Last class of the term! And it should be fantastic. We’ll be joined by three panelists who will be discussing sex work. They will be introduced tomorrow night. And yes, the material is fair game for the final exam. I’m not sure if they’ll be sharing their presentations. I know one will not be. Also, reminder: please complete the course evaluations. They are extremely helpful (and appreciated), whether the reviews are good or bad. Think about it as paying it forward to the next students who take the class, as I take the comments, criticisms, and suggestions seriously.
At the risk of getting me fired: Part 1.
In class, we spent a lot of time discussing the potential impacts of viewing pornography. I noted that porn likely affects different people differently, and that type of content interacts with intrapersonal characteristics. The research shows that the consumers who we should be most concerned about are those (men) who are characterized by hostile masculinity (e.g., attitudes supporting violence against women, rape myth acceptance, hostility towards women, etc.) and antisocial traits (e.g., impulsiveness, low empathy, etc.). They’re the same viewers who are likely to choose content that represents the worst of the porn industry (e.g., exploitative, misogynistic, etc.). For these men, porn use can increase risk for sexual violence, and also likely has a positive feedback effect on their hostile masculinity. I also brought up the argument that porn can’t replace sex ed for teens, as their blueprints for sex and relationships will end up being based on the fantasy world of pornography, and not reality.
As far as we can tell, though, the vast majority of porn consumers reject the type of content that is most problematic, and now that porn has become ubiquitous, many have argued that the industry is moving in a more positive direction (not all agree, however). I’ve already discussed ethical and non-ethical porn on the blog previously so I’m going to pass it over to Violet Blue for her insight. If you have the stomach for it, contrast her recommendations with the content produced by people like Max Hardcore and Khan Tusion.
While I realize that posting porn recommendations (even if they’re not mine) for class could get me in a lot of trouble, I’m willing to take the risk for two reasons: (1) as we saw from the iClicker questions, the majority of students have consumed or do consume porn; and (2) I’d much rather see students consuming porn that is ethically produced and features more healthy representations of sex (which isn’t to say, any less hardcore). Regardless, it’s personal choice.
(VB’s recommendations at the bottom)
This is Violet Blue:
Her website: link.
She’s an expert on everything sex – she’s an educator, a writer, and sex-positive advocate superstar. I posted some of her work early last week. Her website (link here) is an excellent resource for all things related to sex, including ethical porn. She’s written several books, including Best Women’s Erotica 2010/2011/2012/2013, A Smart Girl’s Guide to Porn, and Fetish Sex: A Complete Guide to Sexual Fetishes. There’s a sample chapter from A Smart Girl’s Guide to Porn posted on Oprah‘s website: link here.
Ms. Blue regularly posts softcore and hardcore galleries from some of her advertisers, who she’s chosen because of their commitment to quality and ethics. The advertisers appear in the sidebar of her site. Keep in mind that her tastes are varied, and that she’s into women and men. Here are some samples from her list of advertisers, past and present (click names to link to sites – very NSFW!!!!!):
Dorcel Club – mostly hardcore, “luxurious” porn (boy/girl, girl/girl)
Explicite Art – original hardcore and softcore from France, diverse ethnic backgrounds (boy/girl, girl/girl)
Nubile Films – “capturing the essence of sensuality”, (boy/girl, girl/girl)
For the Girls – featuring heterosexual content for women, softcore and hardcore (boy/girl), erotic fiction
Joymii – hi quality hardcore and softcore, “The Art of Erotica” (girl/girl, boy/girl)
Lust Cinema – the brainchild of feminist porn producer/director superstar Erika Lust; something for everyone (girl/boy/queer)
Hot Movies for Her – online store featuring movies for women (or at least appealing to women), including user reviews
That should get you started on your research (for academic purposes only!). More sites are linked from Ms. Blue’s website.
Sadly, none of her recommendations are intended for gay and lesbian consumers – perhaps you have some recommendations of your own? In the reply section, I’ve included a list of producers making “real” lesbian porn. It’s by no means exhaustive.
From The Guardian:
Is there such a thing as ethical porn?
The actors say they’re happy, the makers say it’s guilt-free – but what exactly is ‘fair trade’ porn? We find out
By Zoe Williams
I have confronted my views on porn only once, in 2011, at a UK Feminista meeting, 1,000 women strong. Someone in the audience said, “Exactly what’s wrong with me getting off on Debbie Does Dallas with my boyfriend?” An audible part of the audience was instantly furious: porn was exploitative, it was impossible to make porn without damaging the women who performed in it. Plus, when she said she “got off”, what she really meant was that she’d internalised her boyfriend’s sexual pleasure. I was conflicted: the kind of people who say porn is exploitative, physically and psychologically, are generally the people with whom I agree on everything. Yet, in this one particularity, I cannot agree with deciding women are being exploited unless they say they are. And, much more trenchantly, I cannot agree with adjudicating what someone else gets off on. Even if she is turned on by a fantasy that traduces your political beliefs (and her own), sexual fantasy is a sacred thing; you can’t argue it away, and nor should you want to. And the key argument, that it causes male violence, I don’t buy; what we watch might influence the way we behave, but not in obvious ways that you can map. It was, in other words, a total conflict, and the rogue factor was that I don’t watch porn. So I could just absent myself into neutrality. (I think I was chairing the meeting, so I was meant to be neutral anyway.)
A common assumption is that “fair-trade” porn is going to be very soft and wholemeal and respectful; some of it is, but most of it isn’t. It does address female sexuality in a way that mainstream porn doesn’t (how you go from “female gaze” to “wholemeal” is, of course, via the misapprehension that female sexuality is really sweet). “This image of ethical porn is pretty and fluffy and storyline-driven, a hardcore version of daytime soap operas or Harlequin romance novels,” says Sinnamon Love, previously a performer, now a “sex educator”. “But a lot of women, especially of this younger generation, are looking for more hardcore porn that’s to their taste.”
Feminism is not a prerequisite when it comes to making ethical porn, Blake says. “Feminist porn is explicitly focused on women’s desires and sexuality. So, for example, the belt-whipping scene where I got the life thrashed out of me, that I would say is feminist, because it’s about my journey and my sexuality. Whereas I think it’s possible to produce male-gaze porn in an ethical and fair trade way. That means complete respect for performers, for their boundaries and consent. If someone says no, you don’t ask again, you don’t ask last minute in the middle of a scene. You don’t trick them into doing stuff. You pay them. It’s not only all of those principles, but also communicating that to your audience.”
People protesting against porn and sex work take as their opening position that nobody would be doing it if they weren’t coerced, or so desperate for money that it amounted to coercion. Ms Naughty insists that the porn she produces is not done this way: “There’s this urban myth that all of the women in porn are drug addicts or abused and don’t know what they’re doing.” She doesn’t say this never happens, that nobody is ever on drugs; but when you look at what she makes, you’ve never seen couples who look so consensual, so un-ground down by the heel of life.
Makers of ethical porn believe you can have a violent fantasy, of any kind, and that can be a legitimate part of your sexual identity, one that you have a right to explore. This is the point at which anti-porn campaigners stick. There is a chasm here, between people who think that all violence in sex is the result of a patriarchal culture and will lead to violence in real life, and should be stamped out; and people who think that all fantasy is legitimate, and almost all of it can be legitimately met by porn.
And perhaps this is the sophistication of ethical porn: without exploiting or harming the participants, it allows you to explore what you’re into. You have a right not to be ashamed. This, says Cindy Gallop, gives us our cue about how to talk about porn: “When you force anything into the darkness, you make it much easier for bad things to happen, and much harder for good things to happen. The answer is not to shut down. The answer is to open up.”
And some more related pieces for those interested:
The 500 most popular types of porn in one chart
Everybody watches porn but everybody has different tastes. And there is just so much porn to watch. But how can we figure which type of porn is most popular? This chart from Data Looks Dope’s Max Einstein reveals the top 500 video tags in porn. You’ll see everything from hardcore to Argentina.
The data comes from Xvideos’ 500 most used tags. The idea is simple, if there are a lot of tags, there’s a lot of demand.
Any surprises? Brunette beats Blonde, stockings is shockingly popular and words like ‘this’ ‘and’ and others make the cut. Einstein writes:
This is a visualization of how users of the most popular porn website in the world tag the astronomical amount of content being transferred each month.
And the chart (click to make larger – it’s enormous):
I was hoping to show this clip in class:
An extended version of a similar talk:
Passed along by Dolly (thanks!).
Pornhub, as described by Wikipedia, is a “video sharing website and the largest pornography site on the internet.” Like most modern businesses, Pornhub do analytics to better monitor performance and gain insights into their customers and market. They report some of their findings on a blog called Pornhub Insights, which is good fun. One of their more recent posts provided a glimpse at what their female viewers search for and watch:
What Women Want
Pornhub Insights is getting down with demographics! As part of a collaboration with our friends over at Buzzfeed, the Pornhub statisticians are offering a unique look at the way that members of the fairer sex get turned on with everyone’s favorite porn site. By segmenting by gender within our analytics tools, we were able to generate anonymized data that brings us one step closer to answering the time old question: what do women want?
What does she desire?
Well, apparently they want to watch a bunch of gay sex. Pornhub’s Lesbian category is the leading favorite among the ladies, with Gay (male) following close at second place. The Gay category only falls into 7th place for men in terms of top viewed categories so it’s noteworthy here that overall, this category ranks higher with the sex opposite to that which this type of content is intended for.
There’s no love from the ladies for the bigger beauties of porno land with the BBW category noticeably absent from the list on the female side despite its ranking at 13th place for the men. Though other classics like Teen, MILF, Threesome and Anal pepper this list as well, it’s clear that the type of sex that women are most interested in watching occurs between members of the same sex.
In class during the discussion of pornography, we superficially touched upon the idea of objectification. Pornography has been criticized for objectifying women, and further that pornography increases male sexual objectification of women in general. As noted in class, pornography is by its nature objectifying, as it features people who are intended to be the objects of our sexual fantasies, at least while we watch. But does this make it inherently problematic? For those of you who are curious to read more, there is an excellent entry in the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy which provides an overview of objectification in pornography, and whether it is a force of good or bad.
Feminist Perspectives on Objectification
Objectification is a notion central to feminist theory. It can be roughly defined as the seeing and/or treating a person, usually a woman, as an object. In this entry, the focus is primarily on sexual objectification, objectification occurring in the sexual realm. Martha Nussbaum (1995, 257) has identified seven features that are involved in the idea of treating a person as an object:
- instrumentality: the treatment of a person as a tool for the objectifier’s purposes;
- denial of autonomy: the treatment of a person as lacking in autonomy and self-determination;
- inertness: the treatment of a person as lacking in agency, and perhaps also in activity;
- fungibility: the treatment of a person as interchangeable with other objects;
- violability: the treatment of a person as lacking in boundary-integrity;
- ownership: the treatment of a person as something that is owned by another (can be bought or sold);
- denial of subjectivity: the treatment of a person as something whose experiences and feelings (if any) need not be taken into account.
Rae Langton (2009, 228–229) has added three more features to Nussbaum’s list:
- reduction to body: the treatment of a person as identified with their body, or body parts;
- reduction to appearance: the treatment of a person primarily in terms of how they look, or how they appear to the senses;
- silencing: the treatment of a person as if they are silent, lacking the capacity to speak.
The majority of the thinkers discussing objectification have taken it to be a morally problematic phenomenon. This is particularly the case in feminist discussions of pornography. Anti-pornography feminists Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, influenced by Immanuel Kant’s conception of objectification, have famously argued that, due to men’s consumption of pornography, women as a group are reduced to the status of mere tools for men’s purposes. Moreover, feminists like Sandra Bartky and Susan Bordo have argued that women are objectified through being excessively preoccupied with their appearance. Important recent work by feminists has also been devoted to exploring the connection between objectivity and objectification. More recently, some thinkers, such as Martha Nussbaum, have challenged the idea that objectification is a necessarily negative phenomenon, arguing for the possibility of positive objectification. While treating a person as an object (in one or more of the ways mentioned above) is often problematic, Nussbaum argues that objectification can in some contexts take benign or even positive forms, and can constitute a valuable and enjoyable part of our lives. In her forthcoming work, Nancy Bauer questions the very idea that it makes sense to specify the marks and features of the term ‘objectification’. Such an attempt, she argues, will only distort the phenomenon in question (2015, forthcoming).