By Rebecca McCourtie
So I was reading yesterday’s awesome column Break the silence around porn: To watch or not to watch? by Ila Garg and it got me thinking. It got me thinking about internet censorship and whether or not in today’s day and age of VPNs and various other IT softwares, can anything ever really be censored? This further made me think about the implications of access to pornography (whether legal or not) and whether regulations pertaining to its access are even the core issue.
Let me start by saying that generally speaking, I don’t have an issue with pornography. Sexual intrigue and voyeurism are natural and shouldn’t be snuffed by social ideologies that pertain to the archaic view that sex is shameful and dirty. There’s no need to be mean about flicking the bean. As Garg points out in her commentary, more and more women are watching porn, with 24% of millennial porn viewers being female. This is not surprising given the massive strides that societies around the world have taken in stepping away from the de-sexualisation of women. In a world where sex is becoming less taboo and more exposed, the question that arises is: what is pornography?
Shows like HBO’s Sex and the City began rolling the cart up the hill when it came to the sexual emancipation of women. Shocking audiences’ world wide, sex in direct relation to women was finally being normalized through these mediums. Often using a satirical overtone, they achieved success in downplaying the intensity past sexual taboos had stained the subject matter with.
This emancipation undoubtedly came off the bat of America’s Golden Age of Porn between 1970 and 1980, when pornography consisted primarily of what is considered to be ‘normal’ heterosexual sex. This era put ‘sex’ out there and in the open. There was no hiding from it. People did it, people loved it. It was officially on the table as an obvious. Pornography can therefore be considered to have paved the way for greater exposure and discussion on the subject matter of sex. This would eventually lead women in the 1990’s into taking charge and entering themselves into the discussion as active, engaged and willing participants.
BUT has pornography gone too far? What is pornography circa now?
At what point does this emancipation become degradation? Gone is the golden era of the porn industry, when sex was simply sex and that was enough to flog the log. It appears that with today’s growing interest in porn, the parameters of ‘sex’ are being pushed to absurd, violent and outright odd boundaries.
Now, I’m not talking about a cheeky spank here and there or the ‘hello, have we met before?’ role play. I’m talking about violence against women and the ever expanding normalization of the ‘uber-freaky’ into the real world.
In Rashida Jones’ fantastic documentary Hot Girls Wanted, she explores the growing trend of young American women straight out of high school joining the amateur porn industry. The young women come with mixed agendas, some in the hope of gaining fame and others just to make a quick dollar. What the documentary also explores is the growing trend of ‘extreme’ porn; essentially, acts of a sexual nature that aim to degrade women through violence. For example, acts which culminate in the woman’s self-induced vomiting, acts that involve objects being used to inflict severe pain or outright physical assault. The documentary states that in ‘2014, abuse porn websites averaged over 60 million combined hits per month.’ Is this material really turning people on? The statistics would appear to tell us so. What is worrying is how these acts of extreme sexual titillation translate to the private boudoir and the subsequent expectations placed on the every day woman.
We must subsequently ask ourselves: what is porn? When legislating on the issue and determining its place in society, we must be careful to define the term and avoid casting a net that captures ‘extreme’ porn as being part of what is considered ‘normal’ pornography. Failing to do so will alter norms in society and place unfair, unwanted and unsafe expectations on women to sexually perform on a level that may be physically, culturally, religiously, spiritually or all four combined, wrong for them.
I don’t think that censoring online porn is the answer, in fact I would go so far as to say that it is probably futile. Blocking something by deeming it ‘deviant’ runs the risk of facilitating the growth of interest. As I said, it is human nature to be inquisitive and drawing attention to the very thing one wants to hide is a risky and often counter-productive strategy.
What isn’t futile though, is talking about sex openly and educating our young men and women on what is the ‘norm’, or rather what is OK and what is NOT. If we fail to discuss sex in a sensible and non-hysterical manner, then young men and women are left to self educate through mediums such as pornography, including ‘extreme’ pornography. The last thing we want is for men and women to be pushing the unrealistic parameters of experimentation to emulate the ‘extreme’ porn industry. Following the ‘extreme’ porn industry’s normalization of the freaky is inadvertently changing the expectations (from both men and women) of what exactly a woman’s role in sex is. This is dangerous and it makes me fearful for the women of today, and even more so for the women of tomorrow.
The normalization of sex within society needs to be discussed. WE should be setting our norms, not the porn industry!
Safe for everyone, Enjoyable for everyone, X-citing for everyone