Friday, October 05, 2007


The title of this post actually was the title of a feminist campaign against pornography in Germany. Why I am thinking about that now? Besides having surfed through the seedy sites of the net some days ago (see this post), I also read a feature about women in the porn-business on The F-Word on Wednesday.

For feminists in the 70s and 80s, pornography was dirty, humiliating for women and absolutely against everything they fought for. To a certain degree they were right - and still are.

But what they - as well as the men then controlling the business - did never think about was what porn could give to women. Men use porn to their own satisfaction, that's what pornography is meant to be used for. And women? Pornography for women does exist, but mostly in written form. There are quite explicit novels and they mostly serve the same goal: satisfaction. But why is porn for men mostly visual (movies or photographs or comics), while porn for women is not? Books are not visual, the whole erotic content happens in the head of the person reading them.

The author of the feature on The F-Word also asked the question and found the answer: Because literature is the only porn available for most women. Porn movies mostly are not produced to suit women's needs. They are produced to appeal to men. And men have different needs.

Men react very much to visual images, much more than to sounds or words written on a page. A good-looking woman, nude or not wearing much (or, in case they're gay, a good-looking man, dressed accordingly) is what they mostly need. Add to that the picture (animated or not) of sexual intercourse and the porn is done. To most men it doesn't seem to matter how the surrounding looks, as long as the actors and the kind of sex fit with their own kinks.

Women are different in that aspect, that is true. We are better at imagining things. For porn movies that means more furnishing, more décor, more surrounding. And a man in a porn movie doesn't just have to fit with our own ideal of beauty, he's also got to have a personality (something which doesn't matter to men, it seems). The female actress(es) should have one, too, despite the fact that, to a women, they would only be a place-holder, acting on the viewer's wants and fantasies.

But all that seems besides the point to feminists. They don't just want to ban conservative porn (the kind of porn that's been around for a long time), they want to ban any kind of porn - even that which doesn't feature women at all (gay porn, for instance).

That does surprise me a little, I have to admit. Women have fought, among other things, for their sexual freedom. But the idea those feminists seem to have of women is extremely conservative: Women can't have or enjoy sex without emotional connection - or more understandable: Women can't separate sex from love. The fact alone that women can prostitute themselves - and not just under pressure -, speaks against it. Prostitution only works if you're able to separate sex from emotions. We might prefer sex with emotions, but it's not necessary. And sexual freedom also includes sex without a partner which is where porn usually comes in - for men and women alike. And yes, to a certain degree, even the fantasies a woman has during sex are porn.

Humans are sexual creatures. We're not limited to special times during which to have sex (like most other mammals). Like some primates - most prominently the bonobos (a kind of chimpanzee, but much less aggressive and much more sexually orientated) - we can have sex whenever we want to. We don't just have sex to have offspring (although it's admittedly what sex is supposed to be for), we also have sex as part of our social life. I'm not saying we're acting like those chimpanzees, who have sex in the same casual way humans would shake hands, but we definitely see sex as something more than just a biological function. We enjoy it, for one thing - most mammals (and probably none of the other kinds of animals around) don't know what an orgasm is.

Orgasm makes us want to do it again, which is a very efficient way nature made sure we have lots of sex. We don't need an internal calendar telling us "it's May, let's have sex and make children". We can make them any day of the year. Whenever our basic needs for food, cover and sleep are fulfilled, we like having sex - because then our children (should we get some afterwards) stand good chances of being cared for well (because if our basic needs are satisfied, then theirs can be satisfied as well).

Now, where was I? Pornography, right. Or rather, why feminists want to ban it and women don't get good porn.

Feminists seem not to understand what porn is really used for. It's not about discriminating or humiliating women. (Well, some movies are, but they play into the hands of men buying or renting them, it's not because the producers hate women, it's because there's men out there who do.) It's about getting men off. And it could be about getting women off, as well. The usual porn movie doesn't, but if you see or hear women talk about porn (like the mature area of the MangasZene-forum I visit quite often), you realize that it gets interesting the moment it's well made and features more than just 'man', 'woman' and 'sexual intercourse'.

If sex is as natural for women than it is for men (and, despite what Christianity and society seem to believe quite often, it is), then searching for satisfaction with all means available is as well. A man buys or rents a porn movie to get satisfaction when his girlfriend/spouse is either not there or not wanting any (and a couple might even enjoy watching porn together). A woman looking for the same means mostly has to turn to literature, because porn movies playing into her hands scarcely exist. It gets better, though, if the feature I referred to already is anything to go by.

And if porn movies are not primarily created to degrade and humiliate women, then there's no need to ban them. There should be a certain control to minimize extreme areas (where rape, murder or other stuff like that is concerned), but there's is neither a need nor a reason to ban pornography completely. Besides: with the internet, I don't really see a way to efficiently do it, anyway.

I can see why feminists might watch porn movies and see them as degrading and humiliating, though. The woman in such a movie is not a character, not a person, it's just an object of the sexual kind. But, to be completely fair, so is the man. You could say that pornography degrades both of them - or none. I wonder, if the same feminists have ever tried seeing the porn movies from a woman's side, though. To a woman a man can be just as much of an object in such a movie as the woman is to a man. Most 'traditional' porn movies are not made from that point of view, admittedly, but that doesn't mean it can't work that way. And, as the feature points out, with female directors and producers entering the market, those things are about to change.

Sex sells, although it is a dirty business. Feminism won't change that, but strong women can change the way sex is used for selling.

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