Porn, Parents and the responsibility argument.

// 1 April 2009

So like Laura I’ve been watching the Channel 4 Sex Education Show. Whilst I found Tuesday nights installment troubling due to a) the overwhelming and unbearable heteronormative aspect of it, and b) the ridiculous giggling and immaturity of the presenter, not to mention her poking fun at a 13 year old boy whose voice hadn’t broken,the most troubling aspect for me was the attitude of the show towards whose responsibility it was to protect children from pornography.

I have an attitude towards porn that I know many feminists have an issue with. I’m not quite pro porn….. but I’m definitely not anti it and I think that there is an important distinction to be made between porn made and viewed by adults who are consenting, non- coerced individuals exercising their autonomy fully and choosing to engage in sexual acts on film as a method of sexual expression, and those who are coerced, non- consenting or exploited. I don’t necessarily believe that all porn is exploitative. I do however appreciate that there are a lot of feminists who would quite strongly disagree with me, and I can see the validity of their arguments. I will also agree that the majority of porn is exploitative, as is the mainstream porn industry as a whole.

A lot of noise is being made these days about ‘hardcore internet porn’ and indeed, any quick google will bring you back gazillions of porn sites to cater to any desire you may have. However, and here is my very big thing- to find this porn you must actively LOOK for it. It isn’t as if turning on your computer will immediately result in porn of every description flooding your screen. Unlike magazines such as Zoo and Nuts, which are available just about anywhere, and do not offer anyone a chance to choose whether or not to be greeted with unrealistic, misogynistic images of half naked women, internet porn must be actively sought and viewed.

I do agree that watching porn has a very detrimental affect on the minds of teenagers. I do think that porn should be an exclusively adult arena. What I don’t agree with, is that it is the sole responsibility of the government and Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) to initially sort out the accessibility of pornography.

I consider that to be the responsibility of PARENTS. It isn’t that hard to set up parental controls on your computers and internet- I have parental controls on our family pc, parental controls on our satellite television and when they reach an age when they are old enough to need/want laptops for studying my children will have parental controls on those too. I was angered by the shows denial of parental responsibility when it comes to protecting children from the more harmful aspects of porn. Yes, pornography should be regulated, and yes the government do need to work to create a society where children receive adequate sex education which focuses on sexual relationships being about mutual respect and understanding both in and out of emotional relationships. It is also the responsibility of the government ( and everyone else) to create a society where this is no such thing as coerced, non consenting porn.

To argue however, that it is solely the responsibility of the Government and ISP’s to deny access to porn, is to deny parents the responsibility of looking after their children. It also, I think, doesn’t address the need for parents to talk to their children about sex and pornography and issues surrounding the way porn portrays sexual relationships, and about the differences between real sex and porn sex.

I can and do appreciate that not all parents are responsible (or aware of the danger), and I am aware and do acknowledge that not all children have parents/ familial guardians who are available to talk to them about sex, porn and using the net safely. I do think the government should perhaps sort something out so computers which are brought/sold in Britain come with parental controls automatically set up. The onus is then on adult users of the computer to disable the parental settings, which handily avoids anyone not knowing how to set up parental controls.

In the same way it is the responsibility fo parents to regulate their childrens’ televisions viewing, and indeed we trust parents to do this, it is parents responsibility to regulate childrens internet usage, because it is a parents role to regulate materials seen by their children within the home. Obviously a parent can do nothing about what is viewed by children outside of the home, BUT they can be warned of the dangers of internet porn and regulate their childrens access to adult websites in the same way they would regulate them viewing it on television.

To bring the state into it, is I feel, the beginning of a slippery slope towards state parenting, and a further expansion of a nanny state and surveillance society.

Comments From You

AngryDad // Posted 2 April 2009 at 10:48 pm

Parental controls on pcs are useless for keeping people away from such sites. Sure it hides the most obvious places, but a simple google image search for a random topic will show you all kinds of crap.

Suzi FemAcadem // Posted 2 April 2009 at 10:53 pm

Hi AngryDad,

True there’s only so much you can do with PC Parental controls, but it is possible set google to safe search- and parents can control the levels of the safe search filter. This then rules out most adult material.

Suzi

Jennifer Drew // Posted 2 April 2009 at 11:04 pm

Parents are increasingly being blamed and held responsible for not providing sufficient care and attention towards their children. A similar situation applies with regards to all forms of pornography because it cannot be neatly divided into child and adult pornography. Pornography is all about the dehumanisation of females and promotion of male sex right. Younger and younger females are depicted in pornography as ‘wanting and enjoying male sexual violence committed against them.’

By focusing on parental responsibility this neatly lets society off the hook. Whilst many parents do attempt to educate their children about pornography this alone is not the answer. Pornography is now mainstream and one need only walk down any High Street to see it. Walk into any newsagency or supermarket and pornography is on sale.

Putting controls on computers will not prevent teenage boys from accessing pornography because it is readily available via the internet.

One might as well say comprehensive sex education should be parents’ responsibility alone but this too ignores how sex is widely represented via a variety of methods such as media, MTV, films, television and video games.

A multi-pronged response is needed with regards to challenging the mainstreaming and acceptance of pornography. Pornography is not about ‘consenting adults engaging in non-coerced or non-exploitative sexual activity.’ Rather pornography is about reducing women and girls (because it is overwhelming women and girls) to men’s dehumanised sexual playthings. Playthings who have no emotions, humanity or individuality. Instead women in pornography are represented as sexually voracious and always willing to engage in any sexual act which gives men sexual pleasure.

We must also not forget the blatant racism within pornography. If such racist epiphets and representations were shown in mainstream non-pornographic films there would be an outcry, but because it is sexually eroticised and pornifed such racism becomes ‘non-racism.’

With regards to claims one has to actively look for pornography all it takes is for one to type in the word sex and immediately pornographic websites appear. As regards claims anti-porn feminists only target the most abusive and violent misogynistic pornography – well I strongly recommend checking out http://stoppornculture.org because researchers have investigated only mainstream popular pornographic films and DVDS. Their findings were that the majority of these pornographic films portrayed women as dehumanised beings; physical and sexual violence was committed by males on females; non-white women were depicted as even more sexually voracious than white men and black men were stereotyped as hypersexualised black c…..

Internet pornography websites deliberately use ‘free internet porn’ in order to attract viewers. As was demonstrated on the Sex Education Show, the presenter typed in a word and immediately innumerable porn sites came up. When the presenter clicked on a website and entered, she was presented with ‘free porn.’ However, when she tried to exit, she discovered she could not. This is a common trick of porn sites because they want the viewer to be ‘hooked’ and unable to leave. This is why the presenter suddenly saw an image or images of so-called child pornography because the harder the image the more enticing it becomes to those actively seeking pornography.

Do not be fooled that there is a difference between child pornography and so-called adult pornography because there is none. Men who view pornography frequently become bored with viewing the same images and are constantly seeking images which are more edgy, so the pornographers have to think of new ways of sexually satisfying the male viewers. One common way is by showing females who appear very young and often these females are dressed in young girls’ clothing or act as though they are pre pubescent. Despite claims by pornographers such actors are over the age of 18 what does message does this send to male viewers. Is it that all females are essentially sexualised commodities and whose sole worth is to be sexually penetrated; sexually tortured; raped for men’s sexual pleasure.

Finally, the government does have a responsibility but it is not just the goverment it is society as a whole. We cannot censor out pornography but we can certainly challenge its misogynistic and normalisation of male sexual violence against women and girls messages. The media which is overwhelmingly male-owned and male-dominated has a vested interest in promoting and producing pornography. Massive profits are now being made from pornography. But are critiques of pornography reaching mainstream readers? No because anti-feminists are the ones being censored and silenced. Instead feminists who challenge ‘pornography is fantasy etc.’ are ridiculed and called prudes etc. These are old tactics designed to misrepresent feminists who oppose pornography.

Pornography is a political issue because essentially it is all about challenging men’s pseudo right as a group to have unlimited sexual access to women and girls. Pornography is all about what men as a group think of women and men’s belief as a group that women are not human but just ‘sex.’ Even that is a lie because pornography tells men it is their right and entitlement to masturbate into or on women’s bodies and it also tells men women do not have emotions or a shred of humanity. In other words women according to pornographers are robots who can be programmed to become masturbatory objects. Sex does not exist within pornography because it is not sex but violence and male masturbation which is constantly being depicted.

The mainstreaming of pornography and increasing belief ‘it is just harmless fun between two consenting adults’ is being challenged. Amazing is it not how unequal power disappears whenever pornography is discussed. Stoppornculture’s website has a number of suggestions and ideas with regards as to how both women and men can challenge the pornographers.

Lapdancing club owners which are interconnected with the sex industry and of course pornography have been challenged and this has been achieved because individuals both women and men refuse to accept claims ‘sex industry and all it entails is just entertainment.’

It will not be easy because of the huge profits multi-national companies are making through making pornography globally available but that does not mean we cannot challenge it. Governments need to be pressurised into acting and yes some legislation does need to be passed. The law specifically protects men’s bodies but women’s bodies are still regarded as men’s public and private property. We can start by asking why men’s bodies but not women’s are legally protected.

Anna // Posted 2 April 2009 at 11:12 pm

Um, if you don’t want your kids seeing porn, stand behind them and watch them whilst they’re on the computer in addition to stringent safety software. Nothing else will work. The internet is not a nice and friendly child-safe place.. to be quite fair, it should probably have an age limit. It’s not just porn that’s out there – there’s snuff, bestiality, rape, gore, shock sites. I had to explain to my 9 year old brother (who was 7 at the time I think) that no, actually putting a man’s penis in your mouth was not something you do when you love someone (or something you should have to do) and certainly most girls don’t like having it forced into their mouths whilst they cry.

This from the fact he spent ten minutes unsupervised at a friend’s house, fucked up a Google for Dr Who, ended up on some BDSM rapey website (from what I could tell), and is still despite my best effort perfectly convinced that a lady should do what a man tells her to do in the context of a relationship because they all like it really. Other than that, he’s a perfectly normal, well adjusted boy.

Rose // Posted 2 April 2009 at 11:13 pm

Is parental control really enough, when even the post office is a porn shop?

I feel degraded and humiliated every time I queue to send a parcel.

Guys hotmail also has a funny habit of advertising porn, (while advertising plastic surgery to women)

The ads on TV and bill boards are smeared with the stuff.

Porn belongs in lisensed porn shops, and websites, (if there really has to be a ‘market’ for it), these places should surely be for adult use only.

If kids are looking to porn for the answers, then its just a sign that educations failing them again.

Amy2 // Posted 2 April 2009 at 11:17 pm

Great first posts Suzi,

I researched porn and it’s plainly for the male gaze, which is what I have a problem with. It often involves old men with teenagers (50% of porn? for the market), which is unrealistic and fairly creepy.

There are types of porn which are fine, although nothing’s that simple. You can’t just say let’s keep porn without sexist overtones . Arguing against a nanny state, you argue against a whole host of sexist, women- hating attitudes within porn. This is what sexists feel is the acceptable argument to keep porn, where they’re smug.

I love the idea of a sexually liberated culture, but the sex industry has told us clearly that that comes at a cost. To me that cost is too much to be pro- porn. Obviously others might feel more sentimentally about sexual liberation. It’s clear women can’t make gains without costs (women in power = women victimised under the microscope), and for our sexual tastes the penalty is a lot of resentment, for instance ironic sexual punishment in porn. Which I’d wave this away if it was the rarity, but it’s the NORM within a now- huge industry that clearly affects the desires and norms of every day life.

I think our culture reacts weirdly to women… but especially when women’s sexuality is involved. One thing many sexists fear is that women will become genderless and sexless. This might be because women’s sexuality in some way is an easy way to control us, it’s our soft point I think. Men think we want to be dominated, where sex comes into it a lot of resentful behaviour towards women is fair game. We’re very much the main objects of porn, the spotlight is on the woman, just as a spotlight is on us in most areas of life, especially where sexuality is concerned.

Maybe sexists fear sexless, genderless women because they fear it’s a step forward for feminism? There’s a reason many sexists are adamently against the removal of porn and the sex industry. With women effectively ‘equal’ the sex industry truly does help ease a sexist’s concerns, women aren’t quite there yet.

Across time and cultures, it’s obvious women have been allowed to have sexual tastes – provided it’s wanting to be dominated and to adore men, being the weak ones against anything phallic. Sexual liberation has been done before! And times have shown us it isn’t the answer to sexism, only providing another layer to it. Why to me sexual liberation is actually like opening Pandora’s box as opposed to solving anything.

Sexual liberation just gives a new dimension to sexism, which can adjust with or without it. In my opinion sexism works better with a sexually liberated culture. Women’s sexuality is a sore point, so really the sex industry is a huge ground for sexism to work, giving it angry ammunition and more clay to mould with.

Me minus the feminist, I find porn harmful anyway. Was it intended for the literal ins and outs of sex to be this consumed? Where’s the mystery to sex nowadays?

Laurel Dearing // Posted 3 April 2009 at 12:26 am

typing in the most innocent stuff gets porn though. even your own name half the time. i know when i was 11 or so i saw plenty, and probably searched to an extent. it was a little softer than now. yes the parents have a responsibility to teach their children about porn and do their best to not let them be affected by it, but if my parents had been watching me online i just wouldnt have gone online at home. simple as. i think its important parents do know what their kids are doing but seriously id have been pissed. its bad enough at nearly 20 having my dad on facebook reading my wall!

Rosa // Posted 3 April 2009 at 12:33 am

True parental controls can never really defend anything, surely keeping the family/shared computer in the same room as a parent is the best way to monitor a child’s activity online? And yes the heteronormative slant was depressing, statistically 1 in 10 of the children in that room were LGBT, the same as the chances of having chlamydia so why werent their needs being addressed? I have had poor sexual health advice as a lesbian from my GUM clinic (as well as for a lot of my friends).

Anne Onne // Posted 3 April 2009 at 1:09 am

Hi, Suzi, I’d like to start by saying I support your stance on porn. I have a complicated opinion on it myself. I recognise how much harm comes from the way porn is produced and consumed, the messages people take from it (as Renegade Evolution said, it makes lousy sex education), and the way the industry stands, it is very exploitative of women in the industry, and is used to oppress women outside of it, too.

Yet, I dont think this is inherent to porn, to the idea that people can express themselves sexually or enjoy sexual material. I don’t believe that the kinks of consenting adults who are gaining mutual enjoyment need be a bad thing. We’re not in an equal world, and there will be an element of problematic undertones for a long time due to everyone’s conditioning, but it’s not possible for everyone to live a theoretically unproblematic life, and that may well mean grappling with many conflicts with regards to just how harmful everything is.

I respect that everyone has issues with the way the industry is, and that all of us have our own feelings on how best to limit the damage and heal, so I certainly don’t feel it’s a case of sanctimonios prudes vs people who find no problems with porn when feminists have disagreements. We’re all in the same boat, here.

Yes, I’d like to see ISPs to make more of an effort with the most problematic porn, especially that involving child abuse. But when we’re talking about protecting kids, not just from seeing ‘bad things’ because these are somewhat unavoidable (who hasn’t had the odd really nasty pop-up?) but from taking in the fantasy of porn as unquestioned reality. That’s the real danger.

I don’t fear that young girls or boys are exploring sexuality: that’s what they do. I fear that parents are not teaching their kids to respect each other, especially intimate partners. That parents assume porn is just harmless sexy fun because nobody talks about the messages really out there* and what effect that might have on self-esteem of boys and girls, and how it will teach them to relate to each other. It’s too late to talk to boys and girls when they’re already sexually active (and parents tend to be bad judges of what their kids are really doing)

I know it’s not easy for parents: some of them truly have no idea what’s out there. Some think it’s harmless. But they are all taking for granted that their daughters and especially their sons, will automatically know right from wrong, know about consent, real, enthusiastic, mutually enjoyable sex, about protection and about all the staging and preparation that goes into porn. They don’t. Many see porn and they don’t realise most of it is the Lord Of the Rings of sex, that actors and actresses are paid to do it, or pretend they enjoy it, and that many people may not enjoy what is depicted.

I don’t want to come down on those who do honestly enjoy sexual behaviour others find odd. There would, in a perfectly equal society, be nothing wrong with material catering to every consensual fetish, and it would be made clear that enthusastic consent and enjoyment of both parties is vital. The problem here is that so much of porn does not reflect what most women would want out of sex (the old ‘what my wife/girlfriend would never do’ trope that gets repeated with sex workers), that heterosexual men and boys gaining their knowledge of sex, of female sexuality, from porn would in all likelihood gain a very twisted idea of how to have a sexual relationship with another individual.

I don’t want to imply that kids or adults are too stupid to tell porn is acting. Just like deep down we know all photos in adverts are photoshopped. But if we see something repeated enough, especially if nobody confronts it, it affects us. It conditions us. I don’t think teenage boys start off with harmful desires or gaining pleasure from the thought of female degradation, but porn that enforces the idea that women all enjoy degradation, that this is sexy, teaches boys to equate violence and degradation with sex and enjoyment. It’s not just porn that does this, it’s society as a whole. Porn can be the innermost thoughts of people: sometimes it’s harmless but quirky fantasies, sometimes it’s the disturbing desire to hurt that people can’t get away with expressing anywhere else. It just shows us what’s going on inside the depest part of the minds of many individuals.

Yet we ignore what it tells us about society. We ignore what a lot of the material tells us about how we view women (hint = not good.), and as parents, we ignore the fact that our children may be learning how to be sexual adults from the deepest darkest fantasies of rapists. If we talk to them about what is out there, what is OK (hint: consent = good) and why that which is popular may not be acceptable, we will arm them to be better able to decide for themselves. Hell, they might not even care for porn much, there are other ways of getting off.

I agree, parental controls can work, depending on the age of the kid. Of course, it’s up to each parent to decide how much responsibility to give children online at different ages, how to educate them to use the web safely, etc. But just like I believe that parents need to teach kids to have safe sex, even when they hope their kids won’t decide to have sex that early, so kids need to be taught about healthy sexual messages, consent, and why porn can be problematic. And not just because there’s boobies and dicks and stuff. Because that won’t fly with kids.

I want to make clear that yes, some people, male and female, look like porn stars. Porn stars are human, too. They’re ‘real’ as anybody else. I don’t want them marginalised or ignored in this issue because it is their industry, and in an ideal world it would not hurt them as it so often does. But the standards of beauty and sex as they stand hurt them and everyone else, teens included. The lack of variety of most porn (and no, orientalism and expoitation of hot [insert country here] babes isn’t diversity, it’s harmful stereotypes.), the emphasis of some acts being so enjoyable that all the women are dying to have this done to them (because in this society, women lack agency, apart from being slutty that is. Then they’re game for anything, whether they want to or not…) presents a repetitive constrained view of female sexuality which is half the problem of porn. (the other half being exploitation, media obsession with, society’s objectification of women, and general kyriarchy).

Thanks for a thought-provoking post. :)

* I know, there may well be porn out there that is diverse, non-misogynistic, doesn’t condone rape, is about women’s pleasure as much as men’s, or not heteronormative etc. Maybe it’s not as rare as it looks. But this stuff is not the majority, and it certainly is not the first thing kids used to a misogynistic world will be exposed to. Of all the pop-ups and ads I come across, the vast majority are described in such misogynistic terms that leave me in no doubt it’s about nothing more than ‘cum dumpsters’ who want to be used, because that’s all that women really are. This kind of material doesn’t need to even be the majority if it’s advertised everywhere and condoned.

Sam Rico // Posted 3 April 2009 at 2:15 am

i like your article, and there is sense in what you say. however, i just want to point our that what seems like the majority- or moving that way- of porn on the internet is humiliating degrading at best, & violent (plus a whole load of other stuff) at worst. i am a socialist, not a liberal (just so you have no queries as to where i am coming from), & the only sex acts, in my eyes, which are not coercive, are those that do not involve an exchange of money. that is where the problem lies. until something is done about it, it will just get worse and worse, as it has been doing.

p.s. your idea about computers coming with parental controls is a good one…. thats why its been suggested countless times before. the fact is an industry as powerful as the porn industry will never let that happen.

Ruth Moss // Posted 3 April 2009 at 6:13 am

Thing that we don’t always realise is, kids know *so* much more about the internet than we do. So a safe-search filter can be easily turned off by a porn-hunting thirteen year old!

And it’s a bit different from looking through the underwear section in your Mum’s Kay’s Catalogue in that there’s a whole lot more out there than smiling ladies in lacy bras, some of it stuff that really is strictly adults only (if you’re pro-porn of course I mean, and I’m so not getting into that debate here).

So what’s the answer? I personally think there’s not a whole heap that can be done and the only thing is to help our kids foster a healthy attitude towards their sexuality from an early age. That and, if you are particularly worried, don’t buy your kids computers for their own rooms! (Who can afford that anyway?)

Lindsey // Posted 3 April 2009 at 8:43 am

I also found the heteronormative slant crappy because a frank, open discussion about alternative sexuality is something desperately needed in school sex ed. Not only would it help more kids understand what’s happening to them as they develop attractions to people they might not have expected to, it would help normalise queerness and I believe reduce bullying.

Another thing I found really grating was the criticism of casual sex: as long as it’s safe (both biologically and in the sense of trusting the person) does it really matter? Or is casual sex still a big no no, only encouraged by over-consumption of porn and the misguided desire to do anything that isn’t vanilla with your state approved spouse?

dora // Posted 3 April 2009 at 9:30 am

Could you give us some examples of non-exploitative pornography, where it can be found & the percentage available in comparison to exploitative pornography?

I’d also appreciate a definition of non-exploitative pornography alongside your examples.

Not sure i understand your point about people having to actively seek out hardcore pornography. Most people have the interwebs at home and these sites are but a click away. Feminists have long been critiquing the content of lads mags and placing them on the same continuum as pornography so no arguments there, but there is no difficulty for children or anyone else to access either these or internet content.

Also, hardcore is much more normalised and available than the tone of your piece suggests.

Lastly, your notions of choice and consent are far too simplified. You have to consider the culture in which we live, the circumstances and life experiences of women becoming involved and the inherent co-ercion and breaking of boundaries present in the pornography industry. I’d encourage, as a starting point, that you view the documentary ‘Hardcore’ for a clear cut example of these factors at work.

Lotus // Posted 3 April 2009 at 9:36 am

I find I have to disagree. While I agree that the goverment has no control over teenagers viewing porn on the internet, I would argue that effectivley most parents have the same problem. You present parental filters as an uncomplicated issue and they’re not. To start with, a lot of children are more tech savvy then their parents. Of course, this isn’t universally true but in many cases it is true. Especially in working class families where people probably aren’t expected to do complex computer work as work. Not only that but even the most tech savvy parent is limited by the technology available, and most of them can be bypassed by any child detremined enough.

Then there’s the fact that they don’t only block porn. My work facility employs which is essentially a child filter so that we can’t access porn over the network connections, but it also tends to block things like faminist blogs which deal with sex as a subject, or sex-possitive discussion.

Then there’s the trust issue. When I was a 14 year old, child filters were just coming into fashion, as it were. I would have been absolutley mortified if my parents had tried to set up child filters. It would mean they didn’t trust me, that they viewed me as either a stupid child or a malicious pervert, to my mind. At a time when it’s so important for a child to feel like an adult, child filters would have just underlined for me what a child I was and I would have resented them.

I don’t think child filters will help, not with stopping access to porn or with teenagers relating to their parents.

And, as to your TV idea, I’d point out that at 15 I watched “A clockwork orange” on my tv upstairs after my parents had explicitly told me not to, so parents can’t control what kids view on TV either, and it’s infinitley easier to hide what you’re doing on the intrenet then on TV.

What I do think is that we as a community need to have open and honest discussion about porn. It’s all around us every day but it’s still this big secret. We need to talk to kids in schools and engage debate with them about what porn is, how people consume it, who it harms. A truthful and critical analysis taking the issue from a variety of perspectives and encouraging the students to engage the issues like adults.

Teenagers aren’t adults, we know that, but it’s so important to them that they be treat like adults that any measures that belittle them will only alienate them. Encouraging them to be critical and think about porn will do ten times as much good as sticking a parental filter on the internet, to start with the parental filter has to come of some time whereas the attitudes and thoughts you learn as a teenager don’t have to.

Hazel // Posted 3 April 2009 at 9:51 am

We use OpenDNS (http://www.opendns.com/) and it pretty effective at stopping us visiting sites it deems unsuitable (depending on the settings and individual sites can be allowed if need be).

Amy Clare // Posted 3 April 2009 at 9:54 am

I have to agree with those who say putting the responsibility purely on parents won’t work. When I was a kid my parents were mega-strict about what films, tv etc I was allowed to watch (no internet in those days!) but that didn’t stop me watching 18 certificate films when I was about ten, round at a friend’s house, as her parents weren’t bothered. I can only assume the same thing happens with internet porn. You can’t force every parent to care what their kids are watching.

Porn gets emailed from child to child and those who might have parental controls on their pc can still look at images they’ve been sent on email. No different from a boy taking a porn mag into school and showing his mates, really.

In the absence of a wider societal change in the way men view women and sex, the only hope is that as many counter-messages are put out there as possible. This means sex education from schools, parents and GPs, realistic messages from the media (however fringe this media may be at first) and even realistic porn, perhaps. Part of our struggle as feminists is to keep the pressure on and do our best to make sure this happens.

Lara // Posted 3 April 2009 at 10:17 am

“The law specifically protects men’s bodies but women’s bodies are still regarded as men’s public and private property. We can start by asking why men’s bodies but not women’s are legally protected”

Is it still the law that you can see an open legged shot of a female vagina on TV after the water-shed, but under no circumstances an erect penis? What is that about? I was watching embarrassing illnesses and this bloke had a bent willy, which bent even more when erect. Not seconds after seeing genital warts on a female vagina and his photos he brought in to Dr Christian were pixallated?

Maybe the male chiefs of TV would feel inferior if they had to see a large erect penis in their programming? But they’re happy to parade plastic boobs and snipped up vaginas with no censorship?

I think some female friendly porn needs to be broadcast (late night) on a terrestial TV channel, to show another viewpoint to the masses. I think this would particularly benefit teenage girls.

A // Posted 3 April 2009 at 10:50 am

I don’t think that parental controls will be the way to go. It will protect and prevent perhaps up to the age of 10 or 11. It is very easy to break almost any parental control system placed on computers, or with a little thought and google searching, those on your broadband router/box. This is not beyond the technological abilities of most young people these days. Even government/isp based solutions can be worked around, as can be seen even behind the ‘great firewall of china’. A parent cannot technologically stop a determined child from accessing such things. You could either only let them on the computer with you sitting there, or there has to be an element of trust and teaching involved.

Jill // Posted 3 April 2009 at 11:59 am

@ dora: do you (or anyone else) have a link or know how I can view ‘Hardcore’? I read the review on here a while ago and would be quite interested to see it, but I can’t find it anywhere.

RadFemHedonist // Posted 3 April 2009 at 12:00 pm

“sexism works better with a sexually liberated culture”

War is peace, ignorance is strength, the chocolate rations have increased from 20 to 15 grams per week…

What you are saying is so emphatically not true. It is not being sentimental to like that I actually know people who delight in and appreciate my sexuality and ability to feel pleasure (I am not in a relationship, but I speak of friends and mentors), I have, at times, been so ashamed of my sexuality that I considered cutting off parts of my genitalia, and if you think that that doesn’t matter because you, for no actual reason, think that such things as masturbation, not cutting off bits of anyone’s genitalia without their consent, homosexuality, bisexuality, unmarried sex, women having the choice of an abortion, awareness of erogenous zones such as the clitoris and prostate, and non-reproductive sex must lead to pornography (and possibly paedophillia and everyone marrying their pets, I don’t know), and that I’m just being sentimental, then what on earth is up with that? This reminds me of Julie Bindel talking about lesbianism as a political choice, as if the reality of actually being sexually and emotionally attracted to women had nothing to do with it, by the same token, if you are asexual, that is absolutely fine, but don’t presume that other women would be happy to be stopped from riding bikes in a non-sidesaddle fashion in case they get clitoral stimulation from it again. And remember that that is what happens when sexuality is not appreciated and body ownership is not unviolated (on top of the y’ know, clitoridectomies and experimenting on homosexuals to make them straight or possibly to kill them or because they are not really as homosapien as the rest of us and therefore are acceptable sacrifices for the good of society’s straight homosapiens’ health), even if you don’t have any interest in enthusiastic mutually consensual partnered sexual activity or masturbation yourself. The men I know are actually not endlessly painful to talk to as a matter of course because of the work done by feminists to increase awareness of female sexuality and indeed the work done by the gay liberation movement and by feminists to increase awareness of male sexuality beyond the PIV as dominance model.

Lindsey // Posted 3 April 2009 at 12:09 pm

@Lara

I agree, female-friendly porn would be a great thing to put on late night tv, because as it’s one of the easiest ways for teens to get porn (and let’s face it, teens will never stop wanting to see porn because they are curious about sex).

On one of the sex ed vs porn episodes they did show a series of pictures of a penis going from flacid to erect.

Lara // Posted 3 April 2009 at 3:08 pm

It does seem to be a bit of a paradigm that there are incessant images of sexually available and aroused women (simulated or not) yet there is this prevailing massive taboo of an erect penis. We’re almost completely desensitised to images of sexualised women, but an image of a similarly sexualised man is still shocking. Images of women acting coy, subjugated, vulnerable, aroused are common place – within and outside of porn. But men pictured similarly seem ridiculous and exposed and are less comfortable to view.

RadFemHedonist // Posted 3 April 2009 at 5:57 pm

I just wanted to say I didn’t mean to imply that asexuals are all unconcerned with the horrible effects of sexual repression, they, like anyone else, are capable of looking beyond just the effect something will have on them, just that it’s bull to presume that because you aren’t interested in/don’t have a desire for solo or partnered sexual activity that means no-one else has such desires. Incidentally, has anyone heard of a website called scarleteen? It’s a feminist sex-education site for teens and I recommend it.

Jaime // Posted 3 April 2009 at 8:24 pm

Great article, I feel the same about porn, not actively pro but definately not anti.

I watched the first episode, hated it and managed about 15 minutes of the second episode. It seemd to be claiming it was educational but to me was everything that is wrong with any discussion realating to sex or porn. They just threw a bunch of naked people on screen for controversy without discussing or challenge any pre-conceptions that they assumed the teenagers had and the only answers they seemed to come up with were authoritarian.

I definately agree with Lotus on this one, installing parental controls in computers is not the answer, open and adult discussion with teenagers is.

Amy2 // Posted 3 April 2009 at 8:29 pm

Redfemhedonist,

I was highlighting how our sexual liberation has obviously been flipped to benefit sexists. The porn- type depiction of women is actually patriarchy’s greatest stronghold over women. While every snippet of media treats us as a piece of meat property of public then it doesn’t matter how far women have come, how independent we are. We’re silly little commodities.

I said I ‘loved’ sexually liberated cultures! But I’m not willing to sacrifice my individuality as a woman for being seen as a piece of meat in the way porn portrays us. Just so women can be seen to have a sexual appetie, I don’t think we need to thumbs up anything depicting sex and us as sock puppets.

For this reason I’m anti- porn. I don’t think porn is the answer to female sexual expression and clitoris mutilation. Nor does it contribute to feminism in any way… feel free to type ‘porn’ in a search engine to see what you get. ‘Barely legal bitch gets a tearing!’ … Ohh go team feminism!

Argue against nanny states – there are more harmful issues with women some choose to take issue with. A type of female- portrayal strongly linked with rape and domestic abuse is something I’m simply so against as to be anti- porn. Women’s sexual appetite gives sexists a free reign over our bodies. It’s a safety net for a lot of abuse and stupidly negative attitudes. Our sexual appetite in any media medium makes sexism fair game, given it’s always left to males to interpret.

Eve // Posted 3 April 2009 at 11:13 pm

As a young woman I have felt the need in the past to imitate porn stars, particularly with my first boyfriend (who I loved and trusted). I thought it was normal to moan and groan in a typically over the top fashion – it’s what I’d seen in porn, it’s what he’d seen in porn, and we both thought it was normal.

Quite harmless, you might say, but what I find more disturbing is the way young men are desensitised to real women and real sex. They want shaved pussies, absurd positions, screams of ecstasy, and put massive emphasis on blow jobs (which personally I don’t find remotely arousing).

The other important thing that porn is changing in young people’s sex lives is anal sex. It’s so popular in porn, and many many young women I know, myself included, have been asked to do it, and often say yes, even though it can be painful and harmful.

Personally, I’m not against porn as a concept, but I have been unable to find anything out there that appeals to me – it’s all of the ilk described above, and clearly designed to cater for a very different, male audience. We need to put it right.

Amy2 // Posted 4 April 2009 at 2:13 am

‘They want shaved pussies’

Something else from porn i hate, the male- gaze lingo which is becoming the norm for every day discussion of our body parts.

As a young girl most sex to me has always been cold because it’s him/ us just replicating porn. There’s nothing special, he just wants me as a toy- piece – with constant requests for what he sees on the screen as his usual stimulation. Porn indirectly makes sex all about the male. It shows sex from a male POV, the BJs, shaved vaginas, anal — incorporating these into a sex life is dude- gaze won victory all over, into the most private part of our lives.

Faith // Posted 4 April 2009 at 1:13 pm

“any quick google will bring you back gazillions of porn sites to cater to any desire you may have”

Not true. There is no porn that caters to my desires. My desires to not be degraded, used, abused, shamed, and humiliated through sex…which is currently what almost all porn is. If you don’t enjoy seeing women objectified, tied up, slapped around, or even pissed on, you’re going to have a hard time finding something to your flavor.

“True there’s only so much you can do with PC Parental controls, but it is possible set google to safe search- and parents can control the levels of the safe search filter. This then rules out most adult material.”

PC’s are useless. My 5 year old son could quickly figure out how to disable google’s safe search. And even with PC controls set, there is still the danger of being slammed with pornographic images and language. Even with my spam controls set to high, for instance, I still receive porn spam straight to my email address.

RadFemHedonist // Posted 4 April 2009 at 1:14 pm

Amy2, just in case we got crossed wires, I’m completely against porn, I just meant that I don’t think sexual liberation causes it, I agree that “barely legal b**** gets p**** ripped by huge…” (and you can add some racial epithet to that if you can stomach it, as many of these websites do), is anything to do with feminism, except in the sense that it’s partly a backlash against it, perhaps, but I don’t think that porn is a price one pays for sexual liberation, any more than I think fighting against a fundamentalist regime in another part of the world than one’s own means that the ultimate outcome will be to inundate that country with advertising boards promoting western white faces as a beauty standard and insisting on the purchasing of lots of gas guzzling cars (as some cultural relativists would have all believe). I think that the sexual liberation movement is part of feminism, because the basis of feminism, as far as I’m concerned, is that women should be equal with men, and that that the first right of all is complete body ownership.

polly styrene // Posted 5 April 2009 at 9:43 am

Even assuming that there is such a thing as effective parental controls on a computer (which I doubt, an IT savvy teen could get round them much better than their parents probably) how exactly are parents meant to stop their children viewing porn outside the house? Lock them in their rooms?

rita // Posted 14 April 2009 at 1:57 pm

Parental control on porn will never help because kids get up to alot of things outside at school and with peers. I happen to access internet on my phone so having parents look over their children’s shoulders on the computer is no great help. And while some parents may manage to control the porn access from their children, other parents may not and when the children get together and start discussing these things and bragging to their peers for knowing more about sex than the others, then the curiosity arises.

I strongly agree with Lindsey about sex education in schools but also with parents. I think children really have to know the consequences of sex especially penetrative sex. Takes me back to the pregnacies, STD’s, rapes, defilement, abortion topics, and anything related to sex.

I must say i cannot stand porn personally, i find it’s a turn off.

I think most children watch porn out of curiosity and some with the intention of experimenting without knowing the consequences. I guess it may all come down to why they watch it.

Jennypen // Posted 14 April 2009 at 5:11 pm

Nice point, Suzi.

Many of the commenters have pointed out that children are people too and will, of course, ignore best efforts and do as they will – this is just simply a part of growing up. We all have a streak inside us that compels us to go against what we’re told – from the naughty (watching A Clockwork Orange at 15, that takes balls!) to the necessary (Rosa Parks sitting where she bloody well wanted to, thanks very much).

Perhaps it’s just me, but I honestly don’t see what the big deal with porn is. I don’t find it demeaning in ANY way. It’s just… well… porn. It’s just there. It’s a part of life. All this about how it’s about the dehumanisation of the female and the promotion of the male sex… yes. And Doctor Who is all about the dehumanisation of the, well, human race and the promotion of the Time Lord. Get a grip. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it, but don’t freak out if anyone else wants to. Mainstream porn is a powerful thing, no doubt (who decided the format war(s)?), but hardly life-ending. I’ve watched a lot of porn in my time, but I have never EVER watched porn and felt like I had to be subservient to the next male I see, and I have known PLENTY of males of watch porn to a scary degree (boys will be boys, throw rocks at them is the best advice I’ve ever heard), and NONE of them have ever gone on to perpetrate any form of female put-down-ness and male promotion. I also have never met anyone who expects sex to be like it is in pornos. To them, it’s just another genre of film (albeit one with a sometimes physical side-effect!), and that’s hardly life threatening and gender-destroying. Besides, watch Tera in action. She’s ALL about what ladies want :P

Hardcore pornography exists because as long as people have sex, someone else is going to want to watch, and Suzi is so 100% right in saying it is the PARENT’S responsibility – not just in turning safe-search on, but long before then. My parents controlled what I watched when I was a kid not by restricting me, but by giving me a healthy sense of who I was and what lay ahead. I never rushed to watch over 18s films because I was going to get over 18. I never rushed to having sex when I was 12 because I respected myself and, again, was taught that everything comes in time and there’s no need to rush into ANYTHING. Not that it was rude, not that it was too adult, but just… that it was always going to be there, and I had my life to see it, but there were things I was doing then that I would never get to do again. Thus, whenever I was left alone in the house, I didn’t immediately break out the alcohol and stick IT on tv – and neither did my younger brother. My parents got it right – so too could everyone else if they thought about it. In fact, once, when I was I think 17, a friend left a hardcore porn DVD in my room. My mum happened to find it (completely by accident, it was rather amusing, actually), and her only comment was ‘you know, it’s not really like that, don’t you?’ Not to get angry, not to be disappointed, not anything else, just letting me know that porn is a construct.

That’s the way to do it.

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