Let’s talk about violent pornography

This is a post I’ve been vaguely thinking about writing since last year, and actively trying and failing to write for a couple months. Part of the struggle to write it, I think, comes from not being sure how people will react, so I’ve decided to just spit it out, keep it (relatively) short, and see where the discussion goes.

What prompted me to start trying to actually write this post was this thread, where there was some discussion of attempts to ban “violent” pornography, particularly in Iceland. No one defended the bans, exactly, but commenter hf did say:

I also tentatively predict that if porn starts to look better or less harmful for the performers, the anti-porn strain of feminism will start to fade away.

I’m a firm believer that acceptance of porn shouldn’t depend on whether or not the majority likes the way it “looks.” But I never quite know what to say in online discussions like this one. “Violent pornography” sure sounds like an Obviously Bad Thing, doesn’t it?

Back up. Before I continue that line of thought, I want to quote from a Greta Christina piece that I’ve previously used as my go-to link to give people when these discussions come up:

If you’ve been around the porn wars, you’ve almost certainly run across a particular form of anti-porn critique. “Erotica may not be inherently bad… but look at how misogynistic so much commercial porn is! Look at how it portrays degradation and violence against women as sexually pleasurable! Women being slapped and treated roughly during sex! Women being called sluts and whores and sex toys! Women being given forceful deep-throat blowjobs that make them choke and gag! Is that a vision of women and sexuality we want to accept?”

I was reading one of these screeds the other day (somebody linked to it in a Facebook conversation)… and I started spewing out a seriously annoyed mini-manifesto/ rant.

You know who finds that imagery hot? You know who gets turned on by images of women being slapped and roughed-up? You know who gets turned on by images of women being called sluts and whores and sex toys? You know who gets turned on by images of women having hard cocks forced down their throats until they choke and gag and cry?


I do.

And I am bloody well done with being told that I’m a bad person, or a bad feminist, for finding this imagery hot.

I am a kinky person. I am a consensual sadomasochist. And I am bloody well done with having my desire to see kinky imagery, consensually engaged in as an acted-out fantasy, treated as a desire for actual, real-world degradation and oppression of women. I am bloody well done with having kinky sexuality marginalized by well-meaning concern trolls who supposedly have my best interests at heart.

From a more recent post in a similar vein:

I am entirely comfortable with these fantasies. I am entirely comfortable with the fact that I fantasize about things I would find morally repugnant in real life. I have no more problem with these fantasies than I do with fantasies about robbing casinos, or slaughtering Orcs. And I’m not willing to debate that.

Like Greta, I am a kinky person. A consensual sadomasochist. I’ve watched (and read) the porn (Greta’s new anthology is great, by the way); I do it in real life. And I’m not sure I can pull off Greta’s “I am not willing to debate that” approach to the issue.

I feel like part of it comes from being a guy–but that might not actually be a rational reaction. It feels like a woman like Greta ought to have some authority when she says kink isn’t inherently misogynistic (in the sense of actual misogyny, not consensually acted-out fantasies involving misogyny), but then she and plenty of other women have been told that they’re bad feminists or brainwashed tools of the patriarchy or whatever for being into kink.

When it comes to getting people to not freak out about kink in general… I think the most helpful thing to do may be to get them to read a basic BDSM intro resource, something that will explain safewords and other BDSM terminology, to get the point across that (while no community is perfect) on the whole the BDSM community is very conscientious about safety and consent. Though that might not be the most relevant thing to direct people towards if they’re freaking out about kinky porn specifically.

Of course, there’s a rather large difference between practicing kink in private, where you’re in a good position to figure out if everyone is there consensually, and consuming kinky porn where that may not be obvious.

But that applies to non-kinky porn as well, and given that kink is something many people do for fun, anti-porn folks can’t assume that the fact that a piece of porn is kinky means it wasn’t made consensually. What you see on screen is a poor guide to what is going on behind the scenes. Concern about coercion, exploitation, etc. isn’t justification for singling out kinky porn specifically.

Oh, and then there’s the whole issue that assuming “violence in porn” = “violence against women, by men, in porn” is ignoring all the porn out there involving women dominating men, and the kinky gay male porn, and the kinky by-lesbians-for-lesbians porn.

Really, I always laugh at that one, because I, like many kinksters, am a switch: I like both beating and getting beaten. Which also gives me first hand knowledge that, “no, some people really do like getting hit (in, I must emphasize, the right context), they aren’t just saying that to satisfy their partners.”

Your thoughts? This is one post where I’m really unsure what the comment reactions will be; seeing them may give me a much clearer view of the situation.

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