In the Winter 2012 issue of GUM, James Gaddis relates two anecdotes in what seems little more than an excuse to deride pornography. All under the guise of his concern for the demise of positive attitudes to sex, though he doesn’t indicate where this slide began – porn is as old as art, after all. I like pornography, in all its great variety, and as someone who’s also seen the music, mainstream film and computer games he’s enjoyed blamed for all sorts of social trends, I feel compelled to respond.For anyone who didn’t read it, the article was inspired by his being accused of sexism on the basis that he enjoyed a novel that dealt with lots of sex – an unreasonable allegation, I’m sure we can all agree. This is taken as evidence that pornography is a central force responsible for skewing society’s understanding of sex.The clincher provided, in case you were in any doubt, is an overheard conversation which involved a man calling the object of his intended romance ‘cunt’. This young Lothario was obviously the product of a life spent watching Max Hardcore. It’s an obvious link, right? Just like Childsplay killed Jamie Bulger. Cast iron case. The jury will be back in a jiffy. Apparently it never occurred to James that these two individuals might simply have been idiots whose ideas of what constitutes sexism and socially-approved pet-names had been entirely independent of their encounters with pornography. Thus with responsibility conclusively laid at skin-flicks’ collective doorstep, James grabs the opportunity to have a pop at this laughable blight on society that misleads men into such farcical illusions as facial cum-shots actually being desired by some women.
I think James’ connection between these people’s statements and pornography is baseless, but I don’t really care, it is this pop with which I take umbrage. Firstly, pornography being laughable isn’t a sensible criticism. Sex is funny and if you don’t have the occasional chortle (most likely amidst your clumsiness when you’ve had a few too many to retain any of the prowess you were boasting about to your new friend in the queue for the kebab you’re now wearing) then you’re doing it wrong. Secondly, guess what? Some people have the kind of sex depicted in pornography in their private lives. From the most vanilla to the most extreme, including those unthinkable cum-shots. And it’s not just rock stars with happy-to-oblige groupies. It’s normal folks. Sure, it’s not the narrative of every sexual encounter, but I reckon most people are bright enough to understand that. Realism is not the goal (at least most of the time). Nobody thinks every voyage across the sea ends like Titanic and likewise nobody thinks every romantic endeavour ends with Princess Donna, Chloe Camilla, a magic wand and a dungeon. But it might do once…
I pick those particular names for a reason. And not just that reason. They mainly appear within the fetish genre and I imagine many people would view the work they do in front of cameras as amongst the most degrading, humiliating and exploitative you’re likely to find. However, both are intelligent women, sex-educators as well as performers, operate in both submissive and dominant roles and at least one is a director and producer. More importantly, they’re women who are doing something they enjoy. Something that they do in their private lives and find both fun and sexually gratifying. Is watching people do something everyone involved is enjoying really creating a problem for society? Isn’t it doing the opposite?
An accusation could be made that I’m talking about fetish pornography whereas James was likely thinking of more mainstream material which doesn’t have the intrinsic caveat that this it is not depicting ‘normal’ sex. In case of such a potentially valid criticism, let’s note that I dislike the terms fetish and kink, though they are unavoidable as descriptors, exactly because they imply abnormality. If any porn is fetishist then it all is and it must all be viewed in the same regard. It all portrays acts which someone is sexually drawn to, be it an amateur couple amidst candles and rose petals, or the extreme dominance of one gender. It makes no odds whether it’s in a warehouse with everyone in latex or in a supposedly-genuine student-halls in Nebraska.
I resent the implication that any brand of pornography not approved and rubber stamped by an arbitrary authority (in this case James) is having an adverse impact on society and I reserve my right to view anything which exclusively contains consenting adults, however disgusting or unrealistic it might appear to others.