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Bed, Bitch & Beyond: I (Still) Blame Porn: A Response

I opened a big can of feminist worms on Thursday with my post I Blame Porn, In which I talked about how the mainstreaming of mass-produced hetero porn is starting to influence—negatively—the cultural perceptions of what’s sexy, particularly among teenagers.

I opened a big can of feminist worms on Thursday with my post I Blame Porn, In which I talked about how the mainstreaming of mass-produced hetero porn is starting to influence—negatively—the cultural perceptions of what's sexy, particularly among teenagers. I was stunned by the number of Bitch readers who shouted me down, proclaiming that bald-vadge, facial-cumshot studio-produced porn isn't misogynist and doesn't have any effect at all on sexual behavior. The most common reason it couldn't be bad or misogynist?  Because they like it and imitate it and they choose their choice! Free will FTW!


Guess what, folks?  You can choose your choice, but you do not live—or fuck—in a vacuum. No matter how liberated you think you are, the truth is, your sexual development did not just happen spontaneously. We are having different sex than our mothers did. They had different sex than their mothers did. Why? The changes in their sex lives reflected the huge changes in the culture that they lived in. When society shifts the way it regards sex—and women—our sex lives change. Whether those cultural changes are due to birth control, women's lib, the destigmatizing of gay and premarital sex, greater access to written erotica or internet porn, there's no doubt that when it comes to our sexual behavior CULTURE MATTERS. If you think your sexual desires and behavior just sprang up sui generis because you are a unique individual with free will who's completely uninfluenced by society, you are kidding yourself.


As one commenter said,  

If they didn't get the idea from porn, then what explains the fact that all these kids are suddenly doing it? Did they seriously all just spontaneously think it up on their own?

And what do you mean by "consensual" [when it comes to facial cumshots]? If a girl feels like guys won't be interested in her unless she agrees to things that are degrading in at least many contexts (listen closely to the language that's used by the men about the women during, after, and describing cumshots) then how is her participation in it fully consensual? This is another example of a sex act that is entirely male-centric. The woman doesn't receive any sexual pleasure from it, but is supposed to go along with it because female pleasure and desires are either irrelevant or less important when it comes to mainstream, male-centric porn. Having your desire and pleasure subjugated is degrading.


She's not the only one who feels that way. A recent op-ed piece in the Times of London said that "Feminism 2009 means acting out male masturbation fantasies--because you want to."  That's deliberately provocative, but not far off, IMO. The author of that piece goes on to point out that women's masturbation fantasies, or even our most basic sexual needs are completely ignored in this new porn-y depiction of sex in our culture:

What is strange and shocking is how women's own sexual pleasure is seldom mentioned. The female orgasm, the clitoris, barely get a shout-out. From the lie-back-and-think-of-England days, when sex was something men did to women, today it is perceived as something women perform for men.


SarahMC, who edits The Pursuit of Harpyness with me, wrote in and agreed:

Most mainstream porn does not encourage female sexual expression. It portrays and encourages female sexual PERFORMANCE. Big difference."


Mainstream porn is 100% performed for men's pleasure. Even if the women aren't being out-and-out degraded, they're certainly not treated like partners in the act, nor is their pleasure even remotely the point of the act. I once killed a boyfriend's boner dead by watching porn with him and pointing this out.

"She's totally not into that." I said, "Look, he hasn't even touched her clit. He's just pumping away. She's used a ton of lube,"—her thighs and ass were glazed with it—"and she's not even looking at him. And her eyes look kinda glassy like she's tranq'd out. This is your idea of hot sex?"  

He looked startled and said, "I never thought of it that way."

Damn right he hadn't. Porn doesn't think of it that way—porn is all about the dick and not about the clit. Hell, better than half the time the male performers don't even go down on the woman, but you can be sure those dudes will be getting a big, sloppy, seemingly endless blowjob.

That, people, is the mainstream, widely-consumed depiction of sex that teenagers are getting from the internet and incorporating into their idea of what's hot and how they should act.

But even though this stuff is obviously unrealistic and not exactly "up with women", it has its defenders.

When I dissed the trend of denuded crotches and facial cumshots in mainstream porn, there were howls of "get your judgment off my fantasies!" and "I know the difference between fantasy and reality, so quit telling me what to think!"

Thing is, I wasn't. At no time in that post did I propose policing anyone's fantasies or sexual activity.  I even specifically said that I wasn't judging anyone's kinks or fetishes (I said I didn't like having dudes come on my face because I don't like getting cum in my eyes and hair, but surely I'm entitled to my preference). What I was saying is that we should be AWARE of where these images come from, and how they affect the cultural perception of what's sexy.  Awareness is key. When it comes to actual sexual behavior, you consenting adults can do whatever the hell you want--do it in the streets and frighten the horses, for all I care—but don't pretend your sexual likes and dislikes came into being with absolutely no external influences.

As for consenting adults, I'll send out a special O HAI to the BDSM devotee who called me "misogynist" and "sexually ignorant" for not "do[ing] a little research and learn about professional and committed submissives and how much the lifestyle means to them and how much they have grown through discovering it." Thanks for representing...even if the post wasn't even REMOTELY about BDSM or the submissive lifestyle or your personal journey of self-discovery. (Interestingly, another self-described sub completely contradicted her later in the thread: "Being a sub does not mean behaving like you are in a porn video.")

That BDSM commenter—and a few others--proves one of the constants in writing about sex: it's such a personal, deeply felt issue that no matter what position you take—no pun intended—readers immediately assume that you're talking about or judging them and their sex lives, even when you're not.  A commenter on my own website wrote:

It seems that some of the commenters are engaged in a straw person argument. You didn't mention anything about the *evils of porn*, women being chaste, etc.

Straw person argument at least to my mind is a backhanded compliment, you've touched a nerve and the other person either deliberately/accidently has misread what you've written, and is having difficulties arguing their point within the framework of your argument.


No one likes to feel that their sexuality is being picked apart or criticized. But we absolutely have to take a critical look at the messages women (and men) receive about sexuality and call out the ones that are questionable or harmful to us. Feminist authors and critics—at Bitch Magazine especially—do that all the time, supplying the "Feminist Response to Pop Culture" with movies, television, advertising, news coverage. Porn is undeniably part of our pop culture, and it affects the kinds of sex people are having. You may like some of what porn offers and choose to incorporate it into your grooming or your sexual behavior, but I'm not being "judgmental ideologue",  "prude" or "misogynist" for pointing out that it's happening, and that we should be aware, informed and thoughtful about it.

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Comments

111 comments have been made. Commenting is set to read-only for this post.

Age

How old are you, Becky, just out of curiosity?

i think you are misusing the

i think you are misusing the term 'curiousity'.

why do you ask?

I don't think it matters particularly, but if it's really important to you, you can find out by checking my blogger profile on Bitch...

Becky Sharper www.harpyness.com

Becky Sharper www.harpyness.com

two seventeens

OK, so 34. Why that might be relevant is the huge difference between VHS porn of the 90s and interwebs porn now. What was available in the '90s was pretty tawdry fare; silicone breasts, male pleasure and altogether too much anal. There's still a lot of that and a lot of people watch it, but the critical difference between the '90s and now is how teens go about getting it.

In my early teens a few borrowed videos were all that was available, today a teen can can visit RedTube, AskTiava or TPB and watch anything at all. If they're watching something misogynistic it's because they chose it out of everything ever produced. Attacking the influence that porn has on teens comes across as attacking the choices they made. There might be some friction when partners have come to enjoy different things, c'est la vie.

Not Quite

Yeah, I don't buy that. I've taught on and off at the alternative high school for the last several years, and we always get kids who figure out how to get around the program that limits internet content on school computers. Since I tend to be the on-site IT person, I get the pleasure of finding it and deleting it and blocking the sites they've accessed, so I've seen tons and tons of the kind of porn kids are accessing for free online. Like enough to last me for the rest of my life. From what I can tell it's all the mainstream stuff Becky is talking about. The women have zero agency and are incredibly fake - both in the way they look and in the way they act. I can easily believe that this is where they get their sense of what sex is like.

Read further in the

Read further in the thread...

When you say "why that might be relevant is the huge difference between VHS porn of the 90s and the interwebs porn of today", well, yes. I make that point in response to another commenter.

I hope you're not assuming that because I'm not a teen I haven't watched porn since the early 90s. Because that sure as hell is not the case. As for the issue of choice--it is damn near impossible to find any woman-positive porn on youporn, redtube, megaporn or any of the major sites. Believe me, I've tried. It ain't there.

Becky Sharper www.harpyness.com

Becky Sharper www.harpyness.com

are those the first websites

are those the first websites that come up when you google "sex"? while i don't doubt kids can find better porn if they look (as could we when we were teens, if we had really really tried), that doesn't mean they know to look. not to mention the non-pornographic sexy mainstream is leading us all to the mainstream images of sex and sexiness, that makes us think 'alternative' porn (i don't mean suicide girls here, i mean actual alternatives) isn't sexy.

you'd think a curious person

you'd think a curious person would have thought to click on your profile first. but obviously they had some rhetoric to impart.

I am with you in the fact

I am with you in the fact that porn is made for men. I almost never get turned on by hetero porn because all I can see is a woman acting that she likes everything way too much, but I love watching anything with Belladonna, she's awesome. Many times I've had this discussion with my boyfriend, I know not every woman likes the same things, but there are certain things that I know the actress cannot like that much. This might influence women into not being sincere about what they really like because they might feel like they have to like certain things. What I like about porn, is that at the same time couples can use it as a tool to learn what they like, and IF they are open with each other porn can be great.

staria: "I know not every

staria: "I know not every woman likes the same things, but there are certain things that I know the actress cannot like that much."

You contradict yourself there. If not every woman likes the same things, then there are some women who like things that disturb you or you think are degrading, by definition.

I would have had that same sort of reaction before I got involved with BDSM. I was really offended by a lot of "dominate" behavior. What I've come to learn is that there are women who are really into pretty much all of the things that freaked me out.

Take choking for example. I never liked seeing it in porn, I found it really disturbing. And yet I've come to meet a lot of women who think it's very hot. Some of them would identify themselves as "submissives," some would not. My experience is that it's not the sort of thing a woman will tell you they're into right off the bat. They're embarrassed at wanting something that most people would see as degrading. There also are women who love to get a load of cum on their face, and who love to suck cock but really don't want to receive oral.

Where I think Becky has it correct is that those are pretty submissive acts, and yet they're depicted as the norm in porn. That's exactly right. The only difference between most porn and BDSM porn is the wardrobe and props.

That doesn't mean that some porn actresses don't like having those things done to them. Look at Sasha Gray for example. She does a lot of scenes where she's extremely submissive, and it doesn't look like an act to me. She's also extremely popular, which I think is not a coincidence.

Now, I'm not a BDSM lifestyler, I dabbble. I got involved when I met someone who was a lifestyler, and they pointed out my dom side after some discussions about what I liked sexually. I think that those same urges I have are shared by a lot of men. I also think there are a lot more women who like to be submissive in the bedroom than you might guess. Some of the women I've met who have that side to them would surprise you. They're sometimes highly intelligent, strong women who are in very much in control of most situations, and so enjoy giving up that control during sex.

We can argue about the causes of those urges. I think it has a lot to do with evolutionary psychology, that it's not all cultural by any means. But the reality is that mainstream porn is big business. Producers didn't just all have a meeting one day and decide to have guys start slapping the actresses with their cocks. If what we see in mainstream porn wasn't selling, we wouldn't be seeing it. And mainstream porn may be geared towards men, but it's not only men who watch and enjoy it.

My reaction to these complaints about mainstream porn is pretty much the same to my reaction to people complaining about the lack of imagination in mainstream movies, music, etc.: DiY. If you really think there's an audience for a different kind of porn that you're seeing, grab a camera and make some. Or find someone who's making it already and invest in their company, or buy their products. I think there is a growing field now for "alternative" porn, for the same reasons that we see more indie music and movies: digital distribution.

You missunderstood me, maybe

You missunderstood me, maybe I didn't express myself well. When I say that "I know not every woman likes the same things, but there are certain things that I know the actress cannot like that much", I never implied that it was demeaning acts. I know things like choking and such can be fun, and I have friends that like me enjoy things that one wouldn't think are likable. What I meant was that porn in trying to bring a fantasy many times exaggerates. I had a boyfriend that used to think that if a woman is not screaming and constantly moaning she is not enjoying it. When I talked about this with him, he referenced the way women act in porn. Not all women act like the women in porn, but he thought that it was supposed to be like that. Porn is not bad and whatever people like as long as it is consensual is great, what I think is troubling about porn is the message men might get from them, that they might expect things to be like in the movies when not all of them are.

I got your point and i don't

I got your point and i don't feel to argue with you because what you tried to tell is absolutely 100% right. It is time to think that how long women will be like a experimental object for men. When her desires will get noticed. When she will get the fun of pleasure? Think don't just criticize.

SEM

Well Thought Out & Well Written Response

Well done, Becky.

I think you really captured the reason for the uproar here:

"one of the constants in writing about sex: it's such a personal, deeply felt issue that no matter what position you take—no pun intended—readers immediately assume that you're talking about or judging them and their sex lives, even when you’re not."

In reading the comments I certainly got the impression that's what people were feeling and what influenced a mass of knee-jerk responses.

And as you rightly point out, "We absolutely have to take a critical look at the messages women (and men) receive about sexuality and call out the ones that are questionable or harmful to us."

I would perhaps add, we should always consciously evaluate our actions and ask ourselves why we do the things we do, what influences (or manipulates) our behavior -- and as Bitch readers, what is being said about sex and gender. The answers aren't always bad, but the information will, well, better inform our future choices.

Jennifer K. Stuller
[email protected]
http://www.ink-stainedamazon.com/

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i didn't read your other

i didn't read your other post. but i think something important here is that you are specificially talking about MAINSTREAM porn. which is why talking about dom/sub relationships is unrelated. i think one thing people miss a lot, is that the kinks in mainstream porn are STILL KINKS. but they are presented to us as if they are a norm. women's hairy armpits have been considered a marginalized kink for at least my lifetime (31 years). hairless armpits? normal. but considering the nature of human beings, it's really the hairless armpits that are the fetish.

the problem isn't that people think shaved vaginas are sexy. the problem is that shaved vaginas are more and more being presented to us as -normal-. hairless vaginas are -rare- in nature. unless you are prepubescent.

i think the real problem is that there is mainstream porn at all. and that it is all the same. a few people add facial cumshots to their movies because they think it's hot, that's cool. every single mainstream straight porn includes this shot? why.

it's so frustrating when people who do mainstream things get all fucking defensive when you point out that what they are doing is mainstream. you are not being marginalized for your porn consumption or your interest in having cum on your face. you aren't. but damned if i can find a fuck movie anywhere that caters to my interests. and you know what? -i'm not kinky-. cute people having real sex, exploring eachother's bodies, coming inside eachother instead of on eachother, body hair, sweating, eye contact, loving sexy talk, fingering. no anal sex. no cumshots. that's real sex folks. your real sex might be like mainstream porn, but if you think you were having that kind of sex and porn was just following YOU, you would have to be 75 to have predated the trends.

not that i think 75 year old women don't read bitch, but i'm betting more of you are around my age. and we certainly did not start the hairless vag bukkake trends seen in porn these days. the anal sex thing (something that turns me OFF when i see straight couples doing it with the woman's ass) is a really obvious example of the problem. anal sex is in every mainstream porn. and of course lots and lots of totally normal women like anal sex. it's totally normal to like anal sex. but a lot of men and women do not like anal sex but have to see it every time they watch a mainstream porn. because anal sex is apparently 'mainstream' and not a kink, but cunnilingus is a kink and not mainstream.

and you know what? i love porn. i watched a lot of cable porn as a kid, and real porn when i was older. i think porn is -good-. but i think mainstream porn is bad. really bad.

completely agree

Yep, we are probably about the same age. And I actually really enjoy--and consume--porn myself, both solo and with partners.

In terms of what's good, I do tend to enjoy the vintage porn from the 70s and 80s, when women still looked like women and not like hairless blow-up dolls, and where there seemed to be a lot more genuine enthusiasm between the performers and a focus on the sexual pleasure of both parties. Nina Hartley is a particular porn crush of mine for this reason.

These days, I prefer amateur porn, not the gonzo stuff, but home-grown movies with real-life couples, or at least, couples who know and have the hots for each other. Those are much more like what turns me on in real life.

Becky Sharper www.harpyness.com

Becky Sharper www.harpyness.com

Porn...

I have to speak up here as a woman who is also an adult movie reviewer and I probably watch more porn in a month than everyone here combined. Seriously.

First, I read that original article where it stated 13 year old girls say that Jenna Jameson is their role model. I can think of a lot of worse people to look up to. Jenna Jameson is famous. She made a name for herself on her own and owns her own company. In fact, so do A LOT of women porn stars including Brianna Banks, Sasha Grey and Joanna Angel. These people have just decided on a career that many people do not agree with. What 13 year old girl wouldn't look up to a beautiful successful woman? At the end of the day that is what Jenna is. Sasha Grey is 21 years old and has her own company. How many people can you say that about?

That brings me to number two. Porn being made for men. Yes, a lot of it is. The stuff that is so obviously made for men bores me to tears. I can not stand POV porn. I hate these gonzo type features where women spend 20 minutes strutting around in lingerie and showing off for the camera before anything happens. YAWN! I also have NOT seen any of this porn everyone is talking about that does not show men going down on women. I keep hearing it's out there, but I have never come across it. However, there is a ton of porn out there made by women, and it's made for both men and women to enjoy. That doesn't mean there isn't cumshots to the face, shaved genitals, etc. Women who write and direct porn: Sasha Grey, Stormy Daniels, Joanna Angel, Nica Noelle (check out her movies from Sweet Sinner/Sweetheart Video - they are VERY female oriented), Candida Royale, Dyanna Lauren, Jessica Drake, Erica McLean, Jenna Haze, Belladonna...and these are just off the top of my head without thinking about it. There are more. These women are not the exception to the rule. Women directors are as common as male directors.

Internet porn is hardly mainstream porn. Internet porn is internet porn. When you ask someone in the industry to list mainstream porn companies you get studios like Vivid and Wicked listed. Mainstream porn is considered plotted features/couples porn. Think the Digital Playground movie Pirates. That is mainstream porn. Internet porn is made by anyone and everyone with a camcorder or webcam wanting to be an exhibitionist. It's TPG galleries that people put up hoping to make money off affiliate accounts.

As far as lack of pubic hair...you can't place all that blame on porn. Articles abound in magazines such as Cosmo on the pro's and con's of public hair. There is some debate about etiquette and public hair when it comes to oral sex. Whatever. To each their own. Either way, even before porn there were women who shaved. Not everyone likes pubic hair. That is just a fact of life. Deal with it. This has only become more apparent in recent years because it's now cool to talk about sex and people aren't as shy about saying "Hey, this turns me on and this doesn't" as well as talk about their grooming habits.

Blaming porn for people's attitudes about sex is a cop out. Everyone wants to blame porn for something. Yea, it's probably influenced more than one person. I can't think of anyone who has watched porn who hasn't found something they wanted to try out. Yea, so people try things out and find out they like it. Again, whatever. However, making the blanket statement that it's all the fault of porn is not fair. Yea, it's part of our culture but attitudes have changed very much over the last 10 years let alone the 70's when Behind the Green Door opened the porno door. Being open about sex and talking about it and all has done more to change the sexual landscape than porn has.

So what that these porn

So what that these porn stars have their own companies? That's not a reason to be looked up to. People should be looked up to for their actions, and for their integrity. There is no integrity for being fucked on camera. There is no integrity in doing gang-bang scenes. There is no integrity in having sweaty, hairy 50-year-old men fuck you in the ass.

Oprah is a woman to look up to. Hilary Clinton is a woman to look up to. Pleasant Rowland is a woman to look up to, Mother Theresa, women who do charity, etc.

I don't have a problem with porn or women who choose to do it, I do have a problem with saying it's OK for a middle schooler to look up to porn stars. Middle school girls shouldn't even know who popular porn stars are, let alone what porn is. When I was in middle school, I barely had internet access. Porn was something no one even really knew about. It just disgusts me that kids that young know what porn is and who porn stars are.

But if you read the original

But if you read the original post you'll find that the article Becky was referring to quoted young people as saying that they expected facial cumshots to be the norm - they imply that any partner they have should agree to it. When a sex act goes from being a somewhat unusual fetish to being seen as the norm and the minimum of what your partner owes you, and this social change follows a change in porn where this act has become a standard part of the script that most mainstream porn flicks follow, then it seems completely unreasonable to deny that there's a connection. Could it really, honestly just be a complete coincidence? Seriously?

i don't think people's

i don't think people's attitudes towards sexed are created by porn. porn is a reflection of society's attitudes towards sex. but it does influence what we find arousing, because porn is supposed to be sexy. especially teenagers get aroused by the idea of looking at porn. they are already aroused. then they see those images. then they learn to associate those images with arousal. or worse, they think that is what is universally arousing other people (who will become their partners). and of course the real deep problem is our complete lack of sex education. because where are kids going to learn that coming on someone's face -isn't- how most acts of sex end? if we would talk to our kids about sex (in terms other than std's and pregnancy, not that we do a good job of that either), it wouldn't be so bad that they'd have such easy access to mainstream porn.

as for 'internet' porn vs. 'mainstream' porn: there is mainstream internet porn and there is mainstream erotic fiction. there are mainstream porn magazines, there are mainstream porn movies. and there is non-mainstream porn in all of those media. it isn't the medium that decides if something is mainstream, it's access and social acceptability. furry porn, whether it's a film or a website or a magazine, is not mainstream. juggworld.com/ (first hit when i google 'boob's) is.

totally agreed.

Great comment. Thanks for making the point that mainstream porn (which Becky was referring to) is not about kink its about MAINSTREAM. Who decides what is mainstream? I think everyone knows.

"Starting" to effect us? Wake up.

The first paragraph of your article is insinuating that "the mainstreaming of mass-produced hetero porn is starting to influence—negatively—the cultural perceptions of what’s sexy, particularly among teenagers."

My response is that this article and the first one were a waste of word count to begin with, as "the mainstreaming of mass-produced hetero porn" happened over THIRTY YEARS AGO, and it has been "influencing" cultural perceptions (along with advertising, television, music, news media, and RELIGION) of what's sexy among teenagers (and men and women of every age) for way, way longer than you've been a journalist (or alive, honestly.)

The truth is that EVERYTHING that has been marginalized into a formulaic factory-belt product white-washes and compartmentalizes he true passion of humanity and art, and porn in no exception. Nothing mainstream is real. Blaming porn as the main cause for teenage ideas on sexuality and relationships is not only offensive to those of us who create, perform, and participate in watching porn made by women and queers, but it's also an arcane 2nd-wave version of feminism that I'm sorry, just doesn't work for any of us anymore.

Andrea Dwarkin wrote your book in 1979. I suggest reading it.

I also suggest taking a serious look at what's really out there in the porn world. I've been running No Fauxxx (http://www.nofauxxx.com) since 2002, and then there's http://www.thecrashpadseries.com, run by Shine Louise Houston, and directors like Tristan Taromino, Candida Royalle, Belladonna, Carlos Batts, and companies like Trannywood, SIR Productions (which actually won an AVN -porn Oscars- for Best All Girl Feature in ***1992*** and is a lesbian-produced company), Nina Hartley, Annie Sprinkle.

Each and every person/company on that list has had a hand in making porn both in and out of the mainstream world. Don't blow them off because they don't fit into your thesis.

Best,
Courtney Trouble
Photographer, Queer Feminist Porn Director, Owner of No Fauxxx Productions, and previous Bitch Magazine employee.
http://www.nofauxxx.com
http://www.courtneytrouble.com

There's porn and then there's porn

I was careful to be specific about the kind of porn I was talking about--the mainstream hetero kind that's so widely available. Yes, I'm aware that there is more woman-positive porn out there, but it's a very small percentage of what teens/young people view, and you have to actively seek it out.

I disagree with your assertion that porn was in the mainstream over 30 years ago. When I was a teen--in the late 80s/early 90s, i.e. pre-internet and DVD--video porn was not widely available to us. But my younger siblings--who are 18, 19 and 22--had seen nearly ever kind of sex act imaginable by the time they were old enough to vote. Even within a generation, there's been a HUGE difference in the accessibility and therefore the cultural influence of porn.

Becky Sharper www.harpyness.com

Becky Sharper www.harpyness.com

And people forget that porn

And people forget that porn was ILLEGAL in the 70s. Remember the huge deal with Larry Flint? What he was doing was illegal. Porn videotapes were illegal. So no, it was not mainstream.

Those Anti-Porn Laws Were Found Unconstitutional - Free Speech

I guess you are too young to remember when 'Deep Throat' starring Linda Lovelace came out in the theaters. That was mainstream and played in normal movie theaters. The pro-censorship laws you referred to which were pushed through by narrow minded authoritarian prudes and violated the First Amendment. Larry Flint appealed his case and eventually won in federal court. Pornography is protected free speech and free press. The laws against it were found unconstitutional and his magazine, 'Hustler' continued to be a big seller. Subsequently magazines like Penthouse got a bit more riske and and had centerfolds pleasuring themselves, fingering their own vaginas. Larry Flint, you may recall, wound up being shot and paralyzed by one of those pro-censorship nazi zealots yet he continued to campaign for free speech and free expression, and yes, porn videotapes were too mainstream. The hardcore stuff in the peep shows on 42nd Street in Manhattan back in the 1960's and 1970's which could be purchased (I seem to recall it being 8 mm film) has long since been driven away. Now that stuff was real hard core porn. The subject in this column is a tempest in a teapot.

I know it was

I know it was unconstitutional, that's not the point. And I wasn't even born yet when Deep Throat came out, but that doesn't mean I don't know what the cultural impact was.

"The pro-censorship laws you referred to which were pushed through by narrow minded authoritarian prudes and violated the First Amendment."

I know. I know all about everything in your post. And I don't really understand your point. You didn't need to give me a lecture on the history of censorship laws. I know all about it, I read all about it in books and heard about it from my parents.. All I said was that back in the 70s, it was illegal, so it wasn't necessarily mainstream. Porn was taboo. Not everyone had access to it, either.

porn wasn't exactly illegal.

porn wasn't exactly illegal. the question with porn was whether it was prostitution (getting paid to have sex), and prostitution was illegal. and there was also the question of whether it was obscene, which is notoriously hard to pin down. the whole thing with larry flint was that there were legitimate arguments that what he was doing was -not- illegal. if it was just open and shut illegal, there'd have been no repeals.

And because of those laws,

And because of those laws, it wasn't mainstream. It was taboo. It wasn't as easily accessible as it is today. Porn has never been more available than it is today. All it takes is the click of a button. Back in the 70s, tape hadn't been invented yet, so in order to see a porno flick, you had to go to the movie theater with all the other pervs. Or go to a magazine stand and buy a Hustler, if they even sold it. In the 80s, when videotape was invented, it was easier to access porn, but it was still more taboo. You had to go to a video store. And as time went on, porn became less and less taboo, places like porno shops became trendy to visit, the Hustler of Hollywood store opened, porn stars like Jenna Jameson are recognizable. And the internet. You can get porn with the click of a button. It's only more mainstream now simply because of the internet.

I don't consider you an

I don't consider you an authority on topics like porn and its meanings and impacts when you refer to people who consume it as "pervs." Maybe you missed what we've been talking about.

I'm with you, Becky...thanks!

I'm with you, Becky...thanks! I'm having a hard time with the people (namely, the above commenter, and the woman a few posts up who claims to be an authority on porn) saying that what we think of as the mainstream isn't actually mainstream. If we think of it as the mainstream...isn't that the only qualification it needs to actually BE mainstream? Who defines that? I think when Becky refers to mainstream porn, she means the stuff that most teenagers, most of them avid proponents of immediate gratification, will find when they type words and phrases like "big tits," "MILF," and "blonde cumshot" into regular search engines. The teenagers most susceptible to deriving negative meanings and ideas from porn are not the ones who are going to scour the internet for healthy, real, woman-positive porn. They're going to type in whatever keyword they think of and get on a few big name, MAINSTREAM sites. I have no problem with anyone on here claiming to be an authority on porn, because they make it, star in it, watch it, whatever. If you're in that industry, you're obviously an authority on it...that's the point! Of course you know more about porn than the average consumer, but you can't claim to have superior knowledge about it, then turn around and claim to be on par with the average teenager/consumer. Actual mainstream is different from what's mainstream in the porn industry, and the regular, everyday consumers decide what that mainstream is, not you.

THE comment and the point of it all!

Courtney Trouble,

THIS. This is why I love working for you.
You just handed a major can of Whoop Ass that cut the trivial bullshit and got directly to the point.
I hope folks here will read it with their eyes open.

Mad love & respect,
Jiz

I didn't see her blaming

I didn't see her blaming mainstream porn as the MAIN cause of teenage ideas on sex and sexuality, which is what you claim.

Also, I'm familiar with your work and the performers you are writing about, and you don't need me to tell you how far outside of the mainstream all but a few of those performers are. You think teenage boys - or hell, even men like my ex-husband - are seeking out Annie Sprinkle or Tristan Taromino? No, they are looking for the stuff that is readily available and that fits their male-centric view of the world, and what's readily available are male-centric videos that take a view of female sexuality that sees it only as existing as a corollary to male sexuality. Women in those videos are there to turn men on, make them feel good and make them feel manly. If they have orgasms, it's only to make the men feel like they are good at sex, which in turn is about bolstering their masculinity. That's about it.

I respect that you and your colleagues are on the front lines working to change that, but I also think you are off-base in attacking Becky's post as simplistic and passe. (Which, by the way, should we no longer discuss something simply because it was written about in the past? Funny take on discourse you have there.)

Courtney Trouble missed the point.

You might call me young woman with some old school feminist values. In a time when many of my peers were claiming porn as liberatory for female sexuality I was left behind feeling offended and turned OFF.... that is UNTIL I took a Queer Studies class at San Francisco State discovered porn made by and for women from places like Good Vibes, or self advocating women like Nina Hartley, and Madison Young. These kinds of films offered me a place to explore my sexual fantasy life (which had always been quite kinky) without feeling like I was being exploited.

The sad fact of the matter is it was HARD WORK finding these kinds of movies, and even now there is an extremely small market. I had to attend a university and take a niche major course before I even knew this kind of market existed.

I am familiar with No Fauxx, and it's great that this is out there, but for Courtney Trouble and her peers to defensively argue that there work is somehow counter point to the idea that MAINSTREAM porn has negative effects on dominant sexual culture is a gross overstatement of their impact. It would be like suggesting that Big Mouth Burger (a small family owned restaurant in San Francisco http://www.yelp.com/biz/big-mouth-burger-san-francisco) was a viable alternative to the hegemonic power of Mc Donalds.

What I think the REAL problem is (and I think Becky would agree) is not the cum shots, or shaved vag, but informational role mainstream pornography plays in a society that still does not have mainstream DIALOGUE about sex and sexuality. And earlier poster said something really interesting:

"Where I think Becky has it correct is that those are pretty submissive acts, and yet they're depicted as the norm in porn. That's exactly right. The only difference between most porn and BDSM porn is the wardrobe and props."-annonymous

In dominant media, porn is seen as a norm that every male of any age is all but encouraged to voraciously imbibe, while "BDSM" remains a dangerous 4 letter word that can ruin political careers and make a laughing stock of any body who claims to be a part of this seemingly underworld culture. NOWHERE is it discussed that BDSM is can be regular part of a sexual repertoire, and no where is it discussed that it's ok to have a hairy pussy and prefer cunnilingus to cum in the face. If we had a healthy space for real dialogue on sexuality, that was accessible to teenagers and 75 yr old porn stars, then we wouldn't have to worry that young folks were getting all their information from one, highly produced and dangerously misogynistic place.

Actually...

...it's "Dworkin" but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that was a typo. However, you make it very obvious that you're unfamiliar with Dworkin's work by suggesting there is any similarity between hers and BeckySharper's arguments. Dworkin was not only anti-porn, but anti-heterosexual sex. BeckySharper, from these posts and others, is very clearly sex-positive, just the type of sex which women are participating in for themselves, not men, and actually receiving pleasure from. It's funny that you're so frustrated by her accusations against misogynistic mainstream porn, which you don't seem to be a part of, and yet you are accusing her of promoting a viewpoint which she doesn't seem to be promoting.

True

"It's funny that you're so frsutrated by her accusations against misogynistic mainstream porn, which you don't seem to be a part of, and yet you are accusing her of promoting a viewpoint which she doesn't seem to be promoting."

THIS. It's interesting to me how women who claim to be "sex-positive" are angry about my assertions that porn does not empower women. But like I said in the above post, when you write about sex, people tend to knee-jerk according to their beliefs, not according to what I'm actually saying.

Also, FWIW, I loathe Andrea Dworkin's views on sex. Her whole notion that all hetero sex is non-consensual is extremist and patently ridiculous. I don't believe that everyone has unrestricted free will when it comes to sexual behavior, but sure as hell I don't believe that women are so enslaved by the Patriarchy that all sex is rape.

Becky Sharper www.harpyness.com

Becky Sharper www.harpyness.com

Um. Dworkin never said all

Um. Dworkin never said all intercourse is rape. That is a widely spread myth about her, and is so often used to discredit everything she said. It'd be nice if people, especially feminists, could take a second to check that out. Dissappointed to see that in your comment since your post is right on. Last time I tried discussing how sexual desire can be influenced by our patriarchal culture, I was told to get out of people's bedrooms. Like, way to flatter yourself-last thing I wanna see is someone in their damn bedroom, right?

Already "checked it out," but thanks

She didn't say it word for word but it's not at all an inaccurate summary of her point of view. I've read plenty of her work and came to despise much of her claims independently of any outside influence. It was not until college that I learned I was not the only one. But it's really nice for you to assume that Becky's (and my) viewpoint is based on some sort of rumor about her and not, you know, actually reading her books.

if she didn't say it EXACTLY

if she didn't say it EXACTLY like that, then that's not the way she should be quoted. But then again, it's ok to dislike feminists like her, but to dislike "mainstream" feminists and call them out for their shit is UNACCEPTABLE. If people can keep calling her out for something she didn't say, then other feminists have every damn right to criticize the bloggers of places like feministing and Bitch itself for being not representative of feminism, but representative of white, middle class feminism. (not directed at you, but just my general feelings as of lately)

oh, and for your reading:

Andrea Dworkin believes that all intercourse is rape.

FALSE. She has never said this. She sets the record straight in a 1995 interview with British novelist Michael Moorcock. And in a new preface to the tenth-anniversary edition of Intercourse (1997), Andrea explains why she believes this book continues to be misread:

[I]f one's sexual experience has always and without exception been based on dominance--not only overt acts but also metaphysical and ontological assumptions--how can one read this book? The end of male dominance would mean--in the understanding of such a man--the end of sex. If one has eroticized a differential in power that allows for force as a natural and inevitable part of intercourse, how could one understand that this book does not say that all men are rapists or that all intercourse is rape? Equality in the realm of sex is an antisexual idea if sex requires domination in order to register as sensation. As sad as I am to say it, the limits of the old Adam--and the material power he still has, especially in publishing and media--have set limits on the public discourse (by both men and women) about this book [pages ix-x].

http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/LieDetect.html

She wasn't "quoted."

She wasn't "quoted." She was paraphrased, and accurately for a one sentence long summary of her argument.

But then again, it's ok to dislike feminists like her, but to dislike "mainstream" feminists and call them out for their shit is UNACCEPTABLE.
I can't figure out what you mean by this, though I completely agree that feminist media and organizations should be respectfully criticized and confronted for excluding or paying less attention to the issues of women of color, LGBT women, poor women, etc. So if that's what you mean by the above statement... no disagreement here.

Of course she would disavow her statements after as much criticism, though she continues to promote the same ideas even as she is denying holding them. After rummaging through my books, I realized I've lent my heavily scribbled in copy of Intercourse to a friend, but based on what I can track down online, excerpts like these are why she is credited with holding this belief. "Physically, the woman in intercourse is a space inhabited, a literal territory occupied literally: occupied even if there has been no resistance, no force; even if the occupied person said yes please, yes hurry, yes more. Intercourse is the pure, sterile, formal expression of men's contempt for women.'' and "'The political meaning of intercourse for women is the fundamental question of feminism and freedom: can an occupied people - physically occupied inside, internally invaded - be free . . . ?''
You may not take, though extremely simplified, "all sex is rape" from that, and that's fine. But here's why people do, based on what she actually said: Paraphrased, You are being invaded, regardless of your consent = Your consent means nothing = You can never truly consent and since sex without consent is rape, if you can never truly consent to be physically violated, all heterosexual intercourse is rape. Again, you don't have to agree, but it is not just some misappropriated idea that came out of nowhere. Yes, it is misunderstood and misused by feminists and non-feminists alike. But it would be nice, having read my and Becky Sharper's reasonable and intelligent (at least on Becky's part) responses, the benefit of the doubt would be nice. For further evidence that I actually dislike what she wrote and haven't just been brainwashed by self-loathing feminists, I'll just say that one of the most empowering moments in my life is saying yes to sex and meaning it, after saying no and not being listened to when I lost my virginity by way of acquaintance rape, followed by painful years of saying yes to sex I didn't want because I didn't give a shit about myself. Dworkin takes that power away from women, and I find it personally offensive. To even imply that "even if" you consent, you're not really consenting is so disrespectful to those who experience sex that actually lacks consent. (And yes, I know she was raped as well. And just like women can be sexist against women, rape victims can be disrespectful to rape victims.)

To add:

In her response which you quoted, she acts as though she is only talking about certain types of men or certain types of heterosexual intercourse, those which thrive on domination. Yet she doesn't make that distinction in her original work, and if not outright claims at least implies (as I said, I don't have the whole work in front of me) that all intercourse is a form of domination by default.

yea that part wasn't meant

yea that part wasn't meant to be directed at you, it just spilled out. Nothing to do with much here, just stuff that boiled to the top about feminism+blogs in general. Looking back, it's just a random nugget of frustration I feel put into that paragraph. Hope you didn't think I was attacking you.

But feminists use her saying this as a way to discount anything and EVERYTHING she said. As a radical feminist, I've seen it used as a way to discount me as a goddamn feminist. "well, they believe this, because 1 person said it, so fuck absolutely everything else, radical feminism is bullshit." So I do react personally to attacks on her, because everytime I see attacks on her, it's followed by attacks on radical feminism-without which i would find feminism pathetic.

I reccomend this: http://radgeek.com/gt/2005/01/10/andrea_dworkin/

Yes, i believe she's not talking about the actual act itself, but how it forms within a society. Some men, in some situations, do find intercourse as an expression of power over someone. And that's a huge issue-it shouldn't be about power, and intercourse shouldn't be held up as the be all end all.

http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2004/11/17/dworkin-clarifies/

No worries. I didn't take it

No worries. I didn't take it as an attack.

Interesting article. The problem is that I have read the whole book and still find many of her statements problematic and, in my opinion, anti-woman. I don't like the suggestion that I can't disagree with one feminist about one thing without "misunderstanding" or being anti-feminist myself. I don't hate Andrea Dworkin or think she was wholly worthless just because I don't agree with a lot of what she says in Intercourse. If we're basing her ideas on the summary presented in that radgeek article (which I think leaves out integral and fundamental generalizations that Dworkin does make about ALL hetero intercourse), women, even feminists, cannot take part in heterosexual intercourse without supporting the patriarchy and male domination. While I find her assertions (1)-(3) to be accurate, I disagree with that conclusion. My sexual life is mostly intercourse-centric, intercourse which gives me an orgasm almost every time (believe it or not) because at the beginning of our relationship I demanded it, and when it doesn't, my boyfriend gets me off in another way.

Some men, in some situations, do find intercourse as an expression of power over someone. And that's a huge issue-it shouldn't be about power, and intercourse shouldn't be held up as the be all end all.
I completely agree with this. I would even agree with this in regards to the institution of intercourse in our society. It's how Dworkin applies the political to the personal that I take issue with. We don't disagree about intercourse (similar to Becky Sharper's and some of Dworkin's ideas about porn, really) as a concept. But Dworkin is not as open as you seem to be to the possibility that not every single instance of heterosexual intercourse is violent and violative. And if that's not what she meant by statements like "intercourse itself is immune to reform," then she's not representing herself well. I think you're more forgiving in your interpretation of her more generalized statements, whereas others like myself take these statements more literally (I take everything literally, so I'm not unfairly holding Dworkin up to standards that don't apply to everyone else), and that's where the dispute resides.

I totally understand your frustration about stereotypes of radical feminists. I just don't feel like either of us even implied such a sentiment. I don't consider myself a radical feminist, but I definitely have radical leanings on certain issues. As I said, we only talked about her claims about sexual intercourse being inherently violent and violative, if you prefer that phrasing to rape (though I feel the need to mention that in my Mac's thesaurus, when you type in "violate," "rape" comes up as a synonym), not about her as a person or an academic or about radical feminists as a whole. Just because some people criticize her inaccurately doesn't mean no one should be able to criticize her at all.

yea ok I just want-NEED- to

yea ok I just want-NEED- to apologize, especially if I came off as making assumptions. It was quite ridiculous, I just so often see people make such criticisms who AREN'T familiar with her work. And I certainly don't belive all int. is rape-I would like to hear from those that do, and why they feel that way, but I don't believe it. I also think there's a lot to take and see from her work-just as there are from many feminists throughout history. The criticisms I made-like of mainstream feminist media ignoring issues outside of whiteness, or the vast criticism of radical feminism was NEVER meant to be at you-I just unfairly used our little discussion as a way to vent other things. And hey, you're helping me see more into Dworkin's statement(s)-I never really focused on her views towards int., more all the other work she did haha.

And I do feel-belive- if you were violated, you were raped. NOt "oh she was just violated, but not ACTUALLY raped!" I guess unless we're talking about other sexual assault? Like being touched outside your will wouldn't be rape, but you were violated and assualted. Damn I don't even know if I'm making sense but say if a woman is penetrated-howeve so-agaisnt her wishes, I don't see how that isn't rape.

You honestly believe that

You honestly believe that teens are seeking out - and paying for - your stuff when they can access the kind of stuff Becky is talking about for free ALL over the internet? Seriously? You obviously have a niche, and quite honestly niche porn is the only stuff worth watching. But the point is that the audience for niche porn tends to be older and more sophisticated - adults who have had a little experience and have cash to spend. But this article is talking about teens.

THANK YOU BeckySharper! for

THANK YOU BeckySharper! for this post and the original.

I would love to put some women back in a time machine, back before they started watching porn, back when they were young girls with new breasts and new pubic hair. How many of these teenagers watched porn and saw a cumshot to the face for the first time and thought, "damn! I can't wait for someone to do that to me!"

You were talking about teenagers? Not the consenting adults who decided to give it a try. I think the defensiveness is very telling. Don't tell me I didn't choose this on my own... because then that's a whole new can of worms I have to deal with.

As a parent this all scared the shit out of me. How do I teach my son to respect and love and give pleasure to a partner when the lessons around him say he doesn't have to. and don't get me started about my daughters. My oldest is just getting her new breasts and is loving her new pubic hair... she feels powerful and entitled to enjoy her body. Oh the memories... of how it all can change.

But then I realize, really not everyone is doing it (if you look at the numbers) and I have to remember that I'm responsible for the things my teenagers are exposed to... and to not bury my head in the sand about what they see without my consent. I'll share this article and others. and if as adults they enjoy a cumshot to the face, well then I hope it's part of a full and rich sex life... and they never tell their old feminist mom.

I still both agree and

I still both agree and disagree - mainstream porn being bad for both women and men, and especially the younger variety (and everything you say about said porn)? Absolutely! However, while you might not have posted "policies" against anyone's sexual practices, there was still a determined sense of judgment. Of course no sexual practices just popped up without external influence, but even a facial (portrayed both by you and the young man quoted as an example of potentially very man-focused and unequal sex act) can be fine and equal in the right context. It's about the context, it's about the participants. My point as that as feminists we must be VERY careful not to add stigma to *any* (consensual) sexual practice (lest coming generations be alienated from both feminism and their own desire). I don't think you intentionally did it, but it very much *came of* as "women who actually enjoy facials are depraved ans devoid of power" (I am exaggerating slightly for a point here.) And the answer is still to provide more options, more education.

I thought both of your posts

I thought both of your posts were great, but I have to agree that this has been going on for a long time. I do think it has gotten more misogynistic and more pervasive though. As one example, it's hard not to notice how the whole bj thing has changed. I know this was going on in high school, but I didn't really think twice about it. No one really gossiped about it. It went both ways, from what I could tell. Now? It comes across entirely differently, the way I hear it talked about and referred to in pop culture and among kids is so degrading toward girls.

People are still confusing female desire with female attractiveness, and the two have nothing to do with one another and of course everything to do with sex and porn being seen from the male perspective and for men. It's astonishing that people get so defensive when asked to think outside of the box. Of course it challenges male authority, but it does not oppress female desire. On the contrary, the intent is to embrace it.

It's funny to me- One of the reasons I stopped reading Bitch years ago was because of the unwillingness to question porn. Guess that changed.

I thought both of your posts

I thought both of your posts were great, but I have to agree that this has been going on for a long time. I do think it has gotten more misogynistic and more pervasive though. As one example, it's hard not to notice how the whole bj thing has changed. I know this was going on in high school, but I didn't really think twice about it. No one really gossiped about it. It went both ways, from what I could tell. Now? It comes across entirely differently, the way I hear it talked about and referred to in pop culture and among kids is so degrading toward girls.

People are still confusing female desire with female attractiveness, and the two have nothing to do with one another and of course everything to do with sex and porn being seen from the male perspective and for men. It's astonishing that people get so defensive when asked to think outside of the box. Of course it challenges male authority, but it does not oppress female desire. On the contrary, the intent is to embrace it.

It's funny to me- One of the reasons I stopped reading Bitch years ago was because of the unwillingness to question porn. Guess that changed.

I pointed this out on

I pointed this out on Harpyness, and I'll point it out here.

It is really disturbing that a critique of letting dudes spooge on one's face attracts 50+ impassioned defenses of their right to let a dude spooge on their face, while so many other posts go all but ignored on this site. Too bad we as feminists are incapable of looking as critically at sex like we can about everything else.

That was my major problem

That was my major problem with the comments in the OP as well. I'm all for different viewpoints, but it was discouraging, to say the least, to read comments on a feminist website that echoed what frat guys in my college classes would say when these topics came up.

I liked and agreed with what

I liked and agreed with what you originally wrote. I like and agree with what you clarified in your current post. I think a lot of people were dealing with cognitive dissonance who decided to attack you and become outraged by your observations.

Seriously

This and the original post are spot on. It's distressing to see how many feminists are in denial about this issue. I would add that porn is also to blame for creating a hookup culture in which women rarely achieve orgasm. In porn, sex ends with ejaculation, and female orgasm is usually nowhere to be found (despite all the fake moaning). And disturbingly enough, this has translated into real life for the vast majority of people, even those who don't watch porn. I can't tell you how many friends I have in their 20's and 30's who have never had an orgasm as a result of anything but masturbation. That is not right.

I disagree with much of this

I disagree with much of this article.

For the comment that you quoted claiming that a woman doesn't get any sexual pleasure from a man coming on her face, I think that's ridiculous. The biggest sexual organ in the body is the brain, and contrary to your video review with your boyfriend, you don't need to be sawing away at the clitoris to be giving a woman sexual pleasure. Many people get an enormous sexual thrill from the very knowledge that they're pleasing their partner. (An ex of mine called it being an "Arousalist.")

The commenter declares, "If a girl feels like guys won't be interested in her unless she agrees to things that are degrading in at least many contexts (listen closely to the language that's used by the men about the women during, after, and describing cumshots) then how is her participation in it fully consensual?" She is agreeing to these acts, although the commenter has deemed them degrading. Should we villainize the porn stars or victimize them? Maybe the commenter shouldn't participate in these particular acts if they ruffle so many personal feathers, instead of making rape analogies toward people whose preferences have been imagined.

Sure, there is glassy-eyed, lie-back-and-think-of-England porn. But you know what? It's just badly produced porn, probably with new actors who aren't entirely comfortable being filmed and directed. Most of the videos (and random internet clips) I see these days depict some pretty hot sex in which all of the participants seem pretty excited. I'm starting to wonder where all of this female-pleasure-free porn you've all been watching is coming from, because I haven't seen any in a good long while.

I suppose I'm just tired of this same old exchange:
"Hey, this is fun!"
"Stop it! Can't you see you're being oppressed and it's making you miserable? Stop having fun!"

I'm _thankful_ we've progressed as a society to the point where it's culturally accepted for me to watch and enjoy all types of pornography. I feel that being able to watch acts that are arousing to me and not have to put up the hard front of "How could I possibly be turned on by this? It's clearly misogynistic and degrading to women!" has been a large factor in my personal sexual growth.

As for me personally, I don't have heterosexual sex. But you know what?
I enjoy hetero porn.
My partner and I enjoy many of the acts depicted in that porn.
She gives me blow jobs. I ejaculate on her face.
We shave ourselves for sex. We shave each other for sex.
We even (bless my lesbian feminist stars) _call each other degrading names._

And we like it. We consent to it. It feels liberating. It gives us new ideas.

So no, I guess I don't fuck in a vacuum. Porn has influenced my sex life, as I'm sure it has for many other members of society. It's improved my sexual health and ability to talk to my partner about new things in bed. And if a woman feels degraded by it, maybe she can explore herself a little more and figure out why she might have that response and how she might be able to resolve those feelings of degradation. Or she can reach for the remote.

All I can say is that you

All I can say is that you missed Becky's point. There's nothing I can say to explain her point more, since it was very clear. She's not talking about adults. She's talking about *teenagers*.

Wait.

So, if I felt degraded when my boyfriend demanded anal, even after I had said again and again that I had tried it before and found it painful ...
and when he finally wore me down until I said yes, and it was still painful, and I pleaded with him to stop ...
and when we did stop he whined that I was a prude, and asexual, and demanded that he come on my face to ''make up for'' it ...

I should EXAMINE MY FEELINGS and TRY NOT TO FEEL SO DEGRADED. [Because maybe I AM an asexual prude.]

Well gee, thanks. That solves all of my problems. Whenever I feel degraded, I need to examine how I can stop feeling degraded. But not by, you know, ceasing to expose myself to the things that make me feel degraded. That's not acceptable. I need to learn how to continue the behaviors, but just stop feeling degraded by them.

YIKES.

Reply to comment | Bitch Media

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Thanks

I agree that much of

I agree that much of mainstream porn plays a huge part in the way people view sex. I also think that making sex a sensitive subject in our country also contributes. If parents and educators actually provided a healthy and thorough education to teenagers regarding sex, they may not resort to such porn to educate themselves.

This is so sad. You "summed

This is so sad.

You "summed up" the "disser's" comments out of context, rather than honestly reflecting people's concerns. You put your own spin on their complaints, without directly addressing their arguments (some of which were very well thought out, though you portray them as knee-jerk responses without any merit), resulting in yet another one-sided post. And, of course, much quoting of your supporters.

I think this reflects very poorly on Bitch Magazine, and I no longer have the same respect for the organization I once did. I am absolutely sickened by this whole thing.

so sad

i don't really think bitch is going to miss a reader like you.

You mean someone who wants

You mean someone who wants to see both sides of an argument treated fairly?

blah blah

I think we see your side of the argument on a daily basis shoved in our faces whether we like it or not. The argument in this article isn't the norm and that is why I turn to Bitch in hopes of hearing the "other" argument.The type of argument some feminists are silenced on. So, if you want to hear your side of the argument you could just pick up Maxim, GQ, Cosmo or check your facebook.

Stop assuming you know what

Stop assuming you know what my argument was. Notice I didn't say anything on the actual subject. I actually agree with the original poster. I just DO NOT agree with how she's writing about it -- or treating women who don't agree with her.

Seriously? Two posts

Seriously? Two posts criticizing mainstream porn, and you ditch the whole magazine? Then you have the gall to criticize the blogger for a knee-jerk response?

Pot, the kettle is calling your name.

Re-read. I said SHE was

Re-read. I said SHE was treating other responses AS knee-jerk.

I am not ditching the magazine, I said it reflected poorly on it, and I have lost some respect. I didn't say I was going to stop reading or something.

I haven't even said what my stance on the subject is, though I'd love to hear what people reading my posts THINK it is.

I'm just really sad about how other readers are being treated here, unless they agree with the OP.

thanks becky

Desire is always manufactured. I want to thank you Becky for your article and response. I made an anti hetero-porn zine last year and I can't even tell you the hatred I received. There is something about critiquing porn that makes yuppy liberals hysterical. Maybe they haven't seriously questioned what role pornography plays in their lives? Maybe if they really had to think about it they wouldn't particularly enjoy the reality behind the porn they watch off the web. I am so sick of hearing "it's just fantasy!" What the fuck does that mean? You have fantasies that girls would regress back to age 9 and have no pubic hair? What do your "fantasies" say how you feel towards women? I also want to meet these people who think they are so detached from what they consume on a daily basis that it plays no role in how they behave towards women.

I am always curious about the point of "consenual" behavior in porn. How do you even know what was consensual? The porn that is readily out there on the internet of "young hot asian girls" or whatever doesn't necessarily scream CONSENSUAL. Do you avid porn watchers do research on the production of the films? Don't you ever want to know whose making it and who was involved in it?

Thanks Becky for going against the cool-feminist grain and speaking out.

So Many Questions

These are my answers, anyone else?

"Desire is always manufactured." - Is this a catchphrase of yours?

"Maybe they haven't seriously questioned what role pornography plays in their lives?" - not since I got over Christianity.

"Maybe if they really had to think about it they wouldn't particularly enjoy the reality behind the porn they watch off the web." - since I have produced and been featured in it, I must say I find it all pretty hot.

"I am so sick of hearing 'it's just fantasy!' What the fuck does that mean?" - It means 'not to be confused with how people actually behave'

"You have fantasies that girls would regress back to age 9 and have no pubic hair?" - Sure. Absolutely. A woman without pubic hair looks exactly like a 9 year old girl.

"Don't you ever want to know whose making it and who was involved in it?" - Yes, especially if Celeste is directing. Love that woman.

can you teach me how to shave my pubes?

What the fuck does Christianity have to do with my post and pornography? Why do people need to attach Christianity and morality to those of us who critique the hetero porn industry? I could care less how repressed you were sexually growing up as a christian and now that you are "free" from the demons of organized religion you are somehow finally free to fuck your brains out and star in porn films. Wow.
I think the article discussed how young men and girls were wanting to emulate the porn films they had seen. So when does "fantasy" cross over to how people "actually behave?"

seriously. It's so

seriously. It's so dispiriting. yes CLEARLY your original comment was all about your born again christian beliefs. clearly. what a joke.

you should go hang out with bill mahr

ha. born again? i am a 24 year old queer lady who has never once had a relationship with organized religion or god. i have had tons of sex with self-identified men and women. i was merely trying to point out how fascinating and disgusting it is when people such as yourself automatically assume a critique of gross main-stream anti-fat, racist, misogynistic porn has some attachment to morality and christianity. thank you for proving me right..

Blanket Statement

I don't understand how you can make blanket statement about "mainstream porn" when you have never been on a mainstream porn set. And I sincerely doubt that you have interviewed mainstream feminist and sex positive porn stars such as myself, Lorelei Lee, Sasha Grey, Princess Donna, Satine Phoenix, Dia Zerva, or Nina Hartley about their experiences in mainstream porn. I can tell you that in the mainstream porn that I have performed in it is not 100% performed for mens pleasure, there is eye connection, we are often breathing together, I have even gone over basic tantric exercises with some of the performers. You talk you negotiate what your likes and dislikes are, you make one another comfortable and try to give them the most pleasure possible. You make yourself vulnerable and open. You look into their eyes and you guide them through the experience of bringing you to orgasm and to bringing them to orgasm. You are partners in the scene and connected. Just because you had a bad porn experience doesn't mean that all mainstream porn or that all mainstream porn actors are that way. If you heard a cd that you could tell was complete rip off of another band. There was no heart in it. If the band wasn't connecting with you, would you never listen to music again or look for a band that did connect with you, that you did enjoy?

If you would like to be invited to watch on a mainstream porn production please contact me. Maybe it will help you to realize that you are demonizing an entire industry based on performers and directors who are disengaged which brings upon poor politics and poor product no matter what field you are in.

Many, many people who make

Many, many people who make statements about movies every day have never been on a movie set. This post is about the effect of mainstream porn (not your niche) on teens. You don't have to go on the set of a movie to observe it's effect on the audience. Instead, you observe the audience, which is not actually found on the set.

Right on, Becky

I am de-lurking just to tell you how much I enjoyed both of these articles. Thank you for writing them.

Just want to say..

I don't agree 100% with all of your comments, generalizing anything is dangerous, I'm sure there are plenty of women out there who do enjoy a facial cum shot.

I've been on plenty of mainstream porn sets, and after several years in the industry, left feeling far less 'Porn Positive' than I began.

What Madison is saying is true, there are moments of connection, plenty of performers (female, male, and trans) who are intelligent, conscious, excellent at their jobs, and those people are to be commended for doing a very tough job with grace; and often do so because of a real interest in educating regarding sexuality. People like Tristan Taromino fall into this category, she would be an interesting person to interview on this topic. There are real orgasms. There are sets where limits are respected and where true connection occurs.

And..

Like any job, like any workplace, the opposite is also true. Most porn companies are run by men. Most porn is still created for the male gaze, and I've seen directors treat the women on their sets horribly, as well as hearing disgusting stories from models. It's an industry which is for the most part, un-regulated, performers are not always encouraged to protect themselves, and younger performers are often perhaps unaware of what they are getting into.

I'm becoming increasingly frustrated by the polarization of these kinds of discussions - it seems like it's becoming either 'you're with us, or your against us' - If you criticize porn, you are suddenly a man-hater who thinks all penetration is rape, and if you dare to defend porn, you clearly have no idea what you are talking about? It isn't that simple.

We are all intelligent women with a lot to say, and we can learn from one another.
I think there are many good things you can say about porn and the industry, but turning a blind eye to the problems there is doing critical thought a disservice.

change from within

I completely agree that generalizing of anything leads to trouble. I guess my major problem with this response is that Becky is generalizing for all mainstream porn, when there are feminists working on crew,directing and performing with in mainstream porn with some of the biggest companies in porn to make a difference, to exhibit healthy sexuality and connection on film. Women like Jonanna Angel, Belladonna, Nina Hartley, Sasha Grey,Tristan Taormino along with many others are in the lime light and saying something very important about female sexuality and making work that is very accessible to the public. This work isn't hiding or something that you have to really dig for. And the scores of sex positive and sexually assertive women that are engaging in mainstream porn has continued to increase and seem to stick around in the industry much longer than women who are coming into the industry solely for fiscal reasons.

I absolutely agree that like any industry there are corrupt companies. There are definitely sets that you walk onto where the director and his crew have never heard of sex positivity and its often difficult to deal with those specific companies. But those directors can't tell a woman not to communicate to the other performer how she likes to have sex or take away her negotiation skills, or cause her to not connect with the other performer. These are tools as performers that porn stars have to communicate and help to cultivate sex positivity in an environment where others don't know what "sex positivity: is.

in regards to "mainstream" and college students...

Since the original post both referenced a magazine which quoted college students, and also talked about the ideas of 22 year olds, I do feel this particular point is relevant.

I was most certainly one of those people who was utterly disgusted and turned off by every single instance of porn that I came across. My assumptions, of course, was that it was "mainstream" porn, as the people I knew who were watching it didn't identify as having any fetishes whatsoever.

It was at this point in my life that I went to a talk given at my university. It was a talk on pornography, and it wasn't required by any of my classes, so I think it's safe to say that I was not particularly seeking it out. (However, I must admit that there is a possibility that I was jones-ing for a fight, and went because I was expecting to be offended by the "pornographic" subject).

I bring this up because that talk was by Tristan Taormino, and it was about her experiences in the porn industry. While she talked a bit about her own beliefs and what she was trying to do in the industry, the vast majority of the talk was aimed at dispelling assumptions and answering questions about what the porn industry was actually like for the people who were working in it. It was because of this experience that I began to look for alternative pornography and began to find more discourse that allowed me to really examine what aspects bothered me, and what aspects turned me on.

While I still have a lot of trouble finding porn that I enjoy (especially for free... even the pirating sites that I know about don't necessarily carry the past few years' Feminist Porn Award winners, for example), my point is that I was exposed to these ideas at a PUBLIC college in the middle of the bible belt of the south. So while it isn't what first comes to mind (availability heuristic , anyone?), I would venture to say that it is perhaps a bit more widely available than it is being portrayed as...

Nobody ever said there

Nobody ever said there WEREN'T women who enjoyed cumshots, or that the ones who do are bad or self-sexist, or anything. The point of this (and the original) article were to illustrate how porn is becoming a template for our own personal sex lives, and if you don't understand that basic point, you have no business being on here arguing with people who know what they're talking about.

I happen to agree with Becky about this issue, but I don't have a problem with or feel contempt for people who don't. I suspect Becky doesn't either. But what I'm finding is that most people who disagree with her are off-base about what they think her point was, and why they think she's wrong. I'm perfectly willing to listen to an informed person disagree with her, but I've found very few nay-sayers on here are familiar with the issue at hand, and most just make it into whatever they want it to be or whatever they take personally. So yes...I would say they are knee-jerk reactions.

I have no problem with this

I have no problem with this article however, I maintain your previous one was poorly done and the people who responded where not knee jerk in their response.

It gets MUCH worse. From hairless vulvae, we move on to facials, one of the most unfortunate trends in sexual behavior that porn hath wrought.
You said it was an unfortunate trend in sexual behavior, not porn, not teen sexuality, without some sort of qualifying statement right at the start.

From a domination/degradation standpoint...well, I don't have to unpack that one for you, do I?

You just said that it was degrading on its face and need no more explanation.

You may have tried to qualify these statement later on but that does not negate that you started your writing with at least one statement which was inherently judgmental. . You didn’t intend to be judgmental to those who enjoy act. However when you call a sexual trend unfortunate your are by extensions saying that the people who do it are part of an unfortunate trend. How does this sound to you? Dear members of the unfortunate trend, come so I may non-judgmentally discuss the unfortunate trend of which you are a part of, and so we may critically analyze this unfortunate trend yours a part of.

Secondly, you lost credibility (at least to me) when you said young women were using porn-stars as role models and quoted this: “In a survey of 1,000 British girls between the ages of 15 and 19, roughly 25 percent said they aspired to become professional lap dancers.” You call for critical analysis however, the repetition of such BS statics suggest you are not at all serious about the discussion and are fact seeking (as "GQ" clearly was) a sensationalistic response. Read more here: http://namelesschaos.com/2009/08/the-sex-sui-generis-when-commonsense-go...

It takes a lack of critical analysis to simply insert such clearly BS numbers in a middle of an article. I find it ironic that people say that those who dislike her article are “incapable of looking as critically at sex like we can about everything else.” As far as I’m concerned the biggest gap in critically thinking is somehow framing such a line in between sentences including the words "alarming" and "dangerous". It is ironic because by repeating such a clearly BS line she has taken part in underestimated the aspiration of young women. Any true critical analysis would not present us such data as Becky did; quite the opposite clear debunking of the idea that the career of young women are so narrow is what was called for. How is it that after over 80 comments in the preceding article I’m the only one to point out that those number are BS and how insulting it is to young women to even have them repeated.

You say you wanted to use the GQ article as an in, I’d say you made a poor choice focusing so much on it and that is still no reason to quote that line. Furthermore, you by quoting that line introduced a new concept it to the mix with nothing but the line making the statement to support it. That young women aspired to be in x profession a concept distinct from the rest of your argument. (Role model is not equal to career aspiration).

People remember how things start and end more then what is in between; the good parts of your previous post where sandwiched between the bad. I find it insulting that you insinuate that it is the readers fault that they responded the way they did.

“She's used a ton of lube,”—her thighs and ass were glazed with it”
Small thing: Plenty of women use vaginal lubricant and it is necessary for anal sex. A ton of lube being involved tells nothing either way about the nature of the act. If anything suggesting needing a lot of lube is bad reaffirms the macho “I can’t get you wet enough" mentality. Going back to anal for a moment I’m a male that enjoys receiving anal play using, I’ve been glazed with lube. It actually has a very positive connotation, for me.

Only now has porn started to

Only now has porn started to barely catch up to my very twisted fantasies. I grew up in the Bible Belt in a sheltered, religous family. So where exactly did I get my ideas about sexuality? Wasn't at home, wasn't at my conservative school, wasn't from MTV (we didn't have that). Some of us are just born nasty. :)

If I saw a guy cum on a girl's face as a teenager, I would've been wet the rest of the week and wondering where I could find a guy with a big dick who could produce that much semen. Yeah, I'm in the minority here, just like I was growing up, THAT hasn't changed.

But Becky isn't claiming

But Becky isn't claiming that no women like facials. And her argument is not disproven by the fact that a few do. She's talking about the norming of these kinds of acts as a result of internet porn. You admit you've always been in the minority. So how do you account for this trend, where suddenly every woman is supposed to love it, while denying the influence of porn? It doesn't make any sense.

The shaved vagina thing

The comments about shaved vaginas are true, they don't occur in nature. Either do shaved cocks and ballsacks. Look at porn and you'll see a lot of those, too.

It's not about objectifying women, it's about people not getting a mouthful of hair when they go down on someone. It's also about the visual aspect, but again, it's not only women that it's done to.

I dated a woman recently who told me right off the bat that my cock was not getting in her mouth until I got rid of the hair.

Trying to turn this into some objectification of women is a reach.

If that were true...

Why has the hairless crotch only been the standard of beauty very recently? If you look at porn or erotica from the pre-internet porn era, all those women had pubic hair. Bald crotches are a new, porn-influenced trend.

Also, Female Anatomy 101: Hair does not grow on the vagina. It grows on the vulva. Women do not shave their vaginas.

Becky Sharper www.harpyness.com

Becky Sharper www.harpyness.com

Simple, correlation does not

Simple, correlation does not imply causation.

Not always...but it does in

Not always...but it does in this case.

Becky Sharper www.harpyness.com

Becky Sharper www.harpyness.com

Boneheaded logic

But in some cases, maintaining that there's no causal link requires an astounding degree of hard-headed irrationality. It's magical thinking to believe that the majority of teens in America suddenly woke up one day thinking that all sexual encounters must end with a facial cumshot and that every woman must shave her pussy to be sexy, while at the same time this very prevalent trend was going on in mainstream porn, but that there was no causal connection whatsoever. To maintain that it was just a coincidence is astonishingly obstinate.

if you really think this...

trend in female hairlessness just magically happened with no outside influence from the male-dominated porn world, you are even more clueless than your ignorance of female anatomy would indicate.

You never responded to my

You never responded to my main point.

The men are shaved too. If shaving is somehow about objectifying women, why would the men also be shaved? I can't remember the last time I saw a porn scene where the man wasn't.

I think a lot more people of both sexes are shaving today. Is is influenced by porn? It is some, I'm sure. Some of it is also practical, the same practical reasons that caused it to happen in porn.

None of that makes it sexist.

And thanks for the snarky anatomy lesson. Talking down to people is a great way to encourage dialogue.

Your argument rests on the

Your argument rests on the assumption that men and women start on an equal playing field, therefore if they both have to shave (I'll ignore the fact that men are NOT faced with the same expectation to shave that women are), it's completely fair, right? Wrong. So, so wrong. It seems like you're trying to claim that men are as objectified and degraded as women in mainstream porn and in our society in general. Please tell me you're not, please tell me you're not, please tell me you're not. Because if you are, I don't even know where to start.

Also, if you wanna talk "practical," let's start with the fact that the purpose of pubic hair is to keep bacteria from entering the vagina. You know, like harmful bacteria that could maybe hurt or kill you. Now THAT'S practical. Also, I have gone with and without pubic hair and I find that without it, it is painful to have intercourse because of the way my partner's body pounds and irritates that area, and it hurts much less when the soft hair there protects me. Pretty practical, I'd say. It would seem that your definition of the word is more similar in meaning to "pleasurable to the male eye" (because of the effects of...I don't know, say, mainstream porn?) or "more convenient for finding the vagina quickly so YOU, the male, can get off faster."

We need to talk about porn and the messages it sends

The porn industry makes more than the music industry, and thanks to the internet is more accessible to anyone at any time. This culture is obsessed with sex, but never questions its sexual attitudes. It is vital for a publication like Bitch to do an in depth analysis of the porn industry.

Too bad these two articles have the depth of a fucking spoon.

At no time in that post did I propose policing anyone's fantasies or sexual activity.

You need to get your memory checked. Fortunately, bitchmagazine.org's database remembers.

Well, yes, and obviously you're free to adhere to whatever standard of beauty you want, no matter how ridiculous or misogynist. Women who wore corsets or broke their feet with foot bindings believed the same thing.

When you say that "this is one way they can choose to be desirable" you're choosing a male image of how women should be desirable. That's fine, but at least recognize it for what it is. It's not YOUR standard, it's the Patriarchy's. You're just buying into it.

Sorry Sharper, but you can't say you're not policing people and then police them any more than a man can say he's not a misogynist and go beat his girlfriend for not having dinner ready.

You don't get to arbitrarily call pubic grooming misogynist. If you're honestly going to compare foot binding and corsets (which caused serious health problems) to trimming your pubes, you're certifiably delusional. This tribalistic notion of "It's not YOUR standard, it's the Patriarchy's" is just a weak attempt to condescend on on women who choose one particular style of beauty.

Yes, they made the choice. They had to consciously pull out the trimmer/razor/waxing kit and trim away. But wait, they didn't make their choice in a vacuum. They were (DUN DUN DUN) Influenced™!.

To that I say "So fucking what?". Tell me there's nothing in your closet that you weren't Influenced™ on. Why does shaving your pubes get a bad wrap? Because it's in porn and porn is what They like, and you don't want to be one of Them, do you?

Now the criticism of facials is understandable. Anybody that has had semen in any of their head or body hair knows that shit does not want to come out. But calling the act misogynist is questionable. Yeah, many people don't like it, but you can't say a woman likes having a misogynistic act done to them when it does no objective damage. Misogyny by definition is something done against a woman, and if woman likes the feeling of semen on her skin, she shouldn't called a self hating woman. Again, if you're honestly going to compare foot binding and corsets (which caused serious health problems) to the mild discomfort having semen on your face (which I have experienced), you're (once again) certifiably delusional.

The problem with calling pubic grooming and facials misogynistic acts in and of themselves is the same problem with the fact women/men in porn typically have their pubes trimmed and the fact the facial is a staple of mainstream porn. That problem is that it sends the message that women shouldn't like having groomed pubes or facials much in the same way the porn implies that they should like them. This "should and shouldn't" language is dangerous much in the same way "women should have sex with their husbands", "women shouldn't have sex with a man unless she loves him" is.

The problem with these two articles is that they claim to offer genuine criticism and analysis, but ultimately it's the same tired article on porn that's been regurgitated for the past 30 - 35 years. It offers no new insights, and follows the same tired formula every article on porn does:

-The evidence used against porn is some anecdote that goes along the lines of "I knew some guy that watched some porn and now he thinks women like their hair pulled". Individual anecdotes prove nothing. Much like how the movie Natural Born Killers spawned copycat killers, pop culture isn't responsible for individual idiocy. An idiot will still be an idiot with or without porn.
-Statistics are pulled out of thin air. "Hell, better than half the time the male performers don't even go down on the woman"? Really? Can you tell me how large your sample size was?
-Porn is always referred to as a monolith. When people point the fact that there's nonmisogynistic or even prowoman porn, they then hide behind the word "mainstream porn" in order to dismiss the good porn. How is "Tristan Taormino's Expert Guide to Oral Sex, Part 1: Cunnilingus" any less mainstream that "Big Wet Asses #15"?
-After referring to porn as a monolith, porn is then cherry picked for maximum effect. Even though most porn doesn't involve a woman getting ejaculated on by 20 men, you're going to hear about it whenever they talk about porn. The trick to criticizing porn is not to criticize the individual movies, but the entire genre.
-Correlation is almost always presented causation. If middle school girls were caught giving blowjobs in the bathroom, you bet it's because of porn's influence in culture. There's no way it could be the fact that the media reports on these activities more since the year 2000 despite the fact that pre/teens are having less sex.
-All sexual trends are said to be because of porn industry and the fact that hollywood is becoming like the porn industry. If you were to look into the porn industry, you'd see that it's actually the porn industry is turning into hollywood.
-All male desires are considered patriarchal. If a man wants fellatio, it's because he wants to rob the woman of pleasure (as though women don't enjoy giving oral sex). If man want to give anal sex, it's because he want to make the woman do something she doesn't want to. Sorry but male and female pleasure are not zero sum games. Male pleasure isn't misogynist.

As big as porn is, I honestly believe Bitch should keep a more watchful eye on the sex industry. There is a vast inequality in porn and it needs to be analyzed intelligently. We need something better than "Mainstream Porn is bad, mmmkay?". Yes, in porn, sex is something women do for men. Ariel Levy already covered all this. What Bitch needs to do is cover new ground such as:

-Studies have shown that men strongly prefer porn with romance. If this is true, why is so much porn delivery boys and facials?
-Austrailian studies have shown men who watch porn are more likely to be depressed. Why are women acting out male fantasies potentially causing men to be depressed?
-In the movie "Fuck" Bill Maher said that 12 year olds are bored with porn. Could porn actually be turning teens off sex?
-In the HBO series Pornocorpia, male porn stars actually complain when the director doesn't tell the male porn star perform cunnilingus. Why is this and why isn't there more oral on women in porn?
-Female Ejaculation porn and men getting off women getting off.
-Fat porn and fat acceptance.
-Anal Sex: Why is it so popular in porn and what myths does it perpetuate?
-Cumshots and Creampies: Why does jizz always have to be in our face?
-Porn and Storytelling: Are movies like Shortbus that have unsimulated sex the key to equality in porn?
-How often to women in porn actually enjoy the sex they're performing?

Most of all, criticism in porn should be directed at individual movies, individual sites, individual companies, individual actors, individual scenes, individual directors, and individual genres of porn instead of making blanket statements about an ambiguous "Mainstream Porn". The AVN's top sellers list would be good place to start.

In the movie "9 to 5 in Porn", one of the cameramen said "I work in a shit factory". Even the people working in porn think it's shit. Bitch can do a great service to our sexual culture by analyzing pornography, but we're going to need better than the same lines on blowjobs, pubes, and facials.

Bitch can also help bring

Bitch can also help bring attention to smaller, independent, prowoman porn like with does with music, books, and movies.

but. but

The valuable and in-depth feminist analysis you're in search of would actually involve knowing what you're talking about and not just regurgitation of ahem - Details.

Details.

Nuff said.

I don't agree with everything Madison Young had to say wholesale about the issue, but at least it's coming from someone who's not afraid to dirty their little hands and let the data be generalizations.

respond plz?

Becky Sharper, as a (usually) huge Bitch fan and long-time reader, I'm asking you to respond to this comment. It illustrates precisely what your two articles should have tried to do. I'd like to know how you feel about it, if you think it's valid, or if it's just another "knee jerk" reaction.

This Feels Familiar Somehow...

Both of your articles on this subject reflect my love/hate relationship with porn. I do adult modeling/amateur porn as a hobby. I like the concept of porn. I like watching it (preferably with a bunch of friends over so we can give it the MST3K treatment). Porn and romance novels were where I first got tips on how to perform more than one sex act. At the same time, I have always counted myself among the (seemingly few) lucky ones who had someone point out early on that porn is not a reflection of how everyone actually has sex. Some people, yes, but not everyone. I think most of the comments get that much. To those people I say "congratulations! Now go forth and tell the rest of the world!" What some of them seem to be missing is that not everyone is getting that memo and that is/should be a concern. People out there are making specific demands of their partners based not on what turns them on, but by what porn tells them should turn them on. Some people are outright ignoring what turns their partner(s) on because it does not mesh with what their porno of choice claims is arousing. To me, that is just as bad as someone who refuses to get naked during sex because mainstream television only depicts people having sex in their underwear.

still

I dont shave, Im a gay lady, and I still thought your original post was bull.

Re: That whole performance

Re: That whole performance of female sexuality thing.

Performing implies two things: taking on a stylized role, and putting job or even career-level dedication into putting on a show/entertaining (see "the performing arts").

Our culture glamourizes entertainers, and has for a very long time. Our culture glamourizes young, attractive, fit adults. Our culture glamourizes those who fit slightly outside the mainstream. Glamourizes sexuality. Glamourizes boundary-pushers, outlaws and anything perceived as "edgy." Glamourizes anything that hasn't yet been done to death, until it has.

Right now our culture is glamourizing sex work, specifically the sexual performance aspect. In previous centuries it was the freedom aspect, or the lusty aspect, or the conversation aspect, or the emotional connection aspect, or the ritual space aspect. It will eventually get bored and move on to glamourizing something else, just like it did with hackers and ravers in the '90's.

In the meantime, just remind anyone feeling trapped by the idea of performance sexuality that there are other ways to do sexuality and that performers get paid. It's a job. For some, a calling. For some, an artistic expression. Still - a job.

We're not putting it out there to make people feel trapped. We're just making a go of it like other entertainers (stand-up comedians in the '80's, rock stars in the '70's, stage actresses in the early 1900s...) and some of us are looking around wondering "why are you trying to do my job for free if you don't deeply desire to?"

And many do. And right now, it feels safe and acceptable for a lot of people who didn't feel they could, before. And when men figure it out, they'll find a way to entertain and perform sexuality without being rude, and they'll go through the same thing because right now, in their own minds, men have sex. They are not sexy.

So yeah. Sexuality is complicated and we all have a lot of work to do. If you don't enjoy it, don't do it. If you enjoy it and it doesn't hurt anyone else, do it. Teach your kids the same. Wait. Cross your fingers. Document what you do, if you like. And hope.

"And many do. And right now,

"And many do. And right now, it feels safe and acceptable for a lot of people who didn't feel they could, before. And when men figure it out, they'll find a way to entertain and perform sexuality without being rude, and they'll go through the same thing because right now, in their own minds, men have sex. They are not sexy." - That is a very interesting point, thanks for bringing it up. I've often wondered at male performers being much less attractive than their co-stars. Less threatening to male viewers, or just not a consideration? (gay porn being the exception)

Porn Is For And By Women Too and Culture Should Be Irrelevant

Porn is not 100% for men. There is plenty of good pro-woman pro-feminist porn made by women for women if you care to take the time to look for it. The pro women's rights video I was in which was produced and directed by a woman showed me getting put in my place by my female co-stars. Mainstream porn in this article is an over-generalized characterization though apparently it was a good straw-man to spark some controversy. I shaved from the waist down for the film I was in because I wanted to. It was my own taste and not as the result of any 'cultural' tradition or suggestion as you might guess since genetically I am a male. The idea that our sexual predilections or what turns us on is learned or acquired from porn is pure bunk. Any competent therapist can fill you in on the complex stimuli in our pre-pubescent years, often having to do with our parents and our early actual interactions which are all formative in the evolution of our sub-conscious and unconscious associations and the development of any Pavlovian sexual response. That does not mean there is a total absence of societal influence. Far from it. The instilling of guilt contributes to masochism whether or not that guilt was instilled by authoritarian or puritanical societal, theological, classroom or other means. Culture is by no means determinative or responsible for all porn nor should it be a limitation on porn. Some of the other commenters were correct in suggesting that we support pro-woman pro-feminist porn produced by and for women. There is a market for it that I personally hope continues to flourish and grow.

Vote with your dollar

As a manager of The Smitten Kitten, a feminist sex toy store in Minneapolis, I feel quite strongly that, like the mainstream movie industry, there is significant breadth in the quality of porn being produced. Like the difference between Final Destination 4 (no offense to FD fans) and a film like Milk, there is a striking difference between the porn film Champion and Slant-Eyed Sluts. However, unlike the mainstream film industry, the porn industry lacks mainstream critical assessment. While there seems to be a large amount of discussion about the legitimacy of Porn (in its entirety), there is little to no discussion about what makes a good porn good. Porn is here, has been here, and like the author pointed out, we should be looking at the social influence that it has. But, this critical eye should include a celebration of great, well-made, sex positive porn. If you don't like the promulgation of cheap internet porn, don't buy it and tell your peers not to buy it.
Recently, Buck Angel was at the store, giving a talk on his path into the porn industry. Some attendees wondered how they could make the mainstream porn industry more affirming and sex positive. Buck encouraged them to vote with their dollar, to demand something better as a consumer. At The Smitten Kitten, I celebrate great porn made by amazing directors and performers (many which have been mentioned above). They took a positive approach, made something different, and are constantly engaging in conversations about it. Their films are the films that I encourage our customers to buy.

Thank you

Thank you for writing these posts. I completely agree!

Let's Get To The Core

First of all i want to qualify your argument Becky, even though it concludes to a strong point of view that many seem to have a problem with, you do pose a valid and well examined argument for the revolution of the way people (in general but particularly aimed at youth) look at porn.

A lot of people seem to respond with similarly framed arguments and try to put in their own two cents through their own evidence and assumptions about porn. And let's clarify, there is porn for everyone, there is porn of every shape and size, however this argument clearly deals with internet/mainstream porn (or specifically porn that has the highest exposure to the general population).

But i would like to elaborate on a point you make - that the youth culture that is exposed to porn makes assumptions based on what they observe in these productions. It's a fact, there are various outlets where teens and young adults learning about sex can go for advice, facts and safe medical attention. However, the general and spoken acceptance of these outlets is not made clear and many communities of youth suffer because they do not know who they can reach out to or how. Many feel socially embarrassed and often are discouraged from talking about sex.

Thanks to the sex blog, and internet revolution of places like Planned Parenthood and Brook (in the UK) it has become easier and more accessible through the blind and deaf conduit that is the internet. Nevertheless, without the removal of the negative connotations of sex in the general community, there cannot be a truly free understanding and access to sex education. This also needs to be augmented by the open mindedness of such places. There not only need to be classes and information readily available on sex health, but on sex etiquette.

Without an open discussion on bedside manner and how to treat women and men when it comes to sex, how can the youth tune in to listen or speak their minds and ask questions? There needs to be a more open communication of "sexually acceptable behavior". Sure we all want to have some level of mystique when it comes to figuring out the puzzle of sex with our partners, but how do we do that unless we can all speak the language?

Let's redirect this energy to a place where it can do some good. There will always be porn production companies who in the end, look at the bottom line and make decisions based on what sells, and sex will always sell. But if we go to the source, which is how people learn about sex, then the porn out there will conform to the new standard of sex, which should (and hopefully one day) will be a world of respect.

<3

Dear Becky,

I think you make some very interesting and worthwhile points here. But I also think there are some equally important ideas that you may not have fairly considered.
First of all, I’m glad you brought up the subject of agency—an issue I think was lacking from your original post.

...you do not live—or fuck—in a vacuum.

Agreed. But since you've brought it up, let’s discuss it for real: no person, since the dawn of civilization, has ever made a decision that has not been influenced by culture/society. It’s as inescapable as death and taxes. But surely not all societal influence is intrinsically harmful.

Swarms of teeny-bopper girls engrossed in tabloid gossip rags, with their noses glued to their t.v. screens will see Miley Cyrus working the red carpet in a silver, scoop-back mini dress with open-toe wedges and pink shimmer plum berry lipgloss #6. And they’ll show up to their school dance rockin’ it accordingly. But though this is a case of direct societal influence, it’s arguably benign. Our wardrobes, our haircuts, our interactions, our every thought has been influenced in some way by the society in which we live. But that’s not inherently problematic.

No matter how liberated you think you are, the truth is, your sexual development did not just happen spontaneously. We are having different sex than our mothers did. They had different sex than their mothers did. Why? The changes in their sex lives reflected the huge changes in the culture that they lived in.

Again, agreed. And yes, the reason for that difference can be attributed almost entirely to the dramatic changes in society throughout the years. But your argument here is porn’s overwhelmingly negative effect on our sexuality. So, by virtue of not having been affected by pornography, were the sex lives of our foremothers better? Hardly. (Chastity belts, anyone?) Women’s sexuality has been repressed throughout history. Even today, I’d hope you wouldn’t disagree with the stark double standard that remains—and I’m sure I don’t need to elaborate when I say that women who embrace their sexuality, who are comfortable with it enough to be forward with it and freely enjoy it, are seen very differently than men who do the same. But women have made great strides since the severely repressed days of our foremothers, and since we’ve established porn’s influence on our culture and thus our sex lives, surely it deserves some credit here as well.

However, you’ve essentially maligned all female porn stars by dismissively lumping them in with the small sampling of “mainstream” porn you’ve found distasteful. By vilifying these women who are actively challenging the current undesirable status quo, I think you’re doing the issue at hand a disservice. These women are admired (and rightfully so) by countless female fans for their brazen disregard for inhibitive sexual stereotypes, thus acting as role models for other women to do the same, experiencing, enjoying, and exploring facets of their sexuality they didn’t know they had.

The pornography you described having watched with your boyfriend was troubling. Absolutely. But I don’t think any self-respecting woman (or man) would argue that was, in fact, hot sex. No one wants to fuck (or be) a lubed-up corpse. Like you, I would certainly have been turned off by it--and I don't mean just sexually. But all we can reasonably assume from the scene you described is that there's some bad porn out there. Okay, done. Tossing out a completely arbitrary statistics like "...better than half the time the male performers don't even go down on the woman..." is frankly a little irresponsible. You've made clear your disgust with pornography so we can only assume you don't watch much of it...how then can we be expected to accept such conclusions?
You continue on to add that "mainstream porn is 100% performed for men’s pleasure." My first impulse was (and still is) to say that that statement is 100% false. But before attempting to challenge it, I’d have to first ask you to define "mainstream," because that's a label that’s very easy to hide behind.

What I was saying is that we should be AWARE of where these images come from, and how they affect the cultural perception of what's sexy. Awareness is key.

Amen. I passionately believe that the moment people begin to accept messages blindly, without a filter, without challenging or even questioning them, it's over. Awareness is key. Without it, you're merely a drone. In all fairness, however, if you think this was a message conveyed clearly in your original post, you’d be mistaken.

On the subject of awareness, I'd urge you to make yourself aware of the kinds of pornography that might challenge your current notions on the topic—you might begin with the Feminist Porn Awards at goodferher.com.

Tristan Taormino (author, columnist, editor, educator and pornographic film director) had the following to say on the subject of feminist porn: “Some say no porn could ever be feminist. Lots of us disagree… For me, feminist porn is about character, choice, and consciousness. I like to collaborate with performers on how their sexuality is represented, rather than give them a script or formula to follow. I want to capture complex, three-dimensional beings rather than stereotypes, to create an open environment that's safe for everyone—especially women—to take charge of their pleasure and be able to express their desires freely. I want to represent sex as positive, fun, healthy, and adventurous. I consciously work to create images that contradict (and hopefully challenge) other porn that represents women only as objects and vehicles for male pleasure.”

Is this not the kind of passionate, female-forward message you indicated was lacking in the “mainstream” porn you discussed?

Before I leave you, I feel I need to take a moment to stand up for some of the commenters who’ve responded to your writings. I really think you lose a little bit of credibility by lumping all of the dissenting voices into one category and dismissing them as quickly as you did. Many of the comments were not merely "knee-jerk reactions" to your article; many were in fact passionate, well thought-out responses from readers who took a good chunk of time out of their day to respond to your article because the subject matter struck a chord with them. Don't scoff at that.

...readers immediately assume that you're talking about or judging them and their sex lives, even when you’re not.

This may have been the case for some, but frankly, anyone who takes personal offense to the fact that you, Becky Sharper, frowns on facials, has more problems than semen in her hair. The issue wasn’t so much your judgments on the acts themselves but on their inherent evil as resultant from porn. These women who spoke out in defense of facials and their personal grooming habits were not necessarily on the defensive for personal reasons but attempting to provide an alternative viewpoint—that perhaps these things aren’t as problematic as you seemed to believe, regardless of their source.

You close your piece with the following:

Porn is undeniably part of our pop culture, and it affects the kinds of sex people are having. You may like some of what porn offers and choose to incorporate it into your grooming or your sexual behavior, but I’m not being 'judgmental ideologue', 'prude' or 'misogynist' for pointing out that it's happening, and that we should be aware, informed and thoughtful about it.

Absolutely. This was, I think, the most compelling argument in your piece. And I imagine that was your intention. But let’s be aware, informed, and thoughtful, not judgmental, narrow-minded, and condemnatory.

~A

I like how you ended this

I like how you ended this second piece. ("we should be aware, informed and thoughtful about it.") In fact, I think it's how you should have begun it on some level. Articulating the fact that porn is a cultural text or message of some sort implies that we "read" that message and Bitch magazine, like you said, acts as a critical set of eyes for that reading, re-reading, and revision/challenging of the original text, in this case porn. I'm concerned with the intensity of the responses that demanded a halt on this kind of examination in favor of a highly personalized zone of "choice." Whether we are "right" or not in our aversion to mainstream porn and its said effect on women and men, we should not condemn reflection on the subject. What I like about this magazine and it's contributors, both new and old feminists, is the constant back and forth of ideas. One of my qualms with what I can gather about New feminism or post-feminism though, is its attack on what initially seemed to be feminist ideals (unity of female empowerment, and questioning of male dominance) and its reliance on the supposed "free" will of the subject. This free will, "because I like to" unquestioning attitude, simply allows for what are at the very least questionable motives, effects, and desires related to pornography, to become normalized and therefore concretized without argument. So please, remember that old feminist adage, "the personal is political" and reconsider the frameworks in which our desires are created before you condemn those who are trying to unravel them.

Yes!

I love this post. I wrote a paper just a few years ago in undergrad about female pornstars as models of female sexuality and the need for a sexual self-discovery model. Its still an issue that disturbs me. If anyone is interested in this topic and/or this post has not persuaded you, read _Female Chauvinist Pigs_ by Ariel Levy -- a-mazing.

Just one more thing! Another disturbing trend I've come across in porn is female masturbation and this new turn to satisfy the woman too. With all of the emphasis on female masturbation (Oprah had an episode a while back on teaching young girls to pleasure themselves) you'd hope that this would leave a small space for women to find out what female sexuality is or can be, what really turns them on individually, the ways they really like to be touched, etc. Yet, it seems not even this is sacred. If we have no other way of expressing our sexuality than blow job . . . money-shot, how will we ever be able to leave misogyny behind even in one of the most exciting, private, and tender parts of our lives?

New? You've got to be kidding!

"Another disturbing trend I've come across in porn is female masturbation and this new turn to satisfy the woman too. With all of the emphasis on female masturbation (Oprah had an episode a while back on teaching young girls to pleasure themselves) you'd hope that this would leave a small space for women to find out what female sexuality is or can be, what really turns them on individually, the ways they really like to be touched, etc. Yet, it seems not even this is sacred. If we have no other way of expressing our sexuality than blow job . . . money-shot, how will we ever be able to leave misogyny behind even in one of the most exciting, private, and tender parts of our lives?"

OMG, where to begin with this comment!

First, there's absolutely nothing "new" about female masturbation in porn. This is something that's not only long been shown in "mainstream" commercial porn movies for decades, but is a long-standing feature in pornographic illustration and erotic are going back several centuries. Its also plays no small role in non-mainstream porn and porn made for lesbians. Analogously, gay porn commonly features men masturbating. And for that matter, masturbating in front of a partner for the pleasure of both is a commonplace bedroom act. Quite simply, if you're turned on by someone's body, then of course you're going to be even more turned on by the sight of them masturbating, so no small surprise that its commonly featured in porn.

Now why our friend MB sees this as big threatening thing is where it really ceases to make sense. Basically, this kind of porn is sending a message that 1) women's pleasure is a good thing; 2) that women have power to give themselves pleasure; 3) that the sight of a woman giving herself pleasure is a beautiful thing; 4) that men should not only not be threatened by this, but enjoy it themselves. In other words, this is the kind of benign porn that should, if anything, be encouraged. Unfortunately, I guess MB is so invested in the idea of porn as an all-consuming demon, that she can only see this as a negative that will somehow colonize female sexuality.

Yes!

I love this post. I wrote a paper just a few years ago in undergrad about female pornstars as models of female sexuality and the need for a sexual self-discovery model. Its still an issue that disturbs me. If anyone is interested in this topic and/or this post has not persuaded you, read _Female Chauvinist Pigs_ by Ariel Levy -- a-mazing.

Just one more thing! Another disturbing trend I've come across in porn is female masturbation and this new turn to satisfy the woman too. With all of the emphasis on female masturbation (Oprah had an episode a while back on teaching young girls to pleasure themselves) you'd hope that this would leave a small space for women to find out what female sexuality is or can be, what really turns them on individually, the ways they really like to be touched, etc. Yet, it seems not even this is sacred. If we have no other way of expressing our sexuality than blow job . . . money-shot, how will we ever be able to leave misogyny behind even in one of the most exciting, private, and tender parts of our lives?

I've been reading through

I've been reading through the comments and have been stuck on the argument about some porn being okay from a feminist viewpoint because it's made by women for women. But are most men watching those porn flicks with the same frequency that they're watching the main stream, degrading, violent porn which depicts women with no agency pretending to enjoy being strangled and treated in other humiliating ways? My guess is no. And if that's the case, then what good do they do to influence men's thinking about women and sexuality? Not that that's the point of porn that's made for women by women. I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's all fine and good to have porn out there that's centered around women's pleasure, but my guess is that men aren't watching it and, therefore, it is not having a larger impact on the way men view women outside of the bedroom.

Not a monolith

The simple answer is that porn can't simply be neatly divided into good, feminist porn vs a monolith of male-dominated, evil, misogynist bad porn. There's a whole lot of shades of shades of the rainbow in porn, a point that's missed by Becky Sharper's and various commentators reductionist view of "mainstream porn". So, yes, feminist and sex-positive ideas in porn do have influence beyond the ghetto of "positive" or "feminist" porn, including porn that a lot of men watch. A lot of mainstream porn is not the aggro, circus-act stuff that gets stereotypically trotted out here – there's also a great deal of high-end feature porn, alt porn (eg, Abby Winters), "het-lez" porn (eg, Girlfriends Films), etc that, on one hand, may not live up to feminist bean-counting standards enough to qualify as "feminist porn", but also incorporate many female-positive aspects about presenting women as active participants in sex and placing a high emphasis on female pleasure.

My take on the "mainstream porn vs feminist porn" debate is that its simply the "porn vs erotica" debate from the late 70s/early 80s relabeled. Same idea, different terminology. And in that regard, I think Ellen Willis nailed that one long ago: "In practice, attempts to sort out good erotica from bad porn inevitably comes down to 'What turns me on is erotica; what turns you on is pornographic.'"

THIS. THANK YOU JENNY.

THIS. THANK YOU JENNY.

Thanks a lot for the great

Thanks a lot for the great article, it was a real pleasure to read it and think about how people's view on sex have changed . I have to make a confession, that I also hate mainstream porn. The first reason for this is that lesbian or even gay porn looks more natural and arousing just because they treat each other like real partners! (by the way I'm straight)
Secondly, I do believe that porn influences our views about sexuality and even imposes the opinion about most sexual professions. According to some researches the most sexual professions among women are:
-Nurses
-French maids
- Air hostess ..... and so on....
It seems to me I've seen it somewhere... and you?

I did not slog through all

I did not slog through all 102 previous comments, so forgive me if this has been said before (the curse of having a popular article, I guess...).

The problem here--that nearly all porn is made for men--is correctly diagnosed. But what causes that? Quite simply, the fact that women don't buy enough porn! If women were a larger market for porn, more woman-friendly porn would be created.

Me, I think that would be great. I'm not a big fan of most porn; it's too poorly done. It's not so much that I mind the stuff you were talking about--facials, bald cunts, etc.--but I want some substance for my fantasy, some believable context for the situation, not just "two (or more) people meet and instantly fuck." And also, women who are actually enjoying what they're doing; that's the biggest turn-on of all.

So women: Buy more porn!

Of course, I know what the response would be: There's nothing to buy. The "woman-centered" porn out there is either just as poorly done as everything else, or all hazy and romantic and watered-down (I was browsing the "female friendly" category of Pornhub, and one of the videos started out with two people running on the beach with Journey playing in the background. Seriously?). Maybe if I ever start my career as a porn director I'll make some good stuff for you.

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