Druid Thoughts: Pagans and Pornography

Being a bunch of nature worshipers who like to honour fertility, Pagans tend to have a pretty open minded and relaxed attitude to all things sexual. We have no objection to people of any orientation, and anything consensual is fair game. I find it very easy to accept that there are people who like to watch, and people who like to display themselves. It would be easy, based on that, to assume that I’m also pro-pornography, but I’m not. There are a lot of things very wrong with porn that put it wholly at odds with Paganism. Here are ten reasons porn is not Pagan-friendly.

1)      It isn’t about consent and personal taste. Financial need, addiction and psychological pressure are used to take people way out of their comfort zones. Porn exploits participants.

2)      Actors in porn have excessively large sexual organs, creating distorted perceptions of what a healthy body looks like. This damages our relationships with our own bodies, creates anxiety, encourages plastic surgery and takes us away from appreciating what is natural.

3)      The whole culture around porn presents sex as something sleazy, dirty and forbidden. This is wholly at odds with the sacred way in which Pagans understand sex.

4)      Porn frequently depicts aggressive, disrespectful relationships between people – use and abuse are commonplace. If you understand spirit or divinity as present in the world, this treatment is intolerable.

5)      Pornography perpetrates unhealthy beliefs about women and the female body – that women exist to be used, that the female body is only good in so far as it gives pleasure, that women are sex objects. No Goddess worshiper could find this acceptable.

6)      Porn devalues sex and commodifies it, which is wholly at odds with ideas of sacred sexuality held by Pagans.

7)      Watching porn gives gratification with neither a sense of responsibility nor relationship. This is at odds with the ethics of most Pagans. We are encouraged by porn to forget our responsibilities to the people we watch — to forget their humanity, and our own. This is not Pagan.

8)      Porn isn’t that sexy. It is often functional, lacking emotional engagement and devoid of sensuality. For anyone who values the erotic (as many Pagans do), this is a travesty.

9)      Porn increases a fear of all things sexual in a significant number of people who do not like it. The more porn there is, the greater the risk that anything sexual (naked Pagans included) will be assumed to be much the same. Wider society may assume that because we are a sex-positive community, we are basically pedaling porn. We aren’t, and we need to make that clear.

10)   Porn distracts from the real thing. It’s no kind of substitute for the joy and magic that actual people can create with physical love.

Erotic content can be beautiful and inspiring. It can prompt us to connect more deeply with our lovers and give us knowledge and confidence for exploration. Anything that celebrates and honours sex can be wholly in keeping with Pagan ethics, values, and lifestyles. If you are doing something that inspires you to love, to feel connection and a sense of the sacred, you’re living your Paganism. If, on the other hand, what you do alienates you and takes you out of the world, serving to devalue and render sordid, then it isn’t good Pagan practice.

Druid Thoughts is published on occasional Wednesdays on Agora. Follow it via RSS or e-mail!

About Nimue Brown

Druid blogger, author of Druidry and Meditation, Druidry and the Ancestors and Spirituality without structure (Moon Books) Intelligent Designing for Amateurs (Top Hat Books) and Hopeless Maine (Archaia). Book reviewer for the Druid Network and Pagan Dawn. Volunteer for OBOD. Green, folky, Steampunk wench with a coffee habit. www.druidlife.wordpress.com and www.hopelessmaine.com @Nimue_B and can be hunted down on facebook.

  • Douglas Fox

    As a Pagan and a sex worker I disagree with you on all points. It seems that your reason 9 is the most significant because it suggests either that you remain trapped within a monotheistic mind set, which is fearful of sexual diversity and the human imagination, or that you are fearful of how the orthodox monotheistic majority perceive you. Either way you fail to understand that what is now called pornography is a multifaceted industry that does not easily fit the stereotypes of orthodox monotheistic interpretations that facilitates societal orthodox angst over sex. You also apply monotheistic orthodox interpretations of the feminine without asking those women and men who work in porn if it is porn or orthodox fetishist fear and shame over their sexual imagination that is the real problem with both understanding porn and with sex in general in Western society.

  • http://www.paganawareness.net.au Gavin Andrew

    I think my problem with this post is that it treats porn as something homogenous, when clearly it is not. Rather like paganism. Obviously there are many bases from which one can critique porn (feminist, aesthetic, ethical, sociological) but few would hold in all cases – leaving aside the whole issue of what *is* porn and what isn’t. To some, for example, the depictions of group sex in Starhawk’s ‘The Fifth Sacred Thing’ may be deemed deeply pornographic. They may even be right. Very often, porn, like anything else we ‘other’, serves to hold a mirror to our own fears and wants. (Christian critiques of contemporary paganism are a pretty good example of this.)

    I suspect it may be more useful to ask what a pagan porn aesthetic might look like.

  • kenofken

    Condemning porn as anti-pagan is a gross oversimplification. Porn CAN be an affront to pagan values. It is not inherently so. Porn these days is vastly more diverse than what was produced for middle aged male wankers in dark theaters in past decades. The points bear examination one by one.

    1)Does porn exploit its workers? No more so than any other workplace, and often less. Keep in mind that vast amounts of material is actually produced by individual entrepreneur/actors and by couples who produce and upload videos of themselves for their own gratification and no money.

    2)Distored body image presentations? Yes, BUT there is a vast diversity as well. There is an enourmous market for BBW, much older performers, people of every color, body type, cosmetic defect. Porn has opened many eyes to the concept that beauty comes in many forms.

    3)Does porn present sex as dirty and sleazy and forbidden? Often yes, but notions of taboo and transgression are used in powerful and positive ways even in the healthiest of real-word sexuality.

    4)Use and abuse? This is a complex question that boils down to consent. If you condemn these things in a blanket way, you’re saying that BDSM play of all kinds is anti-pagan. You will find very, very few takers on that idea here. Very many of us subject ourselves to scenarios of use and abuse in ways that we find gratifying and under conditions of respect and safety. The pagan community is absolutely full to the brim with BDSM and kink folk.

    5)Porn as anti-woman. It has a bad history with that, but times have changed. Lots of stuff is being produced by women for women. Much of it involves scenarios where women are very much in command. The true amateur stuff often depicts sex between real people who are crazy in love with each other. Pagans, much more than most, realize that we ARE sex objects to each other. We’re also much more than that. One is not exclusive of the other.

    6)Porn does tend to commodify sex, but no more than pop culture. It’s also given people permission to explore many real world interactions they wouldn’t have.

    7)What responsibility do we bear to those we watch on film? They’re getting paid. We should do the same diligence to support fair trade practices with this as with any other product or service. As to the humanity of the performers, I would encourage anyone to meet some of them at conventions etc. They are some of the most down to Earth, intelligent and creative people you will ever meet.

    8)Porn isn’t that sexy. Well, that’s largely true, but not universally so. Again, there’s a vast amount of content and diversity, and a good deal of it is done by people who understand seduction and anticipatory tension and all of the elements of real eroticism.

    9)Mainstream society will conflate porn with paganism. That’s their problem, not mine. I’ll be damned if I’m going to curry favor with evangelicals in some anti-porn crusade to make who and what I am “safe” for mass market consumption. I will be twice damned and fed to Cerberus before I let someone else define some orthodoxy of belief for me in order to be a “real” pagan. There is nothing pagan about tailoring one’s spirituality for the approval of others. The day that becomes the pagan ethic is the day I abandon the term for something else.

    10)Porn distracts from the real thing. Only if you let it. Viewed properly, it enhances it or even records the real thing for our own enjoyment.

    It is entirely about consent and personal taste. “Porn” is just erotic content you don’t find erotic.

  • Paleolith

    I highly disagree with the absolutest tone of this article. I have seen some very sex-positive porn where the participants pretty much forgot the cameras and spent the time providing real pleasure to each other. There are growing numbers of women who now direct and produce videos. Heck, I know one called “Elements of Desire” created and starring a Pagan woman which has four scenes inspired by the elements. Many porn actresses love their job including those who are highly exhibitionist in their sexuality. Also, many couples (including my husband and I) watch porn together to open up dialogue about their wants, desires, and fantasies. Porn is much too wide of a subject to be painted with a single brush.

  • http://www.patheos.com/Pagan Christine Kraemer

    There is definitely porn out there with sex-positive and body-positive values (though I have to agree, most of it is as you describe). Last I looked, the Good Vibrations website had a good selection of porn that they considered more feminist and sex-positive.

  • blackenedphoenix

    While I do agree with all these, there’s one small problem. You never define porn. What is the definition of porn? When does something cross the line from being sensual to porn?

  • Tehomet

    I’m fine with consensual sex but anti-porn. If you have to pay someone to have sex (whether in front of a camera for porn or in prostitution), there is no real consent.

  • Y. A. Warren

    My problem with porn and prostitution is the health-related danger to the actors. Disease and unwanted pregnancies are, in my opinion, anathema to honoring the sacred in ourselves and others.

  • Star Owl

    As one of the significant number of people mentioned in 9, I thank you for writing this. You have explained my feelings on this better than I ever could. One short-lived relationship with someone who was very enthusiastic about porn, and whose expectations were based on the things they had seen in porn, was enough to put me off sex for several years. I’d previously felt sex was sacred and natural, then suddenly, no matter how much I liked someone, I was backing away before we got past heavy petting. I am so grateful that I now have a wonderful husband who restored the sacred and natural to the way I feel about sex.
    I noticed some people are asking where the line is between erotica and porn, and it seems that it varies from person to person. So I think what counts most is whether our partner or potential partner perceives the line as being in the same place as we do. : )

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