Lately I’ve been wasting too much time on Reddit. This question came up in the AskWomen forum:
Most of the 500+ comments are very negative. There’s a lot of women on Reddit who think that porn is addictive, causes erectile dysfunction, is exploitative, degrading to women and generally bad for society. “I’m a proud prude,” said one. What’s frustrating are the number of people posting this shit without any facts to back themselves up.
I wrote a long essay trying to make my thoughts on porn known but it was removed for “derailing”. Unfortunately my efforts to write about the reality of porn was seen as ‘splaining or correcting people’s opinions. I’ve since gone in and made a much shorter comment.
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In the meantime, though, I wasted time writing up my long “essay”. So fuck it, I’m going to just put it on my blog. Maybe it is a bit ‘splainy but I don’t care.
Here it is:
I’ve been making and curating porn online since 2000, I’ve directed over 70 films/scenes and I run a porn site called Bright Desire. Here’s what I know about porn:
* Porn isn’t a monolith, especially in 2022 when anyone with a phone can make porn. There are huge corporations producing porn and there are individuals filming it in their bedrooms. A lot of porn can be sexist, racist, transphobic and ableist. A lot of it is wonderful. I have been part of the feminist porn movement for years and I know there’s lots of people out there making porn that is beautiful, inspiring, thought-provoking, daring, honest and truthful.
* Porn is not addictive or inherently bad. If you’re reading articles that start with this assumption, look elsewhere. Indeed, far too much research has started with false premises about what porn is and how people react to it. I recommend the work of Prof. Alan McKee who has spent years looking at the *real* impact of porn. He’s found that there’s still a bunch we don’t know about porn because so much previous research made assumptions. Like, you’ve probably seen the figure that 85% of all porn contains violence. But the researchers included spanking and “aggressive language” in that figure and they never accounted for fantasy or roleplay. When you dig deeper, the stats that a lot of anti-porn people quote are just bullshit. Really, porn is not that terrible.
Check the work of Dr. David Ley and Prof Constance Penley. And the Porn Studies journal. There’s a lot more I could say here but I won’t get bogged down.
* Sex workers are amazing people and they deserve our respect. NEVER assume that a sex worker doesn’t have agency. Don’t make generalizations about how porn is exploitative and how no-one can really consent. You are infantilising the sex workers and disrespecting them. They are all different, they make their own choices and the first thing anyone should do when discussing porn or sex work is to listen to them.
* Sites like ManyVids and OnlyFans have been great for sex workers because it allows them to make their own work available and get paid directly. It’s broadened the horizon for what people can make and enjoy.
* Porn does have issues. One of them is the vast market share of large corporations like Pornhub and also the way that Google gives free tube sites all the traffic. Those companies define what people see. Their categories, their sexist advertising and their algorithms help to define porn as a fairly narrow thing. Unfortunately the tube sites are all people ever see and they expect porn to be free as well. As mentioned above, there’s a huge variety of porn out there but a lot of it is hard to find, which leads me to…
* Porn is operating in an incredibly restrictive environment. Social media bans sex workers and expressions of sexuality so we’re rendered invisible. Financial institutions discriminate. The 2 major credit card companies are tightening their monopoly and imposing even more restrictions on what people can show in their porn (a couple of days ago Mastercard told creators they can’t use dildos in porn unless they look like a penis). If you want porn to be better, consider how hard it is to be an indie operator making realistic, feminist porn, trying to be seen in this environment. The obstacles are huge.
* For me, porn is a chance to capture connection and intimacy. Sex is such a vital part of our humanity. I want to show it for the wonderful thing it is. I love that I can show laughter and silliness and real, intense passion in my movies. I also love that I can make consent and safe sex a sexy part of my films.
It’s crazy that taboo and censorship mean that society wants this part of our lives to be hidden and shameful. And I think it’s terrible that, thanks to the domination of sites like Pornhub, so much of what people see is… crap, really. There’s a lot of porn that I personally don’t like. So many tropes and conventions that are a turn off.
There’s also so much that’s amazing. Like, stop looking at tube sites and go and visit Pink Label TV and see what queer and indie producers are making. Check out the films by my friend Jennifer Lyon Bell at Blue Artichoke Films. Or Marcus at Thousand Faces Films. Or Pandora Blake. Or Joybear, or Kim Cums, or Lucie Bee, or… god, I could recommend so many great creators that I know and I’ve worked with.
OK, that’s enough of an essay for now.
Note: Main image is the new ad I made for Bright Desire, which is sponsoring the upcoming San Francisco Porn Film Festival. I really like the new slogan I’ve come up with: PORN, BUT FUN. Because that’s what a lot of my porn is.