Porn

2013-07-31 18:42
[personal profile] flexibeast
There's a video clip currently doing the rounds called "Porn Sex vs Real Sex: The Differences Explained With Food". When i first watched it, i felt uneasy, but couldn't put my finger on why. i've now thought about it some more, and can identify a few issues:

  • It doesn't define what 'porn' is. This is a highly complex issue, to be sure, but it has significant implications in this specific context. To wit: It seems to be using 'porn' as shorthand for "professionally produced audiovisual sexually explicit material specifically aimed at heterosexual demographics". But:

    • There are increasing amounts of sexually explicit material that aren't professionally produced, e.g. the material often described as 'amateur' or 'homemade';

    • There are increasing amounts of written sexually explicit material; and

    • There are increasing amounts of non-heterosexual, non-cisgendered sexually explicit material available, both amateur and professional.

    This video clip essentially erases all this, and discusses 'porn' as a homogeneous entity.

  • It's cisnormative, implying that 'womanhood' and/or 'femaleness' necessarily involves having a cunt. How might this feel to trans women who don't have a cunt (and who might not be able to get surgery to construct one1), or to trans men who have a cunt and wish they didn't?

  • It's heteronormative, implying that there there is "too much" same-gender sexual interaction in porn, compared to such interaction in the general population. What message is conveyed to same-gender attracted people by reinforcing that we're in a minority; that same-gender sexual behaviour isn't statistically 'average'; that "too much" such behaviour is depicted in porn?

The whole thing reminds me of the "real women have curves" slogan. Although the intent of the slogan is to try to counter the representations of 'desirable' women's bodies in the media - which often involve pre-publication processing to make the depicted women look thinner than they actually are - in order to counter negative impacts on womens' body image, it fundamentally still involves body-policing. That is: it involves making an assertion about which body shapes should be respected and which aren't.

When i was at uni, i knew a couple of women, biological sisters, who were both ardent feminists and who were also both stick-thin - not due to ongoing dieting or regular exercise, but just because that's how their bodies were. They noted with frustration how they got subjected to comments like "You need a sammich!", quite rightly noting that such attitudes, even if favourable to women who "have curves", still involved making assertions about what a woman 'should' look like.

Similarly, the very title "Porn Sex vs Real Sex" is making assertions about what constitutes 'real' sex (not to mention assertions about what constitutes 'porn') via the use of statistics, an approach that is fundamentally hostile to acceptance (let alone celebration of) human sexual diversity. If two people film themselves engaged in consensual urine play, and then post it online, is it 'porn' that doesn't depict 'real sex' because it's something that most people don't do? And this issue arises for any consensual sexual activity that is a statistical outlier.

It seems to me that, rather than making claims about what constitutes 'real' sex - which can very easily dovetail into societal ideas about what's 'normal' - in opposition to the diversity of human sexuality, a different approach could be taken. We could, for example, be saying:
Porn shows lots of different things. Human sexuality comes in many different forms. But just because it's in porn, doesn't mean you're obliged to do it yourself! Neither does it mean you can cajole or force someone else into doing something they don't want to do just because 'It's done in porn!' Sexual interaction should involve people together negotiating sexual activity to engage in, based on respect for boundaries and the informed consent of all involved.

Think of porn like a recipe book: Not everyone is going to like every recipe in every recipe book, and people shouldn't be forced to eat the result of a recipe just because it appears in a cookbook. :-)
Surely this would be a better approach than using statistics to make some sexual activities more 'normal' and 'real' than others?

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1. e.g. someone such as myself.

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