In this article I’m going to do something quite out of the ordinary for a heterosexual man in this era. I am going to admit to using porn, I am going to defend my use of it, and I am going to defend the medium itself. This has become almost unheard of by virtue of it being very taboo, and doing so will usually result in eye-rolls, ridicule, and utterances of such ad-hominem prattle as “well you would say that ‘cause you’re a man” etc etc. But I think the war on porn desperately needs to be repelled, for the sake of humanism, liberty, and tolerance. Feel free to roll your eyes and call me a pervert to your heart’s content.
It seems that a few years ago, it was quite normal to be open about one’s porn use. Now, it has become far less fashionable to act in such a way, and the internet is full of articles and even entire websites dedicated to informing us of the “dangers” of porn. Despite this, surveys unanimously show that porn use is more commonplace than ever. According to PornHub, Irish citizens spend longer looking at porn than many other European countries. A UNICEF survey found that 80% of Irish men watch porn. Yet both left and right-wing media currently seems very desperate to peddle fear and self-righteous disdain for the medium. The right bases its disdain on moral conservatism, and doesn’t really bother to hide it. The left’s hatred for porn also has puritanism at it’s heart, but they try to cover it up by accusing porn of being misogynistic by virtue of it being “degrading to women.”
Puritanism has really made a comeback recently. It seems as if we are constantly bombarded by prigs preaching about how there’s too many women being sexualised in TV, film, video games, etc etc. Perhaps the most dumbfounding eruption of moral conservatism recently was the feminist backlash towards the Victoria’s Secret show. Apparently, they were upset that the models were walking around in only their lingerie. A company that sells ladies underwear had it’s models wearing… their underwear… Truly shocking stuff. They tried to justify this blatant display of puritanism by blaming their distress on the fact that the male pop stars who performed at the show were wearing suits. Which is a terrible argument, considering that Victoria’s Secret only sells women’s lingerie. The VS models and their underwear were clearly intended to be the focus of the show, and if the male performers had worn underwear it would have generated a lot of confusion, and potentially would have prompted viewers to think that the company was launching a new line of men’s underwear.
Anyway, I digress. The point is, as much sex as there may be on TV, as much porn may be available on the internet, a real backlash of self-righteous prudish sexual conservatism appears to be rearing its tedious head, and it seems that news sites, blogs, forums, and comment sections are full of both men and women who are eager to show their distaste for pornography, either claiming that they consider it misogynistic, seedy and degrading to women, or contrary to traditional, wholesome values. Both The Guardian and The Daily Mail have published myriad articles filled with fear about what porn is dooin to oor men. Articles trying to demonize porn usually contain absurd totally unscientific “evidence” . Something I have heard quite frequently is that watching porn may make you less intelligent. This sounds as ridiculously Victorian as the idea that masturbation causes your palms to grow fur. This “fact” arose from a study which found that men who watch more porn have less grey matter. Anyone with a decent amount of that precious grey matter will of course see that this could never be considered evidence, and that there is absolutely no way that looking at an image could cause brain cells to die. But the hysteria about porn, like all hysterias, is filled with this kind of unsubstantiated rubbish and wild conjecture, because there are so many people who readily lap it up, and so few who will stick their neck out to refute it.
The reality is that most feminists want to either stigmatize porn, or outright ban it. Saying this will inevitably lead feminists to use the old evasive tactic of pointing out that some feminists are actually positive about porn. By “some”, they really mean about ten or twelve. It’s also worth noting that if feminists do stand up for porn, they will often be accused of not being “real” feminists. This has happened to both Wendy McElroy and Camille Paglia, two women for whom I have sincere respect. If all feminism was based around McElroy’s intelligent and pragmatic idea of it, then I would fully support it. There is a kind of feminism which I believe could have a place in our society. But this kind of feminism would be concerned with the welfare of women, and would deal with problems that are unique to women, or are particularly common among them. This kind of feminism would not be centred around vilifying masculinity, but instead would be based around agendas such as fighting for the rights of women in Islamic countries, and thinking of ways to make the sex industry more reputable and ethical, to improve the lives of the women working in it.
Any feminist who believes in stigmatizing or banning porn, stripping, or prostitution is simply not interested in the welfare of the women involved. It is self-evident that the more you discredit and push something underground, the less legitimate it gets. Stigmatizing porn helps to keep the industry out of the public eye, allowing the companies involved to act more disreputably than other media industries. Not only that, there is no incentive for porn producers to act more ethically, because no matter what they do, feminists will consider them misogynistic pigs, and conservatives will consider them lowlifes and perverts. Feminists may pretend to be on the side of the sex workers, but really they are not. They may wince at words such as “slut” being used for porn stars, but they will happily reel off about how these women are “degrading themselves”, a put-down which is no less belligerent, especially considering that it is by definition impossible to degrade yourself doing something you feel comfortable with. Porn will never go away, and if feminists really gave a fuck about improving the welfare of the women involved, they would realise this and try to make the medium more reputable, regulated, and respectable. Thus the women would in turn would be treated with more respect, it would be less underground and more in the public eye, producers would be under pressure to act more ethically, and there would be greater incentive for respectable people who care how people perceive them to work in it due to the public not thinking poorly of them for doing so. Of course I’m sure there would still be some seedy goings-on, but this can be said about any industry. But as a general rule of thumb, the more respected an industry is, the more reputable it is. Sometimes it becomes respected because it is reputable, sometimes it becomes more reputable as it becomes more respected. But generally, the two go hand in hand.
The reason feminists hate porn is because they have a totally puritanical hatred for male sexuality. They find it degrading to women because they view male sexuality as being a pollutant, something which corrupts any subject it casts its gaze on. Why else would they have such a problem with men gaining sexual enjoyment from looking at women? Why else would they have a problem with whenever a women is portrayed in a way to titillate men? Why else would it be that, despite the fact that 40% of Irish women watch porn, and that there is a huge industry for gay porn, the only problems feminists have with the medium are always related to male heterosexuality? They hate the way women in porn films often seem to be there to please the men. But the reality is that this isn’t even the case in the majority of porn films. Perhaps if they actually watched it they’d see this. A large percentage of porn films feature long scenes of cunnilingus and attractive, musclebound men, and there is now loads of porn made by women, for women. A lot of porn now is also amateur, and doesn’t seem to have any kind of gender bias. And if a porn film is aimed at men, so what? It’s not supposed to be a realistic depiction of sex, it’s a fantasy, and I’m sure viewers understand this. One of the main complaints against porn is that some of it is extreme, and shows women being tied up and treated like sex slaves. Again, so what? The vast majority of people who like BDSM realise it is just a fantasy. It’s no different to people who enjoy watching people being decapitated in the SAW films, or mowing down pedestrians in Grand Theft Auto. Just like those people, BDSM enthusiasts are surely sentient enough to realise that it’s not real, and that you should obviously never do anything like it in real life except in a controlled environment, with a willing partner, and a safeword. People don’t choose to enjoy BDSM, and I think it’s terribly intolerant to chastise them for their sexuality.
Perhaps, also, porn doesn’t make people violent rapists, but instead quenches lust, and relieves anxiety. I certainly know it does for me. Watching porn relaxes me and releases tensions that have been building up in me. And I believe this is probably the case for most people.
Anyway, the point is that the hysteria feminism creates about porn is blatantly misandrist. At it’s core is a belief that male sexuality is dirty and depraved, and that men are little more than irresponsible animals who are simply unable to control their desires. The reality is that gender equality is better than ever and rape rates are declining rapidly in the Western world, so it seems unlikely that the rising use of porn really could be doing much damage. The fight to defend porn is a fight to defend male sexuality. It is also about warding off censorship, and tired, out-dated, and intolerant sexual conservatism.