porn oh my pornography

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porn should be fun for a feminist too

Why it can suck and what to do (and watch!)

Watching porn is about just as normal as watching Netflix or having a social media account (no stats but you get the gist). Many of us watch or have watched porn, but not all of us have a simply smacking experience of it. Porn can suck (no pun intended) pretty bad, especially if you happen to not be into the whole stereotypical representation, misogony and fetishization that especially happens to women, queer people and people of color in the porn industry. Being aware and critical of the storytelling of sexuality in the porn industry can make watching mainstream porn a shitty experience, where you might be left feeling abused and objectified. White, heterosexual men can also be left feeling part of something harmful and abusive. In other words: no matter who you are, I understand if you think that most mainstream porn is bullshit, not to mention the poorly made productions and most importantly (and scarily) the huge industry of sex trafficking and abuse behind much of porn production. Enjoyment or no, viewers of mainstream porn inevitably support the industry’s abuse of performers.

I was left pretty depressed about this for a long time, as well as fearful of how it might actually affect people, not just the people like myself feeling disgusted and objectified through it, but also (especially) the countless men watching and potentially being affected by it. Would they eventually start believing this was sex? Would internet porn be their first sexual experiences, and how would this affect their idea of sex, pleasure and boundaries? Would guys I knew, friends, uncritically get off by misogynistic images that would make me nauseous? It’s not unusual for people equating culture with nature. Would people take their idea of female pleasure from these images, that have nothing to do with it whatsoever, that is if they would even consider female pleasure? Would women themselves look for their own pleasure on the terms of these images, or even worse find their pleasure simply in a male partner’s pleasure?

Three things helped me get out of this misery.

Of course realising and accepting that sexuality and desire are complex, liking to watch or fantasize about certain things isn’t the same as liking it in action. And even if it is, in the end it’s all about consent and respect.
The major thing that helped me mentally was reading chapter one of Judith Butler’s Excitable Speech (the relevant part is towards the end of the chapter). I can highly recommend it. The important point for me was that pornography can’t completely define or shape sexuality and what it means to people in real life. I’m sure that sounds extremely simple, but for someone who is wary of the influence of discourses (language, imagery, etc) on society, it’s not something that can be brushed aside easily. Yet reading Butler (who’s much more eloquent on the matter) was a great relief and interesting.

However, the main thing to do is ditch mainstream porn. Not in exchange for abstinence, but in exchange for something much better in every way – visually, narratively, and production wise. Try out porn and erotic films from Erika Lust or Bedside Productions instead! It’s erotic, feminist, queer and inclusive porn that doesn’t abuse performers or viewers. The range is still as broad as any other, whether you are into soft, hard, groups, fetishes. They are well produced, high quality and celebrate sexuality in its diversity, while being extremely satisfactory to watch. So if you’re into porn, try it and be intellectually satisfied and moaning at the same time.

For womxn, there is also the alternative of OMG yes! if you want some inspiration and ideas for exploring your own body and its sensations on your own terms, with yourself. Equally recommendable.

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