Porn Rant Deux

Posted: 30/01/2012 in Feminism

Part 1: Deniability and What’s Wrong with Pr0n

Part 2: The Parable of the Inalienable Rights of “Get off my lawn!” Grandpa

Part 3: Fuck that noise

*Trigger warning for frank discussions of pornography, misogyny, and explicit language

 

Part 1

So, what’s the big deal with porn? Why do these radical feminists keep harping on about it, what are they, prudes…lesbians?? What’s the big deal anyway, as long as the performers are consenting adults? “IT’S FREEDOM OF SPEECH!!!”

If you want to engage thoughtfully in a discussion on porn, there is a wealth of information out there that will disprove the prevalent myths and misconceptions about the porn industry, here are some starter links to the tip of the iceberg. If you can’t be bothered to educate yourself, don’t come whingeing to me.

The fact is, women are abused in porn and mainstream heterosexual porn depicts the abuse of women, mainstream porn is also racist in its depiction of people of colour and fetishizes racist stereotypes into monoliths of sexuality – Asian women = submissive, black women = insatiable, black men = savage etc. – to not see these abusive depictions dominating porn, you either don’t watch porn, or are suffering from a serious case of denial.

What is even more *awesome* about porn, is that regular viewing among men actually does change their views of women, their attitudes towards rape and the ability to empathise, and no, it is not altered for the better. The industry feeds and normalizes sexually aggressive impulses and tells men it’s ok to switch off the human empathy button, because wanking to abuse just feels so good. Porn is now so celebrated in our society and affecting every facet of popular culture that most people are in denial of its effects, or don’t even realise that the dominant imagery in pop culture has been saturated with imagery and styles born in the porn industry.

Why so much denial? Quick answer = if you feel entitled to having access to a product, and if you greatly enjoy the use of this product, it is much easier to continue using said product if you ignore any ethical implications in the production process of that product; also, if someone ever calls you out on it you have deniability: “but I just didn’t know”.

It is a bummer when you find out, for example, that your favourite clothes store uses textiles and designs from factories using slave or underpaid labour. Of course everyone knows about slave labour, fewer people actually take the time to ensure their purchases come from companies employing ethical standards in their production line. Not knowing is just easier, you won’t have to rethink anything or reorganise your life or habits in any way. You can do this because you have privilege; slave labour doesn’t affect your life, nor is it ever likely to. At the heart of it, you don’t really care, caring would make you responsible for your choices, and “I didn’t know!” is just so much easier. As long as you have deniability, you are innocent and your conscience is clear.

As an aside, there are additional problems in making ethical purchasing choices, particularly of necessities such as clothing and food as very often, ethically sourced products are priced significantly higher, making a clear conscience an economic privilege and elite lifestyle choice – this however, does not apply to porn.

Now, I’m going to focus on why consuming or producing porn should not be culturally acceptable or rewarding in self-proclaimed and self-congratulated “free and equal” societies.

I will say it again, the porn industry is rife with ethical issues, particularly in the current fastest growing porn genre of the decade, “gonzo” porn. For more details on the experiences of women porn performers, go here. As for consenting adults, and choosing the business, let’s expand on the idea of what it is to be a successful or celebrated woman in society. No matter what women do, the job of a woman in society at its core is to be fuckable. It doesn’t matter if you’re a politician, a high court judge or a CEO, articles written about you will mention in no uncertain terms of whether or not you are fuckable. If you are deemed unfuckable, expect derision, mockery and the ultimate decision that you should not be listened to or respected because you are fug. If consensus is that you are fuckable, then you’re also probably a whore and shouldn’t be listened to anyway either.

Many women know this. I am sure that most of the women in porn know this; you may not get respect in porn, but there is a lot of celebration in this society of fuckable women, and being fuckable can – at least temporarily – be lucrative; ultimately however, choosing your choice, is still a very limited choice, choosing your choice does not mean that you have equal choices as men in this society. As one ex-performer in pornography states in the documentary The Price of Pleasure “When your best choice is taking off your clothes and sticking toys in your cunt for money, I think there’s a real problem with the labour system.“

In today’s mainstream hetero porn, it is impossible to make an ethical choice. There is very little official monitoring or codes of ethical conduct that actually protect the women in porn. All of it depicts, normalizes and celebrates the degradation and abuse of women. ALL. OF. IT. Many porn production companies and distributers, including online, have begun adding films labelled “female/women friendly”. It doesn’t take a huge leap of logic to see then, that through this alleged extension of their genres, the remaining majority is unfriendly to women.

Either way, self titled “friendly” videos or otherwise, do not represent the breadth of human sexuality. They depict a very limited world of sexuality where women are always sexually available and desire to be “fucked” by anyone, they desire an action to be taken upon them, not to share an experience; and because these visual depictions of women – in fact just their holes – so desire this, they deserve to be degraded, they are holes that can and should be abused. If a woman does desire sex then she is a dirty whore, bitch, a slut and a cunt and deserves whatever abuse comes her way, she had it coming, and deep down she fucking loves it. Why? Because according to porn hive mind, all women deep down know that they are less than men, helpmeets at best and toys to be fucked and discarded at the whim of men at worst because they’re just too fucking stupid to know they’re being used either way. The only bonus of mainstream “female friendly” depictions is that the perpetuation of this subjugation is conducted with a smear of Vaseline on the lens, a candle, and if you’re lucky, a few less “bitches”; “No sexual transaction that is paid for and that involves submission in a context of having been paid for, is anything other than an exploitative transaction by definition.”

In addition, not only does this narrow depiction of hetero sex normalize abuse as part of human sexuality, it also relegates sex involving all shapes, sizes and colours of people into niche markets. If you are for example a woman performer in porn and you happen to be larger, then it is highly likely that you will be put into a niche genre of pornography, you will no longer just be a bitch getting fucked, you’ll be a fat bitch getting fucked. Look at the plethora of porn available and you can see that people’s very identities are turned into niche genres, be it your size, age, race or ethnicity. This process means that basic, normal, human characteristics are fetishized and treated as somehow abnormal or taboo in a sexualized context; it is extremely othering.

Men who use porn are aware of these very normal and normalized depictions of women and sex in porn, they are in denial that what they are watching is a visual depiction of abuse. I mean hey, you hear these women porn stars being interviewed and they all say that they just love sex! Newsflash, when women performers appear on tv and radio talk shows or are interviewed in Playboy, they are being paid by their employers to appear, so of course they don’t sit and talk about how fucking miserable and dangerous the job is; they are on company time and don’t want to scare away possible future employers because they need the money.

Part 2

But, but, but…freedom of speeeech!

Yes, isn’t it just dandy that privileged rich white dudes like Howard Stern, Max Hardcore and Larry Flint can depict naked women in meat grinders without threat of censorship. Awesome.

Now comes the parable:

Get-off-my-lawn-grandpa is an all round bigot; he is a racist, misogynist, homophobic, trans-phobic, fat-phobic, ableist asshole, and he doesn’t care who knows it. In fact there is nothing he loves more than an audience for his tirade of slurs.

A lot of people in the community secretly agree and enjoy bigot grandpa’s tirade, they find his ever creative slurs entertaining and the more and more they hang out with him, the more they find themselves agreeing with him, shit they even begin paying for the privilege. His voice becomes one of the loudest in the community and he fights many legal battles to uphold his right to continue spewing vitriol against minorities and the subjugated classes in his community. He recruits more people. They preach hate from their porches. Screaming shit that is offensive to the already subjugated people in the community becomes a normal activity among the community’s privileged, and there isn’t a damn thing these targets of abuse can do about it.

Now imagine- and how this relates to porn- that bigot grandpa and his compatriots receive an average annual profit of $97 billion for their bigotry.

This story could go on for hours with a number of nuances, but I’ll leave it there.

So, should grandpa be shot or silenced through other means? According to his right to freedom of speech, NO.

Should his views be able to infect a society’s psyche, making his representations, stereotypes and depictions of the objects of his hate a normalised depiction of these people? NO.

Should he be actively celebrated and rewarded for his bigotry? Abso-fucking-lutely NO.

If get-off-my-lawn-grandpa’s views of the people he hates become the predominant social view of these people, shouldn’t we critique such a society that allows hate, abuse and subjugation to flourish and profit? HELL YES.

Part 3

When I’m ranting about porn, I am not advocating for the banning of it or stricter censorship, I do not hate freedom of speech. Nor however am I willing to take the hit of racist, misogynist pornography as an unfortunate product of freedom of speech silently. I am instead going to pick apart a society that allows and rewards abuse. I am going to call people out when they are talking shit or are wilfully ignorant because being uniformed or misinformed is easier than taking some fucking responsibility for their choices, views and tastes.

Popular culture tells me that when a guy informs me he likes mainstream porn and uses it, I’m supposed to give him a high five for being so sexually liberated. Funny thing that, because it was never white, heterosexual men (who dominate the industry) that were particularly in need of a sexual revolution.

Maybe, just maybe, the reason why pornographers and pornography apologists are so vocal in their defence to produce or consume it is because it makes a hell of a lot of money and really, they don’t give a fuck about how women performers are treated and don’t give a fuck what these depictions of women do to society’s views of women as a whole. Our society in male centred and male identified, so as long as they’re happy, anything goes.

Modern popular porn is the quintessential depiction of a patriarchal and misogynist society and the very fact that it is a socially acceptable, lucrative and celebrated industry testifies to that.

Are men really so desensitized to human experience that when they watch a woman being roughly anally penetrated, subjected to double triple or quadruple penetration or ATM and grimacing in discomfort or pain, they can’t even fathom that this expression is real? Can they not fathom that really, this would not be comfortable for a human being? That this is actually extremely physically and psychologically draining and/or damaging? That when a woman performer has a dude’s cock shoved down her throat, those gagging sounds and tears are not just “acting”?

Are men really so stupid to think that these grimaces aren’t part of the appeal? Can they not get that inflicting pain or discomfort as part of a sex act is actually an important component to the depiction of male sexual dominance in pornography? That the pain and humiliation of women in the increasingly popular depictions of, anal, DP, TP, ass-to-mouth and bukkake IS THE FUCKING APPEAL?

Do men really feel so entitled to visual stimulants involving abuse to accompany their masturbation that this shit is ok?

To partly answer my own questions, I think that western society as a whole has been desensitized to real and imagined violence. I don’t actually believe that all men really are that stupid either, so the denial of what mainstream porn represents and how its production is predominantly unethical is all the more frustrating, and testifies to how normalized its depictions are and how entitled they feel to accessing them.

In situations where unethical industries are protected by freedom of speech, the answer is not for the law to change whereby they are forced to shut down, but simply for consumers to stop using their products. It really is that fucking simple. All you have to do is take some responsibility for your choices, employ some humanity, empathy and conscience in your life, and apply that to the products you consume. This application of ethical consumerism might also be helped if one asks oneself honestly if human beings should ever be commodities to be consumed.

So, as long as the predominant depictions of women are degrading, I am going to call them degrading. Misogyny is misogyny is misogyny. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, I’m going to call it a fucking duck. And no pornographers or pornography apologists can wave around freedom of speech to erase the fact that porn is abusive and abuse is not ok. I mean seriously, fuck that noise.

 

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