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?

Me.

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.

  • kenofken

    If the actors and consumers of porn are all consenting adults, the content is no one’s damn business. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it (or these days, pirate)!

    • MNb

      And if they aren’t all consenting and it’s impossible to protect those who don’t consent? That might actually happen more often than we liberals like.

    • Alexander Johannesen

      Hmm. The control over who gets to see the content is a bit gray. Let’s face it, the depiction is very often of illegal nature, so the consent becomes a vital part of the content; is it a consensual act, or is it illegal actions?

      • Wren

        I don’t understand what “the depiction is very often of illegal nature” means. Are you saying that it depicts things that would be illegal in real life? Or that doing the things isn’t illegal, but producing pictures of it is?

        • Alexander Johannesen

          No, it’s the combination of illegal and the framework around it that doesn’t make it clear that it is all an act. A lot of porn plays on the illegal nature of the depiction and the illusion of lack of consent, and that it’s often sold with this ambiguity is what makes it, at least for me, very questionable.

          • John Evans

            So you don’t like how it is being marketed, not that the pornography depicts violence in and of itself? Am I understanding you right?

          • Alexander Johannesen

            Well, like I said elsewhere, I don’t get violent porn, and I’m rather uncomfortable with it if I see it, but I don’t condemn it within the consensual framework just because I’m ignorant of its value or purpose.

            However, depiction of illegal stuff where it’s sometimes hard to see a framework of “just an act” is a problem, and let’s face it, that includes most amateur and low-budget porn. If it was shot like a movie, you understand the effort that goes into it and how it is an act (even if I don’t like violent movies either, but at least there the “act” is a bit easier to grasp).

            So I don’t object to violent porn under the framework of consent at all, but I do see a problem with a lot of it *because* it’s hard to see those lines. Heck, if it obvious, then no problem, but part of “the act” is that it’s supposed to look real, no? It’s supposed to be what it depicts? When the whip comes down, it isn’t supposed to be a soft one, but one that leaves marks? Or gagging on a massive dong, it is meant to be as uncomfortable and brutal as it depicts, yes? In fact, it isn’t an act at all; it is consensual violence, and if the consensus part isn’t obvious, it is, by all means, actual violence, actual rape, actual whipping, actual humiliation, and so on for the observer.

            As I’ve said earlier, the problem isn’t with the people who are doing it, nor the people who knows what they’re looking at; the problem is all those who see it who don’t know the framework. That’s it. That’s the problem. And there’s a myriad of problems and settings with all those who don’t understand, or see, or get, the framework.

          • John Evans

            So, and forgive me if I’m misunderstanding, you’re saying we should pad the world because sometimes idiots fall down stairs? That because there is somebody, somewhere, who can’t distinguish fantasy from reality without it being explicitly laid out in single-syllable words, we have to bend over backwards to ensure that no miscommunication occurs.

          • Alexander Johannesen

            “you’re saying we should pad the world because sometimes idiots fall down stairs? ”

            There’s plenty of examples throughout history of padding that has benefited all of humanity, so I’m not sure why you want to make a big swipe like this? Padding is often called “progress”, where progress is measured in the lessened number of people dying from falling off high places without railing, or from having heavy objects fall on you without a helmet, or from falling into the sea without a safety-west, or from washing their hands before they operate on a patient, or … well, there’s plenty of examples that show that padding can be good. Why do you feel this particular padding (if we can come up with one that works for violent porn) is a waste of time and money?

          • John Evans

            Because there’s a difference between reasonable safety precautions and ‘nanny state. I would suggest anyone who couldn’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality isn’t going to gain the ability if you put a ‘this is a fantasy’ label on violent porn. This would be a feel-good sop that would accomplish nothing

          • Alexander Johannesen

            Yes, there is a difference between the two. But what is it? Where do we draw the line? As far as I can tell, the definition of a nanny state is “everything I don’t agree with”, which is a hopeless place for discussion.

            So, in all honesty, where’s the line?

          • John Evans

            Fair questions. I think all these sorts of decisions need to be made on their individual merits. Compare cost to benefits. Will doing X significantly reduce harm, or provide a significant benefit to the population, outweighing the restriction of rights, inconvenience, added financial cost, or other drawbacks to doing X? I don’t see any reason to believe that putting disclaimers on ‘violent’ porn (and setting up a bureaucracy to determine exactly what qualifies as violent porn) would actually have any meaningful impact on crime or the social consciousness. In short, to me this seems like it would only be feel-good political theatre.

      • John Evans

        Because action movies and horror movies also depict a lot of things that are illegal in real life, without any explicit indication that the actions are consensual. Why should porn not also be able to be allowed to implicitly convey the ‘hey guys, this is fiction’ message?

        • Alexander Johannesen

          In movies there is no doubt about consensus and that it is an act. A lot of porn is not made within that clear-cut framework.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ trivialknot

    This is the sort of post I normally wouldn’t comment on, because I don’t find anything especially disagreeable, nor is it a subject I know much about. I don’t find anything wrong with kinky porn. As for those feminist factions that oppose kinky porn, I don’t support them.

  • http://kagerato.net/ kagerato

    Personally, I think the term “violent porn” is close to an oxymoron. I don’t see how a physical act can be an act of violence if the person affected already gave informed consent. Is surgery violence, too?

    There’s at least two different ways you can approach the concept of violence. One, from the perspective of harm (mental or physical). Two, from the perspective of intent. Yet I don’t really get how either comes together to give us a meaningful phrase in “violent porn”. Or are we supposed to be talking about cases where some kind of long-term damage was done? I’m not really following, to be honest.

    From my experience, the anti-porn crowd usually approaches the whole subject from a mental harm (and usually indirect mental harm, at that) stance. That makes me even more confused as to what exactly we should be addressing here.

    One thing I will say is that anything taken to an extreme can become dangerous. I think most of the BDSM crowd is aware of the risks and tries to manage them, though.

  • Yvain

    I think arguing against shaming violent porn on philosophical grounds misses the much more important point that we have evidence that violent porn probably decreases rape and violence

    • ptah

      “Studies show” is an argument, though.

    • MNb

      There are also studies which suggest that violent porn has an undesirable influence on young teenagers. That’s why my feelings are mixed.

    • http://kagerato.net/ kagerato

      Yes, the displacement effect. That is an important element for consideration. Violent media don’t appear to cause people to commit more crimes, but they do occupy exactly the type of people likely to do so. Every minute spent on the violent media by potential or actual criminals is a minute they can’t be harming other people.

  • Mick

    I knew a masochist who loved to have freezing cold showers in the middle of winter – so he always had a hot one. He once asked a sadist to hit him. The sadist said “No.”

  • hf

    I’m a firm believer that acceptance of porn shouldn’t depend on whether or not the majority likes the way it “looks.”

    Well that’s a lovely applause light.

    I’ve seen women enjoying submission and discipline. It provides a marked contrast to most porn.

    • hf

      I stand by my prediction that Iceland will not effectively ban porn, by the way. Part of my reasoning is that the country apparently consumes a lot of gay pornography.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/hallq/ Chris Hallquist

      Re: “applause light”

      Do you think it’s false? Trivial? Too vague to be meaningful? If you think it’s trivial, why doesn’t it undermine the argument you made in the previous thread?

      • mugasofer

        It’s a term originating, I believe, with this article:

        http://lesswrong.com/lw/jb/applause_lights/

        It means that the statement was intended to elicit applause/cheering from the audience, rather than, say, convey information, or argue your point.

        “Trivial” is probably closest, I think, but it’s the rhetorical function that distinguishes an applause light.

        • http://patheos.com/blogs/hallq/ Chris Hallquist

          I’m aware of the origin, I was just questioning what the heck hf meant by it. Because it may seem obvious, but I don’t think it was pointless to say in the context of responding to hf.

          • mugasofer

            Ah, OK. I wasn’t sure if you were trying to extrapolate from the literal meaning there.

            While I’m not hf … that sentence does kind of sound, well, trivial – almost stramannish, really, as it kind of implies the other side disagrees with it. “Oh, we shouldn’t object to it just because it’s kinky-looking” … you can argue that that’s the critics’ underlying motivation, but I don’t think anyone is vocally disagreeing with the statement that “acceptance of porn should depend on whether or not the majority likes the way it “looks.””

            I wouldn’t have bothered pointing it out, myself, it’s really not that big a deal … but that’s my guess as to where they were coming from.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/hallq/ Chris Hallquist

      “I’ve seen women enjoying submission and discipline. It provides a marked contrast to most porn.”

      I AM going to call that out as trivial… yes, but in what way? I stop to think about this for two seconds, and I’m suddenly vary curious about what porn you’re watching.

      Because, like, I’m not an expert on this type of porn, but I think there’s a whole bunch of porn out there that doesn’t feature anyone getting tied up or having anything painful done to them at all! Which is a “marked contrast” to most of the BDSM scenes I’ve witnessed / taken part in… but not the kind of contrast that in any way gives you a point.

  • ptah

    I don’t have any real answers, just like to point out that “I like it” is not an argument.

    • Alice

      Yes, and there’s a difference between a couple enjoying rough sex & role play in the bedroom and financially supporting (through direct payment or website traffic) a multi-billion dollar industry that treats its actresses and actors like shit.

      • http://kagerato.net/ kagerato

        That’s true. I don’t see why anyone feels the need to buy commercial porn these days, though. The amateur stuff is abundant and typically just as good, if not better. It’s what you would call a saturated market.

        The other element is that this isn’t an argument specific to porn. There’s tons of products out there that people buy as regularly or moreso, including many kinds of food, clothing, and electronics, which are produced under terrible labor conditions. Fighting labor exploitation needs to involve pretty much all workers together, because separately we’re much too powerless to get anything done.

        • Alice

          Well, I’ve heard that porn companies are losing money because of piracy and amateur work, but it seems like the demand is so high that those things don’t hurt them much. I don’t know how many people buy porn versus just watching it online for free, but the companies still make a significant amount of money from the ads on their free sites.

          Yes, you have a good point that this argument applies to tons of products out there. It’s true that we should care about all exploited workers. However, I think it’s harder with those things because there are so many exploitative companies that it’s hard to find products elsewhere, and those things are practical.

          We don’t need a ton of new clothes or technology, but we need a small amount of nice clothing for work, and it’s quickly getting to the point where you have to have a computer and cellphone to function in American society. I know this from experience. /Now I’m not making excuses because I know I am often too lazy and too cheap to do research and pay more to buy from ethical companies, and that is something I definitely need to change./

          Regardless of how necessary those things are or aren’t, they are more useful than porn, and there’s no reason anyone has to have porn. There are also some risks which are higher in the porn industry than other industries, such as internal damage and the very high rate of STIs because condoms are almost never used.

          I can see the appeal of pornography because I’ve read a lot of NC-17 stories, most of which were violent (which I do my best to stay away from now). However, even though pornography is appealing, I can’t stomach visiting the websites because the industry is destroying real people’s lives, and I can’t financially support that.

          • http://kagerato.net/ kagerato

            You can actually deprive them even of advertising revenue by using an ad-blocker. I personally think that commercial advertising is an outdated and manipulative way of getting people to buy your stuff, which typically ignores the merits (or demerits) of the products in question. So I tend to block nearly all the ads on the web, mute the TV during advertisements, and so forth. According to some, people like me are causing the collapse of industry. Hasn’t happened yet, and I don’t expect it ever, to be honest. It might be very interesting to see what would emerge from the ashes if such a revolution ever did occur, though.

          • Alice

            Yes, I had that when I used Firefox. I seemed to get more
            unblockable ads when I did that, but it is very effective otherwise. Does that stop advertisers from making money though, if it’s based on page views?

            I know most are based on click-through rates, and I never click on ads anyway so I might as well block them. I probably will install it for Chrome soon because I am sick and tired of seeing the same ads a million times. I looked at theater tickets a few days ago, but they were too expensive, and since then there are ads for it EVERYWHERE I go.

            My only concern is that the ad-on has access to all data from all websites, so I don’t want it to have access to my passwords or credit card information. Unless the https prevents that?

          • http://kagerato.net/ kagerato

            Some advertising companies pay based on click-through, and others pay based on the view (number of times the text, image, flash object, or whatever the ad is actually gets requested). Whichever they use, though, common ad-blocking techniques circumvent them because the ad itself is never requested from the server (usually a third party server). The only thing that’s actually very hard for an ad blocker to work around is first-party ads, where the advertiser and the web site owner are the same entity. That is an extremely rare practice, though. I’ve seen it roughly three times in almost twenty years.

            The reason why some advertisers hate the per-view payment method is because of how easily it can be gamed, by the way. In fact, a lot of malicious fraudsters use traffic manipulation, link-baiting, site-in-site iframes, javascript to replace page elements, hidden images, and dozens of other little tricks to cause ads to be loaded with their personal account identifiers. Thus, they can manipulate the volume and cause the advertising revenue to go to them even if it was meant for another site or person.

            As to the last part, that’s a much wider security concern about control over the code that runs on your system. It affects just about everything and is certainly not limited to ad-blocking plugins. Malware writers will tend to target the browser itself, or simply just inject malicious javascript, before they try relatively unlikely exploits through an ad-blocking extension. Notably, the flash and java (a platform totally distinct from javascript except for the same) plugins are a much, much bigger source of commonly-used exploits than any ad blocker. Ad blockers can even help against malware, due to the ability to reject content from dubious or known malicious domains.

            Security concerns are one reason people like open source software like Firefox. Most extensions for Firefox are also open source themselves. Of course, to actually verify what the software does you need to have the development skills to read the source code. Most people, even professional developers, just place some trust in the likely fact that someone out there probably bothered to verify the code was trustworthy — and that it would be a lot harder to sneak in something malicious (and have it go unnoticed) than in your typical proprietary application. It’s a very long-standing argument in software security circles, so there’s plenty out there if you’d like to research it.

        • Shel

          Amateur porn is somewhat morally dubious too. Even if the sex was consensual, how do you know it was consensually put online? It seems like the best way is to seek out actors like Stoya or Maggie Mayhem who are open about loving what they do.

          The STI rate in the porn industry is actually lower than one might expect, because of regular STI testing (although there’s controversy about how high the STI rate actually is).

          • http://kagerato.net/ kagerato

            That tends to be an issue for a lot of the content on the internet. Who put it there, and why? Pretty much the only thing you can do is as you say: focus on people you can actually communicate with (and therefore trace the source).

    • Unreal X

      It’s also an argument used by anti-porn people as well, because many radical feminists cite women’s discomfort or horror on viewing porn as an argument that pornography is against women and misogynistic.

      • ptah

        And when I come across them I’ll say the same thing.

        But now we are here.

  • wombat

    As long as the participants in the porn have all consented (which, I know, is not always a given, but that’s a different issue) then where’s the problem? They’re consenting adults, producing a product for other consenting adults.

    • MNb

      “that’s a different issue”

      Not really, if a substential part of violent porn isn’t consensual we must wonder if lack of consensus isn’t part of the porn system.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/hallq/ Chris Hallquist

        What Kevin said. Do you have any basis for focusing on violent porn specifically here?

    • Alexander Johannesen

      Isn’t that the real issue, though? Is it ok for a kink to get excited about images of actual abuse and rape (that you watched thinking it was consensual)? Is that the thing that makes it ok, knowing consent? Because very little porn documents this, and in fact a lot of it specifically plays on it not being so (even though they might have a contract with consent, it might be sold as if consent is not given).

      I feel there’s something to explore here. I’m not a kink, and in fact, I don’t understand what makes a kink excited by things that, if were not in an agreed fantasy, is in most cases illegal (and, I think, for very good reasons, but of course I’m happy to draw the line right there; the law), so I’m perfectly happy for kinks to enjoy what kinks enjoy with each other.

      However, there’s a lot of hidden and unknown information about the porn that’s depicted, and I don’t think many will defend the generic porn business (which, I suspect, is mostly porn for men, but I don’t have figures) with pushing certain boundaries they clearly push; younger (under-age), abused (drunken sex), exploited (gone wild, fake audition, sex for rent, etc.), raped or ex-girlfriend girls, not to mention all those girls driven into the business because it pays better than alternatives, or can bring them out of poverty (or thereabouts) through some poor choices (as opposed to when they do it for the sex itself, of course). So, disregarding consensual kink there’s still a fairly large portion left for the dark side of porn, no? Young girls (and sometimes boys) making decisions about doing this and whatever consequences that comes from it is done knowing very little about what they are about to embark on, and this is one side of it I loath deeply, and it is highly exploitative. (And I hate people being exploited by any means, not just sexual as in this subject even though I find that there’s a higher degree of denigration of privacy with nudity)

      To address the problem stated above, the problem isn’t for the people depicted in the porn as consensual, ie. it’s not a problem for those people that the porn is made and distributed. The problem is that the consent isn’t always depicted, and there is no way of knowing who gets excited by it. In Greta’s example, does she feel it’s ok to get excited about accidental non-consent sex? (There’s a sub-text here that it is not a given that the people in question are even making good decisions by making sure their possibly stupid decisions become very public for a very long time, but that’s a slightly different argument)

      I don’t know, I feel the porn needs some framework of intellectual constraints, but I’m not sure I can articulate what that might be. I know a lot of porn is investigated where there are laws controlling these things, and there’s a lot of shit out there. I’m not sure I’m ready to grant porn (violent or not) a pass just because a fraction of it is seemingly consensual. People who’s into this stuff should be a lot more explicit about the constraints around it. Not sure how to crack down hard on the illegal part of it, though. There’s an argument for legal pushing of constraints into illegal territory, and I’d like to point out that the consent you play on isn’t always there, even if it’s there some times.

      • Kevin

        A lot of kink sites do document consent so it’s easy to know that’s what’s happening. Yes, knowing that the model is enjoying the scene is important to enjoying the scene, hence why people become fans of the sites that show interviews before and after the shoot. Your gripe seems to be against the porn industry and exploitation in general, which is present in nearly every industry. There doesn’t seem to be any valid criticisms specific to kink. Not to mention that the same criticism is more aptly applied to movies which depict scenes of murder, rape, etc.

        • http://patheos.com/blogs/hallq/ Chris Hallquist

          This.

        • Alexander Johannesen

          Hmm. No, as much as I don’t approve of exploitation in other fields (and I’m fairly sure you agree with a generic stance on such?), there’s an added dimension to porn in that it is visualisation of illegal things, made legal by means of documentation that it’s all “an act” and therefore ok. When that label falls off (stolen visuals leaked online, for example) you have a situation of illegal acts that may or may not be legal.

          There’s an added problem to this, which is the before-mentioned psychological effect of stimula and attraction affecting the brain, and it’s a prudent problem – as loose as I can define it – when most young people gets their “sex education” (and by ‘education’, I mean mostly self-taught) through porn. Being stimulated to like a particular kind of porn is not a problem in and of itself, but might be a problem if that porn depicts illegal stuff that the person in question can’t always grasp (for a variety of reasons, from intelligence, maturity, social skills, and so on) is “an act.”

          And, as a non-kink, I’d love to have some kinks, like Chris, actually explain that thin line between the fantasy and the real world. You basically like porn that, if the framework of consent wasn’t there, would be illegal, and often ethically challenging. Is it then a problem of legality or of norms? (And it’s a serious question; I don’t get that sort of porn, but I don’t condemn it either based on my ignorance)

          • Kevin

            “When that label falls off (stolen visuals leaked online, for example) you have a situation of illegal acts that may or may not be legal.”

            And? If a crime occurred, then it should be investigated by the authorities. Are you worried that they are contributing to the demand of such material? If so, refer back to where I said that “knowing that the model is enjoying the scene is important to enjoying the scene, hence why people become fans of the sites that show interviews before and after the shoot.” It’s fairly obvious that it’s consensual.

            “when most young people gets their “sex education” (and by ‘education’, I mean mostly self-taught) through porn”

            There is a number of misconceptions that one can get through just watching regular porn that should be discussed. Perhaps we should modernize our sex-ed classes. I think that we can agree that the topic of (enthusiastic) consent should be covered.

            “You basically like porn that, if the framework of consent wasn’t there, would be illegal, and often ethically challenging.”

            This applies to all porn since sex without the framework of consent is rape. Also, do we say the same thing about sports as well (e.g. boxing)? Why should BDSM (e.g. corporal punishment) be treated differently? Boxing is consensual hitting, corporal is consensual hitting, battery is not consensual hitting and hence illegal. If someone draws a false connection between boxing and battery or corporal and battery, then they have issues that probably merit institutionalization. There really isn’t a need to censor oneself to such an extreme in order to accommodate such individuals.

            Not to mention that you sound eerily similar to the crowd blaming video games after a shooting. Instead of “shooting games cause kids to become mass murderers,” it’s become “violent porn makes kids become rapists.” Since your shtick seems to be the nebulous “someone may see this and take it the wrong way” which could be applied to practically anything, I don’t see this conversation progressing unless some evidence is presented showing the connection. I don’t find such claims to have much merit, so I don’t see the ethical challenge.

            “I don’t get that sort of porn”

            For its length, this is a good summary/explanation: youtube.com/watch?v=b3Sv7_7IRPo

          • Kevin

            “When that label falls off (stolen visuals leaked online, for example) you have a situation of illegal acts that may or may not be legal.”

            And? If a crime has been committed, then the authorities should investigate. Are you concerned that we may be contributing to the demand of ill-gotten films? If so, refer back to when I said “knowing that the model is enjoying the scene is important to enjoying the scene, hence why people become fans of the sites that show interviews before and after the shoot.” We are talking about recognized actresses from recognized companies. It’s fairly obvious that such scenes are consensual.

            “…when most young people gets their “sex
            education” (and by ‘education’, I mean mostly self-taught) through porn…”

            I would agree that we need to modernize our sex-ed curriculum (especially since I think that there are still some regions of the country still teach abstinence-only). There are a number of misconceptions one could get from watching regular porn that should be discussed. I think we can agree that the topic of (enthusiastic) consent should be covered.

            “…but might be a problem if that porn depicts illegal stuff that the person in question can’t always grasp (for a variety of reasons, from intelligence, maturity, social skills, and so on) is “an act.””

            This sounds eerily similar to the argument against video games after a mass shooting (after all, some kids might not have the intelligence, maturity and so on to differentiate between a game and real life). However, instead of “video games might cause kids to become mass murderers,” it has become “violent porn might cause kids to become rapists.” Not sure why the violent part is relevant, they could just as easily get that misconception from watching regular porn. To keep this short, I think I’ll just say that I don’t give credence to nebulous notions of “someone could take this the wrong way and cause bad things” unless there is evidence of a connection.

            “You basically like porn that, if the framework of consent wasn’t there, would be illegal, and often ethically challenging.”

            This applies to all porn since sex without the framework of consent is rape. We could also apply this to sports as well (e.g. UFC). Why treat BDSM differently (e.g. corporal punishment)? UFC is consensual hitting, corporal is consensual hitting, and battery is not consensual hitting hence its illegal. If someone is so unstable that they would rape someone because they saw a (violent) porn film or assault someone because they saw a UFC fight, then they are a danger to others and should be hospitalized. We needn’t feel obligated to censor ourselves to accommodate such individuals. I don’t see much of an ethical challenge.

            Regarding understanding; for its length, this is a good summary/explanation: youtube.com/watch?v=b3Sv7_7IRPo

          • Alexander Johannesen

            “It’s fairly obvious that such scenes are consensual.”

            And I’m talking about when it is not. Btw, what are the characteristics of such obviousness? They might be obvious to you (or to a connoisseur of fine violent porn), but is it obvious to all?

            “This sounds eerily similar to the argument against video games after a mass shooting”

            I’m sure you can bring out the “research show” moniker, but knowing that Anders Behring Breivik spent almost two years preparing playing certain war FPS, which included his own testimony of the violence numbing him for what he felt he had to do, I’m not going to roll my eyes at the sentiment.

            “Not sure why the violent part is relevant, they could just as easily get that misconception from watching regular porn”

            What, now? Violence against another person, ie. battery, is illegal, and there’s a whole domain of law that is dedicated to its many subtleties. I don’t know how you have sex with other people, but I have never engaged in violence through it. Sex where there’s no force, violence or battery is allowed. Violent sex is, hmm, a bit more tricky.

            “I think I’ll just say that I don’t give credence to nebulous notions of “someone could take this the wrong way and cause bad things” unless there is evidence of a connection.”

            How do you define evidence? I can throw stuff your way, and I’m sure you can throw stuff the other way, and then we need to dig into the credibility and scope of the sources we use. I’m at this point inclined to see a link, just on the pure imprinting of brain states doing something (in which we can define “something” to lean any old way we wish to define right or wrong). I personally is of the opinion that violence is a nasty and unfortunate piece of evolutionary baggage we drag around, and if I had the power to get rid of it, I would.

            “This applies to all porn since sex without the framework of consent is rape”

            But we’re not talking about the sex bit. We’re talking about the violence part. The whole point of Chris’ post is about the violent part of porn, not porn as a whole. Also; nonconsensual sex is also fairly obvious to spot as it looks exactly like violent porn.

            “Why treat BDSM differently”

            Because it’s meant to look and be real? Sport (as far as I can stretch that term) is constrained in many obvious ways, including referees and points in a competition. I’m actually inclined to ask, why treat them equally?

            “We needn’t feel obligated to censor ourselves to accommodate such individuals”

            Why not? We censor ourselves all the time to the context we live in. Do you feel that violent sex is something that should be less censored than, say, plain vanilla sex, or the same, or a little bit more?

          • JWP

            Setting aside the issue of potential impacts on the consumer, the concern about negative impacts on the producers (actors/actresses) of porn seems roughly analogous to similar concerns about conflict diamonds. What sort of arguments have been aired about the provenance of diamonds, and can any of them be applied to violent porn?

      • http://kagerato.net/ kagerato

        I’d be totally fine with having stronger requirements, especially on commercial porn, regarding the explicit documentation of consent for the viewers’ benefit. Is there anyone who opposes that in particular? It would be especially useful in the case of BDSM for the actors to talk a bit about what they intend to do and why with the audience before they actually do it. Indeed, I think this could double in some ways as education on the interactions of sex and consent, which would be a win-win scenario.

        As to exploitation, I think that gets more into the general issue of labor exploitation, servitude, human trafficking for slavery, and so forth. It’s a significant and serious problem, no doubt. But it doesn’t only affect porn, so we shouldn’t focus our solutions on that and leave out all the other people suffering.

        Personally, I favor the introduction of a basic minimum income (and other similar systems). I think this would do away with a great deal of employer-employee, master-servant abuses. Nothing is perfect, but if implemented effectively it should be a huge step up.

        One key thing in terms of regulations on anything is that you never want to drive the subject or activity underground, into the black market. That’s the situation we have in most countries with prostitution, and it’s not working. Sex workers can’t rely on the police when they need help, because they’d often be directly or indirectly incriminating themselves for a crime. Likewise, the partial solution attempts by some countries such as half-legalization don’t work well. It drives the behavior out of sight (which is the real goal of the law), where it’s very difficult to regulate. Similarly, customers aren’t going to report illegal activity if they face prosecution for doing so.

        There’s also the usage trend effects of illegality to consider. When a relatively common behavior is made illegal, it actually gains a special kind of “mysterious” or even “illustrious” charm to it among a certain crowd of the population. This includes some young people, but it’s by no means limited to them. These sorts tend to break the law specifically to find out what the fuss is about. Drug laws are the best match, but I think it may apply to some degree to sex work as well. If we kept the whole matter out in the open, I think a lot of the appeal would actually die down after a while. The demand may actually fall, as we’ve seen with certain countries like Portugal after changes to the drug laws. Furthermore, it opens up the possibility of people seeking treatment for their physiological or psychological problems, and having funded centers designed to deal with these social issues.

  • Katatonic

    For a very frank view of bdsm porn from the inside (WARNING-TRIGGERS!) (ALSO NSFW) http://nplusonemag.com/what-do-you-desire

    Also (about a culture of consent): http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/05/the-ethics-of-extreme-porn-is-some-sex-wrong-even-among-consenting-adults/275898/

  • Dorfl

    Semi-related observation:

    I’ve practised various forms of fencing since I was 15. I’ve never had anyone accuse me of actually wanting to stab people.

  • L.Long

    Is it right? Good? Bad? Who cares! the main point is outlawing anything is to bring it out to the front and everyone asking ‘well is it so bad? Lets try. Lets watch. Lets experiment.’ evidence for this? Tell any teenager ‘NO! you can’t! Its a sin” and watch how fast they start to try things. Prohibition did not work at all! The ‘war on drugs’ is the stupidest waste of money next to our military budget.
    The 2nd point is ‘Consenting adults’, if they are such, then they can do any weird shit to each other they wish, and if they are doing while other ‘consenting adults’ watch then that’s OK too. Stuff on the infernal-net? That “Oh! what about the children!!!!” can watch? Well you are parents…Try parenting! As in I know where the power cord is.

  • Little Magpie

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

    Damn right Greta Christina. I am a woman who has fantasies that are less than politically correct too, but given that I don’t intend to ever translate them from “the mental movie inside my head” to acting them out – I don’t see how that makes me a bad person. :)

  • mikespeir

    It’s rarely profitable to argue against what people desperately want. They will find a way to justify it and make it appear oh, so rational.

  • Mick

    See that lady over there with the broken nose, fat lip, and black eye. Is she a battered wife or a violent porn enthusiast?

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/hallq/ Chris Hallquist

      Don’t ask me, ask her.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/hallq/ Chris Hallquist

      (Though probably a battered wife. A one-time black eye, in isolation, could be a kink scene gone wrong for reasons that aren’t really anyone’s fault. Three different things probably are someone’s fault.)

    • JWP

      I think you’re confusing “violent porn enthusiast” with “kinkster”. The most likely injury from watching porn – violent or not – would be tendinitis of the masturbating hand.


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