16 March 2009

The Rebuttal

I had a bit of interesting debate on my post about pornography, Responsible Consumer.

I felt like responding to some of the points made, and since it's my blog, decided to expand my thoughts into another post.

Commenter Todd said he didn't know how the lesson of the fox and the grapes applies, but in making his point he said, "It is a form of rationalization." The answer is right in his argument against tricky's point. It's just as possible to rationalize how pornography could be harmless so that one can consume it without guilt as it is to convince yourself that you don't want grapes because they're probably cringe-inducing. One is to rationalize a like, the other for a dislike. So what? I don't think rationalization only works one way.

A few points I'd like to make:

The biggest one is what Todd left out of his original comment. I talked about how dangerous depictions of women in pornography were to women. His comments focused on my self-identified hyperbole and pay equity issues, which were never meant to be the focus of my original post. And when I say dangerous to women, I don't just mean the actresses involved. Specifically, I'm concerned with the women (excuse the following heteronormative argument) who end up having sex with ignorant, undersexed men* who seem to think that the sexual behaviours they see in porn are normal and that they are entitled to the same. I'm especially concerned about the porn billed as "voyeur", which would lead some people to believe that it's just "regular" people having "regular" sex. I've seen that porn. Trust me, its fair share is staged. Or filmed and posted without the knowledge and/or consent of one of the partners, which is problematic for other reasons. I digress.

Considering the high numbers of young and adolescent males that are learning about sexuality from these movies, it's not a leap of logic to understand how this translates into some extraordinary requests and pressure when these guys start having sex. And it's not hard to understand why -- with all the pressure for women to by hypersexual, confident, and savvy -- women end up feeling obliged (or actually coerced) into doing things they find uncomfortable, degrading, or maybe just wrong. And just because you may be a decent guy who would never dream of thinking that way doesn't mean I'm wrong about it happening. In fact, I'd be happy to introduce you to some "delightful" men who fit the mold. Hmm. More digression.

Look: not all sexual acts in porn are bad, but the way a comparison to porn can erode a woman's ability to feel confident in expressing her discomfort with a particular act is troubling to me. It's hard enough for anyone to find confidence and balance in their sexuality, but when you're being compared to impossible beauty standards, yogic flexibility and a willingness to engage in everything, it's hard for a lot of women not to feel as if they have no choice but to make the best of it. And that's where the trust falls out of the bottom and sex becomes something mechanical, crude, and traumatic.

Moving on....

I think one major problem with a point Todd made about wages and porn is that we can't assume all porn is from "developed countries". Consider, for example, human trafficking. Lots of women are duped or forced into sex slavery all over the world. And the "civilized" West is not necessarily immune from the problem. Besides which, when you're watching a movie on the internet where two people just start having sex with no contrived storyline or plot, can you be sure that it was made in the relative safety of North America or the UK where maybe women are making a choice and that they may get paid decently? The answer is no. And it's pure ignorance if you think that's what's happening just because the cinematography is decent.

Also, no jurisdiction in the world offers adequate, fair health (and other) benefits for women, period. I can't even begin to conceive how anyone could argue that porn actresses are given adequate, safe access to what they need, or that their job benefits (medical, dental, etc.) would allow them to live healthy, secure lives. With the exception of some niche preggo porn, most women who get pregnant during their porn career get the boot. Not only are they about to get "fat", but their entire shape is about to change and it takes a while to get your body back to porn standards. Never mind the fact that those hips aren't going anywhere. Alternatively, there's the abortion route, but I won't spend time speculating on whether that entails coercion or worse.

Finally, Todd left out something glaring while refuting my and tricky's points about porn: I'm not wrong. A certain friend from back at Acadia (who never updates his blog) will remember how that is often the case, and I pride myself highly on that. People may not agree, but what I'm saying here isn't necessarily wrong or untrue. There is no good reason why we shouldn't expect porn to be fair to its workers and be responsible in its portrayal of women the same way we are starting to expect fair wages and decent working conditions for the farmers who grow our food or the labourers who make our shoes.

I'm not arguing against porn as medium. I'm just arguing that the industry need to clean itself up and consider the larger implications of its practices, just like everyone else in business is doing. If not voluntarily, then because the current world economy is going to demand higher standards from everyone as we become more cautious about how we spend our money. I don't think it's out of line to think that those principles will extend to porn as people cancel credit cards and decide whether they should feed their kids or watch Debbie do Dallas.

*In no way do I mean to imply that all men are ignorant or undersexed. I'm just talking about the ones who actually are.


Muffy St. Bernard said...

I agree with your statement that you aren't wrong, but I can't say that you're right either. In the absence of any sort of controlled study involving porn exposure and views of sexuality, it's easy to argue both sides (that porn warps the sexual expectations of males, or that it does no such thing).

I'm more of the opinion that it has no effect on your average person, and that men and women would be having the same sorts of sex with or without the intervention of porn.

One reason for this opinion is that the distortions in porn (shaving, air-brushing, body type, yogic flexibility, nymphomanism) are so blatant that few people take them seriously...whereas the exact same things are presented in everyday advertisements in such a subtle, pervasive way that IS taken seriously: Vogue, television, car advertisements, what parents teach their children, what peers talk about, etc. etc.

If anything is going to create unrealistic expectations in both men and women, I believe it will be the ubiquitous (and "harmless") everyday stimuli, not the discredited, marginalized, and explicitly unreal world of porn.

But again, with nothing more than thought-experiments and anecdotal evidence to go on, who can say?

minako said...

You're not wrong either, Muffy. As with most things I discuss on my blog, I tend to use personal experience as the basis for my opinions. While I'm willing to admit that my experiences are extraordinary, some of them give me an unfortunate negative view.

In addition to having dealt with someone who couldn't understand why what happens in porn couldn't reasonably be part of his sex life, I've overheard far too many adolescent girls talking with their friends about what their adolescent boyfriends want/expect from them.

Images in popular media are certainly damaging to self-esteem and probably more insidious for all their subtlety, but parents and teachers are learning to talk to kids about the messages that are presented. Sex itself still isn't a popular topic of discussion between parents and their children and I imagine that porn is even less so.

BTW, I love the word nymphomanism. I guess satyromanism would also apply.

Muffy St. Bernard said...

Be careful before you use "nymphomanism," Minako...I think I made it up. :)

misplaced blog reader said...

all advertising is pornographic. I found a discription of art some where, I think it was by james joyce, he breaks down art into three catogories. I think they were instructive, emotive, and pornographic. Instructive makes you think, emotive makes you feel, pornographic makes you want. Pornography isn't ment to be enjoyed it is ment to be consumened. I haven't done a search of web browser historys but I bet when you find porn you find tonnes o' porn. not just one clip, but dozens.

you mentioned that porn warps the sexual expectations of males, it also warps the sexual subject, from real person to image.