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Is it possible to create ethical heterosexual porn?
September 20, 2012 2:25 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible to create ethical heterosexual porn fiction? Still explicit, titillating and even shocking, but without propagating damaging or dangerous ideas about either female or male sexuality.
posted by deeper red to Writing & Language (20 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: This is chatfilter without significantly more "what do you mean by your definitions" discussion. Please ask this question again with more information about what you are specifically seeking. Thank you. -- jessamyn

 
Maybe stuff involving supernatural, extraterrestrial, or otherwise alien characters who are too distant from being human for such issues to attach?

And of course, you could write anything for your own consumption and if you don't pass it on to anyone else you won't be propagating anything... just wallowing in the profane filth that is your own soul! (Kidding, naturally.)
posted by XMLicious at 2:57 AM on September 20, 2012


....Well, think about it -- is it possible for you to have ethical, titillating and even shocking heterosexual sex? Yes? Then if you wrote about that, that'd be ethical, titillating, and shocking porn.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:08 AM on September 20, 2012 [12 favorites]


This is a very slippery slope. Your definition of what's "damaging or dangerous" may well be very different than mine. I ran a porn site for women for many years and I considered all of the stories we published, 90% of which were written by women, to be ethical. Despite this, the site included categories you would probably consider to be "dangerous." I do not.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:34 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


DarlingBri, defining terms is definitely central to this but somewhat intractable and perhaps simply best avoided if we don't want to get stuck. Somebody somewhere will find anything anybody writes offensive.

But you raise perhaps the most interesting point -- the originator of the story matters, even though it shouldn't.
posted by deeper red at 4:42 AM on September 20, 2012


I've read plenty of ethical heterosexual porn, including vanilla female-led sex scenes about monogamous married couples with enthusiastic consent which should meet a very narrow definition.

I have some friends who do nude photographs for work, and one of them who is very articulate and ethical has talked about how she considers the photographer she works with and what the purpose of the shots are. Some of her shots are intensely erotic, and I would consider them definitely ethically produced.

Filmed pornography is more complicated because there are so many people involved. I think that queasiness might be why "art house" films with lots of sex scenes are somehow more ethical because they feel less exploitative.

With a written text, you only have one person - the author - to consider. The more people you have involved in creating an erotic work, the more ethical challenges you will run up against.
posted by viggorlijah at 4:47 AM on September 20, 2012


ethical heterosexual porn

The problem is that none of these three words can be universally defined. Your version of even something as seemingly obvious as "heterosexual" is not everyone's. With that in mind, yes, it is possible to create this thing, but it won't be ethical, heterosexual and pornographic to everyone, or even everyone that you want it to be those things to.
posted by Etrigan at 4:50 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


As others have said, "ethical" and "porn" are two words that are rarely paired together. The very fact that porn exists is considered to be unethical and damaging to some people. Not me, I'm pro porn, but lot of people aren't.

However, I think it is absolutely possible to writesomething that porn-reading folk could consider non-damaging ethical hetero porn. As EmpressCallipygos said, we can physically have sex that follows that criteria, so just write about that. It would need to be between two consenting of-age adults, in a safe environment, where the sex is about mutual pleasure and mutual sexual gratification and not about power or control.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 4:57 AM on September 20, 2012


It would need to be between two consenting of-age adults, in a safe environment, where the sex is about mutual pleasure and mutual sexual gratification and not about power or control.

See, we already have a problem here. For a sizeable percentage of people, power exchange is mutually pleasurable and mutually gratifying. The argument about whether BDSM is inherently anti-feminist / degrading / unethical / damaging is very, very evolved at this point.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:05 AM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Could an author caveat at the beginning assuage ethical concerns?

Something like a reminder that the book is just fiction and fantasy? That the characters' sexual responses and actions in the story are fictional and don't necessarily reflect real life?
posted by deeper red at 5:09 AM on September 20, 2012


All of your porn should be proceded with the participants giving clear consent and it being made clear that everyone is of age and there are no impediments to consent.

After that, everything goes. Everything consented to is okay.

Seriously, there is no porn out there that someone, somewhere won't find objectionable for one reason or another. For many, the porn existing is objectionable enough without even focusing on the details of the content. Others have hang-ups that won't allow them to enjoy it. I can imagine people objecting to a consensual scene involving play that appears non-consensual. But the bystander's objection does not make it unethical. Only a participant's objection would.

I don't think there's anything inherently damaging or dangerous in writing about what consenting people like. There's a spectrum of what turns people on from the pedestrian to the exotic. Celebrate it.
posted by inturnaround at 5:15 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Our memories are short; this was effectively accomplished in earlier centuries through allegory, prose, and poetry. And, both men and women got off every well.
posted by Kruger5 at 5:19 AM on September 20, 2012


All of your porn should be proceded with the participants giving clear consent and it being made clear that everyone is of age and there are no impediments to consent.

Note the question. I'm talking specifically about written porn. Again, opening this up to a debate about ALL of porn would lead us down various endless avenues.

Our memories are short; this was effectively accomplished in earlier centuries through allegory, prose, and poetry. And, both men and women got off every well

Mine isn't that short, and I'm fully aware of the tradition from Petronius through John Cleland and on to The Story of O. Just because people got off on it doesn't mean it was accepted at the time. Indeed, Cleland got into serious trouble, although that might have been for passages added to his book that he didn't actually write.

(FWIW I would consider Fanny Hill to be a terrible novel that implied a whole series of untruths about sexuality, the chief one being that every male protagonist ejaculates twice in each scene. Imagine reading that as a virgin in a time before sex wasn't even mentioned, and thinking that you're expected to come twice every time you have sex!)
posted by deeper red at 5:27 AM on September 20, 2012


See, we already have a problem here. For a sizeable percentage of people, power exchange is mutually pleasurable and mutually gratifying. The argument about whether BDSM is inherently anti-feminist / degrading / unethical / damaging is very, very evolved at this point.

I actually agree with you that power exchange/BDSM isn't at all inherantly bad or anti-feminist or unethical, and its inclusion in the porn shouldn't represent a coin flip from "okay" to "not okay". However, if we acknowledge that the goal cannot be to make the porn ethically sound and undamaging to ALL PEOPLE (since that is impossible), then the goal maybe is instead to have it take a form that to most people would be acceptable and non-damaging. I have no problem with BDSM, believe me, but I know that there is a very large, perhaps majoritive, portion of people that DO find power exchange during sex to be damaging or degrading or somehow unacceptable, so its inclusion would negatively impact the goal of having porn that was acceptable to as many people as possible.

Again, I have zero issue with BDSM, I'm no stranger to it. I just know that I'm mostly likely in the minority.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 5:27 AM on September 20, 2012


I think there are things about the question I'm not understanding -- firstly, you specify "written porn". Do you perhaps mean erotica? Or do you differentiate between "erotica" and "written porn," and if so, what do you mean by "written porn"?

Also, what do you mean by "ethical"? Are you referring to the content of the work itself, or the intent of the author, or the reaction of the reader?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:32 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think porn (at least at present moment) is almost by definition subversive, in that it brings to light what would otherwise be the personal imagined fantasies of its creator.

Worrying too much about any possible *groan* trigger will probably lead to some very boring porn, where people just sit and talk about their boundaries.

Not every avenue need be policed for potentially outside-the-comfort-zone topics. Indeed, I believe our erotic imaginations are one of the few places such transgressions are 'safe'.

If you're super worried about accidently crossing any line for anyone, perhaps narrow the focus of your audience to those not predisposed to triggers in your particular area?
posted by softlord at 5:44 AM on September 20, 2012


Something like a reminder that the book is just fiction and fantasy?

If people find it offensive then people are going to find it offensive with or without the disclaimer. I think part of the reason why people find erotic content with people doing bad things more objectionable than non-sexual content with people doing bad things is that while it's seen as okay to enjoy depictions of bad behavior but not to get off on depictions of bad behavior. For example, look at the IMDB Top 250 and think about how many of those films don't contain murder or violence or some other really horrible human behavior. If those films had the same events but framed them as being sexual exciting rather than just shocking or entertaining, they would be much more controversial (if not less popular).
posted by burnmp3s at 5:47 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is it possible to create ethical heterosexual porn fiction? Still explicit, titillating and even shocking, but without propagating damaging or dangerous ideas about either female or male sexuality.

Yes, and I'm truly not sure what makes you think it wouldn't be. I'm also not sure why you specify 'heterosexual,' as if it's implicit that homosexual erotica would be either more or less likely to be ethical.

I would like to second this point by EmpressCallipygos:

is it possible for you to have ethical, titillating and even shocking heterosexual sex? Yes? Then if you wrote about that, that'd be ethical, titillating, and shocking porn.

Can you explain why this answer doesn't satisfy you? Because it's the first thing I thought of as well.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:54 AM on September 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Worrying too much about any possible *groan* trigger will probably lead to some very boring porn, where people just sit and talk about their boundaries.

Dude, I've read some porn that managed to avoid "triggers", and it was still fucking hot. (To the point that I had better not elaborate because I'm at work and that would cause an uncomfortable moment for me.)

If you and a person you dig are about to get it on, and you've got it on before, you already know what the "boundaries" are, so you're not thinking of them because you're too interested in stroking the back of their neck in just the right way to make them make that fantastic sort of noise that's a cross between a moan and a roar and GOD that just gets you so hot, especially when they manage to keep it together to go for that spot in the small of your back that DAMN sends shivers all up the back of your neck and makes all your blood rush to your....

....Um.

But you get what I mean, though, yeah?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:01 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Note the question. I'm talking specifically about written porn. Again, opening this up to a debate about ALL of porn would lead us down various endless avenues.

Of course...and this discussion would be fictional and written. Just preface the scene with a conversation among the characters where they talk about doing what they're going to do and they're all into it. Presumably you're a writer. This should be easy peasy.

I think you didn't give us enough information up front, though, that makes it clear just what in the heck you're after. You asked a basic "Can 'written porn' be shocking and titillating?". I think you've got an almost universal yes here. What else do you need to know?
posted by inturnaround at 6:06 AM on September 20, 2012


Can you maybe explain a bit what you think is unethical about what's out there? I would think the vast majority of written erotica is ethical already. (Unless you think all entertainment of any sort is unethical because it portrays spies, superheroes, relationships, businessmen, etc, in non-hyperrealistic but interesting ways. I mean, isn't that why we consume entertainment?)
posted by losvedir at 6:09 AM on September 20, 2012


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