Tuesday, February 28, 2012

On Pornography and Sexual Athleticism

image is from here
[Added to at the end, on 9 March 2012.]

It is often argued by pro-pornography consumers and sexxxism industry producers and investors that the actors in pornography films are amazing human beings demonstrating a kind of Olympian ability to have sex over and over and over again. Below is one such comment that appeared here: http://nextgenjournal.com/2012/02/inside-pornography-a-rational-feminist-critique/

It is the first comment offered following the article by Larisa Manescu.

Jim Graham [writes:]
It is true that since the mid-90's, BDSM-inspired power play has become the dominant style of sex act portrayed in mainstream pornography. There is quite a bit more slapping and choking in the porn scenes released from the mainstream porn industry over the last 20 years, but this is not just because of the porn industry's traditional misogyny (though there certainly is that).

Porn stars are sexual athletes who demonstrate advanced sex play for the viewer's pleasure. Anal sex and threesomes are advanced sex. These (and most) porn sex acts are activities that many sexual beginners hope to experience one day, and as they become more sexually advanced these men and women (swingers, poly, kinky sluts, and other monogamish people) often live out their fantasies, with or without integrating elements of power play. The extreme acts that you mention (ATM, gagging, DP/DV/DA, etc.) are much dirtier than regular sex, and porn stars make their money by pushing boundaries, but not unusual at a private sex party.

While the women in most pornography are portrayed as submissive, please keep in mind that there are thousands of porn scenes where the man is dominated, cuckolded or otherwise made to submit in the same ways.

All modern sex scenes include more spitting than ever before, which you and I probably agree is much less appealing, but for most porn watchers sloppier is dirtier and indicates that the actress is putting some effort into it, and that is exactly what the average porn watcher is looking for - a woman who they find attractive pushing her sexual boundaries while devoting her attention to her sex partner(s) until everyone is satisfied. That is the porn I watch, from studios like Elegant Angel and Belladonna Productions.

"The thought is that pornography, in the late 20th century, could have adopted entirely different sexual practices, ones more intimate, realistic and yet still erotic and stimulating. However, at the expense of the woman, it spiraled down a more intense, risky, and demeaning path."

Various people (most famously Candida Royalle) have tried to convince the porn industry that they should produce erotic imagery that women would also enjoy, but I don't believe that there was ever a time where the industry would have adopted different sexual practices, or had the talent to portray the more subtle sex play that you wish porn provided, until today. As more women and couples purchase porn for their mutual enjoyment, then the now internet-diversified industry will produce a wide range of videos that are intended for more than just male masturbation.
This is my response:
Julian Real replies:

I want to respond to this statement specifically (but also to the whole of the comment): "Porn stars are sexual athletes who demonstrate advanced sex play for the viewer's pleasure."

From all the people I know who engage in or have engaged in casual-sex-for-money, within or outside systems of prostitution and procurement, within or outside systems of sexual slavery, I'm not hearing that "advanced sex" and "sexual athlet[icism]" are the most accurate, appropriate, or pertinent terms to use, any more than someone working twelve to fourteen hours per day in a sweat shop ought to be considered an "income athlete", or someone who is showing the rest of us how to do it (work-for-pay) better or more maturely. Your analysis leaves out (curiously and completely) the trauma involved in being physically invaded and assaulted by many people over many days. For empathy-building, I'd suggest you go out and engage in the kind of "sex" that is promoted by corporate pimps and let me know if you find it untraumatic. But as someone who might potentially be your friend, I wouldn't advise you do so.

There is a rather cynical and callous assumption built into an argument for valuing such sexual athleticism that there are, in fact, some people--some peculiarly abuse-immune class of human beings--who can and do manage to engage in serially physically, emotionally, and spiritually abusive and exploitive "sex acts" and *not* be traumatised by them. We might note that if the acts weren't abusive, drug abuse as a requirement for getting through a day or night of them might not be so ubiquitous.

If you could only have body-pummeling sex by being drugged or drunk, your dearest friends might question whether the sexual behavior was good for you. (As well as the excessive daily drug and alcohol consumption.) If the performance of such sexual athletics necessitates dangerous levels of drug abuse and often unconscious dissociation to simply be part of it, ought we not demonstrate at least occasional compassion for those of us who are inside systems of sexual exploitation, abuse, and slavery? Every person I have known who has willfully engaged in these forms of sex were either grossly sexually assaulted first, learning at a young age that they ought not have some basic and fundamental sexual boundaries that perhaps you enjoy, or they were bullied, battered, threatened and terrorised inside the systems after being part of them. If it is shown beyond question that pre-existing or on-site sexual, physical, and economic trauma is a de facto requirement for being part of the systems of procurement and slavery, I'd argue that we ought to condemn and organise against the owners and financial investors of such systems of terror and horror and, through available avenues of jurisprudence, throw the serial rapists and corporate pimps in prison.

As for this: "While the women in most pornography are portrayed as submissive, please keep in mind that there are thousands of porn scenes where the man is dominated, cuckolded or otherwise made to submit in the same ways." 

We must keep in mind that when men are submitting to women, it is always their choice to submit: they choose to do so because it is their sexual fetish or desire to submit. This demonstrates to me only that men maintain control of sexuality however and whenever they wish to. Het men being a sexual submissive in no way means he's not in charge of the whole scene being acted out.