There is a Medieval story in which King Arthur is given one of his stickiest challenges.  He will die unless, in just one year, he can discover what women most desire.  And you know what he finds?  Women want sovereignty over themselves.

Oh, eureka.

Yet look at how long it’s taken for society to accept that gazillions of women freely enjoy porn.  Thank heaven the myth that women aren’t aroused by visual images has now been exploded many times, notably by Sex and Tech expert Violet Blue whose Our Porn Ourselves campaign has taken the internet by storm. Blue incited many women – myself included – to declare that we were turned on by porn and that any generalizations to the contrary were attempts to control our sexuality. Many men also champion Our Porn Ourselves, relieved that we are shattering erroneous notions of porn as “so warped that only guys will watch it” – a belief that contains so much prejudice it’s hard to know where to start. But the sexist lies still run deep. I myself was devastated when a beloved sexpert hero of mine declared porn as “basically male entertainment.” In fact, my very first reaction to her statement was, “What if I love lesbian porn? Where’s the ‘male’ in that?”

But perhaps part of the problem with the term “pornography” is that its meaning shifts with time and usage. What is porn, exactly? Explicit visuals? Well, yeah, if you video-record sex with your lover, hoping to turn yourselves on with the images, that’s surely porn…but what if you record the sex aurally rather than visually, and listen to the noises at another time? Or what if you don’t record the sex, but just carry the memories around in your head, reliving the moment when he licked your breast or pulled your hair just right? That’s a visual used to arouse, right? So doesn’t that count? While we’re at it, can a oil-painted nude in the Musee D’Orsay be porn if it turns you on? And what of BDSM porn, in which, for legal and/or aesthetic reasons, genital contact doesn’t tend to take place?  Is such a dom/sub spanking vid only porn when it actually arouses the viewer? Is porn defined by the creator’s intention or the way the consumer uses it?

Whatever the answers, our attitudes are still shifting. This year, Oprah interviewed Violet Blue about women in porn (woohoo! A win for sex-positivity in the media!), plus mags such as the Atlantic Monthly have featured the topic. Porn itself is changing too, especially in terms of its availability. In fact, consumers of free internet porn are also becoming its performers and directors, especially now that sites like YouPorn are popular. Indeed, as internet porn becomes increasingly “real life” we may well see a rise in self-confidence among its viewers – what a great way of proving that you don’t have to be a big-boobed, California blonde to get your partners and viewers off.

As society changes so do its art forms and stereotypes. Take what women want from porn, for instance. Coyote Days, Purchasing Manager at Good Vibrations says “Women often want to see very raw sexuality and more hardcore content than would be assumed by some.” That said, her female customers also buy porn for educational reasons, seeking answers to questions such as “How would I go down on another woman?” or “Would I really be aroused by a threesome?” But however we choose to use it, we need to keep defining porn for ourselves rather than letting the haters do the job. Lady Porn Day (the creation of Rachel Rabbit White) opened up this discussion by asking women “What’s porn for you?” Answers included erotic movies, pieces of classical art, feature films, and photos. For my part, I think of porn as a sensual trigger that I choose in order to turn myself on. And I want that route to pleasure, be it solo or partnered.

There you are, King Arthur.  Suck on that.

***

For experimental research into women being aroused by explicit sexual visuals, take a look at Professor Ellen Laan’s study, which is discussed here.

TAGS: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

LANA FOX became a sex writer when she realized she couldn't shut up about the subject. Her erotic stories appear in collections by Harlequin, Cleis Press and Xcite, including Best Women's Erotica 2011. A graduate in Psychology, English and Education, she is a regular featured blogger at the Good Vibrations magazine. Lana is also at work on a novel. Find her online at: www.lanafox.com.

5 responses to “The Hot Topic, vol. 10 – Porn: Medieval Myths and Modern Quests”

  1. Mary Richert says:

    This is awesome.

    I have to say it’s sortof awkward watching Oprah talk about porn because you can tell she’s a little bit uncomfortable with the topic, maybe more because she’s concerned about the audience’s reaction?

  2. Lana, I really enjoy your matter-of-fact approach here. I think a whole lot of trouble arises from the persistent notion sex is still being more of a dude thing. (Really? In 2011 in the Western world? How can anyone think that?) I’m not a huge porn consumer, but nor am I averse to it. And I like that you explore how we define it.

    My concern w/ porn isn’t so much w/ who watches it but w/ who makes it. As a feminist, I’m obviously in favor of female (and male) autonomy. But I worry about eighteen year-olds who will be forever immortalized on the web as taking it up the ass for all to see. If the woman in question is happy w/ her decision, mazel tov. But as w/ entering the military, I think if we upped the legal age requirement a few years, we might find fewer participants.

    I don’t think there are easy answers here, but I really like you’re asking the questions.

    • James D. Irwin says:

      ”But as w/ entering the military, I think if we upped the legal age requirement a few years, we might find fewer participants.”

      True, but the niether porn nor ‘Girls of the Armed Forces’ calenders would be anywhere near as awesome.

      But seriously, from my… er… extensive research on the subject… there seem to be two types of girls in porn:

      1. The obviously stupid, vacuous whose daddy issues more than make up for their lack of education and self-respect. And it is almost as sad as it is morally objectionable. You know that they’re not good at acting, and thus it is quite apparent they are not enjoying being anally molested as they pretend.

      This is sad because a lot of them are nice beautiful young girls who must surely have better, if not more lucrative, options— and I believe money comes into it an awful lot. It is a quick way to arn serious money.

      2. The girls who are actually pretty smart and exploiting men as much as men are exploiting them. Whether they regret what they’ve done will remain to be be seen in the on coming years, but certainly there are an increasing number of girls in porn who are playing a sort of game, as dangerous as that may be.

      To cite a fairly well known example, Sasha Grey used pornography to cross-over into the mainstream world of non-pornographic acting. It would be hard to argue that she is just a poor, uneducated girl. I’ve read a few interviews with her (in the mainstream media) and she comes across as more than reasonably intelligent. (And she is one of very few girls in porn to adopt a stage name referencing the works of Oscar Wilde.)

      There is also a clear disparity between actresses who work in porn because they are sexual exhibitionists and genuinely enjoy it. It’s a more satisfying experience for the lonely college student… far more pleasurable

      So there are different reasons for making that choice… for some it is a quick, kneejerk solution and to others a considered and reasoned decision.

      HOWEVER, what one considers to be a good reasoned decision at, say, eighteen and what one might consider a good decision a few years down the line are two very different things.

      I know personally that the man I was aged 18 and the man I am now— still only 22— are two different people.

      So in short I suppose I agree with your statement to an extent— I think the number of ‘type 2’ girls would certainly decrease by some margin. However, I’m not convinced the fall would be quite as great with the first group.

      Obviously the real solution is to change the general perception of pornography, and the way it is run so it is safer and less exploitative. Incidentally, I’m sure this would also raise the quality…

  3. Lana Fox says:

    Litsa, thank you so much, both for your encouragement and your great points! I agree with you about the eighteen year-olds who are risking so much – an important point. My feeling is that we need to modify and develop sex education to fit in with new technologies. Young people need to be aware of the risks involved…”safe sex” isn’t just about using condoms these days and I wish society would adapt. I agree with you that there aren’t easy answers, but you’re right that we need to *think* and *act*.

    Many thanks for your sex-positive and thoughtful points.

    Be well,
    Lana

Leave a Reply to Mary Richert Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *