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Author Topic: Porn - can you be an ethical consumer?
logic_grrl
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OK, I wanted to go off on a tangent from the thread at http://www.scarleteen.com/forum/Forum8/HTML/000006.html , and raise a slightly different question, inspired by some of the issues being discussed there.

Many people (whether or not they're opposed to porn in principle) are concerned about exploitative or unfair practices in the making of pornography.

For example, some people are concerned that performers in mainstream porn films may be under pressure not to use condoms (for example, they may be paid much more not to use condoms, or lose some jobs if they insist on condom use). Or they object to depictions of women in pornography that they find sexist or demeaning, or are concerned about the working conditions and rights of people involved.

So, can you be an ethical consumer of porn? What are your views or choices?

Do you avoid all sexually-explicit material? Feel okay with written or drawn porn, but not photographs or films of real people? Do you choose to only support material made/written by women? I've heard some women say that they prefer to watch gay male porn partly because it completely bypasses the depiction of women. Do you want to make sure that companies involved are independent, pay their workers fairly, or insist on safer sex? Do you want to be reassured that the performers in films are genuinely choosing to be there?

Do you try to support people who are exploring new ways of representating sex and sexuality? Do you think that any sexually-explicit or arousing material is damaging to women? Or none of the above, or something else altogether?

Opinions, please!

(By the way, I'm deliberately using "porn" as a generic term for all sexually-explicit material which aims to arouse - the debate over labels has an unfortunate tendency to boil down to "if I like it, it's erotica; if you like it, it's porn").


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Heather
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Nice job, logic.

In that vein, I'd also add the questions: If you think that ALL material which is or can be construed as pornographic -- in a word, any material which can or does create sexual arousal for a given viewer, whether it's a mainstream porn video with Jenna Jameson or a nude from the 16th century in your local art museum -- must all be exploitive or negative, why?

And the inverse: If you think that ALL material which is or can be construed as pornographic -- in a word, any material which can or does create sexual arousal for a given viewer, whether it's a mainstream porn video with Jenna Jameson or a nude from the 16th century in your local art museum -- must all be positive and beneficial, why?


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SMBerg
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I find it hard to consider the idea that pornography itself can exist outside the pervasive sexist social climate when people on this board can't even have an honest and open discussion about pornography due to the dominant social climate punishing websites that contain sexually explicit words.

An honest discussion about pornography is impossible when personal opinions and ideas have to take the place of hard-to-hear realities which can't be spoken for fear of recrimination. A list of 100 average, mainstream porn titles speaks the truth about pornography more than anything people here might personally feel about it could. It's not about you and what you like or don't like, it's about the evidence written on the torn, worn bodies (genital and anal reconstructive surgeries are not uncommon among pornstitutes.)

Carry on and do your best to discuss the topic with one hand tied behind your back. It will not do it fair justice, but if it's the best you can offer...

------------------
Conservatives think women should be private property. Liberals think women should be public property. Feminists don't think women should be property at all.


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Heather
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(SMBerg -- this post was opened for ALL the users here. And part of creating an environment for fair debate and discussion here at Scarleteen includes NOT starting it by telling anyone who might opt to participate that they aren't capable of having the discussion they may want to.

Yes, we have rules and restrictions here, as you discovered, that include NOT using excessively lewd langauge because of how it effects accessibility for the young adult users here due to net filters. But that is not our fault, and it certainly is not theirs. I don't see how being unable to post a scroll of porn spam headers must keep our users from being able to have a cohesive and extensive discussion (nor how that equals "recrimination") and I don't appreciate your telling them what they are and are not capable of, nor assuming you know what they think before they even express it.

So, you want to participate here? How about treating our user base and posters here with two ounces of respect, dropping thae patronizing timbre, and not assuming they can't have a wide range of opinions on a given topic just like you or I. And henceforth, if you want to participate in a discussion on any part of the boards, how about doing that by expressing your own thoughts, rather dictating to users what theirs might be without having heard them.)


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wobblyheadedjane
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Personally, I think it's possible to be an ethical consumer of any good out there, provided you have the knowledge and the options (and in some cases, the money) to choose the ethical solution. Vegetarianism for example, is an ethical choice for some people. Similarly, I don't see how you can select porn that has been filmed, edited and sold under ethical conditions- all you need to do is a little grunt work to find out where and how you can procure such an item.

Many people are pretty lazy in their consumer choices; heck, I know I've been. Sometimes it's just easier and cheaper to hit up the Walmart than the local market, even though I don't approve of some of the conditions and cycles perpetuated by Walmart. But when I can, I choose to buy fair trade coffee, and I purchase organic apples and bananas. That is my prerogative, and that is what I will do. Like any consumer choice, people need to be voting with their wallets for the ethical solution and right now, people are just too lazy or disinterested to do the work. I would wager especially when it comes to porn, which for many (not all) is just a quick fix to get off. And there's nothing wrong with that, but people do not want to do research to get off. But like any ethical choices over which bananas and coffee I want to buy, if there is a niche for ethical porn (and I suspect their is, judging by the outcry against mainstream pornography) than more people should be doing the grunt work to get it out there, get it available and make it known so that people can make that choice. I believe that women's toy shops getting more newsworthy is a good start, but there is a lot of work to be done, and instead of sitting around bemoaning the state of pornography, getting up and doing something productive and positive (and research into the negative effects of the field, any field, will only take you so far) is far more rewarding. Writing a paper about negative effects of plantations is one thing, but using the research to fund a sustainable agro project is far better. Similarly, writing about the negative effects of pornography is useful and to a certain extent, helpful, but actively running programs to better the industry is probably a more productive system to make changes.

Edit: Wow, I'm just Little Miss Editing today.

[This message has been edited by wobblyheadedjane (edited 03-26-2004).]


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Dzuunmod
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quote:
Originally posted by SMBerg:
It's not about you and what you like or don't like, it's about the evidence written on the torn, worn bodies (genital and anal reconstructive surgeries are not uncommon among pornstitutes.)

Great, but then, where does that leave police officers, boxers, firefighters, miners and a host of people in other jobs which, to varying degrees, are fairly necessary?

I still haven't seen how your decision that women shouldn't be able to have sex for money - or shouldn't be able to make their own decisions about what's best for them - is in line with that sig of yours...

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"Like a bat out of hell, time has come for you!"
-Ballad of a Comeback Kid, The New Pornographers


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KandyKorn17
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As far as "are the workers paid fairly, or do they even want to be there" goes, that's a very general issue very similar to being concerned about whether or not your clothes were made in some sweatshop somewhere. Most people don't really think about it, but they might avoid a label if some specific rumors emerged... In that case, sure, boycotting "candlestick productions" because they coerce actors into only having unprotected sex might have a positive affect on the porn industry if it causes "candlestick productions" to start making films featuring condom use.

Not watching a porn because a woman is getting slapped around during sex (or is simply spending all her time pleasuring the male without receiving any pleasure herself) is a matter of personal choice. I can understand why some people might find it offensive, but I don't think it's exactly unethical, I mean, it's a fantasy that might get some people off, but sexual fantasies and sexual reality are 2 different things and I don't think it promotes violence against women or anything...

Anyways. I like all kinds of porn. All kinds. Even if it doesn't arouse me, it tends to be interesting.


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Gumdrop Girl
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i just wanted to bring this to a new user's attention...

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Djynnjah
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There is a woman who walks around DC occasionally on an anti-pornography campaign. She basically picks a public spot somewhere downtown, holds up her large sign and hollers in a loud monotone to passersby, "STOP...PORNOGRAPHY...NOW!...STOP...THE ABUSE OF...YOUNG WOMEN...AND GIRLS!" She really does wait between each word so the message is lost if you're walking quickly. The first time I heard it I thought it was absolute nonsense, because my porn of preference usually has nothing to do with anything female. I am one of those gay porn -watching women, though I prefer still pictures, written, drawn and animated to live action. (The combination of ridiculous scenarios, fake expressions and 'porn music' inevitably makes me explode into giggles so I usually don't go for it). I don't run into the issue of exploitation and ethical choice much because a moving drawing has no rights, concerns or risks. I just pick what I like. I like to sketch and doodle so when I look at photos, I mostly find myself admiring the human form and studying the lighting.

In any case, I don't believe the porn industry is necessarily exploitive. The women (and the men) chose it for a living, whatever circumstances and conditions apply in their case. Their facing reconstructive surgery is a job risk they chose to live with and that kind of choice is hardly limited to the porn industry. Soldiers know they might get blown up, vets occasionally get bitten by defensive animals and cab drivers get robbed. People have to work, so it makes little difference to me if they choose sell hotdogs on the corner or images of themselves on screen.

Not too long ago there was an HIV outbreak among key segments of the US porn industry. I remember it because one scientist who had been a former porn star herself and was well-known in the industry for handling the testing side of the business recommended a three month moratorium on new productions and they listened, which shows some kind of commitment to safety.

The idea of certain kinds of porn, like snuff films, really gives me a bad turn. Normally I say what turns a person on is their business, but in this case when there is a drive to have the REAL THING on film, there is no way I can condone it.

Pornography brings up the issue of whether or not women in porn, by allowing themselves to be objectified, are bringing women everywhere down. I don't think they are. I don't see myself as kept down and degraded because of how Anal Annie chooses to make a buck and get her fifteen minutes. It's her decision and anyone who would look at all women as solely objects for gratification based on what happens in porn probably has some deeper issues with reality and fantasy or something, or at least I think so.

...Wow, I'm rambling today...


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Heather
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Just a few snacks for thought per some things you've said, Djynnjah, to add some perspective and additional information that are worth considering, though of course, what conclusions anyone draws from them may differ. It perhaps should be said that I am neither unilaterally anti-porn nor unilaterally pro-porn, and in fact, depending on who you ask and what work of mine they're looking at, there are plenty of people out there who'd call me a pornographer, so there ya go.

quote:
The first time I heard it I thought it was absolute nonsense, because my porn of preference usually has nothing to do with anything female. I am one of those gay porn -watching women, though I prefer still pictures, written, drawn and animated to live action.

There is a perspective on this I've run into now and then over the past couple of years you may not have yourself yet, and it does tend to have some validity, I think. That is this: that actually, gay male porn may NOT be necessarily exempt or moot when it comes to the exploitation of women, because the WAY in which gay males can be and sometimes are exploited in various forms of pornography was schooled by, for lack of a better term, certain forms of female exploitation. In other words, men can be "feminized" in this regard, and considering that when it comes to men in porn, transgender and gay men are often more LIKELY to be exploited, as opposed to heterosexual men, that idea does hold some water.

And it's not nonsense overall, because while yes, there are MANY forms of pornography out there, the greatest mass of porn out there is still porn driven by a heterosexual male market.

quote:
Soldiers know they might get blown up, vets occasionally get bitten by defensive animals and cab drivers get robbed.

I think a big question with a compariosn like this is: would we still feel it was acceptable and ethical if the soldiers or the vets were not explicitly INFORMED these were risks? Probably not. I think most people would agree that when a worker of any kind is not explicity informed of the risks -- or worse still, is purposefully not told the truth about risks, or has those risks downplayed -- and/or is put at greater risks than need be, serious ethical questions come into play. And in the case of those who are porn performers, the risk are myriad, as are the cons, and they reach far beyond STI risks and cosmetic surgery (which isn't something a performer would be forced to do in mainstream porn, so much as it is something many have to do to get work in porn).

quote:
I remember it because one scientist who had been a former porn star herself....

This is laregly anecdotal, but if you're talking about Sharon Mitchell and AIM, who indeed, is one intensely cool lady, know that the "they" who listened was by no stretch the entire industry, but instead, only a handful of studios. And in large part, those studios bent to that pressure because of financial concerns more than anything else, sadly.

quote:
I don't see myself as kept down and degraded because of how Anal Annie chooses to make a buck and get her fifteen minutes. It's her decision and anyone who would look at all women as solely objects for gratification based on what happens in porn probably has some deeper issues with reality and fantasy or something, or at least I think so.

Per this issue, my take on it is that in a culture where STILL women make less on every dollar men make, where still, women globally are treated as chattel, where still, even in our country the ERA hasn't passed, I can't very well hold women as a group responsible for my oppression as a woman because as a class, we're all in the same spot when it all comes down to it. And it isn't women raking in the massive profits from porn save very, very few rare exceptions, it's men.

But I DO believe that some aspects of a lot of pornography, of the greatest mass of what's out there and distrubuted DO contribute to women's oppression. Just like I think that buttloads of violence in film and media, for instance, in a context which glorify same are bound to have detrimental effects on culture, I do class things like abusive language in the context of sex, for instance, even sexual entertainment, as violence, or gross depersonalization of a given group, and think that does likely have some effect, and has already had effects we've seen pretty clearly. I'd also class a violence the all-too-common approach towards sexual performers or prostitutes as disposable talent which can easily be replaced with more when they become "damaged," or "used up" by the industry, as violence.

I think that we have to bear in mind that the truth is there are a LOT of people in the world who really aren't very bright, and who are very impressionable and who do take certain media as directives or permission to act. After all, look at the effect the fashion and diet industries and media have on women and body image, effects we DON'T hear questioned very often.

While again, I'm by no means unilaterally anti-porn OR pro-porn, nor am I about to say that it is entirely the media's responsibility to try and control that, I think we have to be very careful and very thoughtful when we examine these issues not to just toss out party lines, big generalizations or hold porn to a different standard -- often a lesser one -- than we might other types of media.

In other words, if we're going to defend something, I think it's always in our best interest to make sure we're really both aware of what ALL we are defending AND what of it we really WANT to be defending or even should be defending. If it's all just easily okay, or we say it is blithely, then it becomes incredibly difficult to repair, fix or change what really might NOT be okay or see it clearly.


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christinejones
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--- when i first came to LA i was shocked totally by these huge billboards everywhere promoting the various strip-joints/clubs etc. i mean completely shocked that children would be walking past this every day!!! this was their view of women - huge billboards of nothing more than a sexualized, objectified thing.

after a couple of months i didn't even notice them but i am aware of, in LA, a far more angry and misogynistic pov than almost anywhere else i have ever lived (only one other place but whatever!).

so many men here see all women just as prostitutes - literally. if a women doesn't want to go out with him it is because he doesn't have enough money and she's just a bitch and if he had a ferrari she would be sucking him off right now. they can be scared and aggressive towards women they consider 'out of their price-range' and dismissive and nasty to women who they don't think are good enough too!!!! so there is something de-humanising in the process somehow for both sexes.

its kinda weird - i'm still processing it all now, although i have been here two years now. it's all very different and i think a lot of it has to do with the overt sexualisation of women/the billboards etc. etc.

maybe it was always there though - LA is the entertainment capital of the world and throughout history almost all women working in theatres/entertainment doubled up as prostitutes i think (or so it seems when you read eighteenth century novels etc.) even in India and China i think it was the singers/entertainers who were the prostitutes as much as anyone. and then as now, some who were particularly bright or beautiful made it through to become more than a prostitute but be a famous mistress or a woman in control of her destiny - the tables somehow turned - but it has to be a LOW percentage for whom that was the case.

i still don't know what i think. i find the female form quite sexy (and the male one too) so i get turned on by porn and by all aspects of it --- specifically the sexualisation in a way. the fact that this is about nothing but sex - is sexy to me. its weird.

and i share my apt. with a very beautiful girl (whom i kinda love) who used to dance tables in dallas before she came here. she's stunning and she models (magazines/tv commercials) and she's cool. i don't feel she is degraded or debased by having danced in dallas - she's smarter and funnier than me by a long shot and more confident and together in a lot of ways. the majority of her/our friends are models - just because it's how you meet people/when you are working with them and some have gone off to vegas to dance --- they seem fine with it. and others have given it up and got married and had babies - some gone back to college. some have used the absolute hundreds of thousands they earned dancing to buy property and make themselves hugely wealthy.

i can't say that with the people i know, who admittedly have never been into prostitution, but have worked semi- in the adult entertainment industry dancing and so on... that it has seemingly had a bad effect. the worst thing is more they worry that if they do finally make it as an actress (whatever) some jerk is going to have a video of them dancing in dallas which he will sell to national enquirer.

i think the amount of sex that actually goes on is sometimes exagerrated -- i've been to the playboy mansion (with my roommate) for various mtv parties and the like i never get involved in anything!! i just like to feed the monkeys at the back with bananas and grapes and chill but even so i expected so much more to be going on but everyone is so busy looking over the other person's shoulder to see if there is anyone more interesting/important around that they don't have time to be getting into it full on - i swear!

anyway in general - i'm against. i think it does have a negative impact on the general attitude to women but i'm not convinced that every woman has worked in the adult industry is necessarily scarred for life either. just my confused two cents.

[This message has been edited by christinejones (edited 01-20-2005).]


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xxxheatherxxx
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i think ethically it's a bit of a guilty pleasure. sort of like people for the fair treatment of animals who still eat meat despite the horrific slaughtering practices. besides the controversial moral issue of strangers having sex for entertainment, i think there is a lot of exploitation and taking advantage of in that industry, but there's also that part of me that thinks, "people get themselves into that position, and if they're being treated unfairly it's up to them to get themselves out of it." i dont think thats much of a justification for the unfair aspects of this industry, but it does make it controversial. ive never purchased anything pornographic, but i dont think i could without feeling some guilt.
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