The Thoughtful Animal

The Porn Post, Revisited

The first iteration of this post engendered quite a bit of discussion. Some of it within the scope of what I initially wrote about; much of it not.

I closed the comments and un-published the post while I considered what to do about it. I’ve decided to go ahead and re-publish the post, stripped of all editorializing. So what you have now is just description and explanation of the studies.

I had initially written:
Let’s make a few things clear: I am not taking sides in the issue of whether or not pornography should be censored or restricted (but most forms of censorship make me very uncomfortable). This is meant to review some of the research that’s been conducted on whether or not there is a reliable causal relationship between pornography and various Bad Things.

It is more clear to me know that perhaps it is naive to think that the question of the effects of a product can be separated from the question of the ethics of whether or not that product should be made in the first place. From a purely scientific point of view, I still believe these are two separable questions – similar to the questions of whether or not we should be drilling offshore for oil, and, since we ARE drilling offshore for oil, how does that affect the ecosystem? However complicated those questions are, these questions are, clearly, far more complicated and divisive. And I’ve walked into a major battlefield without, as Pal says, the proper flashlight.

I should further say that these are only 3 studies out of a much larger literature. As with any research, there are obviously limitations both theoretically and methodologically. And as with any blog post, it is impossible to capture an entire field of literature. It saddens me that this singular post, off-topic and off-the-cuff, has gotten the most attention out of any other post I’ve written. I only hope that some of those who have been following along through this whole debacle have learned a thing or two, as I have. And I hope that those who have found my blog because of the controversy surrounding this post will spend some time checking out of the other far more interesting (to me) posts on animal behavior, learning, and cognition.

So below the fold are the descriptions and explanations of the three initial studies I wrote about, stripped of speculation and editorializing. All the original comments have been preserved, but I’m keeping the comments thread here closed. The citations to the original research are at the bottom of the post, with links, as they always have been. As always, I encourage everyone to download and read the original research for themselves.

Self-Perceptions
A couple of sexologists from Copenhagen distributed a survey including the Pornography Consumption Effect Scale to 688 heterosexual Danish men and women between the ages of 18 and 30. The sample was comparable to the general Danish population, with the exception of having slightly higher educational attainment.

The authors argue that asking consumers about their own beliefs is a method rarely used when studying the effects of pornography. They note that the popular media relies primarily on interviews with selected individuals and out of this emerges a series of adverse effects like “wrecking marriages,” negatively changing men’s perceptions of women and women’s perceptions of themselves, and sexual addiction.

Decades of survey research on the effects of media more generally describe a “third person effect.” First, people think that the media will influence others more than themselves. Second, people tend to act in accordance with that perceived discrepancy. The impact of the “third person effect” could therefore be reflected in various censorship efforts, including pornography. People consider themselves less likely to be influenced by pornography, in this case, than they do others.

So instead of just asking their survey respondents about their perceptions of the effects of pornography on themselves or others, they also collected information about their pornography consumption and looked for statistical relationships. The five types of effects they were interested in were:
(1) Sex life – e.g. sexual performance, sexual experimentation, frequency of sexual activity;
(2) Life in general;
(3) Perception of and attitudes toward the opposite gender – e.g. stereotypes, friendliness toward and respect for the opposite gender;
(4) Attitudes towards sex – e.g. opinions, views, outlook;
(5) Sexual knowledge – e.g. factual knowledge of sex and sexual desire

What did they find?

More men than women were found to have ever used pornography (97.8% for men; 79.5% for women), and men spent significantly more time per week on pornography consumption (80.8 minutes for men; 21.9 minutes for women).

Men reported significantly larger positive than negative effects overall as well as for each of the five variables described above.

Women also reported significantly larger positive than negative effects of pornography consumption overall, as well as for three of the individual variables: sex life, life in general, and attitudes towards sex.

Perceived positive effects of pornography were significantly correlated with: greater consumption, perception of pornography as portraying a realistic picture of sex, greater frequency of masturbation, a lower age of first porn exposure, and being male. Perceived negative effects of pornography was significantly correlated with being male, lower age of first exposure, less masturbation, lower frequency of intercourse, and a greater amount of consumption. Overall, the correlations for the negative effects while significant were an order of magnitude less significant than for the positive effects.

Okay, so several variables were correlated with BOTH positive and negative effects of porn, and in a regression analysis these were factored out. What was left were strong effects of consumption, perception of porn as portraying a realistic picture of sex, and greater frequency of masturbation for positive effects. And lower frequency of intercourse for negative effects.

Can Watching Porn Adversely Affect Sexual Socialization?
In other words, can it lead to unrealistic expectations? If so, you would expect lower sexual satisfaction among viewers of pornography.

i-fb53bc0298ccc0af05ad9530710aced0-porn theoretical.jpg

Figure 1: The theoretical model looks something like this.

To assess whether or not real-life data fit this theoretical model, an online questionnaire was administered to over 2000 Croatian men and women between the ages of 18 and 25. The questionnaire included sociodemographic questions, experience with porn, attitudes towards porn, sexual experience, and sex attitudes.

Also, the researchers created and administered the “Sexual Scripts Overlap Scale.” Forty-two items were presented, and the individual had to indicate the importance of each item to “great sex,” on a scale of 1 (not important) to 5 (exceptionally important).” Then, they repeated the task with the same forty-two items, but this time they were asked to rate them in terms of importance “for pornographic presentation of sex.”

Another important measure they included was the a series of questions regarding the content of their preferred genre of porn. If they preferred BDSM, fetishism, bestiality, or violence/coercion, they were coded as “paraphilic” users. If they answered “none of the above,” they were coded as “mainstream” users. I think this bifurcation leaves some things to be desired, but let’s see how their results turned out.

They found no group differences in terms of sociodemographics. Paraphilic porn users reported significantly higher masturbation frequency and a higher number of lifetime sexual partners. Paraphilic users consumed pornography more extensively as well: 44% reported using it three or more hours per week. They also reported higher levels of sexual boredom, greater acceptance of sexual myths, and a higher average score on the sexual compulsiveness scale.

The paraphilic group had a greater overlap between the scripts. That is, they thought that great sex and great porn were more similar than those with self-reported preference for vanilla porn.

I’ll spare you the complicated path models. Here’s the take-home message: pornography use impacted on sexual satisfaction only for the paraphilic porn users, but not for the users who preferred vanilla porn. That said, the observed effects were small or marginal.

Okay, so far we’ve reviewed some of the self-perceived effects of porn, and the effects of porn on sexual satisfaction. But we’ve skirted the main issue:

Are their reliable effects of pornography on sexual aggression?
Another study surveyed 2,972 men with a mean age of 21 from US college campuses. In addition to the standard questions and measures similar to the other studies I’ve described above, they gave a standard 10-item scale to measure sexual aggression. They measured sexual promiscuity. They also completed the “hostile masculinity” scale, which measured hostility towards women and self-perceived masculinity. They combined the sexual promiscuity variable with the hostile masculinity variable and called this the “confluence risk” variable (since previous research suggested that these two variables interact with eachother to create a risk factor for aggression).

Again, I will spare you the details of all the structural equation modeling. What they found was that there was an interaction between pornography use and the confluence risk variable in predicting aggression.

porn interaction.jpg

Figure 2: Interaction Model. Click to enlarge.

Notice that for at the lower levels of risk (based on the combined sexual promiscuity and hostile masculinity variables), there is no difference in, or only weak effects of, aggression between the four different levels of porn use. It is only once the confluence risk variables reach moderate risk (score of 6) is porn use adversely associated with sexual aggression. For the high-risk group (score of 9) the effect becomes especially evident. Note however, that even the individuals who “somewhat frequently” use pornography are only slightly more likely to become sexually aggressive, and not statistically so. Only the very frequent users were statistically different from the others for the high-risk group. The “somewhat frequent,” “seldom,” and “never” users were not statistically different from eachother.

What does it mean? High pornography use is not necessarily indicative of high risk for sexual aggression. Among men who are relatively low-risk for sexual aggression, the use of porn results in only a slight increase in aggression. In some circumstances, pornography use, however, is a very good indicator of higher sexual aggression levels. This is the case when considering men who were determined to previously be at high risk for sexual aggression. Those who are frequent users of pornography were more likely to have engaged in sexual aggression than others who consume porn less frequently.

As with the previous studies, this was also only correlational, and it is impossible to infer casuality. However, this data suggests that viewing pornography is not a direct cause of aggression against women; rather, viewing pornography moderates the relationship between sexual promiscuity/hostile masculinity and sexual aggression.

What have we learned?
1. These issues are very complicated.
2. Because of the “third person effect,” it is important to measure pornography consumption in addition to attitudes
3. When it comes to self-report, both men and women report larger positive effects than negative effects.
4. Nearly all men report viewing pornography (98%), but the vast majority of women (80%) do as well.
5. For some, viewing pornography can lead to reduced sexual satisfaction. This effect is most pronounced for those who prefer “paraphilic” content to “mainstream” content, though this distinction leaves something to be desired.
6. There are reliable relationships between pornography use and sexual aggression, but the story isn’t so straightforward. For individuals with relatively low risk for sexual aggression, porn consumption has only a slight relationship with sexual aggression. The relationship becomes significant and pronounced only when the individual is already at a high-risk for sexual aggression.

Hald, G., & Malamuth, N. (2007). Self-Perceived Effects of Pornography Consumption Archives of Sexual Behavior, 37 (4), 614-625. DOI: 10.1007/s10508-007-9212-1

Štulhofer, A., Buško, V., & Landripet, I. (2008). Pornography, Sexual Socialization, and Satisfaction Among Young Men Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39 (1), 168-178. DOI: 10.1007/s10508-008-9387-0

Malamuth NM, Addison T, & Koss M (2000). Pornography and sexual aggression: are there reliable effects and can we understand them? Annual review of sex research, 11, 26-91. PMID: 11351835

Comments

  1. #1 Dunc
    June 4, 2010

    “Just How Bad Is Porn, Anyway?”

    The vast majority of it is lousy. Better porn please!

  2. #2 hectocotyli
    June 4, 2010

    What always spins my head about so much discussion of pornography is the incredible lack of subtlety in defining the terms. Depictions of sex in still or video has about as wide a spectrum as the diversity of human sexual behavior. Which is to say, pigeonhole at your peril. The Croatian study at least began to layer this out, though the paraphilic/normal distinction is a bit strange.

    If we’re gonna get sciency, I’d sure like to see more studies that control for type, gender, behavior, um, soundtrack. It’s completely reasonable to posit that exposure to sexual depiction has a social and behavioral influence on sexual norms, but let’s be smart about what we’re trying to parse.

    & prescient as usual, as publicized just yesterday in The Onion, “Children Exposed To Pornography May Expect Sex To Be Enjoyable.”

  3. #3 MTiffany
    June 4, 2010

    Perhaps we should consider redesigning our sex ed curricula. Perhaps we should be playing offense instead of defense.
    Or better yet, let’s call off the War on Sex and accept sex for what it is: part of life.

  4. #4 Alex
    June 4, 2010

    Lol @ Dunc.

    And I don’t think you discussed the chicken vs egg issue with these high-risk men who watch tons of porn, right? I mean, we don’t know whether oodles of porn causes sexual aggression, or men who are sexually aggressive also tend to be big old porn hounds. Honestly, while I suspect some back and forth on this, my intuitive guess is that it tips toward the latter.

    The only way I could see testing this, though, is a lengthy study that gauged pubescent boys’ attitudes toward women pre-porn-exposure and then returned to them years after they figured out how to beat their parents’ porn blocking software. And even then, of course, the other factors in play are so legion that it would be awfully difficult to filter meaning out of it.

  5. #5 anonymous (berlinerin)
    June 4, 2010

    And what about queer porn? Or trans* porn? Or BDSM porn? It’s all very well making statements about, and publishing studies on porn, but as long as it is implicitly about hetero porn, it’s misleading to extrapolate any results to other groups who use and make porn under quite different circumstances.

  6. #6 luna-the-cat
    June 4, 2010

    Here’s another thought:

    Porn IS traditionally associated with exploitation and degradation of women, historical fact, but this could also be a result of the fact that many women are forced into the sex trade in general because of poverty rather than out of choice, and there are very few legal protections available for sex trade workers and/or porn workers. There are more skilled and unskilled trades open to men in general, so men are more likely to seek out a “career” in porn from free choice, and it makes leaving it when they are treated poorly much, much easier.

    Stereotype portrayals of women’s sexual roles in porn is another ball o’ wax.

    Also, it is likely that more porn is geared towards men because we are only now moving into any sort of culture where it is even vaguely, sortof acceptable for women to be consumers. This plays into both exploitation of women and stereotype roles.

    So here’s a proposal: legal protections for sex workers, a cultural push to ensure that it involves consenting, un-coerced, equal-status actors, and yes, better quality stuff. ;-P

    The nasty, horrible, truly exploitive stuff will still be out there, but I think it needs to be separated from the general classification of “porn” — and I wouldn’t mind seeing less sexualisation of children in the mainstream, for all that, too.

    As you say, a complex issue.

  7. #7 Scicurious
    June 4, 2010

    Sci would love to see all this coupled with some studies on how men perceive women (attractiveness, intelligence, etc) correlated with porn use, as well as studies on how women perceive THEMSELVES (attractiveness, etc) correlated with porn use. Results could be edifying.

  8. #8 Nico
    June 4, 2010

    I think all of these porn conference people should instead go to the gulf to volunteer and fix real problems.

  9. #9 Dick
    June 4, 2010

    Right on, Nico! I am so with you on this! Only one problem at at time, any time, please! That’s the only way we can ever hope to make serious progress or accomplish anything meaningful. I’m pretty sure that’s how science works, right? All the scientists get together and agree: “It’s nanotechnology! Okay, from now on, everybody please focus their attention on nanotechnology, and quit distracting yourselves with unimportant stuff like geology and astronomy and H1N1 because the REAL PROBLEM is nanotechnology!!!!!!!!!!!!”

  10. #10 Zuska
    June 4, 2010

    Oh, porn is awesome. Soooooo empowerful! I’ll bet every d00d dreams of being the hot chick lying there on the floor/desk/couch/bed/whatever, waiting for the money shot to splatter all over one’s face. No?

  11. #11 PalMD
    June 4, 2010

    When I read evaluations of acupuncture, such as the recent study on adenosine receptors, I often find that while the data are interesting, the wrong questions were asked.

    I think that in the case of porn we have a similar problem. The extant literature is too incomplete to draw conclusions, and most of it asks the wrong questions.

  12. #12 PennyBright
    June 4, 2010

    I would be in the paraphilic group, and the reported findings concerning paraphlia seem pretty accurate to me, though slightly turned around. I’m not dissatisfied because I use more porn, I am using more porn because it’s really hard to find a partner who shares my tastes.

  13. #13 Azkyroth
    June 4, 2010

    Oh, porn is awesome. Soooooo empowerful! I’ll bet every d00d dreams of being the hot chick lying there on the floor/desk/couch/bed/whatever, waiting for the money shot to splatter all over one’s face. No?

    Actually, yes.

  14. #14 Roland
    June 4, 2010

    I wonder if this anti-porn attitude is some sort of psychological displacement. The number-one cause for the end of relationships in the US is disagreements about money. When I think back to the relationships I have ended, it had nothing to do with sex or porn, it was always due to a refusal of financial intimacy.

  15. #15 Ann G
    June 4, 2010

    My problem with porn and exploitation is not about the effect that it may have on people and on their sexual behaviour, but specifically about the people, men and women, who are exploited by the industry.

    Even in this modern age, there is still a huge stigma attached to women who have sex for fun, let alone for pay – I’m not saying that’s how it should be, just that’s how it is.

    As an example, a well known but previously anonymous female sex blogger was recently described as a hooker by a broadsheet newspaper, even though she was never a sex worker, just an enthusiastic amateur. The newspaper reacted to complaints by describing her as a “good time girl.”

    So, I wasn’t exactly surprised when she was interviewed and various incidents about her childhood came up that made it clear that although she was an adult who knew what she was doing, her choices were influenced by childhood trauma.

    For many women in the sex industry that has been confirmed over and over – I don’t know how accurate the reseacrh was and how much it was subject to confirmation bias – but given the social attitudes it doesn’t seem unreasonable. After all, no matter how much one things it’s a permissible choice, it’s not a career you’d choose for your daughter, is it?

    But still, it’s clear that many of us do enjoy erotica in one form or another.

    My conclusion is, that the only way to make it non exploitative is simply to remove all the commercial side. Don’t ban porn in any way, just don’t allow anyone to make money out of it. There are plenty fo enthusiastic amateurs around these days so wouldn’t that just solve the problem?

    Oh, and the other thing – I do wish someone would explain to some of the young men who appear to be educated solely by porn, that some of the classic moves are designed for visual stimulation and aren’t actually all that much fun ;)

  16. #16 sleeprunning...
    June 4, 2010

    Few comments:
    - The oldest piece of human art is a Venus, apparently the main production of early printing presses was erotic books – NOT the bible.

    - Thanks for bringing some data to the hyper-heated discussion. Actually, it seems sex addiction and erotic material usage is not that complicated. But it is a sure fire evergreen media headline attn getter. Gotta have moral outrage against SOMETHING. This topic does generate near hysteria.

    - We propose the view that imaginary depections of strong, largely anti-social, male impulses and behavior are actually adaptive. Whether it’s imaginary violence portrayed in media/online or aggressive sexual behavior – it’s a whole lot better virtual than real. Seems it’s a pretty efficient safety valve.

    - That said compulsive sexual behavior is a serious addiction. Our study also suggest sex addiction is perhaps the worst of all since it often involves:
    - Physical violence
    - Children
    - Social prominent status as camouflage for the, sometimes, horrific behavior.

    That said, it would be nice to see data tying erotic matieral usage to the violence and acctual physical behavior. We’ll bet the opposite is true.

    - As you point out, self-reports of socially unacceptable behavior is pretty wothless. Doesn’t it seem implausible thet effectively ALL guys view erotic stuff online?

    - Of course, erotic material use and violence are symptoms of sex addition. Our understanding is:

    - Sex addiction is garden variety addictive brain disorder, likely effect of inherited dopamine receptor deficits.
    - Likely D2 receptors with some influence of D1. Believe D1 is the aggressive behavior one.

    As other addictions, the chronic and acute behavior symptoms, aside from prior family members having the same behaviors, is the constant acute distress feeling and craving. The the inability to quiet that craving regardless of dopamine triggering behavior.

    An interesting co-morbid condition we’ve seen in our noodling around in sex addiction, is financial impulsivity/compulsivity. Kind of a n interesting mix of behaviors.

    The main distraction we see with this discussion is confounding behavior with neurological impairment and dealing with epiphenomena. But that’s wgat we pay the media to do for us.

    We’ve posted on this on our blog: http://sleeprunning.tumblr.com

    Last quick question, what Bar and Bat Mitzvahs are you going to? Just curious.

    Let us also suggest some folks head over to the Psychology Today posts and bring some science. Apparently, this is one of the hottest online topics and they are milking it for all it’s worth with self-help silliness. Hey, that stuff sells!

  17. #17 Petter Häggholm
    June 4, 2010

    Q: You were abused and raped as a kid, right?
    A: No, but thanks for trying to use that as a means to discredit me.

    [feminisnt – a blog worth glancing at]

    Ann G,

    You still seem to operate from a basic assumption that porn is Wrong. I certainly agree that there’s a lot of stigma attached to sex work, and I don’t doubt that many in the porn industry (though I wouldn’t care to guess at the proportion) are exploited or psychologically ‘damaged’, but let’s not put the cart before the horse. The sex industry does not exploit in a vacuum. Whatever exploitation happens does so in a cultural context where sex work is already stigmatised. Would it still be exploitative if sex work were not seen as dirty? And if not, would psychologically ‘damaged’ people be likely to end up there?

    You said, “…no matter how much one things it’s a permissible choice, it’s not a career you’d choose for your daughter, is it?” I don’t have a daughter, but I’m sure this is true—but then, that’s still coming from the perspective of a sex-negative society, and from the perspective that the career is stigmatised already. You wouldn’t want your daughter to engage in any career that earns her the scorn of people around her. (You also chose an emotion-laden bit of rhetoric: Most fathers, I gather, prefer not to think of their daughters having sex at all.)

    But we surely know better than to blame the victim. (I will use a lot of “ifs” here, because like you I am arguing from sense and logic and general knowledge rather than solid data.) If the answer is that porn is intrinsically bad, then get rid of it. If the sex industry is intrinsically and unavoidably exploitative, then as you say, let’s hope it loses all commercial aspect. But if it just happens to be that it’s problematic because of wider social attitudes, then surely the proper solution is a quest to change social attitudes, rather than telling people “No, you shouldn’t do what you are doing—not because it’s wrong in itself, but because other people will treat you poorly, I forbid you to do it”.

    By way of analogy and illustration, a more extreme example is prostitution, which is far more dangerous because it’s both stigmatised and widely illegal: Many, many prostitutes are raped and abused, but don’t dare go to the police; because they don’t dare go to the police, more people dare to rape and abuse them—but clearly the problem is not that people choose to have sex with strangers (which is not illegal) and accept money from them (which, in most any other context, is not illegal), but rather that some assholes rape and abuse them.

  18. #18 skeptifem
    June 4, 2010

    Uh yeah, I just want to point out that the consent of the women in pornography is questionable. Trafficked women appear in pornography. Women who are high on drugs appear in pornography. Some have notoriously abusive partners who force them into pornography with violence (Linda Lovelace was raped repeatedly this way). You have absolutely no way of knowing if you are watching someone being raped because the raped women are made to pretend to enjoy it.
    Often pornography IS violence against women, so asking if porn causes that is a silly question. Normalizing that situation is horrible. Paying for a luxury item with such an immense human cost is deplorable. No porn is worth it, and I don’t think people should be free to buy something that causes the rape of women. What is crazy is that the rape of a woman can become speech if someone takes a picture. People act like the rape of women in porn isn’t enough, that it has to spread to other women for it to matter.

  19. #19 Ann G
    June 4, 2010

    Petter, I understand your point, but no I don’t think it’s wrong – at any rate, I don’t have a problem with erotica. As I said, I would have no problem with it even in the world as it is today – if the commercial element was removed.

    And I am certainly not blaming the victim – where you get from is beyond me. I’m blaming those who profit, and those who judge.

    That would automatically deal with skeptifem’s valid point about the real exploitation of women in the sex industry – traffiking and drugs and the rest would be pointless if no one was making money

    So I would draw a line bwteen porn and erotica – and call porn the commercial side where there is exploitation up to an including the actual rape of women in porn

    So the issue about the social attitudes remains. Yes, I’d like to see those change, but not to the point where women would choose to make their living as sex workers. I love sex, but I just wouldn’t want to make my living that way. There are other parts of us all that need stimulation and satisfaction. So I’d like to see social attitudes change so far as allowing women to express their sexuality any way they choose. But I still wouldn’t include commercially produced porn in that.

    And as for my point being emotive… Is emotion wrong when talking about sex then? Perhaps in that case porn is damaging.

  20. #20 Sharon Astyk
    June 4, 2010

    I’m with Pal here – I think the questions being asked seem like precisely the wrong ones. Skeptifem brings up some of the right ones – if we were to ask “how bad is watching women being really raped and getting off on it” would we get the same answer?

    I tend to think that placing the onus of responsibility for male violence on porn, rather than the larger culture, is a proxy because we don’t actually talk about patriarchy anymore (except Zuska, of course, thankfully ;-)). We see conferences about “porn hurts women” because porn is an easy way of encapsulating a larger society that treats women like shit a lot of the time, and has a comparatively small advocacy budget, whereas patriarchal society has a huge one.

    Sharon

    Sharon

  21. #21 Petter Häggholm
    June 4, 2010

    Ann G:

    And I am certainly not blaming the victim – where you get from is beyond me.

    I didn’t mean to imply that you did so in any direct sense. What I meant is that it seems you are saying that because the porn industry contains exploiters and abusers, and because there exists great stigma, therefore women who wish to make their living as sex workers should not be allowed to do so—taking away their choices because of the evil wrought by their oppressors. I think that’s akin to blaming the victim—you have shifted the moral blame to the abusers, but the victims share the punishment.

    If abuse and exploitation are unavoidably rampant, then perhaps taking away their choices is a lesser evil than maintaining the market, but (1) I’m not convinced that it is so, and (2) even if it is so, even if it is a lesser evil, still it is an evil to take away those choices.

    So I would draw a line bwteen porn and erotica – and call porn the commercial side where there is exploitation up to an including the actual rape of women in porn.

    If you are defining the term “porn” in terms of exploitation and abuse, then of course it’s a negative term, but that’s not really worth discussing.

    So the issue about the social attitudes remains. Yes, I’d like to see those change, but not to the point where women would choose to make their living as sex workers. I love sex, but I just wouldn’t want to make my living that way.

    I’m trying, but I can’t for the life of me see how to get from point A to point B in that argument. Just because you would not like to make your living as a sex worker…why does that mean that other people shouldn’t? I personally wouldn’t want to be a sex worker, either, nor a plumber, an accountant, a surgeon, a marketing director, a prison guard, or a sanitation worker; yet I think that a society where you and I are free to be any of the above things if we wish, choose, and qualify is an ideal society.

    So I’d like to see social attitudes change so far as allowing women to express their sexuality any way they choose. But I still wouldn’t include commercially produced porn in that.

    But why not? You think it’s fine for women to express their sexuality in any way they choose—including porn, from the above. But the moment they accept renumeration in exchange, it’s wrong. Why the caveat? Why tell anyone, “You’re free to express yourself however you like—except this way; you can do what you want with your sexuality, have sex with whomever you like—but not for whatever reason you want”? It seems inconsistent.

    —I don’t imagine, of course, that the sex industry is free of problems. But saying that it needs cleaning up is not at all the same as saying that it needs to be eliminated. Many other professions suffer problems of sexism, too, if less dire and less blatant; the solution is to improve their cultures, not to get rid of them.

    For the record, I do not know how good or how bad the porn industry as a whole is, nor any particular niche, company, or market. It’s very easy to paint very whitewashed pictures of happy, liberated sluts, or to paint dark pictures of brutal and ubiquitous exploitation. I’m sure real-life exemplars of both kinds can be found; I will not pretend to know what the real-life distribution is. I wonder whether any credible studies exist. I wonder if any of the good sex bloggers out there have written about it. The easily-found assessments are often too slanted to take seriously.

    And as for my point being emotive… Is emotion wrong when talking about sex then? Perhaps in that case porn is damaging.

    You misunderstand or misconstrue my point. By using the specific example of “Would you want your daughter doing this?”, you are constructing your argument so as to take a particularly sex-negative angle: If I am right in suggesting that most fathers prefer not to think of their daughters’ sex lives at all (a prevalent cultural stereotype, at least), then clearly the argument is likely to provoke a knee-jerk revulsion. “Close friend” rather than “daughter” would invoke a relationship that does involve affection and love, but ‘background levels’ of stigma unamplified by the stigma of thinking about close relations in sexual situations.

    Or, to illustrate with an example, the question “How do you feel about people having anal sex?” might get a different set of answers than “How do you feel about your daughter having anal sex?”

    See also the following links, by people who know more about the business than I do. Note that some of them contain images (ads &c.) that may be NSFW, though the articles are not pornographic.

    http://www.erosblog.com/2005/10/22/evil-porn-werewolf-enslavers-debunked/
    http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2007/07/a-price-i-was-w.html
    http://www.feminisnt.com/2010/want-to-play-bingo-with-the-antis/
    http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/Content?oid=464318

  22. #22 cs shelton
    June 4, 2010

    Skeptifem- I’ve seen your posts on other subjects in other places and like a lot of what you have to say, but you’re taking an emotional position here that doesn’t reflect reality or practicality or human rights or even feminism in a reasonable way.

    Porn (or more broadly erotica) is probably close to the oldest human art form. Being a man and at one point in my youth narcotically brainfucked by hormones, I’m pretty sure the paleolithic venus was NOT a goddess figure. She was a masturbation aid. Even chimpanzees will trade fruit for chimp porn, in recent experiments.

    My point: This demand will NOT cease to exist if it is outlawed, the same way unplanned pregnancies will not cease to happen if abortion is outlawed. The only way to protect the exploited women you speak of is to fully legalize and regulate the hell out of the industry. We need better watchdogs, prosecution of the abusers, and so on.

    Bans on prostitution have led to unchecked abuse of women, and one can see the same potential with porn. Legally porn is barely tolerated in the USA, and the legal attention it really needs (protection for workers, etc.) is sorely lacking because no one wants to touch the subject. Focus on it; fix the issues. Prohibition is just nuts.

    As for Zuska, as usual,
    :-P
    U don’t understand my sex very well, do U?

  23. #23 hectocotyli
    June 4, 2010

    Quoting anonymous (berlinerin) from above:

    And what about queer porn? Or trans* porn? Or BDSM porn? It’s all very well making statements about, and publishing studies on porn, but as long as it is implicitly about hetero porn, it’s misleading to extrapolate any results to other groups who use and make porn under quite different circumstances.

    Word. And even hetero porn contains a multitude.

    We all need to do a much better job of defining what it is that we’re really talking about when we talk about “porn”.

  24. #24 Ann G
    June 5, 2010

    Petter, you are still assuming that we live in some kind of ideal world, where agency and free will exist apart from any other pressures.

    In the world as it is now, there can be no free choice to be a sex worker because there is a social stigma, and because of that it is also highly likely that there are consequences for emotional or mental health, at the very least.

    Change the world so that there can be a free choice, and then I’ll reconsider. Maybe then I’ll be free to worry about those who have no other choice but to become plumbers.

  25. #25 Pyre
    June 5, 2010

    What’s great porn to my mind is a wish-fulfillment fantasy of people having clearly really enjoyable sex — which (a) you can vicariously enjoy by imagining yourself one of the participants, and (b) you can take mental notes on technique from to apply in future sessions of actual love-making.

    By this definition, great porn doesn’t involve “money shots”, but does involve him giving her relaxing (and/or stimulating) massages beforehand….

  26. #26 PalMD
    June 5, 2010

    Skeptifem- I’ve seen your posts on other subjects in other places and like a lot of what you have to say, but you’re taking an emotional position here that doesn’t reflect reality or practicality or human rights or even feminism in a reasonable way.

    You realize that’s fucking idiotic, right? “Don’t be so emotional, girlie! It keeps you from making real arguments like the boys!”

    Con.Cern. Troll.

  27. #27 Qaziz
    June 5, 2010

    Jesus Christ, do you realize how idiotic YOU’RE being? The massive chip on your shoulder is causing you to assume bad faith, I think. There is nothing in shelton’s argument that suggests he was making that kind of argument, and to assume otherwise is to assert that it is impossible for women to make emotional arguments, and that suggesting so will always be sexist.

  28. #28 CS Shelton
    June 5, 2010

    In fairness, I did start that off with a total concern troll tagline. But seriously, I am pretty strongly feminist as men go. I do agree with patriarchy-fightin’ types most of the time. I see Skeptifem’s comments in the same light as my own comments for keeping drugs illegal when I was younger. Motivated by an emotional reaction to real harm I had seen in my life, I didn’t have anything else legitimate to base my argument on when confronted with facts.

    I’ve since changed my position: Legalize all drugs now! Likewise prostitution, and certainly impose reality-based regulation on the porno industry, instead of vague bullshit such as “I know it when I see it” laws.

    As for the specific problems mentioned (abusive boyfriends and drugs), that makes the porn industry a good place to target with outreach for women’s services, much like housing projects and open-air drug markets and such. But outlawing porn when the demand is so overpowering (a vanishingly tiny minority of men have never used it) is even more insane than trying to ban drugs, and it’s BAD FOR WOMEN.

    I like the idea of a world where all porn is free and it’s illegal to profit from it, but it seems unlikely to work. If someone can figure that out, I’ll endorse it.

    I will also admit that I have a personal stake or two in defending porn: One, Sex negativity is a big pet peeve of mine (not to mention, subjugator of women) and automatically trashing all porn reeks of that. Two, my girlfriend enjoys the kind of art that would make a Senate subcommittee investigate her if she started producing it instead of just consuming it. And Three, I invented porn with no outside influence (same as masturbation) when I was 11. I drew naked people. I figured out what felt good. It came to me naturally, and to trash porn as inherently evil or anti-woman is to say that a natural part of who I am sexually is bad and horrible. So no, I ain’t having it.
    -

  29. #29 Turuk
    June 5, 2010

    “Pornography offers people a vision of sexuality rooted in men’s domination of women and and women’s acceptance of their own degradation.” As Camille Paglia (who is clearly un-scientific and occasionally froths woo-woo) has pointed out, this view of pornography dissolves when you take into consideration gay porn. If participants are of the same gender, the distinction of dominant and “degraded” is within the gender and then clearly cannot be rooted in “men’s domination of women.” What is the relevance of the “male-gaze” if it is applied to males also?
    Most of this sociological blather is religious morality in disguise. Seriously, what is the value of virginity or sexual purity? Why must monogamy be preferable to multiple partners? Why is it that sexual desire is bad? These values are religious holdovers, moldy morals that worked well to socially bind iron age peoples but are irrelevant now.

  30. #30 DuWayne
    June 5, 2010

    I just wanted to respond to the claim that you can’t know what porn is exploitative quick. You can. Check out, for example, Nina Harltley’s web site. There are also several online retailers that are committed to selling non-exploitative porn. Including Amazon…

    Note, I am not talking about porn sites that require a membership and then provide memberships to other sites and leave your computer with a venereal infection. There it really is impossible to tell.

    The bottom line – there are a lot of people who choose porn and other forms of sex work either because they like it, or because they like the money and aren’t bothered by the work. This puritanical bullshit just keeps sex work on the fringes and in the case of sex for money, illegal – thus making it ripe for exploitation.

    Legal and well regulated for safety, is a hell of a lot better than punishing women who choose to engage.

  31. #31 Alex
    June 5, 2010

    In the world as it is now, there can be no free choice to be a sex worker because there is a social stigma

    That makes no sense. Social stigma acts against becoming a prostitute. So the social stigma means that if someone does actually become a sex worker, then it is more likely to have been a free choice than if that social stigma didn’t exist.

  32. #32 Neuroskeptic
    June 5, 2010

    Dunc: It’s getting a lot better though, I mean look at porn from even 10 years ago and it’s, like, what was going on?

  33. #33 Alex
    June 5, 2010

    I’ll agree with DuWayne.

    On top of what he said, look at most mainstream porn. The women who star in it are actually famous because of it. We know who they are. Many get very well paid. If all hetero-porn is exploitation, then how does that explain women like Sasha Grey?

  34. #34 DuWayne
    June 5, 2010

    I have a couple of other quick points…

    First, the puritanical religious right does a plenty fine job exploiting sex workers, by pushing laws that push the sex trade into this ugly underworld that is largely unregulated. They really don’t need help from supposed advocates for women, to exploit sex workers.

    Second, when we started to get squeamish about the exploitation of the textiles industry, we didn’t make it illegal. Instead we regulated the hell out of it and put a stop to the exploitation – unfortunately, only when it comes to clothing made in the U.S.

    Anyone who claims to be concerned about the welfare of sex workers, should be fighting hard to legalize what is illegal and bring the whole industry out of the underworld. No, that won’t completely obliterate the exploitation of women, but it would cut the vast majority of such exploitation out.

    Regulation is a hell of a lot better than condemnation and imprisonment.

  35. #35 Jason G. Goldman
    June 5, 2010

    I have no doubt that some aspects of the porn industry are exploitative. I equally have no doubt that many aspects of the porn industry are non-exploitative.

    But my concern is this: groups like the one convening in Boston next week seem to be trying to control fire by banning matches and lighters. Wouldn’t it be a better use of their time and energy to teach people how to responsibly use them, instead?

  36. #36 Christie Wilcox
    June 5, 2010

    Doesn’t it seem implausible thet effectively ALL guys view erotic stuff online?

    No, not at all. Date enough of them and it’s clear that just about every guy views porn online. Seriously. Those that say they don’t are probably lying, or don’t know how to use a computer.

    As far as the rest of this discussion…

    I don’t think anyone disagrees that there are aspects of the porn industry – women forced against their will, etc – that are terrible and should be stopped.

    That said, I personally don’t see any reason why an adult woman who wants to have sex on camera shouldn’t be allowed to. You don’t have to be abused as a child to enjoy raunchy, dirty sex or even, god forbid, like doing it in a variety of ways with a variety of people. There’s nothing wrong with being that way.

    As to “would I want my daughter doing it” – No one wants to think of their child in that way, and by “that way”, I mean as a sexual being. Period. Ask any parent if they want to think about what their daughter does with her husband in detail – I bet not a single one would. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be supportive and happy for my daughter if she chose that job freely and was happy doing it. As long as she was happy, healthy and safe, then it’s her decision.

  37. #37 Pierce R. Butler
    June 5, 2010

    Skeptifem @ # 18: What is crazy is that the rape of a woman can become speech if someone takes a picture.

    This also can work both ways. Several years ago I read a brief story about a man sent to prison for several years, somewhere up around the Great Lakes area, for child pornography.

    Reportedly, what he had in his possession was Polaroids of himself having sex with his girlfriend. She was in the gap between “age of consent” and legal adulthood in that state: it was completely legal for her to do what she was doing, but not for that to be photographed.

  38. #38 hectocotyli
    June 5, 2010

    Zuska, huge respect, but I’m sure you’re not saying that no one (gal, guy, or combo thereof) could possible get off on having a load of spooge sprayed over their face?

    But yeah, the mainstream moneyshot cliché is pretty damn tedious, and certainly unempowering in its absolute ubiquity.

    Oh, porn is awesome. Soooooo empowerful! I’ll bet every d00d dreams of being the hot chick lying there on the floor/desk/couch/bed/whatever, waiting for the money shot to splatter all over one’s face. No?

  39. #39 Travis
    June 5, 2010

    I agree with hectocotyli in #38. That is how I took Zuska’s post, but I hope it was really just a dig at boring, tedious mainstream porn. Because I know a number of women who really, really do enjoy someone cumming on their face, but I would not characterize their sexual experience as “the hot chick lying there on the floor/desk/couch/bed/whatever, waiting for the money shot to splatter all over one’s face.” either.

  40. #40 Azkyroth
    June 6, 2010

    As for Zuska, as usual, :-P
    U don’t understand my sex very well, do U?

    On the contrary, Zuska knows exactly who she’s talking to. Whether or not the actual opinions, sentiments, behavior, and (for lack of a better term) “nature” of anyone in attendance match that archetype is irrelevant – the first person who says something that sorta reminds her of the archetype, however innocently, has, by so doing, volunteered to stand in for it. In this case, it’s probably yourself. Learn from what is likely coming, if she follows up on this thread.

  41. #41 Azkyroth
    June 6, 2010

    In the world as it is now, there can be no free choice to be a sex worker because there is a social stigma, and because of that it is also highly likely that there are consequences for emotional or mental health, at the very least.

    Ah, yes, the old “all men are conniving psychopaths and all women except me are gullible morons” gambit.

  42. #42 NerdKink
    June 6, 2010

    As another person whose porn (and sexual) preferences fall under the paraphilic label, I agree with PennyBright up at #12. The causality definitely goes the other way.

    It is precisely because I have paraphilic tendencies (which developed well before I discovered pornography) that I am led to consume more porn, and more frequently experience “sexual boredom”. On the relatively rare occasions where I’ve had a sexual encounter that coincided well with my preferences, there was definitely no boredom involved, and the differences between that encounter and a similar porn scenario were completely irrelevant.

  43. #43 Anna Johansen
    June 6, 2010

    I always get ridiculously frustrated whenever porn is studied or argued about, because most of the time it seems as if it’s treated like a homogenous blob of stuff, or two different homogenous blobs: vanilla and deviant.

    I love porn, porn in this context being stuff that arouses me.

    I was first introduced to mainstream porn via late-night TV. It was crappy and stereotype, but puberty and ignorance made me grateful for even that. Besides, some of it was so cheesy it was amusing. Thinking back, it probably was both good and bad – good as in inspiring me to experiment more and be less close-minded about sex with females (because I grew up with old-fashioned and homophobic parents), bad because stereotype porn sucks. I was fortunate that the channels I caught virtually never aired anything that involved name-calling/degrading or other things that squick me. I saw only porn where the participants were consenting and enthusiastic, albeit cheesy, participants.

    I’m still disgustingly “vanilla”, but my main source of porn now is drawn stuff. Comics and manga of all sorts (heterosexual, homosexual, mixed, and so on), as long as the attitude of it is right: Consent, love, and respect. Preferably also plenty of passion and enthusiasm as well.

    TL;DR summary: Non-degrading, positive porn exists, yet keeps being ignored as if only the standard fare of crap exists. Non-video porn is often treated the same way.

    If we treated everything else the same way, then action, detective/noir, love, comedy, drama, scifi, fantasy, and so on stories would be considered crap genres just because the majority of products in any genre or medium is crap. The anti-porn attitudes from feminists always struck me as throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Women are sexual beings too. Mainstream porn needs to change, not to be banned. (Please note that this is not about Zuska’s comment, just that it reminded me of some “feminist” campaigns. I’ve never been into money shots, they’ve always seemed to me like something that came into existence because of the limitations of mainstream porn.)

  44. #44 Thomas
    June 6, 2010

    Considering there’s roughly the same number of male porn stars as female, why is it that in any discussion of porn, exploitation of women is brought up, but those same people never bring up exploitation of men? Can men not be exploited in this way? Or is it just anti-porn feminists believe that women can’t possibly be sexual beings but men can? Or is it just that such people don’t give a shit if men are exploited?

    Or perhaps exploitation in pornography is just lower than they really think.

  45. #45 Comrade Svilova
    June 6, 2010

    Thomas, in some niche genres within the porn industry young male actors are pressured to have sex without condoms with HIV-positive men. Yes, men are also exploited by an industry that makes money from people getting hurt. That’s because there is a market out there of people who want to see depictions of risky, degrading, power-imbalanced sex.

    Regulating porn thoroughly would probably improve the situation. It wouldn’t resolve it, however, because abusive relationships, financial pressure, and shady situations exist in all walks of life and are difficult to stamp out completely.

    The burden really is on consumers to not support any kind of porn that creates a market for damaging portrayals. Because yes, porn does cause rape and exploitation. As Skeptifem points out, every time you see a disturbing, humiliating, or degrading scenario in porn, real people (the actors) have actually participated in that scenario. A real, live person has experienced the degradation and humiliation. And I would hope that responsible porn consumers would make sure that all the porn they watch comes from studios that carefully control their operations to ensure that it really is “pretend” exploitation.

    Even so, there are numerous problems with how much mainstream porn participates in our society’s pervasive message that sex is about men getting off, that women take inordinate pleasure in phalluses, and that power-plays in sex are just sweet freakin’ sexy and not possibly actually humiliating. However, that’s something that won’t be changed until the revolution.

  46. #46 NerdKink
    June 6, 2010

    Comrade Svilova,

    I’m going to respond just to the parts about the content of the porn, because I agree wholeheartedly with the advice about only supporting conscientious, respectable studios.

    Maybe I’m just being dense, but I’m having trouble coming up with anything I would call “mainstream porn”. It seems to me that modern porn is extremely genre-specific, and I can come up with many sub-genres that subvert in pretty fundamental ways the “message that sex is about men getting off, that women take inordinate pleasure in phalluses, and that power-plays in sex are just sweet freakin’ sexy and not possibly actually humiliating.” (Male chastity play, face-sitting, and humiliation play, to take three examples from the kink world.)

    If the problem is merely that _not enough_ porn ignores or reverses those tropes, then I’m tempted to say that this is merely another case of the well known principle that one’s personal kinks always seem underrepresented. You (apparently) want porn that either contains shared power or a female-dominated power structure. Both exist. I enjoy porn with a male-dominated power structure. This also exists. What is the problem?

  47. #47 DuWayne
    June 6, 2010

    As Skeptifem points out, every time you see a disturbing, humiliating, or degrading scenario in porn, real people (the actors) have actually participated in that scenario. A real, live person has experienced the degradation and humiliation. And I would hope that responsible porn consumers would make sure that all the porn they watch comes from studios that carefully control their operations to ensure that it really is “pretend” exploitation.

    Comrade Svilova –

    If you are talking about BDSM fetish porn, it is actually rather difficult to find actual exploitative films. I am not saying that it doesn’t exist, but the vast majority of that porn is made by people who have BDSM fetishes in real life. There is no need to engage in rape and humiliation against someone’s will, when there is nothing close to a shortage of willing people who actually get off on it.

    The nature of people into BDSM in general, is that they are very careful to respect the desires and comfort level of a partner they get involved with. For normal BDSM to work out for people, safety and respect is critical and that necessity extends to porn consumption – including amateur, which is often times actually a scenario that a couple may engage in as an aspect of their personal sex lives.

    There is a much uglier BDSM underworld, that takes advantage of people with serious pathologies as well. But that is a) rare and b) rarely seen in video, being much like child porn in a lot of respects. Whether the sub really wants bones broken and/or slashes across their skin, such behavior crosses a line into illicit behavior. Films of such activities aren’t shit you just stumble across very easily, you actually have to make an effort to find it.

    That is not to say that normal BDSM doesn’t involve inflicting rather serious pain. While there is a lot of BDSM that is focused almost entirely on humiliation/degradation, most of it does involve pain – sometimes pain as extreme as one can get without inflicting permanent damage.

    And there are a lot of people who get into BDSM because they were sexually molested as a child, or even as an adult. Usually they are very keen to be both a sub and a dom. Because of the nature of BDSM, they are have significant power in both roles. As a sub, they have the power to stop anything that is happening from happening, while as a dom, they decide what they are going to do to the sub.

    As for shared dominance, there is no shortage at all of such porn. Nor is there a shortage of female dominated porn. And most importantly, there is nothing wrong with male dominated porn except that there is a rather inordinate amount of it. But as more people are getting into porn, the dominance paradigm is changing, because the interests of porn consumers are changing.

    NerdKink is spot on about porn being so very genre specific. I am really interested in sex and the psychology of sex, have been for most of my life. I have read all sorts of fetish stories and have viewed a lot of fetish porn. I have also tried a lot of fetishes, though in the end my interests are rather vanilla. Most importantly, I have actually communicated with people who are into various types of kink.

    There seems to be an under-representation of most any type of porn one might want, because there are so many types to cover. I mean with BDSM alone, you have hundreds of specific fetishes – many of which don’t actually involve penetrative or oral sexual contact. Hell, a lot of it doesn’t even involve genital contact of any sort. And when you get to certain BDSM role plays, sexual contact is intrinsically non-existent. Diaper fetishists, for example, play out a role that is all about taking submission to an extreme – usually going from one extreme to the other, as the vast majority of diaper fetishists are exceedingly wealthy and have a very high power career.

    And outside BDSM, there are virtually innumerable fetishes, many of which can be found in porn. Everything from pubic depilation, to slings and swings, to sex in public places – the latter being very common, as taking a risk of being caught is a huge turn on for a lot of people. There is also sex with a complete stranger, or someone you can’t even see – unfortunately all too often a very unsafe sort of sex.

    But when you have so many interests to cover, there can only be so much of a given genre…

  48. #48 DuWayne
    June 6, 2010

    Thomas, in some niche genres within the porn industry young male actors are pressured to have sex without condoms with HIV-positive men.

    I did want to touch this one specifically, as it is a common claim about a very uncommon niche. This is a fetish that takes advantage of, is engaged in, by seriously fucked up people. You have on the one hand, depressed, usually suicidal young men, on the other, angry, depressed HIV positive men. The entire niche is all about people who are mentally ill and is appreciated by people who are mentally ill.

    But this niche involves is rarer than any other illicit porn. Unless you include the mythological “snuff” films – it might run even with that.

  49. #49 Luna_the_cat
    June 6, 2010

    I’ll say it again, maybe more plainly:

    Best way to tackle the exploitation of women in porn or in the sex industry in general (and yes, exploitation DOES exist, because women frequently have desperately fewer economic options than men) — legal protections for all sex workers and tackling causes of women’s poverty. The nastier, more exploitive versions of sex workers and porn both often DO rely on human trafficking, and that is to a large extent dependent on women being desperate to get away from conditions of poverty and lack of opportunity in their home countries — which makes them easy prey. Even within the US and UK, women may take up sex work simply because they need the money and this is what it is open to them.

    I have no doubt that many people go into this by choice. I don’t want to take that choice away from them. But as it stands, even these people may have few legal protections if things go sour. I would like to see that fixed. I will enthusiastically second the position “make this legal, and regulate it.” Make it legal, regulate it, and make sure that there are health clinics available, and counselling services for things like safety and financial aid. If and when things like porn are banned entirely, all that happens is that it is driven underground and it becomes infinitely more dangerous for the participants — sort of like access to abortions. One can find examples of both sorts of situations in the world around us in different countries, from France and the Netherlands to Thailand. Which do we really think works out better in terms of protecting human rights?

    And I’m not going into the potential exploitation of men here because there IS a cultural disparity of opportunity between the genders. Men have more options, even in poverty. That’s an ugly fact, but it’s a historical one. Nevertheless, men would benefit from legal protection and health services availability and financial counselling as well, I don’t doubt.

  50. #50 May
    June 6, 2010

    Most women are socialized to accept their degradation in society. Porn is just one more vehicle for this.

  51. #51 Comrade Svilova
    June 6, 2010

    Given that the exploitation of many of the actors in porn is solidly documented, I’m all in favor of regulating the crap out of the industry in the hopes of reducing the violence done on and around the actual sets themselves.

    Is there really any question in anyone’s mind that sometimes the violence we see in porn is actual sexual violence, recorded? Or that it is staged with the “consent” of an actor who has been abused, raped, and beaten into submission? Oh, yeah, that sounds way sexy. I definitely want to support an industry that produces and then records sexual violence.

  52. #52 Pen
    June 6, 2010

    I wonder how many of the women who consume porn are actually choosing porn that features women in powerless or degraded roles. I can’t imagine a bigger turn-off myself. Actually, the sight of naked women doesn’t do a lot for me, full stop. If I admitted to consuming porn in a survey, I’d be talking about pictures of naked men, probably quite arty, a la Mapplethorpe. So where’s the cut off between porn and non-porn and how do you factor in the portrayal of men and women with the preferences and behaviors of the people consuming the porn?

    P.S. As for consequences of porn, any guy who trails stuff that turns me off around my environment had better not be hoping to sleep with me.

  53. #53 DuWayne
    June 6, 2010

    Given that the exploitation of many of the actors in porn is solidly documented…

    Please understand that I am not denying this and that I am all in favor of very strict regulation, but I generally cringe when I hear that. In the late eighties and early nineties, there was a spate of leaders of the religious right making the claim that several porn stars were being abused by their boyfriends and forced into making porn. It wasn’t a matter of the stories being similar, they were exactly the same, excepting the name. Even there – ok, it is possible. Except that more than half the women whose names were mentioned completely denounced the stories as complete bullshit. Several of them were single when this rumor was going around.

    That said, yes, there is exploitation – a lot of it quite horrifying. While I would tend to think the most common form is convincing naive young women (and men) to engage in extremely unsafe sexual activities, there is also flat out rape. It is why I stopped viewing porn that wasn’t made by reputable producers. On many occasions it was obvious just by watching, that the women involved were completely fucked up – drugged out of their skulls. Substance abuse tends to foster the ability to recognize when people are high and I spent many years of that.

    Not that the exploitation of naive young people is any better. There is a big trend for internal ejaculation, that scares the hell out of me. I used to volunteer with a disorganization that helped people with HIV and AIDS and at one point was even moderating a support group for people who were recently diagnosed. People are incredibly naive. On the one hand, you have young girls who truly believe that nothing serious can happen to them – that HIV is rare among women and that nothing else they might get is serious enough to worry about. On the other, you have young men who either don’t think it can happen to them, who just don’t care, or who actually have a romanticized notion of having HIV – including the belief that it is no longer fatal. These folks get exploited all the time – many of both genders having this sort of sex with men who do this with a lot of people. Indeed many of the male tops engage in this kind of porn with boys and girls.

    Believe me, I am all for regulating the hell out of the industry. I am also all about passing laws that not only regulate the industry in the U.S., but which make possession of porn that doesn’t follow those regulations illegal. I figure we don’t give a damn if child porn in made in another country, still prosecuting those who possess it, why not extend that to other porn that is illicit to produce in the U.S.

    It wouldn’t make everything perfect, but it would certainly cut deeply into that exploitation.

    Is there really any question in anyone’s mind that sometimes the violence we see in porn is actual sexual violence, recorded?

    Honestly, while such porn does exist, it is exceedingly rare. See my last comment on BDSM. The problem with assuming that very much of it is non-consensual, is that the market for it won’t put up with that. And there are plenty of women and men who are not only willing, but get off on being subs. The reason non-consensual BDSM is rare, is because there is only a very small market for it and it is really easy to find people who want to be in such films.

    Or that it is staged with the “consent” of an actor who has been abused, raped, and beaten into submission? Oh, yeah, that sounds way sexy. I definitely want to support an industry that produces and then records sexual violence.

    While it isn’t my thing, I accept that there are a whole hell of a lot of people who are into BDSM. No, I don’t find it sexy – I have a very visceral reaction to it actually. But that is me and my preference – probably not very much different than your own. That doesn’t mean that I have any right to tell someone that they shouldn’t have the sort of sex they want to have.

    When people are being exploited, or the sex isn’t consensual, I am all about fighting it tooth and nail. But I am never going to put up with people interfering with the sexual preferences of others, that doesn’t fit in those categories. And I will denounce anyone who does try to interfere, as a puritanical busy body who needs to pay attention to their own sexuality and leave the sexuality of others alone. I don’t put up with that kind of bullshit from the religious right and I won’t put up with it from people who claim to be advocating for the people they are trying to repress.

    Luna –

    The healthcare issue is a big one for me. Having spent years working in an industry that beats the living shit out of the body, it makes me more than a little angry that sex workers are prone to having a hard time with insurance. From legal prostitutes in NV, to porn stars, it is unbelievably expensive to get insurance. Never mind that the former are taking a lot of precautions (including oral dams) and the latter are generally at least as safe as your average college student – in many cases moreso, thanks to the idiocy of abstinence only education.

    Make it all legal and safe and require health care coverage. Quit punishing people for deciding that they want to use their sexuality to make money. Make it harder for the more exploitable who might try it in desperation to do that to themselves. There wouldn’t be much a market for those who aren’t capable of at least appearing they are really enthusiastic.

  54. #54 Jason G. Goldman
    June 6, 2010

    It seems that the two “camps” on this issue are approaching the problem of pornography from different places. I think the anti camp sees pornography as primarily the output from a system of exploitation and bad things. And the pro camp sees pornography as the input into the population of consumers.

    I think the question of ‘should pornography be produced’ in the first place is a different question from ‘given the body of pornography that exists, how does it affect the consumer?’ I further think the questions roughly fall along the lines of the individuals featured in porn being seen as subjects or objects.

    I think both deserve attention, and I think both are important questions for science to address. My post explicitly addressed the second question, and not the first.

  55. #55 Travis
    June 6, 2010

    As one of these people who is indeed somewhat paraphilic and interested in some aspects of BDSM I have to agree with a lot of what DuWayne is saying. I do not think too many people in the community would stand for people being coerced into doing these things. Most people are very careful and take the words safe, sane (though this can be a difficult term) and consensual seriously. Also, I do often find those not interested in BDSM have a hard time placing themselves in the position of a person involved in one of these scenes. The reaction often is, to paraphrase “I do not like that, so it is bad”. I have had friends who could not grasp that some people really get off on this type of thing, so it had to be forced or there was something terribly wrong with these people. It could never be that they just enjoy it. Hmm, I wonder what they think happened to me as a child to be into this stuff.

  56. #56 DuWayne
    June 6, 2010

    I think there is a third question there, that I think is a very important one, because it specifically addresses the second question, while implicitly touching on the first; How does how porn is produced, or how the consumer believes it was produced, effect the consumer? I think it is a start in trying to narrow one of those questions, because in and of itself, I think your second question is ultimately very broad.

    I mean there are several mediums, let alone genres to consider. You have written porn, photo porn, video porn, manga style porn, animated porn – which itself encompasses a number of important issues, including the styling of child and other illicit porn. I think there are a number of interesting questions, just about the impact of various mediums.

    But I think that sticking to photo/video porn, it is rather important to at least narrow it to a question of how, or the perception of how it was produced. I think that making that distinction alone would be far more important than a generic “how porn affects consumers” question. In part because I suspect that people who use porn to curb certain desires, probably would ultimately have those desires incited, rather than sated, if they believed that instead of consenting adults playing out roles, it was “real.”

    Or more generically, I suspect that people who believe that the porn they are watching is exploitative, are much more likely to actually objectify women as nothing more important than a sex doll. Whereas I suspect that people who view it believing that those involved are actors playing a role, are less likely to translate anything from it to their real relationships with women, excepting maybe some ideas about interesting positions. Or possibly even the desire to roleplay – which I will note outright tends to be of far more interest to women, in my experience.

    I will also note that I have actually read several studies that explored porn addiction and there is evidence that it can cause rather serious relational problems. But that is in the context of people who self-report themselves as porn addicts. A couple of them had controls, in the way of people who view porn regularly, but who don’t perceive a problem. Those seemed to find no serious problems among the control groups, but of course they weren’t the focus of the study. I also noted that even in the studies that weren’t published in explicitly religiously oriented journals, had a huge percentage of evangelical Christians and noted that their religious beliefs probably had a strong impact on their reaction.

    Nearly all of them were hiding their use of porn from their partners, nearly always wives.

  57. #57 Luna_the_cat
    June 6, 2010

    There’s consensual BDSM porn, where safety is taken more seriously. And there is “cheap” porn, based around the abuse of people who are physically unable to fight back. Both exist. The existance of each does not invalidate the existance of the other. Both need to be dealt with somehow; but in order to be dealt with appropriately, there needs to be an understanding of both, and it needs to accompany the understanding that there IS no “one size fits all” policy which can do this.

    Exploitation and abuse are problems that can be most effectively tackled by not putting the victims on the wrong side of the law, however.

  58. #58 DuWayne
    June 6, 2010

    I agree with you completely Luna and have explored BDSM and human sexuality in general, because I think understanding is important. If I had the magical ability to engage in as many scientific lines of inquiry as I want, I would take it to that level. Unfortunately I can’t and addiction, in all it’s “glorious” manifestations, from a evolutionary and cross cultural perspective is what I have decided on.

    I do however, strongly support sex work regulations with serious balls and I support studying aspects of the sex trade so that they can be made based on evidence, not commonsensical bullshit.

  59. #59 PalMD
    June 6, 2010

    I think the point is less about what individuals do or don’t like. Some would disagree with this, but porn is arguably different from what you do in your own bedroom (or wherever you like to do it).

    Pornography involves the commoditization of particular kinds of sex using particular kinds of people, and helps perpetuate the culture that encourages this porn in the first place. It is a self-perpetuating cycle: feed people’s desire to see others humiliated and commoditized, help them understand that “it’s all cool”; get them comfortable with their role in the system, as “actor”, “consumer” or other collateral damage.

    This isnt a judgement of those who are aroused by porn. Porn is designed to arouse, and to perpetuate certain memes of arousal. But that doesn’t mean you cannot try to recognize the part porn generally plays in our culture.

  60. #60 NerdKink
    June 6, 2010

    I think there are a lot of unstated assumptions floating around here, which is impeding communication somewhat. PalMD, I’m not sure what, specifically, you are referring to. My self-perception is that I purposefully seek porn that fits my pre-existing preferences, rather than having those preferences be determined by the porn. And other than the obvious differences due to safety concerns or equipment, I can’t come up with any important differences between the porn I consume and my “bedroom sex” (within a consensual scene, of course).

    This probably just means I’m missing something important, of course. Would you mind spelling out in a little more detail how you see it working?

  61. #61 PalMD
    June 6, 2010

    I think it worthwhile to consider that the society around you actually affects you.

  62. #62 NerdKink
    June 6, 2010

    Erm… yes. Obviously. Seriously, is there _anyone_ who still doesn’t realize that?

    Is this an attempt to do Feminism 101 via the Socratic method, or something? I accept the existence of the patriarchy, and all of the ways that it perpetuates itself through unexamined cultural assumptions.

    Thing is, I have examined this issue, done as much of a privilege check as I can, and still don’t see the problem. That’s why I asked you to spell it out. Maybe there’s something important I’m missing, or maybe my focus on kink has “spoiled me” into assuming that power dynamics are as obvious and _purposeful_ to everyone else as they are to me and the porn I consume. (The latter seems quite plausible to me, in fact. That could be a big part of the disconnect. Maybe there’s more going on though, which is why I asked.) Saying patronizingly obvious things as if they were revelations is not particularly useful.

  63. #63 DuWayne
    June 6, 2010

    Pornography involves the commoditization of particular kinds of sex using particular kinds of people, and helps perpetuate the culture that encourages this porn in the first place.

    To a certain extent this is true – though there is no particular type of sex being commodified, as pornography is pretty diverse. I don’t, however, find that particularly troubling. I think that the exploitation that much of porn is rife with is extremely disturbing, but that is something that can be dealt with through regulation. The problem is not the commoditization of sex, it is with laws that ultimately encourage exploitation to take place. While it is unlikely that we can achieve a complete end to that exploitation, we can make laws that put a serious crimp into it – like we have already done with child porn.

    To be clear, I do have biases about this topic. I have been a stripper and though I am not the least bit bothered by having done so, I was thoroughly disgusted by what went on. I stripped in a club that was, excepting Thursday nights, a gay club. Because of the illicit nature of prostitution and the virtual lack of any regulation of the strip club – read – the only regulations involved punishing strippers for various behaviors, there was a lot of really shady shit happening behind the scenes.

    Basically, guys who wanted a particular guy, would slip them large bills with phone numbers or locations on. The understanding being that they would get more money for hooking up with a customer later. They would then go in blind, not knowing if the customer is legit, or if they are some sort of psycho, someone who will rip them off and rape them, or a cop who will punish them for it – sometimes after a blowjob.

    I would like to be clear that neither I, nor the friend who went into it with me engaged in that behavior. In all honesty, at the time I probably wouldn’t have had qualms about doing it, but it was way too dangerous. A lot of the guys who did that were abused in some way or another, even if they did get paid.

    There is no excuse for this. Yes, sex in some contexts is a commodity. That is true of some marriages, though somewhat less so today, than it was fifty years ago. There is absolutely nothing wrong with selling your sexuality, if that is what you want to do. It is the illicit nature and lack of regulation of the sex trade that makes it so easy for exploitation to occur.

    But that doesn’t mean you cannot try to recognize the part porn generally plays in our culture.

    That is part of my general interest in human sexuality and why I have spent time exploring sexual preferences I get absolutely nothing out of, in terms of personal arousal. It is why I have spent a lot of time viewing porn that not only doesn’t arouse me, but which I find disturbing and in some cases horrifying. And it is why I read a couple of trade magazines with some regularity – or at least used to, being in school has put a huge crimp on most of my extraneous interests.

    Though I do get to pay some attention, as my studies do focus a lot on psychology, language and culture in somewhat more general terms than the focus I am working towards. Believe me when I say that I am all about understanding what impacts culture change and how culture affects me (and other humans). It is just that I don’t see porn and the impact that porn has on society as entirely negative. I think that it definitely has a negative impact, but like most everything in experience of being human, it is immensely complicated.

    In many contexts, porn has a very positive impact as well. And that impact is, in part, due to the same factors that can have a negative impact. The fact that it would be a rare fetish indeed, that one can’t find in porn can be extremely positive for people who have sexual interests that they think are abnormal and which may be a source of shame for them. Even if they can’t find porn that depicts their particular interest, they can certainly find porn that involves something just as “abnormal.” Finding that porn also can help them explore their sexuality in a private, safe environment – free from the fear of shameful stigmas.

    And more than almost anything else in the realms of human relations, I get the most angry about people who being pushed into feeling shame about their brains – whether that is because of pathology, sexuality or their general emotional makeup. I get rather upset and have such strong feelings about this issue, because it is very tied up in a lot of people’s sexual identities and because of the stigmas our society attaches to porn and sexuality in general, it is all too often a source of immense shame. And as I mention, perpetuating that shame pisses me the fuck off – a lot.

    I have seen way too many people who are ashamed of their brains – whether it is due to their sexuality, mental pathology or pathological addiction. It fucking hurts to see that kind of pain in someone’s eyes and it is inexcusable. Because the cultural, environmental and in many cases genetic influences on a person foster situations that are largely, if not entirely beyond their control.

    This is not shit that anyone should have to be ashamed of – nobody.

  64. #64 Cara
    June 7, 2010

    I wonder if this anti-porn attitude is some sort of psychological displacement.

    Jeezus. All this ludicrous, long-winded “pondering” over something that’s perfectly rational. “Gee, why are you bitchez so angry about something you’re supposed to lurve? What do women want?” Sheer idiocy.

    The “anti-porn attitude” is basically an anti-human exploitation and anti-societally sanctioned rape attitude. Porn is NOT sex, or even really related to actual sexuality. It’s a power trip.

    Tell you dudes what–if you’d like (for instance) to have something shoved up your ass or in your mouth while being called degrading names and have it on film, feel free to pay some other guy to do it to you. Just leave us out of it.

    Oh, wait. That takes the fun out of it for you, doesn’t it? You want to do painful, humiliating things TO WOMEN. After all, that’s what we’re for, right?

  65. #65 NerdKink
    June 7, 2010

    Cara, do you seriously claim to speak for your entire gender? It strikes me as incredibly offensive to assume that female submissives either do not exist or somehow don’t count. There are plenty of men who would jump at the chance “to have something shoved up your ass or in your mouth while being called degrading names and have it on film”. There are plenty of women who would jump at that chance too. The fact that neither you nor I would enjoy that strikes me as irrelevant, just as the fact that I’m straight is irrelevant to the existence of gay porn.

    You are perfectly correct that I “want to do painful, humiliating things TO WOMEN.” I’m a straight, male, dominant. It’s in the definition. Luckily there are plenty (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BDSM#Incidence) of women who like having painful, humiliating things done to them. I can sympathize, because I’m also a masochist and therefore a fan of having the “painful” half of that done back to me, though humiliation is not my personal kink. There are also plenty of women who want to do those things to men, plenty of men who want to do those things to other men, plenty of men who want it done to them by women, etc. None of this strikes me as problematic. No one gets to decide someone else’s sexuality, period.

    Here’s an article you may find interesting:

    http://www.thefword.org.uk/features/2008/07/kink_101

    (A final note. It may seem from my discussion here that I’m insensitive to the massive problems caused by the patriarchy and male privilege. I assure you I’m not. Were we to have a discussion on almost any other gender-related subject, I think we would agree on 99% of the issues. I just have a serious problem when feminism is used as an excuse to marginalize the sexual preferences of anyone: straight or gay, dominant or submissive or switch or vanilla.)

  66. #66 Anna J
    June 7, 2010

    “Porn is NOT sex, or even really related to actual sexuality. It’s a power trip.”

    Cara, please this in mind:
    “por·nog·ra·phy (pôr-nŏg’rə-fē)
    n.
    1. Sexually explicit pictures, writing, or other material whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal.”

    Yes, there is an appalling amount of video/photo porn produced under disgusting conditions, and those finished porn showing an appalling attitude to human beings. But those kinds of porn are not the only ones existing. For women who enjoy sexuality and enjoy positive, healthy porn (porn here being of any medium), statements of being anti-porn as opposed to being anti-exploitative and anti-degrading porn seems hostile to female sexuality. “If you like any kind of material intented to arouse you, you’re a bad woman!”
    In this case, it is blindingly obvious what kind of porn you mean, but remember to always define what kind of porn you’re talking about (as should everyone else in a porn discussion – it is not useful if people speak about vastly different things as if they were the same thing).

  67. #67 May
    June 7, 2010

    long-winded diatribes that say nothing is right….and so typical.

  68. #68 Alex
    June 7, 2010

    Shorter Cara:

    “All women are the same! It’s impossible for women to like what I don’t like! I won’t allow women to make porn! BLOODY MENZ!”

    You know, most men wouldn’t like having a cock shoved up their ass. But that doesn’t mean that gay men shouldn’t be allowed to do that if that’s what they want.

  69. #69 DuWayne
    June 7, 2010

    Jeezus. All this ludicrous, long-winded “pondering” over something that’s perfectly rational. “Gee, why are you bitchez so angry about something you’re supposed to lurve? What do women want?” Sheer idiocy.

    I find your patriarchal…Err, sorry, matriarchal need to tell other women what to do rather special. A “who do you think you are?” sort of special. I wouldn’t dream of telling women what they want, like or just decide they should do. But I treat women like adults who are capable of making their own decisions. I guess that concept is just a little too hard for you to stomach.

    The “anti-porn attitude” is basically an anti-human exploitation and anti-societally sanctioned rape attitude. Porn is NOT sex, or even really related to actual sexuality. It’s a power trip.

    I am guessing you also believe that all rape is about power, rather than sex. While it is very true that some rape is about power, it is mostly about the sex.

    As for porn, remarkably, it really is about sex and sexuality. Whether or not you approve of it is irrelevant to this question – porn consumption is mostly about getting off.

    Tell you dudes what–if you’d like (for instance) to have something shoved up your ass or in your mouth while being called degrading names and have it on film, feel free to pay some other guy to do it to you. Just leave us out of it.

    I think I may have mentioned that this is not something I have an interest in. I have, however, spent a great deal of time exploring the world of people who are. And there are actually a lot of guys who are all about that – some of them are even all about having a woman wearing a strap-on do that to them. Likewise, there are also women who are all about the same.

    But I am seeing that in your world, the sexual preferences of others don’t matter a whit. What matters is that human sexuality be what Cara thinks it should be, [redacted] whatever anybody else has an interest in. Good on you for supporting the patriarchal right, in their desire to punish women for engaging in behavior you don’t approve of.

    Oh, wait. That takes the fun out of it for you, doesn’t it? You want to do painful, humiliating things TO WOMEN. After all, that’s what we’re for, right?

    You really are hell bent on being as entirely ignorant as possible and refusing to actually pay attention to what people who disagree with you have to say. Because like several other people here, I am all about doing everything possible to prevent that from happening, unless it happens to be consensual.

    You, on the other hand, are all about helping the patriarchal right make sure that the women who engage in these behaviors are soundly punished for it, furthering any exploitation that might have already happened to them.

    How very special you are.

  70. #70 MTiffany
    June 7, 2010
  71. #71 Luna_the_cat
    June 7, 2010

    I am guessing you also believe that all rape is about power, rather than sex. While it is very true that some rape is about power, it is mostly about the sex.

    DuWayne, the one thing that I’ll take issue with you on is that. Studies done with rapists have indicated it isn’t really about sex; it is sexualised power, and what I recall from research I did on this a few years ago, over 60% of convicted rapists are quite overt about motivations to “get back at women” or “put a woman in her place” or similar, as well as gaining perceived status from the rape from a peer group. And from surveys done of incarcerated populations, as well as NCVS studies, most rapists are actually in sexual relationships with people other than their victim at the time the crime is committed, which knocks the whole “it’s because they can’t get access to sex” thing on the head. It’s also borne out by how many assaults involve additional acts to humiliate the victim, like pissing on her or forcing her to thank the attacker. (yeah. seriously.) It is multifactorial, and different individuals have different mixes of motivations, but to say it’s “mostly sex” isn’t justified. The “it’s a power play” position is justified by evidence, even though it is overtly and explicitly sexual in nature.

    Date rapes or rapes of drunk/drugged victims who are unable to express nonconsent effectively, might be “more about the sex”, but it is impossible to state that as a universal. There is too much variation in both the nature of the assaults and the nature of the assailants.

    …It’s also kind of another slap in the face for victims. “It’s just sex” has been a way of telling people they’re blowing the whole thing out of proportion and they just need to get over it (“besides, they want it, really”) for a long time. The people who have been on the receiving end of this know that it isn’t sex. It is sexualised violence.

  72. #72 Jason G. Goldman
    June 7, 2010

    Alright, friends, some of the comments have started to get a little out of hand. I’ve never created a formal comment policy (though I surely will now) – but please don’t use language that would not be allowed on primetime TV. We can discuss these important adult issues in a way that is kid-friendly.

  73. #73 Max
    June 7, 2010

    @Comrade Slivavo “Given that the exploitation of many of the actors in porn is solidly documented, I’m all in favor of regulating the crap out of the industry in the hopes of reducing the violence done on and around the actual sets themselves.”

    I’m calling bullshit on this. Yes, there is documentation on it, but it’s far short of solid. From what I’ve seen it mostly consists of rumours started by anti-porn activists. The only claims I’ve seen so far from the industry come from the refuted claims of Linda Lovelace. You have other evidence? Please share it.

    “Is there really any question in anyone’s mind that sometimes the violence we see in porn is actual sexual violence, recorded? Or that it is staged with the “consent” of an actor who has been abused, raped, and beaten into submission? Oh, yeah, that sounds way sexy. I definitely want to support an industry that produces and then records sexual violence.”

    Yes, there is a question in my mind. Further than that, I have seen enough behind the scenes to be convinced it is rare to nonexistent.

    @DuWayne I thank you for your courage in sharing your personal experience here. I do take issue with your pronouncement on rape though. I too used to scoff at those who said it was all about power and had nothing to do with sex. But I’ve looked into the issue some and there is an indication that power plays a major role in it rather than sexuality. It is muddied somewhat by the fact (unacknowledged by many) that power and sex are often quite entangled.

  74. #74 DuWayne
    June 7, 2010

    My sincere apologies Jason, I saw others doing it and assumed it was all right.

    Luna & Max, I am going to respond to your comments on my own blog, as this has now wandered so far afield from the original topic. And because our venerable host has really put up with enough from me at least. I rather like this blog and would like to be welcome in the future.

    As far as continuing the discussion about porn, I would also like to welcome those who would like to continue to continue it over there. Unless of course the discussion is about the topic that Jason actually wrote about – or if he expresses his desire to have it continue here. But reading between the lines, as it were, I suspect that he might rather not.

    Or I should say that I will post that thread, when blogger is up again.

  75. #75 Jason G. Goldman
    June 7, 2010

    It baffles me (though maybe it shouldn’t) that people are so eager to find evil that they don’t take things at face value. When I say “I am not taking sides in the issue of whether or not pornography should be censored or restricted.” This is EXACTLY what I mean. Not that I don’t have my own opinions, just that I don’t think this is the proper venue for me to be discussing them.

    Moreover, this is a BLOG. This is not peer-reviewed research. Posts get sent out, often, without even a spell-check. I have no duty to review an entire corpus of literature, as I might in a peer-reviewed scientific paper. In this case, I found 3 papers that I thought were interesting and accessible. Nowhere did I claim to have done ANYTHING other than describing and explaining those 3 papers. I make it clear – on every post – what should be consider as my own speculation, and what can reasonably by inferred or understood from the paper in question. That those on the pro-porn side of this issue take it and run with it and use it irresponsibly – I don’t think I’m culpable for that. (Indeed, I’ve commented on a few of those websites saying that they’re mis-using this post, or at best mis-interpreting it.)

    But the comments on this post have gone to a place that is different from what this post was about. This post asked a question about how the CONSUMPTION of pornography – as a PRODUCT – impacts on the greater population. It specifically did NOT address anything about the PRODUCTION of pornography. As I’ve said, I think both questions are important to consider.

    By analogy, we can be asking questions about whether or not we should be drilling offshore for oil, and we should – but it is ALSO important to know what the immediate and long-term effects are of the oil spilling out into the gulf RIGHT NOW. Banning offshore drilling (or changing our culture so that we have no DESIRE to drill offshore) does not change the fact that there are trillions of gallons of oil ALREADY affecting the ecosystem. Why is it unreasonable to explore both questions?

    Now, as soon as I can figure out how to disable comments for this post, I will. Feel free to continue the discussion, elsewhere.

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