Channel 4 Mums Make Porn

“Ethical porn” – a smokescreen for an exploitive industry

adminaccount888 Latest News

We are often asked about “ethical porn”. This was the type of porn the mums in the 3 part Channel 4 documentary “Mums Make Porn” believed they were making and that it was somehow better. What they didn’t realise is that all porn, ethical or otherwise, stimulates cravings for more and for raunchier versions. When a user has seen all of the so-called “ethical porn” there is available and have conditioned their brains to want and need more sexual stimulation, where do they turn?

The blog below comes from Liz Walker, the leading Australian campaigner on clear and straight thinking about internet pornography’s risks. Liz works her way though the maze of arguments the porn lobby uses to justify their business. The original longer, more graphic, version can be seen here.

UPDATE: Mums Make Porn

Today, after viewing Mums Make Porn on Channel 4 in the UK, Liz tweeted this…

Just another version of commodified sex… Five mums who have clearly missed the memo about normalisation – “The process by which an idea or behaviour goes from clearly problematic to an accepted part of societal culture.” ~ Cordelia Anderson

Liz Walker

A common dilemma – I’ve been asked this question:

I find it hard to challenge porn when we now see so much self-created porn (where there is obviously consent, no coercion, etc). Also with “ethical” porn sites such as ManyVids gaining popularity and porn-makers using the #sexpositivity and anti slut-shaming movements to promote their content, I find it difficult to know how to respond. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to discuss these things further.

Here are 5 ways to challenge this narrative and create meaningful dialogue that critiques porn culture. It’s to be expected, but as I unpack the so called “ethics” of “ethical porn sites” there’s a trigger warning for language, sexual abuse, incest, sex with minors and violence against women.

~ 1

There will always be a percentage of people who engage in the self-creation of porn. And if they genuinely want an unknown number of strangers from a public domain to masturbate to their private activities, so be it. That said, a significant number of women feel pressured by their partners to film their sexual encounters, even though content may appear to be loving and consensual. Others are victims of non-consensual filming and / or sharing of intimate moments, with private encounters distributed as revenge porn (otherwise known as image based abuse – report this offence in Australia through the Office of the eSafety Commissioner).

Sometimes these videos are sold to the highest bidder, to porn sites, or other predatory groups – actress Mischa Barton’s story on being a victim of revenge porn is a story well-worth watching to understand this issue.

We need to create a conversation about the porn industry’s role in normalising porn, voyeurism, predatory behaviours, sexual entitlement; and ask “who” is driving at-home, self-creation of porn (hint – mostly men). Whilst at first glance, consent in self-created porn may appear to be obvious, this isn’t always the case. For the viewers of this content (or any porn), a comment observed on social media aptly sums it up and is an excellent point of discussion:

“Porn is turning us into voyeurs of others lives, instead of masters of our own.”

~ 2

The next time someone argues for “ethical porn”, ask them to explain what ethical porn means. Because in the porn industry, the only difference between ethical porn and hardcore mainstream porn is that consumers pay. This makes it “ethical”. In the example of ManyVids, according to their Twitter account their desire is to transform the adult industry into a safe haven that promotes sex positivity and the fair treatment of adult entertainers. Breaking that down – what is a “safe haven”? What is “fair treatment”? Their video titles make it pretty clear that there’s no safe haven or fair treatment unless you define that in terms of monetary gain.

It’s important to know that sites such as ManyVids are just as profit driven and abusive as any of the other hardcore porn sites. Whilst they may encourage at-home porn creators to upload their content, “ethical” means people pay for porn. “Safe haven” or “fair treatment” holds zero meaning other than monetary reimbursement for the creators and profit for the owner of the website.

And it would be impossible to discuss the concept of ethics as it relates to porn without another question. Does the demand for porn as a whole contribute to the demand for sex trafficking worldwide? January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. According to Stop Trafficking Demand, many professional performers in pornography are sex trafficked. They find themselves in a hostile environment of sexual exploitation, forced labour and physical abuse. Trafficking victims are made to produce porn; and porn is used as a tool to train victims. In addition, porn increases demand – users often seeking to act out out what they have viewed.

It is irresponsible to claim that “ethical” porn neutralises or is exempt from contributing to the demand for trafficked humans.

~ 3

Sex-positivity is a term that essentially means “don’t yuck someone else’s yum… ever”. It’s a ‘no shame’ approach that says as long as it’s consensual and pleasurable, it’s okay. Seems completely reasonable, but ultimately this term is rarely critiqued. Consider how the porn industry has normalised fetishes, rough sex, abuse, degradation, etc. To question anything about porn is frequently dismissed as sex-negative. This is despite the levels of abuse, trauma and exploitation the industry fuels.

When “sex-positive” is bandied around, rarely is there margin to critique how porn culture has indoctrinated people. It creates pressures to perform. Women often feel they have to say “yes” because they’ve been conditioned to accept abusive content.

Perhaps we could engage in a conversation about the difference between sex-positive and a positive approach to sexual health and wellbeing. Teasing it apart, these are two frameworks that have come to mean very different things.

Porn is now so deeply embedded in our culture that it has become synonymous with sex to such a point that to criticize porn is to get slapped with the label anti-sex.  …But what if you are a feminist who is pro-sex in the real sense of the word, pro that wonderful, fun, and deliciously creative force that bathes the body in delight and pleasure, and what you are actually against is porn sex? A kind of sex that is debased, dehumanized, formulaic, and generic, a kind of sex not based on individual fantasy, play, or imagination, but one that is the result of an industrial product created by those who get excited not by bodily contact but by market penetration and profits? Where, then, do you fit in the pro-sex, anti-sex dichotomy when pro-porn equals pro-sex?

~ Dr. Gail Dines, Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality

~ 4

Although feminist porn wasn’t part of the question, it’s bound to come into conversations and therefore worth adding. “Feminist* porn” is supposedly equally power balanced and created by women for women. A broader understanding is needed about the difference between radical feminism and liberal feminism*. You can understand this best by watching Dr. Gail Dines lecture on Neo-Liberalism and the Defanging of Feminism. In the simplest of terms, radical feminism fights against the oppression of all women. It argues that to view women as sex objects is dehumanising and dismisses their value as human beings. Liberal feminism argues that “as long as I’m okay with my choice, it doesn’t matter about others, because my choices are “empowering” and therefore, I’m a feminist”.

Making “Feminist porn”

Many of the industry practices employed by “feminist” producers adopt very similar practices to the mainstream industry. They have the same profit-driven motives. Joanna Angel, a self-described feminist pornographer, has been reported as saying “you could do a porn where a girl is getting choked and hit and spit on, the guy’s calling her a dirty slut and stuff and . . . that can still be feminist as long as everybody there is in control of what they’re doing.”

Consuming “Feminist Porn”

Then there’s the question of who wants feminist porn? Neuroscientist, researcher and author of A Billion Wicked Thoughts, Ogi Ogas, makes this argument. “What is fascinating is that women commonly promote the idea of feminist porn and socially want to believe in it. Activists argue that there needs to be more of it, women support it in public and I see women start erotic websites all the time. But when it comes down to it, that is just not what they are interested in looking at.” This quote comes from an article that presents the alternative and supportive argument from feminist producers – in which case, refer to point 1 above. And closely related to what sort of porn women watch, it’s important to understand how Pornhub skews the data to infer that women are somehow ‘driving’ the demand for brutal sex acts.

“Feminist porn” is not going to stop anyone from watching hardcore porn. The brain has a tendency to want more. Countless people have reported that they started out with benign images. Their curiosity then spiked and they looked for more. This became normalised and they were conditioned to harder content. Over time they ended up being hooked on extreme, fetishised and sometimes, illegal content. Yes, there are those who don’t want more, but the trajectory to crave harder and more extreme porn is all too common. The brain changes that result from bingeing on porn over time mean a user may enjoy it less but crave it more.

A real solution?

It seems as though feminist porn is the “go to” argument when nobody really wants to actually talk about how degrading mainstream porn is, even though hardcore abusive porn makes up the vast majority of what is available. The idea is that somehow, if more feminist porn were available, people would diligently search for and pay for “good stuff” rather than all that free “bad stuff”.

The question that arises is how much “feminist porn” will it take to counter the “hardcore porn”? Where does the line stop with one, before it feeds into the other as a never-ending cycle of industry-driven exploitation? Just using feminist porn is a fallacious argument.

~ 5

And finally, although it may come as a surprise, millennial men who DON’T enjoy porn DO EXIST. They cite reasons such as “I’m just more interested in people than pixels”. Imagine that! Authentic human connections without relying on someone else’s experiences to get aroused. Now this is a conversation well worth having.

Yes, people watch porn, and justify their porn use, and make 1000s of different arguments as to why it’s all okay. Some people argue that if we point out the obvious, then we are shaming people’s porn use. Are they just ignorant of the mental and physical health risks or are they just in denial? On the flip side, how much humiliation can women endure at the expense of an orgasm? “It’s personal” is now a very public health issue that negatively impacts on millions. And they are disproportionately women and children. That fact alone is all the reason we need to refuse to accept “porn as the norm”. Why not educate to create a cultural revolution that values women as equals, places kids safety and wellbeing at the fore, and makes porn uncool?

Robert Jensen’s words provide an eery warning:

“Pornography is what the end of the world looks like.”

Research shows that young women who consume porn have a significantly greater likelihood of being victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault, and over 80% of young men who consume porn engage in one or more rough sex behaviours (hair pulling, spanking, scratching, biting, bondage, fisting, and double penetration). If porn remains as the dominant voice in shaping our younger generation, Jensen may prove to be right. Keep the conversations going until we see change.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Share this article