Is the only way to fix the porn industry to scrap it and start again?

To get rid of porn ignores the fact that it continues to have a high demand. So what needs fixing in the industry?

Now that porn seems to be the way most people are exposed to sex for the first time, some sort of comprehensive standardised sex education at a formative age is obviously needed. Kinks such as choking and slapping need to be talked about more in order to understand how important it is to both not be shamed for enjoying light BDSM but also the ultimate need for consent in sex. Whatsmore, porn needs to focus more on presenting genuine sexual pleasure for the woman, not just seeing her as a sexual object – if everyone knew that sex didn’t end with the male orgasm from a young age, sex would be better for everyone. The social aspects of sex and the ethics of consent also need to be more explicitly taught in schools. For example, a sexy boss/secretary dynamic in porn is all well and good but proper education about power boundaries and the rights of any consenting adult need to be established in young people’s minds – especially as the internet expedites the normalisation of sugar daddies.

However, the need for reform in the porn industry does not start and end with the kind of porn that’s being made – rather, with how it’s being consumed, funded and distributed. Pornhub lacks any kind of regulation on the wellbeing of the people it profits from. Rape videos continue to stay on the site. Even child porn fails to be taken down – as Pornhub continues to make a profit from the rapes of 14 year old girls it refuses to remove the videos, that is not okay. The number of exploited women in the industry is horrifying and only expedited by the demand for more and more porn (and more graphic porn) as the industry booms. Whatsmore, because Pornhub is not actually commissioning the porn, it is only a server for users to upload their favourite videos, so while it makes all this profit the industry is being defunded. This destabilises the incomes of its workers and their safety on set, which is also the reason that porn is becoming lower and lower budget as well as chewing up and spitting out porn actresses as more sex workers try to break into this big industry.

Moreover, it cannot be ignored that the current porn industry caters to and reinforces racial prejudice. The dehumanisation of black men in porn needs to be addressed. The porn that they’re in is often catering to a demand for violence, and when the audience for this porn is predominantly white men and the actresses involved predominantly white women, I think it really needs to be interrogated what is being made here. A great place to start informing yourself about the problem with the fetishization of black men is the fourth episode of the documentary series ‘Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On’ which follows the stories of black men in the porn industry. (I would also highly recommend the whole series, and the Sundance award winning film which precedes it.)

But, simply censoring problematic porn is a difficult war to wage. We’ve seen from the Reagan administration that the censorship of porn often doesn’t work because the boundaries are simply too flexible. The famous line, ‘I’ll know it when I see it’ to define what should be banned, only allowed completely homophobic prejudices to say that all gay porn, even soft core and educational, be censored. This shows how damaging the censorship of porn can be – so how can we prohibit damaging content from being made without silencing marginalised voices.

The feminist porn director Erica Lust shows the value of paying for your porn, all her actors and actresses are properly cared for and the scenes come from the real fantasies of real women, rather than relying on dodgy and proliferate tropes (see: the popularity of incest porn, sorry, step-[insert female relative here] porn). So, perhaps putting all porn behind a pay wall is a start.

Pornography is not a bad thing. ‘Pornography’ as a word is actually Greek for writing about prostitutes. In Ancient Greece, what we would call porn/erotica now for them was the tale of Venus and Adonis. This shows that porn has the capability to even be an art form. To try and ban all porn is unproductive and repressive, that’s not at all what I’m advocating for. Expression of sexuality is not a bad thing, but the exploitation of workers, women, LGBTQ+ and black people is.

Featured Image by Dainis Graveris on Unsplash 

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