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SEXIST BEATDOWN: Totally Not Looking At Some Internet Porn Edition

Well, it is Friday. And on Friday, we do lightweight, fun types of postings! (As opposed to the, um, lightweight and NOT FUN types of postings I have been doing all week while trying to write some incredibly complicated and pretentious essay on David Foster Wallace and depression and romanticizing non-neurotypical modes of operating, SORRY.) So, for today’s lightweight and fun posting, we will be covering: PORNOGRAPHY.

That’s right! I said PORNOGRAPHY! Prepare to fight! I have even dissed your Harry Potter erotic fan fiction, which should give you an easy starting point! PORNOGRAPHY: Is it good for the ladies? Bad for the ladies? A complicated topic which one hopes we can cover with a degree of nuance while respecting multiple viewpoints and being willing to learn from any or all of them? Or, more comment-section-inflamingly, is it a TOOL OF SATAN???

Well: Whatever the answer is, I am sure that Amanda Hess of The Sexist — who has been covering both kink conferences (Harry Potter erotica, ahoy!) and anti-porn conferences, always with the excellence that is her trademark — will help us to figure it out!

ILLUSTRATION: Expelli-clothes-us!


AMANDA: I’m just going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you were not too busy feeding your Internet pornography surfing addiction to join me here for this very important Internet pornography discussion.

SADY: It’s true! I was… not at all indulging in my shameful addiction to Internet pornography! Because if I were (indulging in my Internet pornography addiction) I would be rendered incapable of interacting with you, a woman! “Are you waiting for a pizza to be delivered?” I would ask. “Or, perhaps, for someone to fix your plumbing? That is the only reason I can conceive of for you not to be having titillating adventures at this moment!”

AMANDA: Well that’s too bad! For if you truly were suffering from an Internet porn surfing addiction, I could get you a great gig speaking to groups of conservative audiences about your Internet porn surfing addiction in glorious detail. My very favorite part of the “Porn Harms” briefing I attended last month was right after Shelley Lubben—ex-porn performer, current anti-porn activist—finished her spiel, and one of the old white men running the briefing stood up and informed everyone that he was addicted to porn for 25 years.

SADY: These two storylines connect, I am thinking! It is all very LOST!

AMANDA: Everyone clapped!

SADY: Awwwwww. I mean, I have no doubt — NONE NONE NONE — that there are women in the porn industry who are abused, for whom working in porn was sexually traumatic, for whom being an anti-porn activist seems like the best and most necessary course of action, given what they’ve been through. It’s that whole prayer-meeting aspect to it, though, that freaks me out. Like, a lot of these speakers are clearly people who have spent a LOT of time looking for porn, and specifically for the most transgressive porn they can find! And then they describe the porn, in porn-like terms! In order to demonstrate the evils of porn! Like, the “I once was lost but now have found, AND AM WILLING TO REGISTER MY DISTASTE” aspect is a little weird. Like a ritual purification, rather than a discussion.

AMANDA: Yeah. I mean, one of the most frustrating parts of the debate around porn is how difficult it is to punch through the dichotomy of Porn v. Anti-Porn. It’s often framed as a fight between the “Keep Your Fascist Government Off My Boner” camp vs. the “Bring All the Poor Abused Women to Jesus” camp. And if you’re someone who is approaching this from a feminist perspective (and there are a LOT of feminist perspectives on porn, pro and anti and in-between) you’re sometimes forced to align with one or the other. Boners v. Jesus, if you will.

SADY: Right. And, I mean, I think it’s symptomatic of people seeing that institutions are troubled, and then assuming that the institutions THEMSELVES are the problem, which sort of bars off a more nuanced discourse. Or bars you off from encouraging yourself to take a more nuanced standpoint. But I like to think that we’re slowly getting past that. I mean, we’re maybe getting to a point where people can acknowledge that porn can express pretty vile attitudes toward The Ladies (and anyone else it sets its sights on) and that those vile attitudes can be expressed on set in ways that hurt people, without having to describe ourselves as “anti-all-porn-everywhere-ever.”

AMANDA: Right. And also that porn isn’t some big monolithic hate-fuck. It can be a lot of things. And as much as the strange explicit purging of the anti-porn activists freaks me out a bit, pro-porn people who aren’t interested in dissecting it at all scare me more.

SADY: Yeah, definitely. I mean, a commitment to not looking at the potential problems in porn is probably way worse, in the long run, than TIRELESSLY AND VIGILANTLY WATCHING A TON OF PORN so that you can point out the problems.

AMANDA: Yeah. And the reluctance to engage isn’t something I’ve seen in the more feminist pro-porn circles, but it’s definitely something I’ve seen in the Get-Your-Fascist-Government-Off-My-Boner circles. Any industry that provides boners can’t possibly be problematic!

SADY: Boners are our nation’s most valued resource! It’s just that it seems to me that the people most qualified to write or speak about porn’s effect on women are . . . women who’ve been in porn? Rather than women who’ve seen some of it, or read what someone else wrote about seeing it?


SADY: But I worry that, with the Defend the Boners league pressing for those stupid sluts to keep their mouths shut when they’re not giving blow-jobs, and the Burn the Tapes crew pressing for the elimination of any non-anti-porn discourse, sex workers who express complicated feelings about porn are being sort of shut out. Not that those folks aren’t having conversations and building communities of their own.

AMANDA: Right. And then you have Sasha Grey on Tyra talking about her job and life, as Tyra shakes her head slowly and announces on television that she refuses to believe that Sasha Grey is not a victim of childhood abuse.

SADY: Haha, yeah. Or the cases in which porn stars DO (like a lot of women) have incidences of being sexually abused or assaulted, and everyone is like, “don’t you SEEEE? Don’t you see that this has clearly driven you MAD? And any of your feelings about the job you do are now INVALID?????” Whereas no-one is saying that to the accountant who was sexually abused growing up. Clearly no-one is like, “the pain and shame of your assault warped you so that you had no other choice but to fall into a life of TAX FORMS!”

AMANDA: Yeah, I mean what sexual assault victims really need is for more people to take away their agency and reduce their options in life, and then to shame them based on their sexual expression, right?

SADY: EXACTLY! I mean, I think a lot of porn discourse—and people who are fervent watchers of porn, and would fight to the death your right to take away their cinema boners, are just as willing to say that people (particularly women) who do porn are sad and deluded and damaged—depends on the assumption that, if it looks gross and un-sexy to me, it must be gross and un-sexy. And anyone who does it has to be stopped or “saved.” See: BDSM, and the vast misunderstandings around that. Whereas, if I look at the kink conference you covered, well, I will be honest with you: There were a lot of videos you posted that I was just like, “nope! Not gonna open that one!” There were a lot of things that I consider gross and un-sexy going on there, such as: homemade Harry Potter erotica.

AMANDA: Haha. Right? But crusading to wipe it clean of this Earth, citing The Children, is another position entirely.

SADY: But who am I to come between you and the turgid purple manhood of Severus Snape?


SADY: You know? Like: I can say, “I will not jack off to this, and would prefer not to discuss the levels of arousal it produces in you,” without singlehandedly trying to ban it.

AMANDA: Yeah. Dan Savage gives some pretty good advice in his column this week to a guy who has been indulging his wife in her daddy fetish. The husband writes in wondering if the fetish is a sign that his wife was abused as a child, and Savage basically says: Maybe, and that’s something you should talk about, but it doesn’t mean that she now has to deny her safe exploration of that fetish because her sex life has been informed in the past by horrible experiences. It’s your sex life. And past abuse doesn’t make your safe and consensual adult sex life invalid.

SADY: Right. I mean, I guess the other side, the argument against mainstream porn is that (a) it influences expectations of what sex “should be like,” or what good sex is supposed to look like, and (b) it has to use real bodies in order to do so. Which, I feel like we’ve dealt with (b). Terrible things happen in porn, but that’s a reason to look at the terrible things, not ban porn. Terrible things happen in houses, but that’s a reason to look at the terrible things, not to ban houses. But (a) still does trouble me, I’ll admit. It is a fact that stuff that happens in porn—your anal sex, your spitting on crotches, your facial shots or bald vaginas, what have you—can be kind of uncomfortably enthused over by people who watch a lot of porn. And have picked up, can I tell you, just the WRONG MOVES for accomplishing it.

AMANDA: Right. Like, I’ve heard a lot written about how younger men and women absolutely expect hairless vaginas. But again, what are we supposed to do about that? (a) Ban porn; (b) talk about how expectations in porn do and don’t translate into real life; (c) make more diverse porn, maybe? Because (a), beyond being dumb, is also impossible. So we have to start thinking about how to accomplish (b) and (c).

SADY: Yeah. I mean, I think the option is actually to become a little more relaxed and less shameful about porn. Rather than, like, watching it on your own, and then expecting your sex life to match up to it, and then responding to efforts to talk about your porn feelings with “lalala, can’t hear you, it’s DIRTY!” There are a lot of people who are absolutely cool with sex for the 20 minutes they spend doing it, and then feel weirded out and shameful about it immediately after the fact. And I think porn takes a lot of the bullets, when it comes to those folks and their freaked-out feelings. But, if they’re talking AGAINST porn, they can be as graphic as they please! I think, is the message here. That all of us should express our desires to our sex partners in terms of lengthy, Old-Testament-style inveighing against sexual acts we were ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTED BY when we saw them last.

AMANDA: I think if Ayn Rand taught us anything, it’s that absolutely no thought or discussion needs to go into our darkest dominant sexual fantasies. Just Do It!

SADY: And/or build an entire social order around it!

AMANDA: Right. Or people could just, like, talk about it. What porn needs is more dialogue!

SADY: Can you imagine how much easier porn would be to deal with if it actually included scenes of the date and well-adjusted people undergoing sexual negotiation with each other in a kind and realistic way? “I consent to this,” Miranda panted, erotically, “but not the other thing which you mentioned earlier this evening, which is never as much fun as you’d think.”

AMANDA: You are seriously crushing some dude’s boner right now. But possibly arousing some other dude! So: Even.

SADY: “Your consent gives me such a boner,” cried Hans, “which is made but firmer and more sexy by my respect for your stated boundaries!”


  1. Gnatalby wrote:

    I think Amanda brings up the crux of the issue with the “What are we supposed to do about it?” question.

    I am personally uncomfortable with a lot of mainstream porn and with its effects on women outside of porn. (I am also concerned about women being abused while making porn, but as you note, assault can happen in any workplace, so I’m happy to set that aside for this discussion.)

    Porn isn’t going anywhere, but what’s in porn needs to change and be a lot less harmful, and for that I think porn consumers need to be a lot more honest with themselves about what they’re using. Because porn producers aren’t going to change the content out of the goodness of their hearts.

    And Harry Potter erotica creeps me right the fuck out because they are CHILDREN. In this case– that of pedophilia– I am totally fine saying “Won’t someone please think of the children?!?!”

    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 5:18 pm | Permalink
  2. Beth Turner wrote:

    I admit I watch porn (both with my husband and by myself) and we know enough not to expect anything from it but one Kink porn website at the end of the videos has the girls they use give a testimonial about the experience. Because they’re kinda fulfilling a particular kink fantasy for the girl? I don’t know if it’s real but it’s nice that they at least care enough to appear to be doing it with full (and often enthusiastic consent!) of the young ladies who if they are lying they are incredible actresses.

    …my point is kinda….yes Porn can be and is problematic and I have come across videos that have made me uncomfortable and unhappy but not all porn is bad or problematic and I like what that particular website did.

    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Permalink
  3. JfC wrote:

    As a kid (read:15,16) I consumed a fair amount of Harry Potter slash fan fiction and even tried my hand at writing some once (not fit for the world). I regard it as part of my sexual development. It seems that it’s mostly girls the same age as the characters that create the erotica, so I’m not that skeeved out.

    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 5:51 pm | Permalink
  4. Katherine Farmar wrote:

    I believe this website may be relevant to your interests: Make Love, Not Porn, which is an attempt to explain to young people (especially heterosexual men) the differences between porn sex and real life sex. In this video, Cindy Gallop explains why she created the site.

    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 5:58 pm | Permalink
  5. Victoria wrote:

    I’ve long felt that, in effect though obviously not intention, the anti-porn people end up helping the thoughtless contingent of the pro-porn cause by contributing to the treatment of sexuality as some dirty thing we’re not allowed to deal with or talk about. The ubiquity of sex in US culture (and advertising in particular) is completely dependent on its being illicit. There’s nothing daring going on, no thrill of breaking a rule if having or watching some sex is just having or watching some sex.

    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 6:08 pm | Permalink
  6. Clay Shirky wrote:

    Beth, they are acting.

    It may not be Shaw they’re doing, but they are paid to simulate something for the camera, and that can be simulated enthusiasm just as surely as it can be simulated orgasm.

    This doesn’t mean they are lying — they may like doing what they are doing on camera for intrinsic as well as extrinsic reasons — but it also doesn’t mean they are telling the truth. Maybe they hate the work but like the money, same as if they were in a call center and faking being glad to hear from someone who wanted to buy some cubic zirconium off TV.

    By law the performers must have given consent, and since they’re acting, one open question is whether their consent is the sort of thing Sady was talking about when she noted that people consent to work on oil rigs, despite the condidtions, or if it is the enthusaistic consent it sounds like they show for the camera.

    (This is different from the question of whether this sort of enthusaism or mere consent matters, but given that they are performers, it’s a pretty safe bet that there is, at least, a wider range of opinion among the performers about the work than they are asked to act out in testimonials.)

    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 6:22 pm | Permalink
  7. another maggie wrote:

    I’ll keep saying it, cause there isn’t anybody I know of who says they make porn who isn’t a Porn Star.

    I make porn. My fiance and I make porn and put it on Flickr. We enjoy it.

    Really chaps my hide to be erased. I exist, dammit, and I’m happy and well-adjusted!

    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 6:22 pm | Permalink
  8. tree wrote: is a great example of the ways in which many people are attempting to subvert the normative standards of what porn is and how it should look. some of it is sexy to me! some of it is not so much! but it is great that it all exists.

    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 6:33 pm | Permalink
  9. the rejectionist wrote:

    It’s “Potterotica,” actually. Hyuk hyuk.

    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Permalink
  10. Heather wrote:

    @Gnatalby – The thing about Harry Potter fanfiction, as an example, is that often they are *not* children. They are teenagers fumbling around figuring things out, as often as not. There was snogging in the books; fanfiction is one way of saying, well, what if the snogging weren’t interrupted? Should we? Shouldn’t we? Does this feel good? What’s next?

    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 6:46 pm | Permalink
  11. Pidgey wrote:

    I find it hard to fault porn too much for portraying sex in an unrealistic fashion. Television and film rarely give a realistic portrayal of the world. If more people were educated about the wide range of human sexuality and sexual response, then the unrealistic porn wouldn’t be a problem, because we would know as we watch it that it is unrealistic.

    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 7:40 pm | Permalink
  12. Beth Turner wrote:

    Clay as I said it might not be real but I rarely see porn out there that makes such an effort to be seen as consensual.

    Also! Supposedly (and I’ve always taken this with a grain of salt) the girls they use are not professional sex industry type people but people with a fetish who want to explore that fetish (that’s how it’s advertised but as I said in my original post I don’t take that on face value. Though on one video when they did use a “porn star” they actually said she was a porn star and not an amateur looking for fun like the other videos suggested.)

    I totally believe that there are at least some woman in the sex industry who enjoy getting paid for sex because if I hadn’t been worried about violence and/or disease I TOTALLY would have done that! I love sex! But sadly I don’t live in a utopia where I can make porn/be a prostitute and know I won’t get beaten/raped/murdered etc and be safe from sexually transmitted diseases. But that doesn’t mean some women who are in the sex industry don’t enjoy themselves.

    Just a point I’d like to throw out there.

    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 7:51 pm | Permalink
  13. Renee wrote:

    “Your consent gives me such a boner,” cried Hans, “which is made but firmer and more sexy by my respect for your stated boundaries!”

    This line had me cracking up.

    I agree with Pidgey. Being educated about sexuality would help things a lot. I had to figure a lot of things out for myself when I was in public school, sometimes online. I also used to write a bit of slash fiction and a bit of erotica. That, along with occasional porn watching, probably frames my current attitude towards sex and sexuality. As someone already said, What are we going to do about it?

    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Permalink
  14. RK wrote:

    Yes, to Pidgey and Renee, but really when we say education, we mean sexual experience, right? That makes us knowledgeable about sex? Not just watching it or reading about it, but: actually doing it. Which makes it a much harder education to get, esp. if we only want safe and positive experiences, which is only fair and sane.

    Sady, I love your idea about including the sexual negotiation in the porn! But it’s not sexual education.

    We don’t have sexual education. Really. There is no sexual education anywhere yet. We could talk about the ups and downs of porn a lot more clearly if we admitted that from the start.

    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 10:41 pm | Permalink
  15. snobographer wrote:

    I hate how anti-porn feminists always get conflated with the
    religious right. Yeah some porn’s not necessarily exploitative, especially if you ignore all the history of women being valued mainly as sexual commodities, but it’s really not difficult to find a video of a straight-up gang rape on the internet.

    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 11:26 pm | Permalink
  16. Sady wrote:

    @snobographer: And from this, we must necessarily infer that (a) it is only porn which encourages valuing women “mainly as sexual commodities,” (b) all porn encourages the valuation of women “mainly as sexual commodities,” including or especially the porn what ain’t got no women in it, and (c) porn is composed entirely of “straight-up gang rape.” Ban it! Ban it ALL! SHUT IT DOWN RIGHT NOW.

    Friday, July 2, 2010 at 11:34 pm | Permalink
  17. TAN wrote:

    (Hi, again!)

    A month or two ago when Facebook was in the news for the privacy stuff, someone wrote about regulating Facebook (it was danah boyd). the idea was: facebook is big enough that we should treat it as a utility.

    I think the tail end of this chat (“I think the option is actually to become a little more relaxed and less shameful about porn. “) moves in the direction of submitting the idea of Porn as a utility. why BS in the face of the obvious? let’s take the blinders off, regulate and give choices. any sort of standardization that doesn’t threaten the core utility feels like a solution. certainly a good step in the right direction of respecting the people who enjoy ‘professional sex’.

    Also, from the FMOV post: the term “highminded pornography”. if you went to one of these sites with the babes, teen, ebony, gay sections, and one was labeled, “Mailer/Amis/Updike” (a photo of just them writing at their desk takes you to the gallery), or it just says “literature”(maybe “erotica”, but the point is to label it ‘highminded’). what’s the fallout from that? I imagine it was a little tongue-in-cheek in the other post, but does it need to be? can the utility of porn be captured in prose? and how does it change the cachet of ‘subversive porn’?

    both these things make me think of porn as Necessity. even if you banned the videos, people would write books. if you banned books they would take to the air and skywrite their fantasies…

    and that sounds cool in the abstract, or to be accepted, but then returning to the reality of what is consumed en masse and something feels off; either on their side, or ours.

    Saturday, July 3, 2010 at 2:52 am | Permalink
  18. purpleshoes! wrote:

    I love your blog blah blah blah and dudes, just because Harry Potter fanfiction was the fandom to take fanfiction mainstream, it doesn’t mean that the only women writing erotica about fictional characters are writing about Harry Potter. What I like about fandom is that it’s often a positive expression of the female expectation that you’ll like the person who gets you off. If someone writes well and their writing gives you a ladyboner, you praise them, you recommend their work, and you buy them server time; you don’t, like, call them a slut and refuse to admit you consume their oeuvre. Also, fanfiction tends to come enmeshed in a broader community that can self-critically look at issues as they arise – if you’ve been in livejournal fandom this year, you know that the place has gone through multiple renditions of “your story might have been hot but are you sure it needed to be so uncritical of British imperialism?”.

    I think part of the reason I think fandom (specifically the fandom of ladies on journaling sites) is so awesome is because it’s a reversal of the normal environment in which porn is consumed – that of isolation and complete silence. It’s not the fact that porn exists that warps teenagers to expect nothing but camera-friendly positions and hairless pudendas; it’s the fact that it’s the only serious treatment of sex many of them will see until they start having it.

    Saturday, July 3, 2010 at 8:59 am | Permalink
  19. Samantha b. wrote:

    @TAN, well clearly under the Hays Code and the Comstock Law, porn *was* banned. Although I’m a fan of the ingenuity with which both were subverted- particularly the health and sociological films which methodically “investigated” the lifestyles of CA nudist camps- it’s pretty evident that neither law was terribly effective. I’m not clear on what you mean by “utility-” porn and Facebook don’t strike me as especially analogous in terms of functionality.

    And on that note I’m off to a drearily un-nude, uneducational, and predictably crowded beach. Enjoy your long weekend.

    Saturday, July 3, 2010 at 10:38 am | Permalink
  20. Ducky wrote:

    I think there needs to be a line drawn somewhere, but for the life of me I don’t know where.

    The actual studios – even the super-duper low-budget ones – have stacks of paperwork they have to go through to ensure some modicum of safety for the men and women who act for them. Yes, some of it can get pretty out there for my tastes (and I don’t consider myself particularly vanilla), but ultimately the people working in the industry have ultimately made the choice to be there. [I resent the implication by some individuals that ALL women, if they are in porn, are being exploited and they just don’t know any better; talk about taking away a choice a woman makes about her own life. I’ve heard that argument way too many times.] I take the stance that if we don’t like the message being sent, we should start sending our own.

    BUT! With the rapid advancement of user-generated porn, I wonder how useless the stacks of paperwork really are. Case in point: the hubby and I were exploring either X-tube or YouPorn – I’m not sure which – looking for something that’d turn our crank (seeing real people get off is so much more entertaining than the made-up porn queens, imo). Unfortunately, one of the “featured videos” was tantamount to rape, and from what I was able to tell, she sure as hell wasn’t enjoying it. Definitely killed the mood, and we ended up going out for ice cream instead.

    So, a long-winded comment to say: I don’t think porn is inherently bad, and I totally use it sometimes to get my rocks off, but there somehow needs to be a way to regulate the difference between user-uploaded consensual and gang-rape scenes.

    Saturday, July 3, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Permalink
  21. Ellie L. wrote:

    And from this, we must necessarily infer that (a) it is only porn which encourages valuing women “mainly as sexual commodities,” (b) all porn encourages the valuation of women “mainly as sexual commodities,” including or especially the porn what ain’t got no women in it, and (c) porn is composed entirely of “straight-up gang rape.” Ban it! Ban it ALL! SHUT IT DOWN RIGHT NOW.

    No, Sady. Not ban it.

    Change the world so that porn (if it continues to exist, when the woman-hating is taken out of it) can really be about people who like what they’re doing and like being filmed.

    It’s NOT like any other job. Working a call center doesn’t require penetration of one’s body.

    I think what Clay Shirky (and you) said about consent vs. enthusiastic consent is helpful. I can’t help but feel truly enthusiastic consent is necessary for something that might HURT a woman if she’s not really, truly, internally enjoying it.

    Maybe some people who work in porn can be ho-hum about another day spent in the salt mines doing something that’s kinda boring. It’s the kinda painful or unpleasant stuff they might be tolerating for the sake of the job that freaks me out. It bugs my brain, even though it’s technically not my business if they “consented” to it.

    I’m afraid there’s a woman out there working in porn who says, “okay, guys, cut, this is starting to hurt” and gets ignored (for instance).

    Violent, shady porn’s a reflection of the misogyny all around us, not the cause. I know that. That doesn’t mean I can’t dislike seeing people make a profit from misogyny, whether it’s porn, strip clubs, or Bill Engvall DVDs.

    Saturday, July 3, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Permalink
  22. Rodrigo! wrote:

    I don’t want to be like “Yes but what aabout all the MENNN???” because I kept reading Porn as Gay Porn, since it’s the one I consume, when it was mostly Straight Porn, obviously, since it IS a feminist blog I’m reading.

    Aside from that: I agree, but I will say that in my experience of penis-fencing porn, I have come across a big number of sites in which actors seem to be “having fun” off-camera, they carry blogs, whatnot, and seem fairly interested in campaigning for say, safe sex. Pretty awesome, if you ask me. Then there’s also the (super fake) Bait Bus, in which a “straight” man gets “tricked” (or raped) into getting a blowjob by a guy while blindfolded, or Jake Cruise, where you can actually tell if a guy is gay-for-pay by the look on his face + how limp his dick is.

    So, yeah, I do think there’s still plenty of room for improvement, I like to think things are going in the right way though.

    Saturday, July 3, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Permalink
  23. Rodrigo! wrote:

    RE:Harry Potter porn. I don’t get what’s the big deal about it. It exists, there is porn about virtually every piece of fiction ever. There is porn about celebrities having sex with other celebrities. I mean, the whole inclusion of Harry Potter into the mix seems gimmicky?

    Saturday, July 3, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Permalink
  24. Gnatalby wrote:

    @Heather: Teenagers are children.

    I have no problem with children sexually exploring with other children, but I have a BIG problem with adults fetishizing middle and high school students.

    Saturday, July 3, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Permalink
  25. snobographer wrote:

    @Sady – Okay, there are a handful of women in porn who are there of their own volition and have chosen it over a healthy variety of career options. From that we should necessarily infer that they make up the majority of women in porn and that anybody who has a problem with all the gonzo brutal shit out there is in league with Bob Jones University. Also, men who do gay porn are all thrilled to be there.

    Saturday, July 3, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Permalink
  26. Pidgey wrote:

    @Snobographer – We all agree that bad porn is bad. Where so many feminists disagree with each other is whether all porn is bad or if porn can be created responsibly. Our culture has often admonished women for having any sexual agency of their own. I see any attempt to ban or vilify ALL porn as an attack on a woman’s right to make her own decisions regarding how to express her sexuality.

    There is definitely bad porn out there, and it is worth having discussions about what porn is bad, how to discourage the production of bad porn, and how to bring responsibility to the industry. This is a very thorny issue and there is bound to be very passionate disagreement.

    As mentioned in earlier comments, is a BDSM porn site that holds a short interview with the women after the porn shoots, so that the viewer can see that the actors were all consenting adults who viewed it as a positive experience. I consider this site as a benefit to feminism since it stresses the CONSENSUAL nature of the sex acts. There is nothing wrong or unfeminist about a woman who wants to be tied up or whipped during sex.

    Saturday, July 3, 2010 at 6:51 pm | Permalink
  27. tinfoil hattie wrote:

    I’m with snobographer. Porn is bad. All around. Gross. Harmful to women. Repulsive. Has nothing to do with my thinking sex is “shameful.” I love sex. I hate porn.

    Sunday, July 4, 2010 at 6:36 am | Permalink
  28. Sady wrote:

    @tinfoil hattie: Weren’t you one of the commenters on the forum that re-printed one of my e-mails without permission, and implied that I was in league with human traffickers, for reviewing a book and/or interviewing Audacia Ray and/or not allowing the Genderberg woman to lose her shit, allege illegal actions, and continue flame wars from other forums in my very own personal comment section? And now you’re commenting on this blog like you’re welcome here? Let me make this clear: One of the reasons I’m less than sympathetic to anti-porn feminists has to do with the fact that people who frequent forums like Genderberg — people like you, Tinfoil! — are often belligerent, deceitful, two-faced, and more than willing to play games with the truth when it suits your purposes. Also, less interested in conversation than in screaming your points over and over until the other person relents. Also, fucking obnoxious and unbearable. Please leave now. And take your little friends with you.

    Sunday, July 4, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Permalink
  29. GinaWP wrote:

    Generalizations are problematic. Assuming you know the feelings and motivations of everyone in the porn industry is impossible. It just seems patronizing to think everyone involved in a media you find distasteful feels one particular way.

    What about Women masturbating on camera, getting themselves off. They submit their videos, some engage in conversation, with words, about the experience. And it’s not about the expected angle, body type, or method.

    I just really can’t stand fanaticism. People are different. ånd there is no fixed standard for what is erotic that everyone would agree with. But the conversation is important. For people who make it, people who watch it, and people who are repulsed by it.

    Sunday, July 4, 2010 at 11:14 am | Permalink
  30. mulierosity wrote:

    We just need porn where men are treated like the women.

    Also, patriarchy will likely exist forever so that men can have their crossdressing/femdom/etc porn.

    Sunday, July 4, 2010 at 6:37 pm | Permalink
  31. Rikibeth wrote:

    @Gnatalby: Teenagers are legally minors. They are adolescents, not children.

    Are there adult writers of fanfiction about teenage characters fetishizing people who’d be inappropriately young as partners for them> Probably. But I suggest that many of the fanfiction writers I know are using the fanfiction as a lens to reflect on their own early experiences, both to describe them and to speculate on how their experiences might have been different under other circumstances.

    Also, it’s wildly inaccurate to think that all of the “Harry Potter” fanfiction is about the adolescent characters. There’s PLENTY out there about the adult characters as well.

    Fanfiction: more diverse than you might expect!

    Sunday, July 4, 2010 at 9:03 pm | Permalink
  32. Ashley wrote:

    Not going to get into a discussion of pro vs. anti-porn, because, ugh. I hate discussions that divide feminists. There are approximately 12 of us. It is not worth fighting each other when it is still legal to rape your wife in some states. We should definitely get on that first, and then have a cage match about which of us wins the tiara for having the *most* feminist kind of orgasms.

    That said, and without taking any particular stance on porn myself, I do think a couple of assumptions that seem to pop up in discussions of porn need to be re-evaluated. First, the idea that porn “isn’t going anywhere.” That’s a cop out of a reason not to oppose something. There are lots of aspects of media and society that will be around for a long time, but feminism still critiques them. Also, the idea that the women directly involved in making porn have the most important contributions to make in a discussion of the effects of porn on women? That’s straight tokenism–it’s similar to saying that the women in advertisements have some special insight into how advertisements affect women as a class. Not that the women who do porn or ads shouldn’t have their opinions valued, but I’d say someone with a deep understanding of patriarchy and a vision of a world without it is really the person to ask about how porn affects women as a class and society in general.

    I guess my main point is that porn should be considered the same way any other aspect of culture is. A feminist analysis can decide it is harmful or it isn’t, or it should be banned or it shouldn’t, but our reasoning shouldn’t make porn some sort of special case where certain women are the spokespeople for all women, or where we assume culture can’t change. We don’t do that with any other deeply rooted aspects of culture, so we shouldn’t do it with porn.

    Sunday, July 4, 2010 at 11:35 pm | Permalink
  33. Sady wrote:

    @Ashley: Women in porn should have a privileged space in the discussion of porn, full stop. That’s not “tokenism,” that’s counteracting the history of silencing sex workers, only listening to them insofar as they are useful to us, and straight-up using them and only caring about them insofar as they can “make a statement” or “mean something” to non-sex workers. Because we value non-sex workers more than sex workers. That includes feminists; feminists aren’t just a part of this history, they’ve been active, maybe one of the chief active forces, in creating this discourse. In perpetuating this means of marginalization.

    Among other things, they usually DO know more about porn than people who haven’t made it. They’ve spent more time around it; they’re more familiar with the industry, the way it works, the products produced by it, and how it is to work inside it. Feminists — including lots of us, right here, in this very comment thread — have to use the subjective experiences of sex workers to build their argument. “I worry that the girls aren’t consenting,” “I worry they’re not having fun,” “I worry that they’re having these awful horrible desolate traumatic lives.” There’s one way to not just worry, but know, and that is to listen to some fucking porn performers talking about their lives. And not just to assume they’re lying or deluded or stupid when they tell you things that don’t line up with what you expected to hear, things that aren’t convenient to your argument.

    Your advertising parallel only works if feminists have a history of silencing, distorting, or straight-up lying about the experiences of women in advertising, and if those lies, distortions, and silencing were crucial to their critique. “All women in advertising are forced to eat poop! All of them! And they’re all on crack, and beaten daily by their bosses! Which is why sexist advertising is so bad!” Then, we might reasonably assume that women in advertising — who can reassure us that, no, they’re not all forced to eat poop, but sexist advertising might still be bad for a variety of reasons — have more direct access to the truth than the feminists who claim it’s all poop-eating, all the time, and should therefore have more authority in the discussion than the people who made the original poop-eating claims, or the poor souls who read that, believed it, and decided to base a large part of their politics around it without doing any additional research.

    Monday, July 5, 2010 at 1:12 am | Permalink
  34. bodie wrote:

    I love Harry Potter fandom. Every single kink ever dreamed up in the mind of a woman is on display in that fandom. I think it’s pretty damn healthy and a good place for women to explore their sexuality.

    It always gets singled out though because of how young the characters are but there are tons of fic where they are aged to adults in the fanfiction and who really cares about the rest of it…these aren’t real children, they are characters.

    Fandom is also going through a self-reflective time and starting to look more closely at racist, sexist, and trans-phobic aspects of fanfic tropes. I think they’re doing a good job. It’s a good time to be writing fanfic right now.

    Monday, July 5, 2010 at 11:34 am | Permalink
  35. I really want to read what you have to say about David Foster Wallace!

    Monday, July 5, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Permalink
  36. mouthyb wrote:

    First, I suppose I should present my ‘credentials.’ I see the need, based on reading the comments, but it irks me.

    I worked as a professional domme for about the space of a year. During this year, I did mostly phone domination/sex, and the occasional outcall. I did not have sex with clients during the outcall. I dated a professional submissive for that year, who had a side career as a porn star in fetish spanking films.

    This is not a sex worker ex cathedra pronouncement. The following is my singular opinion.

    A few words about porn: if it were simply the filming of sex, I would not have a problem with it. I like to have sex. I like watching other people have sex.

    Unfortunately, as I think many people have seen, porn is not just sex. In many ways, the vast majority of the porn I’ve seen (and it has been vast), the performers are reduced to symbols which have a fixed function and many times that function is defined in kyriarchial, heterostatic terms, because sex cannot possibly (under those terms) involve anything more than a pole and a hole. It’s not in a fun ‘let’s play with these roles’ way, but in a ‘this is all there is/where you belong’ way. Which ruins much of porn for me and saddens me. I like the idea of porn, not the execution.

    The exception is some of the stuff I saw my girlfriend filming in the fetish side of the equation. I freely admit I haven’t seen professional non-fetish porn filmed, so take this with a salt shaker.

    The production company she worked for is owned by a woman. She was sent a script (yes, a script; she had a degree in drama) to approve ahead of time. The director and owner (a married couple), made sure to ask the performers how they felt about filming and even offered to put it off. The film itself came with a taped round table discussion about consent and fetish. All in all, even though they were role-playing, which has great potential to reduce people to type, they did their best to be people in the process. People left after hugging each other, and the prevailing air, as far as I could tell, was of people who really liked what they were doing. I was very impressed.

    I know this is not the norm, but the sites I visit do the interviews taped with the performers on purpose, to emphasize that there is a necessary element of consent to the proceedings which is treated as SEXY.

    This, for me, makes the difference in between fetish porn done by lifestyle people and imitation fetish porn, done by people who have no investment in the community and just want to play power trip in terms they are familiar with.

    There are some people, myself included, for whom fetish is a psychological need. I can enjoy non-fetish sex, but it’s very unappealing to me, unless I happen to be in that kind of mood. When I worked for the service, many of the people I talked to (not all) were in the same boat. For various reasons, they did not enjoy non-fetish sex. Many of them were married, and had begged their spouses to play along, and the spouses either were disgusted by the request, or could not for some reason comply. Or were dead; my clients were primarily older. And so the clients wanted to call someone who would understand, so they wouldn’t feel so alone.

    On the much more negative side, however, I quit the industry for several reasons: first, there have been many times when the prevailing attitude toward aggressive or dominant women contributed to clients who wanted to pay me to take total responsibility for their lives/sexual desires. Which leaves me in a shit position, in terms of boundaries.

    Second, I was persistently treated by the people around me like I was either stupid, deluded or obviously so damaged I wasn’t worth listening to or talking to.

    A note: the ‘keep your fascists off my boner’ people are equally at fault for this, because any problem with the system, as the intervee mentioned, cannot be voiced without interfering with their precious boners. The opposite camp condescends to you until you want to do something obnoxious. Either way, even though we’re either sexually empowering or deluded fools, we aren’t allowed to be people.

    Third comes the hardest. I was abused as a child. And so were many of my clients. Some people get into fetish as a thrilling exploration. Some of us cannot function as well without it, and cannot extinguish that desire. And, you know what? My job was to listen to people talk about their experiences (which was hard.) Unfortunately, there were an equal number of people who, without an authentic experience which they were dealing with, wanted to talk about abusing someone because they think it would be fun. And those guys (they were always men) made me ill.

    Fourth, and I’ll let it go after this, while working professionally gave me a chance to express and enforce my personal boundaries, in the end working as a dom too often called the personal into the professional in ways which troubled me. Clients constantly tried my boundaries, calling at 3 am, calling when told not to, demanding personal information, trying to get services out of me that I will not provide, etc. I attribute this to the prevailing societal attitude toward sexuality and sex workers: that we deserve whatever is thrown at us, either because we’re damaged sluts (which is hawt because no boundaries, right, right!!11!) or because we’re too stupid or self-deluded to listen to.

    And that, as they say, was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. If I could make a little money on the side doing sessions, or even just talking to people without that hideous judgment, I would. But the fact remains that I’d have to go back to wading through that kind of shit. And I don’t wanna.

    Monday, July 5, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Permalink
  37. anonymouse wrote:

    Ah, Sady, I love you. Your line about Harry Potter porn cracks me up, because I personally make Harry Potter porn, and because I am totally skeeved out by 99.99% of mainstream porn. Which is Okay — I am not offended that you don’t like my Snape/Lupin kinky fanart.

    I found my way into fandom around the same time I broke up with a boyfriend who had spent a great deal of time telling me what things I was interested in (spoiler alert: they were the things *he* was interested in). Fandom for me was a safe space to figure out what I was interested in sexually, alongside other women. It’s so fundamentally different from what I know of mainstream porn that I have a hard time even calling what I do porn. It’s by women, for women. It’s rooted in a community. It’s not for sale. Discussions of feminism, kink, gender, and race happen right alongside the sexy words and pictures.

    Because my experience of fandom porn has been so very positive, and because my viewer-only experience of mainstream porn has been quite negative, I find myself entirely unable to take sides in the porn/anti-porn argument. I really appreciate your perspective here — you’ve clarified for me what I was only beginning to get around to on my own: that the discussion of what’s going on in porn is way more important than yelling about whether it’s an overall tick in the good or bad column, and that when we’re talking about the effect of porn on women, it’s a good idea to listen to the women in porn.

    Thanks for the post!

    Monday, July 5, 2010 at 6:37 pm | Permalink
  38. mouthyb, I’m really glad you felt comfortable in this space talking about your experiences. And really really glad you went on for as long as you did (longer would have been fine!) because obviously you’ve put a lot of thought into this and come from a different experience than (many of) the other commenters on the thread.

    I even would have been glad if I hadn’t already agreed with you 😉

    So thanks.

    Tuesday, July 6, 2010 at 1:29 am | Permalink
  39. tinfoil hattie wrote:


    Tuesday, July 6, 2010 at 6:45 am | Permalink
  40. Melissa wrote:

    I think one can be “against the porn industry/culture/product” *as it stands today* without being against the existence of any kind of porn, ever, in any form.

    Tuesday, July 6, 2010 at 8:27 am | Permalink
  41. Sarah wrote:

    “that there are women in the porn industry who are abused, for whom working in porn was sexually traumatic”

    You mean rape and sexual assault and abuse. It would be better not to use euphemisms about what you’re talking about Sady.

    If an industry is orchestrating the rapes of women to create its product, how can any feminist support that industry? Why the attacks on anti-porn feminists when there are men making porn who are raping women to produce their pornography and men enjoying watching the rapes of women? You seem to be missing the real bad guys here. I suppose the difference is that pornographers and porn users don’t disagree with you though or criticise anything you say.

    Tuesday, July 6, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Permalink
  42. Sady wrote:

    @Sarah: Yes, Sarah, that’s exactly why I have a problem with anti-porn feminists. Unlike those pornographers, who, aside from all being the same dude, never have the temerity to “disagree” with me.

    Or… wait! No! The reason I have a problem with self-described “anti-porn” feminists JUST MIGHT be that, in a post where I went out of my way to denote that porn CAN be sexually traumatic for women (“sexually traumatic” encompassing, but not being limited to, the forms of assault you’re describing), that porn CAN delineate sexist dynamics and adversely affect people’s expectations of sex, that porn IS NOT an all-encompassing good — a post where I, and the person I was speaking to, jointly WENT OUT OF OUR WAY to denote our points of disagreement AND AGREEMENT with anti-porn thought, and to take a nuanced look at it — women like you are still up in my fucking junk because I didn’t universally condemn porn out of the gate and identify myself with them unilaterally and unquestioningly. You’re the ones who can’t fucking handle disagreement. You’re the ones who will miss any nuance because you believe “anti-porn” is good and anything that can’t be described according to your idea of “anti-porn” is bad. You’re the dogmatists, the silencers, the ones who demand adherence and conformity and struggle to shut down individual thought and enquiry. You’re the ones who want feminism to be stupid, a system of shouting out slogans and refusing individual thought. Maybe THAT’s why I have a problem with you. Because you’re shouting down a post that you haven’t evidently fucking read, or are incapable of reading, because it’s not simple enough for you. Sorry. I believe women are smarter than this. The end.

    Tuesday, July 6, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Permalink
  43. tinfoil hattie wrote:

    Sady, I’m not sorry for my opinion about porn. There’s just no reliable way for me to accurately tease out which porn is made by willing, fun-loving women and which is made by desperate, abused women. I just don’t like it. I don’t SHOUT AT or hate women who like it. I simply don’t like it. And I don’t know why it makes you angry that some feminists are anti-porn. Watch porn, don’t watch it. This was a thread about porn. I gave my opinion.

    And thank you for your apology.

    Tuesday, July 6, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Permalink
  44. mouthyb wrote:

    I ended up writing a post about this:

    Thursday, July 8, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

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