Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Porn, Agency, Regulation, and Empowerment

"[...] so convinced are they that pornography represents the darker, gutter side of lust." – Susie Bright


            Porn. It's a multi-billion dollar industry inside the US alone. According to recent PornHub statistics, the US accounts for just under 40% of the website's traffic, with the UK and Canada holding the silver and bronze respectively. The West, as a whole, are huge porn consumers, and that's not something that we should continue to be hush hush about. And in fact, many feminists aren't.
            Take Ariel Levy's book, Female Chauvinist Pigs, which harshly criticizes embracing one's inner "slut" in the world of Raunch Culture. Jessica Valenti has commented on Robert Jensen's book exploring the misogyny inherent in mainstream pornography. Jamie McCartney's The Great Wall of Vagina sculpture (see photo below) actively seeks to educate the public about labial variety, challenging the perfect porn pussy we so often see. Subscribe to @SimonedeBeauvoir's posthumous twitter feed and it won't be long until you see something slamming the sex industry. Hell, there's a whole wiki article on Feminists for and against pornography.
            Let me put it out there. I do think the state of the mainstream porn industry is abysmal. I think it's because it creates unrealistic expectations for everyone. A labiaplasty surgeon in the US can make up to $250,000 per month because women are so concerned that their vaginas don't look "neat" enough, even though they naturally come in all shapes and sizes.

"It's not vulgar, it's vulva!" – Panel five of ten from The Great Wall of Vagina by Jamie McCartney
It skews the use of safe contraceptive measures for both sexes (good on ya, Los Angeles) and it generally boosts ideals of a "perfect" and "ideal" body type. It prioritizes the pleasure of men above the pleasure of women.
            However, I've always seen porn, and the larger scale of sex work, to be an inherently feminist act. Why? Well, what's more feminist than taking control of your own body and deciding when, where, and how you get to present it?
            Take this Robot Hugs comic strip about a sex worker. It probably explains how I feel better than I can (Read: please click on that link). There have also been quite a few AMA (Ask Me Anything) sessions on Reddit done by famous porn stars here, here, and here, detailing what their life in the business has been like. We must respect that a woman of consenting age has the agency to make her own choices and decide for herself what is best. Instead of shaming these women, who find no shame in themselves, why not support their choices?

            Instead of trying to get rid of porn and sex work altogether (like many American organizations), or creating more legal barriers (looking at you, UK), I believe that focusing our efforts on sex-positive pornographydecriminalization of sex work, and better regulations on what is being produced for consumption is what really needs to happen.
            Alternative, sex-positive types of porn are becoming a bigger and bigger part of the market nowadays. Websites like Sssh.com, Good Vibrations, Kink, and Lust Cinema (all NSFW) are all paving the way for porn that appeals to women, and also providing more options to the types of pornography that we consume. They promote an equal sexual exchange, they challenge the barriers that male-centric porn has created, and they support the porn that they want to see, not what they're told they should see.
            Let the feminine enjoyment of sexual acts run freely throughout the land. We are all beings meant to enjoy sex, and it's only natural that we embrace that. Stop saying that pornography is harmful to women, and instead start campaigning for pornography that supports and shows the pleasure of women, who are consenting adults with agency.





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