Perspectives on pornography

Two different people in the last couple of weeks have asked me if I look at porn. Both seemed surprised when I said I didn’t – apparently I strike people as the kind of woman who would.

So I started to think about why I don’t, and how I feel about porn generally. I asked some liberal-minded friends too, male and female.

When I was a teenager, we didn’t have the Internet (can you even imagine it?), and there’s no doubt the proliferation of porn has been massively aided by the spread of cyberspace. It is so much more accessible, and this in turn has led to it becoming more normalised, more an accepted thing for people to do, to look at.

Now I’m no prude, and I’m not adverse to a bit of erotic fiction, but as a visual thing, porn just doesn’t do it for me. Maybe, like my attitude to car maintenance, this is a girl thing – the visual element of sex doesn’t tend to be as important for women as it is for men – but at its most basic level, being presented with the image of strangers shagging isn’t a turn on for me. I need more than that. I’m the same generally – I very rarely find myself attracted to a man based purely on looks, it is about much more than that, and sexual attraction definitely increases in the context of other things, like how well I know a person, how much they make me laugh, how they make me feel about myself.

Let’s be honest though, the vast majority of porn isn’t just about two people happily shagging is it? The porn industry is set up with one thing in mind – men’s pleasure – much of which is at the expense of women. Porn is prostitution, women as objects, being degraded, humiliated and abused for money, and yet we are apparently supposed to just go along with it as ‘something men do’, just a bit of harmless fun. At what point did the objectification of women become so socially acceptable? (If you’re interested, do check out OBJECT, the organisation that campaigns against our sex object culture. And it’s not all men of course – have a look at the AntiPornMen Project)

One of my friends summed it up pretty nicely. “Personally, I like a bit of porn,” she said, “but can’t help but feel that the element of exploitation is too strong to find it pleasurable. It slightly feels like getting off watching people starve. If porn paid the minimum wage then I might be convinced of the arguments FOR, but it doesn’t. It’s quick bucks for women with little options. As a woman, I can’t see past that. You can work your way through the literature and still you find yourself wondering: “Is this fellow woman happy?  Is she really enjoying full and free choice?” And that question is what pervades the watching of porn, and no matter how much I enjoy it, I cannot enjoy it while I harbour the doubt that another woman isn’t making a totally free and independent economic choice. And I don’t get off on that. I can’t divorce it from the economic and power disadvantage that women have. I’ve always liked porn but can’t divorce it from the women involved.”

As well as the obvious emotional and physical harm it does to many of the women involved, one thing that concerns me about porn is the impact it has on people’s expectations about real life sex. If you are an adult, with a healthy sex life, then porn might seem like a fun sideline, but at least you have a context for it, and you appreciate that it isn’t an accurate representation of real life. But what about if you are a teenage boy, with no more experience than an awkward grope of a boob at a school disco, or perhaps, if you’re lucky, a cheeky finger in a girl’s bedroom? If your frame of reference is based on extreme or violent sexual images, how is this going to shape your future relationships with women?

And what about girls? We have produced a generation of young women and girls, who are starving themselves, shaving themselves, surgically changing their body shapes, believing they need to look like the highly sexualised images of women we see everyday in magazines, in advertising, in music… basically everywhere. Just look at the facts (see the OBJECT website for sources):

  • Over half of all women around the world say they first became aware of the need to be physically attractive between 6 and 17 years of age.
  • 66% of teenage girls would consider plastic surgery and 20% would do it right now.
  • Polls suggest that 63% of young women aspire to be glamour models or lap dancers.
  • One in three people believe a woman is responsible for violence committed against her if she is wearing ‘revealing clothing’.

It feels at times like it has become expected of girls and women that they will want to enjoy being humiliated, that having uncomfortable things done to them is fun, that watching porn is what all the cool girls are doing. And for all the men reading this right now and thinking ‘she’s just being naive, all those women are quite happy to be involved, it’s normal, it’s natural’ – just imagine for a minute your mother/sister/girlfriend/daughter coming to you to tell you she’s a porn star… you’re fine with that are you?

“When I met my boyfriend he had a massive porn collection,” one friend told me. “Absolutely all of it had more than one woman in it, and as a result he definitely thinks this is a much more common scenario than it actually is. One film actually had about ten women in it on one man. Ten women?? That’s not exactly likely is it?!” We asked her boyfriend what he thought, and he agreed that it is really easy to lose track of reality and a real sex life if you are exposed to too much porn.

Boys and young men brought up on a diet of regular porn are surely going to have an unrealistic idea of what sex is really about, and exactly what’s normal in a loving relationship. “Boys can’t watch porn and think that sex is always like that,” said one friend, “that any guy can have a perfect size 8 slut who loves nothing more than three cocks in her at once while another girl is touching her boobs.” Well quite. “Porn should be an occasional thing and should not be confused or distract from real love and love-making and the interaction you get from that.”

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that porn can have a negative impact on both the user, their partner and society at large, and this fascinating article – an account from therapist Wendy Maltz of how attitudes to and issues arising from porn have changed over the last 40 years – goes as far as to describe pornography addiction as America’s ‘newest and most challenging mental health problem’.

Of course everyone’s idea of what constitutes ‘a problem’ will be different, and will depend on a whole range of other factors. Compulsively looking at porn and banging one out every time you switch on your computer might be expected from a single 16 year old boy, but at what point does habitual porn use become a problem? How much is too much?

“Looking at porn two or three times a week would be normal for me,” one of my male friends told me, “but that is not necessarily hardcore stuff. I’m not sure how much I would class as too much – everyday I guess would be too much for me. I do think it can do some serious damage to someone’s sex life. Porn is basically other people living out your fantasies and that is not always going to transfer to your own bedroom… I think it’s very important to try and remember the difference.”

Another male friend told me he only looks at porn about once a month, and that he actually finds it quite boring. “It’s not like real life,” he said, “women don’t really like it if you spunk all over their face, and they don’t make that much noise.” He told me that he often finds himself more engrossed in the plot that the actual porn element – a classic line I know, but he is a writer, so probably does take a genuine interest in things like dialogue, and based on some of the other things he tells me I have no reason to think he’d hold back on this one. “I was watching something once where I found myself genuinely interested in the characters,” he told me “Hmmm… is she going to like the taste of cum? Oh yes, she did! Good for her!”

Another friend I spoke to told me she struggled with porn. “I feel that there are a lot of issues surrounding porn and how ‘normalised’ it has become,” she told me. “I believe that it does exploit women and despite the fact that I am not a prude, it does make me feel very uncomfortable and objectified and sexualised in contexts that I don’t want to be, and I also think that it would have a huge impact on ‘real life’ sexual expectations. Whatever happened to nice long lazy lovemaking sessions – why must we feel that we are performing and that said performance is being judged against pornographic depictions of sex?”

This idea of being judged is a concern shared by a lot of women, and many women feel genuinely betrayed by a partner’s use of porn. No one wants to feel they are being compared to other women – previous lovers is one thing, but porn takes the competition to a whole new level.

Wendy Maltz sees plenty of women who are very profoundly affected by their partner’s relationship with porn. “The reactions of intimate partners were almost identical to those of clients I’d counselled whose partners had been having affairs,” she writes. “Women came to me shocked and traumatised…I remember one who sobbed, ‘His betrayal feels like a knife has been thrust in my heart.’ It didn’t matter that her husband’s ‘mistress’ was on…a screen; he’d still betrayed her by channelling his sexual attention and energy away from her, onto someone else. She felt angry, hurt, alone, powerless, and unable to compete with the perfect, airbrushed young bodies of the women featured in the videos she’d found her husband masturbating to. Her trust in and respect for him were gone, and she told me she felt as sexually abandoned, insulted, and betrayed as if he’d been with another woman.”

I am not some kind of bitter, prudish, uptight woman who ‘just needs a good seeing to’ and this isn’t a knee-jerk, feminist, anti-porn reflex. I am just a normal person, with a sense of humour, and a normal, open-minded attitude to sex. But pornography and sex just aren’t the same thing. Pornography is the objectification and dehumanising of women for men’s benefit. Sex is an intimate, safe, personal relationship between consenting adults. Exactly when did the lines between the two become so blurred?



  1. 15 December, 2010 / 10:27 am

    Perhaps they thought you were the sort of woman who starred in it (rather than watched it) but were too polite to say …. ;-)

    • 15 December, 2010 / 10:31 am

      And what exactly do you mean by that Steve?

        • 15 December, 2010 / 10:39 am

          “Perhaps they thought you looked like a bit of a slag!” Ha ha ha! Hilarious.

  2. 15 December, 2010 / 10:35 am

    Anyway, back to the question.

    I see pornography as a necessary evil. It is an outlet for men who need it and let’s face it there are plenty of men that do. 99.999% of it is clearly targetted at the male species, and in my opinion is nowadays rather offensive. Back in the 1980’s porn starring the like of Kay Parker and Desiree Cousteau weren’t so “in your face” but porn nowadays is far nastier with anal intercourse etc and far more degrading to the “image” of women.

    Until we get to a stage where every man is happily “getting it” to the level they prefer porn will always be with us.

    • 15 December, 2010 / 12:38 pm

      I think you’re right that porn has changed a lot over the last few decades, and it’s a worrying trend.

      I do find your last comment slightly offensive though. It sounds like you’re saying women are responsible for porn – that if they were ‘putting out’ more, then it wouldn’t be necessary. I’m hoping I’m misintepreting!

      • 15 December, 2010 / 1:38 pm

        I’m not saying anybody is responsible, just stating facts. It wouldn’t be true for all men anyway, some men would still use porn even if they did “get it” plenty.

  3. 15 December, 2010 / 10:41 am

    Totally with you Jo, I won’t even start listing all the reasons I hate porn because there isn’t enough room. Suffice to say, it’s a complete deal breaker for me – if a man wants to look at porn then he’s welcome to, just so long as he doesn’t plan on calling me his girlfriend.

    • 15 December, 2010 / 12:29 pm

      I know what you mean – I only meant it to be a short post, but the more I read and researched the longer and longer it got – I feel I could have gone on for pages! It’s really interesting that it’s a complete deal breaker for you too – the person who made the comment about it being like getting off on watching someone starve also said that despite how SHE feels, she would expect a partner to look at porn, and be accepting of that. It’s a weird dichotomy.

      I am always impressed though by how clear you are about exactly what you want and don’t want in a relationship. I don’t find it so straightforward. I know how I feel about porn, but I’m not so sure to what extent these feelings extend to a partner. I guess it’s like you say – you can’t force your opinions on someone, you can’t expect them to change for you, you just have to think carefully about what is important to you, how someone’s actions make you feel, and then you can decide if that person is good for you.

      • 15 December, 2010 / 2:41 pm

        Ah, thanks Jo, that was very encouraging! Actually quite a lot of the time I have no idea what I want and get myself very befuddled, but there are certain things that are so key to me that I know I couldn’t live with / without them.

        I have to say, your research was very impressive, I shall be directing people to this blog should they ever try to argue with me that porn is natural, acceptable and harmless!

  4. Vicky
    15 December, 2010 / 10:49 am

    Fantastic writing sweetie – the debate rages on… Found myself getting a bit heated this morning when trying to share my feelings with a couple of men who quite like a bit of porn. I wasn’t very eloquent sadly and just screeched a bit before giving up on my point… Rubbish. Maybe I’ll have another go a bit later. Big hugs xxx

    • 15 December, 2010 / 12:34 pm

      Thank you! And thanks for being my sounding board :-)

      It’s much easier with things like this to write it down isn’t it? Then you can be ordered, and say everything you want to say carefully, and not stumble about trying to say things but basically muttering and stammering. That’s what I do anyway. I’m much less eloquent in person I always think.

  5. 15 December, 2010 / 12:05 pm

    Those statistics make me incredibly sad, when did it become the norm to only aspire to be something for men to look at?

    For me, you hit the nail on the head with your thoughts on teenage boys, I found the recent C4 series about sex education really enlightening, most teenage boys now expect women to have perfect (fake boobs) and perfect vaginas – both completely waxed and surgically enhanced, what chance does the average girl have of having a healthy body image? Not to mention the sexual acts that they consider normal but most girls would be horrified to do.

    • 15 December, 2010 / 12:35 pm

      It IS sad isn’t it? As the mother of a teenage girl it really worries me. I feel like they don’t stand a chance really. :(

  6. Lisbeth
    15 December, 2010 / 1:11 pm

    Excellent post. I think women are just as sexual as men but spend more of their lives as the underdog and so see things from more than one perspective.

    I think that we are raising a generation of men who are going to be crap and selfish lovers. Lily Allen sang a warning about that…

    Let’s face it, no woman fantasises that Colin Firth emerges dripping wet from a lake in order to ejaculate on her face. :-/

    • 15 December, 2010 / 1:19 pm

      ‘Oh Mr Darcy! Yes, please do get Mr Bingham over so I can give him a blow job at the same time as you fuck me up the arse!’

      No. It doesn’t really have the same ring to it.

      *wonders if that was appropriate language*

      • 9 May, 2015 / 11:59 am

        this! hahaha!

      • Lisbeth
        15 December, 2010 / 1:46 pm

        Yes that one! It’s a sign of things to come, I tell you

        No pun intended :-/

  7. 15 December, 2010 / 2:03 pm

    Porn has been around for as long as humanity had the ability to daub pictures on a wall.

    What has changed is the delivery method and that it requires ‘actors’ to create it so that the consumer can consume it. Because of the way the industry has built it’s profit model, the ‘actors’ are the ones that get exploited because they get paid to perform activities that most people consider pleasurable. Because of this, people – predominantly women – get exploited in what is, in essence, physical labour with emotional desensitisation thrown in for good measure.

    I don’t feel comfortable that pornography – a lot of which is abusive and violent – is so readily available over the internet for free without any restrictions. I have no problem with pornography per se, but If you want it you should pay for it so that the people involved get paid to do it. Whether they should do it or not is another discussion – but they should be paid for their labours.

    On another point, I worked with a couple of guys from Playboy TV for a bit and they found that they got completely de-sensitised to porn after a while which they found troubling and disconcerting. Also, having encountered many porn actresses and actors in their time the split of talent was: 50% poor – 50% stupid and a lot of crossover. Reeks of exploitation to me, and they hated that side of it.

    Finally, when all is said and done, no matter how clear the video or experimental the position or beautiful the players – there is nothing to replace the warm body of the person you love.

    • 15 December, 2010 / 2:21 pm

      A very thoughtful comment – thank you – it’s good to get men’s perspectives on it too.

      I think the desensitisation (is that a word?) is a very worrying aspect of it. Do men who look at a lot of porn find themselves having to look at more and more extreme images to get the same kicks? That surely can’t have any sort of positive impact on real life relationships?

      I also don’t think a lot of men really even THINK about what goes on behind the scenes, which is part of the whole problem, the way the whole industry has been glamorised. They seem to just assume that the women are all having a great time and getting paid big money.

      • 15 December, 2010 / 3:44 pm

        My mate at Playboy told me: the life cycle of a male porn actor is between 3 and 5 years before they realise that they can earn more carrying bricks but if they kick up any kind of fuss they get fired simple as that. A female actress has a lifecycle, on average, of 3 years: 1 year of soft porn, 1 year of hardcore and 1 year of anal. No one can endure that kind of physical punishment for more than that. The few smart ones can end up making money by moving beyond the fourth parallel.

        I get the impression that it is a hard life for female talent and I always think: that is someone’s daughter.

        The whole enterprise just appears tawdry and ultimately makes the consumers of it tawdry by association. So, I think it needs to be regulated in a much more stringent way.

        The other question that seems to be relevant is what about masturbation? Is it better to use your mind (wank bank, is the professional term) and fantasise about someone you know, or work with? Or use images of a stranger you have no relationship with? Is masturbation within a relationship acceptable or is it perceived as a form of infidelity? Just playing Devil’s A, folks… :)

        • 15 December, 2010 / 4:25 pm

          Ergh, three years? That is so depressing. They must just be BROKEN after that.

          You raise a very interesting point about masturbation, and it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about too. (no sniggering). When I was reading about the women going to the therapist, feeling akin to having been cheated on, it got me thinking about exactly where the boundaries lie, about what exactly constitutes infidelity. If you take porn as your starting point – images of strangers – most men would probably think that was ok. So then what’s the difference between that and say your partner wanking over a naked picture of one of your friends?? That doesn’t feel so ok. But then what about if they did that but with just an image in their head? How is THAT different?

          But that’s sooo difficult isn’t it, because you can’t censor your own thoughts can you? Personally, the THOUGHT of a partner masturbating while thinking about one of my friends of one of their friends isn’t a great one, but I don’t for a minute imagine it wouldn’t happen. I just don’t want to think about it or know about it! You couldn’t exactly say to each other ‘I want you only to ever picture me’ – it’s just not realistic is it?

          New technology has blurred the lines even further. In the past, it was clearer, because you had to make more of an effort to actually communicate with people. Nowadays it is so easy to text/email/IM someone, and the sense of detachment it gives you means you often say things you would never actually say face to face or on the phone, and it’s too easy to justify it, or discount it, and to end up crossing a line. Like all the celebs who are always getting caught texting.

          I suppose it just varies from person to person, what you feel is acceptable and what you feel comfortable about. Or at least what you are prepared to turn a blind eye to. Perhaps masturbation should be my next post :-)

          • Matarij
            15 December, 2010 / 7:28 pm

            This is interesting: the blog (thank you, some good points) and the comments are all based on the male version of sexuality being set in stone. For example, the comment ‘You couldn’t exactly say to each other ‘I want you only to ever picture me’ – it’s just not realistic is it?’ – why isn’t this realistic? When we examine why this isn’t realistic we then realise that everyone accepts the ‘man must wank/have sex model’ and therefore the ‘how do we fulfil this’ argument ensues. Let’s have a different discussion – there are men out there who dislike porn, and there are men out there who do only think of their partners – so there is a different model to had. But this model is dismissed by the mainstream modes of thought and undermined every day by the porn industry which offers us a travesty of what true intimacy should be. So, let’s try and change the conversation.

          • 15 December, 2010 / 7:40 pm

            Hmmm… interesting point. To be honest, when I made the ‘only ever picture me’ comment, I was thinking about it from both sides, not just men, so I wasn’t meaning to suggest an exclusively ‘men must wank’ model. I was thinking about men AND women – is it realistic to imagine that anyone at all would only ever even THINK about their partner throughout the course of the whole relationship??

        • Beth
          17 December, 2010 / 4:35 pm

          Maybe teenagers should be told this kind of stark statistic – “1 year of soft porn, 1 year of hardcore and 1 year of anal. No one can endure that kind of physical punishment for more than that.”

  8. CP
    15 December, 2010 / 2:06 pm

    It is aimed at men, and is far to easy to get hold of. It ended a previous relationship of mine. we weren’t at it as often as I would like. When I came home from running some errands for the selfish male in question, i caught him jacking off with a magazine. He thought he could make it better by telling me it was the story not the pictures that did it for him…..WTF??

  9. 15 December, 2010 / 3:03 pm

    Very good article. A few things if i can:

    1. Can we put it up on the website please?

    2. I have been looking for some advice for our website on the safe use of porn. Strikes me that it’s a bit like alcohol – good in context and moderation but potentially lethal. If you or anyone finds any good advice would love to know.

    3. Your friend who watches it, but gets caught up “in the plot” – well that had me laughing out loud!

    4. I share your concerns for teenage boys. “when I was a boy” and all that… but a second hand copy of Fiesta was considered rich pickings – now any boy worth his salt will be accessing God knows what on his ‘phone any time he wants. I guess the last 2 years or so will see a generation of boys (and girls) impacted in a way like no other generation before through simple access to vast quantities of material

    One of the best blogs I have read btw :)

    Well done.


    • 15 December, 2010 / 4:54 pm

      Hi Bob,

      My ‘lost in the plot’ friend IS funny. You should get him writing for you. Except I promised I would keep his identity top secret!

      You are very welcome to use it on the Only Dads site, so long as you include some sort of terribly flattering credit and link back here :-)

  10. Mr G.Thorpe
    15 December, 2010 / 3:28 pm

    Firstly, well done on a very interesting post! I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, but this has made me feel the need to comment…
    I am a man and I watch porn. Fact. I started when looking at it when I was around 14 in magazines and occasionally on the internet and I have looked at it (reasonably) often since, far less so now than before, but still on occasion.
    Firstly it is important to say that most men do not consider the realities behind what they are watching or indeed have any suspicions that as an industry, it has much of a dark side. I’m shocked by some of the statistics above and by the realities of jobs effect on the performers. This is probably somewhat of a de-sensitisation discussed above and the increasing perception of a porn as a normal, accepted part of life. I don’t disagree that it isn’t, whether or not that be for better or worse).
    I don’t believe however, that watching porn will skew a young man’s judgment on what sex is about or what a normal, healthy sexual relationship involves. It is a naivety portrayed to often that men are so easily influenced by societies apparent ideals on a woman’s appearance. We know that no women actually look like an air brushed Cheryl Cole or that every woman has a perfect body or maintains a perfect ‘landing strip’. We indulge in looking at pictures of idealistic women, in the same way that women do about men (Come on…Have you ever met a man that looks like a Calvin Klein model?) Perhaps I am being naive myself, but I certainly don’t think my perception of what an attractive woman looks like has been influenced by porn.
    Men who watch porn know what we are seeing isn’t real and isn’t what ‘normal’ people do and we don’t expect similar scenarios in our own sex life. When it comes down to it, men don’t watch porn to be entertained, there is usually an end goal in sight… and porn is, for whatever reason, arousing.
    I think I watched the C4 series mentioned, but I recall wondering if what they were doing is all that accurate. The boys seemed to be more being asked about their preferences in a woman’s appearance as opposed to what they perceive to be a reality. I think asking teenage boys about this sort of stuff the requirement of a lad-ish ‘Inbetweeners’ response takes over, along with the overwhelming dread of saying something misinformed. (At that age, the topic of sex is so awkward and embarrassing isn’t it?)
    I do agree with the point about how much porn has changed, especially in the last few years. It seems it is now commonplace for violence and abusive elements to even the most mainstream of porn and is far more extreme than the ‘norm’ in the years previously. This actually came up in conversation a few weeks back when a friend of mine asked, ‘ Where has all the normal porn gone?’
    An interesting opening line, but as open as you would expect in 1am, post-pub chat. I was actually pleased that I’m not the only one to have noticed. I think things may have reached a point where most men are shocked by what now seems acceptable, and that actually we really don’t enjoy some of things we see portrayed. I strongly disagree that any kind of abuse or violence is attractive, or that degrading treatment could ever be perceived as a turn on by anyone who doesn’t harbour an interest in domestic violence.
    Men want a loving and emotionally attached sex life as much as women, it is a vital part of any relationship. Even given the opportunity, most men would not want shag like they are making a porno. No way. The vast majority of us would be scared off by the thought, and most of the remainder just plain wouldn’t want to. The most important part of sex in a relationship for me will remain having an intimate and loving experience, and not something in any way based on attractive ideals.

  11. 15 December, 2010 / 3:48 pm

    Great piece, good info, sane analysis.

  12. 15 December, 2010 / 3:52 pm

    It’s amazing how a porn post triggers such interesting reactions!! Seriously though, I’m not a fan of it. would rather keep it for personal use, like under the table. Fascinating read.

    CJ xx

    • 15 December, 2010 / 4:25 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it. I was hoping to prompt a bit of discussion, and I’ve definitely done that!

  13. 15 December, 2010 / 4:08 pm

    Very interesting post Jo! I watch porn now and then and by that I really only mean the films of french director Marc Dorcel What can I say the actresses wear really classy lingerie and it is all very stylish! Like in anything there are various gradations in pornography – it is certainly true to say most pornography exploits women if they are coerced into starring in it. And also over the last decade women have become more and more brutalized in porn.
    When you say there is a difference between pornography and sex you are right in a way in that most people have sex with people they love and respect but I think some forms of porn are okay if you just treat it like ‘oh I’ll have the occasional McDonalds’ I think that’s what porn is like: fast food…doesn’t really satisfy but will do at a pinch!

    • 15 December, 2010 / 4:33 pm

      Get you and your classy porn in exotic European locations!

      I think when I said the porn/sex thing, I was thinking about the difference between being anti-porn and anti-sex. Because porn does often provoke strong reactions, and polarise opinion, it is really easy to judge people – ‘you watch porn therefore you are a misogynist’ – or ‘you hate porn therefore you are frigid’ – and obviously it isn’t like that. So I wanted to make that distinction, to emphasise that feeling uncomfortable about porn doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy sex.

  14. 15 December, 2010 / 8:21 pm

    Wow, one hell of an essay, Jo – I’m really pleased you wrote this and amazed that you’ve managed to pack in so many punches.

    Amongst my friends and I, porn is becoming more and more of an issue. The recent Gail Dines interview on Al Jazeera that I posted on WVON relating to her new book Pornland, really scared me, to be honest. Because what a lot of people think of when they think of porn is not what is out there, and it really isn’t what most young men are looking at, which as you point out is increasingly degrading, offensive and actually really dangerous to women, particularly given the impact of porn on young men’s sex lives.

    As Gail Dines said, the porn of 20 years ago is now in the mainstream, on our music videos and our dramas, and as Suit Supply showed us, in our advertising. The porn that has replaced it is much harder and reveals, I think, a huge backlash against the women’s movement that places women firmly as sexual objects.

    Thanks again!

    • 15 December, 2010 / 8:31 pm

      Thanks Sarah,

      I just read your Women’s Views On News Post actually and thought it was great. The video was brilliant – I linked to it on facebook – really interesting to hear her talking about all the same things I worry about.

      It is so true what she said about people being afraid to speak up against porn because of a fear of sounding like a prude or being accused of being anti-sex. That’s part of the problem isn’t it? We’re all led to believe it’s all fine and dandy and yet we’re all sat at home thinking ‘really? am I supposed to feel comfortable about this?’, but not wanting to say anything.

  15. 15 December, 2010 / 8:37 pm

    I was really disappointed at the response I got from the male and female friends I asked to sign the petition against the suit company’s advertising campaign. They thought I was over-reacting, said ‘lighten up’ and that it was simply generating more publicity for the company. More worrying still was my daughter’s reaction to page 3 girls. ‘It’s their choice’ she said, with little thought going into the matter. I hope she will understand the real issues as she gets older (she is 16) but the Internet has made things seemingly acceptable when they simply are not.

    This is a great piece Jo. It certainly raises lots of issues for debate.

    • 16 December, 2010 / 7:36 pm

      It’s worrying how little thought teenagers put into most things isn’t it?! I do think though that porn has become way more mainstream over recent years, and that promotes it as something acceptable, aspirational even.

  16. Lisbeth
    15 December, 2010 / 9:08 pm

    I read something in the Guardian a couple of years ago which had interviewed teenagers about their sex life. A common theme was that teenage girls were upset that their ‘dates’ often ejaculated in their faces without asking them if that was okay. It was seen as a normal ‘end’ to a sexual encounter. If young boys are learning about sex from the internet, they will see this sort of act as being part of the normal sexual spectrum. It isn’t. It’s just a good shot for a porn film.

    If only these porn films were focusing on the many and varied ways of bringing women to orgasm, I might not object so much. It’s the phallocentric obsession with endless penetration and ‘cum shots’ that is so depressing.

    • Lisbeth
      15 December, 2010 / 9:09 pm

      … and obviously that’s just the NICE porn. The hardcore porn is now largely just violence against women.

  17. 15 December, 2010 / 9:15 pm

    A great post Jo.
    As a parent I have already had to deal with the issues brought about by the availability (to under age children) of online porn and now six years on I am sure that it has got much worse.
    I discovered that someone who had been using the computer in my teenage sons bedroom had been surfing some pretty hardcore stuff. Doesn’t take a genius to work out who when the only other people in the house were toddlers. In his naivety he didn’t know about internet History and I watched over a period of a couple of weeks as his thirst for porn grew.
    It’s a difficult subject to broach – but I did and he denied the whole thing – obviously.
    I didnt tell him how I knew and his ‘interest’ went on unabated by our little talk.
    For my generation that first glimpse of a porn mag was like a rite of passage for many children.
    Pages hastily torn from older siblings or parents well stashed publications teamed with fact that you knew you could get found out added to the thrill and naughtiness of the naked form.
    But that was many years ago and now all our children have to do is switch on a computer or browse the internet on their phone or wifi device and everything and more is laid before them.
    There is no mystery or journey of discovery – isn’t that the best part of finding your own sexual self? Trial and error.. it worked for me…..

    But what is the answer?
    I don’t think that there is one. As parents all we can do is raise our children to understand the difference between right and wrong whilst instilling good moral values and the importance of respecting other peoples boundaries.

    I don’t think that my teenage son’s dalliance with hardcore porn has turned him into a monster – in fact he is kind and sensitive to the needs and wishes of others. But do I wish that I didn’t have the odd sneaky snoop at the text messages passing between him and his first girlfriend?

    Hell yes. If you aren’t willing to accept what you are reading – don’t do it.
    From the tone and language they used I was sure that they’d been having sex for months.
    Blow jobs, sucking, rubbing and what they were going to do to each other was the ongoing theme. They both could have easily forged out careers as sex chat line operatives and I really worried about how the reality of their teenage fumbles could ever match up to the nature of their texts.

    It turned out I was wrong – because he chose to tell me the morning after the night before, as I was overtaking a rather large truck on the M1. His timing was suspect but I was very thankful that he was honest with me.
    As technology advances the availability of porn to children is only going to intensify.

    • 16 December, 2010 / 7:32 pm

      Haha! I am just imagining your face Sian as you’re overtaking that truck! Nice timing. Your son certainly didn’t strike me as a monster, he was very sweet :-)

      You’re right though, as some other people have mentioned, that it does come back to parenting. We can’t protect them from everything, all we can do is hope that we have equipped them with the skills and the confidence to understand themselves, what’s ok and what isn’t, and how to treat other people with respect.

      Thanks for the comment x

  18. Hannah
    15 December, 2010 / 9:56 pm

    Hi Jo, I’m another writer for WVoN so came to your blog via the site.

    I’m really glad you wrote about this because porn is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately – not in THAT way, I should add – and it’s helpful to read other people’s opinions, especially ones that make me feel less stupid and prudish for holding my own.

    I found out by accident that my boyfriend watches porn (undeleted links in his downloads box when he clicked on it, ooops) a month or so ago, and have felt pretty unhappy about it since. Mostly, I felt embarrassed – I’d sent him links to things like the Anti-Porn Men’s Project because I assumed he tacitly shared my views on these things, because he’s said he’s a feminist, as any sensible, humane vaguely lefty man ought to be.

    I didn’t press him about it, but it felt like a betrayal. Not in the sense that you describe, of cheating on me with other women, but of not sharing one of my core values. I mentioned it on a messageboard I go on, and pretty much everyone told me to get over it because all men use porn. I thought that was a pretty stupid response.

    It’s not like I expect a boyfriend to share all my values – I can cope with him not being vegetarian, for instance – but this seemed like a much more fundamental breach of trust, making me question what he thought about me, what he thought about other women. Have any of you had the same problem?

    It seems too small an issue to split up with him over, but I’m still pretty annoyed about it, much more so because I feel like I would be at fault for mentioning it. So yeah, it’s nice to discuss these things in the open on blogs like yours.

    • EmilyP
      16 December, 2010 / 8:59 am

      Hi Hannah,

      I completely understand where you are coming from. A few years ago my husband of 15+ years told me that, while drunk at university, he went looking for prostitutes with an old mutual friend that he knew at the time. I was horrified. He may as well have told me that he went off looking for young children to screw. He brushed it off as a ‘we-were-young-and-drunk’ thing but I haven’t forgotten it. He’s always cared so passionately about feminism and women’s rights and this seemed completely out of character and fundamentally changed the way I saw him.

      I also know that he occasionally looks at porn, but it tends to be very mild. I guess if it was more ‘hardcore’ then I would be more worried.

      I think it is really hard when you spend your life with these very strongly-held beliefs and you think that you are both fighting from the same place – and then you start doubting that.

      Anyway, this is rather rambling but I just wanted to say that I completely understand your feelings about it.

    • 16 December, 2010 / 7:28 pm

      Thanks for commenting Hannah. I can totally see where you are coming from about the shared beliefs thing – I can imagine how foolish it would have made you feel. Not because you are foolish, but because of that whole thing of imagining a person to be one way, and then finding out something contradictory about them. It must have been really difficult.

      I’ve been amazed writing this and reading the comments just how many women DO have a problem with pornography but are afraid to say so at the risk of sounding like a prude. Feeling uncomfortable about porn isn’t saying we are all sexual killjoys or anything is it, so why is it such a difficult subject to talk about?

  19. Anna
    16 December, 2010 / 5:05 am

    “I am not some kind of bitter, prudish, uptight woman who ‘just needs a good seeing to’ and this isn’t a knee-jerk, feminist, anti-porn reflex”.

    Hi. I appreciate your post, but this last sentence was really unnnecessary. There is nothing ‘knee-jerk’ about the feminist analysis of the sex industry. It’s a theory based in solid research, evidence, facts and the lived experiences of women. Feminists have been saying precisely the kinds of things you’ve just said in your post for years. Also, please understand that many survivors of the sex industry become anti-porn and prostitution feminists themselves as a result of their experiences and as a means of surviving them. Don’t ever feel that you have to justify your feelings and convictions about this unethical and life destroying industry. You are on the side of right.

    • 16 December, 2010 / 7:24 pm

      You are absolutely right of course, I shouldn’t have felt the need to justify myself, and I certainly didn’t mean to imply that the feminist perspective on porn was a knee jerk reaction. In truth, that whole paragraph came from a comment from someone I know, who said to me ‘well, I would expect a feminist to be anti-porn’. Whether they meant it seriously or not, it really annoyed me, the way I felt I was being called a feminist as some kind of insult, as though any opinion I had would be a knee jerk one BECAUSE I proudly call myself a feminist.

  20. 16 December, 2010 / 8:31 am

    I have no problem watching people having sex. I have made my peace with the existence of porn even though I have issues with many of the various faces of it.
    When talking “porn” we bring in such a wide spectrum of genres, the definitions of which are subjective. I’m reminded of the famous quote by US Supreme Court Judge Potter Stewart when considering the definition of hard-core pornography – “I know it when I see it.”

    It is a fact of life that there is a market for pornography. Sadly, wherever there is a market for something, there will be exploitation (although I understand that this is exploitation of something quite primal). Is there a case, therefore, for “ethical” porn, or is that a contradiction in terms? Would it make it more palatable if we knew the participants were being paid well and had good health care provision?
    It is shameful that there should be exploitation in any industry and I guess porn is no different. When we watch porn, do we ask ourselves if the participants are being exploited? Or do we turn a blind eye to that, in the same way when we buy a cheap T-shirt?

    As for the effect on children, yes it worries me that internet savvy kids can access far more extreme content than I ever could as a teenager. But yet again, we need to view this in a bigger context, not just as a porn issue. Not every boy who watches hardcore sex acts will become a misogynistic monster. Anything viewed in all its rawness on the internet will be filtered by our own values and beliefs and it is up to us as parents to give our children those tools.

    There are attempts online to redress the balance and destroy any myths created by fantasy-driven porn. One such site is – take a look and see what you think.

  21. Rose
    16 December, 2010 / 1:04 pm

    “Boys and young men brought up on a diet of regular porn are surely going to have an unrealistic idea of what sex is really about, and exactly what’s normal in a loving relationship.”

    I’m not sure I buy this argument. It’s too close the the TV=violence idea. I ingest a steady diet of fantasy and sci-fi, but I don’t think my car is going to fly me to work or that dragons are hiding the in woods (sadly). I know there have been studies, but it’s not as simple as an “if, then” statement.

    Also, regarding when did the objectification of women become acceptable? The real question is when will it stop being acceptable. It’s always been the social norm. We’ve being trying to move away from it for decades, but I think we’ll self-destruct as a species before women are truly equal.

    After reading over the comments on the site, I think most people are concerned for the next generation for whom access to truly horrifying stuff is a mouse-click away. The missing piece is parents. Depravity has always been part of the human condition. We need to stop being afraid of the dark, though. The only thing for it, is to shine a light. Talk about it. And most of all, listen to each other.

    Your post was very well-written. Thank you.

    • 16 December, 2010 / 7:19 pm

      Thanks Rose – I totally agree with you about communication between parents and children being so important – see my response to Serena and Ruby…

      We are bringing up a generation who have been exposed to all kinds of things that we could never have even dreamed of 20 years ago, and a hyper-sexual culture is just one of these. New ways of communicating, mobile phones, MSN, social networking – it’s all in the mix, and it will be really interesting to see how all these things impact on the way this generation manage their lives and communicate with each other.

  22. Serena Brooke
    16 December, 2010 / 2:44 pm

    I don’t know where to start in expressing my hefty disagreement with your post.

    It seems to me you have used only such evidence as supports your viewpoint. I notice you interviewed only one woman who uses porn but her response just fitted in with your argument. Why not interview others who consume porn and don’t have qualms about it? Or did you speak to some, and then just not include their comments?

    You also seem to have ignored the well-known fact that female porn actors earn far more than the men. Up to ten times as much. Yes, it bothers me that acting in porn films is one of the few career options for women where they really can earn amazing money but that’s an economic argument rather than a moral one.

    Why the assumption that porn is about exploiting women for men’s benefit? Where does that leave us women who enjoy porn for our own benefit? And what about the female actresses who have set up their own feminist porn productions that depict sex from a woman’s viewpoint and are aimed at women consumers?

    There are so many other assumptions too – that women are not turned on by visual stimuli, that men will naturally come to expect that all sex should be like porn (incredibly insulting to men because it assumes they are too stupid to tell the difference between reality and fantasy), that women aren’t turned on by watching people shagging, that it automatically and obviously (your word) causes emotional and physical harm, that most women feel exploited, degraded, uncomfortable, objectified and sexualised whether they look at porn or not and they are being judged on their own sexual performance…

    Where are your sources of evidence beyond the handful of links you included? You could just have easily backed up all my points by further research because many studies into porn have produced directly opposite results to those you have cited. The most well known one is that the incidence of rape and sexual assault plunged dramatically in Denmark in the 1970s when they passed a law to make porn freely accessible in shops…

    What about disabled people who may have no other outlet for sexual release or expression than using porn?

    I’m a 52-year-old woman, with a normal job and a couple of kids, and I have been using porn for more than 30 years. It’s something I dip in and out of as and when – I don’t feel exploited or degraded. On the contrary I feel rather pleased that I can use porn when I don’t have a man around, or to share with a partner. In my experience men who have watched porn films tend to be better lovers because they have picked up info on how our bodies work!

    And as for the commenter that said women don’t make noise like that during sex – what tosh! Maybe none of HIS partners were noisy but I certainly am, and always have been – since even before I first looked at porn. Suggesting that women can’t be noisy during sex is patronising to say the least – or are we all supposed to lie back and think of England?

    I have really struggled with the tosh that litters your argument, and that posted by many of your commenters, only one or two of whom can see at least a bit of the flipside.

    • 16 December, 2010 / 5:45 pm

      I agree with much of what you say in terms of the article only reflecting the authors view and I also agree with much of what Jo initially posted about the pervasiveness of overtly sexual images in the mainstream media.

      The problem facing feminists and by extension society, is that the discussion of the sex industry and pornography positions people at opposites.
      Either for or against. Which isn’t helpful.
      Porn need not be exploitative or damaging, but it can be and I think feminism hasn’t evolved to reflect an evolving sex industry where people work consensually and with full empowerment.

      I think you raise an excellent point about porn as an expression of sexuality, yours as a viewer and for those that are involved in it.
      Unfortunately there is widespread mis-understanding of alternative sexualities and their expression.

      As parents we need to find a way to talk to young people about what is porn, relationships, sex, sexualities and representation of individuals in the media.
      Yet from the article and comments made, many people cannot even talk to their partner about this subject.

      And for the record I am a feminist, a mother and someone that isn’t particularly turned on by porn.

      • Serena Brooke
        16 December, 2010 / 6:46 pm

        I definitely agree, Ruby, that there is a pervasiveness of sexualised images in the media that didn’t exist even 10 years ago. It bothers me that shops sell Playboy t-shirts and accessories to pre-teens too. That is plainly wrong in so many ways.

        I do really object to the polarised arguments about porn though – that only men use it and all women are exploited by it, when that is clearly not the case at all. It also assumes that women can’t have (ie, are incapable of) or aren’t interested in wild sex rather than just “lovemaking” with a lifelong partner. Women’s sexuality is a lot more complex than is generally presented and indeed a lot of research has been done that suggests men and women are not so different after all when it comes to sexual expression – the problem lies more with how women are socialised (ie, nice girls don’t) and the skewed presentation of this in the media, books and academia.

        I take your point about communication – I noticed that it was only the last couple of comments above mine that mentioned the importance of parenting our children on this issue. I grew up in a home where my mother was embarrassed to explain what tampons were for, when I asked her at 10 (this was the late 60s) and was given no guidance on relationships or sex. Obviously that was pre the internet and the widespread availability of porn – I learned many things the hard way. I was determined my own kids would not be left to flounder like that and I’m proud they have grown up into two balanced adults who are capable of making the right choices about their sex lives and relationships. I find it sad too that people can’t discuss sexual issues with their partners – it’s the most intimate thing between two people so I struggle to understand that it can be good if they don’t talk about what they like or dislike and their expectations. Being open with each other always improves sex and relationships.

        • 16 December, 2010 / 7:08 pm

          I agree with you both about the role of the parents too. I have a 15 year old daughter, and I’m very aware of the importance of being open and honest with her, of talking, talking, talking to her about things (although she doesn’t always want to, which is fine too).

          This whole post came about partly because of a discussion I had with her, where she told me about a video she had watched with her friends on someone’s phone of a girl giving a man a blow job on her knees, gagging, while he laughed and pushed her head. When I was 15 those kind of images would have never been so available, and it really worries me that her friends are watching this and thinking that is what sex means. And that’s where it comes down to the parents, to be frank about what a healthy, enjoyable, exciting sex life is about, so that they have a context for porn, and feel comfortable about whatever they do and don’t do.

          • Serena Brooke
            16 December, 2010 / 7:26 pm

            “a girl giving a man a blow job on her knees, gagging”

            I agree images like that wouldn’t have been so readily available even a couple of years ago. But the fact is that plenty of women enjoy this kind of sex. I do. I know lots of other women who do, too. The fact is – this IS what sex means for those of us who enjoy adventurous sex, whether with a regular partner or strangers. How else can you explain the huge numbers of women readily swinging in clubs with their partner? I have a male friend who swings and he told me of a few occasions where he turned up and it was clear the woman was only going along with it to keep her man on-side, but that the vast majority of his encounters involved enthusiastic women who simply couldn’t get enough. They can’t all be coerced – swinging clubs without women who are into it would go out of business!

            Then there’s the fact that a lot of women happily make home sex videos and upload them onto the internet, which is awash with amateur porn sites. No one’s forcing those women or exploiting them – they are doing it from choice because they get a buzz out of it. Which rather kicks your argument into touch…

      • 16 December, 2010 / 7:00 pm

        Hi Ruby and Serena,

        Thank you both for posting. I’m really pleased to have some people arguing the other side, as I was actually quite surprised by the one-sidedness of the comments – perhaps though it goes to show ow strong the concern is amongst a lot of people about some of the issues I raised?

        You are quite right both of course that the post really only reflects my point of view, but that is the nature of a blog isn’t it? Obviously if I was writing an academic essay, or writing this for a newspaper or magazine I would be taking a much more balanced approach, but my blog IS about my personal point of view, it isn’t meant to be a straight, factual for and against, I’m not the BBC.

        I know pornography is a subject that tends to polarise people, which is why I thought it would make an interesting subject to write and talk about. I found it fascinating to talk to friends, both male and female, about their use of porn, and I certainly didn’t only include anecdotes from women who were anti, or only talk to people I knew DIDN’T use porn. In fact, I went to people I know where particularly open minded, wanting to get a broad range of opinions – I thought originally I might be in the minority. What surprised me was that none of my female friends felt comfortable about porn, and judging from the comments on here, there are a lot of women who feel uncomfortable about it, but who feel THEY are in the minority too, and don’t speak out about it.

        I don’t doubt that there are aspects of porn that aren’t exploitative, and that there are plenty of women who enjoy using porn, and it’s great that you do, but I don’t, and I personally believe that the large numbers of women who ARE exploited by the porn industry warrant my viewing the whole issue with a good deal of caution. I’m not saying either that all women are left completely cold by anything visual, of course that’s not the case, but I do know from the frank and honest discussions I’ve had with lots of men and women over the years that women TEND to find the visual aspect of sex less important, or less arousing.

        As a journalist, having a broad range of research is of course very important to me, but this isn’t the platform for an unbiased, fully referenced article. This is a personal blog, where I express my personal feelings, and I makes no excuses for that.

        I do like to have my thoughts and opinions challenged though, that’s why I write the blog, and I hope I’m open-minded enough to take other opinions and evidence on board and not just form and opinion and stick to it, it’s just that so far, weighing up everything I have read, everything I have heard, everything I feel – this is where I stand right now.

        I do have to agree with you on a noise thing though. I am pretty noisy. I wonder if he has just had really quiet lovers??

    • Lisbeth
      16 December, 2010 / 9:42 pm

      I was noisy until I had children…

      Sorry, but I don’t buy the argument that lots of women like ‘gagging’ giving blowjobs and this equals adventurous sex. Any casual search for porn will give you lots of disturbing images of women being put into violent situations and even clearly young children being forcibly assaulted. I’ve given up looking for porn on the internet because what I see is horrifying. The fact is that plenty of women and men are asking “Where’s all the NICE porn gone?” (see post above) and that trend towards violent/anal/forcible sex is not something that I find positive in any way.

      • Serena Brooke
        16 December, 2010 / 9:57 pm

        Well, thank you for calling me a liar and denying my sexuality.

        I’m not disagreeing with you that there is some disturbing porn out there in which it’s clear that some women have been coerced but please don’t conflate my liking for adventurous sex with child abuse.

        And why are you conflating anal sex with violent and forcible? I enjoy anal sex and it’s always consensual.

        Things like blow jobs and anal sex may not be to your taste, either in your bed or on your computer screen but please do not tell me I must be lying or abused because I’m neither.

        • Lisbeth
          16 December, 2010 / 10:01 pm

          “I don’t buy the argument that lots of women like ‘gagging’ giving blowjobs and this equals adventurous sex.”

          I’m not saying that YOU don’t like it. I’m saying that I don’t believe ‘lots of women’ like GAGGING GIVING BLOW JOBS. I’m sure that people do have retching fetishes, but I very much doubt it is widespread.

          Likewise the sort of ‘anal’ porn on the internet tend towards passing a horse’s head through one’s arse which frankly, I very much doubt is a common practice among the housewives of England.

          • Serena Brooke
            17 December, 2010 / 6:58 am

            If you doubt it’s widespread, on what are you basing your evidence?

            You can believe what you like – it doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Don’t forget Galileo was excommunicated for insisting the world was round when all about him the official line was that the earth is flat. I wouldn’t be so arrogant as to compare myself to Galileo but the analogy stands.

            You are the kind of absolutist who scares me – your view is so fixed and entrenched that you don’t even try to see anyone else’s viewpoint. You’ve already decided what you believe and what is right. People like you often end up in fundamentalist religious sects or run even dictatorships if given enough power, so that you can impose your own beliefs on everyone else and punish them if they dare to disagree.

            It’s because of women like you that I refuse to call myself a feminist – too many feminists are stuck in the same old arguments about porn and refuse to accept that women have a right to own their sexuality fully if it’s not a sexuality they approve of.

          • Lisbeth
            17 December, 2010 / 8:12 am

            It is your view that it’s fine to assert that lots of women LIKE violent sex (which I think it’s fair to say that gagging is?) that concerns me. It is also the conclusion that if lots of people like it, it’s fine to show it. I’m sure that lots of people like images of children engaging in sexual acts but we would surely accept that for the good of society, and for protecting people in general, these images should not be readily available?

            I find the assertion rather odd that I’m an ‘entrenched absolutist’ for believing that widespread images of women engaging in violent sex acts is A Bad Thing. Fortunately your thesis won’t be able to be tested because what with being a woman and all, I’m unlikely to be offered the power…

          • 17 December, 2010 / 8:01 am

            Lisbeth you are confusing two positions.
            Representations of sex and sexuality that don’t appeal to you and that you don’t understand and coercive and abusive pornography.

            I’m bowing out of this discussion now as it seems t

          • Lisbeth
            17 December, 2010 / 8:12 am

            Ruby: I haven’t made any claims about sex acts that might or might not appeal to me.

          • 19 December, 2010 / 8:57 pm

            I’d also be interested as to why you don’t believe that “lots” of women enjoy “violent” sex. I very much enjoy it and I use fetlife (similar to facebook but for people who are interested in things beyond missionary) and there are over 658,000 members, I would estimate about half are women. Those women all enjoy things that you would no doubt find distasteful and would not want to see on the internet, but they are just as entitled to their kinks as you are to not have any, if you don’t.
            Just because you don’t like it doesn’t make it wrong.

  23. 17 December, 2010 / 8:02 am

    Sorry, I was trying to say, bowing out as it seems to be getting personal.

  24. Serena Brooke
    17 December, 2010 / 9:15 am

    Lisbeth, where have I said I like violent sex? I don’t consider gagging to be violence, it’s just a bit rough. And nowhere have I said lots of women like violent sex. You are putting words into my mouth and I’m seriously angry and disturbed that you are once again conflating consensual adult sexual acts with child sexual exploitation and abuse. That is sick and irresponsible. You disgust me for that.

    • Lisbeth
      17 December, 2010 / 9:24 am

      Well you remarkably easily disgusted and disturbed by a random housewife on the internet who has all her clothes on

      No accounting for taste eh?

  25. Serena Brooke
    17 December, 2010 / 9:49 am

    I’m not easily disturbed or disgusted. And certainly not by “a random housewife on the internet who has all her clothes on” which is not what the discussion is about. And why should I care whether you are dressed or not? What does that have to do with this discussion?

    What does disgust me is the fact that ANYONE can conflate consensual adult sexual acts with child sexual exploitation and abuse. They are clearly two separate things and yet in your twisted version of events any woman who likes adventurous or unconventional sex must therefore be some kind of paedophile.

    • 17 December, 2010 / 10:01 am

      Serena, I think you are being unnecessarily defensive. At no point has Lisbeth accused you of being a liar and she certainly hasn’t said that any woman who likes adventurous sex must be some kind of paedophile, that’s a ridiculous accusation for you to make, and saying things like that, that clearly totally misquote and misrepresent what Lisbeth was trying to say only serves to undermine the rest of your argument.

      Your first comments were interesting, and provided a useful alternative perspective, but the fact that you have descended into what appears to be a personal attack really isn’t doing anything to support your case…

      I think the point that Lisbeth was trying to make is that for someone who is trying to present themselves as open-minded, you are being decidely hostile to other people’s opinions, and seem to have taken considerable offence at Lisbeth’s quite reasonable comments.

      • 19 December, 2010 / 9:00 pm

        I can see where you’re coming from Jo but I was highly offended by Lisbeth’s comment too. To say “I’m sure that lots of people like images of children engaging in sexual acts but we would surely accept that for the good of society, and for protecting people in general, these images should not be readily available?” is a direct comparison between non-vanilla sexual acts and paedophilia. There was no need to compare the two, they are in no way similar.

        • Lisbeth
          19 December, 2010 / 9:23 pm

          “There was no need to compare the two, they are in no way similar.”

          I completely disagree. Lots of under 16 year-olds are capable of having consensual sex with each other. But we accept that it’s not the best thing to have such images freely available.

          I would also state that it’s not the best thing to have images of men abusing women freely available (whether that abuse is consensual or not), or women with obvious signs of abuse freely available. Both are bad for society in my opinion, for different reasons.

          Can I also say that this talk of “vanilla and non-vanilla sex” and “missionary and other” sex is just offensive to women? There is not ‘boring sex’ and ‘proper exciting sex’ which is what this sort of language implies. You are also making assumptions about what other women, including myself, do in bed. I am not about to nail my flag on the mast for the sake of argument. We aren’t discussing what I like, we are discussing what is right and what is perhaps not right.

          • 19 December, 2010 / 9:37 pm

            Kink is not illegal!

            I do not believe it to be abuse if it is consensual and viewing images of abused or “abused” women is no more likely to make someone commit violence on that woman than playing Mario is to make you try to jump down a drainpipe (I believe there is a video that makes a similar statement on youtube.)

            I use “vanilla” purely to avoid having to type out “anything that isn’t considered kinky to you personally” every time. It is not a matter of which is “boring” and which is “exciting” but a matter of description.

          • Signs
            19 December, 2010 / 9:43 pm

            “I would also state that it’s not the best thing to have images of men abusing women freely available (whether that abuse is consensual or not), or women with obvious signs of abuse freely available. Both are bad for society in my opinion, for different reasons.”

            You seem to be a bit one sided… Is it ok for for Women to dominate men?

            I think you might need to take a more open minded look at what sexuality means to others before judging them. As for children I took the approach of being open and honest with mine about sex and porn and they seem to have become fine well adjusted adults. I find it odd how my fellow Americans rail against sex being shown of any sort for “The children’s sake” Yet horrible violence permeates their everyday lives.

            I also continue to be astounded that all of the worlds ills can be laid at my doorstep because I was born with a penis

  26. Serena Brooke
    17 December, 2010 / 10:32 am

    Right, I obviously imagined all that then. Oh wait – Ruby thought she was conflating issues too….

  27. 17 December, 2010 / 10:48 am

    It doesn’t matter what kind of sex anyone likes as long as it is legal, consensual and safe.
    It shouldn’t matter what kind of porn anyone wants to watch or not watch as long as it is legal consensual and safe.

    The problem is that not everyone understands sexualities alternative to their own. Gay, lesbian, transgendered, bondage, furries (people that have sex dressed up as animals!), role play, people that like pain and blood play, people that like to be dressed as a baby, people that like to play out incest scenarios, people that like to do it in missionary position with the lights out the list is as varied and unending as humanity.

    What Lisbeth fails to convey is whether or not she understands that because she sees an image of a person tied up and being whipped (or whatever she has seen) that there is the possibility that that person was fully consenting in the seeming “violence”.

    And that is a part of the problem with the ease of distribution of images. They can so easily be seen out of context and so often misunderstood.

    I understand that, there are images that I find “disturbing” even though I know that the people in them are acting with full consent.

    So how do we manage to discuss with each other and our children such a complex subject. How do we tell the abusive from the consensual?
    I don’t have any answers.

    And Lisbeth if you cant find the “nice porn” perhaps you need to change your search terms ;)

  28. ne
    18 December, 2010 / 12:55 pm

    Well, well, well…

    First off fabulous post Jo… best yet BUT

    Sorry I am going to have to say Serena has a point.

    I too dip into porn (so to speak) and have done all my adult life. I never pay for it because quite frankly I don’t need to watch that much! I too like the storyline and usually spent more time looking for something that doesn’t contain anal, multiple partners & penetration, cum shots, etc than I due actually persuing the porn itself! I have issues with the level of violence and abuse in porn and is part of the reason I dip out more than in to be honest.

    Many moons ago I met an ex porn star through an ex – she said the industry in the UK was becoming more american and thus more violent hence why she got out, but she hadn’t really because she was running an escort agency!! I can’t think of anything more degrading than giving men the means to act out their fantasies in the flesh… atleast the camera offers some resemblance of protection from the very sick people that are in society. And when you are an escort your employer is merely introducing you not accepting payment for sex so there is no protection from them… she told she has a list of men who are blacklisted – some because of what they had done to her ‘girls’ but some from fellow escort agencies but she admitted it was far from foolproof.

    I think porn fuels this belief in SOME men that certain sexual acts are ‘normal’ – you only need to visit sites like ‘beNaughty’ once to know that but their are plenty of women on there that want to be on there too and want that sort of sex!

    I have a female friend who is very sexually… well liberal I suppose… Lisbeth she is the woman you don’t think exsists but really does. She loves nothing more than gagging on cock or having someone cum on her face and thats just for starters… and I fascinated her… I was sexually frigid in comparison. Lisbeth your reply to Serena reminded me of her view of my sex life although being polar opposites she could not believe people like me were real… ‘What!? You just want to go to bed and have sex???!!’ ‘You DON’T like cum on your face!?!’… I remember saying ‘I have done it in a car once’ and I thought she was going to piss herself laughing!

    At first I thought she was all talk, then I thought she was depraved and then I realised that actually she just liked that sort of sex, normally surrounded herself in like-minded people and thus wasn’t used to meeting someone who didn’t have a similar view! We came to point of mutual understanding where I accepted that she liked double penertration and she accepted that I liked missionary position. A meeting of minds you might say.

    I think that the problem is that we don’t truely accept that their is any normal other than our own because if did accept that then our normal would no long be normal but just an individual preference! As a society we like to think we are doing ‘the right thing’ and what everyone else is doing but my god there is a lot of ‘normal’ out there and that is what has sparked this debate… it’s all normal if it’s consenual and legal but that gives leaves a lot of scope.
    Oh and a word about legal… anal sex is still illegal between men and women but many hetrosexual couples partake in it as part of their ‘normal’ sex life… I know from the gasp around my college room from a the mature students when that was revealed in a lecture! LOL

    The problems with sex is that money gets involved and when THAT happens it stops being something safe and loving regardless of the consent and legalities. The porn industry is HUGE – sex makes money and the porn industry are just finding new ways to get money of those who partake, a bit like coca cola bringing out new varieties… only a few will like Cherry Coke but it still makes them more money than if they just catered for the Diet Coke drinkers and no one will talk about the diet coke because thats ‘normal’…

    I do worry about children being exposed to porn but then when a family show like X-Factor can peddle out what they did last week then I think internet porn is the least of our worries… The porn industry are not telling Primark to stock push up bras for 8 year old but then Primark wouldn’t stock them IF PEOPLE DIDN’T BUY THEM!! And as a society we tut at primark stocking bras but protest loudly about schools teaching sex ed and giving out condoms… COMPLETE MADNESS.

    Anyway box away and rant over!

    • Lisbeth
      22 December, 2010 / 8:29 pm

      “I have a female friend who is very sexually… well liberal I suppose… Lisbeth she is the woman you don’t think exsists but really does… she could not believe people like me were real… ‘What!? You just want to go to bed and have sex???!!’ ‘You DON’T like cum on your face!?!’… I remember saying ‘I have done it in a car once’ and I thought she was going to piss herself laughing!”

      Sorry, but your friend sounds bonkers. Most people have sex in a bed for wholly practical reasons and if she hasn’t figured that our she is a bit dim. Beds are nice and comfy and you won’t slip a disc or get nasty carpet burns or inadvertently slip on the toaster. Beds are the ideal venue for jiggery-pokery. Most people don’t like ‘cum’ on their faces because it stings like feckity in your eyes and requires hair washing afterwards, and because it offers the laydee no stimulation whatsoever, unless she has a cumming-in-my-face fetish of course. If your friend thinks this is all terrible unusual then she is completely out of touch with normal life, or perhaps lives in some sort of secure unit.

      FWIW, I once rented a flat with a 9-foot bed because I was in a relationship with two other people at the time. I was once pursued by the News of the World for six weeks for my involvement in a sex scandal with an upright member (no pun intended) of the upper classes. I once applied to work for an escort agency. I was once thrown out of a fetish club for dressing in a way to provoke paedophiles. I’ve even pissed on a vicar (at his request I should say, it wasn’t just an unfortunate incontinent disaster in the confessional).

      I hope this establishes my liberal credentials somewhat. I’d hate to think that because I think that violent pornography is morally dubious that I’m giving the impression that I spend my days baking muffins and only raise my wincyette nightie to my husband on birthdays and Christmas.

      The fact is that women are not as powerful as men in society, and I think that is a rotten evil that destroys both men and women and corrupts society at its heart. Women are beaten and abused every day, because they CAN be. I believe that violent pornography encourages this and encourages the sort of fantasies that lots of women – who are not as ‘strong’ as others – are destroyed by. For these reasons I think that encouraging violent pornography and pornography that degrades women is wrong.

      I also think that illegal drugs are evil and should be banned – despite the fact that I spent most of my twenties snorting coke and no doubt Persil non-bio off the erect cocks of the men that sold it to me (not as easy as it sounds).

      Best wishes, Lisbeth

      • ne
        23 December, 2010 / 1:44 am

        I didn’t think for a moment that you weren’t libral but I do think that you too are guilty of what she is…

        Everyone’s sex life is abnormal except your own.

        And someone’s normal sexual CHOICE is ok aslong as it’s exactly that… ‘Choice’ and thats what sets it apart from pornography, abuse and degrading sexual acts.

        You are quite happy to declare my friend as ‘out of touch with reality’ but then go on to boast about sexual conquests that, to me, are way beyond my sexual experiences and yet I have no issue what so ever that you have done those things…. only that you pull them out of the proverbial bag in order to prove some bizarre point that you know what you are talking about when it comes to porn.

        I have issues with violent pornography too and escorting and prostitution but I don’t think it relates to peoples consentual choices in sex one little bit.

        Rape and sexual abuse perhaps but if we took away all the violent porn would rape and abuse still exsist? I think that it would.

        But then as someone who is most asexual having not been in a relationship for 7+ years and having never pissed on a vicar I am probably not in position to comment.

        Infact I am so unliberal that I have never taken drugs either… does that mean I don’t really understand the issues surrounding it?

        People rely on experiences from their own little world all the time but no matter how many cocks you snorted coke off it’s actually a very narrow view of the world that you have… yes narrow and opinionated – just like mine, and everyone elses…. no wonder society is so screwed!

        • Lisbeth
          23 December, 2010 / 8:29 am

          I’m not pulling things out of a bag for any reason other than I’m annoyed at the constant assumption that because I have (to put it mildly) reservations about violent porn that I like ‘vanilla’ sex in the missionary position and ‘don’t think’ other types of women exist. I don’t understand why you assume that I think that everyone else’s sex life is abnormal? All of these assumptions are coming from the fact that I don’t like violent pornography and I think it’s prevalence is harmful to society. Therefore it is assumed that I am certain type of lady…

          I think the original point of this point was that it MUST be okay to question this stuff and we should be able to question it without people assuming that we are just naive/frigid. How did violent pornography get so normalised that we don’t raise an eyebrow at scenes of forced sex or that a teenage girl is sent videoes of forced sex by her mates. Actually, I don’t WANT to accept that as normal. I think it’s a massive step backwards for women. Why does that make me naive or frigid or narrow-minded?

  29. 20 December, 2010 / 8:21 pm

    What a fascinating post, Jo! I’ve had quite a bit to do with this – no, not as an ‘actor’ nor even a consumer… allow me to explain.

    I taught sex education at an all-boys school for fifteen years. There, that says it all. Now, Sex Ed (contrary to what the Daily Mail thinks) is actually about much more than plumbing, contraception and pregnancy. It’s officially called SRE – Sex and Relationships Education – rightly, in my view, as I don’t think you can separate the two. Sure, you can have a ‘quickie’ in an alley with a stranger, but…

    No, really! Forgive me banging on about this, but with another person – preferably one you know a bit about, share interests with and hell, like – is about as good as sex gets. It’s about two human beings communicating at a deep and almost spiritual level. (No, I’ve not been talking to Sting.)

    But with porn, you don’t get people. Therefore you don’t get real sex. Simple as.

    But try telling that to teenage boys. I did. For fifteen years.

    Interestingly, Jonathan Ross speaks most eloquently on this subject. And rather surprisingly.

    Maybe he’d do a guest post?

  30. 20 December, 2010 / 11:59 pm

    Just catching up on some posts and had to comment on this. A really thought-provoking post, Jo. Especially for me who has a 17 year old son. Thanks for writing this. I think the amount of comments you have received speaks volumes too. Some interesting points of view too.

  31. 22 December, 2010 / 11:37 am

    Thank you to everyone who has read and commented on this post, it’s been really interesting to read everyone’s opinions.

    I don’t want to bang on about it and get dull, but there has been one thing that has struck me, that I think it is worth commenting on, and then I will shut up, I promise!

    Basically, it is to do with the distinction between sex and porn. There have been a lot of comments from people who seem to think that Lisbeth and I fall into the ‘I don’t like it and therefore it is wrong’ camp.

    This is not true.

    Other than saying that I’m not particularly turned on by porn, I have made no reference to my own sexual preferences, or what I like and don’t like to do in private. So why have some people made that leap and assumed that not looking at pornographic images of people performing certain acts means I wouldn’t do them myself in private??

    It may sound pedantic, but to me this is one of the key things I was driving at, and that seems to have been missed by a lot of people. Anti-porn DOES NOT equal anti-sex. Not liking porn does not make me sexually ‘boring’ or unadventurous or prudish in my private life, but the fact that so many people have jumped on this idea seems to prove what I’ve been thinking – that there are actually a lot of people who don’t like porn, but who are scared to say so because of the fear of being labelled or judged as all these things.

    Also, the assumption that being anti-porn means I deny or disapprove of anything other people do in private is wrong.

    Basically, I believe the porn industry generally has a negative effect on women, economically, physically and emotionally and I therefore don’t want to be a part of it. Yes there may be exceptions, and yes there are of course all kinds of industries that exploit people, which is why I do other things like boycott Nestle.

  32. 14 March, 2012 / 10:10 am

    I realise I am digressing here but as (I assume) most posters here are women can I ask a question? Women that shave “down below” …. Why? Is it for your own reasons, or do you believe that men prefer it or what? I just don’t get why. I certainly wouldn’t shave round my genitals.

  33. 14 September, 2012 / 8:05 am

    Great piece and yes, sex and pornography are very different, I agree!
    I once wrote a song called: “I am not anti-sex, I am anti-pornographyyyyyyyyyy”.

    • 14 September, 2012 / 9:41 am

      Haha! It sounds great, although I’m not sure I’m imagining the melody very well in my head – it wails a bit in my head :-)

  34. 9 May, 2015 / 12:11 pm

    Such a great post. It’s something (another thing!) that I have strong thoughts on, but I’m just too nervous to write about it on my own blog. Even the comments here I’m half reading through closed fingers, because I find some people’s thoughts on it so distressing.

    We were not made for modern porn. People will argue that ‘it’s been around since cavemen’ etc, but there’s a vast difference between an erotic cave painting and seeing 75 different labias before you even get out of bed in the morning. The stuff that just a generation ago was confined to mail-order catalogues and seedy sex shops is now mainstream and easily accessible – 2 girls 1 cup if the perfect example. Good, family-minded men (and women, but certainly this is more of an issue for men) are now watching women be brutalised, anally fisted, electrocuted and humiliated, while their kids sleep in the next room. People are getting hooked on the brain-chemicals this stuff induces, and lives, careers and relationships are being eroded and destroyed. Young girls are presenting in ever-increasing numbers at their family GPs suffering from anal incontinence after being pushed into fitting the ‘new normal’ for fumbling teenage sex.

    I feel like we’re sitting on the new ‘global warming’ here – right now you’re a crackpot and a hippie if you’re anti porn – it’s natural, it’s healthy, dontchaknow? (Why this insistance that men ‘need’ a certain amount of orgasmic activity to be healthy?! It’s so demeaning, to suggest they’re little more than dogs who must hump a table leg if deprived of a daily wank). In another decade I feel sure there will be many more voices talking from bitter experience, but there’s just so much money and big business tied up in the industry now that it seems impossible we’ll ever get this runaway train to stop :(

  35. 12 July, 2018 / 2:24 pm

    A very interesting and thought provoking article and I totally get a lot of the points , I don’t know if it’s my age upbringing outlook on life or what but I personally can live without porn , being a bloke I have out of curiosity and boredom had a look , but I’d much rather be doing it than
    watching it , and I’m a bit straightlaced I won’t do anything involving pain from
    Either side and it seems like the little I have seen most woman suffer for a guy’s pleasure , to me if a woman is not enjoying it it’s a turnoff so most porn is a no no . I do love the naked female figure , I think it’s one of the natural wonders of the world and a thing (sorry couldn’t think of a better word and object seems wrong ) of beauty , a work of art , and experiencing in real life with another conscenting adult is much more of a turn on than watching two strangers doing it , and personally I don’t like seeing the sight of another man’s appendage

    • Jo Middleton
      13 July, 2018 / 12:36 pm

      I definitely don’t think not wanting to involve pain makes you straightlaced! I’d hope that that would just be normal, which is why porn worries me as I don’t think it is in that context. I love the idea of a woman’s body being a natural wonder of the world :-D

      • 15 July, 2018 / 8:42 am

        Women are fantastic on many levels, you create life , the guy has the easy part in planting the seed (horrible expression but it covers the point) but women grow that seed into a human being. The female form has always appealed to me on aesthetic level as well as a sexual level , for want of a better word it’s designed better (to me anyway) and to quote Kryten from Red Dwarf it has in and out bits , the Male form to me has bits that hang down and get in the way I have known women who disagree but also known some that do

  36. 17 July, 2018 / 6:53 am

    Brilliant and thought provoking post! I love a bit of porn. I can see a while other side to the debate in that sometimes you may want something that you cant get from your partner. If you are able to get that visually then thats great. The whole exploitation thing does worry me but a bit like buying cheap clothes and knowing they were probably made by a underpaid youth in a foreign land its easy to not think about (I dont mean that its right I am just trying to contextualise how it can be justified by people.) Great research I found all the comments on your post insightful too. I’ve been writing a piece on porn and especially women in the industry for a while and this piece has been useful!
    Pam xx

  37. Kasper
    29 September, 2018 / 7:02 pm

    I was linked here from another of your articles – have you seen the netflix documentaries “Hot Girls Wanted” and “Hot Girls Wanted: Turned on”? They’re about the porn industries and they’re fantastic

    • Jo Middleton
      2 October, 2018 / 11:01 am

      No I haven’t but I just looked them up and they sound really interesting.

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