Porn discussion round-up

Posted at 23:25 on 1 Mar 2011 by Pandora / Blake

Tags: Gender politics, meta-analysis, Politics, Sex worker rights

Hello! I've had a brilliant few days away, including several kinky escapades which I will describe to you in due course. In the meantime, I have a growing collection of links I want to share with you in the wake of Lady Porn Day, so I thought I'd shove them all in a single post so I don't get overwhelmed by blog drafts.

1.
I really like this mini-comic Dirty Magazines by Heather Bradley about a young woman's first encounters with porn.





Obviously, I don't agree with the "no-one gets hurt" item in the narrator's definition of porn she's comfortable viewing, but I like the emphasis on the development of personal criteria. And you could more or less re-formulate it as "no-one gets harmed", using conventional BDSM distinctions between "hurt" and "harm".

2.
MayMay has written an excellent article unpacking the concept of "gaze" in porn, titled Breaking Pornography's Fourth Wall: Erotic Satisfaction as a Function of Gaze. Both article and comments are well worth reading.

Put simply, a gaze identifies a viewer, or a gazer. When a womans curves linger on-screen, as they so often do in cinema, or when a picture of, say, a skinny white womanbaring it all is shown, as it so often is in pornography, the viewer is commonlyand often rightlyassumed to be a heterosexual male.

However, this conceptualization of gaze is limiting. Knowing who the gazer is tells us very little about how they are gazing. Part of understanding a persons pornographic tastes relies on understanding whether their gaze is objectifying or embodying. An objectifying gaze is one in which the gazerthe consumer of the pornographic artifactimagines themselves as observing the model in a pornographic image, while an embodying gaze is one in which they imagine themselves as being the model. Read more »

3.
The Irrationality of the Anti-Sex Lobby by Brooke Magnanti on Freedom in a Puritan Age

The notion that exposure to sexualised imagery is a) different now than it has been in the past, and b) causes damage to children as a result, is widely assumed but not proven. Most of the reviews on the topic rely on data from adults viewing pornography, which is clearly not the same thing as children seeing a Bratz doll. In any case the results from adult studies are mixed, with a tendency to indicate that pornography may somewhat exacerbate, but does not itself cause, negative effects. The hype about sexualisation seems to assume a slippery slope that might not even have a fulcrum in the first place. Read more »

4.
Finally, here's a refreshingly balanced take on porn legislation on the Guardian's Comment is Free, by Kristina Lloyd - Why doesn't Jacqui Smith take a relaxed view of pornography?

And what might happen if people watched porn for hours on end? The implication is that this would be personally harmful and socially destabilising, a conclusion based in part on the notion that sexual pleasure is inherently corrupting. A great deal of lazy thinking, myth making, poor research and anecdotal evidence surrounds debates on the sex industry. A recent Cambridge debate asking "Does pornography provide a good public service?" saw prominent, anti-porn campaigner, Gail Dines, taken to task for supporting her argument with shoddy stats from unreliable sources. The Lilith report of 2003 used inaccurate statistics to conclude that an increase in lap-dancing clubs in Camden led to an increase in rape. The report, challenged by Brooke Magnanti, remains influential, presumably because to many people it sounds right. Read more »

Comments

A tiny mining town in North Idaho called Wallace simply ignored anti-prostitution laws until the mid 1980's. The girls operated within strict unwritten guidelines, and the whole town was happy. Some state attorney general decided to take action and raided the 3 operating bordellos, effectively closing them down. According to the locals, their incidence of sex related crimes from rape to wife beating soon skyrocketed.

Excellent post, Pandora! As usual, it seems you are looking at many different aspects of the issue through a very thoughtful lens.

Like many thinking, sensitive people, I have had a complex relationship with pornography. Before I became a feminist (20+ years ago in my 20s) I was definitely a gazer who did objectify the women I viewed in pornography. They were a "means to an end". As I moved towards a more enlightened perspective, I began to move more towards that strange nexus where conservatives and certain kinds of feminists and certain types of liberals agree that pornography is bad for women and bad for the relationships in society between men and women.

Add to that my complex relationship with spanking and BDSM over that same period, and there's a lot to unpack. I won't get into all that here, but from what I'm reading of your posts about pornography/erotica and in particular, your take on spanking/BDSM erotica, I think I tend to agree with you. Correct me if I've interpreted you incorrectly, but my take-away message is that the whole idea behind feminism is to give women equal opportunity and access to whatever they choose to partake in - which of course includes pornography.

That being said, I think we both agree that there seems to be good, sex-positive, woman-positive porn (including BDSM of course) as well as sex-debasing, female-degrading (non-consensual or at least non-respectful) porn and variations in between.

Also, I think we agree that the solution to the "bad" stuff is not going to be legislative. It will be a question of enlightenment of consciousness. That's one of the reasons I'm a huge fan of your blog. You are a consistent advocate for enlightenment and feminism in a very sexy and sex-positive context here.

It is writers and publishers like you that will bring the much needed awareness and perspective needed in society to bring us into that higher consciousness we should be striving for.

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