Let’s Talk About Extreme Porn

The other day I saw an ad for a porn site that I found rather disturbing. It was a looped flash video ad that featured a couple having very rough sex. The woman was “fish hooked” (had a finger in her mouth, dragging her head back at a painful angle), a penis was rubbed roughly on her face, she was choked and slapped. She also didn’t seem to be enjoying herself much; her face was red and she was crying.

I didn’t want to see that. Firstly, I’m not into rough sex. Also I also had no idea of the context of that sex scene. Was it consensual? Did she sign up for that? Did she enjoy it?

The porn company that made the ad obviously thinks this will entice viewers to sign up, either out of curiosity or genuine desire. I’ve seen other rough ones like it, including one where it was a woman administering the rough sex to another women. I don’t promote that company, by the way, or any porn site that includes that kind of content.

This is the exactly the kind of extreme porn that Gail Dines discusses in her book Pornland. She says that almost all porn is like this and that it is having a negative effect on men’s sexuality.

The thing is, while there are plenty of problems with Dines’ generalisations and theory, I don’t want to dismiss her concerns with this kind of content. It seems reasonable to be asking questions about bad porn and extreme porn. We should be talking about what it means and how it effects us. I know that my initial reaction to that ad was pretty visceral. I can imagine that a lot of people might find it very disturbing or problematic.

I’ve seen my fair share of what I consider to be bad porn. Stuff that is overtly sexist and cruel, porn that appeals more to negative emotions and hatred than actual sexual desire (take for example the “ex-girlfriend” style sites. Or the ones where the scenarios are primarily about tricking someone into sex and not paying them). There’s porn out there that doesn’t look like it was consensual or ethically created. My stance has always been that I don’t like it and I won’t promote it – but I would never agree with it being censored. I’ve also had numerous online discussions with other adult webmasters about whether sites stepped over the line or not.

A few years back a company produced a website called “Sleep Assault.” The premise was that is showed night-vision movies of guys sneaking in and having sex with sleeping women – either strangers or friends/wives. A big argument about it started up on a webmaster board. The owners said it was merely a fantasy site and that, naturally, all the situations were staged. Others said that it was too close to a rape site and that the language was too negative. There was much discussion over whether the site was encouraging sexual assault or was just an outlet for fantasy. In the end the owners changed the wording of the tour to better emphasise that it was a fantasy and we all went our separate ways.

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Extreme porn like this isn’t new although perhaps it’s now more widespread than before (this somewhat problematic research seems to suggest it). This is part of the overall one-upmanship occurring in the porn industry over the last decade, the desperate scramble to attract attention through increasingly more over-the-top porn. It’s also the result of consumers demanding more extreme stuff; perhaps natural human curiosity combines with regular porn consumption to create an urge for “the hard stuff”.

Gail Dines is concerned that extreme porn is so ubiquitous than it’s now considered “normal” and that it teaches young men the wrong lessons about how to have sex and how to treat women. I think I share that concern; I hate the idea that a virgin might see that ad and think it’s how sex is “done” or get so used to it that any partner who isn’t into rough sex doesn’t stand a chance. I can imagine that a young woman might see those images of rough sex and feel alarmed at the idea of being on the receiving end of that. It’s pretty easy to spin out scenarios about how porn might negatively affect others.

So yes, I do share these concerns. Nonetheless, I try and think beyond the immediate worries that pop up and analyse if they’re legitimate. Right now, I have no idea if the anecdotal stories of ruined marriages, lost libidos and confused virgins are true. There’s still not a lot of reliable research on it – although it doesn’t take much effort to find unscientific or religious anti-porn studies on the web. But from what I’ve seen, there’s no real data to back up the concerns about harm. If this changes, I’ll change my mind.

What’s often common in discussions about extreme porn is the idea that the viewer doesn’t think critically about what they are seeing. It’s assumed the viewer just passively watches it and then unthinkingly apes the attitudes and behaviour on show. Naturally, the person who writes about porn doesn’t do that; the concern is only ever for other people, the ignorant masses who dully consume or the innocent teenagers who accidentally encounter porn.

Is that what really happens? On my more misanthropic days (say, after reading the comments on Youtube), I suspect it does. But that’s just an opinion. The facts may show otherwise. Again, we need more research on this. I have found at least one study that has found that people do interact with porn in a far more “literate and critical” way than is assumed. Obviously that’s not conclusive though I’m sure there are other similar studies.

Two key factors in approaching porn in a critical manner are an understanding the context combined with a reasonable knowledge about sex and sexuality.

When it comes to extreme porn, it really does help to know the context in which its presented. The sex acts themselves aren’t the issue. Plenty of people enjoy rough sex or BDSM or water bondage or whatever kink it is. There’s nothing wrong with that.

The problem occurs when no context for the extreme sex acts is provided – there’s no indication that it’s a fantasy, no way of knowing if the performers were willing participants or if they enjoyed themselves. This is bad porn. If you don’t know that rough sex (for example) is a kink performed consensually, you might form the wrong idea about what it all means and it may negatively affect your sexual attitudes. I recommend Charlie Glickman’s discussion of bad porn for a further elaboration on this point.

I’ll say up front, I dislike extreme porn, particularly the nasty sexist hateful stuff. If a site is showing cruel-looking hate sex and presenting it as the ideal way to treat women, I obviously don’t want the viewer to agree with that on a philosophical level. I can’t help but feel that there IS something disturbing about the idea of people getting off on hateful, misogynistic or cruel stuff. I find it worrying that masturbating and sexual pleasure would be tied to such negativity.*

And yet the human mind is a crazy place and a fantasy is often just a fantasy. I don’t know what the people who watch that stuff are really thinking. I hope it’s just a fantasy.

So yes, I worry about extreme porn. I worry about what bad porn says about attitudes to women and sex. There’s a lot of porn I find offputting and unsexy and generally problematic. In the end, though, I think the only logical stance to take with regards to it is to talk about it and to encourage people to think critically about it.

As usual, education is so important. The concerns about teens and extreme porn are quite reasonable. Teenagers don’t always have the basics in reading texts (in this case porn) and sex education is sadly lacking in some places (especially the US where the religious right is doing its best to keep them ignorant).

I think the days of being able to restrict access to porn are long gone – if it was ever successful in the first place. The only reasonable remedy to the possible problems caused by misreading porn are pre-emptive education. Honest discussion about porn’s place in society and encouraging critical thinking as to what it all means. Parents aren’t always the best people to do this because, frankly, talking about porn with teenagers is not fun.

In this, the internet is like beer (the solution to – and cause of – all of life’s problems). The net provides the opportunity for teens to talk to each other and easily find information about porn. Many sex education sites are doing their best to get the issue out in the open and discuss what it all means – Make Love Not Porn and British site Bish Training are good examples.

Meanwhile, the anti-porn crusade continues. I guess we should be grateful they’re out there because they encourage the discussion of topics like this. Unfortunately they also encourage a debate that becomes too simplistic and too unscientific, one influenced by negative assumptions about sexuality and religious agendas. They also encourage censorship, which is ultimately a non-solution.

Porn isn’t perfect; there’s a lot out there that we should be concerned about. Yet there’s also plenty that’s positive and meaningful and worth celebrating. In the end, the best thing we can do is to keep talking about it.
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Update 5th March
I want to add something to this post following a reply tweet I received about it. Batcheeba wrote:” “worrying and disturbing” I’d say that is just a liberal way of judging ppl into stuff you’re not.”

I don’t think Batcheeba actually read the post, only my tweet, but I’m going to elaborate on this here.

I tried my best not to be judgmental about sex acts or sexual preferences in this post and I think Charlie Glickman’s post really spells out why it’s important not to approach extreme porn from that perspective.

Nonetheless I don’t think being sex positive and tolerant should mean that I blithely accept that all porn is fine. What I am worried about is the way some porn sites and movies deliberately tie cruelty and misogyny and hate into those sex acts. Not as part of the kink but as part of a general sexist philosophy; this kind of porn is speaking to anger and hatred and negativity, not desire or kink or preference.

And even then, I acknowledge that that negativity may just be someone’s fantasy. But damn… surely we should be able to ask: what the hell is going on if you need hatred to get off? And what happens if you think that hatred is par for the course?

Those questions and worries are shared by a lot of people. I don’t think it’s helpful to simply dismiss them as being “closed minded” or “judgmental” because all you do is turn it into a “them versus us” thing.

I wrote this post because I keep seeing the anti-porn people using extreme porn as a basis of their argument. And those of us who don’t agree with them often end up having to defend bad porn in order to maintain our own position. I don’t like that dichotomy. It’s not an honest presentation of the whole issue and it doesn’t go anywhere.

I don’t want to defend bad porn. I wanted to say that I understand why people get worried and concerned about extreme porn. And I wanted to say I think education is the answer to those concerns.

* Let me say again… I’m not talking about consensual bdsm or power play here.

Edit: Please read the comments below for more discussion about this issue. I am aware that the original post is a bit murky with definitions and could have been better written. I’ve opted to leave the post as it stands so that the comments make sense and also because it helps with the general discussion.

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27 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Extreme Porn

  1. I totally agree with this post.
    It’s awful, my first sexual partner always wanted to ‘treat me rough’ and slap me about because ‘that’s what they do in the pornos’. Surprise surprise, that’s because the porn he regularly watches is all about humiliation and extreme dominance. I told him that’s not what it’s like in real life but I don’t think he got it. Now though, I’m with a different guy that treats me right.

    Porn gives people false opinions on what making love is supposed to be like. They forget the emotional attachments.

  2. well I for one love ‘extreme pornography’ and ‘hate sex’ and ‘rough sex’. I think it is impossible to tell how actors/models are treated just from watching a film. Because on the whole, they are acting. You can act happy even when you’re not for example.

    Yes, ethics and working conditions need to be considered but this is across the board not just in hardcore/extreme/s and m porn.

    I found your piece quite dismissive of S and M sensibilities to be honest.

    Young people would benefit from education but sex education rarely deals with issues around S and M…

    1. I find it interesting that you consider S&M to be “hate sex”. I was under the impression that S&M and rough sex was a very carefully constructed playspace that involved a lot of consideration and care between the partners. I don’t consider it to be the kind of “hate sex” I’m writing about.

      My comments are aimed at the kind of sites and movies that deliberately incite negative, hateful and obnoxious attitudes, particularly towards women, but not always. Some of them feature heterosexual boy-girl sex or plain gay sex. Bang Bus springs to mind. It’s often the language used that is the problem rather than the sex acts themselves.

      If you are the sort of person that enjoys being *hated*, well, giddy up. I imagine that having rough sex with someone that hated you wouldn’t necessarily fit into the BDSM ideal of “safe, sane and consensual”. I don’t understand it but whatever.

  3. I’m with QRG on this one.

    Although I would not necessarily define BDSM as “hate sex”, it is very hard to see how one would, simply looking without context at a BDSM lovemaking session, tell the difference between “hate sex” and “hard SM, with heavy humiliation and rough sex”. It’s worth noting that the quote marks may have different significance for some people than for you, so that “hate sex” to you means sex involving actual hatred, whereas for some BDSMers it means “hate” sex – that is, sex that simulates but does not actually involve, hate. My last partner and I arranged a session involving something like that. Rather like “forced-fantasy” roleplay, which is intended to “look like” rape for the participants but NOT actually involve anything non-consensual for either of them.

    You say, “it’s often the language used that is the problem” but very often the language is a part of the scene, and is desired by the bottoming partner (usually the woman) just as much. Apparently abusive, sexist terms can, in the context of a rough sex/humiliation sex/S&M sex scene be considered by the “target” of this “abuse” as extremely hot and exciting and enjoyable. BDSM (outside of porn) is a world in which the term “filthy cock-sucking slut” can be both said and heard as the highest term of affection and love between two lovers.

    That leaves the question of how you determine which porn is sexist and which isn’t?

    None of which is to say, “There are no problems at all with porn” – it’s a part of society and shares with society every problem that society has (sexism, racism, etc). I also loved Charlie Glickman’s piece you linked. But some of the worst sexist material is the least “extreme”, such as “Page 3” and Lads’ Mags (I argued this case in one of my earliest blog posts). I think for *any* subsection of porn (or indeed, mainstream media) there will be some that “deliberately incite negative, hateful and obnoxious attitudes” and “deliberately tie cruelty and misogyny and hate into those sex acts”. My question is, on what terms you determine that a site is acting in this way and how that looks different from other sites that don’t, but deal in similar types of porn scenario? (Again, I believe that some do and some don’t, but right at this moment I am struggling to put my finger on what qualities make the difference – it probably has to do with the “fantasy box” idea I introduced in this post about the Nicki Blue virginity debate.)

    Finally, I don’t know if you’ve seen it already but you might be interested in the results of Orlando C.’s survey on subjective porn responses.

    1. OK just to re-iterate. I really wasn’t talking about BDSM in this post. Let me cut and paste what I originally wrote:

      When it comes to extreme porn, it really does help to know the context in which its presented. The sex acts themselves aren’t the issue. Plenty of people enjoy rough sex or BDSM or water bondage or whatever kink it is. There’s nothing wrong with that.

      I’m thinking about the sites that provide no context at all, that present sex and women in a negative and hateful way without it being made clear that this is a fantasy scenario or that those involved consented and received enjoyment from it. This is what Charlie Glickman wrote about and I totally agree with what he had to say on that.

      I should add – I think films like Tristan Taormino’s Rough Sex and the sites from Kink.com are good examples of how to present rough/BDSM sex in context. So that’s a good starting point for looking at how other sites/movies present it. And the whole drama about “Sleep Assault” a few years ago was also useful in working out how to go about this.

      Language is important. Calling someone a slut in a kinky context is fine. Yet I see so many sites that just use negative language without any hint of… well, what to call it. Double entendre? A play context? When I see those sites, I’m reading it as simple hatred; a woman is a slut because they believe she’s a thing to be despised, not because thinking about a woman that way is a fun and sexy game.

      The question is, why don’t these sites make more effort to present context/fantasy? If they really are only presenting a fantasy, surely it’s in their best interests to let the audience know that, the way Kink does? Otherwise, it’s left to the viewer to interpret what it all means. And then it’s easier for the anti-porn people to demand censorship.

  4. I was mainly talking about porn rather than what I actually do or don’t do in the privacy of my own life. Which I can do without any validation from anyone else.

    I meant I find it hot when I am not constantly being reminded that this is ‘play’ and everyone is ‘happy’. I do really care about the well-being of people who work in porn, but I think exploitation can happen regardless of what we are shown on screen.

    Also ms Naughty you kept exchanging the terms ‘bad porn’ and ‘extreme porn’ as if they were interchangeable. I dont think the article was written very clearly or helpfully.

  5. I tend to come from a perspective of ‘if no laws were broken in its production, then there is no reason to censor it’. I thus see no legitimate reason to ban ‘extreme porn’ or anything else for that matter. That said, I do have problems with some pornography, mostly of the type you seem to be concerned about, but I think the best course of action is education.

    People might find interesting this interview with Ashley Blue, who I think is guilty of making some of this ‘extreme porn’ (and certainly doesn’t seem to be a nice person):
    http://www.dodsonandross.com/blogs/danny-wylde/2011/03/my-interview-ashley-blue

    What’s interesting is her approach, and her reasons for doing it. She finds the situations amusing and enjoys ‘gross’, but freely admits it is easier and better to not know the person who is going to be the subject of the film, because it is easier to get a reaction out of them.

    1. Thanks for that link. I’d say the porn that Ashley talks about is exactly the kind of porn that rings alarm bells for me, especially as she’s saying there’s reluctance and hesitation in her co-stars – and it’s not really about sex but negativity. She sees it as funny, I read it differently. I wouldn’t say it should be censored but I will say that I don’t get it. The success of the “product” hinges on the idea of near-non consent and deliberate cruelty. She’s saying it’s a fantasy but they’re selling the idea that it’s real. And, by the sound of it, the women who are on the submissive end really aren’t in control of what’s happening.

      To stand up and say that there’s something wrong with this seems to incite the accusation of being judgmental. But I think the microscope should be on the people making this kind of porn. Where’s the responsibility? Where is the disclaimer that says it’s only a fantasy?

  6. Great post.

    Notably, the only negative comments you’ve received here consist of arguments that are not actual criticisms.

    First, your post is called “judgmental,” which is not only a non-criticism but also says almost nothing. The definition of “judgmental” is “involving the exercise of judgment.” And the definition of “judgment” is “the ability to make a decision or form an opinion.” So basically, your critics are saying that your post expresses an opinion. Well, no duh. That’s not a critique. Every person’s opinion is necessarily judgmental and there is no such thing as a non-judgmental opinion. So ignore any comments that you’re “judgmental”…that’s an argument of last resort for people who can’t come up with an argument about your actual premises.

    The second critique is simply “well, I like that kind of porn.” But so what? When in the world is “well I like it” a valid defense against a criticism of a thing? What does one person “liking” extreme porn have to do with whether or not it’s a good thing for society, and whether we should be concerned about young people being raised on it before they even have sex, and and what we should do about it? Obviously some people like it or it wouldn’t exist! But that has nothing to do with the issue presented here.

    I’m with you that the only workable solution here is education, but I also have a hard time envisioning any kind of effective education ever happening.

    In order to counter the kind of visceral training one gives one’s mind with this kind of imagery (which doesn’t operate at the conscious pre-frontal cortex level), it will take more than mere words or lectures. And it would take a level of explicit discussion and imagery at such young ages that Americans would never tolerate it. In fact, it would probably be illegal because if you tried to show 14 year-olds POSITIVE images of explicit sexuality to counteract all the porn they’ve been watching on their own, you’d get in trouble for exposing children to porn.

    So essentially, what we are doing is allowing our children to discover extreme porn on their own (which they will), while we are prevented from deliberately exposing them to any kind of more realistic or positive depictions of explicit sexuality to try to counteract the garbage. The negative consequences of this should become readily apparent quite soon as the first generation to be raised on extreme hardcore comes of age.

    And already, many of them are complaining of problems: http://www.medhelp.org/posts/Mens-Health/Too-much-porn-masturbation-cause-ED/show/183203?page=1

    That thread shows almost 400 comments from men, all complaining of essentially the exact same thing, which is that their natural responsiveness to real-life sex has been destroyed by over-exposure to extreme porn. And actually, I believe there is at least one recent study on this point: http://www.myfoxchicago.com/dpps/news/offbeat/scientists-too-much-internet-porn-can-cause-impotence-dpgonc-20110225-fc_12048607

    BTW, in that interview with Violet Blue, she comes off as either a literal psychopath, or someone who does a good impression of one.

    1. Regarding the “porn causes impotence” thing – it seems that “study” was not terribly reliable: see The Sexademic’s post here and Thomas Roche’s post here.

      You’re right about the problem of education. How do you effectively discuss porn without being allowed to look at it? Still, it would help if sex educators in school were at least allowed to discuss it, which they still aren’t. Hell, most aren’t allowed to go beyond the boundaries of simple reproduction so there’s a long way to go. Perhaps something else that we need to be pushing is the simple idea of moderation. Just like it’s good to make sure we don’t eat or drink alcohol too much, it’s probably reasonable to say that too much porn can create imbalance in your life.

  7. one problem for me is in the UK ‘extreme porn’* in a specific definition IS illegal. But I don’t agree with the law! So I am not in a very strong position to defend something that is a) illegal and b)seen as ‘dangerous’ and c)that feminists seem to assume is degrading to women.

    *porn which depicts acts which look like they are causing injury to breasts, anus or genitals or threatening life, is illegal to possess in the UK.
    Even if the people who made it are consenting and the ‘injuries’ are not real.

    1. I too completely disagree with that UK “extreme porn” law because, as you said, it’s vague and sweeping in scope and doesn’t seem to grasp the concept of bdsm or power play at all. Banning porn always a dumb solution, I think.

      I considered going back and editing the post to clarify my language (more than I already have) but I’m just going to leave it as-is. I wrote the post ad-hoc and published it quickly so it could be better. But I think the comments are useful in expanding what I was trying to talk about.

  8. There’s one thing I wanted to address. You write:

    The problem occurs when no context for the extreme sex acts is provided – there’s no indication that it’s a fantasy, no way of knowing if the performers were willing participants or if they enjoyed themselves. This is bad porn. If you don’t know that rough sex (for example) is a kink performed consensually, you might form the wrong idea about what it all means and it may negatively affect your sexual attitudes.

    Now, let me make a substitution:

    The problem occurs when no context for a movie is provided – there’s no indication that it’s a fantasy, no way of knowing if the performers were willing participants or if they enjoyed themselves. This is a bad movie. If you don’t know that Blue Velvet (for example) is a fictional story performed consensually, you might form the wrong idea about what it all means and it may negatively affect your interpersonal attitudes.

    Now, the reason I make this substitution is because I think it’s safe to assume we ALL recognize movies are works of fiction. There’s no need for context telling us so; it does not make it a bad movie if “context is lacking”. We assume the actors were “faking it” unless told otherwise. And until I read your post, I assumed we all felt this way about professionally produced porn, too.

    Now, maybe amateur porn can be a different thing, but in this article, you’re talking about porn made by a studio and commercially marketed. Don’t we all assume that it is made by hiring actresses and actors, paying them money to pretend a certain thing, and filming it? And if we don’t, /shouldn’t we/?

    The website name at the top of the page (or the watermark in the corner of the video) is enough context for you to know that these are actors, paid to do things on film, just like in the movies.

    1. It’s a good point and it does apply to a lot of porn – but perhaps not all. There are numerous sites/movies that sell themselves as real-life situations and they do their best to imply that they’re not a work of fiction (the ex-girlfriend sites spring to mind). Add to that the fact that people are having real sex (as opposed to Hollywood films where they don’t) and that what they experience in terms of physical and emotional sensation is often more real than Hollywood and the line becomes a little blurry.

      It does come down to how the audience is reading the text and whether they’re doing it critically or not. Your position gives everyone the benefit of the doubt. As I said in the post, on my more misanthropic days (like when I’m thinking about, say, the popularity of Fox News), it can be hard to give the benenfit of the doubt… but that’s just a pessimistic opinion rather than anything objective. I do want to see more research that backs up what you’re saying. I think the Pornresearch.org study will help with this.

      It is a vital point because a lot of the anti-porn arguments depend on the assumption that people aren’t thinking critically about the porn they watch.

  9. The ex-girlfriend sites are pretty ridiculous, and just the amount over-the-top they are should be a cue that they’re not the genuine article. Also, they’re full of bad acting–which means they’re full of acting.

    About what actors/actresses feel being more “real” in porn, I think it’s easier to argue that what goes on in Hollywood film acting is more real and more emotionally shaping for actors/actresses than what goes on in pornography. First, there’s the fact that most people asked to play a role in a Hollywood movie are really expected to get into the character’s head, really BE that character–rarely asked of porn actors, especially in poorly-acted ex-girlfriend fare. Didn’t Jack Nicholson say something about the Joker being a hard role to get into the mental space for, and didn’t Heath Ledger spend time with mental patients in order to prepare mentally for the role? I know people have gone to some pretty intense lengths to take on a role, like spending lots of time with junkies to understand how they feel, and I’d wager that for some people, that would be much more intense for them than casual sex would be.

    So, people go into acting, and become changed by the characters they portray. And I think that’s much more true than the statement, “People go into pornography and become changed by the characters they portray.” But there’s another thing you’re getting that I think deserves a response, which is what’s done, physically, to them.

    Some actors/actresses, when it says in the script “a punches b”, will say to the other actor, “Actually punch me. I want this to look real.” I hate to bring rumors into this discussion, but I heard Linda Hamilton did that during TERMINATOR 2. (And I guess I can probably check that by watching a T2 DVD with special features, but I don’t feel like doing that before I send this post.) Anyway, for an actor who requests that, is there really a moral difference between being punched in a movie and being slapped in a porno? I think the emotional aspect is the same; either way you know it’s not because this person hates you, but because you’re both being paid to be there and do that. And of course you can say no, which means you find another way to do things, or you walk. Also, in movies, some actors/actresses undergo extreme weight loss/extreme weight gain for a role, which seem like incredibly abusive things to ask of a person’s body, and we don’t hear of this (or anything nearly as grisly) happening in order to be in porn.

    So in conclusion, I think emotionally and physically, regular actors/actresses may indeed have it rougher than porn actors/actresses, because what they do, emotionally and physically, is much more real. Porn actresses may get hit more times, but is getting hit so bad if you literally asked to play a role that requires being hit, enjoy it, never get injured from it, and are getting paid for it?

    Oh, and about Fox news: They’re allowed to market themselves as “news”. “News” is a way of saying, “You can take us seriously.” It implies things like, “We have actual footage of events that weren’t staged.” Porn doesn’t have an equivalent word, probably because there’s so little “actual footage of events that weren’t staged” in porn that the word would never need to be used. Which gets back to my first post’s point: Why take any professionally produced porn as being non-staged? And in fact, if you’re selling dominance fantasy, wouldn’t it be against your interests to talk on and on about how the models being dominated are actually totally OK with what was going on? Kink.com does that, and I think personally it detracts, I always figured that got put in place right after the US and UK tightened pornography laws–not to enhance anything for the viewer, since we know we’re watching consensual, paid actors and actresses, but to cover their ass in case someone tried to make a legal claim.

  10. A LONG time ago, just after porn transitioned from film to video, I made my share of porn. The thing about “rough sex” porn is that the average porn actor isn’t that great an actor, so the smart director will hire people who actually are into BDSM/whatever. I always brought my own whips/ropes/etc. to the set, and my best co-stars did, too. The worst stuff happened when my co-stars, both boys and girls, were hired for their looks. People who were being paid to take off their clothes and not muss anyone’s hair. I’ve finished jobs where I’ve bottomed and left the set without a mark on me. More than once I’ve had to do a show-and-tell about how to spank, or whip.

    I think what Kink.com et al are doing is good. Yes, it’s “staged” but it’s happening with people who can make it look a lot more real than some of the folks I’ve worked with. At least it looks like most of them have been “abused” before. You can fake “rough sex” or BDSM, I have several toys in my bag that make a big noise on contact, but don’t hurt at all. For example, on a tawse, you put carpeting on the striking surface, makes a big “thump”, no bruising, and no marks. Certainly, if I was doing 8 shows a week, everything would have to be faked.

    P.S. What I’ve written about porn does not apply to my non-porn work; I’ve shot errant Revolutionaries to death on stage, but I’ve never actually killed anyone. I am also not a Chinese warlord, servant of the Monkey King, 1920’s newsboy or Japanese POW.

  11. So, I have read the blog and the comments, trying to decide how I feel about this topic.

    I read this and felt righteously indignant. As a woman who is fairly stable and healthy, but watches only pornography that is filled with domination imagery, I felt a bit like this blog was making me out to be a bad person. Reading the comments clarified some of the points that were I felt upset by, though.

    I think I’ve identified, at least for myself, why this was hard to think about this rationally. You clearly really dislike things that not only don’t provide fantasy cues or context, but more than that it sounds like you’re bothered by rough, controlling, violent porn being marketed as real situations. Or at least strongly hinting that it is real.

    Personally, the only porn that ever made me feel objectified, worthless and hateful was normal plastic-porn. Inflated breasts and bottle-blonde hair. For some reason, extreme porn doesn’t generally feel the same way.

    Moving back to why I felt indignant reading this (though I don’t really feel that way now): It’s easy to feel insulted when someone so clearly not into rough sex/BDSM is writing about porn that could be viewed as within the realm of those things. I am not saying that you meant rough sex/BDSM when you wrote about extreme porn, just that there are a number of people who consider them grouped together. You stated that you had no problem with BDSM/kink/rough sex, but it still came across (to sensitive people who are used to being looked down on for their sexual preferences) as disdainful.

    As a woman who is into rougher and more extreme porn, I find it a little hard to be unbiased when reading things like this. When I admit my tastes in porn, I often get asked about what horrible things must have taken place in my past. Or it’s just assumed that I have some kind of mental/emotional problems that led to my preferences. It’s frustrating, really.

    That said, I feel like your points are more valid than I was inclined to admit at first. I especially agree more after reading your reactions within the comments and your clarifications about definitions and such. If you could perhaps write a follow-up to this in the future, incorporating reactions to various people’s comments, I’d be highly interested in reading it.

    Thanks for giving me something to think about today. 🙂

    1. Thanks for your comment Miranda. I’ve just added an extra bit to the main post saying that the comments are helpful because the original post isn’t as well written as it should be.

      You talk about people making assumptions about why you like rough sex / BDSM. I must admit, it is something I am curious about – why do some people like to see it rough and others don’t? Where do these fantasies originate and what makes them sexy (or not)? I should ask myself – why do I like MMF porn for example? Easy answer is… I don’t know, I just do. But I also know that there’s elements of taboo there. When it comes to the appeal of, say, BDSM, I wonder why power play has become an important part of sex for many people. Is it something specific to Western or US culture? Is religion mixed up in it? Is it related to how we develop as kids? And I guess asking these questions implies judgement but obviously the same questions could be applied to vanilla sex. Why do some things turn us on and not others?

      The question is relevant because it’s tied up with the crusade against porn. Those trying to ban it are saying that fantasies are an indication of intent and indicative of personality. According to them, people who enjoy BDSM are violent and dangerous.

      So we get to to porn that is deliberately hateful and this is where I get into rocky philosophical territory. I don’t know what is going on that makes it appealing to some and my visceral reaction is that there is something wrong there. But that’s just a reaction. Given that I have no problem with the idea that fantasies are just fantasies, I shouldn’t have that reaction. I think it would be very helpful to actually find out why people like it. The anti-porn feminists think they know what’s going on and they also think they see harm stemming from it. I guess I’m saying that I understand their concerns but I’m not in agreement about their conclusions.

  12. Ms naughty I think everyone is into power and domination in sex. It is just that S and M brings it to the fore instead of hiding it.

    As Oscar Wilde may have said: ‘everything is about sex, except for sex itself.Sex is all about power’

    1. I don’t think you can make generalisations like that about sex. Saying sex is always about power is just as wrong as saying sex is always about love or simple reproduction. Everyone is different and individuals have multiple experiences of sex throughout their lives.

  13. This post and discussion reminds me of my searches for good porn when I was younger and didn’t really know where too look. Also, I was underage, so it had to be free and have poor age verification.

    One of my favorites was stuff by whipped ass. They had a short interview with the actors before the porn and showed them ending the scene afterward. Even if you skipped those parts, because they weren’t porn, I think them being there provided the context you’re talking about and it did make a difference for me as a kinky teenager. I did want to know that no one was really being abused because people have been abused for porn. Even if that’s uncommon the prevalence of that opinion is a good reason to have some disclaimer.

    Even after long discussions, my mother still believes that all female porn actors are being used and abused or are degenerate and immoral (due to extensive abuse). She is also one of the most liberal and nonreligious people I know in real life.

    I think that sex often has power play undertones, but I’ve also had times that were purely about feeling connected.

    I think the idea that power is always involved stems from the fact that sex is a vulnerable act, for both people, you’re unshielded and due to our cultural indoctrination that men must be powerful and stoic they react to this vulnerability by turning it into an act of domination and shame. I think it goes right back to feminism’s idea of men needing to be allowed to be vulnerable without feeling ashamed or weak. They can’t be giving in to their partner’s intoxicating desirability, they must be using her, they must be controlling her against her better judgment or even her will. x.x

    I feel like that’s poorly worded, but I’m not sure how to say it better because I just thought of it and haven’t refined it yet. So I’ll just have to check back and see if anyone responds in a way that helps me make that concept clearer.

    Thanks for the interesting article. I had been looking for a feminist response to the anti-all-porn feminist stance.

    1. Thanks Miranda, this is a really interesting comment and you’ve given me something more to think about. The role of constructed masculinity and how it impacts on men and their sex lives is something that needs to be considered in these kinds of discussions.

  14. It is with great consternation that I read through this article because Im fairly sure I saw the ad that generated this ‘healthy’ discussion.

    First of all – I am an atheist male and not from the US-UK and so have divergent views from a lot of people here.Unfortunately, I find it a topic that requires a person to make a decision and take a stand – and if brave a public stand at that – rather than just discussion.

    The first thing that I would like to point out is your avoidance of the fact that there are real people at the receiving end of this. There is a large percentage of women who are actually being abused as you watch that porn. So what can we do about that – discuss perhaps.

    What if rough sex is the best legal loophole to domestic violence? I would say that probably for a lot of men, it is now the sexual manifestation of domestic abuse. How much of rough sex will you put up with before you realise that you are being abused ? But then didnt you enjoy it !!!

    There is no discussion of how much your rough sex borders on rape. What is the difference between rough sex and rape after all ? That it started out consensual but…
    Aha ! Perhaps now there is way to convince a female that she was not raped – It was the neo-cool of rough sex.

    There are several more concerns regarding other aspects of porn, the mainstreaming of this on a prominent website, violence in general against women, male support for this etc. But, for me the fact that this ‘entertainment’ might be the cause for harm for even a miniscule section of women is intolerable and therefore needs more than just discussion.

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