Porn and taboo: it’s awfully quiet in here

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All italicised quotations are from our porn survey respondents

The thing about porn (well, yes, one of many things, but this is a real big one), is that although as a generation we’ve accepted it as a staple, we still feel uncomfortable talking about it. We shy away from interrogating it. Porn’s both completely normalised, and a total taboo: a paradox.

I spoke to ardent anti-porn feminist, Dr Gail Dines, who reckons this ubiquitous-yet-unspoken porn culture has come about because the PR-machine around big business porn has actively made it so, thus allowing the massive, unregulated porn industry a hefty (and entirely uninterrogated) foothold in all of our lives. This, Dines reckons, lends it the power to exploit, manipulate and profit any-which-way it pleases.

If that sounds a bit conspiracy theorist to you (Dines is very ardent), that’s cool, but I’ll just say it does seem a bit telling when nearly all the sites offering you any kind of stats on porn viewing are sites run by anti-porn activists or religious groups (really, give it a Google).

“No sex ed I have received included anything about porn. Except Christian talks addressing the downfalls.”

Where are the neutral and open discussions of porn? Why’s the debate squarely framed in the limited and useless debate of freedom vs prudishness? What about everything else?

“If it’s an industry, then why is it still taboo to talk about/be in?”

And by everything else, I mean everything this series has covered – intimacy, body image, how porn’s reframing relationships, and how it’s impacting on what we’re up to in the sack. How it’s leading to dangerous behaviour (including addiction, unprotected sex, and a taste for non-consensual acts), and how our kids don’t know how to deal with it. How to find porn, if we want it, that doesn’t offend our social compass. Our health, our happiness, our human-to-human bonds.

“Has porn ever made you feel pressured?”

“A little.”

We tend not to address all this, to forget about it easily, because there’s no one presenting it in a neutral fashion: there’s just the religious puritans and the censorship mongering prudes. And we’re not comfortable talking about it with each other either.

“The air of unmentionable mystery it has gives it enormous power.”

“Porn – like many other taboo subjects – attracts unfair biases in discussions surrounding it. Whilst many of these are negative assumptions (about its social effects), they can also be positive assumptions, encouraged by the industry. So it goes both ways.”

“The further it is pushed underground the more dangerous the porn industry will become.”

As it stands, the taboo shrouding porn means there’s little or no provision of support for people who need it, and there’s no resource or conversation to turn to for people who want to know how and why it’s affecting us, and what other people really think. In fact, several respondents made a point to thank us for offering them a platform on which to voice their otherwise unspoken experiences.

“I’m interested to know other results to these questions as personally think it is a fascinating topic which people often shy away from.”

“I´ve surprised myself by listing so many positives about porn in this questionnaire, but I do think that it´s very, very dangerous and not talked about enough in our lives.”

“A balanced and open discussion needs to be drawn to link sex, loving relationships, and porn.”

“The only way the culture of sexuality and pornography will ever really grow is if it looses its stigma and people are able to discuss it.”

Our respondents voiced a resounding desire for the porn conversation to be opened up, and, as we’ll explore next time, from across the disconnected feedback there also rose a collective rallying cry: for a better, healthier, happier porn culture.

 Explore the whole series here.

@lucehouse



Image Credit: Dan Queiroz via Compfight (CC)

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