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The Victims of Pornography
October 16, 2009 10:14 AM   Subscribe

"Porn films are not about sex. Sex is airbrushed and digitally washed out of the films There is no acting because none of the women are permitted to have what amounts to a personality.The one emotion they are allowed to display is an unquenchable desire to satisfy men, especially if that desire involves the women’s physical and emotional degradation." In his most recent book, Chris Hedges navigates our culture of narcissim, from porn (in the linked segment), to the WWE, to Ivy League graduation ceremonies and reality tv — exposing, according to his publisher "an age of terrifying decline and heightened self-delusion". Hedges is a former foreign correspondent for the New York times, has previously gone to war with Christian Fundamentalists, The New Atheists, War itself and his own employer, resigning from his job rather than submit to the Times's reprimand over his outspoken opposition to the Iraq War and the press "cheerleading" that preceded it.
posted by psmealey (207 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
What's that saying about critics?
posted by delmoi at 10:20 AM on October 16, 2009


"Porn films are not about sex. Sex is airbrushed and digitally washed out of the films There is no acting because none of the women are permitted to have what amounts to a personality.The one emotion they are allowed to display is an unquenchable desire to satisfy men, especially if that desire involves the women’s physical and emotional degradation

I'm always very wary of blanket claims that every single this that or the other thing is exactly as the author says they are. I'm certain there are huge numbers of porn films like this. But overstating your case like this only makes me think that this is about an axe to grind and not about someone who really looked at the issue.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:22 AM on October 16, 2009 [23 favorites]


Rationally explains why porn is so deeply unsatisfying. Even sex isn't really about sex.
posted by Xoebe at 10:23 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


an age of terrifying decline and heightened self-delusion

...of the kids on my lawn.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 10:24 AM on October 16, 2009 [25 favorites]


The one emotion they are allowed to display is an unquenchable desire to satisfy men

...and? That's the point of pornography. Christ, it's the point of almost any consumer entertainment commodity in the universe. It's fulfilling a fantasy that is otherwise unattainable for the consumer in real life. There exists tons of pornography that meets other standards, such as being cuckolded, abused, etc. depending on a particular person's interest. As Patton Oswalt said, if there's a fetish, there's a 20-year-old magazine devoted to it.

Whenever I read articles like this that are shocked to discover gambling is going on, I always wait to see if the author bothers to explain exactly what he or she actually expects from porn. I rarely if ever see that.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:24 AM on October 16, 2009 [14 favorites]


I remember reading an article exactly like this in 1972, when I was four years old. I can't tell from the article whether he bothered to talk to any pro-porn feminists, or tried to look at adult filmmaking from any perspective other than moral outrage, because I couldn't get past the first page, which sounds as though it was written by someone who has seen exactly three gonzo shorts online and decided that this is what the entire industry is like.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:24 AM on October 16, 2009 [7 favorites]


There is no acting because none of the women are permitted to have what amounts to a personality.

Hedges has not done his homework.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:25 AM on October 16, 2009 [9 favorites]


If Chris Hedges is navigating our culture of narcissism, do you suppose he includes a very long chapter about himself?

and that was a ridiculously shallow and uninteresting read.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:25 AM on October 16, 2009 [9 favorites]


I've never found Hedges a compelling character. I read War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning and American Fascists and found nearly everything he had to say to be extremely, painfully obvious. War is definitely not good. Theocracies are also bad. Porn, it turns out, is not the same thing as sex. Shocking stuff!

Watching him attempt to justify his favored, moderate brand of superstition next to, say someone as erudite and witty as a Christopher Hitchens is just painfully embarrassing to watch. I'm not surprised he's found some new signs of the apocalypse to chastise/warn us about in book form.
posted by inoculatedcities at 10:25 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


none of the women are permitted to have what amounts to a personality

What women? No women in my porn.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 10:27 AM on October 16, 2009 [38 favorites]


Hedges has not done his homework.

The only work Hedges appears to have done for this piece was interview a handful of anti-porn activists and uncritically regurgitate their particular point of view.

Not the BOTW, IMO.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:29 AM on October 16, 2009


Based on a discussion I once had with adult filmmaker Paul Thomas, the primary reason women don't have much personality in these films is because they can't act. Notrice that the men don't have much personality either.

A lot of the minor characters in Newsies didn't have much personality either, but we don't condemn musicals for it. When you're hired to sing and dance, you sing and dance. Anything else is gravy.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:31 AM on October 16, 2009 [9 favorites]


Adding, I want to emphasize that there is certainly a conversation to be had about the "culture" that pornography creates. Porn stars write best selling books and there are "strip tease" classes at gyms now. You can make a valid argument that we have a more sexualized culture. But to say that the plots and themes of porno- themes that Hedges has created with the broadest of brushes- are what turn well-paid actresses and actors into "victims" is laughable. Especially when pornography both now and in the past has actual people I would call victims in the form of exploited children and runaways in unregulated industries, child trafficking in pedophile-friendly markets, and connections to organized crime.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:31 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, he makes a good point about Christopher Hitchens in that bit on Atheists, but that's like shooting fish in a barrel.
posted by delmoi at 10:31 AM on October 16, 2009


I tend to agree with your view on Hedges, inoculatedcities, but I do find him at his most convincing when he writes about combat induced trauma. He does have some first hand knowledge of that and find him very eloquent on that particular topic. The passage in the extract on his interview with the gonzo actress was affecting. Maybe only to me, but there you go.

At any rate, yes Hedges does often come across like a puritannical scold, but he's more complex than that. He's an atheist himself who despises/mistrusts Christopher Hitchens's brand of atheism for some of the same reasons that I do. Perhaps I see a bit too much of myself in some of his writing, but it seemed interesting enough to explore on the Blue, given that he's mostly known as anti Christian Right anti-culture warrior.
posted by psmealey at 10:32 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Based on a discussion I once had with adult filmmaker Paul Thomas, the primary reason women don't have much personality in these films is because they can't act. Notrice that the men don't have much personality either.

I think there's been a sort of transition between the 70s/80s and today, caused by the ubiquity of cheap video equipment and the internet. In the past porn films would have plots, where as today it's just "here's a video of people having sex."

I do think there's a lot of misogyny in porn some porn these days though, which is really obnoxious.
posted by delmoi at 10:35 AM on October 16, 2009


Awesome, he even found That One Guy whose life was ruined by the demon pr0n!
posted by The Straightener at 10:38 AM on October 16, 2009


I do think there's a lot of misogyny in porn some porn these days though, which is really obnoxious.

I agree. In fact, I'd say there has always been misogyny in porn, but it is symptomatic of misogyny in the larger culture. Some of what's out there I find personally apalling, but, then, I haven't looked into who is making it, or particpating it, or watching it, and the human sexual experience is broad enough that, unless there is an absence of consent, I'm going to just put it into the category of "playacting I find intensely bizarre and shall not watch," and let others figure it out for themselves.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:39 AM on October 16, 2009


So if those women can't act, that means those orgasms are all real?
posted by cjorgensen at 10:40 AM on October 16, 2009 [15 favorites]


Porn is like any other addiction,” Lubben says. “First, you are curious. Then you need harder and harder drugs to get off. You need gang bangs and bestiality and child porn.

I think there's a germ of a true statement here, but the idea that regular porn viewing leads to "needing" child porn is, at best, completely wrong.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:41 AM on October 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


"There is no acting because none of the women are permitted to have what amounts to a personality.
The one emotion they are allowed to display is an unquenchable desire to satisfy men"

What, he doesn't think that's acting??
posted by Floydd at 10:41 AM on October 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


All of mine are. Well, most of them.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:41 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


someone as erudite and witty as a Christopher Hitchens

Really? Is that how he comes across to you? I'm not snarking, just surprised. He's always sort of come across as a belligerent drunken blowhard and bully to me. I think he only seems to be erudite and witty to us yanks because he's a Brit, and on the whole, Brits just tend to have a better command of the English language than us and tend to be more cultured than we are.

On topic though: I'm inclined to agree with the rest of your assessment though. Although I do find the general topic of the allegiance between what Hedges calls the New Athiests and the Christian Right an interesting one.

It's kind of like how the extremists in the Middle East and the extremists in the US seem to have absolutely everything in common--both groups want to make more war with each other, see themselves as oppressed spiritual warriors, reject women's rights, deny evolution and science, pray regularly to their chosen protector deities, hate the gays, etc.--and yet, they like to act all mock-disgusted with each other, pretending they're total opposites. Why don't they just cut the flirting and admit they have a crush already?
posted by saulgoodman at 10:41 AM on October 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


Porn, which advertises itself as sex, is a bizarre, bleached pantomime of sex.

I can kind of see this point. Sex in feature films and TV (while they can't show very much to keep the R rating or to aired at all) is always hotter and sexier than in porn, which is often about two strangers immediately nude and spontaneously slabbing their bodies together like a fish whacking a face.
posted by yeti at 10:44 AM on October 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


I tend to agree with your view on Hedges, inoculatedcities, but I do find him at his most convincing when he writes about combat induced trauma.

With the proviso that people who suffer combat induced trauma don't usually make the excuse that they had to go back the following week to have their other leg shot off, because if they didn't, some other soldier would have got the job in their place.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:46 AM on October 16, 2009


I remember reading an article exactly like this in 1972, when I was four years old.

Is that 4 of our Earth years, Astro Zombie, and are we talking about years old measured from your birth date or your death date?
posted by DU at 10:46 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sex in feature films and TV (while they can't show very much to keep the R rating or to aired at all) is always hotter and sexier than in porn, which is often about two strangers immediately nude and spontaneously slabbing their bodies together like a fish whacking a face.

I see you and I differ on our definition of hot.

Mm. Fish facewhack.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:47 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Porn is about sex in the same way cop dramas are about detective work. I really wish reporters on the porn industry would stop approaching it with the same boring faux-naivite that they are shocked - SHOCKED - to find out that porn sex isn't the same as real sex.

Who would want to watch that? Who would really want to see the awkward fumbling that we all go through in real life? The messing with lube, the condoms, the loss of erection, the hilarious-but-unsexy sounds, etc. No, we want to see sexy sex, sex done by professionals who enjoy sex as a professional, because they are professionals!

Criticizing professional-grade porn is like criticizing professional baseball. I mean, what's with those guys, getting the ball over the plate most of the time, having 99%+ fielding averages? Who'd want to watch that? Real Baseball is what my kid plays, or what I play with the guys on Saturday.

That, and the degradation meme is played out. Women are the stars of porn, they generally make more than the guys and have more leeway to say what they'll do, or what they want. The guys are essentially walking erections, so it's not like the women are degraded any moreso, but to claim that they're degraded at all is to puritanically claim that sex is "dirty" and degrading in the first place! You're begging the question when you claim that women (and men) having sex on camera is degrading.
posted by explosion at 10:48 AM on October 16, 2009 [24 favorites]


Hmm, the main article was great, if you haven't read anything critical of pornography in the last twenty or thirty years. He doesn't look for a dissenting attitude at all, at least not in this excerpt. If you stick to the version of events espoused by the ex-porn Christian ministry and an actress who got deep into the Gonzo scene (a fate I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy) you're going to wind up with a pretty simple conclusion. Eeevil extreme porno for compulsive masturbators, I mean, ick, right?

He's an atheist himself

Not according to anything I've read, do you have a source for that?
posted by nanojath at 10:48 AM on October 16, 2009


Don't be fatuous, Jeffrey.
posted by notsnot at 10:50 AM on October 16, 2009 [7 favorites]


Porn hasn't really been interesting in decades.

As for the rest of it, porn star women have a lot in common with lots and lots of young women these days, who value themselves strictly on the type of man they can get. Whether that's for a night or for a relationship.

I don't think that being degraded in porn is all that much different than the experiences of many young women who have one-night-stands, or who try to prove how desireable they are by binge-drinking at frat parties and having sex with all comers (pun intended.)

In the end you have STD's and shame. Except I'm begining to wonder if the younger generation understands shame. You'd have to be flouting convention and ethics to be ashamed and these days, when "Girls Gone Wild" is kid stuff, and everyone is getting a boob job, and middle schoolers are giving blow jobs behind the bleachers, the line between porn and everyday life is getting slim to downright non-existant.

As a person who came of age between feminism and neo-feminism, I get that women have the right to have impersonal sex just like men, but really, at the end of the day, is that good for women, or men or society?

There's got to be something between the uptight and repressive fifties and Calilgula's Rome.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:51 AM on October 16, 2009 [8 favorites]


Criticizing professional-grade porn is like criticizing professional baseball. I mean, what's with those guys, getting the ball over the plate most of the time, having 99%+ fielding averages? Who'd want to watch that? Real Baseball is what my kid plays, or what I play with the guys on Saturday.

I do sort of prefer minor league baseball. Given the choice between skilled and dull and amateur and fun, I'll take the latter any day. I just like it whacky.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:51 AM on October 16, 2009


The porn article read like a 60 Minutes short done during the Reagan years.

Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends porn episode covered the same ground in a much more sympathetic and human way.
posted by benzenedream at 10:53 AM on October 16, 2009


exposing, according to his publisher "an age of terrifying decline and heightened self-delusion"

Ouch, publisher. That makes it seem like one of those things where this sort of person would feel like the world was falling apart no matter what age or place they happened to inhabit.
posted by xorry at 10:53 AM on October 16, 2009


I'm always very wary of blanket claims that every single this that or the other thing is exactly as the author says they are.

This was actually why I gave up on the book not long after the porn chapter -- if my feelings re: the book were at best mixed to that point, I figured, did I really think I'd be happier with it when he started talking about something other than porn? Because, let's be honest, even the shittiest writing about hot people getting laid for money is still writing about hot people getting laid for money, a subject I think nearly anyone finds endlessly fascinating.

Hedges basically breaks down like this (at least as a cultural critic in general; I haven't read his work about war trauma, but I can believe it'd be better): Genuinely interesting more-or-less-neutral reporting; opinion presented as fact that's compelling the first time, in that it makes bold statements you assume will be somehow substantiated later (they won't); a shorter burst of real journalism; a longer stretch of pure opinion, basically just an unedited version of what he said the first time; real journalism that's saying something you now really want to know more about, but you only get like maybe half a page before; HUGE FUCKING OPINION-DUMP that is what he's said at least twice already, now at epic length, in which he repeats his opinion over and over with minor variation in word choice until your eyes glaze over and you can't believe you're still reading this shit and just when you're gonna stop; tiny tiny tiny little slice of real journalism, followed by a cryptic outro, and then it's on to the following chapter.

Re: the porn chapter (easily the best part of as much of the book as I could get through, so it's nice that that part's online for free):

The passage in the extract on his interview with the gonzo actress was affecting. Maybe only to me, but there you go.

The biggest frustration to me about this book is exactly that -- all the stuff that isn't Hedges telling you how to feel about whatever, and in the biggest and most overblown way possible, is actually very much worth reading.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:55 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


From Amazon:

"Chris Hedges argues that we now live in two societies: One, the minority, functions in a print-based, literate world, that can cope with complexity and can separate illusion from truth. The other, a growing majority, is retreating from a reality-based world into one of false certainty and magic. In this 'other society,' serious film and theatre, as well as newspapers and books, are being pushed to the margins."

From his wikipedia:

"He graduated from the Loomis Chaffee School (a premier coeducational boarding school for grades 9-12 and postgraduates located on a 300-plus acre campus) in Windsor, Connecticut in 1975. He has a B.A. in English Literature from Colgate University and a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School, where he studied under James Luther Adams."

Jeez, Chris, not everybody got to go to boarding school, private liberals arts college and graduate school at Harvard so you don't have to be a total dick about the fact that not everyone can argue moral philosophy with you. Hopefully in the next world everyone will be WASPY private school intellectuals and all this insipid porno and professional wrestling that pains you won't exist.
posted by The Straightener at 10:55 AM on October 16, 2009 [11 favorites]


He can pry my porn from my hot, lotiony hands.
posted by snofoam at 10:56 AM on October 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


The setting at the AVN expo reminds me, of course, of Wallace's "Big Red Son." The brilliance of that piece however, was that Wallace was able to indict the industry from the inside, by portraying a couple journalists and a director. This reads more like an activist pamphlet.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:56 AM on October 16, 2009


There's got to be something between the uptight and repressive fifties and Calilgula's Rome.

They probably said something like this at the time of Caligula.

Kids these days.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:56 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wow. Skimming the comments here people seem to be almost uniformly dismissive of this article. It sounds to me like these women are heavily abused - physically and psychologically - and that sort of behavior is disgusting and I'm glad the author brought it to light. I mean, yes, porn is about getting guys off. Fine, take that as you will. But this:
I would say, ‘Treat me like a little slut,’ or ‘I’m your bitch,’ or ‘Fuck me like a whore.’ I would say the most degrading things I could say about myself because I thought this was what it meant to be sexy and what people wanted to hear, or at least the people who buy the films. You are just a slut to those who watch. You are nothing. They want to see that we know that.
does not seem like something that is an acceptable cost for getting someone off.
posted by scrutiny at 10:59 AM on October 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


Criticizing professional-grade porn is like criticizing professional baseball.

It's funny that you would say that, as I read a story a few weeks back about how porn companies are now finding greater success with "amateur" style video that they post on free sites as teasers, etc. than they do with professional sales. "Girls Gone Wild" outsells decades-old porn magazines by vast margins. I think you're underestimating the appeal of amateurism and "realism" (as opposed to people in costumes with plots, etc.) in this particular field.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:00 AM on October 16, 2009


"He's an atheist himself"
Not according to anything I've read, do you have a source for that?


I'm reasonably sure it was in a podcast of a Keynote Address he gave at a Conference for Conflict Analysis and Resolution from March of this year. From memory, he had said his experiences covering wars in Central America, Sarajevo left him with inability to have faith in any higher being. That belief in such a God was reserved to people who grew up in and never left lives of comfort and had no idea what human suffering and hardship were, and that somehow held to beliefs in things like the "rules of attraction" and other similar nonsense.
posted by psmealey at 11:05 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, he makes a good point about Christopher Hitchens in that bit on Atheists, but that's like shooting DARWIN fish in a barrel.

Evolved that for you.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:09 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


does not seem like something that is an acceptable cost for getting someone off.

I agree. It's not to my tastes, and I find it personally offensive. That doesn't represent the whole of the industry, however, and the part of the industry it does represent, when you're dealing with really degrading fantasies, is generally catering to an audience that fetishing degradation. As I said, it's not my thing, I am uncomfortable about what it says about our larger society that such porn exists, I would be uncomfortable with men who are into that, but, in the ansense of evidence of coercion, I don't know that I can say it shouldn't exist. People enjoy all sorts of freaky stuff -- as long as it is formly in the realm of fantasy, even in staged playacting that involves actual sex, I'm willing to let it be until somebody can demonstrate an undeniable social harm.

And maybe they can. It's a rtelatively new development in porn -- at least, widely available porn; pre-Internet porn was regulated, in part, by an unspoken but widely ackmowledged agreement between law enforcement and the industry that some things cannot be shown or represented. Now the industry has developed a series of small shops that can shoot digitally and put their product directly on the Web, where distribution is fast and free. It opens the possibility of a lot of abuse, and that would be an important subject for a journalist to track down. Unfortunately, this story was a disappointingly puritanical fingerwave at an entire industry.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:09 AM on October 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


fetishizes, rather.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:10 AM on October 16, 2009


I remember reading an article exactly like this in 1972, when I was four years old.

Wait, four years old? Is that in human years, or since your re-birth as a reanimated corpse? If it is indeed the former, you had some enlightened parents. I like to imagine that they wanted to inoculate you against all the weird stuff in the world as soon as they could, so they could put away the kid gloves and talk to you like the mini-adult you were destined to be.

Added material for the FPP: discussion of American Fascists and interview with Chris Hedges. Interesting stuff. My question: was there a time when people didn't suffer from "heightened self-delusion" as Hedges defines this all? War is by no means new, and always pushed by the "myth makers - historians, war correspondents, filmmakers novelists and the state." Religion has long been used as a tool for control. Pornography has been fake since the beginning. Are the current levels of deception and fraud really higher than before, or are we able to see it more easily because of the glut of always-on information?
posted by filthy light thief at 11:12 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Please mentally correct all my typos in my comment above. Sheesh.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:13 AM on October 16, 2009


He can pry my porn from my hot, lotiony hands.

It's not that hard to take your porn from you when your hands are covered in warm lotion. Perhaps you should wash up a bit before trying to defend your porn collection.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:14 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


People are unexpectedly interested in my real age in thsi thread. Astro Zombies don't count their death as a rebirth, but a continuation of their life span -- and extension, if you will, except devoted to space travel, getting solar power, and hacking up people with machetes, if that's what we're asked to do, and generally is.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:15 AM on October 16, 2009


I'm glad the author brought it to light

I think this is what most people are reacting negatively to; he didn't bring it to light nor did he add anything new to the discussion. There is a whole genre of "porn insider" reporting that has existed for at least 30 years covering the same topics with more humanism, sympathy, and understanding.

Check out the Reverse Cowgirl blog, for example.
posted by benzenedream at 11:16 AM on October 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


Actually, I just wanted to post this link to Susannah Breslin's They Shoot Porn Stars, Don't They? essay. She is the author of the Reverse Cowboy blog that benzenedream just linked to.
posted by chillmost at 11:27 AM on October 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


FFS...of course porn isn't about sex. Porn is almost always used as a substitute for sex.
posted by rocket88 at 11:31 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Previous Hedges on the blue. I think that I'm going to stop reading this one right about here:
“Porn is like any other addiction,” Lubben says. “First, you are curious. Then you need harder and harder drugs to get off. You need gang bangs and bestiality and child porn.
Next from Chris Hedges: Beer--capitalist plot or imperialist tool?
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:37 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


I like Hedges; I think he's an astute reader of political philosophy, and his perspective on media is actually more nuanced than I think he gets credit for (often when it might seem like he's saying the same thing again, he's actually not, he's extrapolating outwards and filling in gaps).

That said, I used to work in the porn industry, and used to work with some pretty skeevy shit but also some fairly smart folks who were self-aware and evidenced informed consent.

The most salient thing that I'd tell Hedges is that the primary problem in pornography isn't pornography but capitalism. There are a set of people who would be making pornography whether or not they got paid for it—it makes them hot to fuck in front of others, or to engage in "degrading" acts, or whatever. Some of the stuff they do, I find distasteful and would never engage in, like blood play (which we wouldn't publish, but some folks there were into and makes me feel like James Dobson contemplating Dan Savage's sex life). Other stuff, some of which Hedges mentions in the article, I think is pretty hot to do. There's even a third category, acts that I am aroused by in pornography but have little interest in, in real life. (Since I'm generally against injecting just what it is that gets me off into the public sphere of MeFi, feel free to memail me if you really want that digression.)

But even there, we're starting to get to the market condition: There are more people who like to see whatever variable you set [PORN] to than there are who get off by doing it. This is compounded by the fact that a lot of people haven't had the opportunity to explore their sexuality with a willing partner, so they get inured to believing that ALL MEN like [PORN] so they should too. I do believe that arousal is moderately adaptive, and I think that affects it too. So, you have a core of people making porn, and you have a huge swath of people who pay money for pornography. That means that in order to meet that massive demand, folks who really don't enjoy everything that pornography entails end up making pornography for money. Which is fine, I don't begrudge jingle writers for not being emotionally invested in their work, and while I worked at the Death Star, for a while I was in charge of writing the MySpace Girls interviews, something that I could only get done by not writing at all about what I found interesting, and hewing to a template that was pretty much the epitome of hack work.

So, you have some folks making emotionally empty hackwork porn for money. Which is still fine, aside from that vague moral opposition I have to anyone doing work that isn't fulfilling (but, of course, if you hire me, I will emotionally commit to your projects, no matter what! Reasonable rates!).

That problem is compounded by the fact that some people are unaware of that moral vacuity and some people embrace it. There are real, active misogynists in porn, and there are also passive misogynists. There are also feminists of differing intellectual rigor, but few people complain about them. Those misogynists, like (and sometimes overlapping) the people who really do just enjoy fucking like a job, have a passion that motivates them within pornography as a business. And because of the assumption that underlies a lot of pornography—that even if you're not into some specific bit, it won't alienate you enough to swear off porn—misogyny is included like come shots, blow jobs, or that "jackhammer" position that I seriously doubt anyone in the history of anywhere has ever enjoyed actually doing.

In another of Hedges' books, he quotes H. Richard Niebuhr saying, "Religion is a good thing for good people and a bad thing for bad people." Pornography is healthy for healthy people and unhealthy for unhealthy people, both viewing and making. But in viewing, those who have an unhealthy relationship certainly dominate the market, in part because of the rampant oversupply of pornography, and that encourages people who have an unhealthy relationship to sex and pornography to make more and thrive doing so. The amount that is art, that can be returned to as an aesthetic object, is relatively tiny compared to the amount that is strictly utilitarian, and so that utilitarian porn strives for ways to distinguish itself, and ugliness is a part of that.
posted by klangklangston at 11:42 AM on October 16, 2009 [52 favorites]


But this (snipped) does not seem like something that is an acceptable cost for getting someone off.

I'm not unsympathetic. Personally, I'd find it degrading and humiliating to be asked to perform reverse anal cowgirl on screen to earn a living as well. I deal with that by not working in the porn industry.

Nothing that I've read suggests that pornographers are coercing women into appearing in their films, and there doesn't appear to be any shortage of women willing to take those roles. If anything, it was the amount of competition out there that encouraged them to do this stuff.

Since then, they appear to have got religion, changed their minds and now regret the choices that they made.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:50 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's got to be something between the uptight and repressive fifties and Calilgula's Rome.

I think that that is the position of most people, between the two extremes of all (public) sex is wrong to anything goes. There is no doubt that society has been hugely sexualised in the last two decades (one of many global changes since 1989). But we continue with a head-in-the-sand approach to the subject: ignoring sex education in schools while knowing that children learn "sex" from the Internet.

Both woman and men are victims of this change, only in different contexts (women in pornography and men in many other parts of their daily lives). Turning off porn while permitting the other aspect of societal sexualisation will not work.

I'm not arguing for a Taliban-style view of sex (although theirs is at least logically consistent). But we need a public discussion about the issue. Minus the extremists.
posted by bobbyelliott at 11:57 AM on October 16, 2009


The one emotion they are allowed to display is an unquenchable desire to satisfy men"

What, he doesn't think that's acting??

"She runs the gamut of emotions from O to O."

YES DOROTHY PARKER-IST
posted by zippy at 12:01 PM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


The most salient thing that I'd tell Hedges is that the primary problem in pornography isn't pornography but capitalism.

I wish I could favorite this a hundred times. I wish porn was the worst thing people did for money.
posted by lumpenprole at 12:03 PM on October 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


Wow. Skimming the comments here people seem to be almost uniformly dismissive of this article.

We are, because the article presents a small but visible subset of porn actors/viewers, and presents them as indicative of the whole.

There are thousands of articles out there about women-run porn companies and how empowering they are to their female stars and female viewers. But if I decided to interview some of these women, then write an article on how wonderfully anti-misogynistic porn is, you would be correct to label me a dumbass. Like Hedges.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:04 PM on October 16, 2009


Hedges: don't get off on my lawn.
posted by zippy at 12:06 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


You need gang bangs and bestiality and child porn.

All at once? Like a herd of of baby goats?
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 12:18 PM on October 16, 2009 [18 favorites]


It was an interesting article, even if it seems overly preachy. A metric ton of porn is about treating women like shit. (The links in this thread a great, also. Good job MetaFilter.)
posted by chunking express at 12:24 PM on October 16, 2009


As for the rest of it, porn star women have a lot in common with lots and lots of young women these days, who value themselves strictly on the type of man they can get. Whether that's for a night or for a relationship.

I don't think that being degraded in porn is all that much different than the experiences of many young women who have one-night-stands, or who try to prove how desireable they are by binge-drinking at frat parties and having sex with all comers (pun intended.)


Yes, those women! Those "these days" women! Who mysteriously decided, completely in their own mysterious ladybrains, that their bodies/their ability to attract men was the only worthwhile thing about them! Heaven knows, women today, and women for most of history, have never been told such a thing by the men around them, or their entire society, culture, religion, or government! Oh those mysterious women!

In the end you have STD's and shame. Except I'm begining to wonder if the younger generation understands shame. You'd have to be flouting convention and ethics to be ashamed and these days, when "Girls Gone Wild" is kid stuff, and everyone is getting a boob job, and middle schoolers are giving blow jobs behind the bleachers, the line between porn and everyday life is getting slim to downright non-existant.

As a person who came of age between feminism and neo-feminism, I get that women have the right to have impersonal sex just like men, but really, at the end of the day, is that good for women, or men or society?

There's got to be something between the uptight and repressive fifties and Calilgula's Rome.


That's some serious moral panic you got going there. Let me help you with that:

1. Women having sexual freedom/multiple partners need not result in : STDs/shame/middle-schoolers having sex/any of the other things you mention.

2. Because, women NOT having sex is not some sort of magical moral amulet which Keeps Us Safe.

3. In fact, how much sex women are having, or with how many people, or how impersonally they are doing so, is not in fact a threat of any kind to you, your children, or society at large!

4. Girls Gone Wild, believe it or not, was not started by slutty girls, but by an icky rapist-type dude who made big bucks by underpaying women to flash his camera so that that other icky dudes could watch it. If you have a problem with it, perhaps you should talk to the dudes in question and not their underpaid and exploited flashers.

5. Caligula? Really?
posted by emjaybee at 12:25 PM on October 16, 2009 [13 favorites]


That, and the degradation meme is played out. Women are the stars of porn, they generally make more than the guys and have more leeway to say what they'll do, or what they want. The guys are essentially walking erections, so it's not like the women are degraded any moreso, but to claim that they're degraded at all is to puritanically claim that sex is "dirty" and degrading in the first place! You're begging the question when you claim that women (and men) having sex on camera is degrading.

We're not talking about the same kind of degradation. Though, like others say above, not all porn is this way, the degradation in misogynistic pornography is primarily one of depiction. No matter how the actresses themselves are treated, in this brand of pornography they have to portray women who are not just objectified (because realistically, the men are objectified too) but actively diminished. The real issue is not that it exists, but that it's probably the most easily accessible type of pornography on the internet. Without moralizing, I think it's worth asking why that's the case, what it means about the dominant sexual attitudes that are out there, and how it might affect the sexual attitudes of younger kids who have as their first exposure to sexuality this type of pornography. Hedges fails to isolate the real problem: like bobbyelliott said above, this isn't a discussion that can happen when most people would prefer to just pretend that pornography and shame-free sexuality don't exist.
posted by invitapriore at 12:52 PM on October 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


I work in the adult industry. Prior to that, most of my life, I was simultaneously turned on by porn and disgusted at what I thought was the degradation/exploitation. After working for a while, both of those things aspects of my own tastes and thoughts have changed. Porn is fairly boring (for the most part) and the exploitation is being perpetrated on the men. The male "cocks" who have to inject chemicals into their penises to stay hard for hours. The slavish men who turn over their wallets to see skin and fake fucking. Hordes of women have to be turned away, rejected, etc because they all want to be the next Jameson/Patrick/Grey/Jane whatever. Speaking of Sasha Grey, read some of her interviews - she is exploiting the industry and more power to her.
posted by melt away at 1:00 PM on October 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


as long as it is formly in the realm of fantasy, even in staged playacting that involves actual sex

I am ok with this as well, but that girl basically fit the bill of the exploited worker. I doubt her life was staged. That being said, I'm not trying to make an argument that the entire porn industry is bad and does this to every woman out there. What I am saying is that her story shouldn't happen at all. I'm not sure what the solution is either. Regulation? I'm not sure I could see that going over well. You'd spawn a whole subset of 'underground porn' and just make it that much more desirable. I guess I'm just bothered by these people being treated as subhuman fucking machines both on and off the camera.

because the article presents a small but visible subset of porn actors/viewers, and presents them as indicative of the whole

Fair enough. The basic premise of the article seems to be that things are getting worse, and then interviews people from one booth at the expo and gets their story. I admit, taking their interviews and applying them to the whole industry is overreaching. At the same time, I don't think the events reported here should be happening. At all. Decrying how the article doesn't make the right point about the industry as a whole seems to ignore the more salient point that people are simply being abused in this industry. Regardless of how well women are treated in other parts of the industry, they shouldn't be treated like they are in this article.
posted by scrutiny at 1:04 PM on October 16, 2009


lesson: people will often do some desperate, crazy, stupidly damaging things to themselves to earn a buck. over and over and over again. (especially young people.)

however, i have said before and i will say again, that mixing that regret with outrage at sexual acts like playacting degradation or something as accepting as having one's lover's cum on one's body (or even face! the anti-feminist horror!) is a mistaken confluence.

in the right context, with people who care for one another or at the very least are mature and sober enough to make reasonable decisions about crazy-sex, (nearly) anything goes. i wish people like Chris Hedges would stop getting all prude-lady freaked out by what people do to get off.

i agree that the depth of his analysis wouldn't drown a mouse.
posted by RedEmma at 1:05 PM on October 16, 2009 [6 favorites]


I go round and round with the ethics of this. As many in this thread have mentioned, the women in these movies have chosen their career, and are highly-valued in their work. The problem that I have is that that choice was made in the absence of a society that values other types of women's work. Just as Betty Page (a model of female sexual power and assertiveness) said she chose her career based on a lack of other opportunities, I believe this is still very common. In a perfect society women would have real career choices: ones in which they are valued for their intelligence and strength, or ones that value -- shall we say -- other skills. Until then, the 'choice' is really a form of coercion.
posted by stinker at 1:09 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe that should have read

by any person being treated
posted by scrutiny at 1:11 PM on October 16, 2009


I'm not sure what the solution is either. Regulation? I'm not sure I could see that going over well. You'd spawn a whole subset of 'underground porn' and just make it that much more desirable.

I am unsure I see regulation as the answer, either, but not because of porn moonshiners. I'm more worried at the prospect of the regulators themselves. I think the potential for exploitation there would be epic, only now it would be government officials who have power over the livelihood and freedom of porn performers, which seems like a recipe for all kinds of abuses to me. Contrariwise, unregulated porn, if by definition illegal, would be very simple to take care of as a problem. I'm not certain that's the solution, though.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:14 PM on October 16, 2009


Shit, porn is misogynistic? Has he watched "mainstream" cinema? Some of the porn is downright feminism compared to your block buster.
posted by Bovine Love at 1:15 PM on October 16, 2009


I mean, yes, porn is about getting guys off. Fine, take that as you will. But this:

I would say, ‘Treat me like a little slut,’ or ‘I’m your bitch,’ or ‘Fuck me like a whore.’ I would say the most degrading things I could say about myself because I thought this was what it meant to be sexy and what people wanted to hear, or at least the people who buy the films. You are just a slut to those who watch. You are nothing. They want to see that we know that.

does not seem like something that is an acceptable cost for getting someone off.

Not to imply prudishness on anyone, but a varied sex life will show you that real people in real life also say these things.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:24 PM on October 16, 2009 [10 favorites]


Shit, porn is misogynistic? Has he watched "mainstream" cinema? Some of the porn is downright feminism compared to your block buster.

That's some defense strategy you have there.

I'll never understand the mental gymnastics it takes to defend porn as harmless while simultaneously pointing the finger at the atrocities of things like advertising and mainstream movies. It's as if it has some magical force field protecting it from cultural context.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 1:26 PM on October 16, 2009


"Until then, the 'choice' is really a form of coercion."

But that's not true for everyone. Nina Hartley loves what she does, and does essentially the same things in her off-time as she does on camera. If there were a way to get paid for commenting on Metafilter, y'know, I'd take it up, because I enjoy commenting on Metafilter.

On the other hand, most of these "women" aren't making considered decisions and aren't "valued" in their "careers." They're young girls who want fast cash, who like to fuck, and who are generally incredibly naive. I'd say stupid, but most people their age are stupid in the exact same ways, though porn doesn't seem to attract many thinkers. The things that fuck up their lives are greed, lust for fame, substance abuse, and family damage, just like anyone else. Oh, and the never-ending supply of guys who tend to be older, have more cash, and who have all sorts of weird-ass sexual baggage of their own, which their resources let them enjoy rather than having to deal with. But I tend to see these, again, as mostly problems of capitalism in porn rather than the underlying acts.
posted by klangklangston at 1:27 PM on October 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


Pornography does not promote sex, if one defines sex as a shared act between two partners. It promotes masturbation. It promotes the solitary auto-arousal that precludes intimacy and love. Pornography is about getting yourself off at someone else’s expense.

Here's the OED definition of "pornography": "The explicit description or exhibition of sexual subjects or activity in literature, painting, films, etc., in a manner intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic feelings; printed or visual material containing this."

This is fairly classical example of begging the question on Hedges' part.
posted by blucevalo at 1:28 PM on October 16, 2009


The most salient thing that I'd tell Hedges is that the primary problem in pornography isn't pornography but capitalism.

I dunno if I'd blame capitalism or patriarchy alone, but I would agree that the problems of pornography are symptoms of a larger problem.

A metric ton of porn is about treating women like shit.

I'm curious how much pornography all these people describing it have actually watched. But considering there is probably 1,000 metric tons of porn out there, you're probably right. There's also at least a metric ton of porn in which men are the subs and treated like shit.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:29 PM on October 16, 2009


"I'll never understand the mental gymnastics it takes to defend porn as harmless while simultaneously pointing the finger at the atrocities of things like advertising and mainstream movies. It's as if it has some magical force field protecting it from cultural context."

Heh. I was talking with my girlfriend the other day about how there doesn't seem to be a viable option for equality that means making things better for women. The best we seem able to do is to make things shitty for everyone.
posted by klangklangston at 1:31 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Awesome, he even found That One Guy whose life was ruined by the demon pr0n!

Really? Him? I had no idea, but it actually kind of makes sense.
posted by gern at 1:35 PM on October 16, 2009


mandymanwasregistered: That's some defense strategy you have there.

I'll never understand the mental gymnastics it takes to defend porn as harmless while simultaneously pointing the finger at the atrocities of things like advertising and mainstream movies. It's as if it has some magical force field protecting it from cultural context.


I didn't claim porn was harmless; I'm claiming that a very large swath of public entertainment is harmful. In fact, I was using porn as "the bar" for bad, and saying that some mainstream cinema exceeds it. But, see, the author just goes for the easy target and plays to the conceptions; he doesn't want to tackle the actual *issue* of the degradation of woman, he just wants to find an easy target that will gets lots of head nods.

Take apart a movie like My Best Friends Wedding that had millions of watchers and is socially accepted. See what *that* reflects. It is trivial to go find examples of something that are "wrong". OMG! There is porn that is degrading to woman! There is bestiality too (both with and without woman). How many watch it (not porn in general, the "bad" stuff)? What is its effect on society as a whole? How does it affect woman in the larger sense? Does it degrade men as well?

No, instead, we have to have sweeping generalizations (porn bad and degrading) with nice easy targets. Not to mention idiotic conclusions about why porn actresses don't act (ok, the conclusion could be right for all I know, but the reasoning is idiotic). The men don't act. The director is sleeping. The costume department was a quick drop in to the local adult store with a random, non-relevant selection of clothing. The location was selected by finding some rich guy who would loan his diggs in return for ogling porn babes. *no one* is trying hard on these movies. Did he even watch any?
posted by Bovine Love at 1:44 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


You'd have to be flouting convention and ethics to be ashamed and these days, when "Girls Gone Wild" is kid stuff, and everyone is getting a boob job, and middle schoolers are giving blow jobs behind the bleachers, the line between porn and everyday life is getting slim to downright non-existant.
These western women, walking around with their faces, even their hair uncovered! Don't they have any shame! Do they even understand shame!? It certainly couldn't be the case that people are only ashamed of things that they don't approve of themselves. Everyone knows that all social norms are universal, especially my norms!
I go round and round with the ethics of this. As many in this thread have mentioned, the women in these movies have chosen their career, and are highly-valued in their work. The problem that I have is that that choice was made in the absence of a society that values other types of women's work.
I don't think that's true. Lots of women have great carriers, but the fact is most of the women who work in porn are not exactly cut out for office work. They may not be stupid, but there are lot of reasons why people may not be able to deal with rigidity involved in the 9-5.
I'm curious how much pornography all these people describing it have actually watched. But considering there is probably 1,000 metric tons of porn out there, you're probably right. There's also at least a metric ton of porn in which men are the subs and treated like shit.
Yeah, but come on. I'm not saying that the "woman degrading" stuff is a majority, but it certainly outnumbers the "femdom" stuff, and it's mixed in with non-degrading stuff as if there's no difference.
posted by delmoi at 1:46 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wish people commenting here would keep in mind that at least for some percentage of women in porn, their participation is trauma reenactment of childhood sexual abuse.
posted by mlis at 1:51 PM on October 16, 2009


I'll never understand the mental gymnastics it takes to defend porn as harmless while simultaneously pointing the finger at the atrocities of things like advertising and mainstream movies. It's as if it has some magical force field protecting it from cultural context.

The question is not "is porn harmless/degrading" it is "can we be a society with freedom of speech if we restrict it?" Not really, no. Whatever harm it does, banning it is not a viable option.

However, it wouldn't hurt to make sure the actors, male and female, were fairly paid, of legal age, not coerced, and had access to decent healthcare. All of which do more to help those in the industry than bans/shaming.

And on the cultural side, I don't agree with this at all:

I was talking with my girlfriend the other day about how there doesn't seem to be a viable option for equality that means making things better for women. The best we seem able to do is to make things shitty for everyone.

Or maybe I just don't understand it. Why would equality for women=making things shitty for everyone? Especially since banning porn has little to do with equality for women. Women's lack of equality didn't originate in the pages of Hustler; and media that treat women as lesser-than or non-persons is certainly not limited to porn.
posted by emjaybee at 1:52 PM on October 16, 2009


However, it wouldn't hurt to make sure the actors, male and female, were fairly paid, of legal age, not coerced, and had access to decent healthcare. All of which do more to help those in the industry than bans/shaming.

It's funny, because except for healthcare i'm pretty sure everything you list is already being done. And who knows, maybe Vivid has a good benefits plan. There is a lot of rules in place to make sure actors and actresses are over 18. The people filming porno have to keep all sorts of records. Women make more than men, and by the sounds of things, make decent money. I'm sure there is all sorts of shadiness in the industry, but I also don't think it's as bad as people might think. I would imagine pornographers are reasonably careful, since if they do cross the line or do something bad, it's not like people are going to fall over themselves to defend them.
posted by chunking express at 1:58 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm curious how much pornography all these people describing it have actually watched. But considering there is probably 1,000 metric tons of porn out there, you're probably right. There's also at least a metric ton of porn in which men are the subs and treated like shit.

No, there is a huge gender difference between the depiction of men and the depiction of women. I dare you to find male sub porn on a non-specialized website.

The other things is that in those sort of fetish/BDSM contexts, the man is specifically a sub, whereas in the more mainstream porn, the woman is just a woman. There is an assumption that women being treated abusively is 100% normal. Not just submissive women--women, period.
posted by kathrineg at 2:00 PM on October 16, 2009 [7 favorites]


"Or maybe I just don't understand it. Why would equality for women=making things shitty for everyone? Especially since banning porn has little to do with equality for women. Women's lack of equality didn't originate in the pages of Hustler; and media that treat women as lesser-than or non-persons is certainly not limited to porn."

I'm going to assume that you don't mean to be as combative as I'm reading you, but you seem to have totally misunderstood what I was saying to the point that if you hadn't quoted me, I would assume that you hadn't read what I wrote at all.

To simplify what I said (extremely): I am pessimistic about the good that can come from criticizing pornography, given that I am dubious about the benefit that has come from criticizing mainstream media regarding gender roles. An example of this would be that rather than expand the normative representations of female bodies in the mainstream, "equality" has been advanced further by treating male bodies with the same lens of objectification. E.g. rather than decreasing the number of women with eating disorders, equality is coming from an increase in male eating disorders.

What this has to do with banning porn or Hustler, I have no idea.
posted by klangklangston at 2:08 PM on October 16, 2009


"There is an assumption that women being treated abusively is 100% normal. Not just submissive women--women, period."

That's true, and unfortunate, though there's more nuance to it than your statement would imply. Like, first off, I'd differentiate between "submissive" and abusive. Barely Legal definitely starts with an assumption of submissive posing, etc., but the editorial voice is supposed to be that these young women are in charge of their sexuality and actively exploring it. The weird coda is that instead of exploring their sexuality with guys their age, they're exploring their sexuality with guys who coincidentally are the demographic for Barely Legal (older, creepy in protective woman-idealizing ways). That attitude, writ broader and shallower, is the philosophy behind both Playboy and Penthouse. These are "girls next door" who want to have sex and enjoy having sex, but who "coincidentally" line up with a whole raft of gender role assumptions that are more passively sexist than actively misogynist.

Then there's Hustler, where the publisher is a creepy redneck whose inability to have actual, normal sex has been amplified by years of weird sexual play acting. There's a giant mass of despair at the heart of Flynt, or would be if he seemed self-aware in any way. The editor in chief, on the other hand, is actively misogynist. That his wife is an overbearing harridan who openly belittles him feeds into a weird hatred of women and a desire to degrade them that would be an unbelievable Freudian cliché if it were written in fiction. My most uncomfortable moment at that job was when I was stuck in his office while he and the features editor discussed whether they would prefer raping Cindy McCain or Sarah Palin. He's someone that embraces the idea that women are "meant" to be degraded.

But even within Hustler, he's not the guy who writes the girl copy, which is what turns their pictorials degrading. That guy is just a regular family man who's hacking himself out for the cash. He has a mildly weird fratish view of women, but doesn't look at porn outside of his job, treats women with respect generally, and whose nastiness comes, as far as I can tell, purely from two sources: That he has to please the editor in chief, and the absolute contempt that develops from having to interview idiots about their fucking. Even the most vapid movie actress or musician has more interesting stories to tell, and any interesting stories are dismissed as not arousing. There's a vapid kabuki that happens where ever woman you interview tells you that her real joy is pleasing a man by doing anything he wants, and you both know that's not true, but you don't even have the modicum of freedom that local news reporting allows you in puncturing the platitudes of politicians. It's incredibly easy to turn that hate in on the women who you have to "report" on.

So, really, porn is a lie that everyone involved with knows is a lie, and it's a lie that's even more banal and boring than professional wrestling (a pornographic soap opera that had the endless didactic nature of pro wrestling could actually be fun to write, but as anything that's not fucking distracts from the utilitarian fucking, I can't imagine it engaging the one-fisted critics).

Then, there's the fetish stuff, where there's a totally weird thing that goes on—normal porn is made with an absolute contempt for nearly everyone involved aside from the crew, but the audience is regarded as the most vile pack of racist, sexist, misogynistic retards imaginable. The people that make fetish porn tend to actually be more enlightened and broad-minded, but that means that they're continually self-censoring because of that. Female submissive was the (general) interest of Ernest Green (man, editor) and Lee Forbes (woman, art director) of Taboo, in terms of personal predilections, but they routinely got mail from readers who wanted male sub stuff. The answer every time was, Hey, we love that stuff too, but every time we run it, our numbers go down. And because big porn is (thankfully) dying, the subscription and newsstand numbers are incredibly important. So, there's a big contingent of people who want it, and the folks behind it are cool with it, but they're constantly playing a weird "But will it play in Peoria?" game. The problem is that there simply aren't enough ecumenical kinksters to support a national magazine.
posted by klangklangston at 2:39 PM on October 16, 2009 [19 favorites]


hmm. This makes me feel really yucky inside, the moralizing and the sense that it's somewhat justified as well. I really hope more men are refusing to use bad, demeaning pornography than I know, and I always come to this kind of thread in the hope that I'll find evidence of grave sensitivity on the part of the men (as the gendered figures standing for "porn users") toward the women (insofar as they are porn-images and non-users) for how the overload of pornographic representation makes even mere bystanders feel: intimidated, alientated... demeaned... and I guess that's absolutely not a gender-specific phenomenon, anyway, so screw the binary, it's theirs, not mine. I don't have a hard time talking about porn, but it's hard to talk about sensitivity to porn.

So, yeah, it freaks me out is the thought that it's habituating people to the use of images for pleasure in a hardwired and politically non-neutral way. I don't like thinking of myself, as a girl, as pavlov's dogfood.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:44 PM on October 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


As for the rest of it, porn star women have a lot in common with lots and lots of young women these days, who value themselves strictly on the type of man they can get. Whether that's for a night or for a relationship.

These women should look to the good and pure women of Victorian England to see that the only thing that matters is social stature and bankbook size. Err, I guess they were total sluts too.....
posted by lattiboy at 2:49 PM on October 16, 2009


By the by, I don't mean that to sound all sexist, I was just using the standards of Ruthless Bunny and her "girls today!" comments. I can see how my comment would appear like "women have been money-grubbing nogoods forever". Just want to clear that up before a possible pile-on.
posted by lattiboy at 2:56 PM on October 16, 2009


klangklangston: I'm not talking about the "General Milieu" of pornography in general, I'm talking about porn where there are specific, literal, explicitly degrading insults tossed at the girls, where the whole thing is about men dominating women and humiliating them.
posted by delmoi at 3:14 PM on October 16, 2009


the primary problem in pornography isn't pornography but capitalism.

Exactly.

And why universally trying to apply negative descriptors like "exploitation" and "objectification" to all pornography fails to win many converts. And equally fails to win many arguments as to why naked people fucking on film for money is so "bad."

And I would argue it's the mainstreaming of porn that had made it less exploitative and, in fact, safer for the performers.

Waitstaff and the people that make your shoes are exploited and objectified. They just have thier clothes on.

The only thing special about porn is that Americans, as much as they like to consume the "sex product", are as fucked up about sex as they are about the free-market. It's a perfect storm. And prohibitions, like all prohibitions, only made porn more exploitative.

Hedges is really showing his puritanical bias's here.
posted by tkchrist at 3:18 PM on October 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


where the whole thing is about men dominating women and humiliating them.

Define that.

And why is dominating "bad." Give us concrete and descriptive examples. Seriously.

I'm not saying there things in porn that don't squick me the fuck out. There sure are. But "domination" is a loaded term and very much open to interpretation. I mean to some people doggy style and having woman on her knees giving a man oral sex are "dominating."
posted by tkchrist at 3:21 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


klangklangston: There's a vapid kabuki that happens where ever woman you interview tells you that her real joy is pleasing a man by doing anything he wants...

I'm no postmodernist, but when I was in college I read this book called Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Anti-Oedipus. It was relatively opaque, but it made one point that stuck with me: capitalism wants you to think that desiring something is the same thing as wanting something but lacking it – that is, capitalism tries to convince us that desire is a flaw or a failing on our part which must be rectified – whereas the truth of the matter is that desire is a fantastically powerful creative force which we can use for good if we choose to. Porn actually makes a lot of sense in the light of that assertion: everything that's wrong with porn has to do with the power struggles involves who is weak, who is strong, who desires, who is desired; the person desiring in porn (almost invariably the female) is always painted as weak, vile, lacking, whereas the desired (almost invariably the male) is always painted as strong, noble, in control. And since pornography is more explicit about its relationship to sex than any other product, the implied message it sends is unmistakeable: you, the viewer, the audience, are vile scum, since you are desiring rather than desired.

Whereas in fact our sexual desires are incredibly potent forces which can create and produce. To find oneself an object of desire isn't a chance to manipulate, degrade and capitalize, as porn portrays it; it's an opportunity to put into motion our desiring-machines in tandem. Porn encourages and is driven by shame because shame is a deep expression and perpetuation of the idea that those who desire lack something which must be purchased; but shame won't really be eliminated until the sexual desires are given a voice that isn't commodified, monetized, or marketed, a voice that appreciates that sex is a force that can change the world.
posted by koeselitz at 3:33 PM on October 16, 2009 [21 favorites]


delmoi: ... where the whole thing is about men dominating women and humiliating them.

tkchrist: And why is dominating "bad." Give us concrete and descriptive examples. Seriously.

Read again. "Dominating and humiliating" != "dominating."
posted by koeselitz at 3:40 PM on October 16, 2009


koeselitz, a lucid Deleuzian reading of pornography is exactly the kind of handholding I wanted today. I could kiss you.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:44 PM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


This post coincides with a very with a very deep, personal, internal crisis I'm going through at the moment. I've looked at (used) a lot of porn, spent way too much time and money in strip clubs, over the years. I never had a moral problem with it, and never looked down on the girls. I guess I saw it as them empowering themselves, making the best of what they have. I never knowingly had disrespectful thoughts about any of the girls who work in these industries. I even managed to befriend a few strippers. They are human.

But I know that many porn viewers/strip club patrons/brothel users are not quite as respectful as me. I know the girls have to put up with a lot of bullshit from disrespectful arseholes. That is why I was able to actually befriend some - because I was one of the rare ones that treated them with some level of respect.

But, recently, a close friend who I have come to have very deep feelings for has been having financial problems and mentioned that she has been considering stripping, and even the possibility of prostitution.

She is very sexually open and confident, which is great. But the thought of some of the sleazebags who she'd have to deal with ....

Suddenly it all sunk in. The thought of her doing that, absolutely kills me. I am doing everything in my power to prevent that happening. ANYTHING. It makes me weep to think of her doing that.

I have a sister, and in the past, have wondered "Would I want my sister doing this?", but I guess I just shrugged it off because I know she would never do it. But now, actually hearing a woman I love tell me she is considering it, breaks my heart to pieces. It's devastating. If she got into porn, I really don't think I could handle it.

These women should have fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, boyfriends, girlfriends .... someone who loves them. It's very unfortunate that many of them don't have someone who cares about them that way. But I know, now, that I would walk over hot coals to stop a woman I love from working in the stripping, porn or prostitution industry.

I can never look at it the same way again. I guess I'm reformed? I just don't know. All I know is, it hurts like hell.
posted by Diag at 4:04 PM on October 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


Read again. "Dominating and humiliating" != "dominating."

Sure. But define "humiliating." Again examples.

Is it like pornography. As in you know it when you see it?

Again. There are certainly things I view in pornography as humiliating to the performers. But those acts can and are in many instances in the eye of the beholder. The scope of what is "exploitative" is quite separate from the explicit acts, in my opinion. And has much more to do with the lack of informed consent, freedom from bodily harm, and reasonable compensation.


Porn encourages and is driven by shame because shame is a deep expression and perpetuation of the idea that those who desire lack something which must be purchased; but shame won't really be eliminated until the sexual desires are given a voice that isn't commodified, monetized, or marketed, a voice that appreciates that sex is a force that can change the world.


There are a whole lot of things we do for money that we could substitute for the word "porn" in that paragraph. So just becuase it's for money? If the performers did it for trade out, would that be better? That argument is also very simplistic.

While capitalism is the main culprit in creating exploitation in porn it doesn't have to be the main culprit. People can get paid for having sex on film and not destroy the world or destroy what is great about sex.

Just like art can be bought and sold, or food can be bought and sold, so can sex, or homes can be bought and sold... all these things can be commodities without necessarily destroying the integrity of things themselves. Sex is not special in that regard. In fact it is BECAUSE we try to make it oh so special and sacred that there becomes a stupid problem in the first place.

Porn is fucked up becuase people still have a fucked up puritanical duplicitous idea about sex. Fucked up not intrinsically becuase of pornography or money. In spite of pornography and money. Porn is still, despite it's legal almost pedestrian status, under prohibition in polite society.
posted by tkchrist at 4:21 PM on October 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


tkchrist: Waitstaff and the people that make your shoes are exploited and objectified. They just have their clothes on.

Yep. The fact that you're okay with that makes it sound like either (a) you don't really believe there's such a thing as exploitation or objectification or (b) you don't think it's that bad. I hope it's not the latter, but I think I can argue against the former.

tkchrist: There are a whole lot of things we do for money that we could substitute for the word "porn" in that paragraph.

That's exactly what I'm saying. There are a lot of problems with the world. Whenever we say something like "well, that's bad, but look over here: something just as bad!" we're acting as though the world is perfect as it is; it's not.

tkchrist: While capitalism is the main culprit in creating exploitation in porn it doesn't have to be the main culprit. People can get paid for having sex on film and not destroy the world or destroy what is great about sex.

No, they can't. You're acting as though everything exists in some sort of vacuum; it doesn't. In order to pay people to have sex on film for any real amount of time, you have to market that film, and that film in certain ways has to market itself. It has to "cater" to certain "desires," which is to say it has to become a sort of exaggerated parody of whatever sexist, racist, and generally stereotypical desires its makers think "the market" has. You're giving in to the myth of "positive porn" that plenty of people harbor &ndash just like anybody who's ever made quality erotica with a real plot and some sort of actual sexual substance and expected it to turn a profit. Those things don't turn a profit because they're not as essentially commodified as the exaggerated stuff; so while they're artistically satisfying for the people who make them, in the long run, in an aggressive market (and all American markets are aggressive) "positive porn" will always fail.

tkchrist: Just like art can be bought and sold, or food can be bought and sold, so can sex, or homes can be bought and sold... all these things can be commodities without necessarily destroying the integrity of things themselves. Sex is not special in that regard. In fact it is BECAUSE we try to make it oh so special and sacred that there becomes a stupid problem in the first place.

Art can't be bought or sold; at least not the essence of what makes it a human artifice, an object with some communicative intention. The object might be bought or sold, but if that communicative intention gets mixed up in the buying or selling (i.e. if the artist creates solely for money and solely with some idea of what will be "marketable") then the essential quality of it as art is lost. Food can be bought and sold, but only insofar as it is a material thing, not insofar as it's tasty, or well-prepared, or skillfully arranged, et cetera. Homes can be bought or sold, but again only their material-ness; in fact, it's so very difficult to separate the human communicative part of food, or art, or architecture and craft that it might as well be impossible.

Sex, indeed, is just like all of those things; or more so, since it's more basic to who we are as humans and more powerful.

To put this in a way that might be more comprehensive: I think you're trying to say that, in a healthy society, people would approach pornography in a sensible way, and it would be okay for certain people to be paid to have sex on film. But what I'm trying to say is this: in a healthy society, if you tried to sell pornography to anybody anywhere, they would laugh at you and say: "why would I pay for that? I can get that for free any time I want – and if I didn't like what I can get for free, I can make my own!" And, thus, pornography wouldn't exist. People only pay for it because they think that they are lacking, because they think they're not good enough without it. That's the curse of capitalism.
posted by koeselitz at 4:54 PM on October 16, 2009


> define "humiliating." Again examples.

Well, far be it from me to judge for certain, but there's a guy in prison for acts which occurred somewhere amid this overwhelming litany. I should think that approximates our cultural sense of what "humiliating" is. Man, I wanna paste the list here but it's too, too much.

Of course, the quantity of it which is what's really humiliating. Why is there a market for dozens and dozens of films that show different women being vomited on, or being throat-fucked to the point of vomiting, for example? Why are there so many of them? Because they're disposable, these images. Single use, usually. One vagina reproduced can provide a million orgasms. That's the inherent problem of pornography, the inherent capitalism in it.

> People can get paid for having sex on film and not destroy the world or destroy what is great about sex.

Of course, but the market DOES, for some reason, create a threat, as klang described above, to the production of niche porn, and thereby, of adequate available representations of reality. And I will always contend that people are acculturated by available images, and form ideas of normativity based in part on the images to which they are exposed. Life imitates art, to some extent, and to the extent that it may follow the model represented by the pornographic as it exists today, this is a problem, for women as well as for workers, because porn represents a sort of devaluation death-spiral, maybe not in factual economic terms, but in psychosocial ones? I'm not sure, here, and this line of argument is kind of stiffly Benjaminian. I do presume, however, that real, great, sex has value, which I think is borne out by history and common sense...

Which brings me to my final point: tkchrist, sex is oh-so-special because of physiological reasons as well as cultural ones. I wouldn't trade my oxytocin for the world.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:58 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


There is an assumption that women being treated abusively is 100% normal.

Sorry, I simply have not seen this in the (limited amount of) pornography that I have watched. YMMV. I guess I've only seen the female-centric stuff from Good Vibrations.

I wish people commenting here would keep in mind that at least for some percentage of women in porn, their participation is trauma reenactment of childhood sexual abuse.

I know that. I also know it's true for prostitutes. And I think prostitution should be legal as well.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:07 PM on October 16, 2009


benzenedream: "Check out the Reverse Cowgirl blog, for example."

chillmost: "Actually, I just wanted to post this link to Susannah Breslin's They Shoot Porn Stars, Don't They? essay.

The main post here is weak, but this blog and in particular that essay are really worth it. They are everything the main post is not, considered, emotionally moving, they don't tell you that the porn producer is a sleaze or that the actress is being exploited, they show you enough, with enough objectivity and nuance, to really demonstrate these things.

I sincerely doubt that Mr. Hedges is going to change how anyone looks at porn. I am pretty sure that Ms. Breslin has changed the way I think about the business of making pornography.

One troubling thing that would not have occurred to me otherwise, is the way that widespread piracy of porn online directly affects the actresses and their work conditions. Less money being payed for porn means fewer people can stay employed for lower wages, which ups the ante for what an actress is willing to do, and for how much. In an example from the essay, the actress knows that she has to do an unplanned anal if she wants to get paid that day, and if she says no she is also risking not getting any more work in that business, period.
posted by idiopath at 5:08 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


None of the women are permitted to have what amounts to a personality.

Okay, so women in (mainstream, hetero) porn may not be allowed to have personalities. They're pretty much performing athletes, anyway, and those seldom "get to have" personalities while on the field, either.

But on the upside, the women are paid 10x as much as male performers for the same films, and in terms of publicity, it's not even close. In an average film of this type, you will see every inch of every female performer's face, body, nose and toes... from the package on the shelf to every second of screen time. Her 'name' is probably in big letters on the front of the box.

On the other hand, I see little evidence that the men in those movies even have faces.
posted by rokusan at 5:09 PM on October 16, 2009


The fact that you're okay with that makes it sound like either

Okay. I just got to that part and didn't read anything else you wrote.

The FACT I'm okay with "that." First neither you or did my comment establish any such fact.

If you wanna have a discussion, then concentrate on actual facts. Rather than strawman facts pulled solely from your ass.
posted by tkchrist at 5:10 PM on October 16, 2009


There is an assumption that women being treated abusively is 100% normal.

I notice that these assumptions are often made by people who perceive that any woman actually enjoying sex is "being abused."
posted by rokusan at 5:10 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Concentrate on actual facts. Rather than strawman facts pulled solely from your ass.

Hm. Is that one of the Vivid Special Editions?
posted by rokusan at 5:11 PM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why is there a market for dozens and dozens of films that show different women being vomited on, or being throat-fucked to the point of vomiting, for example? Why are there so many of them?

Tonight's experiment: go to your local adult video store and count the percentage of videos like that. I dunno. I just have not had the same experience. The gonzo videos you describe seem like a very small fraction of the porn out there, especially when you include the amateur stuff.

9 1/2 Weeks, Basic Instinct, etc. Pornography? Why not?

I recommend Art and Pornography by Morse Peckham. Sorry i couldn't find a better link, but the first comment on the Amazon page is a good precis: "Pornography, Peckham says, also shows what a society values most." I agree, i.e. don't blame the player, blame the game.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:13 PM on October 16, 2009


mrgrimm, video store porn? seriously? what is this, the 80s? I mean, I know Max Hardcore isn't normative porno, but skip the lecture about softcore movies and video stores. It's not the same business, and the distinctions are enormous. Sharon Stone is rich, QED.

Meanwhile, I'm grooving on the copy they come up with at Gag Factor. "NEW WHORES DEGRADED EVERY WEDNESDAY!"
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:20 PM on October 16, 2009


I'm trying to picture him watching hours of porn as "research," and getting an image of David Denby. Shit.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:22 PM on October 16, 2009


“But overstating your case like this only makes me think that this is about an axe to grind and not about someone who really looked at the issue.”
I dunno, there is a certain vibe in the sort of slick… I don’t have the words … but I do sense a recurrent theme and style of execution in porn, pro-wrasslin, reality t.v., etc. A sort of objectification and subsequent consumption that, yeah, has gotten into reporting especially on war.
It’s not surprising, but it’s something I’ve thought about concerning past empires. Rome f’rinstance. Maybe I’m thinking of decadence? I dunno. Media and sociology aren’t my fields.
But I do notice a radical difference in 70’s porn vs. 80’s and more modern porn (it’s not just the pubic hair quotient or pretention to plot).
And it’s not this moral thing or any other factors, but decadence in the sense of, yeah, a retreat from reality.
Like some pleb on a road in gaul telling a well armed bandit horde to halt because he’s a Roman. No conception of actual reality.
I think this was parodied in Napoleon Dynamite (“You know I’m training to become a cagefighter”).
Power fantasy maybe?
Out of my depth chasing this idea. Closest I can think is koeselitz’s “capitalism wants you to think that desiring something is the same thing as wanting something but lacking it – that is, capitalism tries to convince us that desire is a flaw or a failing on our part which must be rectified… Porn encourages and is driven by shame because shame is a deep expression and perpetuation of the idea that those who desire lack something which must be purchased; but shame won't really be eliminated until the sexual desires are given a voice that isn't commodified, monetized, or marketed, a voice that appreciates that sex is a force that can change the world”
But wider than just sex. War here too. There’s this attraction/repulsion thing going on I’ve noticed when people know I’m a vet and I talk about some experiences.
Everyone hates reality t.v. folks. The thing with the kid in the balloon recently comes to mind (with the Wife Swap, and such). And yet people can’t stop talking about it, giving it attention, etc.
I don’t think that’s natural in the way the drive to other things – through desire say – is natural.
I think there’s a very distorted filter that’s been inserted between genuine experience and self-definition. And I think that’s necessary to a lot of things that are unsavory – not just capitalism in koeselitz’s comment.
Something, for example, that always bugged me in the film “The Matrix” was the goofy idea that humans were being used as a power source through heat (I mean, c’mon – humans eat, where’s that energy coming from Mr. Thermodynamics) and Morpheus’ explanation of humans as a battery. Just plan wrong.
But it occurs to me, where would Morpheus have gotten that information? It doesn’t look like it’s a deducible problem, especially with big killer robots floating around.
So the information itself could be wrong. By intent.
So too – assumptions as to the information or the experiences or whatnot, indeed, the entire context of the mediasphere – could be predicated on an untruth. Even where the information is accurate or real – the underpinnings aren’t, so…
posted by Smedleyman at 5:25 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why is there a market for dozens and dozens of films that show different women being vomited on, or being throat-fucked to the point of vomiting, for example?

Why is there a market for anything? Because people want it. Why is ther a market for fucked-up shit? Becuase there are fucked up people who want it.

If you're claiming that the larger societal dismal attitudes towards women is reflected in porn, sure. Abso-fucking-lutely. I've see some of that shit and it makes me literally ill.

If your claiming that porn creates these attitudes, well, there is absolutely no credible proof of that. And I have no interest in getting into this check and egg argument. It's been debunked a million times.

Of course, but the market DOES, for some reason, create a threat, as klang described above, to the production of niche porn, and thereby, of adequate available representations of reality.

The market can create a threat to niche anything at some point. From organic carrots to child-labor free shoes. It's always more profitable to market to the largest consuming block.

And it must be said the largest consuming block doesn't not want porn of people vomiting on each other. 90% of porn is still straight vanilla sex of just people fucking. I guarntee you that if fetish porn grew more mainstream where it had to pump out 50 million copies of a title a year it too would become more exploitative and start to reflect societies fuck-up sexist attitudes more broadly. Like klang said. It's a function of capitalism, flawed capitalism dealing with a semi-prohibited form. Not an intrinsic function of showing people fucking on film.

The argument of the article by Hedges was that porn crass-ens and coarsens society. Makes it more sexist. I say bullshit. It is the worst of capitalistic society that crass-en's pornography and makes it more sexist.
posted by tkchrist at 5:27 PM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


The thing I wish Hedges would have pointed out is that porn can still be sexy sex by professional sexers while raising the bar on how models are treated and how the material is presented. There are a few really decent production companies out there releasing adult films that are really respectful.

Particularly in the BDSM realm, there are folks out there who are trying to show viewers interesting sexy sex that is feminist and smart. (Example: Kink.com, which has an awesome porn mission statement if I've ever read one.)

If porn weren't such a marginalized, underground-ish industry, we would all expect that women would only get into adult entertainment if they really wanted to, that they would only do things they wanted to do, that they would receive proper after-care, and that they and their bodies would be respected.

Hedges just wanted to tell a sordid story, and he did. But he didn't cover the other side, which is really insultingly poor journalism.
posted by brina at 5:28 PM on October 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


me: The fact that you're okay with that makes it sound like either...

tkchrist: Okay. I just got to that part and didn't read anything else you wrote. The FACT I'm okay with "that." First neither you or did my comment establish any such fact. If you wanna have a discussion, then concentrate on actual facts. Rather than strawman facts pulled solely from your ass.

me: ... (a) you don't really believe there's such a thing as exploitation or objectification or (b) you don't think it's that bad. I hope it's not the latter, but I think I can argue against the former.

I didn't assume you were "okay with exploitation" – if anything, I assumed that you didn't think it really exists, at least not in this context. You seem, if I'm not mistaken, to be arguing that waitstaff and porn actors aren't 'exploited' because they aren't coerced and they are well-compensated; and that whatever "exploitation" is taking place is really in the eye of the beholder. Isn't that what you said?

I wasn't trying to drag you down, man. Honestly. Please don't think I was. I seem to have more and more difficulty convincing people that I'm not on the attack, but really I'm not. Please, please believe me when I say that.
posted by koeselitz at 5:29 PM on October 16, 2009


It's not the same business, and the distinctions are enormous. Sharon Stone is rich, QED.

You are being way to dismissive of his point. It seemed your original argument hinged on this vast amount "mainstream" porn that depicts extreme degrading acts like gagging and vomiting, etc. Well. Look at what is actually consumed. 90% is STILL vanilla porn of big boobed women and guys with giant schlongs delivering a pizza.

In my opinion one such degrading vieo in one too many. But it's not any more "intrinsically" reflective of "pornography" than the triple patty Donut-Bacon-Burger is reflective of food.
posted by tkchrist at 5:32 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ambrosia Voyeur, I believe mrgrimm was basically asserting the idea that you'll probably find the correct ratios of gonzo to "normal" in a porn shop.
But I think if you're idea of an average guys porn predilections veered towards vomiting, pissing, and fisting; then I ,as a heterosexual male, would say your point of view is a bit skewed.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:34 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


brina: The thing I wish Hedges would have pointed out is that porn can still be sexy sex by professional sexers while raising the bar on how models are treated and how the material is presented. There are a few really decent production companies out there releasing adult films that are really respectful... If porn weren't such a marginalized, underground-ish industry, we would all expect that women would only get into adult entertainment if they really wanted to, that they would only do things they wanted to do, that they would receive proper after-care, and that they and their bodies would be respected.

I think it's great that there are people out there trying to make sex a positive thing, and I love some of the things they do. But I still don't think that they'll ever be successful.

The thing to notice is that the "good porn" makes up about 0.01% of porn as a whole. I think that Hedges' article betrays a fundamental ignorance about the inner workings of porn and its motivations -- but all the same I think "good porn" is destined to fail. Why? Because as long as people live under the impression that porn is a commodity for which they should simply pay a fee, the stuff that makes them feel as though they can't live without it, the stuff that makes them feel a bit dirty, will always win out. Human beings are odd that way; they like to indulge their self-hatred. And if somehow people stop wanting to indulge that side of themselves, if they start seeing sex as a power they have and start seeing their desires as a creative force, then "good porn" will fail not because it's being driven out of the market but because nobody will pay for what they already have.
posted by koeselitz at 5:43 PM on October 16, 2009


koeselitz

I think if you assume that I, like all people of good faith and conscience, am against "exploitation" then we can continue discussion. I don't care if you made a strawmen accidentally or not. I'm not going to follow every digression into the rabit hole of qualifying everything I say. I just won't.

It's in the definition of that term "exploitation" where it concerns pornography where we part.

Yes, if people are well compensated, not subject to abuse, and can retain some sort of dignity in their work then I say they are not exploited. They may be objectified. But objectification sometimes merely a by product of the processes of efficiency and necessity. The waiter is a food bearing object. The pharmacist is a drug bearing object. They have their clothes on. We can't get to know the humanity of every single person that serves or do paid work for us. It's impossible in this modern word.

You seem to say it's simply because porn is a commodity that it is evil and exploitative.

This is waaaay too simplistic. There is nothing intrinsic to buying and selling that makes things bad. All you have offered us is some poetic philosophical rhetoric as to why you think this is so. But that is not an argument. Just opinion.
posted by tkchrist at 5:45 PM on October 16, 2009


tkchrist, pornography makes our culture more sexist in the way it makes it less sexually conscious and more gendered. That, of course, is based on the input from the culture, which is, itself, gendered and sexually daft. Sexism is the opposite of sexyism, says I.

My point of view is that all media tends to have similarly reinforcing effects on pre-existing cultural attitudes. The more media you use, the more dependent you are on its veracity; the more porn you use, the likelier you are to be led by the nose to want what it tells you to want. I fear that it tells you to want... only more porn, and I'd rather people have forebrain-inclusive sex, not lizard-brain visually-encited sex, even to the total exclusion of "the porn experience." To that, people usually respond that some people have to use porn because their partners won't do x, y and z, but I just can't relate to that.

To try to make the simplest summation of the problem of porn: it's a uniquely physically-activating form of media industry. The catharsis you get from an action movie and the catharsis you get from a porn video are on different social registers, and the unwillingness of our culture to valuate these appropriately causes problems in the market and the culture alike.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:46 PM on October 16, 2009


> It seemed your original argument hinged on this vast amount "mainstream" porn that depicts extreme degrading acts like gagging and vomiting, etc.

Why in the world would it seem that way? Preposterous. I only said it is a problem to me that there are vast amounts of explicit degradation themed porn being produced. The quantity underlines the capitalist problem I dislike about pornography: no value is ascribed to the acts or actors, and inordinate risks are therefore made oftener than is necessary.

And I'll stand by the point that comparisons between the actual porn industry as it exists today and softcore Hollywood films, on the bases of production, content, or distribution, are mostly without purpose within the scope of this discussion.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:53 PM on October 16, 2009


I notice that these assumptions are often made by people who perceive that any woman actually enjoying sex is "being abused."

This is at best a dishonest argument and I'm surprised that you're advocating it after reading kathrineg's comment. There's not much I could say that wouldn't be a rehash of what she said, so maybe you could elaborate as to who these people are, why you think their perception applies to the comment you're responding to, and what makes you think that most hardcore porn depicts women enjoying sex in anything but the most conspicuously ersatz way.
posted by invitapriore at 5:54 PM on October 16, 2009


By the way, I think most of the arguments people are having with each other here aren't really about essential differences; they're only semantic arguments. When some people hear the word "pornography," they think of an industry, of a segment of society that makes its living doing a certain thing; when other people hear the word "pornography," they think of erotica, of explicit expressions of sexuality like written descriptions, pictures, or films of people having sex. When people in the first group say "porn is bad," meaning "the industry as it is happens to be pretty unhealthy," then people in the second group hear them and think that they mean "explicit expressions of sexuality are bad." And since we've been fighting against repressiveness for some time, people are relatively sensitive to what they perceive as attacks on their freedom of sexual expression.

Frankly, I personally feel as though "porn" is an industry, a broad industry which produces "content," much of which is generally of the same sexist tenor. And it's precisely because I think sexual expressiveness is a fine thing to be encouraged that I think that the industry of porn is creepily unhealthy; because porn inhibits sexual expressiveness, seeking to monopolize desire.

At the risk of being written off as a weird socialist (not a very bold risk; I am one) I'd say that the creators of sexual images need to be liberated by seizing control of the means of production of those images. And given the particular nature of sex, that would mean, roughly, making porn free, absolutely free, without any charges or costs whatsoever.
posted by koeselitz at 5:59 PM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


pornography makes our culture more sexist in the way it makes it less sexually conscious and more gendered. That, of course, is based on the input from the culture, which is, itself, gendered and sexually daft.

Ambrosia, there is a word for this sort of argumentation.

Jim Carey movies suck.

Have you ever seen a Jim Carey movie?

No. Becuase Jim Carey movies Suck.

Porn makes society sexist becuase society is sexist and makes pornography.

To try to make the simplest summation of the problem of porn: it's a uniquely physically-activating form of media industry. The catharsis you get from an action movie and the catharsis you get from a porn video are on different social registers, and the unwillingness of our culture to valuate these appropriately causes problems in the market and the culture alike.

I'll need proof of that. Cites. Anyway. So. Violent video games activate the limbic system and hippocampus. What is your point exactly?

This is the same argument people make about violent video games. And like violent video games there is absolutely no proof what so ever that watching porn or a video games makes people more violent or more sexist. In fact it appears that where there is more porn, there is less rape.

yes. I will agree that none of this occurs in a vacuum. But it is an extreme stretch to go from a complicated nuanced view of the form and then conclude porn is intrinsically sexist or exploitative.
posted by tkchrist at 5:59 PM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


> But I think if you're idea of an average guys porn predilections veered towards vomiting, pissing, and fisting; then I ,as a heterosexual male, would say your point of view is a bit skewed.

and P.O.B. uh thanks for the update that you're a hetero male, which I guess... means you're a born expert on the porn that's on offer? Voice of Hegemony? I'm not sure what the point was, there. Anyway, I'm a rabidly pro-fucking bisexual female media scholar in Southern California. Call that a skew. I go swim now.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:02 PM on October 16, 2009


tkchrist, you've come to the right person for cites from academia about porn, but I go swim now. ttyl.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:03 PM on October 16, 2009


I only said it is a problem to me that there are vast amounts of explicit degradation themed porn being produced. The quantity underlines the capitalist problem I dislike about pornography: no value is ascribed to the acts or actors, and inordinate risks are therefore made oftener than is necessary.

Ambrosia the quantity of the sick stuff is a function of the ease of distribution of more porn in total. There not more people into that kind of stuff than there were before. There are more porn consumers in total now. The proportions of weird sick fucked up porn to normal vanilla porn are about the same as they always have been. You just have more access to it.

And once more this is the same problem capitalism in ALL products.

My argument is that it's our combined puritanical approach to sex plus our idiotic obsession with money that makes porn seem to go especially bad.

The fact is our sex fantasy lives are complicated. That sexual fantasies incorporate what on the outside can seem like sexist stereotypes or some dark stuff can be troubling but not indicative of an abuse or evil existing in the form itself. Sex is complicated.
posted by tkchrist at 6:09 PM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's not the same business, and the distinctions are enormous. Sharon Stone is rich, QED.

So is Sharon Mitchell. Discuss.
posted by rokusan at 6:12 PM on October 16, 2009


Is this my cue to finally become Orson Swelles, the greatest porn director/writer ever?
posted by juiceCake at 6:17 PM on October 16, 2009


An interesting thing about pornography to me is that it is a social technology. In an odd sort of way it does for many men pretty much what a vibrator does for women, aids in taking off the pangs of a long dry period in one's sex life, helps you get over being horny for a little while and think about something else. Except for the fact that its mechanism, the way it works, promotes offensive and degrading attitudes about other human beings.

Maybe, hopefully, the offensive and degrading part is separable from the makes a guy get off good and hard so he can focus on something other than being horny part. It is tricky, though, because a certain amount of what sexuality is in our patriarchal culture is a reinforcement of a man's social status through the method of sexual access to a desirable partner.

This is why pornography has to be so much more social, and less mechanical, I think. The reason a sex toy for men can't get most guys off the way the right porn can. And this is where much of the hatred in porn comes from, I think. If, for a guy, sex is supposed to be about the ego boost of attaining the woman, then getting off solo is going to be humiliating, a form of "self abuse", you are degrading yourself if you get yourself off and sex is "supposed" to be about the conquering of a woman. Transferring this hatred, and this degradation, on to the female fantasy object takes some of the edge off. It is simple pecking-order psychology, you feel less bad about yourself if you can spit on the face of someone else who is even more worthless. Or at the very least watch some jerk make her puke on his penis.

I think the better solution, moreso than just porn that does not degrade the actresses, is a framing for male sexuality where getting off is worth it for its own sake. Where being horny and getting yourself off is not some kind of degrading thing because it implies that you "can't get a woman to do the job". We men won't need to see women being abused if we are not hating ourselves for not being with a woman, or not being able to be with a woman attractive enough to reaffirm the status we wish to have.

Porn will be problematic as long as men cannot own their own sexuality. A woman can get herself off with a tool designed for the job and that fits the current script for what is sexual. We need a culture where a man can get himself off with a tool designed for the job and that fits our script for what is sexual, and does not make him look like a pathetic loser.

This strikes home for me, I have been single for years and not even approaching more than one woman a year or so for sex, not to mention a relationship. I have my own shit I am working out right now and just don't feel ready for a relationship most of the time. And I write this about porn because I realized that this degrading porn was turning me on alot, and I want a good explanation for why something that horrifies me on a moral level was also pretty fucking sexy. To wean myself from porn, I have to find being alone, with myself, a sexual experience, and that means re-framing my conception of what sexual is, and getting myself to realize, not just rationally, but on a visceral level, that I can own my own sexuality, my own desire, and sexuality is not something that a woman has that I acquire.

So, Ambrosia Voyeur, you mentioned being horrified at the idea of someone you know being aroused by that Max Power type stuff - and I hope this helps to understand what goes on behind that. I am weighing whether something as intense as this should be posted with this account linked to my real name on my profile, but I hope what it can contribute to this discussion outweighs the potential embarrassment and hatred.
posted by idiopath at 6:17 PM on October 16, 2009 [19 favorites]


Why in the world would it seem that way?

Because you brought it up in three of your five comments previous to this one. At least that's what I saw.

P.O.B. uh thanks for the update that you're a hetero male, which I guess... means you're a born expert on the porn that's on offer? Voice of Hegemony? I'm not sure what the point was, there. Anyway, I'm a rabidly pro-fucking bisexual female media scholar in Southern California.

Yeah I think it does make my opinion a bit more valid for what a hetero male on average likes and what you think they like. Have fun swimming.
posted by P.o.B. at 6:17 PM on October 16, 2009


tkchrist: I think if you assume that I, like all people of good faith and conscience, am against "exploitation" then we can continue discussion.

I have assumed and will continue to assume that. In fact, that was my point: that, since I can't believe you really accept exploitation, your acceptance of "exploitation" of waitstaff must mean that either (a) you don't think there's really exploitation going on there or (b) you don't think it's really as exploitative as anybody is pretending it is. But I didn't make that very clear; I'm sorry that my phrasing before caused confusion.

tkchrist: You seem to say it's simply because porn is a commodity that it is evil and exploitative. This is waaaay too simplistic. There is nothing intrinsic to buying and selling that makes things bad. All you have offered us is some poetic philosophical rhetoric as to why you think this is so. But that is not an argument. Just opinion.

Yes, I do believe that the commodification of porn is what makes it 'evil and exploitative;' I don't think that this is a simple thing. If you have X, and you trade X to someone for money - if you sell it - that doesn't instantly turn X into something evil. But nothing remains in simple terms like that; porn isn't just "films of sex that are sold." There's a whole dimension besides that! This has been known for hundreds of years; Marx described this system, as did Adam Smith. Once you manage to start manufacturing X's in bulk, if you want to keep selling them, you have to create or find a market for X's; you have to continue to manufacture them, so you have to control the means of production. These systems really exist - you can't pretend that porn is just sex on film being sold! It's the whole creation of sex on film specifically designed to be sold - it's all the people who star in it, all the people who direct it, all the people who sell it. Your argument seems to make perfect sense only when one leaves aside that whole system and its impact on society.
posted by koeselitz at 6:25 PM on October 16, 2009


The irony of this discussion and the article linked is that no matter what your conclusion the Porn Industry is growing. Rapidly. More women watch porn than every before. For fuck sake there is Christian Porn now. Mild SM and gay porn, stuff that got people locked up thirty years ago for viewing, is considered pretty vanilla and mainstream-ized. There is no stopping it at this point.

As rights for women improve world-wide and violence and sexual violence is trending down in the west, porn is growing.
posted by tkchrist at 6:27 PM on October 16, 2009


you can't pretend that porn is just sex on film being sold!

I don't pretend it is so. Is IS so.

Sorry but your going all hand-wavy on me. I can't grok any real argument coming out of this pseudo-Marxist jag you got going. There is no point. It's ideological. And I'm just not that interested in that particular direction.
posted by tkchrist at 6:31 PM on October 16, 2009


tkchrist: The fact is our sex fantasy lives are complicated. That sexual fantasies incorporate what on the outside can seem like sexist stereotypes or some dark stuff can be troubling but not indicative of an abuse or evil existing in the form itself. Sex is complicated.

But the problem with porn, with any organized industry devoted to selling images of something that anybody could make if they wanted to, is that shame is a very important part of keeping the industry alive. There was a time when porn hated shame, because shame kept people from going into porn theaters, porn movie stores, et cetera. But porn loves shame now - precisely because shame keeps people hiding in their rooms and sitting at their computers looking at porn! The industry is fine with a preacher talking about how sexual expressiveness is fundamentally evil on Sunday so long as he's paying his membership fees for AllGayCock.com on Saturday night.

In fact, it's pretty clear to me that the larger producers - Vivid, et cetera - have been able to stay in business precisely because of the vast, complicated legislation that people who are ashamed of porn have pushed through. Vivid, et cetera are the only ones who can afford to keep the extensive records; the only ones who can afford the distribution fees; the only ones who can afford to be just restrictive enough to please the censors. And even now, when most of those large producers are pretty much crumbling under the weight of filesharing (viva la revolucion!) it's only those prohibitive laws that give Vivid et al their competitive edge.

Do you really think people should have to pay for sexual gratification? Do you really think that's something that shouldn't be free?
posted by koeselitz at 6:34 PM on October 16, 2009


tkchrist: Sorry but your going all hand-wavy on me. I can't grok any real argument coming out of this pseudo-Marxist jag you got going. There is no point. It's ideological. And I'm just not that interested in that particular direction.

So that's why you've disagreed with anybody in this thread who's talked about "the porn industry" - because you don't think such a concept even makes sense.
posted by koeselitz at 6:35 PM on October 16, 2009


The "They Shoot Porn Stars" essay is fascinating, worth an FPP in its own right. (As compared to the inanity of the main article in this one.)

I have a conflicted position on this. Most porn doesn't do much for me, any more than I want to eat Fritos and Big Macs for every meal. Some amateur stuff is really interesting, because it's like a window into someone else's life, or a window into what they want to show you of their life.

Conversely, my wife loves the highly artificial, commercial porn, including the extreme and degrading stuff. She likes it because it's so theatrical, so over the top, and so openly fantastical. She isn't looking for reality in her porn -- she has enough reality in her real life; porn is for a total escape from that.

The point being that people consume porn in ways that aren't necessarily what the producers and advertisers of porn intend or expect, and in ways that can confuse or complicate what seem like obvious gender roles and messages.
posted by Forktine at 6:44 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, no swimming advised so soon after the first storm, but I'm gonna stay ducked out of this thread because I'm being misread and I don't want to deal with having to prove I'm not the archetype of female porn apprehension (telling you what het men like, horrified by Max Hardcore [and idiopath, I agree with you utterly until that point]) I'm being taken for, despite having not made any such utterances, with an increasingly soused bunch of dudes on Friday night! I'm having a good discussion about the nature of images as proxies for experiences with my lucky boyfriend instead. ;)
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:44 PM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


tkchrist: The irony of this discussion and the article linked is that no matter what your conclusion the Porn Industry is growing. Rapidly. More women watch porn than every before. For fuck sake there is Christian Porn now. Mild SM and gay porn, stuff that got people locked up thirty years ago for viewing, is considered pretty vanilla and mainstream-ized. There is no stopping it at this point.

Actually, The Porn Industry is dying. Or didn't you hear? Most of the big-house magazines have already folded, and the video companies are fighting tooth and nail against file-sharing. The reality is that more and more people are into images of sex and fewer and fewer people are supporting the industry. I have a feeling that in a generation or so it'll be nearly impossible to do the whole "move to LA and get paid to be in sex films" think and elementarily easy to stick images of yourself on the internet for fun. I think that's fantastic.

Again, it seems like we mean very different things when we say "porn."
posted by koeselitz at 6:46 PM on October 16, 2009


Interesting you should say that koeselitz, I was just thinking of a couple of things
Porn is by and large easily found for free on the internet
The fastest growing segment of porn in the past couple of years is amatuer porn.
Both of those points may well drive producers to put out more amatuer porn for it's low selling point and gonzo porn because of it's exclusivity. Which would still make it a bastion for degradation, nastiness and a lightining rod for scorn.

Ambrosia, I didn't mean to put you out (of the thread), but I can't but help read a certain amount of intended tone deafness (sarcasm?) to your comments. Which in turn really doesn't help what you say, some of which I find valid.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:00 PM on October 16, 2009


“We need a culture where a man can get himself off with a tool designed for the job and that fits our script for what is sexual, and does not make him look like a pathetic loser.”
Yeah, I’ve seen ads for “fleshlight” and there’s this guy surrounded by naked women and this ‘action’ guitar riff going on in the soundtrack with the 90’s (or whenever it was) Real World unsteady cam thing going on. Pretty unintentionally hilarious.

But even just male masturbation seems to be portrayed as weak, nerdy, etc. in film, et.al. Women doing it - wow, hot.
Just one of those nutty social catch-22’s on the order of a guy having a lot of women = stud, a woman having a lot of guys = slut.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:04 PM on October 16, 2009


But even just male masturbation seems to be portrayed as weak, nerdy, etc.

Well, to be fair: how do you feel five seconds after you masturbate?
posted by rokusan at 7:10 PM on October 16, 2009


Well, to be fair: how do you feel five seconds after you masturbate?

You must be Catholic?
posted by P.o.B. at 7:14 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Define that.

And why is dominating "bad." Give us concrete and descriptive examples. Seriously.


I'm not going to do that. Use your imagination.
posted by delmoi at 7:32 PM on October 16, 2009


Dominating is cool as long as everyone is actively and enthusiastically consenting, when they're not it's abusive.
posted by kathrineg at 7:36 PM on October 16, 2009


Er, I'm not talking about "domination", but rather the degrading, humiliation stuff, calling women sluts and whores in a really serious, rather then playful way.
posted by delmoi at 7:40 PM on October 16, 2009


I am a hardcore feminist who totally gets off on being degraded and humiliated. Also, I heart porn and am really all set with this kind of nonsense.
posted by tits mcgee at 8:50 PM on October 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


I am a hardcore feminist who totally gets off on being degraded and humiliated. Also, I heart porn and am really all set with this kind of nonsense.

I can't tell if you are being serious or if you are joking (tone is hard to sense online). But that describes my partner exactly. Nothing makes her more irate than being told that she has false consciousness and is a bad feminist because of what she likes. Real life is complicated, and people don't fit into neat little boxes.
posted by Forktine at 9:03 PM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Who is saying that she is a bad feminist? For reals, who?
posted by kathrineg at 9:16 PM on October 16, 2009


Who is saying that she is a bad feminist? For reals, who?

You are kidding, right? There's a huge literature attacking pornography from a feminist perspective and linking women enjoying degrading porn to false consciousness; it isn't at all hard to find people who say that submissiveness and hardcore feminist are incompatible. Just because all we MeFites are cool and fourth-wave and all that, we aren't really representative of all the voices on these subjects. I'm not saying you are saying this -- but it's never hard to find someone willing to tell women that they are doing it wrong when it comes to sexuality and feminism.
posted by Forktine at 9:32 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


ifeelmyself.com
posted by tehloki at 1:10 AM on October 17, 2009


[nsfw, counterpoint]
posted by tehloki at 1:10 AM on October 17, 2009


Christopher Lynn Hedges was born in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, the son of a Presbyterian minister.

From his Wikipedia entry.
posted by johnny novak at 2:00 AM on October 17, 2009


Another recommendation for that 'They Shoot Porn Stars, Don't They?' link that was posted somewhere upthread. Unlike the link in the FPP, that article was genuinely interesting and illuminating.

Well, far be it from me to judge for certain, but there's a guy in prison for acts which occurred somewhere amid this overwhelming litany.

Correction: Powers isn't in prison for the acts, but the portrayal of those acts on film. He's in prison for obscenity, not for rape, or sexual assault, or forcing somebody to felch themselves through a long straw.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:59 AM on October 17, 2009


My fault for having framed it as such, but this extract from Hedges larger work is telling a story about the degradation of the overall "pop" culture. That porn in some ways is representative of a larger cultural debasement, where consumerist nihilism has robbed us of meaning, and even, in the case of pornography, the titillation of something that was one point fun and naughty. It was not meant to be an in depth examination of the entire porn industry, but an exploration of a segment of it, and how that relates to other forms of self-debasement and exploitation (reality tv, facebook, etc.) to no end other than easy $$.

I realize where it comes from of course, but the whole "get off my lawn" knee jerk has become an almost Godwin-esque way to stifle discussion. (not that it worked here) It implies that "things have ever been thus, and those that imply otherwise simply aren't paying attention". Now, yes, there are attitudes that are genuine reactionary, that hold that some imagined prior era was somehow better than today, but if we can't discuss how mores have shifted, or how sexual repression manifests itself differently today than it did 10 or 20 or 50 years ago without being told "get off my lawn", that kind of defeats the purpose of having any kind of sociological discussion, doesn't it?
posted by psmealey at 6:02 AM on October 17, 2009


Of course we can have a discussion about how mores have shifted and how sexual repression manifests itself differently today. The best way to have the discussion is to actually lead off with how mores have shifted and sexual repression manifests itself. Tired old complaints about porns degradation of women is not starting a discussion about mores or repression.

Don't give us the "don't repress me" argument. Reminds me of the christian persecution complex (I see christmass is around the corner, I await the renewed accusations of persecution). If you want to have a discussion about X, it is your duty to start the discussion about X. If you start off with a Y, that is your failing, not those who actually discuss the merits of your points about Y. They are not persecuting you, they are discussing the topic which you started. This is especially true when Y almost amounts to a trolling point.
posted by Bovine Love at 6:22 AM on October 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks, Bovine Love. I'm new around here. Please explain more how this is supposed to work. Jeez you take a couple of years off, and it's like people forget all about you.

My point about the "get off my lawn" was more a general observation that it specifically related to this post or the subsequent discussion. I neither really wanted to have a discussion specifically about mores and shifting attitudes about sexuality. I just thought that Hedges's take on the gonzo segment of the porn industry was an interesting in view of his prior body of work and his liberal bona fides.

And lastly, I'm not sure how I managed to come across as being defensive, which is how you have very clearly interpreted to be my posture. So, before you go dispensing advice about persecution complexes, take a step back from the keyboard and examine how comfortable you are with casting such aspersions, and using such provocative language to no conceivable good end.
posted by psmealey at 7:08 AM on October 17, 2009


I realize where it comes from of course, but the whole "get off my lawn" knee jerk has become an almost Godwin-esque way to stifle discussion

I'd suggest that the terms "Godwin-esque" and "stifle discussion" suggest defensiveness; they accuse the participants (well some of them) of trying to "stifle discussion" . I see nothing in your post or the linked one which narrows the discussion to the "gonzo segment"; I only see very broad characterizations of the industry. He refers repeatedly to the "porn industry"; in fact, he seems to out of his way to offer generalized opinion, not even referring to "most actresses" or something with even a small amount of nuance, preferring to use the most general terms.

If you didn't want a discussion specifically about mores and shifting attitudes, when why did you complain that

... if we can't discuss how mores have shifted, or how sexual repression manifests itself differently today than it did 10 or 20 or 50 years ago without being told "get off my lawn", that kind of defeats the purpose of having any kind of sociological discussion, doesn't it?

?
posted by Bovine Love at 7:24 AM on October 17, 2009


psmealey, this post introduces a number of topics, each one could turn into a very exciting and contentious metafilter thread, but whichever one of those topics was presented first, I would not be surprised if we never really got around to the rest. Because there is so much to say about each of them.

Which, I think, directly ties into the critique many of us have here that this guy paints with a very large brush, generalizing over very wide swaths of rich and complex topics with far too little nuance.
posted by idiopath at 8:08 AM on October 17, 2009


Have you ever noticed that people who write shit like this always have the same solution for the problem they perceive?

eliminate pornography.

which is funny, because that's not the logical conclusion to any of their arguments. I'm a huge porno fan myself, so bear that in mind, but I too am not thrilled by hearing women refer to themselves as sluts or whores or being abused in any way. but I cannot for the life of me figure out why that means women should not be allowed to have sex on camera. it's important to remember that that's what this comes down to. you don't see people complaining about the treatment of gay male porn stars. and you don't hear anybody calling for regulation of work conditions on porno sets (something I think is sorely needed. max hardcore, I'm looking in your direction), or looking to understand and address the desire among consumers for women to be treated in certain ways.

no, it's always "we should not have women performing sexual acts for other people." and the direct implication of this is twofold:

1. women having sex is dirty and no woman should want to do it.
2. men's interest in sex is always predatory.

and people who detest porn and/or crusade against it will always rush to say "not at all. I believe in a healthy sex life, etc..." but then the next time porn comes up in their company, they won't say "I think there needs to be some tighter regulation of the industry." and they'll NEVER say "I think women need to take a more active role as consumers, in order to balance out the consumer base and inspire companies to make more woman friendly material." no no no. it's always "I think porn is DISGUSTING." and "the treatment of women in porn is filthy and degrading."

and it's a shame, because nobody realizes that these are the sentiments of the same establishment that wants to subjugate women's sexuality. that what they don't like in porn is the result of a larger social problem related to how men perceive women and how women perceive themselves. that the right to have sex in front of a camera is protected as free speech for a reason. that there is nothing in porn that explicitly or implicitly requires the subjugation or poor treatment of women, though the consumer demand may sometimes appear otherwise. that eliminating porn is just another way of telling women what they can't do with their bodies.

so yeah, I'll take these arguments more seriously when people who are familiar with the material make them, and aren't just reinforcing the same thousand year old stereotypes about women's sexuality.
posted by shmegegge at 8:55 AM on October 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


> Well, far be it from me to judge for certain, but there's a guy in prison for acts which occurred somewhere amid this overwhelming litany. Correction: Powers isn't in prison for the acts, but the portrayal of those acts on film. He's in prison for obscenity, not for rape, or sexual assault, or forcing somebody to felch themselves through a long straw.

By "Powers," I take it you mean Max Hardcore... and what he's in prison for is debatable. "Obscenity." Whether that's the act of recording the images or participating in them is unclear, which contributes to the conclusion that he certainly shouldn't be in prison.

I'm not horrified by Max Hardcore or demeaning porn. I'm scared (horrified is too strong a word, even) about the systemic deleterious effects of porn images on users' ability to attain healthy, social sexual interactions. No news there. I think the themes of demeaning porn are just a metonym for the capitalist and mass media phenomena of the unmeasured devaluation of the performances in porn, compared with the (likewise undervalued) social impact their recorded images produce. So, I do think getting off to porn has a bigger social footprint than having a laugh at a comedy does, and I think that based on how fucking IMPORTANT it is for people to get off, and not be horny to the point of distraction all the time! But we can certainly argue about thre relative importance of IRL sex and other types of IRL social interaction, as they come to be replaced by simulacra or whathaveyou.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:20 AM on October 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ambrosia Voyeur, I clearly misinterpreted what you were saying upthread, and I apologize for misremembering your words. The subject had me in i kind of a vulnerable emotional state, so my reading comprehension suffered.
posted by idiopath at 9:33 AM on October 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I happily accept, idiopath, with thanks. I'm sure I wasn't conveying my thoughts clearly enough on such a fraught topic. Thanks for what you wrote above, it makes wonderful sense, and I appreciate the spirit in which it was intended to reach someone like me. Oh, for that matter: horrible disgusting demeaning shit gets me all het and wet too. I could probably get aroused by someone skullfucking a nine year old if I was backed up enough. Gonads are assholes, clearly.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:47 AM on October 17, 2009


as they come to be replaced by simulacra or whathaveyou.

It's probably too late to do much to change attitudes towards, or use of, traditional (2D, non-interactive, video) porn. What we're looking at today is the end-game of that medium; and end-games are never pretty.

The next stage will be virtual - or a hybrid of virtual and real - and the first sightings of the new medium are evident in some virtual worlds. These new environments have the potential to address porn's current problems while addressing humanity's need for alternative sexual outlets.
posted by bobbyelliott at 4:25 PM on October 17, 2009


I'm scared about the systemic deleterious effects of porn images on users' ability to attain healthy, social sexual interactions

I feel that way too, Ambrosia Voyeur, and I am not anti-porn.
posted by pinky at 5:04 PM on October 17, 2009


pinky: "I am not anti-porn"

Just to be sure we are all understanding one another here, has anyone but Chris Hedges or an advocate for his position taken an anti-porn position in this thread?

It is possible to criticize the current state of what porn is without being anti-porn.

Then again, it is also possible to be anti-porn without the hamfisted overgeneralizing approach that Hedges displays.
posted by idiopath at 5:15 PM on October 17, 2009


By "Powers," I take it you mean Max Hardcore...

Yeah, god knows who Powers is? One of the filmmakers upthread?

and what he's in prison for is debatable. "Obscenity." Whether that's the act of recording the images or participating in them is unclear, which contributes to the conclusion that he certainly shouldn't be in prison.

It doesn't seem unclear to me. From the link you posted:

"And so it went through all 20 counts against both Little and MWE for using a computer system to transport obscene material and for mailing obscene material to the Middle District of Florida: Guilty on all counts."

He was convicted of transporting obscene material -- that's surely representations, not acts themselves. Though I agree that he shouldn't be in prison.

I'm scared (horrified is too strong a word, even) about the systemic deleterious effects of porn images on users' ability to attain healthy, social sexual interactions.

I think this is one of those chicken/egg questions. Is this sort of porn creating the appetite for itself, or is it catering to a pre-existing demand? My guess is that it's mostly the latter, and that people whose tastes don't already run to the kind of material that Hardcore produces wouldn't actually find it very erotic. I imagine though, that it validates and reinforces already-existing predilections.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:27 PM on October 17, 2009


I'm scared (horrified is too strong a word, even) about the systemic deleterious effects of porn images on users' ability to attain healthy, social sexual interactions.

I'm not sure if I agree with you or not. It seems to me that use of porn is virtually ubiquitous among males younger than myself who came of age after widespread internet access. Or even older than myself if you are including skin mags like Playboy as "porn" rather than just hardcore stuff.

Is there any reason to think that healthy, social sexual interactions are less common today than fifty years ago? I would have guessed the opposite by a fairly hefty margin.
posted by Justinian at 6:53 PM on October 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


PeterMcDermott: I think this is one of those chicken/egg questions. Is this sort of porn creating the appetite for itself, or is it catering to a pre-existing demand? My guess is that it's mostly the latter, and that people whose tastes don't already run to the kind of material that Hardcore produces wouldn't actually find it very erotic. I imagine though, that it validates and reinforces already-existing predilections.

That's actually a very interesting point, one that I've kind of been going over in my mind here through all of this.

The tough bit is that it's very, very easy to say: 'this is having a bad impact, and it's despicable and should be gotten rid of.' That's an easy thing to say because I think we all have some moral scruples, and because it's often tough to tell where our moral scruples end and our "squicky" sense which is only our stomach and should have no part in moral decisions begins. We all know that "it's squicky!" should never be the basis of moral judgment; if it were, we should be against anyone who ever has a sexual desire that's different from ours, abortion, quiche, et cetera. And I think it's clear, at least to those who are clear-headed, that people who use "it's squicky!" as a moral argument (or the basis for one) make up the bulk of the anti-homosexual camp, the anti-abortion camp, et cetera.

So we have to be careful of squickiness, which would tend to insist to us that 'of course this isn't natural! I find this disgusting, and can't believe that human beings naturally have these desires!' Well, the fact of the matter is that plenty of these predilections have well-attested roots all the way back to ancient times. This was true of homosexuality (obviously), and it's true of just about anything people can do to or with each other sexually. There's really nothing new under the sun.

However, I believe there's a realm beyond squickiness wherein we can actually discuss the impact porn has on people; it's quite clear that anything that can happen in porn can happen anywhere else and certainly has already, and it's also clear that as long as two people are consenting and loving whatever they choose to do sexily can be healthy. But porn isn't just "images of sex" it's images of sex that are paid for. That's a real qualitative difference, I think, and at the very least it's the only thing you can look to if you're aiming to explain exactly why so many disrespectful and non-loving images of sex floating around under the guise of porn. I know some people might feel as though I'm grinding an axe here, but I'm trying to explain my own experience of porn: something that likes being hidden because that increases the premium people pay for it, something that encourages me to feel as though I'm lacking something that I have to pay for.

These discussions always bring out a few people like

tits mcgee: I am a hardcore feminist who totally gets off on being degraded and humiliated. Also, I heart porn and am really all set with this kind of nonsense.

and I feel like it's important at this point to make a clarification: I think sex should be loving. I think it should always be loving. I think that's what sex is about: being loving toward yr fellow human beings. (As many as possible.) Anybody who thinks you can't be loving while you're wrestling another person to the ground, or slapping another person across the face, or trussing them up in chains and leather, or whatever people wish to do, should spend an afternoon looking at amateur bondage videos on the internet; love isn't all cooing and gentle embraces. I would've thought it was obvious that that's what sex was all about; it's pretty violent even to start out with, when you think about it. All that stabbing?

I want to say also that it's about more than consent, that when we say "as long as it's consensual" there's kind of something lacking. Because, first of all, there are so many different layers of "consensual." tkchrist mentioned waitresses being objectified earlier in the thread; if you ask most waitresses if they're at work consensually, the answer won't be a simple yes or no, will it? And the fact is that it's possible to manipulate someone into consenting to things that they regret later.

None of this is to say that two strangers can't meet each other, fuck each other brutally and lovingly in front of a camera, get paid, and walk away, never to see each other again. It's only to say that that hardly ever happens. What does happen? Two strangers meet, act out an exaggerated version of a (relatively sexist) role that society has told them to play thus reinforcing their own deep mental scars, get paid, and walk away. And, more importantly, over the long run, some of the people doing this manage to do it often enough to make it a job; those who are best at exaggerating their sexist role-playing, those who are best at emphasizing their physical and emotional characteristics are those who make it a job longest and eventually are those who make the most money. The thing is that porn is in its way reinforcing those sexist social roles; and yet its only reason for doing so is in order to market itself to society. So porn naturally ends up being this huge morass of reinforced and re-reinforced sexist social roles, like some huge scab that you never stop picking at. It has to do that; how is anybody going to keep their jobs in porn if porn doesn't cater to the broadest majority's predilections? And how is anybody going to keep their jobs in porn if they can't stand out by being extreme in some way?

That's why (yes, here I am again) I think the only solution is a world where having sex on film isn't anybody's job. That's not a world that can be created by legislation. It's not something you can get by banning things. I mean, the whole point isn't that "people shouldn't pile-drive each other" or "people shouldn't use whips and chains" – there's really nothing wrong with those things intrinsically – it's that people shouldn't have non-loving sex. And while it'd be nice if we could point to a simple, concrete test for whether a porn shoot is loving or not, thereby coming up with a way to regulate porn in a sane way, I don't think there is any such concrete test. Love can be brutal. Let it be. The only way is for porn to be free.
posted by koeselitz at 8:13 PM on October 17, 2009


And since I always bury my point and have to say it again briefly, here it is:

Porn does have a negative effect on people. It reinforces sexist stereotypes, and it encourages the false ideas that loving sex is boring and brutal, exciting sex isn't loving. Those ideas are remarkably destructive. But it's not the fact that porn is images of brutal sex that does the damage; it's that porn is often images of non-loving and sexist sex. The solution is to make sexual imagery free to anyone and everyone.
posted by koeselitz at 8:16 PM on October 17, 2009


Dominating is cool as long as everyone is actively and enthusiastically consenting, when they're not it's abusive.

Well, of course. And since I'm pretty sure the actresses in commercial porn films qualify as "actively and enthusiastically consenting", often for six or seven takes in the same afternoon... I'm not sure what the relationship to porn is, here.

To classify all porn in which women are sometimes submissive as "degrading" to women is ridiculous. To play-degrade and to play degraded is a rich, deep, and worthwhile part of sexuality. To be afraid of it is to be afraid of sex with the lights on, so to speak. If films tap into that to stimulate their audiences, I don't find it surprising or offensive.

Again, and I'm not throwing this at anyone in this thread, but more at the article's genre of judgmental and shallow writing: these writers that complain about women being degraded in porn seem to hint, between their own words, at a bias that sex itself equals degradation... at least for women.
posted by rokusan at 8:20 PM on October 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Porn does have a negative effect on people.

I suppose it might, on some, in some conditions. But if you're going to use a blanket that wide, it's just as accurate to say:

Porn does have a positive effect on people.
posted by rokusan at 8:22 PM on October 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


rokusan: To classify all porn in which women are sometimes submissive as "degrading" to women is ridiculous. To play-degrade and to play degraded is a rich, deep, and worthwhile part of sexuality. To be afraid of it is to be afraid of sex with the lights on, so to speak. If films tap into that to stimulate their audiences, I don't find it surprising or offensive.

I know I didn't express it very well, but my point was this:

The problem with porn is that it convinces the viewer in subtle ways that play-degradation, what I called 'brutally loving sex,' is not a normal, healthy part of sex. Everything about porn screams "look at me! I'm not normal! I'm not healthy!" and the porn that doesn't scream that isn't commercially viable. Porn removes every bit of context that would inform the viewer that what they're seeing is actually a normal part of human life, because that normal, humanizing context (porn stars buying groceries, porn stars raising children, et cetera) is seen as "too prosaic" and "not good marketing;" it doesn't catch peoples' attention.

Porn is actually part of the problem because it makes people more repressed, more closeted. After all, it's in the porn industry's best interest to keep as many people closeted in as many ways as possible, so long as there's still an internet connection in that closet. If porn dared to show that "porn stars" are actually normal human beings with children, husbands, wives, friends, and so on, people might get the dangerous idea that they are just as qualified to have crazy, fulfilling sex as the "stars" are. And then they might not spend their money on ridiculously hackneyed images.

You can't pretend the market and its forces don't exist. I know it's the typical capitalist thing to do to say "well, everything's available, and markets don't have any effect at all on the product," but people knew that that wasn't true three hundred years ago; can't we just admit that the market has an impact on the products that are sold in it?
posted by koeselitz at 10:24 PM on October 17, 2009


Justinian, I'm less interested in comparing the past to the present than in comparing the present to the future, and I further confess that I'm more interested in aggregated (anecdotal) cases than in inconceivable sums. I feel like I've known a substantial number of men who carry porn use forward, unquestioned, into relationships, as a sort of private sex life apart from their partners. This is an example of an unthinking, nigh addicted sort of dependence on the convenience of porn. When porn is your choice because it's easier than propositioning your wife and risking rejection, eek. It's at least popular resigned wisdom that "of course your boyfriend is jerking off to porn behind your back." I've been told this by crapfaced old harridans. Wink wink "they all are, the poor beasts," wink wink. Fuck that fucking noise. Porn should be used, deliberately as possible. That's the challenge, being deliberate and not desperate.

> All that stabbing?

Don't, dude. I love things you've said here, yanno, but... It's a close embrace from this side. I ain't never been stabbed, so maybe I'm way off, but uh, that's not a helpful metaphor... it's... bottomist. Nosir, I don't like it. It doesn't justify dommes, it don't work for Ambrosia.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:31 AM on October 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Porn should be used, deliberately as possible. That's the challenge, being deliberate and not desperate.

Oh, I guess I misunderstood your point.
posted by Justinian at 1:19 AM on October 18, 2009


I feel like I've known a substantial number of men who carry porn use forward, unquestioned, into relationships, as a sort of private sex life apart from their partners.

Yeah, I feel like I've known a substantial number of women who carry their bodice-ripper reading habits forward, unquestioned, into relationships as a sort of private romantic life apart from their partners too.

Everything about porn screams "look at me! I'm not normal! I'm not healthy!" and the porn that doesn't scream that isn't commercially viable.

Assuming that what you say is true (and I haven't actually watched enough porn to have a view one way or the other), in what way is that different from the majority of US television and Hollywood movies?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:20 AM on October 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


The only way is for porn to be free.

There are so many complex, thorny, deeply personal issues surrounding the whole idea of porn that I'm gonna be totally honest and say I'm relieved the conversation has come to this -- the argument, in essence, that art should be free -- a concept I can totally get my brain around and, after some years of intense consideration, reject. I agree that capitalism is bad news for art in general -- whether that be music, film, lit, what have you -- but the solution, to my mind, should not be a utopia in which people are not paid for their efforts, as that doesn't sound like a terribly utopian solution if you're, like, an artist.

Now, in some socialist state like the one you may be thinking of here, whether artistic endeavors were paid endeavors wouldn't matter. I see many potential pitfalls of such a state, but some clear upsides to one as well. One, of course, would be security vis a vis basic human needs. I'm in favor of that. However, as I think is pretty plain from the current condition of American political discourse, we are awfully far away from establishing anything that even kind of looks like socialism 'round these parts -- for better or worse, this sort of system does not seem to be in the cards anytime in the very near future. So this is a little pie-in-the-sky.

What isn't so implausible, though, is a future in which (a) socialist mores do not have political power, and (b) art is a largely unpaid endeavor. Hell, I'll go so far as to say an increasingly unpaid endeavor, as the internet has brought us all a vast number of entertainment options we would never have had before, none of which most of us feel even the slightest urge to pay for. That includes, to return to the subject at hand, porn that ostensibly exists to be paid for, but which seems mostly to be consumed for free via YouTube-like websites. The reason this future is plausible is because we already live there. This future/present is pretty cool for the consumer and pretty much shit for the creator. This future/present, I daresay, has a great deal to do with why people who don't especially want to be there enter porn right now, because there are fewer and fewer things people in this country can make any money from, even if they do them well. And yet we still need to make money. The "art should be free!" mentality has already taken hold -- not because we've reached some enlightened state as a society, but because we generally don't like paying for stuff. Without a larger social structure in place that makes creating art for free something you can do for a living, this idea reduces an artist to basically being a busker in a train station. I do not consider this a happy turn of events.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:12 AM on October 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Porn does have a negative effect on people. It reinforces sexist stereotypes, and it encourages the false ideas that loving sex is boring and brutal, exciting sex isn't loving. Those ideas are remarkably destructive. But it's not the fact that porn is images of brutal sex that does the damage; it's that porn is often images of non-loving and sexist sex. The solution is to make sexual imagery free to anyone and everyone.

Your argument kind of falls apart here. The whole "porn has a negative effect" has been argued for a very long time, but without a lot of compelling, you know, evidence. Any form of media can be used for good, or neutrally, or for bad; there's nothing about porn that locks it into a negative slot only.

Sexist stereotypes: I'm agreeing with PeterMcD on this. Sexism/misogyny/etc is deeply embedded in the fabric of our culture, and even in the very physical environment we have built. There's nothing uniquely sexist about even bad porn, other than it is easier to see the sexism in raw porn than it is to see it in a popular romantic comedy. But what's more pernicious -- a marginal porn short seen by a few thousand people at most, or a mainstream movie seen by tens of millions and promoted with the full weight of a marketing department?

And then the solution is to make it free? Huh? The problem isn't the cost -- it's the same sexism that's embedded throughout our lives and throughout most of the media production available to us. The solution is more demand for good porn, just as the solution to awful movies is to create an audience that demands good movies. And honestly, the decentralization and fragmentation that has happened in the porn industry has finally created the space for the possibility of this.

When porn was underground and distribution was controlled by the mafia, there wasn't any possibility of feminist porn, or of healthy depictions of goofy fetishes, or anything possibly transgressive in any way. Now, we have dozens of avowedly feminist (and other -ists, too, encompassing all kinds of other things) directors; male and female stars who are controlling their own careers; and a wide variety of distribution paths that allow for independent productions, healthy depictions of sexuality, and other things that were unimaginable when porn was underground.
posted by Forktine at 7:34 AM on October 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


> Yeah, I feel like I've known a substantial number of women who carry their bodice-ripper reading habits forward, unquestioned, into relationships as a sort of private romantic life apart from their partners too.

sex != "romance"
in fact, sex>romance
especially
manifest, sticky, even solo, sex > time spent invested in fantastical narratives

Ergo I ask you:

Are these women with bad literary taste, who exist for tit-for-tat purposes in their legions, secretly orgasming without giving their partners the opportunity to participate? Does the material they engage with tend to encourage the kinds of ethical elisions we've been discussing as a too-common feature of pornography? Get real, Pete.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:39 AM on October 18, 2009


> The solution is more demand for good porn, just as the solution to awful movies is to create an audience that demands good movies.

This hasn't been the way the film industry works. This is a comment on ideal distribution conditions, not ideal production conditions. Producers will never know what "quality" is in terms that correctly anticipate the public's demand for it.

I don't believe the solution to bad porn is either to remove the capitalist motivation behind it or to pay money for porn that might be good. (After all, how do I know it's good until I watch it... by reading the advertising copy? I've been looking long and hard for porn I personally like as well as respect, and so far there's only one feature I value enough to consider purchasing, ymmv.)

I believe the solution is to get more people laid more happily and more often, meeting their myriad desires in the real world more, and to await the positive change that would bring to our culture. Nobody even remembers that as the real ideal, here. Isn't it?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:49 AM on October 18, 2009


Are these women with bad literary taste, who exist for tit-for-tat purposes in their legions, secretly orgasming without giving their partners the opportunity to participate?

I believe that some do, though I obviously haven't asked all of them.

Does the material they engage with tend to encourage the kinds of ethical elisions we've been discussing as a too-common feature of pornography?

I think it encourages an equally unrealistic set of expectations about the nature of modern relationships. To be honest, I'm still not seeing any ethical elisions involved in not discussing your masturbatory habits with your partner.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:00 AM on October 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I believe the solution is to get more people laid more happily and more often, meeting their myriad desires in the real world more, and to await the positive change that would bring to our culture.

This might reduce the demand for bad porn, but I'm not sure that it would completely obliterate it. I think fetishes are probably far too diverse, and finding people who share them is probably far too difficult to ensure that there's a bug crusher for every bug crushing fetishist, an amputee for every stump lover and a milkmaid for every adult baby.

Even in big cities, I rather suspect that you'll look a long time before you find a woman who's happy to felch herself with a long straw.

Nobody even remembers that as the real ideal, here. Isn't it.

Sometimes it is, but I suspect a lot of people feel that there are times when a quick solo porn-assisted handjob perfectly hits the spot.

I'm not seeing why we can't have both?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:19 AM on October 18, 2009


Forktine: "Your argument kind of falls apart here. The whole "porn has a negative effect" has been argued for a very long time, but without a lot of compelling, you know, evidence."

I don't think this is true. Now I have to bust out some scholarly databases and see if I remember correctly.
posted by kathrineg at 11:30 AM on October 18, 2009


They Shoot Porn Stars Don't They, linked upthread, was really well done. It's much better than the article this FPP is built around. Definitely worth a read.
posted by chunking express at 11:46 AM on October 18, 2009


Peter McDermott, the ethical elision I referred to is complicity with the industrial injustices the original post treated. Et cetera. I don't think you're paying attention to the details of this actually very intricate discussion, instead just being as nit-picky as possible. Nobody's trying to prescribe away your porn, ffs.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:50 AM on October 18, 2009


I can't tell if you are being serious or if you are joking

Serious, and especially serious about being bored to tears by this particular debate. I'm much more concerned about helping my daughter sort out the constant barrage of explicit and implicit messages from the media about what it means to be female (even given her extremely limited access to television, internet, and branded anything) than I am about violence and misogyny in porn.

Politics out of the bedroom, please. Or, y'know, wherever it is you like to fuck.
posted by tits mcgee at 2:11 PM on October 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't think this is true. Now I have to bust out some scholarly databases and see if I remember correctly.

We've basically done a full-country experiment with this, by allowing pretty much unfettered access to most kinds of porn, within my lifetime. All kinds of things have changed in that time, but violence against women has not soared, the American family continues to fall apart but probably not because of porn, and the very moral fabric of our society remains intact.

I'd believe that porn has some impact, but it's having that impact in the context of a society that has sexism embedded in most, if not all, media offerings.
posted by Forktine at 3:31 PM on October 18, 2009


It's not really an experiment unless there is a control group, and there is not, to my knowledge, a control group that is similar to the US but with highly fettered access to porn.
posted by kathrineg at 4:36 PM on October 18, 2009


Just to share what I've gathered from reviewing a number of articles on porn, mostly from The Journal of Sex Research, it's been generally and consistently concluded in studies over the past 30 years that exposure to pornography does have a negative effect on empathy and sociability, along gendered lines which are modeled on the porn's content, but modified by social factors, and in inverse proportion to the measured intellectual capabilities of the users, as well.

In agreement with what I've been working toward talking about here, research doesn't conclude that porn is a cause of sexist thinking, but is a cause of of gendered antisocial attitudes, which I'm saying prefigures actual cockblocking effects.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:54 PM on October 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


but modified by social factors, and in inverse proportion to the measured intellectual capabilities of the users

Ah, am I reading this correctly? Exposure to pornography has a big negative effect on empathy for dumb people, but not for smart people? I believe you, it's just odd to me that smarts would have such an effect on changes in empathy which I usually don't see as having a lot to do with intellect.
posted by Justinian at 6:01 PM on October 18, 2009


Yeah, according to "Intellectual Ability and Reactions to Pornography" by Bogaert, Woodard, and Hafer. With help from "Voluntary Exposure to Pornography and Men's Attitudes Toward Feminism and Rape," by Davies, and "Pornography, Erotica, and Attitudes Toward Women: The Effects of Repeated Exposure," by Padgett and (I kid you not) Slutz.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 7:04 PM on October 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Exposure to pornography has a big negative effect on empathy for dumb people, but not for smart people?

Stupid is as stupid does. "Smarter" people have better critical thinking skills, therefore are not as easily persuaded (to believe or do things).
posted by P.o.B. at 11:01 PM on October 18, 2009


I guess I should add that my answer was pulled from Ambrosia's cite Intellectual Ability and Reactions to Pornography
posted by P.o.B. at 3:36 AM on October 19, 2009


Wow this thread took a weird god damned turn.

We have the 'FREE PORN FOR THE POOR" Marxist in here. On the surface FREE PORN FOR THE POOR is a sentiment I can get behind. But it really is every bit the fantasy as the hot sorority chick just waiting to fuck the pizza guy.

How anybody thinks selling porn for money is gonna die out despite it becoming a 2-5 billion dollar a year business is beyond me. Selling pictures of people fucking has been around for tens of thousands of years. It's going no where.

Nothing can sustain growth forever. And like all media in the age of the internet porn will have to adjust it's distribution and profit model. And also like all business in the period after the biggest fucking money melt down since FDR it's down. But it ain't close to dying out.

To somehow assume that it's all gonna be free is absurd. And equally absurd is the notion that being free or amateur removes exploitation. In fact it's amateur porn NOW that has the highest level of abuse and exploitation. Doesn't take much imagination to see why that is.

And now an academic appears to arguing that male masturbation is bad? Or something. At least it's what is seems when I read: What? I may be reading that wrong. But it sure seems like "Hey men. Don't jerk off to porn. Have sex with a REAL lady!"

Once again, porn is no threat to your feminine wiles or your "participation", okay. Masturbation and Sex are not the same thing. When are people gonna get that through their heads.

I guess the issue isn't really with porn per se. It's that it's paid for. And MEN jerk off it to it leaving women out int he cold? And that leads to... rape or... I dunno.

What? Really? I must be misreading this.

And still there is ZERO evidence that porn or video games leads to actual manifest negative behaviors. Color me skeptical about how "attitudes" are measured.

Not one study that I am aware of has ever concluded that with any sort of certainty or credibility that behavior is altered for any length of time. Not one that hasn't been thoroughly debunked. As far as I know.

The anti-porn factions in this society have gone from religious zealotry where all sex is bad to the objectification argument where only MALE sex is bad to this odd conglomeration of quasi-Marxist pseudo-sex positive (as long as it's the right kind of sex) "Hey we aren't saying it should be illegal or anything but still it might lead to rape" it's bad becuase it's sexist and it's sexist becuase it's bad" augmentation.

Once again. The facts. Porn is ubiquitous. Paid for porn is ubiquitous. And where it is most ubiquitous rape trends down. Violence towards women trends down. AS porn has grown sexual violence has declined. The most egregious problems with pron stem mostly from exploitation due to unethical monied and criminal interests where sex workers are exploited, coerced, and abused. There fore it is my contention that since it's going no where the best solutions moving forward are strict labor regulations, profit sharing, enforcement of age and consent laws and stiff (no pun) penalties for abuse.

Remove the shame and keep porn for highly paid regulated professionals.
posted by tkchrist at 9:33 AM on October 19, 2009


> And now an academic appears to arguing that male masturbation is bad? Or something.

> Once again, porn is no threat to your feminine wiles or your "participation", okay.

What the fuck is wrong with you? ATTEMPT to understand the arguments being made before you offend people making them with random sexist shit-flinging. Now I just think you're a fucking idiot. (Let's say I didn't before.) Male masturbation is bad? Seriously? Where? Pull your head out of your ass.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:49 AM on October 19, 2009


There is no need for nastiness. I apologist if I mis-read you. But look what you wrote. That is sure what it seemed you were saying:

even solo, sex > time spent invested in fantastical narratives

and

secretly orgasming without giving their partners the opportunity to participate?

Which implied to me that conversely you thought porn leads to men "secretly orgasming [sic] without giving their partners a chance to participate"

Andhow is that I'm sexist now? Look. You want to discuss this your going to have to pateint and clear what you mean. Without resorting to name calling.
posted by tkchrist at 9:54 AM on October 19, 2009


And by the way I clearly stated that I may be reading you wrong.
posted by tkchrist at 9:58 AM on October 19, 2009


Good heavens. I'll try to be patient and clear what I mean.

Don't invoke "feminine wiles." It's insulting and sexist. Nowhere has any woman in this thread given cause to be treated as though she is sexually threatened by porn, and I don't deserve to have that kind of dismissive language used against me for arguing that porn has antisocial effects.

There are more people than myself who are taking this discussion earnestly, sharing personal feelings on monumentally large cultural topics and economic systems that effect them in difficult-to-phenomenologize, intimate ways. To write a comment like yours is a lot like pissing all over the place, disrespectful of the reasoned and careful cooperation and debate that has been going on.

Re-read the thread, read the comment you're referring to in the context in which it occurs: as a response to Peter McDermott's claim that, within relationships, as an aggregate, women who read romance novels enact a comparably deleterious (to partnered sex) habituation of solo sex behaviors as do men who use porn. I happen disagree with that.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:02 AM on October 19, 2009


Good heavens. I'll try to be patient and clear what I mean.

Okay. That is sensible. However I would say that women reading romance novels may not be deleterious to sexual interaction but I bet it CAN be deleterious to romantic interaction. As in creating a distorted set of expectations. Well. Like all fantasy can do to those who escape and tend not to not want to come back.

Anyway. It's why I was asking. See the question marks in my comments above? You honesly didn't need to fly off the handle.

The feminine wiles thing. That wasn't aimed at you directly. It was a comment directed at what I thought was a common perception about male sexuality that is rather tiresome to have explain away. I was dismissive, yes. But not personally to you. I'm sure I can sift through your comments and find something to spark a temper or two. Give me the benefit of the doubt. Okay.

No, didn't read every comment in this thread as so many of them so drearily repetitious. The last bit here got kind of weird I thought. I appreciate the clarification, though.
posted by tkchrist at 10:11 AM on October 19, 2009


And I don't think anybody has disagreed that porn can have some anti-social effects. But I think the issue is:

A) So? What do we do about it without opening an entire can of worms?

B) What those effects really are?

C) In dealing with these societal issues being very aware of the bed-fellows we make before we take actions that have serious unintended consequences.
posted by tkchrist at 10:18 AM on October 19, 2009


tkchrist: How anybody thinks selling porn for money is gonna die out despite it becoming a 2-5 billion dollar a year business is beyond me. Selling pictures of people fucking has been around for tens of thousands of years. It's going no where.

Small point: It's been pointed out in various places that this is actually not true, and that the "billion-dollar industry" myth was started by a few large companies in order to give the impression that they were larger than they actually are. I was surprised to find this out. And my impression is that 'selling pictures of people fucking' actually hasn't been around so long as the pictures themselves. But enough with the Marxist thing; I know we can agree to disagree on that point, which I've pretty much pounded into the ground at this point.

Remove the shame and keep porn for highly paid regulated professionals.

The trouble you're having is that you're assuming that any discuss for or against any aspect of porn means shame. But nobody's arguing that! Nobody's saying that porn should be shameful. I know you really disagreed with me, but I couldn't shake the impression that part of our disagreement was the fact that you thought I was trying to silence or shame porn or people who like porn. Is it possible to discuss this without laying a blanket positive or negative on it?

Not that it's a big deal. I know you're not trying to do that any more than I was trying to be an obnoxious socialist axegrinder. So: nothing that important.
posted by koeselitz at 10:51 AM on October 19, 2009


I was trying to silence or shame porn or people who like porn.

It kinda always feels that way in discussion of male sexuality and porn. Not that you were doing it, or doing it deliberately.

It feels like people simply use new tactics to shame men about porn. We see it a lot. To this day as ubiquitous as porn is your STILL supposed to be embarrassed about it and hide it. Not that attitude is reflected directly in comments in this thread - but there were hints of it. When you see it so much you develop a hair trigger.

The new twist is the sex-positive sounding jargon but inevitably it ends up with some form of argument that male vanilla sexual tastes is nearly immediately viewed as patriarchal and sexist but fringe Kink sexual tastes as more nobly subverting the paradigm. It's frustrating as hell.

But the message always ends up the same. Male masturbation is basically a punchline at best and perverted at worst. Mens' sexual urges are dangerous and must be controlled or curbed or shamed. Anything associated with male masturbation has classically been viewed as bad (and certainly women, too but not with the same violent stereotypes forced on men). The article linked in this thread essentially brought all that to mind for me.
posted by tkchrist at 12:25 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's nothing shameful about masturbation, but there are shameful things in the industry and the texts of pornography, and there should be a measure of shame in unchallenged complicity with those. Yes, this is a politicization of porn use and not fun in the short-term, but many of us have talked about the squick factor, so you know it's there to be encountered whether you mean to stubmle upon it or not. I'm just for really interrogating squick as an ethical exercise, both within the porno diegesis and in metatexts about the industry and practices.

Shame about masturbation in general is largely AT FAULT for the difficulty people seem to have in openly critiquing the ethics of specific masturbatory practices and tools. Shame is what stops people, even partnered ones with carte blanche to seek comfort within a trusting sexual relationship, from finding richer sexual fullfillment, and keeps them locked up with porn, anti-social and increasingly unlikely to get laid well. Shame does that. Porn is not shame, porn works another way. If it is bad or used habitually and without deliberation, can create a self-fullfilling shame-based demand by demeaning actor and users alike. I think there are pervasive ethical problems with the way people use porn, based in the devaluation of the acts, the texts, and the resulting orgasms, as personal social material. I dislike thinking about how many people's day-to-day post-coital sense of balance and wellbeing is predicated on using porn and possibly doing so without any consideration of its cost or its value. The sort of practice I envision here is: watching torrents, two minutes each, scanning through them fast for something hot, seeing dozens of people putting themselves at risk in various ways to various degrees, paying them nothing, coming in a flash, hopping on the bus, going off to work or to a date with an empathetically-productive sense of calm, and never stopping to think about how it was supplied or whether this is a good or a bad way to accomplish sexual satisfaction. Don't be depoliticized by your drives, is the idea.

There's no reason to conflate male masturbation with porn video, and the tendency of these discussions to do that gives me pause. Male masturbation exists apart from porn video. I like porn (in theory, in practice I've gotten fairly picky, but I'm a snob on most things) but I strongly advocate against porn dependency, and I think that porn's often-attendant ethical fog helps create for many people a shameful relation to it, which cannot be shared or processed culturally, and sometimes, thereby, engenders antisocial dependency on it.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:15 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Don't be depoliticized by your drives, is the idea.

We have more than just a sex drive. We have lots of drives. We often want people to think about where their food comes from and the like. We ask people to think about the real material consequences of the actions brought about by thier various drives. But men bare the burden of the social problem due to the so-called sex drives. And why we are sensitive to the topic.

We politicize a great number of our drives. And most of the time this can yield something positive. Yet sometimes all this thinking and politicization, well, it's just exhausting. And frankly I think somewhat unhealthy in the extreme.

As a man, a man of good conscience, of good relationships, of a healthy life —like MOST men— I can't tell how tired I am of being dictated and told to politicize the one thing where I CAN turn off my fore-brain: My sex. I know for a fact what I'm doing is not only good but positive for me and my partners. It is the one place where I CAN safely be just another animal for a moment or two. The best thing for me, for my psyche, is to be an animal for a moment or two.

I am not a broken man. Most of us are not broken. It should not have to be stated that men have different needs than women. We share 99% common needs and wants. But we are not identical.

The reason male masturbation in conflated with porn is becuase 99% of porn is targeted to males for the purpose of masturbation. It should not give you any pause what so ever.

You too must consider there have been broken men (broken people) since before ubiquitous porn and there will be broken men after. That correlation is not causation. That broken people obsesses to unhealthy extremes. There may be unique factors to something as primal as sexual imagery but dependency — on anything— is not caused by the object of dependency but by something in the dependent. While it may be worth examination and understanding it's quite possible one can over think this particular plate of beans and miss the obvious.
posted by tkchrist at 4:21 PM on October 19, 2009


Well, should I ever be at risk of missing the obvious, I know I can count on you to point it out, tk.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:34 PM on October 19, 2009


O SNAP
posted by Justinian at 10:03 AM on October 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wonder what industrial injustices are exposed when you vacillate between being persecuted and overflowing sarcasm?
posted by P.o.B. at 11:37 AM on October 20, 2009


Without a larger social structure in place that makes creating art for free something you can do for a living, this idea reduces an artist to basically being a busker in a train station.

WILL FUCK FOR FOOD

Porn does have a positive effect on people.

I won't go into too many details (thank me later ;), but I would say it had a very positive influence on me. I thought I was weird, sick, perverted, etc. for my sexual desires. I'm not even that kinky--I just have some unusual (not degrading, consensual) paraphilias.

I thought I was a freak, and I was seriously depressed about it. I'm not going to say pornography saved me or anything, but it was extremely comforting to learn that, no, I'm definitely not as freaky as a lot of people.

It also let me bring that new acceptance into my sex life and admit those kinks to my partner. Before porn, I would have been deathly afraid to even talk about them.

And I'll stand by the point that comparisons between the actual porn industry as it exists today and softcore Hollywood films, on the bases of production, content, or distribution, are mostly without purpose within the scope of this discussion.

I think you're off base here. When I was 16, my girlfriend and I used 9 1/2 Weeks just like an older couple now might use pornography. It got us excited. It seemed like there were a lot of movies like that in the '80s and '90s. Sneaking into a sexy R-rated movie and making out/having sex (no, not one of my kinks ;) was the near equivalent downloading/watching a porno. (Oh man, the train scene in Risky Business? (again, not an exhibitionist ;))

Higher production values, better acting, more attractive actors, better costumes ... pathos? Sure. But the purpose was exactly the same. And what about regular "softcore" pornography (e.g. Red Shoe Diaries, etc.)? I suppose that the mainstreaming of porn has killed those "Skin-emax" specials, but it's still a viable artistic genre, I think. There is a definite connection between mainstream Hollywood and the porn industry--they both affect each other.

I believe the solution is to get more people laid more happily and more often, meeting their myriad desires in the real world more, and to await the positive change that would bring to our culture. Nobody even remembers that as the real ideal, here. Isn't it?

It's one of the goals, I think. And pornography sometimes helps people (e.g. married couples) get laid more happily and more often. In my case, it most definitely helped me "meet my myriad desires in the real world." YMMV.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:38 PM on October 20, 2009


Well, should I ever be at risk of missing the obvious, I know I can count on you to point it out, tk.

Was that a dig? I'll never know. It wasn't obvious or sarcastic enough, I guess.
posted by tkchrist at 9:33 PM on October 20, 2009


...it's the Wiles!™ *WINKDING*
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:02 PM on October 20, 2009


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