Category Archives: There’s no such thing as ‘feminist porn’ (or, ‘what about queer/gay/alt/’ethical’ porn?’)

‘Making Sense of Modern Pornography’

‘Making Sense of Modern Pornography’ by Katrina Forrester, is a long, fairly well balanced (with a few exceptions, see below) article published by The New Yorker in September last year, about the current state of the porn industry, and also a review of a book called The Pornography Industry: What Everyone Needs to Know, by Shira Tarrant, I would recommend reading the whole article.

Pornography has changed unrecognizably from its so-called golden age – the period, in the sixties and seventies, when adult movies had theatrical releases and seemed in step with the wider moment of sexual liberation, and before V.H.S. drove down production quality, in the eighties. Today’s films are often short and nearly always hard-core; that is, they show penetrative sex. Among the most popular search terms in 2015 were “anal,” “amateur,” “teen,” and – one that would surely have made Freud smile – “mom and son.” Viewing figures are on a scale that golden-age moguls never dreamed of: in 2014, Pornhub alone had seventy-eight billion page views, and XVideos is the fifty-sixth most popular Web site in the world. Some porn sites get more traffic than news sites like CNN, and less only than platforms such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, and PayPal.

[…]

The millions of people using these sites probably don’t care much about who produces their content. But those who work in porn in the United States tend to draw a firm line between the “amateur” porn that now proliferates online and the legal adult-film industry that took shape after the California Supreme Court ruled, in California v. Freeman (1989), that filmed sex did not count as prostitution. Since then, the industry has been based in Los Angeles County’s San Fernando Valley, where its professional norms and regulations have mimicked its more respectable Hollywood neighbors. In “The Pornography Industry: What Everyone Needs to Know” (Oxford), Shira Tarrant explains how that industry works in the new age of Internet porn, and sets out to provide neutral, “even-handed” information about its production and consumption.

It’s not an easy task. Since the “porn wars” of the seventies and eighties, when feminists campaigned against the expanding pornography industry (and other feminists sided with Hustler to defend it), talking about pornography in terms of mere facts has seemed impossible. The atmosphere of controversy makes it hard to avoid moral positions. Even to suspend judgment may be to take sides.

[…]

Linda Lovelace’s performance in “Deep Throat,” in 1972, made porn mainstream; later, her denunciation of the movie, which she characterized as filmed rape, made the idea of the porn star as victim mainstream, too. In the mid-eighties, the revelation that Traci Lords had been underage in her most famous films led to the prosecution of producers, agents, and distributors under child-pornography statutes, and new legislation resulted in stricter age-verification requirements for porn actors. But by the time [Jenna] Jameson arrived on the scene the industry had become an efficient star-making machine. It had distributors and advertisers, production teams and industry magazines, shoots requiring permits, agents who sold the talent and trade associations who represented them. Jameson quickly achieved her ambition, becoming the industry’s biggest star and most reliable brand. By 2005, her company, ClubJenna, had an annual revenue of thirty million dollars.

Things are different now. Much online porn is amateur and unregulated. It’s hard to tell how much, because there’s little data, and even larger studios now ape the amateur aesthetic, but applications for porn-shoot permits in Los Angeles County reportedly fell by ninety-five per cent between 2012 and 2015. Now most films have low production values, and they are often unscripted. Sometimes you can hear the director’s voice; apparently, many viewers can make do without the old fictional tropes of doctors and nurses, schoolgirls, and so on—the porn industry itself having become the locus of fantasy. Where performers like Jameson had multi-film contracts with studios like Wicked or Vivid Entertainment, such deals are now rare, and most performers are independent contractors who get paid per sex act.

Tarrant’s book sheds useful light on the bargain-basement world of contemporary porn. In 2012, one agent claimed that the actresses he represented received eight hundred dollars for lesbian scenes, a thousand for ones with a man, twelve hundred or more for anal sex, and four thousand for double penetration, but there’s reason to think that these figures are inflated. Stoya, a well-known performer who has written about her life in the industry, has cited a rate of just twelve to fourteen hundred dollars for double penetration. Wages have declined across the board. Tarrant estimates that a female performer filming three anal scenes a month would make forty thousand dollars a year.

Riskier acts are incentivized. According to one analysis of an industry talent database, women entering the business now will do more, and more quickly, than they once did: in the nineteen-eighties, they would wait an average of two years before a first anal scene; now it’s six months. Jameson famously never did anal (though one of her most viewed Pornhub clips is “Jenna Jameson accidental anal,” which shows, in slow motion, that on the Internet there’s no such thing as never). From 2000 on, she had only one onscreen male partner—her husband. “I look at these new girls today and I think, What the hell are they doing?” she said in 2004. “These girls don’t know that you have to start slow, baby, and make them pay you more for each thing you do.”

Today, most porn actresses don’t stick around long enough to start slow. The average career is between four and six months. Performers work long hours with no benefits and they have to cover significant out-of-pocket costs. Tests for S.T.D.s can be as much as two hundred dollars a month. Add to this grooming, travel, and the usual freelancer expenses and it costs a lot to be legal in the porn industry.

In a context of declining wages and rising costs, attempts at regulation are unpopular. In 2012, Los Angeles County passed Measure B, a law mandating condom use in porn shoots there. Advocacy organizations for performers have resisted the measure, saying that it ignores the preferences of their workforce and would compel performers to use not only condoms but also safety goggles and dental dams. More important, perhaps, it also ignores consumer preferences: in an age when few pay for porn, producers don’t want to alienate those who do. The regulated industry has developed other ways to avoid condoms—preëxposure treatments, production moratoriums when infections are detected, and, in some gay studios, a working assumption that performers are H.I.V. positive. Other producers, rather than comply, have left California for Nevada or Florida. The industry may have created the norms that dominate online porn, but it’s being squeezed into irrelevance, and preferences have taken on a life of their own.

It would have been good to point out that these ‘advocacy organisations’ are representing the interests of the porn companies over the interests of the porn performers, that porn performers have nothing remotely resembling a real union to protect them at ‘work’, and that in any other industry, bosses arguing that workers ‘don’t want’ Personal Protective Equipment would be seen as exercising unequal power compared to non-unionised gig-economy workers. There is also no other industry were frequent, deliberate contact with another person’s body fluids is seen as just part of the job.

Whether you see porn as just another sector disrupted by the Internet or as a still powerful engine of profit-driven exploitation depends on a thornier set of debates that shape how pornography is understood. To talk about porn purely in terms of costs and incentives is not, as Tarrant suggests, neutral. Even to stress the work involved is a political move.

When America’s pornographic secrets have been publicly aired, they have usually taken the form of First Amendment issues. In 1988, the Supreme Court overturned a ruling against Hustler that had awarded damages to the evangelical pastor Jerry Falwell, the founder of the conservative organization the Moral Majority. (The magazine had published a satirical ad in which Falwell described his “first time” with his mother.) Flynt became an unlikely liberal hero, cementing a coalition between free-speech defenders and pornographers. After California v. Freeman, the Adult Film and Video Association of America renamed itself the Free Speech Legal Defense Fund, and, later, the Free Speech Coalition.

Remember, the ‘Free Speech Coalition’ is the organisation portraying itself as a grass-roots movement by and for porn performers.

But, in the famous phrase of the legal scholar and anti-pornography campaigner Catherine MacKinnon, pornography is not “only words.” The feminist campaigns of the seventies against rape and violence against women condemned pornography not on the ground of obscenity but on the ground of harm. It wasn’t a private matter but a political expression of male power. As MacKinnon wrote, with the anti-pornography feminist Andrea Dworkin, pornography was “the graphic sexually explicit subordination of women.” Dworkin described it as a form of sexual slavery.

[…]

Thirty years later, porn is more pervasive than ever, but it’s also more diffuse—and so are the debates. There are new organizations like Stop Porn Culture, led by the feminist Gail Dines, which campaign for porn’s abolition, and against the industry’s hypersexualization of women and the “pornification” of culture. Old coalitions have reappeared, deploying new rhetoric: in April, Dines supported a Republican bill in Utah that declared pornography not a moral threat but a “public health hazard.” Critics worry as much about men’s health—porn addiction, erectile dysfunction—as they do about violence against women.

Ah yes, the old you’re in league with religious fundamentalists! argument. Coalition building on single issues is a normal part of mainstream politics; nobody would complain about, say, an environmental protection bill supported by Republicans/Conservatives, nor do pro-sex industry advocates balk at working with the right when it suits their aims, it’s only radical/abolitionist feminists who are expected to meet such an unrealistic level of ideological ‘purity’.

Pornography’s defenders still lean on ideas of sexual freedom and empowerment. “I am a pervert,” Sasha Grey—the only recent star to rise anywhere near Jameson’s heights—declared in a 2009 interview. “I want to tell young women that sex is O.K. It’s O.K. to be a slut. You don’t have to be ashamed.” In a “mission statement” she wrote when she entered the industry, at eighteen, Grey said that she was “determined and ready to be a commodity that fulfills everyone’s fantasies.” She was no Lovelace: “If I am working out any issues through porn, it’s anger at society for not being open about sex.”

It would have been a good idea to mention that, it turned out Sasha Grey was being violently controlled by a much older boyfriend/pimp when she entered the sex industry.

Performers now often defend porn using the language not of freedom but of work, and begin with the idea that [prostitution] is a form of work like many others. Sure, working in the sex industry is exploitative and precarious, but so is work in other industries. The porn workers who do their jobs well enough that you buy their performance are giving their consent, but they likely do so only as other precarious workers do: they need the money and have limited choices. To an older generation of feminists, this defense sounds hollow: it concedes that sex and intimacy can be bought and sold. For a younger generation, the idea that they can’t is a misunderstanding: sex has long been monetized, and today there’s nowhere that the market doesn’t go. To reflect this, many younger feminists want a sexual politics that restores a tradition of labor organizing predating the porn wars (when even Playboy bunnies had a union), and seek to protect performers from profit-seeking managers.

Are they really? When sex industry advocates are happy calling bosses ‘sex workers’ and trafficked women ‘migrant sex workers’, and hardly ever criticize any aspect of porn production, I’m dubious about ‘younger feminists’ commitment to real change in the sex industry, beyond ‘centering alternative voices’ (whatever that actually means), and harassing lesbian pornographers for refusing to work with pre-op trans women. Also, let’s be realistic here, the Playboy bunnies were not being subjected to double-anals in front of a camera – any real workers rights in the modern porn industry would render porn production impossible.

At the fringes of the industry, performers are trying to change it from the inside, in the name of fair pay, better conditions, and more enjoyable sex. The aim of companies like Pink and White Productions and TrenchcoatX is to challenge the tube sites’ monopoly and to overthrow the racist, sexist categories that silently shape preferences. Their hope is that making inclusive, diverse porn—in which the performers’ pleasure is authentic and the orgasms real—will change sex for the better. The defense of this artisanal approach to porn pulls in contradictory directions: it at once argues that porn is work and not pleasure, and also that the pleasure it captures is authentic. Tarrant, despite claiming neutrality, is subtly allied with this view, and compares campaigns for ethical porn to those for organic, fair-trade food. In reality, it’s a harder sell. Few people want ethics with their porn.

(Emphasis added)

[…]

When it comes to sexual practices, too, statistics are open to interpretation. Anti-pornography campaigners frequently cite the widely reported increase in the practice of anal sex among heterosexuals as evidence of porn’s influence. (In a 2014 study of anal sex among young British heterosexuals, a majority of young men surveyed – described as “teen-age boys” by the anti-porn camp, and “emerging adults” by the pro – admitted “persuading” their female partners to try it, with reluctant or little consent.) The campaigners insist that teen-agers are reënacting humiliations they’ve learned online. But that assumption leaves out other explanations. The British study suggested that the rise of premarital sex has meant that “conquest” narratives, which once fetishized the taking of virginity, now require a new focus. Equally, it might indicate a severance between reproduction and sex, or a straight acceptance of gay sexuality.

This last argument makes no sense whatsoever, anal sex is not ‘gay sex’, sex between two or more men is gay sex. Anal sex is not compulsory, even for gay men, and before the 1970s, it was not even a widespread practice among gay men. If the increase in heterosexual anal sex was about an acceptance of ‘gay sexuality’, why the coercion and lack of enthusiasm among the teen-aged girls? If it’s really about an acceptance of ‘gay sexuality’, why are we not hearing about an increase in heterosexual teen-age boys being anally penetrated by their girlfriends using strap-ons?

Male pornographers and porn consumers are quite open about the attraction of anal in porn films.

Sometimes, though, porn’s defenders overcompensate. They are too ready to interpret the lack of unequivocal data about porn’s impact as unequivocal proof that there is no impact. In a field as hard to measure as sexual behavior, this seems unwise. Pornography may be more likely to turn us into solipsistic masturbators than violent rapists, but it’s hard to imagine that it has no effect at all. The pro-porn argument, which insists that pornography is changing but denies that it changes us, appears contradictory. It inverts the anti-porn mistake of seeing porn as the key engine of transformation, instead giving it no power whatsoever. But sex is always changing, and, though porn can’t explain it all, its role can’t be ruled out, either.

Kitty Stryker thinks women should die for saying ‘no’ to men

Previous posts here, here, and here.

H/t to Appropriately Inappropriate for her reblog of the tweet.

Kitty Stryker is a phoney and a fake radical who has co-opted the language of radical feminism, and shills for the sex industry while providing a fig-leaf for the BDSM ‘community’.

On twitter a few days ago, she said “I swear to god I wish we could just put the TERFs and Nazis on a goddamn boat together and send them into the sea.”

When someone else added “or we could put them in concentration camps? Maybe before they went into ovens? Lol” Stryker merely complained that that was “in bad taste”.

kitty-stryker_concentration-camps

Sryker has changed her twitter handle to “Punch Nazis”, and added a later tweet about ‘terfs’ drowning, so it’s clear she has no problem with violence against women, when they are women she disagrees with politically.

kitty-stryker_concentration-camps-02

This isn’t the first time Stryker has demonstrated that she sees women she doesn’t like as not fully human, in this tweet I screen capped a while back, we can see her wondering if radical feminists are actually real people, the ‘kill all terfs’ rhetoric follows on easily.

KS tweet 04

Stryker is also an intellectual coward, who ran away from conversations on this blog she wasn’t winning, and now won’t even engage, but she does keep an eye on me, as she tweeted about my previous post more than once.

Here’s a clue for you Stryker, ‘terfs’ don’t exist, there are no ‘terf’ organisations, there are no ‘terf’ leaders, there are no women calling themselves ‘terfs’ except ironically, it’s a term trans activists made up in order to intimidate women into unquestioning silence and obedience.

Stryker also likes lying about the Nordic (Abolitionist) Model, claiming that it made it easier for the police to arrest her – tell me Stryker, how does decriminalising ‘sex workers’ make it easier for the police to arrest them?

She’s doing this still, implying that under the Nordic Model, the police are more dangerous to ‘sex workers’, deliberately and cynically obscuring the fact that the Nordic Model means decriminalising the prostitute her (or him) self.

[EDIT 19/Feb/17: If decriminalising ‘sex workers’ under the Nordic Model doesn’t make the police ‘safe’, then how will decriminalising the whole of the sex industry make the police ‘safe’?]

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The first loyalty of sex industry advocates is to the sex industry itself, always.

QotD: “How Orgasm Politics Has Hijacked the Women’s Movement”

How Orgasm Politics Has Hijacked the Women’s Movement, by Sheila Jeffreys

In the late 1960s and early ’70s, it was widely believed that the sexual revolution, by freeing up sexual energy, would make everyone free. I remember Maurice Girodias, whose Olympia Press in Paris published Story of O, saying that the solution to repressive political regimes was to post pornography through every letterbox. Better orgasms, proclaimed Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, would create the revolution. In those heady days, many feminists believed that the sexual revolution was intimately linked to women’s liberation, and they wrote about how powerful orgasms would bring women power.

Dell Williams is quoted in Ms. as having set up a sex shop in 1974 with precisely this idea, to sell sex toys to women: “I wanted to turn women into powerful sexual beings…. I had a vision that orgasmic women could transform the world.”

Ever since the ’60s, sexologists, sexual liberals, and sex-industry entrepreneurs have sought to discuss sex as if it were entirely separate from sexual violence and had no connection with the oppression of women. Feminist theorists and anti-violence activists, meanwhile, have learned to look at sex politically. We have seen that male ownership of women’s bodies, sexually and reproductively, provides the very foundation of male supremacy, and that oppression in and through sexuality differentiates the oppression of women from that of other groups.

If we are to have any chance of liberating women from the fear and reality of sexual abuse, feminist discussion of sexuality must integrate all that we can understand about sexual violence into the way we think about sex. But these days feminist conferences have separate workshops, in different parts of the building, on how to increase sexual “pleasure” and on how to survive sexual violence — as if these phenomena could be put into separate boxes. Women calling themselves feminists now argue that prostitution can be good for women, to express their “sexuality” and make empowering life choices. Others promote the practices and products of the sex industry to women to make a profit, in the form of lesbian striptease and the paraphernalia of sadomasochism. There are now whole areas of the women’s, lesbian, and gay communities where any critical analysis of sexual practice is treated as sacrilege, stigmatized as “political correctness.” Freedom is represented as the achievement of bigger and better orgasms by any means possible, including slave auctions, use of prostituted women and men, and forms of permanent physical damage such as branding. Traditional forms of male-supremacist sexuality based on dominance and submission and the exploitation and objectification of a slave class of women are being celebrated for their arousing and “transgressive” possibilities.

Well, the pornography is in the letterboxes, and the machinery for more and more powerful orgasms is readily available through the good offices of the international sex industry. And in the name of women’s liberation, many feminists today are promoting sexual practices that — far from revolutionizing and transforming the world — are deeply implicated in the practices of the brothel and of pornography.

How could this have happened? How could the women’s revolution have become so completely short-circuited? I suggest that there are four reasons.

Continue reading here

(I posted this back in 2012, but I think it could do with a re-read)

QotD: “What Happens when Women are at the Helm?”

Abstract

Pornography is a lucrative business. Increasingly, women have participated in both its production, direction, and consumption. This study investigated how the content in popular pornographic videos created by female directors differs from that of their male counterparts. We conducted a quantitative analysis of 122 randomly selected scenes from 44 top-renting adult videos in 2005 (half male- and half female-directed). Findings revealed that all films shared similar depictions: Verbal and physical aggression was common, women were the primary targets of aggression, and negative responses to aggression were extremely rare. Compared to male-directed films, female-directed films were significantly more likely to portray women-only scenes and sexual acts. Even when controlling for main characters’ gender, female-directed films showed significantly more female perpetrators aggressing against female targets and significantly more depictions of women as perpetrators of aggression. We highlight the importance of economic forces, rather than director gender, in dictating the content of popular pornography.

A Comparison of Male and Female Directors in Popular Pornography: What Happens when Women are at the Helm?

Psychology of Women Quarterly 32(3):312 – 325 · August 2008

But what about gay porn?

disturbing gay rape porn real

disturbing gay rape porn real

QotD: “Female pornographer wins right to reinstate sadomasochism website”

I have covered already how the recent UK porn regulations are not ‘anti-woman’, and the acts it bans not ‘feminist’. Pandora Blake is not a ‘feminist pornographer’ she is a female pornographer, selfish-individualism while female is not feminism.

This is barely a victory for ‘free speech’, it proves nothing about porn being ‘speech’. Ofcom didn’t actually rule on whether or not the site’s contents counted as ‘harmful material’, just whether it was the type of site that fell under the regulations. It’s about a regulatory body acting outside of it’s remit, it’s a technical victory only.

A [female] pornographer has hailed a victory for freedom of expression after she won her appeal against an order that had forced her to take down a sadomasochism fetish website

Pandora Blake, from London, said she believed she was targeted by the Authority for Television on Demand (Atvod) watchdog because she spoke out publicly against rules on porn deemed “harmful to minors”.

Now, after Ofcom ruled that Blake’s website, dreamsofspanking.com, did not fall under Atvod’s remit, she is free to reinstate its content. “Now I’ve won my appeal I feel vindicated,” she said. “The war against intrusive and oppressive state censorship isn’t over but this decision is a landmark victory for [porn], diversity and freedom of expression.”

“If you look at [Atvod’s] archive, the sites they were ruling against, a lot of them were run by women,” Blake said. “It did really feel like they were upholding a kind of patriarchal sexuality.”

Atvod, a quango which regulated video-on-demand websites, was stripped of its powers earlier this year. It had been widely criticised for acting against sites outside its remit and, after new rules were introduced in 2014 banning some sex acts in pornography, free speech campaigners also said it disproportionately acted against websites run by women.

Blake had been among those who spoke out publicly against the Audio Visual Media Services regulations (AVMS), which in 2014 banned the depiction of sex acts that were judged morally damaging or life-threatening, including face-sitting, female ejaculation and spanking that leaves marks. She appeared in panel discussions on Newsnight and Women’s Hour opposing the new rules.

She says she was placed under investigation by Atvod soon after. In August 2015, after a five-month inquiry, she was forced to censor her website, which Atvod ruled had breached rules in three areas: a failure to pay regulatory fees, a lack of effective age controls to restrict access to over-18s, and the broadcast of harmful material.

Atvod’s investigation into her work had been traumatic, Blake said. “Making porn was part of an act of self-acceptance for me, to say I’m not ashamed and to reach out to other people who share the same sort of fantasies,” she said. “As a result, the films that I was making did show very honestly the sort of play that I enjoy in real life, it does include quite heavy impact with things like belts and canes – always consensual, but it does leave welts and bruises that might take a few days to heal.”

In a ruling published on Monday, Ofcom decided in favour of dreamsofspanking.com. A spokesperson said: “Ofcom found that the site was not a video-on-demand service and therefore it was not subject to regulation. When regulated video-on-demand services break our rules, we take robust action to protect children.”

(source)

QotD: “What these responses have in common is that they’re derails”

When feminists critique pornography for its effect on women, its defenders cry “what about gay porn”? When feminists critique kink in terms of men getting off on hurting women, defenders cry “but female doms and same-sex couples!” What these responses have in common is that they’re derails. By focusing on the narrowness of the inquiry, by complaining about terminology, defenders are ignoring (or perhaps intentionally deflecting attention from) the core of the criticism: that women and girls are being harmed. We’re trying to talk about harm being done to women, and you want to complain that we failed to mention the times when they’re not? “Not all porn” and “not all kink” are exactly the same as “not all men”: an attempt to shift the conversation onto the people who aren’t being hurt so we can’t talk about the ones who are.

Official Weatherwax

QotD: “When it comes to buying access to other people’s bodies, experience shows that it’s a buyer’s market: those with the economic power set the terms”

Sometimes I wish I was better at maths, because there’s a diagram I really want to draw. Here are the two axes – up the side, need for item or service; across the bottom, responsibility for obtaining that item or service ethically. As your need for something increases, the ethical burden on how you obtain it diminishes.

This model would be useful for conceptualising the morality of, say, stealing a loaf because your child was hungry. Squatting in an empty house because you are homeless. Buying a battery chicken because it’s the only way you can afford to eat any meat.

Stranded on the wrong side of the line would be conflict diamonds, fur coats and setting yourself up as a bloodthirsty dictator in order to afford a gold toilet. In all of these cases, the need is non-existent, so the ethical obligations can never be met.

Where I find my imaginary graph most useful, however, is in deciding how to feel about services involving human – often female – bodies. This helpfully refocuses the question on to those with the economic power in any given situation, whereas too often (even among feminists), it is the conduct of the seller that’s under scrutiny.

Take sex work. It’s a term of abuse now­adays to say that a feminist is “sex-worker exclusionary”. It’s more interesting to ask, though, if buying sex is compatible with feminism. In the unbearable formulation of a million op-eds: Can You Be A Feminist And A Punter?

I would argue that it’s difficult, and that any moral imperative is on the buyer not to shop around to find the migrant sex worker or street prostitute with the lowest price, but instead to ensure that whoever they are paying for sex isn’t being coerced (physically or financially) into acts they would rather not perform.

The same goes for porn. I shudder to think of the number of guys who piously lecture me about feminism’s lack of attention to issues of class, then go home to get off on watching freelance workers with poor employment protection and terrible long-term career prospects carry out potentially dangerous physical labour. And most of them refuse even to pay for it.

Anyone on the left who pretends to care about ethics shouldn’t watch porn if they don’t know how it’s made. A few years ago, I spent an instructive few months reading porn actresses’ memoirs and learned – surprise! – that an industry run by older men and relying on a turnover of young women in need of quick cash is prone to extreme abuse.

[…]

The problem is that there is no pressure for the industry to be ethical, because sex, which is deemed to be a private matter, is involved. That is exactly the wrong way round; it should be particularly ethical because sex is involved.

Naturally, this puts a heavy burden on consumers. Until recently, progressives used to congratulate themselves for watching scenes featuring Stoya and James Deen, a couple in real life as well as on screen. And then, two months ago, Stoya accused Deen of raping her. (He denies those allegations, as well as accusations made by others in the industry.) It turns out if you want to watch ethical porn you have to work quite hard. But so what? You won’t die without it.

The latest point I’ve added mentally to my graph is surrogacy. On 5 March, an organisation called Families Through Surrogacy will be holding a conference in London. A news report in the lead-up to the event contained alarming language, speaking balefully of couples being “driven” to seek surrogates abroad to “commission a child”. This seems an oddly entitled way to refer to the use of someone else’s body.

Every year, up to 2,000 surrogate babies are born on behalf of British couples, 95 per cent of them to mothers ­overseas. That is because currently, in Britain, surrogacy is permitted only as a non-commercial relationship. This is firmly the way it should stay; informal agreements might be more difficult where a personal arrangement becomes messy, but surrogacy should be seen as a gift, not a service with a monetary value.

The rise of commercial surrogacy has led to women in developing countries such as India being encouraged to sign legally binding contracts that turn them into walking incubators. (The Sensible Surrogacy website offers women in Ukraine for $47,570 and those in Cambodia for $42,500; a “host” in the US will cost double that.) As women in the West leave childbearing until later in life – and struggle to conceive as a result – and as diminishing homophobia frees more gay men to have children, the demand for babies is sure to increase. And so there will be louder calls for the ban on commercial surrogacy to be overturned.

That is something the left should resist. When it comes to bodies, experience shows that it’s a buyer’s market: those with the economic power set the terms. I only wish I could capture that truth on a graph, too.

Helen Lewis

QotD: “The Pornography of Representation”

The fantasy of porn is not fully depicted, it is not identical with the ‘content’ of representation, it is to be completed by the active subject, the viewer-hero of the representation.

The pleasure is more fully realizable under the sole control of the subject, through the total objectification of the ‘object’

Kappeler, S. 1986, “Subjects, Objects and Equal Opportunities”, The Pornography of Representation, Polity Press, Cambridge, pp.48-60 (digital edition)

Found at The Colour of Pomegranates

QotD: “I think there’s a couple of problems or issues with ‘feminist porn’ and various reasons why it doesn’t live up to what it promises”

In the 60s, 70s and 80s the trend in the feminist movement was that it was largely anti-pornography, it was critical of pornography for various reasons…And starting in the 80s, 90s and basically since then the trend in the feminist movement has been more liberal, more accepting of pornography, sometimes even going to the extent of promoting pornography or being pro-porn. So ‘feminist porn’, as far as I’m aware, is a recent development and what it is, is that it is currently a niche within pornography where it’s directed usually by women who consider themselves feminists. It’s more oriented towards female pleasure, it typically has a female consumer in mind whereas mainstream pornography tends to have a male consumer in mind. There’s allegedly more emphasis on real pleasure, breaking down traditional gender roles, non-traditional sexuality, so more experimentation, more ‘female-friendly’ sexuality, if you will. And the reason why I put it in quotes is because I actually don’t think it delivers what it promises.

I think there’s a couple of problems or issues with ‘feminist porn’ and various reasons why it doesn’t live up to what it promises. One of the issues that I had when I was researching this was that I found that many of the people who call themselves feminist pornographers have ties with and often work within the mainstream industry, which is extremely exploitative, extremely abusive, [and] extremely sexist. So when I found that out that was already ringing bells in my mind or setting off red flags.

One of the other issues is that this very promising talk about breaking down gender roles and showing non-traditional sexuality, which means more ‘female-friendly’ sexuality and made with a female consumer in mind, [and] some of it may genuinely be made with a female consumer in mind but I don’t think that it is as new and subversive and edgy as it’s made out to be. Some of the titles that I have seen have been things like: ‘Submissive Slut’ or ‘Babes in Bondage 4’, things that you would really find in the mainstream industry, things that are frankly very sexist, very traditional, very male-dominated. I don’t see what’s new or radical about it.

And I don’t see a lot of people asking some of the more radical questions, like: What are the kinds of people that get into porn? Why do they get into it? What’s their background? Is it really just something that they do because they want to explore sexuality or is it because they don’t have other options? And if it’s that [the latter] then why don’t they have other options? And why are most of these people female?

And I don’t see a lot of people who are involved with this asking questions like: Does sex need to be a commodity? Does it need to be something that can be bought and sold on a market? Is buying sex from somebody else really something that we have a right to? Or is it just something that we’ve grown used to and something that we feel entitled to because of this male-dominated society that says certain things about sex?

There’s just various ways in which I don’t think feminist porn lives up to the promises that it makes.

Maya S

(found at Pomeranian Privilege)