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Porn-ing sex

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In a week in which a school teacher turned porn star is claiming no conflict between his different ‘professions’, the dissident voices which should be decrying the porn industry’s attempt to gain public credibility in order to further expand its cash driven debauchery into our daily lives, need to make themselves heard. Selling sex is dehumanizing. Glamourizing the sale of sex in the minds of young people who have yet to forge solid personal positions on their sexual views, is a travesty and a desecration of the powerful and intimate union which sex can potentially represent.

In “Living dolls: the return of Sexism”, Natasha Walters picks apart the modern myth that there is something empowering about selling sex, a la “Belle-de-Jour”.

Despite the fact statistics paint a rather bleak picture of women involved in the sex trade- 85% of prostitutes have reported physical abuse in the family, 45% familiar sexual abuse and a majority of prostitutes are lured into the industry before the age of 16- there has been a recent glamorization of prostitution in the mainstream. All the women in the surveys reported in Walters’ book have a problem with alcohol and a majority used hard drugs, with 84% citing drugs as their reason for going into prostitution. Mortality rates for prostitutes are six times higher than the general population. (p. 57-58) A world away from Miss S’s “confessions of a Working girl” with its allegedly “enjoyable” account of a prostitute’s life, packaged in a pastel covered paperback or Billie Piper’s sanitised account of a prostitute’s escapades, minus the inherent violence involved in an industry in which women are paid to put up and shut up while men enact their fantasies on silenced female bodies…

That prostitution or being a porn star are just another “career move”, made by sassy and smart women, in control of their lives who just happen to have a voracious appetite for sex, is just another of the necessary myths which fuel the exploitation of women. There is some irony in the fact the women paraded on the front cover of magazines as the height of female emancipation have spent a life time dedicated to the preening of their bodies to fulfil an elusive sexual ideal which demands starvation, surgery and discomfort.

The truth of the matter, as Walter’s books highlights is far removed from the myths perpetuated by the fastest growing industry in the world, which relies on people’s gradual acceptance of sexual imagery in the public sphere to normalise its product and expand its market reach.

With a reckless disregard for the women who make up its fodder, the porn industry is a money making machine which requires us to be duped into thinking women make free and informed choices about the sex trade in order to be able to counter the shrinking dissenting voices which challenge its claim to be an ‘acceptable’ industry. “The highly sexualised culture around us is tolerated and even celebrated because it rests on the illusion of equality.” (p119)

In order to convince us of the worth of porn, the industry has had to remove any emotion from sex, reducing it to mechanics, a calculated physical exchange for which cash can be traded. No talk of love, of union, of intimacy, of tenderness.
This reduction of sex to an act, rather than a state of love, is partly done by presenting empowering sex, as sex without emotional connection, devoid of feelings, so that “the way that absolutely uncommitted sexual encounters are spoken about now suggests that in order to become liberated, a rather cold promiscuity is the order of the day.” (p. 98)

It is also done by desensitising people to pornographic images through exposing them from younger and younger ages to increasingly lurid and violent sexual images. One survey in 2006 found that 40% of men had viewed pornographic websites in the previous year and more worrying still, a survey in Canada found that 90% of 13-14 year old boys and 70% of girls had viewed pornography. “More than one third of the boys reported viewing pornographic DVDs or videos ‘too many times to count’.” (p107) Speaking to porn addicts, Walters discovers that much of what they view appears to depict women in pain, being brutalised and dominated. In effect, sex as a form of violence against women, is the way in which an increasing number of men are gaining their sexual highs: “I think that kind of violence associated with sex lodges in your mind and you never forget it, however much you want to. It’s always there,” explained Jim (p. 115)

And this reductivism is also promoted through the fallacious argument that since women cannot eliminate porn due to its proclivity in the modern media, they ought instead to enter the porn industry and begin to make demands within it as consumers, which the argument goes, will shift their status from victim to consumer ( and hence empowered?! Only neo-liberal rhetoric could devise such a misguided connection between consumption and liberation…)

Giving voice to young women, Walters indicates that many “feel that their lives have been impoverished by the devaluation of sex into exchange and performance rather than mutual intimacy.” (p. 101) She also highlights feelings of inadequacy as young women’s bodies are compared to those in porn material and a growing dehumanization of sexual partners, viewed only as the sex objects portrayed in what has become the measure of a “normal” sexual encounter: “….too much pornography does still rely on or promote the exploitation or abuse of women. Even if you can find porn for women and couples on the internet, nevertheless a vein of real contempt for women characterises so much photography.”

That capitalism’s uniquely cold approach to profit over people has seeped into the most intimate part of our lives, our sexual relationships, is indicative of a grave sickness. Ultimately this comes down to a very simple economic equation. A billion dollar industry which continues to grow requires an increasingly large market for its goods. Moving from the fringes to the mainstream requires a cultural shift, acclimatisation to what makes us feel intuitively uneasy about porn, the market-value of sex, the cold mechanics devoid of the meeting of minds, which makes so many shudder. Sex as a calculated exchange must become normalised for the porn industry to expand its tentacles. And as in other industries, the younger you get’em hooked, the more likely they are to be lifetime consumers.

The real tragedy in the discussion we have today over sex, is the overarching materialism which permeates the debate. If we are mere animals, where’s the problem? If nothing is sacred, everything can be sold and bought. As talking heads discuss the banalities of an absurd ‘debate’ over the acceptability of porn, the fat cats running the industry must be cackling at all the free publicity. In placing so much market value on our bodies, we necessarily detract from the emphasis on the internal, the self, the person. The sex industry is in effect the epitome of materialism, the body has worth, the person has none. Sex has always sold, but how many of us realised the price was in fact our soul.

Written by Myriam Francois

September 1, 2011 at 21:22

7 Responses

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  1. Good post, thanks.

    There is a mutual exploitation with the sex industry. The industry sells a warped definition of sex – “great sex is about having disproportionate body parts and doing it with anyone, not the result of a loving, mutual relationship!” – thus cashing in on people’s insecurities, who know full well that sex should be an expression of genuine affection and can be achieved without the fakeness used in porn. Even so, the consumer satisfies a carnal instinct which is clearly short-term that does not require the challenging task of nurturing and maintaining a loving relationship. It is far easier to watch a porn video than practice integrity and commitment to achieve genuine love.

    People will pay money to avoid the demands of virtue. Which is a symptom of a society that does not teach the importance of virtue.

    Mushu

    September 6, 2011 at 20:45

  2. Very well written. Thank you. As I have explored this territory myself, by necessity, I found that the multiple personality disorders which so afflicted my former wife, and another woman I dated briefly… has been imposed on a surprisingly large percentage of the population by ritual satanic abuse, torture..and worse.

    Brice Taylor/Sue Ford in her book Thanks for the Memories reveals much detail about the territory my brief comment her refers to. If you are not already aware of this territory, I believe you’ll find information here which will prove valuable in your ongoing research and writing.

    thanks,

    David Thatcher

    David Thatcher

    September 7, 2011 at 07:10

  3. I used to work in the school that the stripper used to work in.

    helooooo

    September 7, 2011 at 22:55

  4. Thanks my sister for this profound article. In my opinion, people need a global campaign which exposes prostitution and porn as one of the most heinous crime against humanity. You hit the nail on the head when you related prostitution and porn to materialism because in the materialistic world everything can be a commodity. It is impossible to separate body from soul. What these people do with their bodies certainly is at the expense of their souls. Keep up the good work …..

    Mohammed Badi

    November 26, 2011 at 19:09

  5. Post internet revolution, pornography has flourished at a blistering pace in Asian countries.As per survey it is found that more porn stuffs are downloaded in Muslim countries than in the western countries.Pornography is a sexual perversion and strong consensus should be build up to impede the dissemination of pornography through net.In India I have seen adolescent guys watching porn material on the internet with impunity.Exposure to such material to adolescent mind could lead to aberration and perversion in our society.

    It is high time that pornography(euphemistically called adult entertainment industry) should be dubbed as cyber crime and culprits should be brought to book.USA is leading the country manufacturing largest percentage of porn stuffs.May Allah build our conscience to raise our strong protest against such a filthy,immoral and licencious industry.

    Regards
    Faiz

    Faiz

    April 23, 2012 at 16:52

  6. You say “statistics paint a rather bleak picture of women involved in the sex trade- 85% of prostitutes have reported physical abuse in the family, 45% familiar sexual abuse and a majority of prostitutes are lured into the industry before the age of 16- there has been a recent glamorization of prostitution in the mainstream. All the women in the surveys reported in Walters’ book have a problem with alcohol and a majority used hard drugs, with 84% citing drugs as their reason for going into prostitution.” I think the survey paints the picture that most people already believe. No surprises there. The biggest surprise is that reality might be different.

    In the Red Light District of Amsterdam for example, a prostitute working in the morning earns an average of 15,000 Euros a month. The ones working at night earn an average of 20,000 Euros a month. These figures are an average and do not include the months of June, July and August were their income is anywhere from tripled to quadrupled. Having known some of them personally, I can tell you they are ordinary people but with ‘a get rich quick plan’. They are ruthlessly ambitious. They care about their looks and alcohol and drug addiction is unlikely. The girls do not necessarily have a pimp and the cost of security comes with the rent (150 Euros per day/morning time, 200 Euros per day/night time).

    There is undoubtedly parts in the world were prostitution is a ‘begging bowl’. This however is not always the case. There are a lot of women that choose this path by their own free will. It is extremely rare to find any one of them that actually enjoys the sex but they all have a plan. Sooner rather than later, they would have changed the social status of their family and established a lucrative source of income.

    The facets of prostitution are everywhere in our society. From Hollywood, where Nicole Kidman and Shia LaBeouf are to shoot real life sex for the coming movie (technically it is prostitution as it constitutes sex for money) to the teenage girls who would give sexual favours instead of the cab fare. It is an engineered collapse of morality by the system. They are made richer quicker and modelled into the mindset of being the future entrepreneurs. If successful, they will get the red carpet treatment.

    Feminists should give up the exploitation of the ‘exploitation card’ and look at life the way it really is.

    Top Cat

    September 11, 2012 at 21:10


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