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?

Exactly. I don't see how watching amateur porn is better -- even if the participants are obviously consenting, you have no way of knowing that they both consented to it being posted online.

I agree we face ethical choices everyday but as humans we do need food and clothing, we don't need porn.

I think the comparison with drugs is a good one. It's perfectly possible to use drugs once in a while, just to feel good, and maybe even your sourcing is not horribly unethical. That doesn't change the fact that you are participating in an industry that wreaks horrific levels of harm on innocent people worldwide.

getmorebananas Wed 10-Oct-12 11:08:23

That doesn't change the fact that you are participating in an industry that wreaks horrific levels of harm on innocent people worldwide.

Ever put petrol in your car ? How much war, misery and environmental destruction comes from that industry ? Yet we're all happy to ignore that at the petrol pump.

We all participate in unethical practice in one way or the other. It's a bit hypocritical to focus on one industry and ignore the others.

MaBaya Wed 10-Oct-12 11:23:39

Well you lot have been busy in my absence...

Twibble - I am not disregarding your opinion at all. Feel free to contribute. I am specifically interested in different feminist perspectives, though.

I don't know if I buy into the 'any decision I make as an empowered woman is a feminist one' though. That seems it awfully easy way for women to do anything they damn please, no matter how it impacts on other women, and pass it off as feminism. Equally, I struggle with the idea that I have to analyse my own decisions constantly against a prescribed feminist agenda. Its just feels so limiting. I am confused, as you can see grin

Rancy - thanks for contributng. We share a lot of the same experiences and have some similar questions.

Dreaming - I HEAR your argument. Maybe I am just a horribly immoral person?! I have taken a lot of drugs in my time, too....

Getmorebananas - this is a key question I ask time and time again. I dont want to just blindly defend my porn use because I enjoy it. I abhor those blanket porn defenders who try to make out everything is just rosy in porn land. I KNOW it isnt. But is it worse than other industries I support or life choices I make? Does it make me a 'bad person'?

I dont know!

Even with drugs though, you may know loads about the human misery involved in say, cocaine production, but a line of coke will still 'work' - it will still turn you into an annoying arsehole incredibly confident person for a few hours.

I simply can't understand how the porn still 'works' once you know what goes into its production.

Who says any of us are ignoring others? This thread is about porn so we're talking about porn. I imagine many of us also don't use other things that come from exploitative industries.

I don't have a car, so I can't directly boycott petrol.

But I don't think it's a good comparison. The entire global economy is predicated on the use of fossil fuels, until that changes that industry is necessary and unavoidable. We don't need a global sex industry for our survival.

raincy Wed 10-Oct-12 11:37:09

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?

If it looks like abuse or rape, absolutely not. If I have good reason to think its rape or abuse, absolutely not. I couldn't enjoy watching that, in any way.

But if both parties are obviously aware of the camera and they appear to be a couple who decided to film themselves having sex and put it online, then yes I can and do enjoy it.

Is there always a chance that behind what appears to be a consensual unabusive act, there is actually abuse or lack of consent? I guess yes, there is that possibility. But tbh that possibility is not playing on my mind as I watch it. Should it be? Well I guess that comes back to all the other stuff we do in life for convenience/pleasure where we sublimate the 'hang on, this could be unethical' voice in our head...

I'm not saying I firmly believe I am in the right here. But I'm trying to be honest in this dialogue. I'd say I'm open minded as to the 'true' nature of the 'majority' of porn videos...

x-post

OP you're not horribly immoral!! I would not say that for a second. All of us consume some products with dodgy lineages, and everyone will draw their own lines. For me, I don't think porn is necessary, and therefore I think it would be great if people boycotted it (same with diamonds for example).

I have also used drugs in the past, but I haven't since I really thought about it and realised what I was part of. I don't think that makes me a hypocrite now, it just means I'm more aware now and (I think) making better choices.

getmorebananas Wed 10-Oct-12 11:49:27

The entire global economy is predicated on the use of fossil fuels, until that changes that industry is necessary and unavoidable. We don't need a global sex industry for our survival

Well that entirely depends on your outlook. Humans survived for millennia without using oil or fossil fuels. The use of fossil fuels is neither necessary or unavoidable. It just requires much less energy use and less comfort and convenience for us.

getmorebananas Wed 10-Oct-12 11:53:41

... I'd add that porn isn't threatening catastrophic environmental disaster.

raincy your thought processes are similar to the way I thought when I started looking at this stuff. Then I started questioning what percentage of abuse would be acceptable in this scenario.

If, say, 90% of people in porn are happy to be there, having a great time etc. that means that one time out of ten, on average, I would be wanking to abuse. It turned out that for me, no amount of abuse would be acceptable at all. This wasn't a consciously thought out moral choice, the porn just stopped working.

As with other industries where it is a known fact that exploitation and harm to individuals sometimes occurs (clothing, diamonds, cut flowers, catering... you can't be sure that your nice new trainers weren't put together by child slaves...) seeking out and buying stuff that is ethically made is a way of improving the entire industry and supporting good working practices.

But a percentage of opposition to porn is still rooted in the idea that women don't like sex and the ones who claim to do so are deluded, insane or wicked, that engaging in it is bad for them, that they only do it to please and 'keep' men, and that they couldn't possibly have any kind of autonymous sexual desire.

Bananas, it doesn't matter if we went without fossil fuels for millennia -- today, everything depends on them. Everything in your local shop needs fossil fuels to get there and be made. Heating, electricity, you name it. If everyone stopped using fossil fuels overnight, the result would be catastrophic. (and this is a bad state of affairs, I agree, but not really avoidable until we have massive societal changes)

If everyone stopped using porn overnight -- well, what? What would be the negative impact of no more porn?

SGB, I for one am not trying to deny that women can enjoy porn. For me personally, that enjoyment is not worth the harm caused by the industry. That's why I'm equating it to diamonds and drugs, not harping on about sin or morality or whatever.

getmorebananas Wed 10-Oct-12 14:16:12

dreamingbohemian Well it's the issue of what your rational is for banning porn. As I read it it is that as there is an element of exploitation it warrants a blanket ban.

Banning fossil fuel overnight ( wouldn't really recommend it ending overnight ) may cause catastrophe. But in my view unless we deal with it yesterday it will end in catastrophe anyway. Probably not for us, but certainly for our children and grandchildren.

So we continue to be greedy energy consumers with our first world entitlement because we like to be nice and toasty in winter, don't wish to wash clothes by hand, like getting our mange tu flown in from Africa and don't consider the dead Foxcomm employee who made our iPhones that we happily connect to MN with or listen to music on.

Yes we need clothes and food, but I like many others seek pleasure in these things. I don't just eat to survive, I eat for pleasure and don't generally think about the exploitation that undoubtedly occurs in getting it to my plate.

Life would be very difficult if I / we removed all potential exploitative products and services from life.

I agree with SGM, it's better to patronize non-exploitative stuff and try to improve the whole industry than just ban it and drive it underground.

KRITIQ Wed 10-Oct-12 14:39:50

Dreaming, I think you and I are thinking along the same lines. It's a red herring to throw the morality card in. It would be no different than accusing folks who are concerned about the drugs trade of just being "no fun" or those unhappy with the ethics of the diamond industry as "jealous of rich people."

My concern comes from knowledge of people - mostly women, being exploited and abused in the creation of porn, the messages about violence against women depicted in most mainstream porn which serves to normalise such actions in "real life," and the impact of increasingly explicit, misogynist and violent porn on young people who consume it at a far younger age than ever, and more frequently than would have been the case even 10 years ago. I work with kids and I've seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears how porn has affected their emerging understanding of sex, sexuality and expectations of what happens in relationships.

I know we are discussing so-called "ethical" porn, or at least content that "looks" like it's ethical and whether it's okay to use this. I can't accept that one can be 100% certain that content is consensual, no matter how amateur it looks or how "happy" the participants appear. It's also not possible to be sure that even if what you are watching here and now is "ethical," that no one involved in making or distributing it hasn't been involved in some way in making and distributing porn that is not ethical.

That "non-ethical" porn that tops up their wallets that not-very-profitable ethical porn can't fill IS something that most likely involves abuse and exploitation of women. It will include products with far from "vanilla" content will give the impression that women like being beaten, raped, forced to eat their own faeces, etc. It will also include materials that will be viewed by small children - giving boys the impression that to be a man, you should be dominant and in control when you have sex, that male pleasure is the only important thing, that getting off on a woman suffering is good, that gang raping is manly, etc. Some girls will see it, too (or be told about it by boys), and believe sexual pleasure is something boys get and girls have to give, however they want it and with whomever they want you to do it (their mates, their bother, etc.) They'll learn that if it hurts or makes you feel uneasy, that's too bad. That's just what you have to do if you're a girl.

Okay, maybe I wouldn't feel so passionately about this issue myself if I didn't encounter the results of porn use in my work every day with kids. In the same way, it's not too difficult to have a toke of weed without thinking of the ethics, or admire your shiny ring without thinking about it's journey to your finger. We all face ethical dilemmas and we all have to make choices we feel comfortable with.

SamuraiCindy Wed 10-Oct-12 14:47:57

I think the thing that confuses me is that I think every woman is harmed because of porn, not just the ones who appear in the films, so I really don't understand how any woman could support it. I feel it impacts on us all, from how men and society views us, to how we view ourselves, to how we are treated by men, media and so on, and to the extreme of women being abused, raped and even killed as in indirect result of unstable men watching this stuff. And so that makes it more specific than using fossil fuels or eating chicken....that women who watch porn are contributing to an industry that harms them.

MiniTheMinx Wed 10-Oct-12 14:49:10

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

getmorebananas Wed 10-Oct-12 15:02:06

So if poor women, women who had addiction issues, single mothers and working class women, black women and Asian women decided to continue to participate

confused

Are these the sort of women you think gravitate towards porn work then ? Because your post sounds decidedly dodgy on a number of levels. Why do you explicitly mention Black and Asian women ?!?!

MaBaya Wed 10-Oct-12 15:17:50

For those who are totally opposed to porn - what would be your main goal then? To ban it? What do feminists argue should happen?

KRITIQ Wed 10-Oct-12 15:37:45

Getmorebananas - Black, Asian and/or working class women experience multiple and intersecting forms of oppression and are more vulnerable to economic and sexual exploitation world wide.

Your use of the word "gravitate" doesn't feel quite right here, but that might in part be my understanding of the word. "Gravitate" means to me to move in a "natural" sort of way, like magnetic attraction, or like a moth to the light. There is nothing inherent in Black, Asian or working class women that "leads" them to involvement in porn, prostitution or any other form of sexual exploitation. However, because of the racism, sexism and economic oppression they experience, they may be more vulnerable to such exploitation than say relatively privileged, educated white Western European women.

getmorebananas Wed 10-Oct-12 15:47:00

KRITIQ thanks for explaining that, I couldn't work out if I was being stupid misreading it or not. Just seemed an odd grouping to have a list including specific social groups and then include black and asian women.

I think that banning porn would lead to an increase in harmful sexual repression: the main benefit of porn is that it allows people to think about, talk about and learn about sex (it's one of the myths put about by pro-censorship types that ALL porn transmits the message that women accept being hurt and that hurting women is how real men have sex). The demonization of porn-as-the-root-of-misogyny does women no favours and plays into the hands of those who want to control and crush female sexual autonomy.

KRITIQ Wed 10-Oct-12 15:51:17

MaBaya, I'd like to see greater regulation of porn - for example strict and expensive licensing and health and safety requirements that make it less profitable to make. Step up the penalties for possessing content that hasn't met the regulations as a disincentive to consuming unregulated materials. Make "opting in" a default for all computers and mobile devices with tight controls so it can't be bypassed easily.

Porn of course isn't the source of all misogyny, but exists because we live in a society that is misogynist. Therefore, a plethora of other strategies are required for tackling that biggie, starting from a very, very early age, when children start to be "groomed" into gender roles.

KRITIQ Wed 10-Oct-12 15:57:38

SGB, sorry I can't buy that. Believe me, I can think about, talk about and learn about sex just fine without using porn. I and other women I know who don't consume porn feel we have plenty of sexual autonomy, thanks very much.

I believe the harms of rape, sexual violence, sexual exploitation (of adults and children) and relationship abuse (of women and girls,) is a far greater harm in society than "sexual repression."

"Sexual repression" is a subjective concept anyhow. One person might be perfectly content and fulfilled in their sex life, while another might find their lack of "adventurous sex" to be a sign they are "repressed." Judgy much?

MiniTheMinx Wed 10-Oct-12 18:39:41

I seem to have been zapped ho hum...
Thank you KRITIQ I posted and had to run. Some women are more vulnerable to exploitation, the idea that they gravitate towards pornography was certainly not implied.

I think religion is far, far more toxic to women than porn and always will be.

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