today’s irrational hopes and stereotypes.” I mean, I’m so offended by her attitude toward the poor misguided anti-porn folks, and I don’t even consider myself one of them.

      What’s really interesting is that her experience with men that led her to be so intimidated by porn is far less negative than some of mine, because I *have* dated/known guys who made it very clear:

      –All guys like mainstream porn
      –Yes, all guys want to do the things men to do women in porn
      –Yes, if you won’t let us spray jism on your faces or whatever’s the trendy porn thing of the day, we’ll find another woman who will. Why shouldn’t we? If you don’t like something about us, you’re entitled to find another beau.

      And yet, after some brief and crushing naivety that got straightened out by the time I was 21, I realized that different men had different attitudes about women and sex, and that when multiple men tell you All Men {Whatever}, they’re usually apologists rationalizing their own behavior or men who think peer pressure will work on me, which it never ever did.

      But also, I was always more assertive about my own feelings about porn. I asked men precisely what they liked about it and what types they liked. Most of the guys I’ve known have limits that jive reasonably well with my own.

      This woman is projecting her own failure to analyze the complexity of a situation onto everyone who holds a position she now finds distasteful. This is how born again Christians tend to regard atheists: “Oh, I used to be just like you, but now I have seen the light!” It’s wildly offensive to me.

      • Casey says

        Yeah, a lot of the blog posts I’ve read of her (mostly having to do with porn and whatnot) have her come off like a douche.

      • The Other Patrick says

        This woman is projecting her own failure to analyze the complexity of a situation onto everyone who holds a position she now finds distasteful. This is how born again Christians tend to regard atheists: “Oh, I used to be just like you, but now I have seen the light!” It’s wildly offensive to me.

        Maybe it’s because I read through the SM-Feminist archive before where the writers decry a similar attitude with the anti-SM folks, but I went back to the article, and you’re right. I had mostly linked this because Dines’ name came up and a few links about porn possibly reducing sexual violence and I didn’t even pick up on that.

        • says

          Understood.

          Dines seems to be full of it, I agree: but once again, I only linked because I could find no other source confirming OR REFUTING that actors suffer physical harm in the making of porn. And once again, given how shittily they are sometimes treated in mainstream film, I can’t assume a totally unregulated industry would be free of harm to actors. And once again, that’s a problem with the porn INDUSTRY, not the content of porn. My issues with much of the content in porn sort of mirror my issues with much of the mainstream film content, and I find it highly ironic that in their rush to be pro- or anti-porn, very few people seem to look at porn as critically as they look at mainstream HW films for misogynistic content. It’s bizarre.

          I still don’t get why people are seeking studies on what porn does for or against violence when the whole discipline of psychology makes it perfectly obvious: media doesn’t make anybody do anything. It is completely neutral. Beyond that, some people USE* media to work themselves into a state where they can do wonderful or horrible things, but if you took some media away from them, they’d just use another (or rely on their own fantasies). If pressed, the Bible has some good rape stories for those who crave them. What media CAN do is gradually desensitize entire communities, dulling but not destroying empathy. In fact, I would argue that IS what’s happening now… but that conclusion is where you need the studies to confirm. What media can and can’t do to the human brain – psychology already knows that answer. Why people are still debating it, I don’t know.

          *Some people also use media to work through their socially unacceptable desires. I don’t know if this qualifies as “preventing” violence, though, because who’s to say those people would ever have escalated to hurting anyone?

          • The Other Patrick says

            Well said.

            As for the industry, I think one problem is that it is very difficult, just like with Hollywood, to actually get at how actors and actresses are treated. Those people rely on the industry for their money, so usually you will mostly find stories of good behaviour. With HW, at least you can look at the on-screen representation, but if a film actually *sells* degradation, where is the line between acting and reality? I know I don’t trust most porn companies, if only for the fact that industry over time does not get more humane without social pressure; quite the opposite. And even more extensive internet research often doesn’t turn up anything definitive about the industry or even specific companies.

          • says

            Very true. If you work on a film set, you see a lot of it for yourself. If you just talk to people who work on sets, you know precisely who has a reputation for groping female crewers and so on. But getting people to talk on record? They have to be prepared to give up their careers in film first because the laws that have begun to protect women in most other industries are just ignored in Hollywood.

    • The Other Patrick says

      I read the same interview and was pretty frustrated because it alleged things without naming names.

      In a similar vein, the documentary Graphic Sexual Horror talks about Insex and how models’ boundaries there were sometimes not respected; Insex is gone, but the owner has new sites and I pretty much expect that to not have changed much. On the other hand, lifestyle bdsmer and author Laura Antoninou has written about being a guest at kink.com which sounded more positive – but even there, I would at most go so far and be comfortable with sites where well-known lifestylers direct. In the end, though, even then I personally think that the model needs to be kinky, as well, just to make it more likely that she can discern and decide what she wants to do – which is no guarantee at all, but I feel it’s the best I can get to.

      The Elite Pain case is a little muddled, as far as I know, on whether or not they really disregarded a safe word. What they undoubtedly did, however, was cast young women who were absolutely not into bdsm and, with the promise of money (and not that much money, but hey, it’s the former sowjet bloc), proceeded to film very, very hard punishment scenes – and I mean very hard. With tops who didn’t always seem to know what they were doing, and with canings that never stopped before they drew blood, if then – a severity that even kinky models might have problems with, but where outsiders would have no way of knowing what they were getting into. I never watched these films anyway, but that was not a good production company and I’m glad it’s gone. At least I think it’s still gone. And it reminds me of all the other porn that we see from Russia or South America which has a reputation of being extreme, and which often does not look at all as if the models enjoy it – and if I ever see a clip or something where the model seems to struggle emotionally and is just put through anyway, I never watch any of those company’s films again. So anything from Brazil, Russia, Czechoslowakia is problematic at least, to me.

      Just as well as I am suspicious of Infernal Restraints, Real Time Bondage and whatever other sites PD has. On the other hand, I still think kink.com is generally good about consent and respecting the performer, though I don’t doubt even there have been some shoots that are borderline or worse – but I know that one of the models I greatly admire, Madison Young, who I know from queer porn, is in a lifestyle relationship with the owner of the site, and at least some lifestylers I know have directed there, as well as Antoninous report; I feel somewhat safe in the assumption that they are one of the better companies (I still don’t watch their films, though, as I don’t find them that erotic, which applies to many other porn films, too – I mostly read erotica).

  12. Keith says

    I’ve thought for a while that the producers of porn have the same problem that the producers of other types of film have: they think they know what viewers want to see, but they haven’t actually asked.

  13. Anne C. says

    I came across this site after browsing through internet porn and coming across caning videos that I would classify as non-consensual. It started innocently enough — browsing through simple spanking videos that were fairly benign, and were clearly consensual; the woman or man being spanked was not being hit hard enough to truly cause agony, and was clearly okay with it. Fine. I’m okay with that.

    But as is the case with browsing, recommendations on other videos I “might enjoy” took me to a very disturbing place. All of these videos seemed to come from Eastern European countries, and all involved young women who clearly did not understand what they had gotten themselves into. Appalled, I googled this topic to see if other people were talking about it, and came across your blog.

    A previous commenter said something about situations in which there was a safe word, but the women are made to understand that they will not get paid if they use it. By the time they realize the severity of pain associated with caning, they are left with a decision to make (in a very compromised state of mind to boot — one of pain): If they stop now, the pain they have experienced up until now will be in vain, so it’s best for them to keep going. I honestly don’t know how anyone can get off on this kind of porn, as it is very clear that these girls are suffering, and all I wanted to do was break into that studio and arrest everyone involved in this torture.

    Of course, that was just an emotional response. Intellectually, I understand that it is a complicated issue, but I am stymied why more people aren’t talking about it. On the one hand, *technically* it’s consensual, since I am sure they are told they will be caned for monetary compensation and they agree. But do they know how much pain is actually involved when they are agreeing? Since all I saw were young girls, shouldn’t we consider their level of ignorance when determining whether this is truly consensual? Also, what about the socio-economic ramifications of all of it? Do we want to allow people to sell themselves into torture for money?

    The people I personally know who are into BDSM are insistent that it is only enjoyable if the sub *likes* feeling pain — there is a connection in their brains between the experience of feeling pain and sexual arousal/fulfillment. I am fine with that kind of kinky porn…but this stuff…this stuff is just WRONG to me.

    • says

      I totally agree. I think a helpful analogy is this one:

      –A man gets a dangerous job in a mine, believing he knows what his duties will be and what safety precautions the company will take to protect him
      –He starts the job and finds his duties are way more dangerous than he thought, and hardly any safety precautions are being taken
      –THERE’S A WHOLE FED GOVT AGENCY TO HELP HIM.

      How is it any different when a porn actress takes a job, believing she knows the dangers of it, only to find out the dangers are much worse than she was led to believe?

  14. Anne C. says

    Jennifer,

    Excellent point. People can’t sell a kidney for money but they can sell themselves into torture? What about death? Would we, as a society, ever condone a poor man selling himself to a sadist who wants to murder him in exchange for having his family generously compensated after his death? I think everyone would oppose the legalization of that, which begs the question: where do we draw the line?

  15. Harrison Murray says

    All this talk about pornography and cultural attitudes got me thinking–one half of our culture seems to be sexualizing the very concept of intimacy by making “intimate” a euphemism for “genitalia” while the mainstream porn industry and other corporate sex media seem to be systematically scrubbing actual intimacy out of the cultural narrative of sexuality. Intimacy is not penises and vaginas, it’s trust, closeness, and emotional tenderness. One can be intimate with someone without having sex with them, and one can have sex with someone without the slightest hint of intimacy. The result seems to be that it’s becoming increasingly difficult for people, especially men (who are the target audience and primary consumers of corporate porn), to have actual emotional intimacy of any kind in our culture.

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