Independent Woman

Thursday 28 August 2014

'I'm a woman, and I don't have a problem with porn'

Caroline Kent

Published 01/11/2013 | 09:04

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TRIVANDRUM, INDIA - JANUARY 12:  Woman lying in a hammock and working with a notebook on January 12, 2010 in Varkala near Trivandrum, Kerala, India. (Photo by EyesWideOpen/Getty Images)
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The mainstream media doesn’t like porn.

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Much of the coverage of porn centres on the social ramifications of school kids being bombarded by images of submissive women, ritually humiliated in the name of male gratification.

We are told that porn damages young male minds and warps their attitudes to the opposite sex. We’re told it puts pressure on teenage girls to conform to the expectations porn plants in boys’ heads. We’re told it leads to sexual violence against women.

It's a complicated topic, and I’m not belittling the criticisms levelled against pornography. But neither do I subscribe to the knee-jerk view that all porn is abhorrent. Quite the opposite.

Some women find the idea of their boyfriend or husband using porn disgusting, a form of betrayal even, but am I offended if I find out that a partner watches porn? Not in the least. Differing sex drives, schedules, and tastes are entirely understandable.

I admire a partner who explores and indulges his sexual side. But only if he’s open about it, and isn’t doing so at the expense of our relationship, or because he is ashamed or scared to admit to what he wants.

I don’t like the idea of porn as a replacement for something in a relationship. If a man cheats himself and his partner out of intimacy because a quick online thrill is easier and more convenient, that doesn’t impress me. Neither does a man who struggles to see his wife as both the mother of his children AND as a sexual being, and so needs to get his kicks online.

But I do think porn has a place, and serves a purpose.

A lot of mainstream pornography doesn't want women to have a face, an opinion, or a voice, but we could say the same about many other areas of our society. And if you want to talk about a culture of objectification, I could also suggest a discussion about how many women own a vibrator these days. As far as I’m aware, Ann Summers has not yet brought about an end to civilisation as we know it. Those toys are tools for female sexual gratification, as porn is for many men, and in an appropriate time and place, what’s wrong with that?

My moral stance on porn is different to my ethical stance. I’m not naïve about how actors in the porn industry are treated, or about the often grim and grotty realities of the sex industry. But outright demonising of the things we don’t like won’t make them disappear. We need to address them properly and have a grown-up conversation, because porn isn’t going away any time soon.

If I peek at a man's porn collection there are certain things that will make me run a mile and others which raise a shoulder shrug and an eye-roll, or even a cheeky smile. Some of it has nuance and tension and narrative, and all the other things you expect from good entertainment.

The truth is that a lot of men watch it, certainly more than would admit it. Women too. Not everyone is corrupted or destroyed by it. The key is an awareness of the difference between fantasy and reality. Real-world sex, where boobs jiggle and bottoms sag and people fart and giggle, is a rollicking good time. It's much better than porn, in my opinion, and we shouldn't lose sight of that.

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