Kink, rape, child porn and blurred lines.

This piece contains RUDE WORDS and TRIGGERS, so suit up.

There’s a lot of stuff in the news about online porn: is it ok to like it? How can we stop child porn being spread around? Is it ok to like regular porn, where people who appear to consent appear to have consensual sex – or is that turning teens into wild-eyed sexual ferals who reach the age of 37 without ever having seen a pubic hair? Is it all really consensual? What about torture porn, and rape porn?

Oh god, let’s just panic and ban everything! TV! The internet! BAN IT ALL! Except wait, that makes us all desperately anti sex and uncool. ARGH. HIDE.

There are some problems with the stuff being said in the mainstream media. And if we’re all honest, there are some problems with porn. Big ones. Ones that get glossed over, and these days since porn is ok and is cool and everyone watches it, they’re getting glossed over by an awful lot more people.

Firstly, an issue of terminology: there is no such thing as “child porn”. If it’s pornographic and it involves a child, what you have is an “image of child abuse”. The people watching that stuff are knowingly watching a child be sexually abused. They are getting off on not just the youth of the person or people involved, but very precisely on the fact that they’re powerless, and very precisely on the fact that they’re forbidden territory, and very precisely on the fact that they’re unwilling. Let us agree to never, ever call that stuff “child porn” again. None of those people “made a porn film”. They were filmed being abused.

Also, let’s clear another point up that someone on twitter tried to talk to me at length about: if a couple of young people under the age of consent video themselves having under-age sex, that’s not abuse.

But the minute a third party watches that film or passes it on to someone, that IS child abuse.

I think we ARE all clear on this.

The second, and to me equally obvious problem with porn is with violent and rape porn: porn in which a woman/women or man/men you don’t know appear to be violently assaulted, raped, tortured and or terrorised, and where people specifically seek out this sort of film because watching that gets them off.

I have nothing against BDSM, role play, or making home movies with consenting and playful parties. But at the point where a piece of porn comes into the public domain and the people watching it cannot tell – and do not care enough to concern themselves – whether the person in the film is really being raped or not, Houston, we have a massive problem. It goes beyond your bedroom. It goes to the whole of society, to rape culture, to power structures in our society, and to the people left crushed by them, of which, when we’re talking about how social power structures feed into sexuality, a disproportionate number are women. And yet somehow this has become labelled “kink”. It is viewed by some as the essential freedom of their sexuality, by many as playful and harmless, and by the fairly hep (sic) general modern online population as not necessarily something they want to watch, but definitely something they feel disempowered to complain about, because to do so is to basically put on a massive T-shirt that says “I am so chronically uncool, if the government finds out how uncool I am, they could use me to provide an alternative power source and all their problems would be over.”

I’m going to be uncool and say it: WTF is wrong with the people seeking this stuff out? People getting off on abuse is people getting off on abuse, and we need to start calling it.

We live in a society where the rate of sexual assault and rape and domestic violence – the vast majority of which is perpetrated against women – is shameful. Look at this. 404,000 women are victims of sexual assault in the UK per year. An average of 85,000 victims of rape, per year. These are Ministry of Justice figures.

The link between sex and torture/rape/distress/assault is now so generally accepted, so normal, that we call images of weeping or tortured captives in war zones “war porn“. This link between sex and a power dynamic, pain, fear and torture, is fed into by horror films, which generally feature mostly-naked women running and sobbing, and some element of sexual assault or threat thereof. It is so prevalent, so acceptable now, that it often even appears on TV, in genres as previously plodding as police procedural dramas. The BBC’s recent “The Fall” intercut a scene of a murdered woman’s body being molested by her killer with a consensual sex scene, seamlessly linking the two, as if handling a dead girl’s naked body were a logical extension of sexual behaviour. Was that pornographic? Yes. It was. Whenever you see a woman dragged out of a river in a police drama, she is always young, attractive … sexy. Dead sexy. We’ve got a song at No1 in the charts right now that contains the words “do it like it hurts” and “big enough to tear your ass in two” (clue, Thicke: this MAY be why she said she isn’t interested, and why you’re now trying to get her “blasted” so you can rape her).

This sort of image might get you off, it may be your kink. But your orgasm is no way, under no circumstance, more important than someone else’s safety and humanity. It just isn’t. Because calling this “kink” is straightforward rape-apology (and women can be part of the patriarchy too, so don’t wave your kinky girls at me and say “but women like it so it must be ok”, because all that tells me is you have no concept of what collaborators are, or what Stockholm Syndrome is, or how if you keep kicking your dog it loves you even more, because it’s afraid if it isn’t your dog any more it isn’t anything at all).

This is abuse. Fuck pretending it’s ok, or that there’s a “safe” version of it. There isn’t. By definition if this is out there, it validates rapists. It says “yeah, sure, it’s fine to get off on this.” It says “yeah, using a completely disempowered, distressed human being to get yourself to orgasm is ok. Everyone loves it.”

And for anyone getting their gimp suit in a knot over what I’ve just said, think on this: if there was porn which LOOKED as if it was children getting raped, but wasn’t, who’d call that “kink”?

But if it’s an adult woman, that’s understandable?

It’s not a kink. It’s rape culture. It’s not ok.

Thirdly, there’s also the broad problem with not having any concrete way of telling whether the participants in “normal” porn are truly consenting. I know some are. I have absolutely no issue with consenting, non-abusive porn. It should be fun. But the fact is, most people watching most porn have no idea whether the participants are there because they love making porn (yay!) or whether they’re there because otherwise they can’t afford baby food / some dude’s going to beat them. There is no way to tell.

And this, in a nutshell, is my problem with porn. It really ought to be everyone’s problem with porn. It is about time we stopped being cool and had this conversation.

***

If you want to get involved, there is a petition to ban rape porn here. Do sign it. The twitter hashtag is #banrapeporn.

About chiller

Rachel Coldbreath spent 20 years working internationally as a technical specialist on large data collections for law firms, before becoming disabled. She blogs on a variety of topics from the news and politics to gardening and how very annoying it is, being disabled. Habits include drilling holes about 1mm away from where they ought to be, and embarking with great enthusiasm on tasks for which she is neither physically nor intellectually equipped.
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9 Responses to Kink, rape, child porn and blurred lines.

  1. ourgaff13 says:

    totally agree with you !

  2. isabelrogers says:

    Every bit of this is what I would have said if the vague feelings of distaste rolling round my head had ever coalesced. Every bit.

  3. I find it bizarre that people who pride themselves on making sure their bananas are Fairtrade or their coffee shop pays tax, don’t seem to want to be bothered to ask the question ‘did the thing that gives me my orgasm hurt anyone else?’

    You want to make your own consensual non consent, knock yourself out. But your privilege of being able to do that is considering whether the stuff you handle but don’t know the provenance of might not be the same. We need to be less individualistic and more societal about this. You feel like your sexula preferences are being cramped? Well, as a victim of repeated rapes as a sexually exploited teen, a sex worker in my 20s and a woman under 30, my entire fucking life has been cramped. I’m too scared to walk down the street. I can’t sleep for reliving those experiences. But you might need to seek your kink more carefully. Boo hoo.

    Someone walked in when I was being raped. They couldn’t tell it was a rape because non consent isn’t always visible. I’d dissociated while it was happening. He told me if I cried, he’d kill me. The person who came in thought I was just bored. I was trying to save my life. If it had been filmed, I don’t know how people could have told the difference.

    I don’t want to shame anyone’s sexual preference, but my whole life I’ve been told someone else’s orgasm counts more than my safety, security and sanity. And it hurts like hell to see so called feminists prizing their wank material over working out how we could try and talk about this and see if there’s a way to have this kink without contributing to rape culture. But having been through the judicial process I know that rape fantasy gets used as an excuse by rapists to get away it. It may not cause rape, but I don’t see why someone who likes this kink gets to have their way when the hard work of making all women feel valued and safe from sexual violence isn’t done. That seems bloody unfair to me and not very feminist.

  4. Anna says:

    Hello. I’ve been turning this over in my mind and the problems I have are these:

    Firstly, the issue of consent in the filming of rape porn. In person you can, indeed must have a conversation about consent and limits, you and the other participant(s) are there, you know 100% what is consented-to, and what is not.

    However, when someone watches a film they cannot have that same degree of certainty. Just as in-person consent can be coerced (making any subsequent act coercive, and therefore abusive and therefore rape), so can a filmed consent ‘chat’. The difference being that (I’d imagine) that in the majority of films the actors are unknown to the viewer, placing their certainty as to consent at a further remove. The point I’m making is that as a viewer, you cannot KNOW that consent was given freely. And just as anything less than 100% consent (by which I mean ‘Yes’, not ‘If you want to’ btw) in real life is not consensual, so watching something where you cannot be certain 100% consent was given is not alright. It really isn’t.

    I find it fairly astounding that those who when it comes to real-life sex are all about 100% positive consent (and rightly so!), seem slightly less bothered about the possibility of their having watched an actual rape as a recreation. An actual assault, filmed and broadcast. I’d have thought if there was the slightest, most marginal possibility, that what they were viewing was non-consensual any feminist would turn off, not on.

  5. Anna says:

    I seem to have duplicated the last point you’ve made. Sorry…

  6. Mark L says:

    In many non-porn movies one can find scenes of beatings and murders. Audiences are not expected to ask if the scenes are real or simulated, and not more than one in a hundred could prove they aren’t real. Is porn different?

    Rape cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute because of the usual lack of independent witnesses. If a rape has actually been videoed and then broadcast on the internet, however, that totally changes things.

    Much English-language porn is the product of a relatively small number of content producers in Los Angeles. If you watch enough porn, in fact, you begin to find the same scenes over and over on different web sites. If even a single performer were to press rape charges, that could prove extremely damaging. It took the industry years to recover from Linda Lovelace’s accusations in the 1980s, and that was when the gun used was not visible on camera, and the issue was raised in civil, not criminal, courts.

    Would the companies really take that much risk? You might believe they really are evil enough to film rapes, but are they foolish enough to openly publish the evidence? BDSM and violent porn is only a niche market, after all; and it really isn’t all that hard to fake a violent scene – again, non-porn does this routinely and nobody doubts it.

  7. I’m struggling to wrap my thoughts around the last point made above and I’m wondering if there is an issue of transparency. There are indeed many violent scenes within media culture but if e.g. the BBC filmed a violent scene there would be a transparency about the filming process. The issue about pornography here is about the lack of production transparency and the viewers inability to know if the process was free from coercion or abuse. I would say that images for all these issues are now so mainstream that many would not think to question the long term impact on, and desensitisation of,the viewer. There are fine lines which have been blurred and I think this blog post questions them well. Sadly until there is tighter regulation on the internet regarding pornography and sexual images this issue cannot even begin to be resolved which is an enormous worry.

  8. David Oliver says:

    I live in an egg and wasn’t aware all this is going on. I had no problem signing the petition especially since I have a grand daughter who is just over a year old. That said, I live in the U.S. so no idea if my signature will matter.

  9. Tanya says:

    I’ve been reading a bit recently about ethical/feminist porn (everything is safe, consent is part of the narrative, basically people doing stuff they want to do with people they want to do it with) and it begs the question “Shouldn’t ALL porn be like this?”. It’s really interesting (and enlightening!) stuff :-)

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