As Featured on News Cult: Porn: Let’s Discuss

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Porn is a real doozy. I have so many thoughts and emotions and questions about it. It’s the one thing I can never make a solid decision about. I could spend hours (and have) debating back and forth on the subject. That may make me sound crazy, but what else is new. You’re probably thinking “Really, Alex? What is so complicated about porn?” Well since you asked, let me tell you.

Porn is supposed to be all about sexual fantasy. It’s a tool to stimulate fantasy and pleasure. And I have no problem with sexual fantasy or sexual pleasure, theoretically. I actually think they’re good. I think they’re normal and a part of life that is fun and exciting. And we shouldn’t feel guilty about our sexuality, like many of us have been taught, but we should express and enjoy it. But porn is the crossroads between fantasy and reality. It is real people acting out fantasies. So can it really remain in the category of fantasy? Sure, someone watching porn isn’t physically involved with whoever is in the pornography, but whoever is in it is a real person, somewhere, someplace.

And the reality of porn isn’t necessarily a problem, either. Except that we don’t know the circumstances under which it’s made. Namely, we don’t know the situation that the actors are in. Sure, some of them are renowned and so we know their history in more detail, including their age, background, “career path,” etc. But a lot of porn features nameless bodies and faces, whose stories we don’t know. We don’t know if they’re consenting, or if they’re even of age (barring cases where it’s blatantly obvious). And that’s one of the things I’m wary of. Especially when the porn is exploitative in one way or another.

For example, of the countless “categories” of porn on any given site, there are many that focus on a domination/submission dynamic. Whether that involves whips and chains or a gang bang or a teen/adult dynamic. And again, part of me is tempted to say that porn represents fantasy, and we shouldn’t condemn our fantasies because they’re natural parts of us, and fantasy is ok, if for no other reason than it’s not reality. So even if some porn promotes a domination/submission fantasy, it’s still ok because it’s just that: fantasy.

But another part of me can’t accept that. Because it may just be fantasy, but what if the fantasy is wrong? Like, I think people would generally say gang bangs are not great and a little rapey (if not actual rape), and adults having sex with underage teens is against the law, etc. So does the fact that porn is just a theatrical presentation of these acts that society at large would discourage in reality make it exempt from criticism?

This all begs the question too, is there even such a thing as “wrong” fantasy? How much can we control what turns us on, and how much should we? I know that as a feminist, I’m tempted to condemn the majority of porn because it exploits and objectifies women. But at the same time, if that is the fantasy that turns someone on, am I allowed to condemn that, any more than I’m allowed to condemn their sexual orientation (which I believe I am not)?

And of course there’s still the issue of not always knowing the age of the actors or how much control they really have. Like, in the case of the “teen” category–are the actors of age but playing underage? Or are they actually underage? And when it comes to the whips and chains, is the person being whipped and chained actually ok with it? How much are these actors agreeing to and how much are they not?

I realize I’m really just posing a bunch of questions here, but that’s because I think porn is a huge grey area. And while I recognize that this discussion is a complete boner killer and takes all the fun out of porn, I find it to be inescapable. Does anyone else wonder these things? I feel like a lot of us just turn on the porn, click on whatever video stimulates us the most, without scrutinizing why it turns us on, if it’s ethical, if it’s even ok that it turns us on, etc., and we just get to work and then move on with our lives. Which I’m not even saying is wrong–part of me thinks that’s great. But that’s exactly my point, though–how much questioning and analysis and thought are we required to put into porn, if any? I honestly don’t know the answer. What do you guys think?

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