My problem with porn

porn

CW: Pornography, sexual violence, sexual exploitation

I have a problem with porn. Not with pornography as a whole – as Caitlin Moran so accurately put it, “pornography is just ‘stuff fucking’, after all. The act of having sex isn’t sexist so there’s no way pornography can be, in itself, inherently misogynist.” My problem is with the porn industry.

Another article came out this week covering how teenagers felt about porn. Teenagers, if popular culture is anything to go by (and when has popular culture ever lied to us), are enthusiastic consumers of porn, so the results surprised me. While I was correct in guessing that large numbers of teens watched the stuff, I didn’t predict the widely negative response to it, particularly amongst young men.

The first complaint was that it was too easily accessible. As part of the first generation with easy access to free pornography, I’d have to agree. I remember the turning point from it being something you stumbled across (my first exposure was when someone left some vintage 80s porn in the town centre fountain. It could be the reason I hate high-leg knickers so much) to something that popped up while you were playing Neopets on the family PC. Now that everyone above the age of twelve has got a smartphone, it’s even more unavoidable. If we broaden the definition of porn to include soft porn, then it gets ridiculous. Look at the tabloids – I can’t waft by a newsagents without seeing a young woman in her pants, usually to the right of a headline on the latest celebrity paedophile.

The second complaint was that porn was damaging. 72% said it led to unrealistic views about sex and 80% of female teens questioned said it let to pressure on girls to look and act a certain way.

This is my main beef with porn.

Firstly, the pressure on women to look a certain way. A quick glance at one of those porn hubs that compiles free footage (the most popular kind, according to a scientifically sound survey of my friends that I carried out at the pub) shows that unless you’re thoroughly plucked, thin and have a load of stuff up your bum, not unlike an Aldi chicken, you are apparently undesirable. Any video featuring someone without the usual flat stomach and tiny waist gets titled something like, “Fat slut gets banged hard”. In fact, almost all of the titles follow this sort of formula – there is emphasis on the woman as an object to which things happen to and it’s usually insulting. “Teen whore gets face fucked” or “Chubby MILF gets shown who’s boss”. Where are the, “Early Seth Rogen-type gets down with large and in charge beauty”? Because I would watch that movie.

Secondly, the pressure to act a certain way. Not since I was in primary school and the dinner ladies refused to let kids go unless they finished their Spam ‘n’ Smash, have I seen so much crying, gagging and choking. There’s a real element of punishment for women in contemporary pornography. A male actor might say a line like, “This is what you get” as something oversized gets rammed somewhere forcefully, or a woman might get ‘caught cheating’ as a prelude to the action – this is not uncommon. There is far more implicated ‘non-consent’ than I remember ever seeing as a teenager; ‘gang bangs’ are two a penny and anal is present in most of the videos. Anal is a relatively new part of the pornographic ‘mainstream’ and this is for a goddamn reason – most women, I would be so bold as to say, do not like it. We don’t have a prostate in our butts like men do and without a fair amount of preparation, it can be extremely painful. Some women do like it, but its popularity in porn is predominantly because it’s extreme and mostly for the pleasure of men – this is evident in the fact that the preparation process isn’t included, as it shows that the comfort and pleasure of the woman is not a priority.

It’s no wonder that we have a problem with rape culture, with consent a ‘blurry’ issue for many and the prevalence of the rape defence, ‘She was asking for it’. That’s the story that porn is selling.Teenagers grow up thinking that normal sex comprises of hairless vaginas, brutal sex that a woman has to be manipulated into and jizz, jizz, everywhere! Considering how squeamish a lot of men seem to be about their own semen (they rarely fancy a mouthful), why is the porn aimed at them so obsessed with plastering it all over someone else. Is it just to re-iterate the dirty, even degrading nature of the act? I don’t recall seeing much porn where men with wet, shining faces go making a big deal of it, smacking their lips together and banging on about the lady-juices they’re smothered in.

The argument is that more men watch porn and so porn is made with them in mind, but pornography has been around for a long time and has only become as extreme in recent years, so that doesn’t hold up. Why are these tastes developing? I’d argue that as porn becomes cheaper and more widely available, it’s fighting for attention. So the acts get more dangerous and provocative. But, over time, won’t that desensitise the people watching? What about the young people that grow up with it?

Women don’t watch as much porn, which is the argument for why it’s mostly aimed at men. With the above being the norm though, why the hell would women watch it? Since sexual liberation apparently swept in during the 1960s, women in the west are supposedly free to enjoy sex as much as men. We know that this is not often the case (slut-shaming, what up) but the porn industry seriously needs to catch up with the progress made. They’re still thinking, “Ooh, what women want is a Nicholas Sparks novel with a bit of Mills & Boon under-the-sheets hanky panky thrown in – we can’t be bothered with all that.” Some of us do want that. But some of us would rather watch X-Men Origins: Wolverine again.

wolv
They’ll release this bollocks but they won’t make a Black Widow movie?

When porn is safe and enjoyable for women to watch, we will watch. In the meantime, when the pornographic arena mostly features women being degraded, humiliated and violated, it’s unlikely to happen. I’d ask any feminists reading this who do watch porn to think before choosing their next video, “What kind of culture am I encouraging when I add a pageview to this?” It may be worth seeking alternative titillation. There are various feminist porn sites out there which, while not free, do not exploit or degrade women. If you really want to get your rocks off without paying anything, consider erotic fiction. There are plenty of free sites out there, no women will be harmed in the making of it and there’s a story covering every sexual fetish going, no matter how niche. Finally, you can get the Hagrid-and-Harry-do-feet-stuff porn you’ve always wanted. Neat, huh?

–  Jade Slaughter is editor of The Jar Belles and has written for The F Word, Parallel and Litro magazines. Follow her on Twitter: @msjadeslaughter.