Debating Porn, Ctd: Straight And Gay

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A reader writes:

I share Gail Dines' concern that pornography is the only sex education material available to teens who aren't yet able to distinguish between fantasy and reality. But isn't the obvious answer to this problem that children deserve sex education that clarifies the physical and emotional realities of sex? Teens are caught in the crossfire of abstinence-only "education" from adults and relentless social pressure from their peers; eliminating porn does nothing to solve this problem.

The same goes for Dines' concerns over economic exploitation.

"The majority of women in pornography...are usually working class women who are who are [otherwise] looking at minimum-wage jobs." So Dines would like to eliminate pornography and force them back into said jobs? "Pornography is an industrial product." Actually, the vast majority of pornography on the internet is amatuer porn that users produce and distribute for free. Sites like Cam4 are built around video chat rooms where the exhibitionists and the voyeurs talk for surprisingly long periods of time (often more than an hour) before the sexy stuff happens. The "stars" have individual personalities they express, loyal followers who address them respectfully, and total control of when and how they perform. Which is a way of saying that there are many more kinds of porn on the internet than gonzo.

Dines also laments the lack of intimacy and love in porno sex, which strikes me as willfully naive. The kind of utopian porn that she desires already exists: steamy romance novels. If Dines would like to see more cinematic porn along these lines, then she should really complain that romantic comedies always cut away from the sex act! Because outside of amateur films - where real-life couples will often perform in ways that appear genuinely tender and loving - how can pornos convincingly convey deep emotional trust between actors?

As for the exploitation of women, this is the most complicated issue. That Dines speaks exclusively of heterosexual porn in the interview is telling. There is a lot of gay hardcore on the market that involves dominance/submission, extra large endowments and rough-and-tumble fantasies, so why doesn't she identify "bottoms" as an exploited group? Judging by the volume of posts on Craigslist's M4M sections, there are as many bottoms looking for hardcore action as there are "tops"; perhaps this is statistically specific to gay male culture and doesn't represent the desires of women (I wouldn't know), but Dines doesn't drop any statistics herself.

But here's the more eternal problem: the sex act itself may be the one arena where total equality of the sexes can never fully prevail, for the simple fact that men can penetrate women but women cannot penetrate men. Gay hardcore seems unproblematic to the extent that both partners (unless indicated otherwise) are social equals and could easily "flip" roles, if not with each other then with other partners. But straight actors cannot; men will always be the "tops" and women always the "bottoms" and this has nothing do with socialized values. To see hardcore exclusively as an expression of misogyny is a way of avoiding the more difficult, intractable problems imposed by the sex organs themselves.

The reader has apparently never met a BOB.

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