Everyone’s got an opinion on the adult industry, mostly based on assumptions, stereotypes, and recycled arguments from 1980s anti-pornography feminists.
I recently felt compelled to comment on this blog on the “dark side” of pornography and the adult industry. Ev’yan writes about a documentary called The Price of Pleasure. I saw this several years ago (well before I’d decided to make my life’s work in the adult industry), and while I don’t remember the particulars, I was annoyed at the overgeneralized assumptions. Echoed in Ev’yan’s blog, I felt the need to reply:
Ev’yan — I LOVE your blog. I’ve commented here before, but I’ll ‘introduce’ myself here to put my comments below into context: I’m a highly educated adult model and video producer, working on my PhD and have studied gender, sexuality, and feminist theory for the last 7 years. I have all the stereotypical white middle class privileges and have many options when it comes to career choice; despite the very difficult stigma, I choose to work in the adult industry and I love what I do.
I must pose the question: Why do we (as a society) feel the need to make a black or white evaluation of porn? Porn is a type of media, like television or video games; it is not synonymous with its content. There are plenty of TV shows and movies I don’t care for, particularly violent ones, and yet I don’t throw out my TV with the bathwater. Why do the same with porn, especially when its well established “ethical” porn exists and – it seems – is a growing corner of the market? The internet has democratized porn production, and more women are producing their own content (in all genres), commercializing their own sexuality for both profit AND pleasure. (An example: LilyCade.com.)
Undoubtedly, pornography shapes our understanding of sexuality, for no other reason that we simply don’t see “real” sex anywhere else. Like you mention, my first exposure to adult sexuality was through Playboy, and I don’t think it was an entirely positive one (though not entirely negative, either). Yet scholars and documentary filmmakers continue to analyze the porn industry as if it is monolithic, producing one and only one type of dehumanizing, immoral, patriarchal male-oriented product. The beauty of the marketplace is that you don’t have to watch what you find offensive; for every film that evokes disgust, there’s another that will make you smile, laugh, and enhance your sexual experience.
When it comes to violent content in particular, there’s an important distinction to be made – (1) Are the models consenting? (2) Do the models enjoy it? First, there certainly are unscrupulous directors who try to spring certain sex acts on the models mid-scene, when they feel they can’t say no (though they always CAN). I only work on my own content, so I have no exposure to this, but I’ve heard firsthand from models who’ve had this experience. Not cool, and you can tell when you’re watching. It doesn’t make for a very good product, and generally the companies who do this aren’t the most successful for this reason.
Secondarily, of course not all women want to be beaten and humiliated on screen — but it does women just as much as disservice to say that NO women do, as it does to say ALL women do. The assumption that these women are being taken advantage of is in part due to a cultural belief that women’s sexuality is all romance and hunky men with 6 packs, that they couldn’t – shouldn’t – possibly like anything more extreme.
Undoubtedly this type of content is borderline, and the most sex-positive, woman-friendly production companies will make it clear to the viewer this is strictly consensual fantasy play.
Kink.com is an excellent example of well produced extremely hardcore BDSM. They interview all models before and after the scene, and all shoots follow specific rules. Because they’re dealing with potentially dangerous acts, they err on the side of caution when caring for the submissive model. Its a great way to explore the “darker” side of sexuality, knowing the models are exploring as well, so you (the viewer) can dip your toes into extreme sex without jumping into a situation you’re not ready to handle.
One last thing I’ll point out — when we talk about porn, everyone’s always concerned about the women being objectified and subject to violence… Yet if you ever see “mainstream” porn, often times they don’t even show the guy’s face – he’s a disembodied cock. Why is nobody up in arms about the objectification of hard dicks? And what of all the “realistic” dildos, sold under the guise of female sexual empowerment? And finally, there’s a vast world of female domination porn that features men being beaten, abused, and humiliated; its just fetishized because its less socially acceptable than the reverse. Men who enjoy being kicked in the balls, being walked on in high heels, being laughed at for the size of their penis.
Like it or not, violence and power is a part of many people’s sexuality, men, women, and everyone else. There are ways to do it safely, respectfully, and consensually, and there are ways not to. If you choose to watch porn, just support the producers, models, and directors that are promoting a sex-positive approach to fucking, fantasy, and fetish – or whatever is your cup of tea.
Some resources if you’re interested in exploring porn further:
PornMoviesForWomen.com – Great site to find female directed and female-friendly porn. I used this to find videos when I was first starting to watch porn and was sick of the crap I found for free.
PornValleyVantage.com – The blog of sociologist Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals, who is one of the ONLY researchers to study the industry from the INSIDE, focusing on women’s roles in the video production world. She’s published in several peer-reviewed journals and challenges many assumptions and stereotypes about how the industry actually works.
FeministPornography.com – The official site for the documentary Feminist Pornography. Much in the way you say The Price of Pleasure changed your feelings on pornography, this did it for me in the opposite way. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if I hadn’t seen this film many years ago. Of course there are problems with the industry, but women are working from within to change that – myself included.
Posted: August 15th, 2012 under Adult Industry - No Comments.