In Bare to You by Sylvia Day, we have the hero trying to persuade the heroine she’s a submissive even though she’s telling him otherwise; and even though he’s a refined billionaire, he keeps referring to her vagina as cunt.
In Bang by E.K. Blair (which I loved for other reasons), the infuriated hero beats up the heroine with a belt; later he urinates inside her to “mark” her as his. In Echo, the sequel, he’s enraged and brutally rapes her in the ass even after having learned that she was sexually abused during her entire childhood. She’s also raped by another character with the handle of a gun.
In Echo: A Dark Billionaire Romance by A. Zavarelli, the blurb reads: “He says he owns me. And it’s true … I’ve signed over complete control of my body and life for six months to a man I don’t know … He likes to hurt me. I love to let him. He brings me to life. He sets me free.”
In Owned by M. Never, the hero says, “I like you collared, baby. I like you naked, I like you mine.” He drugs her, and she wakes up in a cage to be raped every day until her will is broken, for her own safety because he’s “protecting her” from a terrible danger.
I also remember reading the synopsis of a novel where the dominant hero for some reason could only experience pleasure through anal sex, so the girl went along with that. I didn’t read the novel, but I can imagine all the lust and backdoor activities happening on a regular basis.
Do we see a pattern here? Keywords: submission, property, rape and, of course, anal sex all over the place. Some of the details in the books I’ve mentioned are so out there I won’t even comment on them, as I don’t mean to be harsh. My only goal here is to detect elements in those stories that connect to porn. And keep in mind that there are gazillions of similar novels in the mainstream market.
The problem is also that, just like porn, many erotic novels portray actual-life role playing—in which no actual harm is done—as the real thing. So they glorify sexual violence I remember watching the 2014 documentary Kink about the homonymous BDSM porn site kink.com. The pain is real, but they’re all very professional and respect the performers’ boundaries. There are two things, though. One, performers feel they have to endure as much pain as possible. Two, there are rape scenes in some of the films. The usual yada-yada, the rape occurs and in the end the victim enjoys it (I am so sick of repeating this over and over, it’s past getting old).
When you see the shooting, it’s clear no harm is done. But when you watch the scene, even though you know it’s a performance, it sells you the idea of the real thing: that rape is normalized as something acceptable because it’s exciting and the victim likes it. It also reinforces the notion that when a woman says no, she actually means yes because she will eventually enjoy forceful sex. So those films are not selling a fantasy, they’re selling an idea. The same goes with erotic novels. And that can be very dangerous.
Even novels without blatant violence such as Burning Offer by Audrey Parker reveal a strong porn influence. Here the heroine literally drenches her panties just by looking at the hero. A couple of characters have sex on cue and the guy penetrates her in a rough way (apparently, it’s the only way to penetrate a woman these days). A girl screams she wants the guy to come all over her face. The hero ejaculates on the heroine’s back over her dress, and later he threatens to stick his cock down her throat and fuck it until she learns to listen.
To fuck a woman’s mouth. How sweet. As I remember, fellatio used to be a way for a woman to express herself and actively pleasure a man all the while having pleasure in the process of giving. Now, thanks to porn, it has been reduced to “mouth fuck,” meaning the woman is again a passive hole and gets nothing out of it except for a sore throat and a very unpleasant chocking session. What was once a sensual expression bonding a woman and a man turned into punishment creating distance. That’s how fucked up porn is. That’s how it fucks up our sexuality.
Have we become so colonized by male porn that romance authors are compelled to write that kind of stuff and readers are compelled to love it? Just like male porn molded men’s sexuality, it seems erotic romance finished the job by molding women’s sexuality. Research shows that, unlike men, women don’t enjoy extreme porn. But now extreme porn comes to women in the form of books sugarcoated in romance, and it desensitizes them just as filmed porn has desensitized men.
I highly doubt women would enjoy watching a film with a heroine being painfully raped in the ass, but in writing there’s a whole backdrop to that scene, the hero is hot and has a thing going with the heroine, and he will inevitably root for her at some point, so rape becomes acceptable and readers forgive it—some simply brush it off and forget about it in face of the happy ending. While the violence becomes ingrained in men’s brains through sexual gratification, in romance books it becomes ingrained in women’s brains through a romantic backdrop. In both cases, violence gets inextricably linked to sexual pleasure and titillation.
When you sexualize violence, it becomes invisible.
My personal experience
Even review submission forms in romance blogs sometimes state that the staff won’t accept books with rape perpetrated by the hero but “forceful seduction” is okay. What the hell does that even mean? Forceful is forceful and is NOT okay. It implies that a man is entitled to a woman’s body no matter what. I have a confession to make, though. After reading books of that kind, I myself fell into the trap once. I’ll share my personal experience to illustrate how easy it is for that to happen.
After reading those books, I questioned for a moment if my novel RED wasn’t too tame. Although graphic, it didn’t include anal sex, and the BDSM in it was light and not too detailed, focusing rather on pleasurable foreplay and emotional connection. Now I’m actually happy it stayed that way.
When I wrote a Fifty Shades of Grey spin-off for a contest, however, I knew it would have to be very steamy, so I created a scene where the attraction between the main characters had the hero immobilizing the heroine and fingering her while she protested: he aimed to prove that she wanted him as much as he wanted her. I was aware the scene was over-the-top but it felt tongue-and-cheek to me, since there was humor in it. The copy editor, a middle-age man who obviously has never read erotic romance, pointed out that that was rape. I dismissed his comment, as readers raved about the story and I had no time to rewrite that whole scene. I opted for the easy solution of stressing how much the heroine was attracted to the hero, conveying she was sending mixed signals to him—which is a dangerous notion nonetheless, as interpreting signals is subjective, in which case any man could force himself upon a woman with the excuse that she had sent him mixed signals.
If I were to write that story today, I would do the scene differently.
Before reading contemporary erotic romance, the inclusion of rape in one of my plots would have never crossed my mind. But on another occasion, I caught myself considering a rape scene—or “forceful seduction” if you will—for a short story. It would be a disguised role play session, so the hero wouldn’t be actually forcing the heroine to have sex, although the unaware reader would have that impression. It seemed to me like a way of adding tension and excitement to the plot. It’s a common gimmick: include rape in a story, and you’ll immediately create conflict, interest and empathy. Then all alarms went off in my head. Why on earth would I resort to a rape scene to promote sexual titillation through a non-consensual act, even if it wasn’t real rape?
There you go. In spite of all my preaching against that sort of message, I almost fell into the trap. Authors, like everyone else, are not immune to cultural indoctrination.
On my next post I’ll talk about something that is becoming the norm in mainstream erotic romance, just as it is mandatory in mainstream porn: anal sex. I read somewhere that it has turned into the “new virginity” in erotic romance. Let’s take a closer look at that butt, shall we? I will not be discussing romance further: on my next post I’m going strictly anal—for your reading pleasure.
My very first post on this blog was about heroines in romance novels. I felt compelled to write it after reading a number of erotic romance novels and detecting a pattern of heroines being sexually abused by their heroes. I began to wonder why and, among other reasons, concluded the authors—all of them women—had been colonized by male porn to such an extent that they were reproducing it in their stories. Readers, colonized as much as the authors, bought the idea and created the necessary demand to make that sort of material thrive in mainstream erotic romance.
At the time, I was surprised but hadn’t really paid close attention to porn. Now that I have, I can understand the reason why male porn is so pervasive in romance novels written by women for women: it is the major reference for sex available, and it has already expanded to pop culture as I’ve mentioned in another post. Here I will analyze some of the stories I came across.
Fifty shades of female frustration
I will start with Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, the erotic novel whose success inserted male porn in mainstream romance and opened the gates to a deluge of similar stories. It’s all about female submission, exquisite pleasure mixed with pain and the notion that a woman is a man’s property. Female readers found the novel to be empowering and liberating for women. I’m not so sure about that. Fifty Shades more likely provided women with an outlet to their sexual fantasies and a titillation of transgression, since BDSM deviates from regular sexual practices—when the novel first came out in 2012, BDSM wasn’t prevalent in pop culture as it is today. In that sense, the novel validated women as sexual beings entitled to have pleasure and break free from the boundaries of convention. Finally, women had found their own porn in the mainstream.
If you strip off Fifty Shades of its sexual content, however, what’s left is a very traditional love story, with conventional male and female roles of dominance and submission. But the novel didn’t stay at that: when it reinstated the notion that a woman is the property of a man, it actually took women’s rights and freedom backwards, making us go back a few hundred years. In old times, women were indeed the property of men, with their sexuality tightly controlled to protect property and make sure they didn’t generate illegitimate heirs.
Moreover, I don’t see how a heroine could be possibly empowered when she’s afraid of the hero, begs him not to hurt her, and is subjected to sex as punishment for his pleasure. Christian Grey, nevertheless, is rich, handsome and emotionally damaged, so all is forgiven. Ana can’t resist him, and in spite of her reluctance, she always experiences glorious orgasms no matter what he does—here, we have the typical male porn scenario, when the man imposes acts the woman doesn’t want and doesn’t like, but eventually enjoys.
Something else is going on with Fifty Shades. In his own words, Christian Grey is a sadist. Why would any woman in her right mind find it so hot to be around a sadist? Yet readers rave about the novel. As I mentioned, Grey is very handsome. I doubt women would be so excited to submit to his whip if he looked like an ogre. And what’s with the contract he wants Ana to sign in order to become his property? That doesn’t make any sense. Imagine a lawyer in real life writing such contract. Wait: a lawyer wouldn’t write a single line because that’s slavery and, according to the Constitution, it’s illegal.
So that begs the question: why, oh women, why are you so drawn to Christian Grey and the damn contract? I have a guess. Maybe women are tired of decades of double shift, working hard to make a living and then going back home to take care of endless household chores. In that light, the thought of having someone free them of that burden is appealing. Let alone someone handsome and filthy rich like Christian Grey.
There’s an archetypal dynamics in romance novels with alpha males that goes like this: the abusive hero resists his budding love for the heroine and mistreats her as she endures it and quietly gets under his skin. Maybe that goes to teach female submission or the lesson that love conquers all? There’s also the irresistible appeal of a damaged hero that makes his bad behavior forgivable: it speaks to the feminine nurturing nature while tickling it with the challenge of winning the hero’s heart.
I see countless women over the Internet that are addicted to romance books. They say they need them to escape the chores and worries of their daily lives. Have women become so worn out by double shifting that they desperately need this outlet? Or are some of them still eternal princesses in search of a prince?
The next book I’m going to peruse is Sweet Temptation by best-selling author Maya Banks. Here, the heroine Angelina is offered by the hero Micah to his pals Rick, Chris and Cole. He doesn’t ask her permission or warns her about what’s going to happen since he can do whatever he wants because “she belongs to him.” The scene goes on for several chapters. It starts with Angelina bare naked, with a butt plug stuck up her ass, bringing beer to the men at Micah’s command. I describe what happens next in the section below. The passages in italics reflect the same kind of wording used in the book. I warn you that the scene is quite graphic. If you like, you can skip the details—just ignore the section below marked with stars.
* * * Warning: graphic content * * *
Angelina sucks Rick without being allowed to use her hands. He yanks her down, forcing her into his erection. After a while he says, “Holy shit, she’s magnificent.” Then he pulls away, forces her mouth open, jerks off and ejaculates in her mouth. He commands her to hold it all. He commands her to swallow it. Then he calls her a sweetheart. Chris is next and has vaginal intercourse with Angelina. He’s huge and stretches her impossibly to the point of pain and it’s delicious. At one point he says: “You can’t take all of me, baby? Not many women can. Before the night’s over with, you will. You’ll take me in every one of your holes.”
He ravages her nipples, she whimpers in pain but wants more. He hammers all of his dick into her as she cries out in pain. She orgasms. He says it was amazing and is careful not to hurt her when he withdraws. After a brief break for rest, Cole kisses Angelina, moving his hips forcefully over hers. Micah (the hero) stares at her with approval and desire. Cole orders Angelina to kneel down and ties her wrists up to some sort of BDSM apparatus. He says, “I’m going to mark you, Angelina. Not just a red welt here and there.”
He adds she can stop him but he doesn’t think she will. Then he starts whipping her. Micah presses his cock to her mouth. He’s deep in her throat in a second. She makes a choking sound and he grips her tighter. Rick says “that’s fucking hot.” It’s Chris turn to fuck her mouth brutally. She chokes and coughs, he fucks harder until he orgasms. The front of Angelina’s body is covered in his and Micah’s semen, “rivulets over her skin, warm, soft, evidence of their passion.” Rick rounds up the “passion” by ejaculating over her breasts. Cole stops whipping her at this point and proceeds to spank her with a wooden beam. It hurts like fire but soon Angelina is taken by sweet pleasure. The blows continue to land hard. Cole kisses her abused flesh.
Angelina is released and then tied up by two ropes hanging from the ceiling. She’s balancing on tiptoe. Cole takes her in the ass while tenderly stimulating her in the front—a demonstration of his caring and regard for her. She orgasms. Micah releases her and kisses her gently.
Angelina kneels down, Chris penetrates her ass while Rick penetrates her mouth. Chris praises her obedience to owner Micah and says she’s wonderful, Rick says “Suck my dick. He’s going to fuck your ass until you make me come.” He forces himself deep into her throat. Chris hammers into her, knocking her forward. She would have screamed as pain lances through her throbbing anus, but Rick’s cock is buried so deep she can’t even breathe around it. Chris says he has some bad news for Angelina: he’s only halfway in. He hammers forward again, she rips her mouth from Rick’s cock and Rick grabs her hair, yanking her head back down and forcing his cock back into her mouth.
The thing goes on, she wants more, she feels “beautiful” and “alive.” I thought they were already going at her as hard as it gets, but apparently not, because they go even harder. Chris touches her clitoris and she orgasms, bursting “like an overinflated balloon.” Rick brings her a drink and apologizes for coming in her mouth, saying it was “kind of uncool.”
Angelina is sprawled and tied up on a table. Cole kisses her, and she thinks he tastes of “comfort” and “love.” He explains he will use safe candles on her and proceeds to drip hot wax all over her body. Micah caresses her between her legs, Rick and Chris suck her nipples. It goes on, and this is how she feels: With four sets of male eyes admiring her naked, wax-splattered body, she felt beautiful, desirable. Ultra feminine and powerful. “And now we’ll all have you, Angel girl,” Micah says. Coles fucks her hard in the vagina, then is replaced by Rick and finally by Chris. Then Cole takes her ass while Micah takes her vagina, in double penetration, and Rick and Chris make her suck them. Afterwards, still in double penetration mode, she gives both Rick and Chris simultaneous hand jobs until they ejaculate on her. Cole ejaculates in her. Finally, Micah’s friends thank Angelina for a wonderful evening, pet her gently and say she’s amazing.
After his friends leave, Micah prepares a bath for Angelina. When they go to bed, “he hovers protectively over her, a shield between her and the rest of the world,” and takes her slowly. They reach orgasm. She falls asleep, “surrendered to the velvet clasp of his protection.”
* * * End of graphic content * * *
There’s more stuff happening with Cole and apparatuses and whatnot in the next chapters, but I think you get the gist. I apologize for the graphic details, but I included them to illustrate the violence and how it is delivered to look acceptable and desirable. This is always done in romance novels that feature an abusive hero. He hurts, he kisses, he mistreats, he brings flowers.
I don’t even know how to begin with Sweet Temptation. It’s pure porn. Just film it and you’ll have the perfect gonzo video. The only thing is, no real woman would survive that. Just like in a staple gang bang scene, Angelina is reduced to a body for abuse and a set of holes for ad nauseum penetration. We have in one single evening fifteen penetrations, one of them double vaginal-anal, and on top of that whipping (blood drawn), spanking with a wooden beam, hot wax play, lots of ordering the heroine around, hair gripping, gagging, forcing and hammering, as well as the classic money shot featured in every porn film on earth. In addition, there’s the message that, if a woman is beautiful and behaves like a good object, she’s praised and desired, which means she’s loved—is she?
Since this is a romance novel and not a porn film, instead of spitting on her face, the men make compliments to Angelina and have bouts of “tenderness” in between forceful acts. Here’s an example from my description: He hammers all of his dick into her as she cries out in pain. She orgasms. He says it was amazing and is careful not to hurt her when he withdraws. Or: Rick’s cock is buried so deep she can’t even breathe … he grabs her hair, yanking her head back down and forcing his cock back into her mouth … he apologizes for coming in her mouth and says it was “uncool.”
Does that even make sense? What difference does it make that guy #1 withdraws carefully after hammering into her as she cried in pain? What difference does it make that guy #2 apologizes for coming in her mouth, when he’s already forced himself into it with such force she could hardly breathe? Such scenes require a good coat of sugar and “exquisite pleasure derived from pain,” or else they won’t sit well with female readers.
It is, once again, the usual porn routine: the reluctant woman always ends up enjoying whatever the guy is imposing on her. The whole scene still feels pretty violent to me albeit much less disturbing than the first time I read it (thanks to the nefarious effect of desensitization after repeated exposure). Some readers hated the book, but most found it hot and gave it many stars. To me, it all goes to show how colonized by male porn our whole society has become. Male porn has created demand for more extreme material. Now this romance vein of male-porn-turned-female-porn is going down the same route.
Female sexual freedom?
Sociologist Gail Dines, the author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, has an interesting take on that. In the fifties women were portrayed on their knees waxing floors. Today they wax their pubic hair and are displayed on their knees to fulfill male fantasies.
Before ending this post, I’d like to make it clear that I’m not criticizing the authors mentioned here. My point is to highlight how porn has pervaded mainstream romance novels. On my next post I’ll wrap up this subject with additional examples and my personal experience.
The evolution of the mind and the body is fascinating. Science shows it has progressed at a snail pace at times and other times huge leaps propelled people’s thinking, physical adaptation and the way they related to each other as a result of moving from a nomadic culture to farming.
During the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods, primitive humans were able to separate sexual intercourse and other acts into recreation and procreation. Timothy Taylor’s Prehistory of Sex is an excellent source for understanding sexual dynamics. In addition, monogamy was not the usual pattern for various female species, according to D. Barash and J. Lipton’s work The Myth of Monogamy.
Monogamy was not part of the vocabulary or thoughts of men and women then. Marriage and associated ceremonies had yet to be created that might resemble what we are familiar with today. There were partnerships but the woman was viewed as having a greater role in the partnership, and depending on the tribe was free to choose with whom she mated regardless of her primary partner. When tribes began developing farming, the introduction of patriarchy emerged, along with the idea of possession such as land, animals, family and servants. Attitudes changed about what belonged to whom.
Jealousy, which was apparently not widespread as some scholars have suggested, became more so when property, patriarchy, servants, slaves and animals were formally incorporated within to the structures of society. Patriarchy and property came hand in hand and were viewed as an investment. Investments seemed to have become siblings of envy and jealousy. It’s about possession and return on investment. Whereas nomadic tribes shared for the sake of survival, farmers tended to share for a price of what they produced.
Sex and relationships became more compartmentalized depending on the tribe with rules, guidelines and commandments to keep people in line. It was about control and power. Moreover, in primitive tribes, sex was a vehicle for more than just producing children and was experienced as part of natural behavior and at times within tribal rites and ceremonies. It was also considered simply as fun and a joyful occasion: heterosexuality, homosexuality and bi-sexuality were natural.
We know that cultural conditioning affects behavior. A number of studies such as The Manipulated Mind by Denise Winn show that people are subject to conditioning, which takes many forms. Monogamy is one form of conditioning, mostly through religious belief. We are raised to see things in a certain way and think it’s natural or unnatural or perverse to whatever the norm is at the time. Our informal and formal education feeds into our conditioning, as noted in Brain Washing by Kathleen Taylor.
We also know that male and female relations are affected not only by religion but also by culture and local social structures that affect how we think, relate to each other and act. Non-monogamy, it seems, was at one time the norm, more for the female than the male according to Taylor’s studies.
Today, monogamous relationships are changing as more people remain single or are in alternative-style relationships. We are in a time of culture, personal value and ethical reassessment. Traditional partnerships? What will that mean in the future? Partnerships and the entire concept of monogamy and marriage will continue to dramatically change throughout the 21st century. We are living in a period of a rebirth of consciousness and thinking as a result of the downstream effects of technology.
I think we will increasingly find that more “females” will become breadwinners and “men” will more often be in roles previously defined as a woman’s while also working out of the home environment and within technological defined settings. The overlapping of roles will be great enough as to completely blur what was once defined as traditional, whereas communication will become more layered. Men will turn more monogamous and women less so. Alternative lifestyles will create new paradigms for relationships.
L.J. Frank is an adventurer, philosopher, historian, author, publisher and artist (commission only). His primary career is a nonprofit executive for libraries, university instructor and advisor. He’s also worked and studied in Asia, Middle East and Central America, and has a lifelong interest in anthropology, which spams prehistoric, ancient and medieval cultures, and architecture. His degrees include a BA in history and comparative religion, and an MA in history and foreign policy.
You can learn more about Frank and his works at the Narrative Paths Journal, his blog for “experimenting with ideas.”
People are led to believe porn is a synonym for sex, therefore porn is healthy and stands for the right to express our sexuality. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Porn is generic, poor, industrialized sex. It’s about business as usual. Yet the multibillion-dollar porn industry wants us to embrace the notion that porn and real sex are the same, and if you don’t support porn, you’re an ignorant prude.
Paraphrasing sociologist Gail Dines, if I’m not pro pornography, it doesn’t mean I’m against sex. If I tell you about the health risks of consuming fast-food, it doesn’t mean I’m against eating. Now, if the fast-food industry can shape eating behavior, if the fashion industry can shape dressing behavior, why wouldn’t porn shape sexual behavior? In the process, “we lose the most important thing that we have – our authentic sexuality, which defines us as humans, gives us connections and intimacy in a world that makes worth living in,” says Dines.
In his article “The Real Problem with Porn: It’s Bad for Sex,” journalist and sex expert Michael Castleman says: porn is the leading sex educator of men, but it teaches sex all wrong. He lists the many sex myths in porn— every man is huge and comes on cue, all women are exhibitionists, everyone is always eager, sex is 95% fellatio and intercourse, etc. etc.—and quotes Marie Silva, a pornstar married to her colleague Jack: “There’s a wonderful playfulness to our personal sex. I don’t come from intercourse, so he massages my clitoris by hand. After sex at work, it’s so nice to come home to the real thing.”
Besides not being the real thing, porn has a negative component in the very root of its name. In her lecture at the Eastern Connecticut State University, writer and speaker Maya S goes back to the origin of the word: porne refers to the lowest class of whores in Ancient Greece, regarded as human trash, and graphos means sketching. So pornography means either “drawings of filthy whores” or “women depicted as filthy whores.” In porn, women are reduced to body parts such as the vagina, breasts, anus and mouth. There’s no human connection to them, therefore there’s no accountability and they can be used for anything: their well-being, preferences and desires become irrelevant.
Nobody wants to watch a girl enjoying anal
Women are presented in positions of submission, servility or display and offered to the viewer as sexual objects that enjoy humiliation or pain, experiencing pleasure in scenes of rape, torture, pedophilia and incest. It’s all aimed at making the abuse of a woman look sexy. In her lecture, Maya shows the cover of an adult video entitled Filthy Office Sluts and also the still photo of a scene with a tied-up woman grimacing as a man holds her head back and pees into her mouth.
The pornographers’ language is very clear about how they depict women: filthy, whores, sluts, meatholes, cum-buckets that are not regular, “human” women but rather insatiable nymphomaniacs who enjoy all forms of rough sex—so it’s okay to abuse them because that’s what they want.
Take the “money shot,” for example, which is the ejaculation on the face. Maya shares an interesting insider glimpse when she gives us a quote from porn director Bill Margold: “I’d like to really show what I believe men want to see: violence against women. I firmly believe that we serve a purpose by showing that. The most violent we can get is the cum shot in the face. Men get off behind that, because they get even with the women they can’t have.” And thus gonorrhea of the eye was born to women.
The multibillion-dollar porn industry as we know today started in the 1950s and, interestingly enough, is rooted in misogyny. In the very conservative America of that era, many men were coming back home from the war to find out that in the meantime lots of women had taken their place in the workplace to support their homes. Men were not happy with the situation, as women not only became competitors in the job market but also had retreated from their traditional housewife roles. Maya shares some ads from that era. One Van Hausen tie ad depicts a woman kneeling on the floor while serving her husband breakfast in bed. The accompanying text goes like this: “Show her it’s a man’s world.”
At 25:50, Maya presents an old porn photo of a man overpowering a woman in bed as she struggles to free herself. This is the text embedded in it: “Let’s face it, guys. Some women are just begging for rough treatment. They whine. They nag. They sass you back when you give them an order. There’s just one thing to do—give them what they deserve!” The following photo depicts a naked woman grimacing while tied-up with her genitals exposed, and this is the embedded text: “She won’t open her legs for you, will she? Now they’re open, and she can’t close them! Serves her right for all the times she teased you. Now you can do anything to her, and she can’t resist!”
Back to the 21st century, here’s how pornographer Paul Hesky addresses anal sex in porn, in a quote extracted from Robert Jensen’s book Getting Off: “Essentially, it comes from every man who’s unhappily married, and he looks at his wife who just nagged at him about this or that or whatnot, and he says, ‘I’d like to fuck you in the ass.’ He’s angry at her, right? And he can’t, so he would rather watch some girl taking it up the ass and fantasize … and that is the attraction, because when people watch anal, nobody wants to watch a girl enjoying anal.”
It’s a men’s issue
Such mentality paved the path to aberrations like the double anal penetration and the ATM routine, when the man withdraws his penis from the woman’s anus and sticks it straight into her mouth. Double anal penetration causes internal tears and, besides the pain it inflicts to her, it may contribute to rectal prolapse: it’s when the anus falls out of the body and needs to be stitched back through surgery. As for ATM, it’s responsible for fecal matter infection in her throat, not to mention the implicit message it delivers: the woman is a piece of shit and deserves to eat shit.
The documentary The Price of Pleasure: Pornography, Sexuality and Relationships by Miguel Picker and Chyng Sun, released in 2008, explores what happens when images of sexual degradation are used for arousal. At one point, it ties together a sequence of clips of staple practices in porn that ends with a man shoving the woman’s head in a toilet and flushing it. What drew my attention was the men’s faces, invariable contorted in rage as they pounded into the women. Seriously? Anyone really believes that’s how sex is supposed to be? In my book, the man looks at the woman with desire, closes his eyes to enjoy the sensation of their bodies connected, and then smiles. But I digress.
The last scene in the documentary shows a woman kneeling before two men. She looks up at them, gaping, and waits for them to ejaculate in her mouth. The camera freezes on her face and slowly pulls back. We see her passiveness and humiliation, we can almost feel the icy indifference in the room. Her eyes are haunting.
So if current pornography hasn’t already made it crystal clear, retracing its origins confirms that porn is about keeping women in their place and getting back at them. To sum it up, it’s about violence against women: we have several categories such as gagging bitches, facial abuse, split assholes, rape, incest, bestiality, murder and so on. One of the most popular categories, teen porn, fuels child pornography as the natural progression for men watching it.
Violence against women is a women’s issue, right? Maybe not. Maybe it’s a men’s issue since men are the perpetrators of violence for the most part. That’s the conclusion reached by violence expert and social theorist Jackson Katz in his inspiring TED Talk, in which he shows us that switching the focus to men—and how social institutions, including pornography, contribute to instilling violence in men—is key to tackle the problem. And it is not just a women’s issue for another reason: most children and men subjected to violence are victims of the violence perpetrated by men.
A piece of advice from a serial killer
When I see a feminist movement like the Slut Pride, I scratch my head. Why on earth would a self-proclaimed feminist movement take pride in perpetuating the negative connotation associated with women’s sexuality? A sexually free woman should be simply called a sexually free woman, not a slut. Or maybe we could come up with a fun name such as butterfly (suggestions, anyone?). Moreover, as much as women are entitled to wear whatever they want, I’m not so sure about how empowering it is to totally embrace the hypersexualized clothing imposed to them by the media and fashion industry—so to train them to be “porn ready,” as pornographer Joanna Angels puts it.
During a chat with author Rachel Kovach (@rskovach) on Wattpad, she offered that the word slut originally meant “dirty” and has evolved to describe a woman with many casual sex partners. She’ dirty. Slut pride? I don’t think so. The word slut shouldn’t even be considered by any “feminist” movement. There’s more: what’s the male counterpart for slut? for whore? There aren’t any because those male counterparts are proudly called studs by other men or else men whores by women.
Like many who defend pornography as sexually freeing for women and society, pornstar Belle Knox says her work is empowering and she loves it. I just checked out a couple of her first videos, Duke University Bella Knox Destroyed and Miriam Weeks Aka Bella Knox Spokane. In both, she is continuously humiliated, gagged, called “a piece of shit,” slapped and spat on the face. It’s hard to watch. I didn’t see any signs of her enjoying it, quite the opposite. Towards the end of the video she’s crying. The guy doesn’t show any concern, though: in a derisive tone, he merely asks if she always cries during sex as he keeps hammering into her. Once Belle conquered fame, she moved on to less unpleasant gigs. But other women are replacing her in those horrible videos, and the cycle continues.
Ran Gavrieli’s, in his TED Talk, tells us he stopped watching porn after realizing how much ingrained violence and anger it brought to his private fantasies—anger and violence that weren’t there originally, and that had do to with domination and submission rather than freedom. “This was not me and I decided to put an end to it.” He gives a poignant account of how pornography killed his ability to use his own imagination when having sexual fantasies. The second reason why he quit was he realized that by watching porn he increased the demand for filmed prostitution. Gavrieli is a scholar of gender studies at Tel Aviv University and made that decision while volunteering to help men and women victims of prostitution traffic. I highly recommend watching his talk.
It is well-known that porn performers often become escorts in order to survive: we hear former pornstars mentioning their side activities all the time. In the 2013 documentary mentioned in my previous post, Date My Porn Star, pornographer Dan Leal offers that “the reality of porn is these days there’s not so much work. It’s just probably 500 girls that are active and less than 50 scenes a day being shot, and it’s the same girls being shot over and over. So all the girls in porn need to have secondary revenue streams. Some of them feature ads, some of them webcam, and the vast majority escort. You’re paying for the pussy, baby.”
There are feminists producing porn with a different concept now, which attempts to have a more sex-positive and organic approach, with a collective creative process involving the performers and in some cases an educational angle. It’s an interesting idea. Just keep in mind it’s still not real sex. It’s a performance.
I’ll leave you with a statement by Ted Bundy about porn. He was a serial killer that raped and killed 30 girls and women. I don’t include it here to imply that watching porn will turn people into serial killers. But Ted Bundy’s words, in the eve of his execution in 1989, are prophetic. He makes a point in stressing that he takes full responsibility for his actions and pornography did not cause him to commit his crimes. He warns, however, to the danger of pornography contributing to mold and shape his violent behavior. Bundy says porn fuelled his urges and eroded his inhibitions to act upon them. “Pornography can reach in and snatch a kid out of any house today. It snatched me out of my home 20 or 30 years ago … there are those loose in their towns and communities, like me, whose dangerous impulses are being fueled, day in and day out, by violence in the media in its various forms—particularly sexualized violence. What scares me is when I see what’s on cable TV. Some of the violence in the movies that come into homes today is stuff they wouldn’t show in X-rated adult theaters 30 years ago … I’ve lived in prison for a long time now, and I’ve met a lot of men who were motivated to commit violence. Without exception, every one of them was deeply involved in pornography—deeply consumed by the addiction. The FBI’s own study on serial homicide shows that the most common interest among serial killers is pornography. It’s true.”
On my next post, I’ll talk about porn in romance novels. Holy cow… it’s 50 Shades of Grey!
This post by author and poet Tracey Madeley presents us fascinating ideas on gender equality from the 19th century that are still up to date. The surprising author of such ideas, whose identity will be revealed further down, defends that equality promotes closeness and fulfillment in relationships: mere fondness is a poor substitute for friendship, as we will see.
“Like the flowers that are planted in too rich a soil, strength and usefulness are sacrificed to beauty.”
This is the central idea behind The Vindication of the Rights of Women, written by Mary Wollstonecraft in response to Thomas Paine’s work, The Rights of Man. Published in 1792 it advocates a more balanced view of the differences between the sexes and how a redressing of the balance would benefit society.
Women occupied themselves with their outward trappings of dress, lace and ornamentation. Wollstonecraft argued that a woman who is simply valued for her looks benefits no one. Women relied on their appearance and any accomplishments which were designed to enhance their marriageability. For an 18th century woman, “when she obtains a husband she has arrived at her goal, and meanly proud, is satisfied with her paltry crown.”
She refers to them as alluring mistresses, rather than rational wives. Such “uncultivated understandings made them entirely dependent on their senses.” In a society which was gravitating towards sensibility of feeling, this was fashionable but not practical, as it turned their character towards manipulation rather than reasoned argument.
At the time the book was published, society believed marriage was the best outcome a woman could achieve. The Married Women’s Property Act was brought into force in 1870 and extended in 1882. This allowed women to keep control of their earnings, in addition to owning and inheriting property, thus providing for a more secure and independent future. Today we live in a culture where women work, but super thin models still hit the headlines and society argues over whose responsibility it is to set a good example.
Wollstonecraft draws a distinction between the sexes, where predominance is based on physical strength, which is perpetuated through women’s ignorance and lack of independence. “Weakness may excite tenderness, and gratify the arrogant pride of man.” But she continues, “Fondness is a poor substitute for friendship.” A view disputed by the emerging gothic novelists of the time, who saw men’s strength and power as oppressive and bullying. Wollstonecraft’s suggestion is that when you put men and women on an equal footing, they both benefit. A man gains companionship and friendship, a woman independence of thought.
She sees society’s way forward, through the education of women. Not just in the fine arts, such as singing and needlework, but in practical skills which will enable them to earn a living. An educated woman is a better companion for her husband, with a relationship based on mutual respect and friendship. Yet it’s strange to see her reject books, as the source of this learning. This is because, during this period, the books women read were fanciful romances, with what she refers to as flowery diction.
“Women who have fostered a romantic unnatural delicacy of feeling waste their lives in imagining how happy they should have been with a husband who could love them with a fervid increasing affection every day.” She sees no benefit in raising women’s expectations. In today’s language we would say the grass is not greener on the other side and it still needs cutting.
It’s a shame that recognition of Mary’s personal life was more prominent than her writing, especially in the early years, due to her relationships with the opposite sex. This has caused her work to languish, neglected for many years and to only receive the recognition she deserves in the last century. Her only marriage was to William Godwin, which produced a daughter, Mary, who later became Mrs. Mary Shelly, author of Frankenstein.
Tracey lives in Wrexham, North Wales with her husband Joe and two cats – Joplin and Fleur. She graduated from Essex University with a Law degree and went on to complete a Literature degree with the Open University, on a part time basis. After getting married in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco in 2004, she completed her Masters in the 18th Century Novel, again with the Open University.
Like most independent authors she works and writes in her spare time, aiming to produce a book a year. Peaceful Meadows was her first novel in 2012, followed by Love & Haight in 2013. Both works are available on Amazon.
On my last post I talked about how porn dehumanizes women and teaches men to regard them as a set of holes meant for their pleasure. Porn is fantasyland, not reality. And a dose of reality can teach a valuable lesson.
Released in 2013, the documentary Date My Porn Star shows what happens when Kevin, Jonathan and Danny, three die-hard porn fans from the UK, go to LA to visit a live set and also meet their favorite pornstars. They see the casting of three girls for an eight-hour live show produced by pornographer Dan Leal, in which the actresses will have non-stop sex with other porn fans. Kevin, Jonathan and Danny ask the girls about their personal lives. One of them is eighteen and only had sex with three boyfriends. Another candidate, a mother of three, is majoring in quantum physics—it isn’t hard to figure she was led to porn by financial pressure. The girls start to emerge as human beings, and when Kevin, Jonathan and Danny learn about the mother of three, they become clearly uncomfortable.
Once filming begins, they see how the live action wears off the girls after the second hour of uninterrupted sex with different men. In the final hours of the marathon, one of the actresses breaks down from physical and mental exhaustion but is forced to keep going because the action is streaming live. In the end of the shooting, as night descends, Dan Leal still makes the girls have sex with him and his crew. “Definitely an eye opener,” says Kevin, while Jonathan reflects that “Maybe porn is a meat grinder for young women.” Danny is disturbed: “It’s just like these people got immunity to care about other people or feelings or love. It’s weird. I can’t explain. What I saw today was absolutely disgusting and heartbreaking.”
The next day the three of them have dates with their favorite stars. As conversation flows, each talks about past romantic relationships and reflect on them. As it turns out, Jonathan may be searching for an unrealistic mate that looks like a pornstar. Kevin shows classic signs of porn addiction without being aware of it: at the age of 28, he finds real sex boring, craves variety and has been intimate with more than 60 women but hardly ever experienced an orgasm with them.
Before going back home, the three men meet up with former pornstar Vanessa Belmont. She tells them about several STDs and injuries she has suffered in her career—chlamydia, gonorrhea, anal and vaginal tears, and a bleeding throat. In her first anal scene, she had to take painkillers in order to be able to smile to the camera and say how much she loved it. When asked about her mental state on set, she says she was drained from doing such unnatural things like having group sex with several men. After their experience in LA, Kevin, Jonathan and Danny went back home with a radically different view of porn, of themselves and their own lives. They found humanity in the women involved in porn, and in the process rediscovered a part of their own humanity.
Like many in the industry, Belmont got into porn by doing nude and girl-girl scenes, and then rapidly moving to hardcore material. There’s pressure for girls to keep crossing their boundaries: directors want them to do it, they have signed a contract and need the money, and if they don’t comply they may not get another job. Judging by the various interviews I watched with pornstars, this seems to be common: the contract doesn’t specify in detail what the performers are supposed to do, and things change in the set.
The 2005 TV show The Dark Side of Porn: Diary of a Porn Virgin gives an idea of how things progress. In it, newcomer Frankie expressly tells her agent she won’t do anal sex, and in her first professional job she finds out in the set that she’s required to perform it. She refuses, and the pressure is diffused when another girl agrees to do it. However, in the end of the shooting, Frankie changes her mind and tells the director she’ll have anal intercourse next time.
Female performers are at a much higher risk than their male counterparts when it comes to STDs, and in the numerous interviews I watched, all girls mention having contracted several STDs like gonorrhea and Chlamydia, which can cause infertility. The use of condoms on set is rare, and it doesn’t offer protection against all venereal diseases anyway. Girls still working in the industry and former porn actresses alike say they would never have sex in their private lives the way they do on camera. It’s common for porn performers to take drugs or alcohol on a regular basis in order to endure physical and mental stress.
The life expectancy for a pornstar is 38 years.
In an interview in Prime Time Live, popular pornstar Belladona talks about her first gang-bang scene with twelve men, and how she couldn’t stop crying afterwards: “It was really hard because I really felt like a piece of meat. You really took a piece of me and threw it into a lion’s cage. Twelve lions. I had to do a lot of things that I can’t imagine anyone wanting to do.” On another occasion, she mentions being high on dope during a scene. Former pornstar Tiffany Million says in this interview she would disconnect while filming, as if she were “a fly on the wall” just observing and feeling nothing. It was her way of coping.
So does porn stand for sexual freedom and the things women really enjoy in bed?
On my next post I’ll share with you what a very special man has to say about that. I mean, a very special man. Stay tuned!