Pro-sex, anti-misogyny:where’s the non-vile porn?

Everybody who wrote about porn over the last few decades has noted that the most popular porn is becoming more and more violently misogynistic and cruel, overwhelmingly portraying coercive, abusive sex. This is a trend which seems to not only endanger the porn performers but also distorts porn-consumers’ expectations of sexual relations generally, which harms relationships. There’s an increasing racist trend in terms of which women are being most degraded as well.

Misogynistic pornography has ignited a continuing war between anti-porn feminists who want all porn banned as a threat to all women’s safety and sex-positive feminists who see porn as so important to enhancing healthy female sexuality that the vile stuff must be tolerated in order that healthy erotica may also flourish. The feminist porn-wars derail many a worthwhile discussion unfortunately, but so far not this one below:

It seems so simple to me, and it’s also the middle ground between the two camps. It concedes to the pro-porn side that fantasies are a reflection of society, but it refuses to go along with the idea that fantasies themselves are somehow beyond analysis or criticism that makes the person clinging to the fantasy responsible for his own hatefulness. It concedes to the anti-porn side that misogynist porn (which is, to be honest, most porn) is a dreadful view into the cruelty at the heart of the patriarchy and even that it reinforces these attitudes, but it won’t go so far as single it out as a cause that’s noteworthy.

All this hate and anger, and yet weirdly, porn is also about sex, which for healthy people tends to be more about affection than hatred. The great puzzle I was stuck with after Jensen’s talk after conceding the point that most porn portrays coercive, abusive sex was this: If all men look at porn, and most porn is hateful to women, what does this say about men?

It’s the discussion that I think the intellectually dishonest porn wars are basically conducted to avoid answering. We talk about this or that or anything but that one question, which is why the majority of men are getting off on women’s degradation and humiliation, even men we know do not feel that way about women.

Amanda’s done a cracker of a post about the feminist porn wars and the lack of recognition of a middle ground that’s just sitting there – “most porn is vile, but it doesn’t have to be”. How do we shift the industry away from not only misogynist storylines but misogynist work practises where porn performers end up with HIV due to lack of workplace protection legislation?

Related: Marc at Punkassblog posts on his distress at discovering a plethora of rape porn online.



Categories: gender & feminism, health

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2 replies

  1. They were both very good links. I’ve only seen one porn video in the last 20 years and it was so boring that found myself looking at their watches and wonder why they were all wearing watches.
    I visit an archaelogy webring hub and logged on to a site that was supposed to be about Roman ruins but was anything but. It wasn’t only the photographs that stunned me but the language used to describe the videos they came from. I was appalled by the fact that a child could have come across this as I did, by accident and wasn’t Internet savvy enough then to know who to complain to.

  2. I’m very much with Amanda on the idea that porn’s not bad in theory, but so much of it is hateful – why and what to do?
    I had a boyfriend years ago who had some very cheesy British porn of the typical couple having enthusiastic sex being discovered by another person who joins in type. The dialog was hysterically stilted.
    I much prefer the honest type of sex scene you get in many European films – no prudery and no salaciousness either, just couples enjoying each other’s bodies. And then the rest of the plot unfolds.

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