10 September, 2009

The Problem With Pornography

This is a programme I think every feminist should watch:


I've always hated porn, and the reasons have been pretty straightforward - it reduces women to the sum of their orifices and pepetuates the idea that women are mere objects to be used purely for male pleasure. The number of rapes and sexual assaults have risen with every year that consumption of pornography has increased for obvious reasons, and women are never going to be seen as equals, at home or in the workplace as long as men are conditioned to view them as vaginas that talk.

But Tim Samuels' documentary (and I'll warn you, he's a smug git of the highest order) has exposed a darker side to the industry than I knew existed and it's time for us all to face up to some home truths. I won't spoilt the programme for those of you who haven't seen it, but here is a summary of the most shocking points:

*Only one porn production house enforces condom use - the others essentially ban it. The porn industry doesn't give a toss about the sexual health of it's "stars", despite there being an outbreak of HIV just five years ago.

*The invisibility of condoms in porn is fueling the spread of sexually transmitted diseases in Ghana, where there is no sex education, but plenty of western porn. Women are reporting increasing incidences of rape and sexual assualts carried out by men who gather together to watch porn in the village at night.

*Women in porn are rarely happy or willing. A male porn star interviewed for the programme admitted he found it "difficult" to work with girls who were "crying in the toilets between takes" - yet he didn't seem to have any inclination to stop doing so. What a nice man. A female porn star also interviewed said no women in porn were happy and all had "pyschological issues", and yet she was hell-bent on pursuing a career in the industry. It was later revealed that her pimp - whoops, I mean manager - was also her boyfriend, and was shown on camera to be controlling and verbally abusive, at one point dragging her across a room by the wrist.

*Agencies exploit young women who are breathtakingly naeive about what porn involves. Samuels interviewed a 20-year-old actress who had just signed with a porn agency. She watched porn for the very first time a few hours before her first shoot so she would "know what to do".

*There is apparently a market for porn where men ejaculate directly onto women's eyeballs.

*Worse, there is a market for porn where women are forced to perform oral sex until their throats bleed and/or they are sick, and where women are forced to ingest their own excrement.

The last two points in particular make me think more than ever that porn is not supposed to be arousing simply because of the sex, but because of the depiction of the subjugation and degradation of women. That men aren't actually turned on by women vomiting over themselves, but by the violence. And considering how wildly popular pornography is, that makes me really fearful about what so many men actually think about women. It's no surprise that lads mags were a reaction to the sexual liberation preached by women's magazines like Cosmo, and that porn has got more extreme and more violent with every stride women have taken towards equality - it's all about putting women back in their place, letting them know who's really boss, etc etc. Porn is made by people who hate women, for people who hate women. It's really sickeningly scary. I could throw up thinking about it - I hope that doesn't turn anyone on.


  1. I completely agree that the power trip and the violence and degradation is the main appeal of porn, more than the sex and more than the body parts. it's the total domination of the women involved.

  2. It's extremely disturbing. I'm 20 years old and get mad, so mad with some girls that are my age, and boys too. That think women choose to be prostitutes and porn stars. i knew, i knew that wasn't so. It rarely is the case.

    I sometimes feel so excluded, not because they give me the cold shoulder and think me mad for voicing my opinions, but because i feel that i'm the only 20 year old that thinks like this. I'm sure that's not the case, but i can't help the way i feel sometimes.

    Great article, keep the good work and i wish you success.

  3. Watched this, and thought it was a good documentary, up until it got to the "Christianity can save you!" bit. That left a VERY sour taste in my mouth, excuse the turn of phrase. When it got to the bit about the Catholic church, I thought it a bit rich for them to be taking the sexual high ground, seeing as this was the same church that only went and covered up the mass sexual abuse carried out by priests. Sorry to say it, but when they hold themselves in a position like that, and dogmatically so, they deserve the bad press.
    But it's a good thing they shoved Max Hardcore behind. Hopefully he's getting a taste of his own medicine. I figured porn was a shady business, but the fact that a guy like him exists is another reason for reigning in the industry.
    One of the things I notice about this debate is the polarising alternative of religious morality, that sex is a sin, which unfortunately seemed to play out at the end of part 2. I don't need religion to tell me not to harm my fellow person. Then again, maybe I'm reading too much into it.
    And I didn't think Tim Samuels was smug at all. He looked pretty normal to me.

  4. OK, slight correction, he did make the CBIS twat at the end look like a bellend.

  5. I found Tim Samuels annoying because of how at the start of the first part he glibly said that he'd watched loads of porn and thought it was brilliant, and then went on this whole crusade exposing how awful porn is and never once said anything about how this made him feel in relation to his prior porn use. Thought it was a bit hypocritical, or at least could have used some more personal reflection.

    Also yeah, I didn't think he was trying to push the Christian point of view at all, he was trying to expose them as hypocrites for investing in companies that distribute porn. Which was quite funny to watch.

  6. Not all porn is made by people who hate women - look at Candida Royalle, Tristan Taormin, Anna Span and Carol Queen, who make porn aimed at women and couples, or Bren Ryder and Shine Louise Houston, who both make lesbian porn. It's making too much of a blanket statement to say that *all* porn is made and watched by people who hate women. Yes, the industry needs to be improved, but there are companies that make good porn, with decent principles. Yes, there are issues, massive ones - I'm in no way denying that. But I think there needs to be greater consideration of good porn - not the approach of "all porn is bad".

    (also, the rise in porn isn't directly correlated with the rise in rape reporting; they're concurrent but not entirely related; although I do agree that porn without decent sex ed is a horrible thing to behold).

  7. True, I have heard of Anna Span, I'd forgotten about her. Problem is it's not mainstream stuff though, it's a teeny, specialist drop in the ocean of degrading crap.

    I haven't seen any women-friendly porn so I can't comment too far, but think porn by its definition objectifies (men and women, actually) so I don't think I could come out in favour of it, though it sounds like it would be a better alternative to the current mainstream of adult entertainment.

    I'd be interested to know if these companies still suffer the same problems though, in terms of their "stars" not really wanting to be there.

  8. Is there a difference between porn and erotica I wonder and would 'porn' for lesbians/couples/women not come under the category of erotica. Just wondering, I don't know.

  9. I could be wrong, but I was under the impression that anything explictly showing real penetration is usually filed under 'Porn'?

  10. I think porn is porn and labelling anything aimed specifically at women as "erotica" fuels the argument I've heard more than once before that women "claim anything they don't like is porn and enything they do like is erotica". Monkeh, that does sound right, but then where would that leave girl on girl scenes? Still bloody explicit! I think any real sexual contact of any kind maybe is porn. There isn't a clear line because I know films like Seven Songs have real sex in them (I've not seen it, but it was on general release) but I think the porn or not porn decision is something we can quite easily make using a bit of common sense :)

    I do think there is a difference between porn and erotica, although I'll be completley honest and say I don't know how to define it. I know it's certainly possibly for say a (legitimate) film to be erotic without being pornographic, but I don't know if that makes it erotica.

  11. I don't think that the more women-friendly companies do have the same issues - partly because a lot of their members are directors/producers as well as actors (ie they're performing as well as controlling the performance) or real-life couples outside of porn. I think there's a major difference there.

    Erotica, generally, isn't much different from porn, although it tends to be used to cover the written word as well as "arty" films/photography. I think the idea is to make a high/lowbrow distinction, which doesn't really need to be in place. Monkeh, a lot of publishers make that distinction, or between showing an errect penis and not, because you can print "erotica" more easily than "porn" - and the same goes for films, but I don't think it's really that much of a distinction (and yes, it doesn't really cover f/f sex)

  12. Agree with views expressed by this author.Anal and oral sex is sickening & pure degradation of women and must be banned in adult movies.

  13. Ashmax - I wouldn't say anal or oral sex are always sickening or degrading, certainly not in the context of mutually respectful relationship. Of course how porn represents these acts is a different issue.

  14. What a wonderful breath of fresh air this site is, I am so glad I found you!

    "that makes me really fearful about what so many men actually think about women"

    exactly and precisely why I DETEST porn

  15. I know that most porn doesn't get made healthy way. I like porn, and I don't watch porn that looks painful for women/makes women appear unhappy.

    As to what the difference between art and pornography is, there have been tons of paper on that. One person I know who wrote a long paper on the subject said that in porn, women are never making eye contact. I do think that can be seen as a small critium.


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