How Liberating Is Porn Really?

0

One of the results of the internet now being accessed by 80 per cent of the Australian population is an unprecedented exposure to porn. In the past, adults had to buy videos from seedy stores and kids took chances sneaking a look at dad’s Playboys. Now, with thousands of TGP (thumbnail gallery post), streaming video, and torrent sites, a virtually unlimited supply of porn pictures and videos can be found by anyone who cares to look for them, and by many people who don’t.

As internet technology aids the spread of pornographic material, our acceptance of it correspondingly increases. We are now living in a society that is hugely apologetic to the porn industry, where critics are often accused of obstructing free speech rather than as applauded for raising genuine concerns about a burgeoning social issue. The debate around porn seems to be polarised between the two extremes of "Porn is evil" and "Porn is awesome" — views held by fundamentalist Christians and libertarians respectively.

But what is it that we’re actually seeing when we watch this stuff? In porn you can find orgies involving dozens of strangers, blowjobs in crowded public places, hidden cameras, people having sex with animals, incest, animated aliens doing popular cartoon characters, married couples making sweet tender love, same-sex sex, and sexual acts involving anything ranging from poo, pee, vomit, semen, and blood, to dildos, leather, whips, electrodes, machines, knives, fists, feet, blindfolds, ropes, etc etc.

The list extends as far human creativity. No fetish has gone unfilmed and if there’s something you want to see, no matter how illegal or bizarre, you can find it if you know where to look.

But let’s forget about all the kinky and unusual stuff and look at the more common content. Your standard — as in, most frequently occurring — porno features a beautiful girl, usually young or young-looking. The guy is often unattractive and at least a decade older than his partner, but he has a huge penis. He uses his physical strength and assertiveness to dominate the girl (or girls). The vast majority of scenes end in the male ejaculating on his co-star’s face, breasts, back or vulva. Anal sex is present more often than it’s absent. The male is dispassionate and appears to care little for the girl, whereas she moans with uninhibited pleasure. Lesbian action is prevalent in male-oriented straight porn and one guy doing two girls is pretty much the norm.

You can find porn in any form imaginable, but spend a few hours trawling the internet and you’ll see that the above is a fairly accurate description of your average scene. Is this what proponents of pornography are so in favour of? Anal sex, facials, domination and huge cocks?

If men — especially those with less sexual experience — take this at face value, they’ll be picking up some very unpopular habits. I’m not going to tell you what to do in bed (or in the car, or the bushes) but I think it’s worth pointing out some of the ways porn severely distorts reality.

Number one, in reality most girls don’t like anal sex. Many girls have tried anal but most of them don’t do it regularly. Yours might like it, and that’s wonderful for you, but the ubiquity of anal sex in porn does not reflect its popularity in real life.

Secondly, most girls don’t want to finish sex with a faceful of spunk. This is something that some girls might love or that you might do occasionally, but it is far from standard procedure. Issues of domination and humiliation aside, it’s messy and difficult to clean.

Then there are issues of performance standards. When you’ve seen hundreds or thousands of well-endowed men on the internet and on DVD, you will be much more inclined to worry about penis size and take on the stresses of being "average". Boys, let me tell you a huge secret: they don’t really care that much how big your dick is! In fact, if it’s as big as half the guys you see online, they won’t have anywhere to put it. Too small is bad, yes, but too big is even worse. We live in a society filled with men paranoid they won’t be able to please a girl with their mere five or six inches and unfortunately porn reinforces the falsehood that bigger is always better.

If you take porn at face value, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s not about female pleasure, which occupies a very marginal place in the videos. Let’s be realistic here: will women do whatever a man wants them to do while selflessly ignoring their own enjoyment? Very unlikely, unless they’re making choices which don’t really reflect their wishes. Most will expect sex to be as much about them as it is about their partner; if her needs in bed are ignored, she probably won’t bother with that dud again.

Finally, the threesome thing barely warrants the effort of a critique. Having one’s way with two bisexual women is a common fantasy among heterosexual males but it doesn’t happen to them anywhere near as much as they’d like it to. Its frequency in porn gives the impression that it’s standard practice in real life, which is anything but true. Most people will live and die without experiencing a threesome. So get over it.

And these representations of sex don’t just affect men. While accurate statistics are hard to come by (one survey of 1000 individuals in the UK claimed that 66 per cent of women admitted to watching porn), most stats I have seen suggest that somewhere around one third of porn viewers are female. Even if the figure is significantly less, it’s clear that millions of women around the world have been exposed to plenty of porn. While they may not spend as much time with it as men, they will have seen enough to know what is out there. Given that porn overwhelmingly represents a version of male fantasy, female viewers will be shown what males "want" sexually. It’s pretty easy to understand why women who have been overexposed to porn might feel pressured to fit that fantasy, even without being asked to perform the acts listed above.

Of all the demographics affected by overexposure to porn, it’s young males whose potential responses are most concerning. It’s important that they don’t grow up on bad stereotypes and depictions of fantasies, lest they end up with a skewed perception of what sex is really like. It’s disturbing enough that the vast majority of porn involves activities which are demeaning to women or which have such a strong bias towards male pleasure. Pornography is much like the wrestling: it’s entertaining, it looks good (if you’re a heterosexual man), but it’s not real. That’s not to say it’s evil or has no place, but it must be taken for what it is.

The truth is, many of us simply love our porn and will look for any reason to defend it, ignoring the damage it causes many of the actresses involved and the misconceptions it spreads throughout the wider population, not to mention the impact it might be having on under-aged viewers. The extent to which pornography is addictive is something still being debated, but there are credible experts who believe that porn may be harder to shake than cocaine. Surely that alone should make us think twice about protecting, excusing and promoting it as much as we increasingly do?

And these arguments don’t even touch on the bad stuff — such as humiliation, illegally taken ‘voyeur’ pics, and homemade materials that have been distributed without consent — and the really bad stuff, such as rape, bestiality, incest, paedophilia, and a veritable smorgasbord of other materials available to those who look for them.

My point is not that we need to ban porn, but it would be good if we agreed that what we’re talking about is something that distorts human sexuality and effectively misinforms many people. It also presents most sex as the fulfilment of a strange kind of lowest-common-denominator male fantasy — one which men, if they want fulfilling sex lives, really should not try at home. That’s what most porn is, so let’s not pretend that we’re making a grand statement about sexual freedom by watching it.

New Matilda

New Matilda is independent journalism at its finest. The site has been publishing intelligent coverage of Australian and international politics, media and culture since 2004.

Comments

comments