21 October 2021

Some issues with pornography

A couple of initial caveats:  First, due to the topic, this post will contain some fairly explicit references to sex acts, something I don't often have on this blog.  Readers who are uncomfortable with such references may prefer to skip this post.

Second, this is not a call to ban pornography.  As a free-expression absolutist I oppose such efforts, and my policy of deleting all comments which support censorship (or try to argue that banning porn would not constitute censorship) applies to this post as it does to others.  That's not what this is about.  The proper way to deal with expression you don't like is not to ban it but to do your own expression to explain why you don't like it, and that's what I'm doing here.

I do not have any objections in principle to the general concept of pornography in the sense of explicit depictions or descriptions of sex.  What bothers me about the pornography we actually have is that most of it depicts sex in ways that are ugly, formulaic, unrealistic, disgusting, dull, devoid of affection, and sometimes cruel.  I'm not talking about niche genres such as bondage, S&M, etc.  I'm talking about the nearest one can easily find to what purports to be "ordinary", normal, "vanilla" sexuality.  I don't claim to have made a systematic study of the subject; this post is all based on what I've seen during casual searches on the internet (yes, I have as much interest in sex as men normally do, and I sometimes have gone looking for such material, though for reasons that will become obvious, I hardly ever do so any more).

There is an odd pervasiveness of behavior which is more just peculiar than erotic, such as slapping the penis against the woman's face or body.  There's usually a rote, by-the-numbers succession of awkward, uncomfortable-looking sexual positions.  Oral sex is often depicted to suggest the penis is being shoved all the way into the woman's throat, which would surely cause gagging or choking in reality.  Everywhere, anal anal anal is thrown in your face relentlessly.  I've even seen some porn videos in which condoms were used.  The man very often slaps, chokes, hair-pulls, or otherwise physically abuses the woman.  The slapping is sometimes hard enough to leave a red mark on the skin.

(Most porn sites have helpful categories like "gangbang", "pissing", "double penetration", "incest", "fisting", etc.  I don't recall ever seeing a category like "abuse-free" or "normal" or whatever they would call it.  On one site I saw a "romantic" category, but the material there was just like all the rest.)

Performers on video often have tattoos or piercings and the males are sometimes seriously overweight.  I know hiring is a challenge these days, but this is a genre in which the physical attractiveness of the actors is a legitimate issue given the nature of the product being produced.

There is almost never any suggestion of love or affection, and only the most threadbare and perfunctory effort to show who the characters are or why they are having sex with each other.  If there's dialogue at all, the vocabulary is the most vulgar, obscene, and degrading possible.

Finally, in most videos, the man pulls out before orgasm and ejaculates externally, often on the woman's face or body.  In the rare cases where this doesn't happen, the camera almost always zooms in on the vagina afterward to show semen oozing out.

If there is a more effective formula than this for wilting away whatever nascent arousal led the viewer to seek out the material in the first place, I have a hard time imagining what it might be.

As I say, I don't object to pornography on principle.  Genuinely erotic, affectionate, realistic sex scenes would actually interest me, and you occasionally see such scenes in mainstream movies or on small niche sites, but on major porn sites they don't seem to exist.

Is such an abusive and degraded vision of sexuality what the market wants?  If so, this has disturbing implications.  Or is it just a set of conventions which has become entrenched and porn hounds watch it because it's all they can get?  Maybe the audience for porn consists only of whatever fraction of the male population has a fetish for this kind of stuff?  I can't claim to know.  But it's disappointing that our society's strong protections for freedom of expression have, in this area, enabled only such limited and repulsive results.


Blogger Jack said...

It would be interesting to know if porn content is an example of giving the people what they want (i.e., they provide the content you described because it is more popular) or more about pushing what they want and hoping to find an audience for it. Since I assume they are in it to make money, I'd guess it is the former. Porn sites undoubtedly look at their traffic patterns, identify the content that makes them more money, and prioritize delivering it. From what I remember, we recently elected a president who appeared to enjoy the pissing stuff, so maybe more people find that sort of thing appealing than I'd think.

21 October, 2021 03:50  
Blogger Lady M said...

Porn has always been this way - pretty much marketed for a Beavus and Butthead audience, completely oblivious to the females experience i.e. deep throat. I blame it for why many men are usually clueless about female orgasm. Believe me, I have talked to a lot of women whose partners don't know the first thing about it. My partner does because I trained him up with books about the female sexual response. Getting slapped or gagged with a dick or covered with semen does nothing for me. Pain is not part of my sexual response -perhaps for some gals but nobody I have ever spoken with. As a turn on, I like those old Nancy Friday in which females relate their sexual fantasies.

21 October, 2021 06:37  
Anonymous Ole phat stu said...

You restricted yourself to American porn. Islamic porn might be the glimpse of an ankle under the Burka. Cultural differencex play a role too.

21 October, 2021 06:37  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Jack: That makes sense, unless the people that run these sites have some overriding reason for pushing this stuff which is more important to them than maximizing profit. It's a mystery to me.

Lady M: I keep hearing things like that about men's ignorance. Again, it's a mystery to me why they don't educate themselves. It isn't difficult to learn about female sexual response, not to mention simply listening to one's partner (individuals have individual preferences). Looking at this kind of porn and thinking that that's what sex is actually supposed to be like would require self-delusion equivalent to a QAnon cultist.

Phat: What I discussed here is (I think) mostly American-made. I've also seen a fair bit of Japanese porn at different times; that has a very different set of issues, but let's just say it's not woman-friendly. As for Islamic countries, remember that they all have the internet too and can access Western-style porn, and in fact some of those countries are among the highest per-capita consumers of it. Of course, their societies are saturated with gross abuse of women in real life.

21 October, 2021 06:53  
Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

I really do not consume straight porn, so I am not too familiar with the scenarios you describe, but I totally believe they are part of porn 'canon'.
I find studio porn to be somehow boring, even though the men you'll find in gay porn are sometimes absolutely stunning. Their bodies and proportions would put a Greek statue to shame sometimes, but the way some of them go around sex is boring and rote.
I prefer 'amateur' porn. I like the porn that was produced during the pandemic when the JustForFans thing took off and porn stars took to bring a tripod to their house and just filmed themselves having sex with a willing partner. It was more entertaining, I think. And more 'real' (as real as porn could get, that is).
I'm going to have to explore more straight porn. Are the men really ugly? The women are always stunning, IMHO.


21 October, 2021 08:18  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Sixpence: Perhaps I should have specified that I was talking about straight porn here -- I'm not familiar enough with gay porn to comment about it.

Are the men really ugly?

Certainly not all of them. It's just something I've noticed occasionally which seems surprising -- although I guess the target audience doesn't look at the men very much :-)

21 October, 2021 09:49  
Blogger Mike said...

I read somewhere that the biggest consumers of the site Pornhub are from Utah. So maybe the more sexually repressed your particular society is, the crazier some members of that society's response is. I think the porn world is just like the real world. Different strokes for different folks. There is plenty of female domination porn too.

21 October, 2021 11:20  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

the biggest consumers of the site Pornhub are from Utah

Yes, and globally it's Pakistan. Same principle.

I've heard of dominatrix porn, but never seen any. It's one of those niche types, not predominant. Anyway, I'm not interested in seeing women be cruel to men any more than vice versa. Sex is supposed to be fun, meaning free of ideology, wokeness, and all that shit.

21 October, 2021 12:11  
Blogger Daal said...

I'm thinking about my worst xmas ever, where I drove with a past boyfriend's bro & sis-in-law (who I didn't much like) to Vegas, a place I hate, then on way back the other couple insisted we step into their home just for a few mins to see porn videos they'd discovered that they deemed "wonderful" because they had "real people" in them. being curious & stupid I actually said ok & then was so saddened -- to think that those people felt they had absolutely nothing to lose by showing their butt pimples & the rest... ugh- now I have to take a shower & try to erase the memory in time for upcoming holidays lol

21 October, 2021 12:58  
Blogger NickM said...

Why are the men so much less physically attractive in the "conventional" sense than the women? Well, I'd always thought it was very much a PoV thing with the male protaganist acting as a surrogate for the viewer. It's saying, "That you too could have a lady like that who do all those things you dream of...". It's like advertising except the product is the advert. I am almost tempted to suggest the rise of the Incel movement and the rise of online Frankie Vaughn is correlated...

Alas I don't (right now) have the time to go into the social complexities of porn because I've gotta get on with dinner.

21 October, 2021 13:02  
Blogger NickM said...

I hope my previous comment comes-up soon or this will make little sense...

The women are usually more attractive than the men in straight porn but not always. There are a staggeringly large number of genres, sub-genres to the extent that despite the size of the internet there are probably things that a dozen folks at most are into.

Interestingly though quite a big one though is "ugly". I don't understand that at all. We all have different schticks but I'd have thought that, by definition, if you fancy a look - even if it is a look most people don't - then you consider that beautiful. It's a very strange game is porn which, quite honestly, is why it interests me.

21 October, 2021 13:13  
Blogger Dave Dubya said...

Whodathunk they're hypocrites?

An interesting study shows evangelicals like their porn, especially in more conservative states.

Do People in Conservative States Really Watch More Porn? A Hierarchical Analysis


However, interactions between individual-level evangelical identity and state-level political conservatism indicate that evangelicals who live in more politically conservative states report the highest rates of pornography consumption. These findings thus provide more nuanced support for previous research linking religious and political conservatism with greater pornography consumption.

21 October, 2021 14:02  
Blogger Daal said...

oh - & I forgot to add on prior comment that the other couple, the ones who lurve lurve lurved their porn, were ultra religious... sometimes I envy people like a friend who was so conservative that she deemed low-heeled closed-toed shoes with an open back but with a strap there "too sexy for for work", whereas to me their looked quite dowdy

21 October, 2021 19:19  
Blogger Mary Kirkland said...

The fact that most of porn is devoid of emotion and unrealistic is one of the reasons I don't watch it much anymore. Most people have at some point and once I was an adult and found it easily available on the internet we watched it as a couple a few times. I'd much rather read a romance book with paranormal elements like vampires, werewolves and demons. There's lots of sex in romance books and at least it's usually between people that care about each other and I like the vampires and werewolves. That's more my thing.

22 October, 2021 11:36  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Daal: Apologies for reviving the memory. Can't say I'm surprised they were ultra-religious, but inviting friends in to watch porn is really weird.

NickM: That could be it -- the male actor is there for the viewer to have someone to identify with.

I don't get most of the niche sub-genres either -- even less than the mainstream stuff.

Dave: If I had to choose just one word to describe the fundies, I'd choose "hypocrisy". No surprise that it applies to sex too, and the most repressed people are usually the most warped. At least watching porn is better than molesting altar boys.

Mary K: I have heard that romance novels these days often have graphic sex in them. And sure, if the characters are more fleshed out, it's a step up. I don't know why the people who make porn can't do that, or maybe the ones who want to end up writing romance novels instead.

23 October, 2021 00:26  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a simple reason why so much porn is bad.

Sturgeon's Revelation: "90% of everything is crud."

23 October, 2021 15:47  

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