Jumping on the Banned-Wagon

You might have seen in the news recently that Iceland is considering a ban on certain types of online porn, while the European Parliament just took a vote on whether to ban all online porn across Europe (they voted against, thankfully!) You can watch a youtube debate about Iceland’s ban that I took part in a couple of weeks ago here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzzYFHX5-ek

Banning porn seems to be a hot topic at the moment, and of course this is a difficult issue. Most people who support the ban seem to do so for the right reasons – they are worried about the exploitation and objectification of women rather just rehashing old-fashioned morality about sex being obscene. Tanya Gold recently called for ‘fair porn’ (which I support) but wants to ban all other porn (which I am against).

Of course, most mainstream porn is sexist: it glorifies the degradation of women and suggests all ideas of sexuality and beauty are confined to narrow, repetitive clichés. The mainstream porn industry creates a damaging image of sexuality, and continues to entrench misogyny and sexual violence as normal and even desirable. A large part of the problem is that porn is the only way a lot of people get to see other people express their sexuality, so the way that porn stars look and behave comes to seem the norm. Porn serves as sex education for a lot of (young) people, so I feel that as a pornographer I have a responsibility to show a great variety of sex including foreplay and sexy safer sex.

When you have facial cum-shots, extremely rough anal sex and forced blowjobs shown almost all the time, it starts to be expected that all women will want and enjoy these things, when in fact most don’t. I can see the temptation of trying to restrict this, and this was exactly the reason I was involved in the anti-porn movement in the 80s. But if the reason porn is being discussed is women’s rights, then I don’t see how banning it is the answer. More and more women chose to express and enjoy their sexuality by shooting or watching porn.

A ban on porn suggests there’s something innately bad and exploitative about filming and watching sex – which there isn’t. It’s not porn itself that’s bad, it’s certain elements of the commercial mainstream porn industry. We don’t need a ban: sex isn’t something that’s dirty and bad and needs to be kept private. There’s nothing wrong with people wanting to watch other people have sex, getting turned on and using it for their own pleasure. That can be a positive, wonderful and empowering thing.
What we need are alternatives. As the fabulous Annie Sprinkle once said: “The answer to ‘bad’ porn is not ‘no porn’ but ‘good’ porn!” By creating sex-positive porn I and lots of other adventurous feminist pornographers show that sex and porn can be erotic and empowering for everyone, including and especially women. We need porn that shows real, genuine passion, performers who actually enjoy themselves and fancy each other, and women who love sex and have amazing orgasms.

Banning porn can only make our society more sexually repressed, and repression always makes guilty, messed up attitudes towards sex and women even worse. One problem in censoring porn would be: who would be employed to classify and censor porn? One person’s fetish is another person’s ‘perversion’. I can easily imagine someone objecting to my “Joy Club” scene from “A Taste of Joy” because they don’t like to see women fucking guys with a strap-on as they consider this as ‘degrading’ (even though the guys thoroughly enjoyed it). Ultimately I think the people who watch porn need to make choices and will hopefully support “fair porn” where it is obvious that the performers had choices, are enjoying themselves and have not been exploited.
If we as a society openly embraced positive, consensual porn we could change people’s attitudes for the better, not to mention enhancing their sex lives.

The porn I and other feminist directors make does challenge the mainstream industry and porn critics alike. Why? Because it’s genuine, sexy and original, and appeals to a large part of the population that mainstream porn usually excludes – women. Women have their own desires and fantasies and more and more of the chose to spend their money on their (sexual) pleasure.

With an increasing number of creative and idealistic female porn-makers producing amazing, sexy films, mainstream porn is going to face a challenge. I get emails from so many ‘fans’ telling me how boring and predictable mainstream porn is – even hetero men, who commercial porn is designed to appeal to, get bored of the same formulaic pounding and faked expressions. Eventually a lot of mainstream porn is going to sabotage itself because it’s so boring, passionless and fake. We provide people with alternatives so they realise that there’s something much more exciting out there.

This is why we need more porn, not less! Rather than trying to take away the problem of a sexist porn industry by banning access to its products, we need to change it from the inside. Porn can be a great thing. It doesn’t have to be something harmful, degrading and sexist. If people – especially women – could indulge their fantasies while watching safe, consensual sex play everyone is enjoying – why would there be any need to get rid of it?

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