Porn use and Feminism...

(73 Posts)
MaBaya Mon 08-Oct-12 11:06:29

I am starting this off the back of a few recent threads. I'd really appreciate opinions, as it is something I struggle with on various differente levels. I would really like to achieve some clarity of thought on the issue!

I enjoy watching porn. I class myself as a feminist. I will go into much more detail a bit later but generally, thoughts?

MiniTheMinx Mon 08-Oct-12 12:10:54

DP used to enjoy looking at Porn until we had a long discussion about the harm to women, the exploitation, physical and financial. He doesn't watch it now, he actually goes out of his way to tell his friends what he thinks!

MaBaya Mon 08-Oct-12 12:45:35

The thing is, I am not ignorant about the porn industry at all. I know there are massive issues with trafficking, abuse and all sorts of unethical and illegal practices. I tend to watch porn featuring the big Hollywood porn stars, so its not a huge issues for these actors personally, but I suppose my questions are:

Even by watching 'ethical' porn, am I supporting the darker side of the sex industry?

And if yes, whats the answer? To never watch porn or erotic films of any sort?

I suppose I am struggling with the personal-as-political aspect of my own porn use and would be interested to hear a wide range of voices on the issue.

MaBaya Mon 08-Oct-12 12:45:47

Female voices, I might add!

KRITIQ Mon 08-Oct-12 19:00:43

MaBaya, in answer to your question . . .

Yes, even watching "ethical porn" is supporting the darker side of the sex industry. (To be fair, I struggle to see what the "lighter" side of it might be.) For starters, how can you be absolutely sure of the provenance of the porn you use. Like diamonds, it's not always possible to establish that someone wasn't exploited or abused along the process.

Also, it would be difficult to prove that NO PERSON involved in its making hasn't benefited from the exploitation or abuse of other people when making other porn that doesn't have the ethical "stamp." The money you pay for what you believe to be "ethical porn" probably contributes to the wage packet of some people, along with contributions from the production of porn that DOES exploit and abuse some people.

I suppose it could be compared in that way to someone who takes recreational drugs. They could buy their weed from a friend who's mate gets it from his cousin who grows it in his attic. If that's all true, you could convince yourself that it's not at all connected with human trafficking, burglary or other local crime, exploitation of workers in developing countries or anything illegal or unethical happening anywhere. It's just a bit of grass some guy's grown in a fishtank. But, do you know for sure that no one involved in the chain has any links to any of those other practices? Can you be absolutely sure that someone who also sells marijuana from this source doesn't also sell different drugs that come from other sources?

Basically, if you want to convince yourself that porn is harmless, or your use of porn is harmless, or your use of a certain type of porn at least is harmless, you'll be able to muster up an argument to back that. People who use porn that is pretty clearly exploitative and pretty clearly involves the abuse of other people still find enough explanations for why what they do is okay, so they can keep doing it.

If you are starting to have reservations, starting to question whether your use of porn is "okay," it probably means that you're starting to have niggles, starting to wonder whether the explanations you've relied on hold quite as strongly as you'd believed. I can't tell you what to do, but I'd suggest you do more research, look deeper into the issue, stick with the ghastly stuff that you'll find, keep your mind and heart open, and then see where you get to.

Other folks will hopefully come along with links to useful information for that process (but I've got some work things to do just now! smile.) Good luck!

KRITIQ Mon 08-Oct-12 19:04:28

Sorry - forgot your 2nd question. I've never fully understood why anyone feels they need to view images of other people having sex in order to feel sexually aroused or fulfilled. DH and I have also discussed it and he can't understand this, either. He agrees that all the stuff about men needing to be "visually stimulated" is rubbish and believe blokes probably look at it out of curiosity first but mostly from peer pressure. Men are damned good at policing each others' behaviour and anyone who "lets the side down" will at best get ribbed, at worst, be subject to violence. More men need to stand up and say, "hell no."

grimbletart Mon 08-Oct-12 19:07:15

I always feel that the phrase "ethical porn" is an oxymoron. But that's just me.

CuttedUpPear Mon 08-Oct-12 19:08:39

Well I'm watching this thread as it has been on my mind a lot recently.

MiniTheMinx Mon 08-Oct-12 20:09:50

I'm struggling to see why big budget means more ethical confused if you consider the amount of people involved from directors to distributors and producers and consider that mostly these are male...these are the people that really make the money. The women are just the product. If you were to trace the investments of pension funds and the even investments made by the catholic church you find that MEN are not only the audience but almost without exception the benefactors of big budget porn.

MooncupGoddess Mon 08-Oct-12 22:14:06

Can I ask why you watch it, OP? In what way do you find it erotic?

MaBaya Tue 09-Oct-12 11:09:52

Thanks for all your replies so far.

Kritiq, your response was thought provoking. I have always had 'niggles'....that, along with my use of porn, isnt new. So this is a really interesting thread for me. I suppose I dont 'need' porn. I am not a porn addict. I can enjoy all elements of sex without it. But it adds something , sometimes. I suppose it is like not 'needing' a glass of wine but sometimes quite fancying one and the effect it will have on socialising, if that makes sense. I am not comparing porn use to the odd glass of wine, btw, but that is the analogy that just sprang to mind!

Interestingly, my husband isnt a porn user. Never has been. I cant say it is for any ethical or political reason, really. He just doesnt feel he needs it and finds it 'fake', although has no problems with my use.

Minitheminx, in answer to your post - I dont think big udget necessarily does mean more ethical, but clearly there are levels here. One of the big Hollywood porn stars will have access to health care and be paid pretty handsomely, which is different from being a trafficked Lithuanian being filmed against her will by a pimp! But I do take your point. Ultimateky, we dont know why she is involved in porn - was she abused? Does she have issues? Etc - and I am not going to argue against the fact that financially, men are the main benefactors of porn.

Mooncup - thats a really hard question to answer. Why does anyone find anything or one erotic? Why do people have certain fetishes? I might need a psychoanalyst to answer that one for me! I guess I just do find watching other people have sex quite a turn on. Call it voyeurism, perhaps? I also have quite 'kinky' , for want of a better word, tastes which porn allows me to indulge.

Anyway, all food for thought. I look foreward to more replies.

Twibble Tue 09-Oct-12 23:51:28

Hi, I am a male voice, so feel free to disregard my unsolicited answer.
I think that as an adult woman, and a bright and conscientious one, any decision you make is feminist be definition. You obviously think things through deeply and I hope you achieve happiness whichever means you employ, be it indulgence or abstinence

Twibble Tue 09-Oct-12 23:52:44

Feminist 'by' definition.

HappyHalloweenMotherFucker Tue 09-Oct-12 23:54:36

I think that as an adult woman, and a bright and conscientious one, any decision you make is feminist be definition

really ??

crackcrackcrak Wed 10-Oct-12 00:01:42

Twibble - bullshit.

It doesn't matter how ethical the porn is - its still undermining equality imo.

Also imo, watching people who have been paid (hopefully) to pretend to enjoy sexual acts and or exploitation is v creepy.

Well, you could start by checking out the work of Petra Joy and Anna Span, who would pretty much merit an official Ethical Porn stamp. You could maybe look into joining Feminists Against Censorship (who are anti-censorship rather than specifically pro-porn, but who do gather information on feminist and feminist-friendly erotic material - and generally pretty good on pointing out the more extreme examples of utter bullshit that pro-censorship people and organisations come out with).

Or you might find it more ethically comfortable to read erotic fiction rather than view images featuring individuals who may have been exploited during the production of said images. (There is a lot of very good explicit fiction around. Nearly all of it absolutely pisses all over 50 Shades Of Grey so don't take that ludicrous book as an example of rude reading material). However, there will still be some people who will call you a Bad Feminist for reading novels about sex. And some feminists will boot you out of Feminism CLub for even contemplating having sex with a man under any circumstances.
By all means inform yourself and explore the options available to you, but when you have made an informed choice, feel free to tell other people to keep their beaks out.

I think Kritiq makes a really good point in comparing it to diamonds/drugs, in that in practice it's often hard to separate the 'ethical' and non-ethical strands, and in any event you are contributing to the demand for a product that is mostly produced unethically.

There are many things we might enjoy in life, but is it fair to pursue them at the expense of others? I mean, slavery was a pretty sweet institution for a lot of people and was once seen as perfectly normal. We've evolved since then. It's great to see boycotts and campaigns when it's discovered that certain products are made with child labour, it shows that our standards have changed.

With most porn online you just can't tell how ethical it is. Even videos of ordinary people having consensual sex, you have no way of knowing whether the posting is consensual -- perhaps they made it just for them then split up and the woman has no idea it's been put online. In a lot of videos it's very clear that the women are drunk.

Even if you watch professional porn, it's the normalisation and popularity of that product that helps normalise the production of amateur porn.

I think the porn industry has caused an enormous amount of harm to women worldwide, and so it is a bit odd to be a feminist and contribute in any way to that industry. For me it's not a question of whether porn is inherently immoral or anything like that -- I don't think it necessarily is -- it's more a matter of boycotting something produced by a mostly horrific industry.

Here's a link to a documentary about a British woman, Felicity, who goes to LA to be a porn star. This is mainstream, high budget porn featuring a big name star. It also comes with a TRIGGER WARNING.

Twibble Wed 10-Oct-12 08:42:21

How rude. I would like to think equality somewhere entails individuals being free to make their own informed decisions without approval either from the patriarchy or a feminist judging panel on a mumsnet message board.
But I know that this isn't a discussion for my sex, so my presence was always going to be unwelcome. I should have resisted the urge to post and I apologise. Love, peace and equality to all.

Twibble Wed 10-Oct-12 08:46:25

Sorry again, I should stress my post wad a reply to crackcrackcrak and not to the other perfectly reasonable posters. Cheers.

To be fair, this: I think that as an adult woman, and a bright and conscientious one, any decision you make is feminist be definition ... is BS.

Women are capable of making all sorts of crap decisions that harm them and other women, just as men are. Watching porn is, IMO, one of those decisions. I used to watch it until I worked out there was a fair chance I could be wanking off to a rape. It kind of lost its appeal after that. I would never have said my choice to watch it was a feminist decision though, even before I did my research.

Twibble Wed 10-Oct-12 09:10:50

You are probably right. Though I have heard the theory advanced by actual women, so it wasn't just my brain burbling. Anyway, as you were, sorry to intrude.

HappyHalloweenMotherFucker Wed 10-Oct-12 09:43:43

All women are not in the right, all of the time

Any woman who says that is not advancing the cause of feminism

raincy Wed 10-Oct-12 09:52:38

I've name changed. I've been following some of the other discussions on porn recently, and emotions and judgements can be so strong around this subject that I don't feel comfortable using my regular name.

I am a female in a relationship and I sometimes look at porn, maybe about once every month or couple of months. I only use amateur porn websites, I never pay, and I am only interested in videos that are clearly homemade (ie not those that are obviously 'fake' homemade-style ones), where both people appear aware of the camera and not drunk or coerced.

I guess I just find it erotic watching other people have sex. My tastes are pretty vanilla: just straightforward hetero sex.

I do sometimes read erotica too, probably about the same frequency of use. When I was single I read/watched erotica/porn more regularly, maybe once a week.

My DP and I have discussed porrn, he is also into amateur stuff, but its not something we share together at the same time. We have a fantastic sex life together, yet we both occasionally use porn outside that. For me at least porn is pretty much momentary and disposable in that: I don't think about what I've seen after its finished, and its very far from my mind when I'm having sex with DP. It has no bearing (that I'm aware of) on my sex life.

RE all the issues about women being exploited in the industry...I guess I'm conflicted. Lots of people on mumsnet talk about how the majority of the porn industry is based on exploiting vulnerable women, but I'd like to see some research/facts. I know there are women in porn who have freely chosen to be there, couples who have freely chosen to upload videos of themselves. I know the opposite is also true. I don't claim to know 'overall' how exploitative the industry is.

In terms of 'how can you enjoy it when there's a chance you are watching exploitation'...I guess in the same way I can enjoy eating chicken even if I'm not sure it wasn't battery farmed and cruelly killed, wearing clothes I'm not sure weren't made by exploited 10 year olds, or eating a Nestle chocolate bar...the same way I enjoy buying myself a £80 pair of shoes while I know that money could feed an African family for god knows how long...

I'll be watching this thread with interest.

In terms of 'how can you enjoy it when there's a chance you are watching exploitation'...I guess in the same way I can enjoy eating chicken even if I'm not sure it wasn't battery farmed and cruelly killed, wearing clothes I'm not sure weren't made by exploited 10 year olds, or eating a Nestle chocolate bar...the same way I enjoy buying myself a £80 pair of shoes while I know that money could feed an African family for god knows how long...

This argument comes up again and again and I don't think it's the same at all

The chicken will still be nutritious and taste like chicken, however it's produced. The clothes will still keep you warm and allow you to make a personal style statement, the chocolate will still taste yummy and the shoes will still work as shoes.

The only function of porn is to get you off. Can you really still get off when you know that what's happening right there in front of you on the screen could be abuse or even rape?

I'm not saying that all the other sorts of abuse that go into the things we buy don't matter - they matter a lot and loads of us make whatever ethical buying decisions we can, as well as campaigning around the various issues - but to actually wank and orgasm while watching the abuse is something else altogether.

WRT the amateur stuff, you still don't know that consent was freely given by all those appearing and you certainly don't know that it was posted online with the consent of all involved.

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