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!