Debating porn: Round 2

11 Oct

This time the debate was at DCU. The convenors were good, the crowd was good and, the most important thing, this time we won!

Here is my speech (I should warn you now, it is quite graphic in some parts so prepare yourself!):

The motion: Porn Degrades Women

This is a question for all you porn users in the audience: In pornography, how often do you see a man crying, choking or saying that it hurts? When was the last time you saw a man in mainstream porn willingly and enthusiastically penetrate one, or multiple orifices, with a foreign object?

Think about it. If we’re really honest, all of us would recognise that the most degrading scenes in pornography are those featuring women.

To get things straight Id like to define exactly what I mean by pornography. When I say pornography, I mean the overwhelming majority of what is produced. The porn industry is one that is predominantly driven by men, funded by men, managed by men, directed by men and targeted at heterosexual men. We could talk about every subsection of porn in explicit detail, but ultimately we have to talk about what is most prolific and what an overwhelming majority of porn is. There are exceptions to every rule and the opposition will undoubtedly depend on them to boost its argument, but the vast majority of porn does, without question, degrade women.

In the porn world, female porn characters are astonishingly immune to what women in the real world would define as utter degradation. Porn women delight in being called whores, sluts, bitches or stupid hoes. They seem totally cool with the idea that their partner views their sexuality as something unclean; filthy, dirty or nasty, often even referring to themselves in this way.

In fact, women of the porn world seem to thoroughly enjoy having sex with men who express nothing but contempt and hatred for them. The greater the insults, the better the orgasm for all involved. Porn simplifies the world by creating a one-dimensional woman who is prominently displayed as nothing more than a collection of holes.

Most avid consumers of pornography would recognise the type of woman I’m describing as standard fodder, but may say that when they watch porn they don’t see this as degradation. They may attempt to justify porn by saying that there’s no cruelty in being penetrated in aggressive fashion by three men who call the woman a whore throughout sex. That when two men thrust into a woman’s mouth to the point where she gags and finish by ejaculating into her mouth demanding that ‘the bitch’ swallows it all, there’s no degradation.

In some sense, perhaps they are telling the truth, in that they can’t see the degradation because they are too caught up in the sexual arousal, and in such a state their critical faculties are distracted. They don’t see it because they are ultimately focused on their own pleasure. That to see the woman as a person deserving of respect, to see her as fully human, would interfere with their sexual pleasure.

The first and foremost way pornographers get men, and some women, to buy into porn is by depicting and describing women as sex objects who are deserving, evening desiring, of sexual abuse. In porn, sex is framed not just as consensual but as something the woman seeks out because she just loves all kinds of sex. This is a prime method for lessening any guilt the user may feel, as he can reassure himself that she likes it and is not being hurt.

Many porn viewers like to justify enjoying porn by employing the ‘choice’ argument. When asked whether they would like to see their wives, girlfriends, sisters or daughters featured in a three way, being penetrated in every orifice, it is a very rare person who would say yes.

Instead the likely response will be that their loved ones would never ‘choose’ such a job. The image many men and some women seem to have of female porn stars is that of dreaming of a life in the sex industry, stumbling onto a porn set one day and realizing that all her dreams have come true! That these women are ACTORS and may not have come to porn through choice, but due to lack of alternatives is rarely considered, because this premise threatens to puncture their sexual fantasy world.

To use a relevant example I shall refer to a model from Blue magazine, the publication one of the other speakers works for. In a television interview on Ireland AM, Maggie Page from Blue magazine, when asked why she decided to pose naked responded:

“Because modeling is something I’ve always been interested in since I was 16/17 years old” however” A lot of people wouldn’t take me on as a mainstream model because of the fact that I have tattoos and piercings” and so, she continues, adult entertainment was an arena that would accept her body as it is.

Maggie is not an unusual case when it comes to why women go into adult entertainment. Many women involved in pornography have reported similar aspirations of modeling or acting and found that their looks or their personalities were not accepted by the mainstream. It is a rare, and very well paid, porn star who will tell you that their reason for going into pornography was because they just adored never ending sex with strangers. A substantial majority of porn actresses will testify that the main incentive was the money. This is a reason Blue magazine also references in their press release which states that many volunteer because ‘they like the extra cash’.

So where is the choice in a situation where the main incentive is not to be used as a sex object, but to gain access to something that is not available through other avenues. When women are forced to conform to narrow stereotypes of beauty in order to go into modeling or acting and where they are paid less then their male counterparts for almost every other job, how much of that is purely free choice? When women have equal pay, equal rights and equal treatment in society, it would be interesting to see how many actively seek a life in porn.

A common argument utilised in justifying brutality and violence against women in pornography is that it does not affect real life. This is just fantasy, that men are able to distinguish real women from the ones they see in pornography. But, unfortunately this is not true. It seems that many men, particularly men of my age, have great difficulty distinguishing between porn sex and real sex. Almost all of my friends have at one time had a man pull a porn move on them without discussion or consent. Women I know have been slapped, bitten, pinched, had men wrap their hands around their throats or attempts to induce choking through other means. These are not violent guys, and they are not at a BDSM convention. With the average age of first exposure to Internet porn being 11, these are boys whose first image of sex was most likely watching porn, a medium, which identifies women as living sex dolls available for any kind of violence or degradation.

Finally, I must emphasise that I am in absolutely no way anti-sex. To say that by objecting to porn I am automatically pro-censorship, anti sex or anti freedom of sexual expression is a tired and untrue stereotype used to silence those who think of porn as a negative force in our society. Think of it this way, if I were to stand here and criticise McDonalds for its exploitative labour practices and its impact on our diet and health, would it be right to accuse me of being anti-food or anti-eating? I would hope that most people have the ability to differentiate between criticism of an industry and criticism of human behaviour.

My main message is that women are women. We can pretend that women in pornography and women on the street are different, but unfortunately that distinction seems too unclear for most men. To say that women on the receiving end of some of the pornographic behaviour I have referenced are not being degraded, is to be willfully ignoring what you see. You can justify it whatever way you want, but crying and choking or even just glazed eyes and fake orgasms are all turn offs for me and I hope the next time you watch porn, they are for you too.

Because, while you continue happily consuming the pornography that is being mass produced at the moment, the cycle of violence and degradation of women in porn will never be broken.

 

(I should add that some of these concepts were thought up by other people. I don’t claim credit for the McDonalds analogy, for example, that can be found in a really good book called ‘Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Culture’ by Gail Dines)

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3 Responses to “Debating porn: Round 2”

  1. konstruktsiya October 12, 2010 at 1:58 pm #

    Excellent speech, fully deserving of the prize. I only wish I’d known the debate was on so I could attend!

  2. Sarah October 29, 2010 at 2:37 pm #

    In pornography, how often do you see a man crying, choking or saying that it hurts?

    How often do you see a woman doing this either?

    When was the last time you saw a man in mainstream porn willingly and enthusiastically penetrate one, or multiple orifices, with a foreign object?

    Stupid question, since mainstream porn is aimed at straight men. Use of dildos is not uncommon in gay male porn.

    For someone who dislikes porn so much you don’t seem to have watched very much of it.

    • Holly December 2, 2010 at 8:08 pm #

      “For someone who dislikes porn so much you don’t seem to have watched very much of it.”

      ….
      If she dislikes it why would she watch a lot of it?

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