We’ve all heard the arguments against porn: it’s morally wrong, disgusting, degrading to women, it makes our men violent and prone to sexual assault, etc. etc. And in case you haven’t heard those arguments before (or if you want to review- that whole, know thine enemy thing), here they are again from Gail Dines, head of the Feminist Anti-Porn movement and author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality. http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/jul/02/gail-dines-pornography

Dines makes a lot of fair arguments about porn.  There is a lot of sexually explicit media which makes us squick (essentially go “ewww gross!”) – for more on that, check out this hysterical article from Carnal Nation: http://carnalnation.com/content/51896/999/sex-squicks.

A lot of porn does show women in subservient, sometimes degrading situations.  Porn is getting more violent.  HOWEVER, that doesn’t make the medium categorically evil or disgusting.  It doesn’t necessarily make it unhealthy.

Here’s the biggest thing Dines misses: women like porn too.  In fact, 30% of all internet porn site visitors are women, which means upwards of 13 million women in the US alone are looking at porn online.  Theresa Flynt, Vice President of marketing for Hustler video, says that women account for 56 percent of business at her company’s video stores.

So we arrive at a conundrum: how can it be that such a terrible, dirty, degrading form of media draws this kind of mass appeal?  Are the 39 million plus people who view porn every year just sick, disgusting, unfixable people? I don’t know about you moral imperialists, but I’m gonna go with a big, fat, queer NO.

What I think too many people don’t realize about porn is its ability to fill a creative gap.  Porn does not by default replace “normal” sexual practices and desires (whatever constitutes normal in your book…).  It is a supplemental form of stimulation which can occupy the mental creative space which a partner might not wish to fill.  Or, of course, if you’re single, it offers an outlet involving a personal element- because, admit it, masturbating with a sock isn’t that mentally stimulating.

In other words, porn is safe.  Porn is professional people doing things that everyday people cannot or will not do, while offering an enjoyable voyeurism for those who cannot be actively involved.

Dines brings up legitimate points about unrealistic or negative expectations brought on by porn.  There are an awful lot of women who don’t enjoy their men cumming on their faces or tying them up and leaving them helpless.  But again, these are problems associated not with porn itself, but with a society unwilling to give the medium context.  Our American society is so frightened of open and honest discussion about sexuality with teenagers for fear of encouraging them to do something unwholesome.  Yet this is absolutely the most crucial topic to bring up among teens who are beginning to develop sexually and experiment.

If parents and teachers were able to have legitimate, open conversations about expectations for sex and the role of porn, the violence against and/or degradation of women in these videos can be seen for what they are: play.

While calling violence against women “play” may seem a cruel assessment, we must always keep in mind that the sexual

preferences and practices of others are not ours to judge, as long as they do not hurt others.  In porn, as in real relationships involving BDSM, the subservience and humiliation of a partner is completely consensual and thus, not damaging to either couple involved.  On the other hand, there are many couples out there who are uncomfortable with

incorporating BDSM into their own physical relationship, yet one partner may still strongly desire that element in their

play.  Thus, porn is a safe and positive solution to the conflict between potentially hurtful practices and personal sexual desires, as it is done in a professional and safe setting and removes unwilling parties (like reluctant couples) from anything which might be emotionally damaging for them to perform themselves.

When put in the context of comprehensive sex ed, there’s nothing inherently harmful about porn.  In fact, it can be helpful.  It allows people to explore their own desires without putting their bodies or emotions at risk.  It affirms the idea that there is a kink for everyone and all kinks deserve to be honored and respected (and in this case, commercialized!).

At least, that’s this queer girl’s argument.  What are your thoughts?

((Also- a preview of what’s to come: looking at writing about erotic fiction with some suggestions for ya’ll, especially queer-positive stuff, as well as trying to fit in a beautiful piece on what it means to be female- and to love a female, and eventually a post on rape/the “gray area.”  I am DESPERATELY in need of someone to write about reconciling religion with homosexuality, because I simply can’t do it.  Being a Taoist, I just haven’t gone through that struggle, and I want the issue addressed in the most authentic and relevant way.  In fact, I’d love multiple viewpoints.  Please comment or email me if you’d like to write something!))

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