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(Initially a response to this post on ultra_lilac’s journal, itself a response to this article on the normalisation of porn.)

> like all porn, [lads’ magazines] commodify women.

In itself, the sight of two people having sex shouldn’t necessarily be exploitative. If they’re fucking sensually and consensually, neither of them need be “commodified” by being seen by others; the use of “babes” on mag covers and mobiles objectifies those women far more by reducing them to mere wallpaper, things to gaze at but not at all engage with.

But the nature of almost all pornography isn’t a cheerful celebration of an intimate act; it’s an unashamed exercise in degradation that corrodes any attempt to reclaim it that involves labelling it “empowering”. The tradition of giving the porn actresses star billing while reducing the men to mere bit parts is simply a sop, a scraggy bouquet thrown to these women as an afterthought at the same time as they’re being labelled whores, sluts and skanks. It isn’t just porn’s production values that have moved on since the 1970s; its language and very nature have developed a scabrous intent of their own. Many websites appear to cater to men who want to teach these women a lesson; somehow punish them for having been attractive and self-assured in the first place.

I don’t think that reflects the intent of every man who goes looking for this stuff—it’s the images that get surfed for, not the copy. It doesn’t even necessarily reflect the private opinions of everyone involved in making it; it’s more about the porn industry’s image of itself as a rebellious outsider bent on stirring up trouble. This, despite its gazillion-dollar turnover. As Jon Stewart said about the Republicans, “When will you realise that you’re not a rag-tag band of rebels fighting the Empire? You are the Empire.”

Whatever the reason for it, this destructive depiction of the actresses (who are, after all, the industry’s most easily replaceable resource—it’s really tough to find a guy who (a) is sufficiently hung and (b) can get it up on cue, but abused teenage girls fling themselves at the industry’s doorstep every week of the year) demeans everyone involved. For a woman who quite likes watching people have sex, how much fun is it to be told repeatedly that your desires make you worthless and that you should be punished just for your gender?

This attitude extends to all widely available porn, not just the abusive freakshow gonzo shit (how many live dwarfs can she shove up her arse, etc). The more people are exposed, not just to the images, but to this view of sex in general and women—I’m sorry, “bitches”—specifically, the more corrosive the effect. Popbitch giggled a while back about the huge increase in Icelandic teenage girls having to have medical treatment because they’d been trying the hardcore anal sex they’d all seen on the internet. I’m in my early thirties; I can only guess what it must be like for someone half my age growing up in an environment where this stuff is presented as normal, without any wider experience that would put it in its context as a sustained lie for commercial gain.

Basically, I would like to like porn more than I do. I would like for it to reflect something of the intimacy and reciprocity of real, enjoyable, not-for-profit sex. But it doesn’t because it doesn’t need to, and, realistically, it’s not going to start.



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 30th, 2006 02:37 pm (UTC)
Right on.
Mar. 30th, 2006 03:05 pm (UTC)
I largely agree, though I would suggest that the "tradition of giving the porn actresses star billing while reducing the men to mere bit parts is simply a sop, a scraggy bouquet thrown to these women as an afterthought" is rather more to do with advertising to the viewer which women are in it, so that they can pick their favourite object of desire. They would never need to prioritise the porn men, with their stinking porn men faces.

I wish porn were better too.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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