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.

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.

KRITIQ Wed 10-Oct-12 20:43:48

But, this thread isn't about religion, it's about porn (is this an attempt at diversion I see before me? hmm )

Twibble Wed 10-Oct-12 21:26:17

Op, thanks for allowing me to comment. It seems to me, without any serious research admittedly, that sexually repressed nations are usually more oppressive to women than sexually 'liberated' ones. Crudely put I am sure most of you would rather be female in, say, germany than in most Arabian coutries. I stand to be corrected though if this simplistic worldview is misleading.

Oh now this is where discussions about porn always end up being fucking impossible to continue. Opponents of porn keep insisting that porn is some separate, alien, eeevil thing that is totally different and separate from any other form of media, entertainment or non-essential human pleasure, just as many of them keep insisting that sex is totally different and separate from any other human activity or interest. There was a point where feminist theory and activism involved looking at media, all media, acknowledging what was sexist and misogynistic and proposing, not blanket bans but ^making more, better, different media*. Just like there was a point when feminist theory and activism acknowledged that the existing social and cultural concepts of sexual behaviour were bad for women... and the solution to that was seen as increasing women's autonomy rather than stigmatizing their choices. Then some feminists went down the route of believing that women hate and fear sex, especially PIV and that it is inherently harmful to them, and so it's not possible for 'real' women to engage in sex for fun or as a performance unless they are coerced into doing so.

KRITIQ Wed 10-Oct-12 22:39:02

Sex does not equal porn, simples. I seriously don't understand why you wish to conflate the two.

raincy Wed 10-Oct-12 22:49:44

I have a question: how do people feel about the morality of erotic writing that portrays rape, sexual abuse, violence etc? From some of the erotica sites I occasionally look at, these categories of writing seem to be very popular (I would add that I do not read them myself, nor am I inclined to).

Is it morally acceptable to get off on reading and writing about these acts because real bodies aren't involved and real people aren't being exploited? How does that compare to watching the same story consensually acted out by real people? Or to watching porn that appears consensual and non-violent but possibly involves an "unseen" element of co-ercion or sexual abuse?

raincy Wed 10-Oct-12 22:52:09

Oh, and PlentyofPubeGardens (wow, what a name!) thank you for your response to my post on the last page. It's something I will be thinking about.

raincy Wed 10-Oct-12 23:04:44

If I am understanding SBG, I think she's saying that people seem determined to separate porn from other unethical industries because it is for "non-essential pleasure" (e.g. sex) as opposed to something fundamentally needed, like clothes, food, oil et. People on this thread have said that people should be more resolute in their determination to renounce porn than other unethical industries/products, because it is not an essential product and only serves the purpose of pleasure.

But actually as others have pointed out, lots of other products are only for pleasure. We don't need to eat animals, in many ways it would be better if we didn't and e stuck to grain and vegetables. But we farm, kill and eat them anyway, because they taste good. We don't need to spend so much money on clothes, shoes, cars etc, we could all get by with less than what we think we need, and contribute to unethical industries and imparity and injustice much less. But we buy a lot of what we buy not because we need it but because we like it, aesthetically, or we like the convenience it affords us, or the way it makes us feel. Porn isn't needed for survival, but I'm not yet convinced that means we should feel more compelled to renounce it than we should other unethical practices. But I think some people feel that it's worse than other things because it involves sexual pleasure instead of any other type...

Again I would repeat that I'm not trying to say "well yeah maybe its wrong but so is lots of other stuff so what the hell I'll keep doing it anyway". I'm just trying to engage with some of the arguments on the thread.

getmorebananas Thu 11-Oct-12 09:10:06

Not sure if this fits in but will give it a go....

If it was found that some brands of vibrators ( non essential pleasure ) were manufactured in exploitative circumstance would that warrent banning all vibrators or should efforts go into improving working conditions ?

< leftfield >

It seems to me, without any serious research admittedly, that sexually repressed nations are usually more oppressive to women than sexually 'liberated' ones. Crudely put I am sure most of you would rather be female in, say, germany than in most Arabian coutries. I stand to be corrected though if this simplistic worldview is misleading.

Twibble, your simplistic worldview is misleading smile

It's not a question of women either offering themselves up as fucktoys for whatever man wants to have sex on them (as happens in 'liberated' societies) or being outright owned by one man and covered in a giant bag so no other man sneaks a peek (as happens in 'repressed' societies).

Why should we settle for either of these scenarios? Neither of them has anything to do with women's pleasure.

We could instead just have enthusiastic consensual sex when we want it, and only when we want it, with partners we have freely chosen and who we at least fancy a bit and are not afraid of. Maybe we could even not have our entire worth reduced to our sexuality, you know, as if we were actual human beings wink

SGB, I think sex will continue to be a bit of a 'front line' for feminism as long as the patriarchy continues. It's my (possibly crude) understanding that the patriarchy is all about men as a group controlling women as a group through their sexuality and fertility. At the same time, sex is the most intimate encounter we have with members of the oppressive group and by its nature it inevitably involves our physical and emotional vulnerability. Before somebody says it, I'm sure your nigel is lovely (so is mine :-) ) but lots and lots of women are not so lucky. We are all brought up in a toxic soup of misogynistic messages about sex and women. It's near impossible, IME, to totally disregard all these messages and not to let it affect how we relate sexually to each other and ourselves.

Twibble Thu 11-Oct-12 10:28:18

Hi plenty, I agree with every word of that.
Really my point was addressed to the poster who implied a causal link between pornography and the oppression of women in a society. Your idyllic sexual utopia sounds wonderful but no country on earth has truly achieved it. But as things stand the countries with less taboos about sex and nudity seem closer to it than those that stigmatise sexual freedom and pleasure
and sexual freedom and pleasure will bring porn along with it whether we want it or not.

Sorry about dodgy typing, writing this on a tiny mobile on a train...

Twibble Thu 11-Oct-12 10:34:44

As an afterthought I would say that I find hardcore porn a real turn off, so I have no personal interest in defending it from that point of view.

Also, my text predictor turned 'hardcore porn' into 'hereford born' which sounds even more ghastly.

I dunno, I thought it was pretty much the norm for men to freely choose partners, to not have sex they don't want with people they are afraid of, to be allowed to be a fully rounded person and not just a sexual object ... these are just normal human rights aren't they? Is it really idyllic and utopian to want human rights extended to both halves of humanity? hmm

Just because bad things are happening in that country >>>>> over there, doesn't mean we can't also look at the (different but related) bad things that are happening right here, especially as we are more likely to be able to change things here than in another country.

The problem here is not a lack of taboos around sex and nudity. I'm all for uninhibited, joyful sex and a matter-of-fact attitude to nudity and the human body. That is not what we have here though. What we have is the commodification and control of women for men's pleasure and at the expense of our own. The massively pornified culture we live in does oppress women and your pronouncement that this is better for us than the only alternative you can possibly conceive of - another system which oppresses women - comes from an incredibly privileged position.

I suspect that if women stopped having sex they didn't want there'd be quite a drought in the porn supply, at least in the short term. Maybe it would morph into something different that didn't abuse or oppress. It would be good to find out.

TeaAndHugs Thu 11-Oct-12 11:44:15

Porn is one of those things that I don't think is intrinsically wrong, but have a lot of problems with in practice. Filming people having sex (with their permission of course!) and watching the film are not immoral actions. But the porn industry as it stands is often exploitative and produces porn that is often disturbing in the way it portrays women. I think porn should be improved so that the women involved are better treated, not banned.

Bananas, I think actually I probably mostly agree with you (don't get me started on the iphones!) but I'm just less hopeful re the possibility of 'reforming' the industry. I think it's just too rotten.

I'm also too much of a leftie to want a ban. I guess I just want to see more awareness of the harm caused, so that casual and occasional users might decide to give it a miss. I'd like to see it less normalised, so there is less impact especially on young people.

To me the biggest problem is the conflation of porn and sex. It's so hard to argue against the porn industry without being accused of somehow being against sex, or being repressed or whatever.

I think sex is a very important part of human life. I think we should strive to enjoy it in ways that do not cause harm or exploitation for other people. To me, that means the vast majority of porn is out.

It is broadly true that the countries with a more liberal attitude towards porn are the countries with a better track record on women's rights (not just their 'right to be a fucktoy for men, but, you know, better representation of women in positions of power, state-funded childcare, commitment to equality, all that sort of thing... I am thinking Scandinavia and Holland, mostly).

As to the current 'worsening' of porn content ie that it is more violent/malevolent towards women, I think (and have said before) that this is a reflection of mainstream culture, which has been getting much crueller. THink of all those 'reality' shows which take vulnerable and unstable people and abuse them till they crack up, while the audience are encouraged to laugh at their pain...

Twibble Thu 11-Oct-12 12:30:05

Plenty I did say 'as things stand ' . I agree that no country on earth currently enjoys utopia with regard gender issues. But I will not revise my claim that current western culture is better for women than many existing alternatives. That isn't to deny that there is plenty to do yet. And i am aware that as a privileged male that is an easy thing to say, but i truly believe it. Apologies will have to leave discussion now, phone dying. Peace.

True, SGB, I just object to the idea that we should put up with shit because other women have to put up with worse shit elsewhere. Can't we aim for better than that?

I agree that mainstream culture is getting crueller but with reality shows and the like, the cruelty is not gendered in the way that porn is. It's not 'people's' pain we are invited to enjoy in porn, it is the vast majority of the time women's pain, mostly inflicted by men for the enjoyment of mostly other men.

It's mostly women's pain we are invited to enjoy in mainstream media, which further reinforces the fact that porn is a reflection of society, not an industry which drives people's attitudes. Look at the abuse and mockery showered on the likes of Kerry Katona (a woman with blindingly obvious mental health issues and subzero self-esteem), look at all the 'makeover' shows which concentrate on making women cry, look at all the slut-shaming on the Jeremy Kyle-type talkshows...

Actually, yeah you're right sad

KRITIQ Fri 12-Oct-12 11:02:00

In my view, it's all part of a "cornucopia" of sources of misogynist messages in society. Just because one is concerned about the messages conveyed by porn doesn't mean one can't also be concerned about the messages coming from other forms of popular culture, or indeed by how the "normalisation" of imagery and messages from porn has influenced other aspects of popular culture.

Kritiq: Yup, and women are working to counter the misogynist messages in media by making media that isn't misogynist: feminist writers, artists, musicians, film-makers. And feminist pornographers.

FoodUnit Fri 12-Oct-12 12:48:39

Oh no! I wish I hadn't started looking at this thread.... As far as I've heard, the only difference between porn and feminist porn, is that in feminist porn the male performers are paid more. The controlling, abusive, misogynist acts and patriarchal narratives are no different when made by a woman who claims to be feminist.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now