Porn: it loves me, it loves me not.

Is porn really all ‘bad’? Surely not all porn ‘stars’ are exploited; surely not all of it is degrading; surely some of it can help my/our sex life.

I am so grateful to the people who, as part of this discussion, have brought the above points to the table. Something like porn is very easily painted with a very dark black brush – which, I think, does the anti-porn crew a disfavour in the long run.

Not all porn stars are treated badly. Not all porn encourages harmful attitudes about women, or even about sex. Sure, porn arouses sexually and might teach a few tricks to add the old bedroom résumé.

Perhaps we don’t talk about sex in a light positive enough to warrant healthy discussion in the public sphere: and so we resort to porn. Perhaps we set bizarre expectations of sex and each other and revert back to porn when things aren’t going well. I have spoken to many who ‘got into porn’ because of emotional difficulty and feelings of loneliness – somehow porn seemed to (albeit temporarily) fill a void. I get these things, and I have grown to understand the pro-porn opinion to engulf these, and other, reasons for which porn is seen as positive within the right context. One thing I haven’t been able to understand – and perhaps you can help me – is the appeal of watching other people engage in an act that surely we’d rather engage in ourselves, and in something so intimate. Is it voyeurism? Is it curiosity? Are we simply attracted to the people on screen?

However, because the context is so very difficult to set up, because the boundaries are so unclear and because the risk of crossing over into something unhealthy is so very high, I maintain that porn is not a good idea.

We have looked at the risk of addiction and its negative consequences in people who fall prey to it. We have looked at how many porn ‘stars’ are treated and how they have fallen prey to an industry that treats them like objects. We have looked at how many members of society have been turned into prey through the attitudes pornography seems to generate/encourage.

These, and the rest of the discussion in this post, are the reasons for which I am anti-porn.

The thoughts to follow are in relation to the consumer of porn; the viewer. It is vital to stress that I do not criminalise him/her, nor do I think it is at all an easy choice to not view porn – even if the desire, or at the very least the understanding that it might be something worth considering – is present.

Very few people wake up one morning, never having viewed porn in their lives, and hit up Google for ‘virgin gang rape porn Northern Ireland’. The consumption of pornography is a spectrum. It might start with the viewing of a scene prompted by curiosity (‘female friendly porn’ is a big one), a friend’s recommendation, a feeling of loneliness, a couple’s desire to spice things up. The visually striking content, teamed with the chemicals released during viewing, mean that the likelihood of that scene being followed by another is high. As the brain becomes used to pornography, it needs harder-hitting/more graphic material in order to reach the same chemical highs as in the first few viewings. And the porn industry is ready for this: it has tricks up its sleeve. A little S&M? Multiple partners? Maybe something to appeal to that schoolgirl fantasy? Thus, the person viewing porn is desensitised and seeks a stronger dose, if you will. And what started out as harmless enough soon starts to become harmful: to the viewer who loses full control, to the porn performers and to the parts of society that are mirrored in porn: women, children, sexual health, sex itself.

And unfortunately the spectrum which might lead to the viewing of harmful content is not kept to private viewing on a computer in a dark room. The spectrum runs into ‘real-life’ to helpful expectations between sexual partners, disappointment in relationship, aggressive attitudes, and, should the arm be extended towards it, sexually violent or inappropriate action. Study upon study highlights the link between sexual predators and their consumption of pornographic material. This is why.

This is also why: porn is downloaded or bought. It becomes the property of the viewer. The viewer exercises ownership, to varying extent, of the material. The sense of the commodification of sex is one thing; and the commodification of people through porn is another. Surely people should not be bought and sold and downloaded. Is there not then also a risk of the sense of entitlement spilling over to sex in general so that the viewer feels they are owed sex, in the egocentric and immediate way they have become accustomed to? The problem with the commodification of sex is that it becomes a point of contention in relationships, of course; but that it also feeds the commercial sex trade. If I can buy a pornographic scene online, why can I not buy a blow job? If I can download a scene depicting my fantasy, can I not also demand this of a prostitute? This obviously flows into new territory and this isn’t a discussion on prostitution, but it is my opinion that sex should not be ‘buyable’ in any context and it seems that porn acts as a shop window for prostitution and in some cases, sex trafficking.

I do not suggest that all porn viewers exercise aggressive attitudes towards the opposite sex/hold an unhealthy view of sex/will end up raping a prostitute. However, we’d be crazy to act like the boundaries are not incredibly blurred and that things can and do go pear-shaped very quickly with porn. Are we willing to keep risking it?

What do you think? I have agreed to disagree with some of you and have greatly benefited from the conversation…I’d love to hear more of your thoughts as we wrap this up. Tomorrow, I’ll highlight some of things we have discussed that are important to consider as we move on, and on Friday, I’ll answer the question most frequently posed during the series.

3 responses to “Porn: it loves me, it loves me not.

  1. The escalation that happens with porn isn’t just the increase of ‘hardness’ of porn but in the fact that most porn addicts will get hooked on the same kind of porn. It won’t be enough and they will often (but not always) feel crap about themselves after but it doesn’t push them onto something more extreme, just back to the same stuff again and again.

    And when you think about it this is perhaps much worse in a way. The person who thinks they have it under control and is very subtly getting hooked is more likely to feel shame and therefore will go back to porn in a cycle. Gradually eroding their self confidence and worth.

    Also, you are dead right in that I think there are many misconceptions that those of us who hate what porn does to people, use in arguments.

    So it will be better for us if we stop suggesting that trafficking and porn are always linked. They aren’t (always).
    Not everyone who looks at porn become addicted.
    The porn industry does not mistreat all porn actors.
    Making someone feel guilty over their porn consumption e.g. what if it was your sister?, does not always work.

    We will be in a much better position to love those addicted and love the industry (which interestingly like the church is made up of people not organisations) if we stop assuming and start listening to those who know better than most.

    Those who are addicted and those work in porn.

    Great series Gemma!!

  2. Came across this quote earlier this morning and it’s actually very applicable to all that’s been written on porn here too: “In a consumer society, there are inevitably two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy.” -Ivan Illich

  3. Pingback: Why PORN? « gemmaruthwilson{dot}com·

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