Porn: young people call for change

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All italicised, anonymous responses are from young people who responded to our survey.

You’d have to be pretty doggedly devoted to porn to deny there’s a whole lot of it that’s robotic, violent or just downright creepy. Porn culture, as it stands right now, is missing the marks it could be just so good at hitting – or, at least, so say the respondents to our porn survey.

“I want there to be a way for people to arouse themselves if they want to, without exploitation of the participants or pressures on women (it’s inevitably women) in the wider world. But how?! The status quo is not okay.”

A cheerful old wank

Let’s take it as read that there’s nothing inherently wrong with having a cheerful old wank (if that raises your hackles you possibly won’t benefit much from reading the rest of this article), and also posit that doing so to porn is just a heightening of the experience of that pretty natural bodily function. The problem, then, arises in the fact the majority of porn is just not in a good place right now.

“Porn itself shouldn’t be damaging; I think it’s the whole culture of porn that’s dangerous.”

“Porn rarely feels like it is about the sex, and far more often feels like it’s about the power relations between men and women (in mainstream heterosexual porn – my knowledge is not extensive).”

The repulsion of some people from porn because of its too-often-for-comfort pretty sexist gaze is often wrongly dismissed as prudishness – not being comfortable with others being comfortable with sex. But that’s not why it’s easy to take against porn as a fan of gender equality. It’s easy because an uncomfortable majority of free-to-access mainstream porn showcases and glorifies women being treated like crap.

In a 2010 study (1), nearly 90% of the 304 free-to-access, top rated porn films surveyed featured violence against women.

“I have had guys say weird things to me like ‘keep still’ during one night stands.”

“I’d be watching what seemed to be, and claimed to be, a pretty standard sex scene. And then the man would, out of nowhere, start choking the woman. And it made me feel really uncomfortable.”

Power dynamics

Within balanced, consenting sexual scenarios, any kind of sex is, of course, fine. But, as one respondent summed up perfectly, this is not often what’s happening in porn.

“I want all kinky, interesting, taboo stuff the same as men do, but I don’t want to always feel dirty watching it, or feel that the woman is only there to satisfy the man/men.”

“If I want to see a woman being degraded, then it should be because she has made that choice and I have chosen to watch it. For me there only need be a subtle line between the female and male perspective/portrayal of women in porn, but it’s a huge and important one, and it’s not being drawn at the moment.”

A gay respondent explained he sees a clear difference in dynamics between gay porn which depicts subjugating acts, and straight versions of this.

“Of course there’s rough porn in the gay world based around ideas of domination and degradation as well; but I feel that the gender divide really fuels a more violent, combative, adversarial undercurrent in straight porn – men against women, rather than men *with* women, as ‘positive’ porn should be.”

Behind the lens

Yes, porn can be helpful. And masturbation is natural. But as it stands, too much of the porn culture of the internet age is unacceptable. There are plenty of sources out there which cover the often misogynistic, and also often racist, narratives it promotes. Child safety is a real issue too, with approximately 20% of all internet pornography child sexual abuse (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 2013). One third of all porn searches are for ‘teen porn’. Have a delve into the net on these topics if you’re interested.

And if that wasn’t already enough, it’s not just what’s being depicted which can be wholly problematic; what goes on behind the lens can be troubling too.

“Perhaps, if I could instantly change porn in one way it would be to ensure that all the actors/ participants in a given film or image were entirely willing participants who consented to the porn being published online.”

“I love porn. But I suppose I do watch some stuff and worry: ooh, could this be revenge porn, might this be something that this person doesn’t want me to see?”

Hope?

Regulation is a thorny issue, and since porn’s a topic that doesn’t get such a great showing in public (or indeed, private) discussion, it’s hard to imagine any change will be easy.

Evidently though, if we go by our respondents, among porn’s consumers there is hunger for change. Although it may appear at first glance insurmountable, there are definitely things we can start doing to promote a better porn culture. Indeed, as we’ll explore, there are individuals and groups already making efforts to do just that. Come back for the next, and final, article, on how we can make things better.

 Explore the whole series here.

@lucehouse

Source:

(1) Ana Bridges. ‘Aggression and Sexual Behavior in Best-Selling Pornography Videos: A Content Analysis Update’. October 2010.

 Image credit: Shrieking Tree via Compfight

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