Popular pornography is undeniably big business and, thanks to the internet, virtually ubiquitous. I mean, it isn’t something I encounter often when I’m online checking the news but if you’re halfway interested, porn is a click away.
Pete Malicki’s ‘How Liberating is Porn Really?’, published at New Matilda, sums up my thoughts pretty well about the problems in the way mainstream pornography portrays women and sexuality. He also provides a neat description of what makes your bread and butter porn, which you can read for yourself at New Matilda. The thrust of his definition hinges on the preoccupation in popular pornography with male desire and the concurrent indifference to women’s sexuality.
I recall as a teenager when the porn craze hit. Girls and boys would watch it, probably mostly a typical teen taboo-breaking exercise. Adult audiences aside, the most dangerous consequence of young people viewing mainstream porn films is that the watching often constitutes a first explicit glimpse of a sexual act. It would be impossible for a young person to be impervious to its influence; pornography sets unhealthy and unrealistic expectations for boys and girls to try to emulate in the bedroom (or wherever). I can’t imagine that sex education in schools offers a correction to this skew.
As Pete Malicki says:
“Given that porn overwhelmingly represents a version of male fantasy, female viewers will be shown what males “want” sexually. It’s pretty easy to understand why women who have been overexposed to porn might feel pressured to fit that fantasy, even without being asked to perform [such] acts.”
Behaviour isn’t all that can be affected – porn provides an aesthetic template too. Arguably the rise in labioplasty, or cosmetic labial surgery, is in some part attributable to the unrealistic “elegant-looking labia” you can see in mainstream pornography.
I suspect women who voice any opposition to popular pornography are often accused of being sexual spoilsports. Statistics show that many women watch porn, and it is possible that many of them watch your standard money shot stuff in the absence of explicit films that pay more mind to a woman’s pleasure.
Of course there is plenty of pornography out there that resists adhering just to the male gaze. In October this year the first Feminist Porn Film Award was awarded in Berlin, and you can read about the awarded film makers here, and the criteria – which include ‘no misogynistic portrayals’ and more women in production roles – here. Films that fulfill the criteria will be given a ‘PorYes’ stamp.
It’s safe to say that watching pornography can be an ethical minefield and for those who’d like less degradation with their titillation, the PorYes seal of approval could prove helpful in finding enjoyable erotica, and the internet – often blamed for spreading misogynistic material – is the perfect vehicle for the dissemination of feminist pornography.
And I note that while the Sydney Morning Herald recently reported on the PorYes movement, Life & Style web editors stuck to house pictorial policy and used a breast-enhanced image to accompany the article.