Book Review: Big Porn Inc. Edited By Melinda Tankard Reist and Abigail Bray.

 

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.

Is Big Porn Inc. Anti-Vaccination As Well As Anti-Porn?

Picture Perfect.

Elsewhere: [Sydney Morning Herald] Who’s Afraid of Melinda Tankard Reist?

Image via Melinda Tankard Reist.

On the (Rest of the) Net Comes a Day Early.

As tomorrow is Good Friday (Friday, gotta get down on Good Friday), the international day of mourning sleeping in, On the (Rest of the) Net is arriving a day early. Enjoy, and happy Easter!

If you read only one thing this Easter weekend, make it Hadley Freeman’s “Rape is Not a Compliment” on The Guardian.

Rick Morton with “6 Arguments Against Women Serving in Combat Roles (And Why They’re Dodgy)”.

The pros and cons of trash reality TV and its treatment of women.

MamaMia has picked up Airiel Clark’s “Slut-Shaming on the Playground”, as well.

The view from the other side of the burqa is not one I agree with, but it’s a valid one nonetheless:

“Before you scream your disagreement, which many of you may do as a knee-jerk reaction to being told you’re also oppressed, stop and think. Look around you; contemplate society today, and its values, its aspirations, its goals, its direction, its past-times, its hobbies….

“What good has it done for images of uncovered made-up women to be plastered on every billboard and magazine, on the TV, in the movies, and on the net?

“The women in the images may aptly feel good about themselves for a while, but what does it mean for every other women?

“Women who look upon these images usually become anxious, jealous, unsure and critical of themselves, or all of these things. Many men who view them will become aroused, or even unhappy, less satisfied with the partners they already have. What can, and does this lead to?

“Cheating, dumping, chastisement, and even harassment of other women, and even children, by men who cannot find a legitimate outlet for their constant arousal.

“And yes, I can hear some of you; ‘then the men must control themselves!’ Frankly speaking that argument is well spent, not to mention futile, as most men are, inherently, only able to react to that, the same way a hungry lion would react if thrown a juicy piece of steak, and told not to eat it…”

Shades of Sheik El-Hilaly’s “uncovered meat” statement, don’t you think?

Gemma Ward makes her return to the newsstand.

“What to Wear for SlutWalk”:

“Wear anything you like, the organisers told me when I emailed them…

“SlutWalk will feature people in all sorts of garments and gear, dressed for the office, clubbing, yoga, walking the dog, whatever it is that people wear as they go about their lives not asking to be raped.”

A behind-the-scenes look at how Mia Freedman’s Sunday Life profile pictures go down.

Also at MamaMia, Freedman writes on Paper Giants (more on that to come next week; oh, the perils of not yet being digital TV-ready!), Park St, and the relevance and demise of magazines in 2011.

Nina Funnell on the “appalling” and “exploitative” nature of child beauty pageants.

“Gym. Tan. Laundry. Discuss.” The social politics of Jersey Shore.

She-Ra gets a fashionable makeover for a good cause.

Like a Virgin, Take 2.

 

From “Kanye West Thinks Dead is the New Sexy” by Nina Funnell on MamaMia:

“While many commentators argue that video clips over-sexualise women, the real problem is they actually deny the sexuality of women all together. Instead of analysing the clothes and dance moves within these clips, we should look at how desire functions.

“As so often in popular culture, women are expected to appear desirable, but to be completely lacking in all desire of their own. The best example of this is Britney Spears in her Hit me baby days and Jessica Simpson circa 2002. Both Spears and Simpson stated they were virgins and intended to remain so until marriage. Meanwhile, they would grind back and forth wearing tiny outfits all designed to titillate. In other words their sexuality was to be consumed and enjoyed by everyone except themselves.

“The ‘sexually rapacious virgin’ is just one paradox of our sexualised pop culture. But a while back I began to wonder where our sexualised pop culture is really heading. At some point all the bouncy hair, big boobs and tiny skirts just gets old. These days humping a pole is not so much risqué as passé.

“So once sex (or rather, the limited and stereotypical representations of pop-culture sex) gets tired, what becomes the new frontier in risqué representation?…

“The clip is not only interested in fetishizing female bodies—it revels in fetishizing female pain, female passivity, female suffering and female silence. The ultimate female is the quiet, passive female—a mannequin—who accepts violence, abuse and suffering while remaining hot and sexy.

“As another commenter writes, ‘There’s nothing [overly] shocking or “taboo” about this video. Men’s sexual desire to dominate passive, docile, “lifeless” women has been a common theme in the arts throughout history. Indeed, many men disingenuously hide behind “art” to defend this proclivity. But how often do you see black men hanging from trees or Jews being gassed in ovens “artistically” to make a comment on racism or genocide, for example? It’s not likely to happen because that would be deeply offensive, even in the name of art. Women on the other hand are apparently fair game, even in a world where sexual and other male violence against women and girls is epidemic.’”

Related: Like a Virgin.

More Madonna.

Madonna (and Her Brand of Feminism) on the Rocks.

The Underlying Message in Glee‘s “Britney/Brittany” Episode.

Katy P. VS. Lady G.

Britney Spears: Not That Innocent.

Bad Taste Foxymorons.

Whipped Cream Feminism: The Underlying Message in Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” Video.

Elsewhere: [MamaMia] Kanye West Thinks Dead is the New Sexy.