Porn and Consent

Image via Frerieke on flickr.

Image via Frerieke on flickr.

I know porn is a controversial topic. But instead of getting caught up in should porn exist?, I’d like to take on porn as a cultural influence on sexuality.

Given the inevitable existence of porn, I try to promote positive messages of sexuality, safe sex and consent that exist in some films. We have rights as viewers to demand good porn supporting the ideals of sex-positivity and consent.

The bulk of porn that exists now doesn’t align with feminism. I want my porn not only to be hot, but to do this while working from a background and through a lens that I can appreciate and support. So instead of condemning porn, I venture to say that we should condemn bad porn.

What is bad porn? Porn that doesn’t recognize women’s pleasure as important, porn that is homophobic, porn that supports rape culture, and/or porn that doesn’t show respect for desire or personal boundaries as important.

Dylan Ryan, queer porn actor and activist, views consent as an important aspect of her work. In an interview with Pop My Cherry, she explained:

I think that ethical porn is porn where all the people involved are there and operating of their own volition, free from coercion or force…everyone involved is not only acting on personal agency but actually wants to be there.  I find it refreshing when the scene I am watching operates in a way where the performer’s desire comes across, their interest, their enjoyment about what they are doing.  I think that a major tenant of foundational ethics is the concept of force, that something is “unethical” if it is being done to someone against their will, being done without their consent and consideration.

Ryan exhibits immeasurable self-respect and awareness of sexual boundaries as an essential factor in anything she creates. She is confident of her own limits and works to uphold her values in all the work she produces. As a result, her films are made with respect for the actors, and they become something a viewer can enjoy without the concern that individuals rights and values were compromised in the process.

Because there is porn being made unethically, it is important to support filmmakers who allow for safe work conditions, promote safer sex practices, and show consent as an important part of sexual experiences. I’d like to commend those filmmakers for creating work that is not only artful and promoting pleasure, but also comes from a politically aware place. These filmmakers are making the genre of porn a place where sex-positivity and individual boundaries can be respected.

(Also, a recent post on feministe on Feminist Porn put out a nice list of porn for your enjoyment, but if you need more suggestions feel free to hit me up in the comments!)

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4 Comments on “Porn and Consent”

  1. 1 Heidi Anderson said at 11:35 am on October 7th, 2010:

    I also created a pretty big list of sex positive sites this past summer, along with an exploration of what sex positive means.

    http://fatoneinthemiddle.com/2010/08/10/what-the-hell-does-sex-positive-mean/

  2. 2 Arttemia Arktos said at 1:49 pm on October 7th, 2010:

    Pornography is prostitution. Prostitution is sexual exploitation of human beings. They buy up the bodies of people to have sex. Exploitation is not good. There is no good porn. Pornography sells the sexuality of human beings. Pornography is profit. Porn is business. Human sexuality should not be treated as trade, profit or business.

    Believing in the possibility of a good porno, does not deprive the reality that people are selling themselves for sex. These are people that have sex for money and obligation and not legitimate desire.

    Defending Pornography is defending the right of businessmen to explore human sexuality for profit. It is believed that women are a commodity. It is a pact with the millions of women and children who suffer from human trafficking and are forced to prostitution and pornography.

    I understand that those working with it, they want their rights, but I always remember those studies that say that people engage in the sex industry as workers were abused in childhood or adolescence, most at least.

    I would like to live in a world without prostitution and pornography. And do not believe that pornography, as whatever is done can be good. Pornography is standardization and bureaucratization of sex. I do not know why I give my support to this.

  3. 3 Ashley Lebesco said at 10:35 am on October 8th, 2010:

    Great piece! Not enough people talk about porn having the potential to be positive for female sexuality!

  4. 4 Lauren said at 2:28 am on October 12th, 2010:

    Hi Arttemia,

    Thanks for your comments.

    I agree with you that exploitation of an individual’s sexuality is a negative thing. But, I believe that the type of exploitation you discuss results from porn that is made with a lack of consent by the actors. This is why I instead support the films that do not rely upon the non-consensual exploitation of the actors involved.

    Rather than condemning all sex workers as you seem to be doing, I instead value this as a legitimate choice and a way of taking ownership of one’s own sexuality and body. In proclaiming, “Pornography is prostitution. Prostitution is sexual exploitation of human beings” you are delegitimizing the choices of the actors in these films who take direct ownership of their bodies through their work.

    Sex educator Violet Blue has a pro-porn community website called Our Porn, Ourselves (http://ourpornourselves.org) which is a really useful resource for understanding my standpoint on this issue. And Sex Work Awareness (http://www.sexworkawareness.org) is also a good place to start in understanding sex work as a empowering, feminist decision.

    -Lauren


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