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Pornography vs. erotic fantasy

(95 Posts)
mumwithdice Wed 13-Jul-11 14:47:40

Right, now, this may have been done before and if it has, please point me to the thread plus apologies for rehashing.

I was reading Caitlin Moran's book and her objection was that there isn't enough pornography for a female audience or something like that. When I read what she actually wanted, people making love, I thought a) there's plenty of that in Mills and Boon or any fanfiction/fanart (she mentions Aslan) and b) that's not pornography, that's erotic fantasy.

Given that I think Caitlin Moran is a relatively intelligent woman, I started to wonder if (and I really really hope this doesn't come across as patronising; if it does, I apologise) people who accuse those of us against pornography of being prudish humbugs have made the same mistake of confusing pornography with erotic fantasy. Thus they think that when we are anti-pornography we are anti any sexual fantasies and this is where the accusations of prudery come in.

Is this a possibility?

David34 Wed 13-Jul-11 14:54:40

If there was a demand for it, it would be there. Erotic fiction is the equivalent for women IMO and there is tons of it, and it is sold far more openly and shamelessly than what men find tantalising.

I do remeber seeing a thread here a whhile ago that mentioned ethical porn (something I had never heard of before) which is certainly a step in the right direction.

I think femininst and people who understand feminism know that we don't stop people having their fantasies, it's just when those fantasies start hurting/ exploiting others (ie mainstream porn) that we object.

Of course, this could just be me but I don't see the harm in romantic novels/ erotic fiction except that the stuff i've read is rubbish.

mumwithdice Wed 13-Jul-11 15:11:25

Yes, the stuff I've read is rubbish too though I loved it when I was 15.

As to when we object, when it gets exploitative, I'm just wondering if some people don't realise the difference.

I suppose it's because in my head all pornography is, by its very nature exploitative, while erotic fantasy is something that takes place in one's own head and doesn't actually exploit anybody as it is either written or drawn and thus only involves the one person.

sunshineandbooks Wed 13-Jul-11 15:16:24

mumwithdice can you quote a bit of what she says about pornography and what she thinks is ok? I haven't read the book so I don't want to comment specifically on what she's written without knowing what that is.

However, at the risk of being considered a prude, I don't think it makes much difference whether it's erotic fantasy or plain old porn. They're just labels.

Given the statistics concerning women who have been raped/beaten/coerced/persuaded/fallen into pornography, I just don't see any form of pornography can be justified personally. I've come across arguments that more porn should be made by women for women, but unless the participants also own the production company I can't see how they would be less exploited, and a few women-only houses would make no dent in the overall male-dominated industry.

Unless she means erotic literature? In which case, I don't know. Real people may not be exploited but some of the depictions of women are worse precisely because they don't have real people in them. Graphic 'comics' showing women being raped/beaten/tortured, etc. <shudders>

Admittedly I haven't read any Mills and Boon since I was a teenager, so it may have changed now (god I hope so) but IMO it's not much better in terms of how it makes women passive, stereotypical creatures - far too much swooning and being 'taken' going on there for my tastes.

All of these forms tend to objectify women or paint them as second to men I feel.

I see you're also anti-porn like me, but what do you think about erotic literature and the like?

mumwithdice Wed 13-Jul-11 15:24:57

My Kindle has run out of battery, but I am charging it and then I will find the passage for you.

Erotic literature depends, I think. On the one hand, it can objectify women, on the other hand, because it is fictional, it is easier to say that women are not like that, that is the author's perception.

Gods, yes. Some of the 'erotic novels' I've read are just abuse made 'acceptable' because no-one actually gets hurt. I would shudder meeting some of the people who wrote them, and certainly wouldn't be alone with them.

And then Mills & Boon are full of swooning women and strong men. Can't win can we?

If I was more talented I'd try to write my own, but it would probably never get published as men would find it too tame after the hardcore stuff off the internet.

sunshineandbooks Wed 13-Jul-11 15:37:46

I see what you mean about erotic literature being fictional and therefore you can say it's all the author's perception, but to some extent you can say that about porn, too. The scenarios are not real and the perception is the director's who, like the author, is doing it for the audience.

HerBeX Wed 13-Jul-11 15:43:07

I don't believe it's just a question of if there were a demand for it, it would be there. People didn't realise there was a demad for the sony walkman, the ATM, the MP3 player, until those things were invented.

I think there is some residual feeling about active sexuality being male so the idea of arousing women's "passive" sexuality is too much for the porn industry.

I think you may have hit on something in your basic suggestion OP of people not being able to tell the difference between porn and erotic fantasy but i think it goes further than that: lots of people now can't tell the difference between porn, fantasy and sex. So many people have had porn presented to them as normal and part of sex, that to actually do it without porn, sounds odd and slightly boring to them. Very much like those disempowered consumers who think that in order to masturbate, you need a vibrator.

LRDTheFeministNutcase Wed 13-Jul-11 15:46:49

I think Marian Keyes writes good sex - I wish she'd write erotica, it'd be great! grin

Historically, men have liked written erotica just as much as (if not more than) women. I don't think they'd like it any less now, just that we're all conditioned by what's pushed at us, and men are expected to prefer porn.

mumwithdice Wed 13-Jul-11 16:04:26

Ah, found the bits:
"Something that shows sex as something two people do together, rather than a thing that just happens to a woman when she has to make rent. Something in which-to put it simply-everyone comes"

"Imagine watching two people screwing at that early white hot stage of attraction...you want to melt each other's bones so bad you're practically eating each other's clothes off the minute the door closes"

HerBeX I think you're right and that makes me sad. Imagination is such a part of making love and to lose that out would be dreadful.

MooncupGoddess Wed 13-Jul-11 19:03:47

Yes LRD, it's rather horrible that all men are assumed to use/enjoy graphic porn, isn't it; the implication is that they lose all sense of aesthetics (not to mention morality) when consumed with lust. I have asked previous boyfriends about what turns them on; one mentioned Modigliani, another recalled a scene in an A.S. Byatt novel! (Of course they could just be lying to me grin.)

WRT to sunshine's point, of course lots of erotic novels a la Black Lace include stereotypical and sometimes borderline abusive scenarios... but people are allowed their fantasies, aren't they, when (unlike porn) there are no live participants being damaged by them? In my experience the main readership of Mills and Boon etc are women with rather restricted, not very exciting lives - I find it really hard to object to them getting a couple of hours pleasure imagining they're being rogered vigorously by Lord Montefiore.

LaWeasleyAintWeaselyAnymore Wed 13-Jul-11 19:28:49

I have written a teeny bit on MN about this before - basically I think erotic novels are different (and in fact generally great) because a lot of them are written WITH context (particularly of loving relationships but also just relationships in general).

If you have a BDSM porn video it would just be a man beating up a woman and her appearing to like it, and that's all you get to see, so the image it portrays is extremely damaging.

Whereas you could have a BDSM scene in an erotic novel between a couple, with safe words, where both have expressed an interest, where they have other ways of expressing their feelings, where the guy makes breakfast in the morning and a few days later they switch their 'roles' around... that gives a completely different message about what a healthy sexual relationship is like.

Now, obviously some erotic fiction is a pile of complete rubbish and does all the same things that porn on film does. But it's got a lot more tools at it's disposal to make context and the emotional side really clear, and I think it's important not to forget that it is able to do those things and therefore CAN be a positive.

BellaBearisWideAwake Wed 13-Jul-11 19:33:24

What LaWeasley said. Exactly.

The really good fanfic is like this.

David34 Wed 13-Jul-11 19:36:35

I don't see what you can do in text that can't be done in film.

SinicalSal Wed 13-Jul-11 19:39:43

David - context, s LaWeasly said

it's just as much what can't be done in text that can be done on film, ie real abuse, damage and rape to real people.

HerBeX Wed 13-Jul-11 19:41:09

Text leaves much more to your imagination. That's what can be done in text vs film. That's not just applicable to porn/ erotica, it's also true of all subjects, isn't it?

BertieBotts Wed 13-Jul-11 19:42:37

This made me laugh: www.picturesforsadchildren.com/index.php?comicID=165

I tend to find sex scenes in films and TV programmes, where I know the characters, much more arousing than some out-of-context sex on film, even if that out of context sex is just as loving and consensual and the characters/people are doing exactly the same things, or even if the contextual sex scenes are merely implied rather than explicit. Very occasionally you come across something so well-written or well acted in a film or a photo that is well-shot or whatever (I haven't come across it in porn, but then I'm a bit scared of finding the really nasty stuff to actively seek out porn) that conveys the feelings and emotions and intensity straight away, but it's rare. Often the sexiest scenes are the ones with a slow build up. But as I understand it, isn't that sort of not the point of porn? Isn't the point of it that it's "quick and dirty", that it skips the build up, that it is a fastforward to the point of horniness? (I don't really understand this, because it doesn't have that effect on me, but I understand that it does on most people, or so the porn industry would have us believe.)

LRDTheFeministNutcase Wed 13-Jul-11 19:46:40

At risk of being a bit simple ... text has words in it. There's language to play with, which can be very sexy (or can be revolting).

At nasty example from written culture is the bit in Lolita where the narrator asks you, the reader, to sound out the name Lolita in syllables, as you're tasting it and simultaneously deconstructing it. It's a clever and really manipulatively unpleasant piece of writing - making you complicit in a way. I find it very uncomfortable.

But I agree that imagination is really important. I didn't like all of Moran's book, but I lvoed the bit where she described how imagination and fantasy work best when things are a bit hidden and not graphic.

LRDTheFeministNutcase Wed 13-Jul-11 19:48:57

Cross-post ... Bertie, me too! Doesn't everyone who's been a teenager have some kind of memory of waiting breathlessly to hear the latest twist in a celeb love story or to see the final episode of some slush? You'd invest massive significance in the most bland things just because you knew somethign would happen ... and that's just like RL sexual attraction, which is why it works.

BertieBotts Wed 13-Jul-11 19:50:12

I don't know though, I've read erotic fiction and various fanfictions etc and certain things just grate on me. Ridiculous euphemisms for genitalia. Even some of the less explicit phrases make me feel really uncomfortable reading it.

I think you can get context on film, it just takes longer to set up, usually.

LRDTheFeministNutcase Wed 13-Jul-11 19:52:01

Oh, and how could I forget to ask - what's the famous sexy scene in A S Byatt?

<thumbs copies frantically ... most seem to be about art galleries, the old manuscripts and the Virgin queen but I'm sure the good stuff is here somewhere ....>

BertieBotts Wed 13-Jul-11 19:52:06

I STILL do that LRD grin

LRDTheFeministNutcase Wed 13-Jul-11 19:54:13

Some fanfic is incredibly badly written - I hate it when someone uses a word that just grates and you want the brain bleach. (And, oh Lord, I could have lived without knowing there were people who wrote whole multi-chapter 'novels' about Harry and Draco's mad forbidden love).

LRDTheFeministNutcase Wed 13-Jul-11 19:54:59

grin at BB.

Erm, me too. But I like to think the rest of you are sophisticated adults, you see.

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