As I’ve written here before, I don’t really see a problem with porn. So long as it’s consumed in a healthy way, viewed in perspective and is made in an ethical way (no child pornography, for example, which Big Porn Inc. focuses heavily on), I don’t see a problem with it.
However, the contributors and editors of Big Porn Inc., a tome that’s made a splash since its release, thinks all porn is bad, okay? They don’t take into account things like upbringing, socio-economic background and other factors, such as peer groups, in the affect porn can have on consumers. When those aspects are relatively good, I don’t think porn is a problem.
But it’s not just consensual, enthusiastic porn the book focuses on. Take the chapters on sex with animals, child porn and degradation. “Slavefarm” (p. xx) and “the ‘crack’ of an infant’s pelvis while you are penetrating them” (p. 199) are some of the most extreme and abhorrent examples in the book (I’ll pause while you throw up over that last one, especially), but are by no means the norm. Bestiality, rape and pedophilia are mental illnesses and are about control; they’re not just something you decide to do after stumbling upon the wrong porn link.
Not only does Big Porn Inc. focus on the extreme, it’s also quite sexist. The majority of articles see women as needing to be protected from porn and the men who view it. Militant anti-porn feminist Catharine MacKinnon writes that “women have long known” the evils of pornography (p. 12), while “Caroline” writes pathetically about how discovering her husband used porn was the ultimate betrayal (p. xxix).
I also found Big Porn Inc. to be anti-choice and anti-feminism. Renate Klein, in “Big Porn + Big Pharma: Where the Pornography Industry Meets the Ideology of Medicalisation” (p. 86–104), asserts that female bodies are being “cut, modified, drugged and penetrated—all in the name of ‘choice’ and ‘it is my right’.” The footnote to this sentence admonishes sexual reassignment procedures as a bi-product of the pornography industry.
This is not to mention its anti-vaccination sentiments.
Pseudoscience reigns supreme, also, when Maggie Hamilton writes, “… boys and girls generally do not have a natural [original emphasis] sexual sense until they are between 10 and 12 years old.” I studied psychology in high school, and even at its base level, we know that young children are very aware of their sexuality. I remember playing the “sex game” (whatever we thought that meant!) in my first year of primary school. Observing children in the playground as part of my Year 10 childhood psychology class they, too, were playing the “sex game”! Sure, we don’t want kids that age accessing porn and getting all these fucked up ideas about what naked bodies and (porn) sex looks like, but their natural curiosity will ensure they will try to at some stage. That’s where healthy discussion from parents, teachers and other adults about what sex, in all its carnations, means.
Not all of the contributors are people I disagree with. Sex and anti-violence writer Nina Funnell is someone I admire, and whose inclusion in Big Porn Inc. was what compelled me to read it. She writes about sexting and the intrusion of the camera in our lives (p. 34–40), topics on which she is writing a book. While teen sexting and “peer-to-peer porn” can be dangerous (child pornography charges and having your image on the internet til the end of time before you’ve even come of age are frightening thoughts), I think they are a little out of place in the Big Porn scope of things. In my opinion, they are worlds away from actual consensual porn; the making and consumption of. Again, as long as parents and teachers are there to advise why sexting is something that should be done after careful thought and your 18th birthday, I don’t see it as the problem porn is made out to be.
When I spoke to Rachel Hills about her profile on Melinda Tankard Reist and her thoughts on Big Porn Inc., she contended that the book could have done away with the multitude of contributors in favour of fewer, more in-depth essays. This would perhaps allow Big Porn Inc. to be taken more seriously by pro-porn (or at least anti-anti-porn) people like ourselves. I have to say I agree, as by about two thirds of the way through I was ready to put it down, especially as the last section reads like an advertorial for Anti-Porn Inc., which is something I’m not buying.
Related: In Defence of Porn.
Image via Melinda Tankard Reist.