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

Raffaëla Anderson and the French Porno Industry

Raffaëla Anderson, whose ethnic background is partly Arab, is a former pornography performer, who has now become a non-fiction writer and occasionally an actress in mainstream French productions.

The French pornography industry is just as violent as the American one. There is also a Gonzo genre over there, with films containing extreme sexual practices which seem painful to the women who experience them.

After leaving the pornography business, Raffaëla Anderson wrote a book entitled Hard (2001), describing her experience in that industry and decrying its abuses. Raffaëla stayed four years in the porno industry. Her last appearance in an explicit film was in Virginie Despentes’ controversial (unusual porn) French film “Baise-Moi” (2000), which was distributed internationally.

In 2003, Director Emmanuelle Schick Garcia made a documentary on the French pornography business. Entitled “La Petite Morte,” the documentary included interviews with Raffaëla Anderson, who related being abused as a child, along with the ongoing exploitation and suffering which take place in the porno industry.

In 2006, Raffaëla wrote her second book Tendre Violence (“Tender Violence”, in English) a narration of her childhood with her Muslim family in Gagny, in the suburb of Paris. In this book, she reported that, from the age of 5 years old until her teenage years, she had suffered a form of sexual abuse (“bad touching”) by her alcoholic uncle. She also reported physical abuse: during her childhood and teenage girlhood, she had been beaten up by her father and brothers. She had also been brought up in a family environment in which sexuality was a taboo subject, and, at age 18, she decided to enter the French porno industry.

Her first book Hard ( “Hard” means “Hardcore” in French slang), that she had written in 2001, described her experience in the French porno industry. In it, Raffaëla Anderson explains that, as a teenager, she had an admiration for Dutch porn actress Zara Whites, whom she was seeing on TV. Raffaëla was seeing a participation in the porno industry as a good way to earn money easily to be able to flee her abusive familial environment, and acquire a desired autonomy. However, she did not expect the difficult and abusive situation she was going to find herself in, inside of that industry. She was taking drugs and drinking alcohol to be able to cope with the “job”. She explained how she gradually became disgusted by men and discovered her homosexuality. While walking in the streets once, she got raped by two men who recognized her as a porn actress. She reported it to the police. In the documentary “La Petite Morte”, Raffaëla explained how the prosecutor and Judge in her case dismissed the rape with the attitude: “You’re an actress in pornographic films, so you can’t complain.” Her rapists would not go to jail, since the French justice system concluded it was her fault.

In her book Hard, Raffaëla also gave the readers an insightful look into her experience as a porn performer. Indeed, her testimony is explicit. Here are a few excerpts:

“I’ve got to be on the set [again] on Sunday […] I’m crying. I don’t want to get fucked anymore. Only the thought of it hurts me. I want to take back what I gave years ago: me, my crotch, my dignity. I’ve only got a small part of my brain left, I want to keep it. I’m crying […] I can’t take it anymore, I’m in pain each time, I can’t put up with it any more.”
— Raffaëla Anderson, in Hard, published by Grasset (Paris) [TRANSLATED FROM FRENCH].

“The Big Boss asks me for the usual double penetration: one at the front, one at the back […] The Boss asks us just one minute in this position. I’m feeling kinda stunned. I know that I’m not gonna be able to take it. It’s inevitable, I’m fainting. Nobody notices, the Boss says to me that it’s super, he thanks me. It’s also at this moment that I regain consciousness. I hear: “Let’s get to the cum shot…”
— Raffaëla Anderson, in Hard, published by Grasset (Paris) [TRANSLATED FROM FRENCH].

“In the morning, you get up, you stick for the nth time the enema syringe up your ass and you clean the inside. You repeat this [process] until it’s clean. That alone, that hurts. […] After this, you find yourself on a set and you suck, you bend over. They call you a bitch in the name of arousal, and what else? Nothing is worth such a suffering. Not even the money you’re making.”
— Raffaëla Anderson, in Hard, published by Grasset (Paris) [TRANSLATED FROM FRENCH].

“I’ve got a scene to make in a swimming pool under water. There are electric wires everywhere, apparently it’s dangerous. […] They cover the pool for I don’t know what reason. I’m under water, and nobody’s there to rescue me. These assholes refuse to remove the wires. If I stay under the water, I drown, if I get out, it’s electrocution. […] After hesitating for a moment, I’m going back up to the surface […]. Off camera [someone says]: “We’re doing it again”. I could have died and all they’ve got to say is “We’re doing it again”. […] They’re crazy in this industry, you can die, and all that matters for them is the scene that has to be done.”
— Raffaëla Anderson, in Hard, published by Grasset (Paris) [TRANSLATED FROM FRENCH].

Raffaëla also wrote about the sexual exploitation of women and the human suffering she has witnessed in the porno industry, including the case of Eastern European women, who are trafficked into the French porno industry (these women are poor and forced to “work” to pay their pimps):

“I consider those scenes [of double and triple penetration] as real “hardcore” […]. Other girls had to do worse. Starting with double vaginal penetration, double anal penetration, then both at the same time. Imagine four guys, North-South, East-West, and the girl on doggie-style, barely able to breathe, during a two-minute close-up, the minimal time required […]. I’ve seen those girls [from Eastern Europe] suffering and crying […]. Imagine a girl with no experience, not speaking the [same] language, far away from her home, sleeping at a hotel or on the set. She’s got to do a double penetration, a vaginal fisting, along with an anal fisting, sometimes both at the same time, a hand up her ass, sometimes two. At the end, you’ve got a girl in tears who’s pissing blood because of lesions, and who generally shits herself because noboby explained to her that she needed to have an enema.[…] After the scene which they are not allowed to interrupt, and anyway nobody listens to them, the girls get two hours to rest. They get back on the set […]. The director and the producer encourage those practices […] because the consumer asks for them.”
— Raffaëla Anderson, in Hard, published by Grasset (Paris) [TRANSLATED FROM FRENCH].

Raffaëla Anderson’s realistic account of porn performing and the French porno industry is not the only one. Even Ovidie, a former porn actress who has now become porn director and who is one of the loudest defenders of pornography in France, admits such things as:

“I was very sick. I had a fever and I was vomiting. It was horrible. And nobody went to get me an aspirin […]. I felt humiliated, just a hole for the camera. I was only a product.”
— Ovidie, in Porno Manifesto, published by Flammarion (Paris), quoted in Michela Marzano, Malaise dans la sexualité: Le piège de la pornographie, published by JC Lattès (Paris) [TRANSLATED FROM FRENCH].

“There are things which are very violent and leave scars.”
— Ovidie, interviewed by Michela Marzano, quoted in Michela Marzano, La Pornographie ou l’Epuisement du Désir, published by Buchet-Chastel (Paris) [TRANSLATED FROM FRENCH].

Another French porn performer, Coralie Trinh Thi, explained:
“At the beginning of my career in XXX, I was completely traumatized when I was seeing a girl on the brink of tears during the making of a movie, especially during the scenes of double penetration […]. Actually, in hardcore scenes, they are more suffering than they’re coming.”
— Coralie Trinh Thi, Source: lesfuries.chez-alice.fr/prostitution.htm [accessed on 06/01/07] [TRANSLATED FROM FRENCH].

Porn perfomer Karen Lancaume, who Appeared in the film “Baise-moi” with Raffaëla Anderson, commited suicide in 2005, by overdosing on barbiturates. Karen was injured by her experience in pornography and she denounced the selfish attitude of the people in that industry. Interviewed by the French newspaper Libération, Karen said:
“A double penetration, followed by the cum shot. I was covered in sperm, drenched; I was also cold, and nobody handed me a towel. Once you’ve done the scene, you’re not worth anything anymore.”
— Karen Lancaume, Source: fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karen_Lancaume [accessed on 06/01/07] [TRANSLATED FROM FRENCH].

Interviewed by Radio Canada, filmmaker Emmanuelle Schick Garcia, who made a documentary (on the French pornography industry) called “La Petite Morte” (2003 — see www. lapetitemorte.com/about.htm), said:
“I think Raffaëla [Anderson] describes the [pornographic] world very honestly for what it really is, there are moments of happiness, especially for a girl who never had any friends in her life, or love from her family, and found it in this world. Not real love like we know it, but love as it would be recognized by someone who felt abandoned and alone. Then there’s the other side, where for a victim of incest and rape like Raffaëla, pornography becomes a reconstruction of the abuse she’s lived all her life. And for a lot of girls in that world, […] love is like how they’re treated in pornography. It’s someone who tells you how you should have sex. It’s having someone tell you, you’re going to do this scene, like this, with this person. And it’s exactly what they’re accustomed to, because growing up they never got to choose… So, for me, when pornographers say, it’s fun or that the girls like what they’re doing, I see it as lies. Because I learned everything to the contrary. I spoke with many girls in that world and often, I would say about 85% of those girls were victims of sexual or physical abuse growing up.”
— Emmanuelle Schick Garcia, Source: lapetitemorte.com/article58.htm [accessed on 06/01/07] [INTERVIEW WAS ALREADY TRANSLATED TO ENGLISH]

Interviewed by IFQ, Shick Garcia also said:
“There are very heart breaking and horrible things about the pornographic world. But, most of those things happened to actresses and actors long before they arrived in the pornography world. The pornography industry is just a place where a lot of victims relive their abuse, where they can continue to destroy themselves like their abusers destroyed them. That’s what is the most disturbing to me. The incest, rapes, child abuse and neglect that become the springboard for a lot of participants to enter the industry. People in the industry will tell you this isn’t true, but I learned everything to the contrary. This excuse makes it easier to go to work, that’s all.”
— Emmanuelle Schick Garcia, Source: independentfilmquarterly.com/ifq/interviews/petite.htm [accessed on 06/01/07] [INTERVIEW WAS ALREADY TRANSLATED TO ENGLISH]

When asked about the title of her documentary (“La Petite Morte”), Shick Garcia replied:
“It refers to the female orgasm, because in porno films they want you to believe that a woman is always having an orgasm, which isn’t true, and there’s also the depressing aspect of the name, with death, there’s just something inside a lot of those girls that seems dead. To me, it’s just a really sad world.”
— Emmanuelle Schick Garcia, Source: lapetitemorte.com/article58.htm [accessed on 06/01/07] [INTERVIEW WAS ALREADY TRANSLATED TO ENGLISH]

From the (archived) Against Pornography website

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Porn is now part of mainstream entertainment, and ‘feminist’ pornographers are part of the mainstream porn industry

Netflix is streaming another series about the sex industry, called Siffredi Late Night – Hard Academy, it is a reality show, following ‘aspiring porn actors’, rather than an investigative documentary, and it shows just how mainstream the porn industry is now within the entertainment industry.

I couldn’t stomach actually watching any of it, but it is obvious that it will be entirely uncritical of the porn industry. Of particular note is the episode about ‘feminist’ pornographers, the thumbnail doesn’t actually use the term ‘feminist’, but that’s the implication of “women filmmakers producing a new kind of porn”.

This shows that so-called ‘feminist’ pornographers are completely embedded in the mainstream porn industry, and therefore cannot be said to ‘challenge’ it in any way.

Rocco Siffredi worked with John Stagliano, founder of the Evil Angel studio, and is credited with creating the gonzo style of pornography, and introducing anal sex and ‘rough sex’ to heterosexual pornography. That he apparently has something to teach ‘feminist’ pornographers helps prove that ‘feminist’ porn does not exist.

Me, on tumblr recently, talking about ‘amateur’ porn

(link)

QotD: “What Teenagers Are Learning From Online Porn”

Drew was 8 years old when he was flipping through TV channels at home and landed on “Girls Gone Wild.” A few years later, he came across HBO’s late-night soft-core pornography. Then in ninth grade, he found online porn sites on his phone. The videos were good for getting off, he said, but also sources for ideas for future sex positions with future girlfriends. From porn, he learned that guys need to be buff and dominant in bed, doing things like flipping girls over on their stomach during sex. Girls moan a lot and are turned on by pretty much everything a confident guy does. One particular porn scene stuck with him: A woman was bored by a man who approached sex gently but became ecstatic with a far more aggressive guy.

But around 10th grade, it began bothering Drew, an honor-roll student who loves baseball and writing rap lyrics and still confides in his mom, that porn influenced how he thought about girls at school. Were their breasts, he wondered, like the ones in porn? Would girls look at him the way women do in porn when they had sex? Would they give him blow jobs and do the other stuff he saw?

Drew, who asked me to use one of his nicknames, was a junior when I first met him in late 2016, and he told me some of this one Thursday afternoon, as we sat in a small conference room with several other high school boys, eating chips and drinking soda and waiting for an after-school program to begin. Next to Drew was Q., who asked me to identify him by the first initial of his nickname. He was 15, a good student and a baseball fan, too, and pretty perplexed about how porn translated into real life. Q. hadn’t had sex — he liked older, out-of-reach girls, and the last time he had a girlfriend was in sixth grade, and they just fooled around a bit. So he wasn’t exactly in a good position to ask girls directly what they liked. But as he told me over several conversations, it wasn’t just porn but rough images on Snapchat, Facebook and other social media that confused him. Like the GIF he saw of a man pushing a woman against a wall with a girl commenting: “I want a guy like this.” And the one Drew mentioned of the “pain room” in “Fifty Shades of Grey” with a caption by a girl: “This is awesome!”

Watching porn also heightened Q.’s performance anxiety. “You are looking at an adult,” he told me. “The guys are built and dominant and have a big penis, and they last a long time.” And if you don’t do it like the guys in porn, Drew added, “you fear she’s not going to like you.”

Leaning back in his chair, Drew said some girls acted as if they wanted some thug rather than a smart, sensitive guy. But was it true desire? Was it posturing? Was it what girls thought they were supposed to want? Neither Q. nor Drew knew. A couple of seats away, a sophomore who had been quiet until then added that maybe the girls didn’t know either. “I think social media makes girls think they want something,” he said, noting he hadn’t seen porn more than a handful of times and disliked it. “But I think some of the girls are afraid.”

“It gets in your head,” Q. said. “If this girl wants it, then maybe the majority of girls want it.” He’d heard about the importance of consent in sex, but it felt pretty abstract, and it didn’t seem as if it would always be realistic in the heat of the moment. Out of nowhere was he supposed to say: Can I pull your hair? Or could he try something and see how a girl responded? He knew that there were certain things — “big things, like sex toys or anal” — that he would not try without asking.

“I would just do it,” said another boy, in jeans and a sweatshirt. When I asked what he meant, he said anal sex. He assumed that girls like it, because the women in porn do.

“I would never do something that looked uncomfortable,” Drew said, jumping back into the conversation. “I might say, ‘I’ve seen this in porn — do you want to try it?’ ”

It was almost 4 p.m., and the boys started to gather their backpacks to head to a class known as Porn Literacy. The course, with the official title The Truth About Pornography: A Pornography-Literacy Curriculum for High School Students Designed to Reduce Sexual and Dating Violence, is a recent addition to Start Strong, a peer-leadership program for teenagers headquartered in Boston’s South End and funded by the city’s public-health agency. About two dozen selected high school students attend every year, most of them black or Latino, along with a few Asian students, from Boston public high schools, including the city’s competitive exam schools, and a couple of parochial schools. During most of the year, the teenagers learn about healthy relationships, dating violence and L.G.B.T. issues, often through group discussions, role-playing and other exercises.

But for around two hours each week, for five weeks, the students — sophomores, juniors and seniors — take part in Porn Literacy, which aims to make them savvier, more critical consumers of porn by examining how gender, sexuality, aggression, consent, race, queer sex, relationships and body images are portrayed (or, in the case of consent, not portrayed) in porn.

On average, boys are around 13, and girls are around 14, when they first see pornography, says Bryant Paul, an associate professor at Indiana University’s Media School and the author of studies on porn content and adolescent and adult viewing habits. In a 2008 University of New Hampshire survey, 93 percent of male college students and 62 percent of female students said they saw online porn before they were 18. Many females, in particular, weren’t seeking it out. Thirty-five percent of males said they had watched it 10 or more times during adolescence.

Porn Literacy, which began in 2016 and is the focus of a pilot study, was created in part by Emily Rothman, an associate professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health who has conducted several studies on dating violence, as well as on porn use by adolescents. She told me that the curriculum isn’t designed to scare kids into believing porn is addictive, or that it will ruin their lives and relationships and warp their libidos. Instead it is grounded in the reality that most adolescents do see porn and takes the approach that teaching them to analyze its messages is far more effective than simply wishing our children could live in a porn-free world.

That ‘queer sex’ made me wince (what is the writer talking about? Gay men, lesbians, ‘diaper fetishists’?), but the article is still worth reading in full (it’s very long, the above is the introductory section, I will quote a few more paragraphs from it, but I do recommend reading the whole thing).

There are also uncritical references to ‘feminist’ and ‘ethical’ porn, and to such pornographers getting involved in sex education, but as one of the other interviewees says: “Unlike organic food, there’s no coding system for ethical or feminist porn […] They might use condoms and dental dams and still convey the same gender and aggression dynamics.”

It’s hard to know if, and how, this translates into behavior. While some studies show a small number of teens who watch higher rates of porn engage in earlier sex as well as gender stereotyping and sexual relationships that are less affectionate than their peers, these only indicate correlations, not cause and effect. But surveys do suggest that the kinds of sex some teenagers have may be shifting. The percentage of 18-to-24-year-old women who reported trying anal sex rose to 40 percent in 2009 from 16 percent in 1992, according to the largest survey on American sexual behavior in decades, co-authored by Herbenick and published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine. In data from that same survey, 20 percent of 18-to-19 year old females had tried anal sex; about 6 percent of 14-to-17-year-old females had. And in a 2016 Swedish study of nearly 400 16-year-old girls, the percentage of girls who had tried anal sex doubled if they watched pornography. Like other studies about sex and porn, it only showed a correlation, and girls who are more sexually curious may also be drawn to porn. In addition, some girls may view anal sex as a “safer” alternative to vaginal sex, as there’s little risk of pregnancy.

[…]

These images confound many teenagers about the kinds of sex they want or think they should have. In part, that’s because they aren’t always sure what is fake and what is real in porn. Though some told me that porn was fantasy or exaggerated, others said that porn wasn’t real only insofar as it wasn’t typically two lovers having sex on film. Some of those same teenagers assumed the portrayal of how sex and pleasure worked was largely accurate. That seems to be in keeping with a 2016 survey of 1,001 11-to-16-year-olds in Britain. Of the roughly half who had seen pornography, 53 percent of boys and 39 percent of girls said it was “realistic.” And in the recent Indiana University national survey, only one in six boys and one in four girls believed that women in online porn were not actually experiencing pleasure: As one suburban high school senior boy told me recently, “I’ve never seen a girl in porn who doesn’t look like she’s having a good time.”

[…]

Now, in the third week of class, Daley’s goal was to undercut porn’s allure for teenagers by exposing the underbelly of the business. “When you understand it’s not just two people on the screen but an industry,” she told me, “it’s not as sexy.”

To that end, Daley started class by detailing a midlevel female performer’s salary (taken from the 2008 documentary “The Price of Pleasure”): “Blow job: $300,” Daley read from a list. “Anal: $1,000. Double penetration: $1,200. Gang bang: $1,300 for three guys. $100 for each additional guy.”

“Wow,” Drew muttered. “That makes it nasty now.”

“That’s nothing for being penetrated on camera,” another boy said.

Then, as if they had been given a green light to ask about a world that grown-ups rarely acknowledge, they began peppering Daley, Rothman and Alder with questions.

“How much do men get paid?” one girl asked. It is the one of the few professions in which men are paid less, Rothman explained, but they also typically have longer careers. How long do women stay in their jobs? On average, six to 18 months. How do guys get erections if they aren’t turned on? Often Viagra, Rothman offered, and sometimes a “fluffer,” as an offscreen human stimulator is known.

I really wish this canard was challenged more, male porn performers in het porn are paid less than female performers because they are not doing the same job; as someone else put it so well, women are paid to suffer, while men are paid to ejaculate. Porn companies can (and do) get men in off the street to do it for free, that’s why male porn performers are paid less.

Also, all the real money in porn is behind the cameras, in production and distribution, an area which is dominatd by men.

Daley then asked the teenagers to pretend they were contestants on a reality-TV show, in which they had to decide if they were willing to participate in certain challenges (your parents might be watching) and for how much money. In one scenario, she said, you would kneel on the ground while someone poured a goopy substance over your face. In another, you’d lick a spoon that had touched fecal matter. The kids debated the fecal-matter challenge — most wouldn’t to do it for less than $2 million. One wanted to know if the goop smelled. “Can we find out what it is?” asked another.

Then Daley explained that each was in fact a simulation of a porn act. The goopy substance was what’s called a “baker’s dozen,” in which 13 men ejaculate on a woman’s face, breasts and mouth.

“What?” a girl named Tiffany protested.

The second scenario — licking the spoon with fecal matter — was from a porn act known as A.T.M., in which a man puts his penis in a woman’s anus and then immediately follows by sticking it in her mouth.

“No way,” a 15-year-old boy said. “Can’t you wash in between?”

Nope, Daley said.

“We don’t question it when we see it in porn, right?” Daley went on. “There’s no judgment here, but some of you guys are squeamish about it.”

“I never knew any of this,” Drew said, sounding a bit glum.

Daley went on to detail a 2010 study that coded incidents of aggression in best-selling 2004 and 2005 porn videos. She noted that 88 percent of scenes showed verbal or physical aggression, mostly spanking, slapping and gagging. (A more recent content analysis of more than 6,000 mainstream online heterosexual porn scenes by Bryant Paul and his colleagues defined aggression specifically as any purposeful action appearing to cause physical or psychological harm to another person and found that 33 percent of scenes met that criteria. In each study, women were on the receiving end of the aggression more than 90 percent of the time.)

[…]

Al Vernacchio, a nationally known sexuality educator who teaches progressive sex ed at a private Quaker school outside Philadelphia, believes the better solution is to make porn literacy part of the larger umbrella of comprehensive sex education. Vernacchio, who is the author of the 2014 book “For Goodness Sex: Changing the Way We Talk to Teens About Sexuality, Values, and Health,” is one of those rare teenage-sex educators who talks directly to his high school students about sexual pleasure and mutuality, along with the ingredients for healthy relationships. The problem with porn “is not just that it often shows misogynistic, unhealthy representations of relationships,” Vernacchio says. “You can’t learn relationship skills from porn, and if you are looking for pleasure and connection, porn can’t teach you how to have those.”

Crabbe notes one effective way to get young men to take fewer lessons from porn: “Tell them if you want to be a lazy, selfish lover, look at porn. If you want to be a lover where your partner says, ‘That was great,’ you won’t learn it from porn.” And parents should want their teenagers to be generous lovers, Cindy Gallop argues. “Our parents bring us up to have good manners, a work ethic. But nobody brings us up to behave well in bed.”

What Teenagers Are Learning From Online Porn, Maggie Jones, New York Times Magazine

QotD: Amateur porn is a niche market of the mainstream porn industry

Gail Dines (found on tumblr)

QotD: “Ann Summers can’t claim to empower women when it is teaming up with Pornhub”

I can’t understand why erotic retailers like Ann Summers have persisted into the twenty-first century. The store claims to be “sexy, daring, provocative and naughty”, and somewhat predictably positions itself as empowering for women. As a feminist of the unfashionable type, I can’t help but be suspicious of any form of sexual liberation that can be bought or sold.

And yet, I’d never really thought of Ann Summers as being particularly threatening to the rights of women, more just a faintly depressing reflection of heteronormativity. This changed when I saw they’d teamed-up with Pornhub. The website is reputedly the largest purveyor of online pornography in the world. Pornhub guidelines state that content flagged as “illegal, unlawful, harassing, harmful, offensive” will be removed. Nonetheless, the site still contains simulated incest and rape with some of the more easily published film titles including “Exploited Teen Asia” (236 million views) and “How to sexually harass your secretary properly” (10.5 million views.) With campaigns such as #metoo and #timesup are sweeping social media, it seems bizarre that a high street brand would not consider Pornhub merchandise as toxic.

[…]

I have no doubt that some reading this will be burning to point out that feminist pornography exists. In name of course it does, but then again, Theresa May calls herself a feminist when it suits. Whether you believe feminist pornography is either possible or desirable, it is worth remembering that what is marketed as such comprises a tiny portion of the market. This won’t make me popular, but it is worth remembering feminism is not about celebrating every choice a woman makes – it is about analysing the social context in which choices are made. Furthermore, that some women also watch porn is evidence of how patriarchy shapes our desire, not that pornography is woman-friendly.

Ann Summers parts the net curtains of nation’s suburban bedrooms and offers a glimpse into our peccadillos and preferences. That a mainstream high street retailer blithely offers guidance on hair-pulling, whipping and clamps, as well as a full range of Pornhub branded products is disturbing. This is not about women’s empowerment or mutual sexual fulfilment, it is about eroticising women’s pain.

We are living in a world saturated with images of women and girls suffering; to pretend that there is no connection between pornography and the four-in-ten teenage girls who say they have been coerced into sex acts is naive in the extreme. For too long the state claimed that violence in the home was a domestic matter. Women and girls are now facing an epidemic of sexual violence behind bedroom doors and it is not a private matter. We need to ask ourselves which matters more: the sexual rights of men or the human rights of women?

Jo Bartosch, full article here

‘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”.

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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.

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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