Like it or not, pornography is a part of our culture. Almost everyone wants to have sex, and frankly, why not? Sex can be a holy event or an animalistic release or a worship of the body, male or female but however you look at it, sex is a part of our nature and our nature is to be creative. Pornography can be an expression of sexual creativity – a beautiful homage to the human form or a way of reflecting on desires buried deep beneath the subconscious. Generally, exploring one’s sexuality is a healthy thing – at least you are taking a moment to not judge your desire for pleasure or your need for connection to another, but looking deeper.
However, some pornography can take things into a sociological territory where desire is so perverted that what is really happening is a form of violence and what is really being expressed is rage about former abuse and a re-enactment of that abuse. This is true for both men and women.
I witnessed two examples of this type of porn while watching a documentary called, “The Price of Pleasure.” Every once in a while, I watch porn; watching other people have consensual intercourse can be sexy and sometimes make a good situation better. Enough said. But watching sex is not having sex. And exposure to a million types of fetish makes me wonder if we’ve become a culture who has found indulgence of our every whim commonplace. I can hear the shouting: “We have a right to have a choice!” And, “We have a right to have as many things to choose from as possible!” O-kaaaay. Shop yourself out. But lately I find myself having to “click away” more often than not. This is not only because of what is left of my inbred shame, but more often because of the huge amount of violent situations I am suddenly seeing enacted. It seems to be endemic, in all kinds of porn and in all kinds of media, whether professional or amateur. This really, really concerns me. I’m not the only one.
When interviewed for the “The Price of Pleasure” and asked, “Didn’t porn performers choose to do the job and get paid?” scholar Noam Chompsky replied, “The fact that people agreed to it and are paid, is about as convincing as the fact that we should be in favor of sweat shops in China- where women are locked into a factory and work 15 hours a day and then the factory burns down and they all die. They were paid and they consented but it doesn’t make me in favor of it.”
It concerns me even more when I realize all of this sexual violence is accessible on the Internet to kids with only the click of a button. Gone are the days of backrooms and Adults Only video parlors. On some of the most obscene sites, children only have to swear they are over 18 and that they don’t find it degrading or abusive, that’s all (I say that ironically). Sometimes it’s only one click of a button and their lie is legal. That’s not a contract, that’s a scam that takes advantage of a child’s curiosity, not to mention an adult’s. I should not have to swear away my human rights while a porn site gets to express its first amendment rights.
Here’s a link to a new film premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival that is investigating this important phenomenon of the mainstreaming of porn and the effect on today’s youth. SEXY BABY THE FILM and a really interesting interview with the filmmakers on Huff Post, discussing the mainstreaming of porn and its varying effects on young women. The bottom line is- young women are looking to porn more and more to create their sexual identity. This concerns me because of the violence that is becoming endemic in mainstream porn. Clicking the photo below will take you to The Times of India. Because of the global reach of the Internet, children’s access to pornography is becoming a world wide concern.
One disturbing example of accessible violent porn I saw (on the documentary and on the Internet, but I can’t tell you where) was a series of scenes enacting various S&M scenarios, suddenly quite popular these days with the release of the novel, “50 Shades of Gray.” I had to look to find out what all this sex play in the novel was referring to. In the hundreds of scenes I saw posted in small boxes on my screen, beautiful young women were shown being choked, gagged, hung upside down, whipped, screamed at, and beaten and not always softly. They were being f-ked (not made love to, there is a big difference) hard and what looked like, painfully. It was difficult to imagine they were enjoying themselves when they appeared to be experiencing degradation and humiliation.
I understand S&M has a long and glorious history, and has sex-positive practitioners; however one must wonder how many practitioners are simply allowing themselves to be abused – that’s certainly the message from these particular porn movies. One person agrees to be the “powerless one” or “submissive,” while being provoked by the “powerful one” or “dominant.” It’s a sexualized power play. On a certain twisted intellectual level, you could justify it by saying S&M is a way to mock your own attraction towards power by allowing yourself to be abused by it and if that’s your mind kink I say whatever, go for it, but that’s not what these particular porn movies are showing. They are showing young, beautiful women being violated in a really ugly way by men and sometimes other women. What kind of message is this for young women, not to mention young men?
I’ve been told that the novel “50 Shades of Gray” investigates the issues of a desirable but complicated guy and the woman who is equally complicated and attracted to him. Fair enough, but I want to ask you to take a moment for me and imagine a sexy, masculine but complicated man, perhaps imagine a God figure like Thor, someone who perhaps many heterosexual women might find hot. Can you imagine Thor wanting his girlfriend to put on a ball gag and crawl on her hands and knees while he fisted her? So why are fantasies like this being twisted to become romanticized but coercive acts in both our fiction and pornography?
In another series of scenes from the movie I witnessed a possibly worse humiliation than S&M can dole out. Again, young, pretty, powerless women – and let’s be honest, more and more of them look like teenagers – are being f-ked hard (again NOT made love to, there is a difference) orally and vaginally while their heads are in the toilet. Then the guy reaches over and as he cums on her, HE FLUSHES HER HEAD IN THE TOILET. Sometimes he does it so her face is sucked into the hole by the valves and the bowl fills up, making drowning a real potential. Can you imagine Spiderman, another sexy but conflicted “Super Hero/God figure” flushing MaryAnn’s head in the toilet while he came on her face? No! That’s disgusting! Our heroes don’t do things like that! So why are some of our men finding this attractive and being told it’s socially acceptable?
Now you may want to tell me, “Hey, she agreed to do it, she wanted it, she liked it,” and I will tell you, sorry, that’s BS. Let me share a word Chompsky mentioned, a word most people don’t really respect the power of: COERSION. To clarify: if you tell a young person, a powerless person, and perhaps a sexually or physically or mentally abused person who just wants love and attention and some money to survive, that such and such a thing will get them the things they want, that it gives them power even, some of them are going to listen to you. It’s as simple as that. No matter what they say, they aren’t being super savvy and “using” the system, they are being used by it. They aren’t becoming empowered by choosing to play the role of the victim. Whether madam, prostitute, porn star or stripper, no matter what they say to her face, the men who take their pleasure and pay up are laughing behind her back.
Now let’s get on to the deeper issue, and it all goes much, much deeper than, “Well, some guys are really messed up, their mom’s were jerks and some girls were really messed up by their dad’s and this is how they work it out and what can you do?” Although I have enormous compassion for the complexities of abuse, I believe it goes even deeper into the roots of our society as a whole. We have to look into the issue of equality. Why, in our modern society, do we still tend to see men as being more important, more valuable than women?
I believe we can look to patriarchal religions for one part of the answer: in a society where the god we worship is male, and the most popular religions state women are only an extension of a man- women hold no value. Period. Without the acceptance that the female divine is as holy as the male, human women will never fully take their place alongside men in terms of respect. We will still be objects to f-ck and vessels for a man’s sperm, owned by men, dominated by men, abused by men, and flushed down the toilet at will. Valueless.
I want to make it clear I am not saying that women should be held above a man in terms of her value. I am also not saying that all women are goddesses and should be worshipped as such. I am saying that without a healthy, socially accepted construct for a feminine divine equal to the masculine divine, we are a society out of balance, leaving women vulnerable to be blamed and attacked whenever something goes wrong.
It is important to remember that women are as human as men in their need for sex. Just because I am saying there is a divinity to women does not mean that all women need to be in touch with that divinity at all times and get up on a pedestal to be worshipped. Women can be just as wild and sexual as any man, and frankly I see this as a good thing.
However, when you see women being attacked sexually on film like I have described, it is exploiting a perversion and fear that has been allowed to fester, grow and develop. I believe this visual, visceral form of abuse of young women where the man dominates and violates the precious, fertile female form for all to see exploits a fear of women’s power.
What’s so scary? Women are not here to create a culture of Amazons to enslave and humiliate men. Most women, like most men, are not out for revenge. Like many men, many of us are naturally nurturers and even in our rage, even in our greatest sexual and intellectual strength we still love, we still have the ability to be compassionate. If you are deeply wounded person, we want you to heal, as a male would.
Ladies, please don’t let ANYONE convince you it’s fun to be humiliated. As a survivor of childhood molestation, I personally know it’s a complex issue. I’ve been there. I have tried to convince myself I was in control when I wasn’t. I went into denial for years about certain situations, trying to believe that I put myself in a bad position so I must have deserved what I got. I had to deny what happened in order to survive it. I know I am not alone.
Young girls are constantly being broken sexually, forced into being unwitting submissives before they even understand what they are submitting to. I’ve spent more time than I care to admit being attracted to men who were just like the man who abused me, so if you have a similar situation you have all my compassion. It’s taken me years to understand my own sexual power, to accept it, to enjoy it and years more to find a man worth sharing it with.
What I am trying to tell you is that recognizing your divine grace within, and taking the time to value your higher nature as well as your sexual side is worth every bit of the struggle.
The empowered sexual female is a powerful symbol of feminine equality. Perhaps this is what frightens certain men, and why the violence in pornography is beginning to escalate.
Perhaps some men want to retain their sense of entitlement to control society, their “god given right” to be the leaders, dominate the land and control a woman’s body. Perhaps some men are angry about what they perceive to be a loss of power, and are acting out that anger on the women who are the most vulnerable – the young.
I hope considering the holy within both men and women might be a way to ease some of this anger and focus on ideals we both share: the value of love, fairness and personal dignity.