A big part of my porn is the interview segments. A lot of people speak for sex workers in this country, but we seldom let them speak for themselves. And I think it’s important to let them speak, and to let them speak freely, in order to create this three-dimensional image. It’s still an image; I’m not claiming that this is the real person behind the porn star. They’re still performing for the camera. But I do think that it gives people a better sense of who they are as people, as three-dimensional human beings, rather than essentially what I would consider bad porn, which is porn that has sex robots, who arrive, and fuck and then depart, and you don’t know anything about them, or why they’re fucking, or what their deal is.
From an interview with Tristan Taormino (emphases mine) at Feministing (which I long ago removed from our blog role because of the uncritical pro-sex industry stance of its posts).
Two points to make here. Firstly, the interviews in porn films are often held up as ‘proof’ (especially with BDSM porn) that the women choose to be there, are having a great time, yadda yadda; but here we have a so-called ‘feminist’ pornographer* admitting that those are just another performance and not any real kind of truth!
Secondly, if we, as anti pornography feminists, referred to the women in porn as ‘sex robots’, we’d have a bunch of ‘sex positive’ ‘feminists’ accusing us of being ‘haters’, but apparently this kind of language is fine if it comes from a female pornographer.
* Taormino calls herself a feminist, so let’s ignore the fact that she has collaborated with completely main-stream pornographers, including John Stagliano, who is credited with starting the gonzo genre of pornography, that she filmed three ‘guides’ to anal sex for women, since apparently just one wasn’t enough to help men pressure their girl friends into it, and two films with ‘Rough Sex’ in the title.
Brilliant post up at Rage Against the Man-chine, go read it!
I’m often told that I rob people of agency by making statements that porn is bad, that rape is an epidemic, that stripping isn’t transgressive, that breast implants aren’t a form of empowerment. I’m tired of making those incredibly obvious statements anyway, but how exactly am I robbing anyone of their agency? I know it’s hard to face the idea that one’s agency is limited in a world in which we’re told we are all individuals with unlimited potential, but please have a look around. We operate within fields, as Bordieu would say, and within those fields, our agency is, in fact, limited. Not by radical feminists, but by those with enough social and cultural capital to set the terms of the field itself (which radical feminists do not have). I might ignore what agency you exercise within a fucked system and choose to focus my energies on the system itself, but I can’t rob you of agency or the ability to exercise it, only the system can. What does agency mean when it’s so limited by pre-existing boundaries? Why focus our energy on congratulating people for agency exercised within a limiting, oppressive social formation instead of calling attention to systemic oppression? Why allow seven women’s agency, especially when it plays into patriarchal oppression, overshadow three billion women’s reality?
Former home secretary Jacqui Smith, who claimed on expenses for two adult films watched by her husband, is making a documentary about the porn industry.
The politician, who lost her Redditch seat in the 2010 election, will interview porn stars and film-makers for the Radio 5 Live show Porn Again.
She said: “As I know from my personal experience, porn fascinates us – media and public alike. But we actually know very little about what it’s like to work in the industry and what porn is doing to our society, our children and our relationships. In making this programme, I’ve been able to challenge my own views and attitudes and I want others to have the chance to join the debate too.”
The hour-long documentary, which airs on 3 March, will also include contributions from other politicians and feminist thinkers. After the programme is broadcast Smith will appear on a special edition of the Tony Livesey Show, where she will take calls from listeners.
Then there was abuse online. I’d never heard the word “sket” – teen slang for a slut – before I met these teenagers. Or of online “sket-sites” – pages created on Facebook where a girl’s sexual deeds are posted, and boys invited to add their comments. Sometimes a boy makes the site, sometimes another (perhaps jealous) girl. The idea is to humiliate. And it works. Intimate pictures, intimate details of a teenager’s life, posted for all to see, the girl labelled a “sket” or “ho” – I found this deeply upsetting. Weren’t they shocked too? They shrugged. It’s normal. And I heard that response again and again. Wrong, yes, but normal too. It was said of boys who take photos of girls during sex, of teens learning “sex moves” from porn, of the young man who shares his “girlfriend” with his mates, so they’re not “left out” – something adults might call gang rape. Wrong, but normal.
EDIT: The BBC Radio 4 Programme described above is still available to listen again to here for the next few days.
In Teenage Kicks, Aasmah Mir explores the sexual pressures faced by teens in Britain today. At a time when young people are more exposed than ever to extreme sexual and violent behaviour, we hear about the work being done on the front-line, with kids who are growing up too fast. We hear from teenage boys on why sharing girls together is not just ‘gang rape’, but a way of life. And we’ll find out how gang culture is pervading teens’ ideas of how relationships work. Aasmah looks into the factors that mean sexual violence is on the increase in the early teens. And meets youth workers at the sharp end. How do you teach a 14 year old, who’s used his mobile phone to film a girl performing a sexual act, about the complex nature of ‘consent’? What if his frames of reference come from pornography on mobile phones at school? Teenage Kicks asks those working with youth, and teenagers themselves – what can be done to help young people have healthy relationships?
From Yvonne Roberts, writing about surrogate motherhood, but applies equally well to the commodification of human beings through porn and prostitution:
Choice presupposes that we live in a society in which there are no serious differences in power, income and authority between individuals. And we don’t.
Also on this subject, the mp3 of the public lecture at the LSE ‘It’s my body and I’ll do what I Like with it’ Bodies as possessions and objects by Professor Anne Phillips, is available here (starts playing automatically).
It’s interesting to see how the media pendulum has swung back from 2009’s ‘sex trafficking is a myth’ theme (spearheaded by Nick Davies, who received an award from the sex industry for his efforts), to the current focus on the internal trafficking of children for sex.
It’s not hard to think that this is only being given attention now because of the putative ‘racial’ element, when the perpetrators can be labelled as ‘other’, but as Anne Marie Carrie of Banardo’s puts it here:
“I am not going to say that ethnicity is not an issue in some geographical areas, it clearly is. But to think of it as the only determining factor is misleading and dangerous.”
The charity dealt with white, black and Asian victims, she said – whose voices were being lost. “Profiling and stereotyping is dangerous – we are scared that victims will say: ‘I don’t fit into that pattern, so I’m not being abused’.”
But what I find really interesting about the clutch of reports in today’s Guardian, is what’s not being said, why are the words ‘pornography’ and ‘prostitution’ not being used at all, when a lot of the abusers are clearly doing this for a profit?:
Mobile phones and the internet are increasing used as tools to control children. Tim was given a pay-as-you-go mobile to keep track of him and organise his abuse. At the height of his trafficking his photograph and profile, controlled by his abusers, was posted online to attract new “customers”.
Other teens are being co-erced into sending, or posing for, sexually explicit photos, which are then used to blackmail and control, said Carrie.
“The abuser then sells the images, and threaten to send the pictures to the girl’s parents or school if she does not do x, y and z.”
In one chilling example, the report cited a ten-year-old girl referred to the project for posting graphic, sexualised images of herself on the internet.
These men are clearly not only child abusers, they are also pimps and pornographers.
Why is male privilege and entitlement not being talked about? There is no neat and convenient divide between child prostitution and adult prostitution, child pornography and adult pornography, except that once a child turns 16, they stop being victims and are suddenly making a ‘free and empowering’ choice, or are just dumb sluts who choose to be abused and deserve it.
Suzanne Moore, writing in the Guardian on Saturday, does comment on this very well:
An argument about gangs of men who “groom” young women for sex becomes an argument about ethnicity and faith. Of course, these are issues to be discussed, but the central issue, surely, is the abuse of children. Turning vulnerable young girls into drug-addicted prostitutes is disgusting in any culture. But it wouldn’t be a viable proposition if men did not want sex with these children. As with all arguments about prostitution, the one group we rarely hear from are the men who buy sex. The “punters”.
But otherwise, nothing. Jim Gamble, former chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop), in an otherwise very good article, is keen to play down the ‘business’ aspects, saying “Would you rather be considered an organised criminal or a child abuser?” , when of course the perpetrators can be both.
It’s obvious why this is the case. Apart from a die-hard handful of so-called ‘sex radicals’, nobody is going to speak up in favour of sex with ten year olds; however, seeing child abuse in context, the context of a misogynist rape culture where the vast majority of ‘mainstream’ pornography offers depictions of paedophilia, and where challenging men’s ‘right’ to unfettered sexual access to women’s bodies gets you labelled a man-hating, sex-hating prude, looking at the bigger picture is going to make too many men very uncomfortable.
As there is no neat and convenient divide between child prostitution and adult prostitution, the men who chose to pay to rape under 16’s are not neatly and conveniently divided from the ‘normal’ men who consume pornography and engage in prostitution as ‘punters’.
Gail Dines has a CiF piece in the Guardian today (as always, the comments are better left unread!)
Some of the themes that ran through many of the seminars at the expo were how to integrate porn into pop culture, create a favourable public image for the business, and sidestep regulation. The pornography industry, unlike most other industries, can’t directly advertise its products on television or in newspapers, so it has to rely on PR companies such as BSG Public Relations to place porn-friendly stories in the mainstream media. There are hundreds of examples to draw from here: Jenna Jameson on the Oprah Winfrey show talking about how empowered she feels from making porn; Hugh Hefner being interviewed by yet another newspaper; an article in Cosmopolitan on how watching porn is a fun way for women to spice up their sex lives; or the popular T-shirts with “Porn Star” written across the chest.
The cumulative effect is what the journalist Pamela Paul calls the “pornification” of our culture, wherein porn images, messages and stories seep into our sexual identities and relationships. This trend can be seen in the ever-higher heels that are now popular with women, the hypersexed look of younger and younger girls, celebrities such as Miley Cyrus pole dancing, and – in what is probably the most blatant example to date – the popularity of genital waxing among young women.
This practice became widespread in porn about a decade ago and now is so commonplace that it is almost impossible to find female performers with pubic hair. Meanwhile, shaving has become so accepted among my female students that they tell me they are repulsed by their pubic hair. And so are their sex partners, some of whom refuse to have sex with them if they are not fully waxed. This makes perfect sense, given that many of these men got most of their sex education from porn.