Feminisms & Porn Project

(45 Posts)
Mixcloud Mon 13-Mar-17 09:32:59

For any London-based, feminist MNers who use porn (broad definition here to include adults films, erotic literature, fan-fiction etc) and have thoughts/feelings/experiences they'd like to share... I'm doing some research on this and would love to chat if you're able and willing

Especially keen to hear from people who consider themselves to be 'anti-porn', come from a BME background, have a disability, and/or those without a university degree, as I want to do my darndest to make sure all kinds of voices are heard. All welcome though, of course smile

PM me if you'd be up for an interview, would like more info, or just want to chat (I love discussing these topics with other feminists, even if it's not related to my PhD studies) If it's not for you, please consider sharing with someone who you think might be interested. Thanks!

VestalVirgin Mon 13-Mar-17 14:52:47

I am anti-porn. Erotic literature and fanfic are not porn.

You will find more people to interview if you acknowledge the differences.

(I'm not London based, so not interesting for your study. Just pointing this out.)

Mixcloud Mon 13-Mar-17 19:10:39

Thanks for taking the time to post, VV. The variable definitions of porn (and indeed feminism) are something I'm actually exploring in the research, so I'd be very interested in hearing people's points of view on this during the interview. Best wishes & thanks again!

Xenophile Mon 13-Mar-17 19:50:19

You'd probably be better off posting this in Chat. There's not many fun fems who post here.

M0stlyBowlingHedgehog Mon 13-Mar-17 19:59:10

Yup, I'm with Vestal on this one - I not only read, but also write erotic fanfic, but I choose not to consume filmed porn because there is no way of telling as the viewer of the end product whether it was made under duress (i.e. is in fact filmed evidence of rape or sexual assault), or whether it was intended to be shared (cf revenge porn). It is possible there is ethical porn out there, but I'm not prepared to take the risk - I never want to be in a position where I have to say "I just had an orgasm watching another woman be raped."

HelenDenver Tue 14-Mar-17 15:24:47

Another who thinks erotica and filmed porn are different kettles of fish.

CruellaDeVilsEvilSister Tue 14-Mar-17 18:55:57

This is a fairly standard definition of pornography -

'books, magazines, films, etc. with no artistic value that describe or show sexual acts or naked people in a way that is intended to be sexually exciting'

I really don't understand people who claim that there is an inherent difference between filmed porn and written porn. It's all porn. I'm anti all porn.

HelenDenver Tue 14-Mar-17 19:02:12

The difference is that filmed or photographed porn shows sexual acts that are actually happening, whilst written porn (erotica) is imaginary/an account of a past experience

HelenDenver Tue 14-Mar-17 19:02:54

And there are consent issues around real porn participants which don't exist for imaginary people...

M0stlyBowlingHedgehog Tue 14-Mar-17 19:04:09

That's interesting, Cruella, because I haven't come across that particular viewpoint much on here. Am I right in thinking you object to the "intended to be sexually arousing" bit, and if so, why? Is it that it is taken out of context, away from a relationship? Is it that you think it detracts from real world relationships?

I personally see nothing wrong with sexual arousal per se - it is when that sexual arousal comes at the cost of violence to real people, or incites violence towards real people (as a lot of violent, misogynistic porn does) that I find it morally abhorrent. That to me makes perfect sense as a moral distinction, but it seems, not to you, and I'm interested in this.

CruellaDeVilsEvilSister Tue 14-Mar-17 19:30:02

I think porn dehumanises and I think it reduces us all to sex automatons. Yes, like you say Hedgehog it removes sex from its proper context. It's false.

This isn't that controversial though is it? Isn't there a wealth of material on the negative results of porn on how people view sex and the people they have sex with. It can effect sexual function. It can have a desensitising effect. I thought this was all fairly well established.

Like Helen says there can be no consent issues with written porn, but consent issues aren't the only reason we object to porn are they? If, hypothetically, I could meet the actors in a porn scene and they personally reassured me that they had gladly consented, and I found their statements to be credible, I would be no more inclined to watch the porn scene than if I had no idea of their consent. Would you?

Just my opinion of course. I might be it of step with this forum as it's a bit more liberal.

HelenDenver Tue 14-Mar-17 19:38:30

"consent issues aren't the only reason we object to porn are they?"

For me they are the key reason.

" If, hypothetically, I could meet the actors in a porn scene and they personally reassured me that they had gladly consented, and I found their statements to be credible, I would be no more inclined to watch the porn scene than if I had no idea of their consent. Would you?"

Possibly, though my doubt would be around whether I could judge that or if they were acting their gladness, IYSWIM.

Taking it to the most certain I could get that consent was true, if DH and I filmed ourselves, would you find an issue with us watching it?

HelenDenver Tue 14-Mar-17 19:41:07

"Isn't there a wealth of material on the negative results of porn on how people view sex "

Mmm. But that's in part because a lot of porn is quite dehumanising, misogynistic ("slag gets come uppance" kind of thing, though with stronger language) and disregarding of female comfort, let alone arousal.

Erotica is different, though, don't you think?

CruellaDeVilsEvilSister Tue 14-Mar-17 19:44:30

Taking it to the most certain I could get that consent was true, if DH and I filmed ourselves, would you find an issue with us watching it?

No not in theory because it's grounded then in your reality, your relationship isn't it? Although, having said that I don't think it's ever a good idea for a woman to consent to being filmed in a sexual situation. Let's not forget that 'revenge porn' is a thing now. Just another way in which men can exercise their depravity.

CruellaDeVilsEvilSister Tue 14-Mar-17 20:10:28

But that's in part because a lot of porn is quite dehumanising, misogynistic ("slag gets come uppance" kind of thing, though with stronger language) and disregarding of female comfort, let alone arousal.

Erotica is different, though, don't you think?

No I think that that kind of misogynistic language is all too applicable to the vast majority of what is called 'erotica' on the internet. I'm not saying that there isn't a section of erotica somewhere that doesn't fall into that category. I'm sure there is. There's probably some feminist filmed porn somewhere as well but not enough to make a dent in the tidal wave of misogyny.

HelenDenver Tue 14-Mar-17 20:24:21

"No not in theory because it's grounded then in your reality, your relationship isn't it? "

Exactly. So the difficulty is in ascertaining true consent in almost all "filmed sex" situations, bar something as specific as my example.

And as the alternatives to true consent are utterly awful, then I don't watch filmed porn.

Separately, some erotica may well be misogynistic, but there is no risk a rape is happening in front of your eyes. Do you feel the same about writing about violence, say?

CruellaDeVilsEvilSister Tue 14-Mar-17 20:45:21

Separately, some erotica may well be misogynistic, but there is no risk a rape is happening in front of your eyes. Do you feel the same about writing about violence, say?

Yes I think there is writing about violence which in a sense is pornographic. In written porn there is a tremendous crossover between sex and depictions of violence. Even in mainstream fiction you have novels like American Psycho. Now, nobody was actually hurt in American Psycho because it's just a work of fiction but does that mean that those fictional descriptions of sexual violence towards women are fine?

HelenDenver Tue 14-Mar-17 21:26:53

Not fine, and that's not what I said.

American Psycho, to use your example, is in most bookshops and doesn't need to be found on the internet. It's probably "worse" then a hell of a lot of erotica.

Should it be censored? Perhaps. But that's a different conversation to the OP.

Does some writing, whether erotic or not, contribute to rape/misogynistic culture? Yes. By reading a summary or review of it, can you know if this is one of those pieces and choose whether to read it? Very likely.

Does visual porn sometimes involve actual filmed rape? Yes. By looking at it, can you tell if any one piece is consensual? Certainly not for sure. So avoid.

M0stlyBowlingHedgehog Tue 14-Mar-17 21:38:31

Yes, I think I broadly agree with Helen. Would I read American Psycho? No, because the extracts I've read in feminist critiques suggest it to be a misogynistic pile of shite. Would I want it banned? No, because I think therein lies the route to madness - where do you draw the line? Does Erdogan in Turkey get to ban books by political oponents? Does Trump get to censor Saturday Night Live? Do the Taliban get to censor music because dancing is dangerously sexual? That way madness lies. The only appropriate test is "was real world violence involved?" Hence my issue with filmed porn, which does not carry over to written erotica, no matter how distasteful I may find some of the subject matter.

At the same time, I'd argue that a defence of free speech is not a defence of the right to avoid the consequences of that free speech. If (to take one concrete example), Catherine McKinnon wants to stand outside a bookshop reading aloud from American Psycho to draw the public's attention to how vilely misogynistic the book is, she should be allowed to do so (in fact, she was arrested by the mall police). You can't have free speech for male misogynists and deny the right to critique that speech to female radical feminists.

Nor does it mean its not open to criticise certain forms of erotica for their contribution to rape culture. I would say, for instance, that Fifty Shades of Grey (or Fifty Shades of Shite as I always think of it) is almost like a text book advocating putting up with a seriously abusive relationship. I don't want to see it banned, but I should be able to say it is both bad writing, and portrays an irreprably damaged relationship, and contributes to a victim-blaming rape culture where women are encouraged, even socially coerced, by wider society to stay with their abusers.

But the problem surely lies in glorifying abuse and eroticising it, not in the erotic in and of itself. Nothing about sex means it has to be coupled to violence.

picklemepopcorn Tue 14-Mar-17 21:44:31

You want to hear from people who are anti porn, and people who use porn?
Your post read as though you want to hear from people who are anti porn and use porn. Which I thought was a bit limiting!

M0stlyBowlingHedgehog Tue 14-Mar-17 21:46:10

Pickle given the number of American TV evangelists who get caught with their pants round their ankles I think the "Anti porn and use it themselves" constituency might be bigger than you think grin.

HelenDenver Tue 14-Mar-17 22:01:18

Their cross section with the "fill in surveys" group may be low, though, M0stly...

Great post at 2138.

picklemepopcorn Tue 14-Mar-17 22:05:37

You're right, silly me! grin

CruellaDeVilsEvilSister Wed 15-Mar-17 06:49:07

Sorry Helen. I wasn't suggesting that you personally thought a book like American Psycho was something to be supported. I was only pointing out that it's hard to have maintain this hard distinction between filmed pornography which we all agree is reprehensible and written pornography which is not.

I agree with what you say about censorship Hedgehog. I wouldn't advocate censorship for precisely the reasons you detail. I would support free speech for women, something which we do not have as your McKinnon example demonstrates.

I guess I find it a bit depressing that the consumption of written porn is fine just because it can contain no actual 'real' violence. It feels to me like setting the bar pretty low.

M0stlyBowlingHedgehog Wed 15-Mar-17 07:49:04

Glad we agree that censorship is counterproductive.

But I don't get your insistence that all written porn involves violence, Cruella. Sure, some does (50 shades, aimed at "ordinary women", for instance). But I would think far and away the largest in terms of mass market would be good old Mills and Boon, most of which involves explicit sex scenes these days. From what I've seen skimming them out of curiosity (I don't like the "woman's whole purpose in life to is to find fulfillment via a man" vibe to that particular genre) it is generally consensual, enjoyable (well, barring the literary style) sex within a burgeoning relationship - no violence at all. Now it meets the standard for porn - writing intended to elicit sexual arousal - otherwise why put it in at all, why not do the "fade to black at the bedroom door" technique used in M&B back in the 60s? But it's not violent.

And it's not the sex that's insidious about those books - I'd argue it's the regressive sexual politics. (Most of them buy into a picture of romantic relationships where the woman is required to over-think the man's motives, and find excuses for his bad behaviour - which miraculously turns out not to be bad behaviour at the end of the book, but all a misunderstanding. It's a training in how to ignore red flags - that's why I dislike that genre! And incidentally, it's not accidental - as a writer of sorts, albeit a bad one, I'm quite interested in the process of constructing a narrative. All plot development requires some sort of generation of tension. I put external obstacles in my character's way, because I hate this sort of misunderstanding and ensuing overthinking story. But according to some writers of romantic fiction, romance as a genre requires the obstacles to be internal to the characters' understanding of the relationship, otherwise, if you make them external to the relationship, you're no longer writing a romance, you're writing a thriller/adventure/whodunnit/whatever with overtones of romance.)

So I guess Cruella, I'm still trying to get to the bottom of what your objection to sex writing per se is? I agree I don't like writing which eroticises violence (though a lot of people who are into consensual BDSM would disagree with both of us). I certainly hate writing which eroticises non-consensual violence (again, some BDSM enthusiasts would argue that in doing so I'm blurring the distinction between fantasy and reality - that rape fantasies are about pretending to be overpowered, not actually being overpowered. I happen to think that in a society where real world sexual violence is ubiquitous, you can't make that sort of neat distinction.) But I'm still not seeing the problem with writing about consensual, non violent sex. It's all happening inside my head. No real actors were harmed in the making of this book. It doesn't incite me to go out into the real world and do nasty things to other people.

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