The Internet Is For Porn

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This article is a response to Cambridge Tab writer Stephen Bick. Please take a look at his original article here for context.

In recent weeks, the debate concerning pornography has exploded across YouTube and other social networking sites. And whilst there are aspects of the debate that I align myself with, others I do not.

I am a heterosexual female. I believe in equal rights and equal opportunities for all irrespective of race, religion, sexuality, or gender. I am a feminist. And I do not believe that porn is inherently bad. And the suggestion made in this article that porn is somehow anti-feminist is an utterly ludicrous concept.

Let me quantify my point for a moment. Porn ADDICTION is bad. The porn INDUSTRY is seriously flawed, requiring tighter regulations to combat sex crimes and trafficking. But the enjoyment of porn is not an act of misogyny. And whilst I will concede that the porn industry is widely created by men, for men, hundreds of thousands of women watch, enjoy, and get sexual gratification from explicit films.

The author’s point centres on the idea that the vast majority of porn features the degradation, and often abuse of women. The point clumsily made is that this reinforces gender norms of sexuality. Man = subject. Woman = object. Not only that, but it reinforces male entitlement to women’s bodies and enforces rape culture. This claim is no more than a sexual manifestation of the idea that children who watch horror movies or play violent video games will go out and re-enact the content they have been exposed to. This is simply not the case. An adult consumer of pornographic content is well aware that it is a fiction. It peddles an unattainable fantasy like all other forms of cinema. Adult men are not children. To reduce their mentality to that of “monkey see, monkey do” is severely reductive. Adult men are capable of seeing porn for the fantasy it is.

And whilst I would hardly consider pornography to be one of the great cinematic art forms, it is a form of entertainment like any other. And it is a question I would levy to both the article’s author as well as a number of those who responded in kind in the comments. I define myself as a feminist. And I will readily and without shame admit to having enjoyed porn.

In fact, there are a number of people who enjoy porn without shame. The author’s statement that “we settle for porn and pass it off as something you just do.  But we actually know it’s wrong.  That’s why you draw the curtains and wait for your roomie to leave” is utter rubbish. The reason you draw the curtain and wait for your roomie to leave is because it’s considered rude in polite society to masturbate in front of your friends!

Not only that, but I have enjoyed, and will continue to enjoy porn featuring themes of dominance and submission that the author would have me believe ‘reinforces gender inequality.’ Is my enjoyment of such content simply a result of cultural conditioning? Where is the feminism in denying me my own agency as a woman to enjoy and express my sexuality? Where is the empowerment in me not doing or enjoying sex the way you think I should? And I have no doubt that members of the BDSM community would find the framing of their sexual preferences as wrong and violent to be offensive.

Granted, the practise of BDSM in real life requires consent, a dialogue with your partner, safe words, and aftercare, and this is not always reflected in porn. However, this is because (for the most part) actors in porn have consented and been paid to engage in these acts. I reiterate, porn is a visual fantasy, not an educational tool for how to practice that fantasy in reality. We understand that consent has been given outside of the context of the film and can get lost in the fantasy without the logistics.

And this is where the problem lies – not in porn, but in our attitude towards an open and frank dialogue about sex and sexuality as taboo, and its resultant manifestation in education. I and many other adults are capable of enjoying porn safely and responsibly because we are educated, informed, and aware that porn does not reflect reality. Porn does not give its intended adult viewers ‘unrealistic expectations’ about our sexual partners. I do not expect every partner I have to be in possession of a 9 inch penis, or that sex should go on for hours, or that multiple orgasms are a consistently attainable goal. I even believe that porn can play a role in spicing up a couple’s sex life. To suggest that ‘it makes us lonely and harms our relationships’ is completely untrue outside of cases of porn addiction. This is as absurd as suggesting that cake is inherently bad because it causes obesity in those who don’t understand moderation.

But my expectations are the result of my parent being an excellent and forthright educator. Not everyone can say that their relationship with their mother allowed for an open dialogue about sex and sexuality in which nothing they were curious to know more about was taboo. This is where sex education should step in, but doesn’t. This is why the issues raised in Bick’s article become a problem in the first place.

Inadequate sex education results in teenage boys and girls, who only need an internet connection to find explicit material, to go out in search of what they are curious about. As a result, with no frame of reference to rely upon, porn becomes their education, and becomes the sole expectation they can acquire of what to expect from sex when they reach adulthood. It is at this point that the unattainable fantasy of porn develops into an unrealistic expectation. And whilst I deplore the ease of access to such material for those it is not intended for, the digital world is nigh on impossible to police without enforcing ridiculous levels of censorship.

Education is the best defence to preventing porn addiction and developing an understanding from teenage years that porn is not real. The answer is not the banning of pornography, but a holistic and comprehensive reform to the education of young men and women that extends beyond pregnancy, STIs and putting a condom on a banana.

Porn is not the problem. Porn is not anti feminist. Porn can be enjoyed responsibly, safely, and in all manner of contexts. The problem is the continuing placement of taboos upon sex and sexuality within our society and educational system.

The internet is for porn. Get over it.

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