Dear Porn Industry,
I never watch porn. Or rather, before this week, I had never watched porn. I’m not sure why I chose this week to change that habit but my boyfriend was busy, I guess I got a bit curious, and everyone does it, right?
I wasn’t looking for anything too “hardcore” or unusual. But in a way, this makes what I found even more shocking – I used a simple Google search and what I found was degrading, disrespectful, and outright damaging.
I am not going to disclose how many sexual encounters I have had but I will say that when I was seventeen, I had my first “boyfriend”. We fooled around, as hormone-fuelled teenagers do – nothing too frisky, mind: just hands. And he came. As boys do. And he came over my stomach. And I thought, ‘that makes sense, he doesn’t want to get the sheets dirty’.
In the first week of university, I had a similar experience. He came, he used my stomach as a way to keep his sheets clean. Right?
When I first got with my boyfriend and we started exploring each other, he said, “do you mind if I come on your stomach?”
“Of course not,” I reply, thinking, ‘duh, we don’t want to have to wash the sheets.’
My boyfriend is respectful, supportive and loving. We have been going out for longer than I like to admit and still, every time we have sex, he asks (or I ask, if I just can’t wait any longer), “do you want to have sex now?” No, it doesn’t ruin the mood. Yes, it does make me feel valued, respected, and important. We read how important it is to have consensual sex Every Time – and consent means asking and not just taking.
Fault number one in porn: zero consent.
But let me return to the climaxing. My boyfriend asked if it would be ok for him to come on my stomach. I remember thinking it was odd that he asked – nobody else had ever bothered to think I wouldn’t want their slightly sticky bodily fluids over my body and to be honest, I hadn’t thought to question it. Why would I? The boys I was with were invariably more experienced than I was in the field so they knew the protocol, right?
Having watched some more porn clips, the fact that I let this happen, especially at university, with some people I had only met that night, makes me now feel more than uncomfortable. I will never truly know if those boys who “emptied their load” on me were doing it, as my boyfriend was, because he just needed to do it somewhere. But having seen these clips, I can’t help but feel that those boys somehow thought they were achieving something by using my body as the target. I’m pretty sure that they could have done it over themselves but in those situations they thought it would be somehow sexier, more empowering, and quite possibly more like a porn movie if they managed to land their semen on some part of my body. The thought that I have unwittingly become part of this degrading culture makes me feel sick in my stomach. Those boys never asked me if I wanted to be part of their one-night porno. Some of them didn’t even jump up to get me a tissue before I asked.
I want to reiterate here that I was looking at porn for the first time. I had not done some extensive search to find a scene where the male ejaculates all over the female’s body. This was mainstream, easy access porn.
The reason this both terrifies and disgusts me is because when I brought this up with my boyfriend, who I know has watched porn for about seven years, he told me that yes, he had seen such scenes, no, he didn’t particularly like them, yes, he now avoids them because he knows what to search and yes, he did know that his whole class at school watched porn.
It’s the last bit that particularly revolts me. A boy who is fourteen years old isn’t going to do what my boyfriend does and sift through the porn he thinks looks the most degrading. A boy who is fourteen is, as I did, going to click on the first link he sees. If this link shows the man ultimately coming on the woman, he is going to think that this is not only acceptable but somehow the aim of having “sexy” sex. Worse than that, he would then expect the woman to enjoy, as these porn stars do, the fact that there is a white, sticky liquid all over their body in one place or another. No wonder some boys were surprised when I sent them to get me a tissue so I could clean myself up.
Fault number two in porn: showing male pleasure and male dominance and then a lack of caring for your partner’s needs.
Fault number three in porn: the easy access nature of it defining and informing the sexual encounters of seemingly the majority of young boys.
I would now like to move on to another degrading and disgusting part of porn that I saw: the objectification of women.
I count myself as a feminist. I went to a slightly feminazi all-girls’ school where I learnt that the glass ceiling would only be there if I allowed it to be and that I can be a career woman, a mother and an inventor all at the same time if I want; I could also stay at home, but either way, it’s my life and my choice.
And so, I follow feminist blogs. I agree with most of it, I question some of it, and then I justify that I am still a feminist because that allows me to be a woman who can disagree and challenge what the media and society throws at me if I so choose.
Recently, I have noticed more articles with messages such as ‘feminism and porn go hand in hand’. ‘That makes sense,’ I thought. ‘I can be just as sexually liberated as a man and if I were a porn star, I would be choosing to have those things done to me’. Right?
Well, first off, given that I seem to have unwittingly played into porn scene antics in my own bedroom: wrong.
But anyway, my reading of these articles were another factor in convincing me, on that night when I was home alone, that a bit of porn would do no harm – in fact, it would empower me and put me on a level with those men who I know watch porn.
Except it didn’t. It showed me boobs, bums, and vaginas.
This is objectification. This is aimed at men. This is sexist and in no way empowering for a feminist.
Allow me to explain further.
When I was fifteen, I started getting to grips with my own body. I did it on my own, when I couldn’t sleep at night. I did it once or twice in the shower. I looked up on my new smart phone (because I didn’t want the history on my house internet, obviously) how I could make it better – the G spot, the C spot, Erogenous Zones; pillows, vibrators, erotic stories.
The thought of all these things turned me on. When I was later with real life boys, they were excited when they got to see my breasts or my bum. Figures, right? Because they’re ‘erogenous zones’. Except, are they?
Personally, I have very small boobs and they’re not that special. I don’t find them any sexier than the rest of my body (although they do have a lot to compete with); they’re not the place I would want someone to rush if they were trying to turn me on; the only reason I let boys go there is because the touch makes my nipples erect and boys seem to find that incredibly sexy.
But why? Why is there this fascination with boobs? In the last couple of centuries it seems to have become a thing. Renaissance paintings didn’t show boobs as sexy; busts of goddesses from the ancient world don’t show boobs as sexy. But do you know what does show boobs as sexy? The media. Page three models, porn movies, films.
Any why do they show them as sexy? I think it’s the same reason men found the glimpse of a Geisha’s forearm sexy: it’s forbidden. We are forced to cover up our breasts and bums and, if there is somewhere where you can see them, it’s somehow naughty and thus sexier. In all honesty, my boyfriend has bigger boobs than me. So why does he think they’re so attractive?
I ask him, and he sends me a link with a theory that there’s some connection between how you feel when you’re breastfeeding or nursing, and how you feel when you’re having sex. Really, theorists? Really? Men are just wired to like boobs because they breastfed?
I mean, tell me if I’m being crazy here, but I am pretty sure that I breastfed too. And that the majority of the female population breastfed. And I am also pretty sure that I do not want to nibble on someone’s boobs.
What turns me on much better than a boy fumbling around with my mosquito-bite sized boobs, is someone taking the time to appreciate my whole body. I am easily aroused by a back massage. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying never touch my boobs. I’m just saying that, sorry, it’s no more special than touching the rest of my body.
Fault number four in porn: a woman only has three important parts to her body, and in order to turn both yourself and her on, those are the parts to focus on. Don’t worry at all if she has other body parts: they’re not “erogenous” so she probably doesn’t even have nerve endings there.
The danger with porn is that it’s not only accessible to people who have already found sexual confidence. I am pretty sure that if I had started watching porn at a younger age, I would be embarrassed that my boobs are small and my vagina not waxed. I would have thought that sex is all about making the man happy and I probably wouldn’t have looked at the websites I looked at which helped me discover how amazing my body is sexually. I would have thought my role in sexual intercourse would be to be rolled over and moved around by the man while he found new positions to give himself pleasure, rather than fooling around and discovering what positions we both liked. In short, I would have had an unhealthy sexual relationship both with myself and my partners.
I am glad I didn’t watch them and was able to grow into the strong and feminist woman I am. And I think that I would not have such an issue with porn if it weren’t so widely accessible. My boyfriend says that when he watches porn, he differentiates it from reality. I do not for a second doubt that this is true. But what I do doubt, is that everyone is able to make this distinction. I do doubt that those boys with whom I had my first sexual encounters were making that distinction. I do doubt that it promotes a healthy, give-take, mutual climax approach to sex which is what I always thought I was participating in.
I guess the reason I hate the porn industry boils down to this:
It has infiltrated every one of my sexual encounters whether I wanted it to or not. I have become a victim of the over-sexualised, degrading business unwittingly, unwillingly and yet, to my great shame, never without consent.
There is nothing wrong with masturbation; there is nothing wrong with casual sex; there is nothing wrong with coming all over or in your sexual partner. But there is something wrong with only doing so because you have been shown in degrading porn movies that that is what you should do. And there is something wrong with not asking if it’s ok first.
I am a feminist, twenty-something, no-strings-attached-sex loving kind of girl. When I have had a one night stand, I have thought, ‘well done. You just showed the Patriarchy that women don’t need emotion for sex, women can enjoy a few sexual positions and what you have done in no way lessens the respect you deserve as a woman and a human being.’ To an extent, this is still true. But it is now tainted with the fact that the men I was with weren’t enjoying hormone-filled, in-the-moment pleasure; they were looking to create a one-night porn movie and, having seen some evidence, I can now sadly say that they succeeded. I no longer feel that I have helped the cause of feminism. I only feel that I have helped promote and endorse an industry which objectifies and degrades women.
So what is the point of this letter? To whinge that I feel that I, and other feminist sisters, have been duped into endorsing this culture? To complain that my life is oh-so-hard because my boyfriend is turned on by my boobs because of society’s influence? To regret that I had one-night stands because all I was doing was propagating the degradation and objectification of women and meaningful relationships?
No. This letter is to request change.
Porn does not have to be harmful. But the type of porn accessible to the masses of (mainly) young, impressionable boys is. So what I want is a change in the way it is reached. “Feminist Porn” exists. But it’s harder to find and the name suggests that it’s not the manly, macho stuff that teenage boys should be interested in. This depiction of more caring, balanced sex needs to be promoted. It needs to be normalised. It needs to be mainstream. It’s important. And the other stuff needs to be harder to find than clicking a button which “confirms” you are over eighteen.
I am sure that I am not the only person who has ever accidentally fallen victim to the disgusting treatment of women promoted by mainstream porn. I had an ideal in my head that the kind of porn my boyfriend and “everyone” was watching was more in line with the “Feminist Porn” I have subsequently found. It wasn’t, and now I feel stupid. But I don’t want anyone else to have to feel this stupid and devalued.
And so, “dear” Porn Industry, I am looking to you. You have influence and power and billions access your sites every year. Change. Make sex as great as sex can be. Sex is a two player game: promote that. Stop glorifying someone landing cum in a girl’s eye and start glorifying mutual, consensual, healthy sex. This is not just for me. This is for “everyone” who has been watching the wrong sort of porn their whole lives.
Disappointed, deluded and hoping for change.