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Porn

People who are easily offended should skip forward a page, because I’d like to talk to you for a minute about porn. More specifically, I want to talk to you about my two views on porn. The first is as a socially conscious and moral human being, I see pornography as exploitative, immoral and above all misogynistic and degrading to women. The second is as a single, red-blooded male, I see pornography as lots of attractive, improbably proportioned women writhing around in lubricated ecstasy for my viewing pleasure. From this point of view, well, porn pretty much rules.

Man at computer Man's sunglasses

To me, these views seem incompatible, so a bit of explanation is necessary. The anti-porn stance is easy to justify. As Robert Jensen says in his work on the subtexts of pornography, in any porn movie the woman is reduced to three holes and two hands, her worth defined in terms of the friction that those holes and hands can produce on a penis. We don’t empathise with these women, we merely desire them; they are reduced to no more than objects put on earth to facilitate male masturbation.

As for whether it is exploitative, many people would say that women in porn have a choice, they are being paid for what they do and no one is forcing them. In fact, other men I’ve talked to about this exploitation often say exactly the opposite – ‘they aren’t exploited, it’s the women who are exploiting us, taking advantage of their looks and the male mentality so they can get paid for doing something they enjoy’. On one level this may be true, but many porn actresses either entered the industry in order to fund serious drugs problems, or are introduced to drugs by fellow performers and subsequently become hooked. Does anyone think that crack-whores who work street corners have got it sussed and are playing us poor men for fools? Thought not.

It has also been suggested that many porn actresses have deep-seated emotional problems, something which holds sadly true for many excessively promiscuous women. I think it would be fairly naïve to assume that every woman in every film is there because they really, really like sex and figure ‘why not get paid for it?’

I also believe that porn presents a danger to sexual development, especially if viewed by young people. Now, I myself discovered porn before I had any sexual experience, but I did have a lot of emotional experience and it was obvious to me that it represented a fantasy far removed from real sex and love. I don’t believe that this exposure to pornography warped me sexually, or grossly distorted my view of sex. That being said, I certainly wouldn’t generalise from my own experiences toall young people. The internet has made porn readily available to anyone with basic IT skills, and this includes people who may not have a clear understanding of its true nature, and the psychological effects of this are hard to gauge.

Now, that’s a lot of reasons to be against porn. So I ask myself, what’s going on? I’m against sweatshops so I buy ethical clothes, I’m against cruelty to animals so I don’t eat meat, and I’m against pornography…in principle…but there’s something about it that’s so compelling. The lack of commitment needed, for one. Turn it on, enjoy, turn it off, without any emotional involvement beyond that. And no pressure to perform…remember, sex is tougher on men: the male orgasm is assured whilst the female can be elusive, and sometimes sex (especially with a new partner) is ruined by the niggling ‘will she/ won’t she’ in the back of your mind. When you imagine yourself in the position of the guy on-screen, you’re free to be more, ahem, self-involved.

Another factor is the cathartic element of it. In porn you see things that, every now and then, you think about doing to your girlfriend but don’t because they’re just too disrespectful – in this sense it’s a testing ground for some of the darker impulses of the psyche to be played out safely. On the level of the personal then, I quite like porn, on the level of the political, I don’t. I’m certainly not ashamed of it, or I wouldn’t have written this article…but having said that, this is one issue of Impact I won’t be showing my mother. I guess the day they make an ethical feminist-love-porn film, I’ll rest easy.

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