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.