Pornography Has the Power to Portray New Lifestyle Choices & Gender Roles

Sun, 09/19/2010 - 09:25
Submitted by Pirate Wildewood

This week I came across a TED lecture where Cindy Gallop discusses the problems of hardcore pornography. All I can really find on her history is that she is a killer in the marketing business and could ‘sell ice to an Eskimo' (btw this term is really offensive but I'll let it go for the time being). She pursued this before she moved onto her first website which is the point of this entry.

Gallop seems like a pretty sweet woman, she honours her age, her right to sex - hardcore sex and freely admits she is a watcher of hardcore pornography. She doubts the merits of abstinence campaigns and acknowledges that schools are crippling themselves in efforts to be 'politically correct', (whatever the fuck that means these days). The term has wandered into the land of obscure and unidentifiable definitions like ‘liberalism', 'epidemic', 'free health care', 'stir fry'... and ‘hardcore pornography'. But anyway so far so good.

Gallop suggests hardcore pornography has become sex-education, and that porn in general tends to present ‘one world view' of the way sex is. She identifies the newer generation as being particularly impacted by hardcore pornography, saying:

"...When I have sex with younger men...I encounter very directly and personally, the real ramifications of the creeping obliquity of pornography in our culture"

So far I totally agree. So what's the site? Make Love Not Porn. OK so yes, this whole post is generally fuelled by the title. Gallop has some great points in her lecture but I do not believe the answer to solving the problem is to write pornography off altogether and unfortunately, a website title like this does just that. Gallop suggests hardcore pornography portrays sex in a particular light that causes a domino effect of expectations in reality. For me this means some women engage in sex acts that may demean and objectify them for the pleasure of another. As a result they feel degraded and unsexy and this is far from the point of sex! But as she suggests, mainstream hardcore pornography creates a strong impression of how sex 'is', how it rolls, and who has the power. I absolutely do not refute this.

Gallop says

‘this site is absolutely not about judgement, good and bad, sex is an area of human experiences...this is also not anti-porn'

Porn, or no porn, or different porn? Not that it is ever that simple. Cindy if you're reading this, I'm genuinely interested in whether you have an opinion on feminist porn or how the industry can contribute to making it a more effective commodity, in terms of honest representation and re-education (that is if you believe it can). As a hardcore porn watcher yourself, do you identify ways in which BDSM porn can positively represent power dynamics, freedom, and self respect or is it not possible?

Like the media, entertainment, and generalised societal norms; pornography has the power to portray lifestyles, choice, and gender roles. Whether you are pro-porn or anti-porn, surely readers, we can all accept this right? If you already are of the standpoint that porn can be eradicated from social existence...well good luck with that. A recent article by The Daily Telegraph, referred to me by my sweet friend Jean reported that scientists (another obscurity) found ‘all men watch porn'.

I am pretty sceptical about studies that so blankly declare a statement about a population and this one is of no exception. When reading further we discover Professor Lajunesse only interviewed 20 heterosexual males. Nonetheless I have to agree that at least in personal experience I know very few, if any that have not consumed pornography once in their lifetime.

Websites such as YouPorn and RedTube have massively impacted the glossed images of porn. This sort of social media has presented real, consenting, sexy, natural people and it has potential to negate what high budget, male-run industries publish without a thought. It is also one of the easiest and cheapest ways to find porn which means it is no longer subject to being in a plastic wrap mag in the back of your local newsagents or on some obscenely priced Sky TV channel; there is a market across all class systems.

Gallop says that she has no problems with "realising that a certain amount of re-education, rehabilitation, and reorientation has to take place". However there are some amazing women and queer people who are dedicating their careers to changes the porn industry already. Not only are these people creating fucking sexy porn, yes PORN, not erotica that women actually want to watch and get off on, it is all the more powerful to use the same media form to break down the sea of negative by-products. Right?

Ones that immediately come to mind are Pink and White

"The core values are to stay true to my ideals of sex-positivity, so both on screen and off screen we are extremely respectful of the models. We really work with them to make them feel comfortable, we don't ask anybody to do anything they wouldn't otherwise do in their normal sex life. We have a mission to show different types of bodies: queer bodies, natural bodies. And also to do something in higher production value, you know, really paying attention to craftsmanship" Feministe interview.

Courtney Trouble

"seven minutes in heaven is REALITY, i don't cast ANY scenes in advance, everybody is cast individually, they decide who they fuck, what they do, and in that sense safer sex barriers of every kind are super important" Interview by Epiphora.

who also runs NoFauxxx

or Madison Young

"When a woman is taking control of her sexuality and owning it and exploring it and not ashamed of her body. When a woman is embracing her orgasms and pushing her sexual self to new dimensions. That is a feminist act. For me being tied and participating in sensation play and heavy sm is something that I love. It's how I get off. I'm not being tortured. I'm experiencing sensation." Interview with Bind Me.

and other great porn stars like Jiz Lee. (From Jiz's official site):

"This year, Jiz launched a philanthropic porn projected called "Karma Pervs" which raises money for rotating non-profit organizations such as STOP AIDS Project, the Centre for Sex & Culture, and the St. James Infirmary (a health clinic run by and for sex workers)...Jiz is a lot of things rolled into one: queer gender queer gender-variant trans fag androgynous erotic model porn star dykestar sex worker artist activist instigator sweetheart lover polyamorousnon-[monogamous] hippie punk leftist past-vegan sex positive nympho slut dyke darling juicy geek."

and April Flores who also does a considerable amount for the representation of body diversity in pornography.

"...Honestly, I felt more degraded as a receptionist than in porn. When I worked as a receptionist, no one would talk to me, no one would say hi. I was working in a job that I hated and I hated everyone there. Being able to choose my career and choose my next steps has been very empowering to me. Telling a woman that she can't make her own decisions about her own body - now that's degrading. Don't tell me what I cannot do."- From an Interview between Flores and Eyeweekly.

and then there's trans-porn stars like Buck Angel

"...I had no idea that schools would want me to come in and speak and different types of events would want me to come in and talk about my work and show it. I feel really sort of blessed. I'm not religious in any way, but I just cannot believe that I started in porn and now it has changed into something so much more. I feel very excited that I'm doing things to educate the world on issues that are so important and haven't really been talked about before." From Trent's Art Blog.

and Billy Castro who should be as equally commended for their accomplishments in revealing the beautiful, sexy and unique intricacies of queer and trans sex and sexuality. And let's face it a bit problem in pornography today is the total lack of or misrepresented imagery of GBLTQI people.

Good for Her is your one stop shop for all your feminist porn buying needs. Many of their titles are winners in the Feminist Porn Awards and they sell many of the above mentioned. Straight from their site:

"We believe the world is inundated with cheesy, cliché, degrading, and patronizing porn. But we also believe that erotic fantasy is powerful, and that women and marginalized communities deserve to put their dreams and desires on film, too. As feminists and sex-positive people, we want to showcase and honour those who are creating erotic media with a feminist sensibility."

 So Gallop has made a good start and her website is pretty awesome and has a lot of important messages that more men should read. But I think the title could be re-considered, and her stance on pornography be made more explicit? And seriously, this information may seem basic for some, but for others it is a cold hard shock to the system. Sad ain't it? E.g.

There were certain comments on the blog following the video by Gallop on the TED site that verified my concern such as...

O Mir: "...PORN IS OFFENSIVE...IT DOES NOT PORTRAY PEOPLE MAKING LOVE. IT'S ALL ABOUT BANGING USELESSLY. MOST MEN DO NOT EVEN HAVE A CLUE WHAT TURNS A WOMAN ON. TRY BEING SENSUAL AND HAVING TANTRIC SEX. IT'S WAAAAAY BETTER THAN THAT VIOLENT PORNOGRAPHIC CRAP THAT EVERYONE HYPES UP!"

First off, there is nothing more obnoxious than the use of CAPS LOCK to really hammer your aggression but what truly irked me about this commenter was that she/he/ze could so blanketly declare that porn is offensive. Well to who? And what type of porn? And what causes its offense? I cannot accept that pornography as a whole does all of these things in every single instance. Secondly, porn can portray people making love in fact some porn is just that! Thirdly, this person has apparently has had sex with the entire male species to declare that most men do not have a clue what turns a woman on. Not only is this incorrect, but it is offensive to men who love nothing more than looking after their lovers in bed. Or perhaps it is just particularly unfortunate O Mir has had some awful lovers? Perhaps the making of sex-positive pornography that depicts men pleasuring women could be a way to debunk the awful myths and laziness that mainstream, hetty, male industry run porn encourages? Just a thought, O Mir. Oh and btw, sometimes violent sex (within controlled parameters) can be really hot when those involved are on the same page.

In summation; porn is heaps complicated. Totes.

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I believe you are my sister in thinking about sex in media!

Sun, 09/19/2010 - 13:20
Palesa (not verified)

Very good post Pirate Wildewood. I believe you are my sister in critical thinking about sex in media!

I've had similar issues with the Make Love Not Porn website title. Gallop makes some great points and is clearly an intelligent person, but I think the front page header she uses is a better fit for the website: "Porn World vs. Real World"

Nonetheless it's great to see another woman out there researching and intelligently writing about sex media.

Thank you for sharing with us.

~Palesa

... great post, thank you. I

Sun, 09/19/2010 - 14:26
Angelika (not verified)

... great post, thank you.

I think "make love not porn" is meant to be provocative in order to stimulate self-reflection and initiate a progress/development - which I btw find necessary and very important.
I love Cindy Gallops talk - how refreshing (for me), but I am European ?!

all too often I encounter e.g. men who have no clue how to be open and "own themselves" sexually - instead try porn-moves and whatever what I call "androcentric and heteronormative" behaviour. a complete turn-off for me.
that's not what I need as a woman, "enlightened" and in a continuous self-educating process, thanks a million to sites and videos like Betty & Carlin.

*my-2-cents

cheerio, Angelika

In reply to I amcuriousblue

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 16:31

Hi Iamcuriousblue and thanks for your comment on my post. First off, I have a problem that you immediately assume the porn I have discussed should be caters to men. Ultimately yes I agree porn is for entertainment and but that does not mean learning cannot be done while you are having fun. Sometimes learning doesn't need to be about the details of political morals but just about exposure and that is what the porn I have discussed does.  Porn is educational, adverts are educational, movies are educational, everyone imitates and has their culture shaped by external influences, this is Gallops first point. Men do not need to watch this porn to verify it, that in itself is misogynistic.

Porn has majorly been made for cisgendered males and this is something I have a problem with in it's own right. So the fact that it does not get you off  doesn't demonstrate a downfall it shows that you are not the only audience. I think it needs to be demonstrated that porn can be made for all genders and sexualities and can be profitable at that. So the fact that this above mentioned porns have a big audience that are not cisgendered straight males is a great thing! It shows there is a market that has been previously ignored. I think in order to get to a place where pornography  (that targets cisgendered straight males) shows positive representation, you first need to prove it the interests in porn are not just for men and that is where GBLTQI pornpgraphy comes in. In terms of gay male porn, yes it is huge, but you cannot guarantee that the male actors are gay themselves (the gay porn industry is rampant with gay for pay actors) or that they are being treated fairly (also a massive issue for gay porn).

Feminism is not just for women it is also for those that have been previously oppressed and that includes gay men. I have not done my research into alternative gay male porn as so far this has been my focus but you have interested me to look into this. If you want to follow my blog I will try and cover this and see if I can find alt. groups and analyse the difference. Remember pornography doesn't just become feminist because of the porn stars involved, it is about the entire production and rights of the actors. If the GBLTQI community can set a standard of how ethical porn is made eventually it will flow into more mainsteam mediums. You have to start somewhere. For me, Gallop's discussion of the realities of sex and the expectations porn produces is completely valid and I used the queer feminst porn I know about as an example of how porn can be radical, ethical, and hot. Femnist porn does not have to be queer but this is where it has started because this is where the demand is.

You say "in many articles like this, the kind of mainstream porn straight men aren't going to stop watching anytime soon is implicitly condemned." Well yes, of course it is because I simply do not believe this pornography portrays women in a positive light and it encourages myths that Gallop has made examples of. There is sometimes the occassional diamond in the rough but this is not good enough and as a feminist I have a right to condem something that misrepresents my gender when it comes to sex. You also say "I think you have to advocate for better mainstream porn (and, yes, featuring "traditionally attractive" female performers who are the main draw in straight porn, after all)." And this in itself is problematic. What do you consider to be "traditionall attractive"? And have you considered where that tradition has come from? Just a thought. Thanks for your imput.

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