Porn question.
February 4, 2005 5:55 AM   Subscribe

I have some honest questions about porn, inspired by the recent Suicide Girls brouhaha.

PLEASE: CIVIL DISCUSSION AND NO FLAMES! CAN WE DO THAT? WE CAN, RIGHT? Anyone can state their own opinion or knowledge without attacking someone else's contradictory opinion, eh? Thanks!       *More inside.*

First off, I understand why women objected to semi-nudes on the front page of MeFi. It had an unexpected initial shock value on a site that has many intelligent female members who obviously see tits on the front page as objectification and devaluation of women. I also understand that, to Matt, Suicide Girls is soft-core alternative-porn and much less offensive than mainstream porn close-ups of genitalia in action.

But let's stay COMPLETELY AWAY from the issue of whether SG is appropriate for MeFi or not. DON'T GO THERE.

My questions:

I noticed that some people admitted to liking porn, yet still said that Suicide Girls objectified women, presumably objectifying them for heterosexual men.

But doesn't 95% of porn objectify women for men? In most heterosexual porn the woman is an object to be used by the man for his penetrational pleasure. While the man nearly always receives a bit of fellatio before he goes on to vaginal and anal penetration (in close-up shots), the woman is rarely afforded even a small bit of oral pleasure or any apparent attendency to her needs and desires. She may as well be a rubber doll.

Even porn involving lesbians is almost always aimed at men and involves penetration with a dildo, allowing men to fantasize about penetrational sex without having to look at an actual man's penis. The tiny minority of porn involving lesbians is aimed at a lesbian audience.

So what do lesbians or bisexual females think of Suicide Girls? What kind of porn subject-matter do lesbians (who like porn) like?

Is it contradictory that some people admitted to liking (presumably mainstream, genital-oriented) porn, yet felt that Suicide Girls, which is soft-core photos of nude women, is objectification?

When is a sexually-tantalizing photo of a nude woman (or man) porn and objectification, and when is it soft-core tantalization or erotica?

Suicide Girls, in my opinion, features women with a certain amount of personality and individuality. I'm not a member, nor do I frequent the site, but in perusing it lately I find that when I look at a Suicide Girl I fantasize that she is intelligent, maybe artsy or creative, probably very self-assertive or aggressive ... to me these are the images they project. Is Suicide Girls less objectifying than the normal pictures of bleached blonde, silicon-bloated women in Playboy or on mechanics' calendars, in which the women have all the personality of a Barbie Doll and the only things to fantasize about are, frankly, tits and ass?

When is porn objectification and when is it erotica?

What do gay and bi women think of these subjects?

Do heterosexual women agree that the bulk of heterosexual porn is aimed at a male audience? What type of porn do heterosexual women (who like porn) like?

**Mathowie, if this gets out of hand or you feel it is inappropriate, please delete away. I won't be offended.**
posted by Shane to Society & Culture (85 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Agh. Please don't let this be a can of worms.
posted by Shane at 6:02 AM on February 4, 2005


Is Suicide Girls less objectifying than the normal pictures of bleached blonde, silicon-bloated women in Playboy or on mechanics' calendars, in which the women have all the personality of a Barbie Doll and the only things to fantasize about are, frankly, tits and ass?

Moreso, I think the objectification is about the acts involved and the behaviors of the actors. Most porn is indeed very very objectifying. There is some non-horrible porn, supposedly, at places such as Toys in Babeland, the legendary woman-positive sex toys shop in NYC. On the other end of the spectrum are things like AtM porn (look it up if you want), which are incredibly degrading and horrible.

Do heterosexual women agree that the bulk of heterosexual porn is aimed at a male audience? What type of porn do heterosexual women (who like porn) like?

Interestingly, all sorts. In the words of one woman with whom I'm close, "Porn isn't 'nice', but it gets a job done. Do I like it? Not so much, but it's useful." The job being arousal. As far as I understand, though, many many women just dislike porn, period.

Two more points: First, you don't mention gay male porn, which, to my knowledge, constitutes a large segment of the porn market. Second, read some Catherine MacKinnon for an extremist academic POV on porn in society.
posted by The Michael The at 6:07 AM on February 4, 2005


Seconded on MacKinnon; I took a class that was largely about this issue last semester. Basically, the most interesting thing about her views on porn is that she defines it as something that subjugates women, portrays sexual violence against women as sexy, etc., so the idea is that feminist/otherwise non-exploitative porn isn't actually porn but erotica or something along those lines.

I don't have time to type up a full summary, but other people to look into on this issue would be Carol Queen or Shar Rednour, both of whom have some interesting things to say.

Also, I'm a heterosexual woman, and I don't find most porn appealing, just because... well, what I've seen strikes me more as violence and use than sex. Feminist porn, however, is damn sexy.
posted by ITheCosmos at 6:18 AM on February 4, 2005


I'm (obviously) in the minority, but speaking as a heterosexual man I get no more satisfaction from looking at porn when I'm horny than I would from looking at pictures of food when I'm really hungry. I'd rather just have a good meal.
posted by Floydd at 6:30 AM on February 4, 2005


Well, my biggest problem with the SG in particular is that they've somehow convinced people that they're better then average porn. To me, they're doing the same thing that the bleached-blonde Barbie girls, they're just dressed (or undressed) for a different audience.

I'll admit that I'm pretty jaded and done with all things "scene" at this point, but just because a girl dresses up indie rock/punk/goth, doesn't necessarily mean that she's smart, creative, hip, and interesting. I've known many boring/not particularly creative or bright punk rock folk. The SG are still just images of women on whom others can project a fantasy.

That said, I enjoy some good porn once in a while, and don't have a huge problem with it in general. I think it does objectify women, and I'd rather it didn't, but in my mind we've got bigger problems that that to tackle these days.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 6:32 AM on February 4, 2005 [2 favorites]


All porn objectifies all parties involved, as it usually depicts sex as something merely graphic (akin to an action movie) rather than an expression of love or affection between two people. But men and women continue to make it, and they continue to watch it. So I think it's not very constructive just to hope that if we hide from porn it'll eventually go away.

I know bisexual and straight women who think Suicide Girls is really cool, others who think it's boring. Perhaps having gone through the process of coming out to some degree and interfacing with alternative culture, some gay or bi people might be more open to porn than straight people. But then I'm very close to a very cool and sexually adventurous bi woman whose attitudes to porn are pretty prudish. So I don't think this is a matter of sexuality - it's more a matter of one's own personal taste.

I suspect some people object to Suicide Girls because the site portrays non-mainstream, alternative and often very independent minded people. Maybe some find it upsetting that these radical looking kids could engage with something as politically incorrect as porn. Or maybe some are offended by the tattoos, makeup and brightly coloured hair, preferring the equally artificial Hollywood porn look we've become so familiar with. I don't think Suicide Girls is somehow superior to the rest of the porn which is out there. But I think, deep down, few of us would claim that the fairly DIY model espoused by Suicide Girls is _more_ objectifying or ethically dubious than the manufactured mainstream stuff. There is some small element of female liberation involved in the Suicide Girls ethos.

I'm sure the ratio of female subscribers on Suicide Girls will be much higher than on mainstream porn sites. Obviously heterosexual porn is aimed at men, but some of it is made with couples at least partially in mind. Women seem to be under-catered-for but I would point out that a lot of female friends of mine, when pressed, will admit that they quite like some gay male porn. And a lot of women, even if they don't go on about it, do use straight porn - but I think there's a certain amount of embarrassment about the fact that it fulfils a sexual need without ever touching all those other emotional buttons that can often turn a woman on.

Personally speaking I feel that a lot of heterosexual porn is pretty utilitarian, running through a hackneyed list of sexual fantasies one after another and getting predictably more edgy (anal sex) and exploitative / disrespectful (spunking onto a woman's face) as the film goes on.
posted by skylar at 6:38 AM on February 4, 2005


Yeah, do as ITheCosmos suggests--read Carol Queen, specifically Real Live Nude Girl. I'm bisexual & feminist, but I don't really have a problem with most porn... It's all so complicated, I know I should be looking at it more closely, but ultimately I *don't* need "feminist" porn to get off necessarily, just plain old porn... I honestly don't think most of our libidos are PC, try as we might. Suicide Girls is not at all offensive to me, just not hot, 'cause it's not to my taste... I am a thinking person by the way, and I do care whether the ladies (or guys in gay porn) are objectified; I'm just saying that at the end of the day our libido wants what it wants....
posted by ibeji at 6:43 AM on February 4, 2005


Pretty much the only porn I really dig is truly amateur stuff -- that is, some couple films or photographs themselves (or each other) in the act and makes it publicly available. I like that. Do I think "commercial" porn is morally repugnant? No, although I am usually disturbed by the attitudes toward women, and toward sex in general, that it displays. But I don't think it's necessarily wrong. (It does bother me that, as far as I can tell, some men's attitudes toward women are strongly influenced by what they see in this sort of porn, though.)
posted by uncleozzy at 6:59 AM on February 4, 2005 [1 favorite]


I don't understand porn that depicts a sex act, like a woman being screwed or giving a blowjob. The presense of a foreign dick in the picture completely spoils it for me. I mean, what would you think if, in the process of having sex with your girlfriend/wife, suddenly there's some other guy's dick in your face?

"Something being done to her" type porn strikes me as trying too hard. This, in a way, goes for the SGs too. The amount of work/body mods/etc it seems to take to be a real SG is just too much. Why clutter up a pretty face or great body with acts or tats? The effort behind it is off putting, not hot.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:01 AM on February 4, 2005


I always considered stuff like Max Hardcore and all that, where the primary thrill seemed to be the degradation of the photo subject, to be objectifying and kind of repellent. Even some of the artsier Richard Kern type material gives off the same vibe to me, even if it's dressed up a bit.

A lot of the professional porn is off putting in other ways. The women with all the implants, dyed hair, and elaborate waxings...it dosent seem like they're actually naked, but wearing a naked costume, so there's none of the quality of revelation that makes other nudes exciting, so that's often objectifying as well. Plus those faces that the models make do not look erotic, just ridiculous.

But simple nude photos (whether artsy or artless) or pics of people screwing is perfectly fine and healthy. And the amatuer Voyeurweb style stuff is probably the healthiest (and most erotic, IMHO) of all since it seems to be about ordinary people celebrating their sexuality. Pro stuff can be fun, but nothings sexier than seeing a ordinary houswive discovering her own hotness.

I'm just saying that at the end of the day our libido wants what it wants....

True enough. But looking at the net tells me that some peoples libidos want some pretty weird shit. And sometimes I admit to thinking, "If your libido wants that I gotta wonder whats in your head.
posted by jonmc at 7:07 AM on February 4, 2005


Is Suicide Girls less objectifying than the normal pictures of bleached blonde, silicon-bloated women in Playboy or on mechanics' calendars, in which the women have all the personality of a Barbie Doll and the only things to fantasize about are, frankly, tits and ass?

I don't really understand why Suicide Girls would be less objectifying than playboy - is it just because they use a lot of manic panic and have corny tatooos?
posted by glenwood at 7:10 AM on February 4, 2005


I suspect some people object to Suicide Girls because the site portrays non-mainstream, alternative and often very independent minded people.

I dislike SG mainly because the girls are anything but. When everyone is alternative they have become mainstream. The whole alterna-goth or whatever scene has just become a parody. Maybe it's because I'm older than most of the kids on that site but I have to wonder who they think they're fooling. They are not individuals. They are conformists in the worst possible way.

People who think otherwise are no better than the frat boys who think airbrushed DD Playboy models are the norm.

If it gets you off, that's fine. That's what it's there for. But a nose ring on SG and a Wide Open Beaver in Hustler are serving the same purpose.
posted by bondcliff at 7:10 AM on February 4, 2005


The SG are still just images of women on whom others can project a fantasy.

Exactly. I guess I'm thinking about what type of projected fantasy the image is meant to, or likely to, produce.

I'm not huge on porn, but I like the idea of a woman who is an equal, expects to be treated as an equal, can be aggressive, has depth and character and intelligence...

Other than all of the MacKinnon-esque concerns above, though, here is my beef with mainstream hardcore porn films as well as prostitution:

Not all but MANY of these women are supporting drug habits and have low self-esteem and psychological and sexual issues because of sexual abuse at an early age. You can look right to Tracy Lords for an example of this.

So, to me, even if the woman is seeking out a spot in porn or prostitution, she is still being psychologically expoited. Porn loses much of its appeal when you realize this.

A woman who was molested at an early age and has repressed the incident may not only have bad self-esteem and problems, she may also have a subconscious desire to confront the memory: so there she is, putting herself back in a similar circumstance. But in this circumstance she is seemingly "in control," being paid and in a controlled atmosphere.

Anyway, I'm no prude about sex or porn, and we all have needs, but:

... a lot of heterosexual porn is pretty utilitarian, running through a hackneyed list of sexual fantasies one after another ...

Damn right. It's cold, mechanical, and downright formulaic. Heck, erotic art or even erotic cartoon art is better for me without even portraying explicit acts, it's not potentially exploiting live participants, and you can project any fantasy you like on it. Or maybe I just wanna see Batgirl peel off that costume, LOL.

(It does bother me that, as far as I can tell, some men's attitudes toward women are strongly influenced by what they see in this sort of porn, though.)

Exactly, and at the same time many (not all, but maybe even most) women are not going to be satisfied with the wham-bam of a traditional porn flick in their real sex life.

The presense of a foreign dick in the picture completely spoils it for me.

Heh, many men say this is why they like lesbain porn.

...it doesn't seem like they're actually naked, but wearing a naked costume...

LOL!
posted by Shane at 7:11 AM on February 4, 2005


I'd just like to comment on your question "Is Suicide Girls less objectifying than normal pictures..." because in your fantasy "she is intelligent, maybe artsy or creative, probably very self-assertive or aggressive".

It depends upon your definition of "objectification". Anti-porn people tend to define it as having a subordination component.
(From Pro & Anti-Porn Positions within feminism). The other side will say:
"1. Objectification is an inevitable aspect of representation.

2. Pornography, like any other representation, is subject to interpretation: its meaning changes depending on the context within which it is read and/or viewed.

3. Pornography is not reducible to a single message or effect."


To that I would add: various people are aroused by different thing. There is a domination component for some people (male or female) while for others there is a submission component. A porn consumer (for lack of a better term) will seek out whatever he/she finds more appealing.

The fact that part of your fantasy involves stronger personalities in the female does not mean (to me) that it is less objectivication than someone whose fantasy is a submissive partner.

But I tend to agree that objectivication is something we do everyday (with all kinds of things outside the context of sex) and is not in itself an adequate reason for condemning anything.
posted by spock at 7:16 AM on February 4, 2005


This question made me laugh, as I am a bisexual woman married to a lesbian who just ordered our first porn flicks together last night.

Porn is a complex subject. I do believe that the vast majority of it demeans women and that saddens me. (I also voted against the SG ad because I feel it was totally out of place on MetaFilter.) However, porn doesn't have to be that way - it can be a celebration of sexual attraction and gorgeous pleasure.

We ordered a couple of films by Candida Royalle, who is known as a director of 'couple movies'. The movies were reviewed by women and were recommended because they had slow, sensual pacing, a semblance of plot, and a minimum of cum shots and traditional fake-looking bodyparts. I hope the movies live up to those standards. We didn't order lesbian-made porn as neither of us is particularly attracted to bull-dykes or the lesbian paraphernalia. Heterosexual or homosexual, it doesn't matter - it just has to be healthy, mutual and sensual with a somewhat believable story and lots of chemistry.

(on preview: wow, fast-moving thread!)
posted by widdershins at 7:21 AM on February 4, 2005


Shane, this question seems to be a trainwreck waiting to happen and it would have been nice if you could have limited it to one question, or even a few questions. I'd like to say that a lot of my premises about porn are significantly different from yours. We may be looking at different things, or may be arriving at different conclusions. For example:

- a lot of the het porn I see has women on the receiving end of pleasure as well as the guy.
- a lot of the lesbians in het porn I see don't all use dildos and penis substitutes
- you can learn about lesbian porn the same way anyone else does, on the internet. there are a few good magazines that are more mainstream and findable in bookstores, try On Our Backs for example. First off you probably notice a wider range of body types, hair styles and a lack of ephasis on penetrative sex, though there is still a fair amount of it.
- also, there's ton's of gay male porn, at least some of which is enjoyed to a large degree by straight women

I like porn just fine, to me it's just like advertising for sexuality instead of commerce. I think it probably sends some of the wrong messages about sex, the availability of women and what's arousing and appealing in general. I feel like it moves us away from thinking of other people as being the key to satisfying our desires and moves us towards thinking of products as being able to do that. I know a lot of people treat porn like crack, that it's some addictive ultimately evil source of bad behavior and no good can come of it but that's not my perspective. My feeling is that the fact that porn is so taboo in some ways means that people can't have open honest dialog about it, or about what's sexy generally.

I don't care much about the Suicide Girls for a few reasons: it's not my aesthetic, it costs money and it's not hardcore.

on preview: Not all but MANY of these women are supporting drug habits and have low self-esteem and psychological and sexual issues because of sexual abuse at an early age.

cite please?
posted by jessamyn at 7:22 AM on February 4, 2005


I don't have a problem with porn. I don't seek it out, but then again, most of what's readily available doesn't seem to be made for someone like me (female, mid-30s). I have stumbled across some that's pretty *inspiring*, but most of it seems pretty flat and mechanical to me.

banjo_and_the_pork made an excellent point--suicide girls has done an excellent job of portraying their stuff as somehow "better" than other porn. amandaudoff's comments were, for me, the most valuable information to come out of the whole debacle. She is a friend and it was interesting to have a glimpse of how the site works from the point of view of a former member. Oddly, even though her experiences were positive, I came away a little angrier at SG, because their ads feature only the skinny, hourglass-type gals, instead of a more representative sample of their members. Plus, they are charging both the viewers and the posters? How greedy is that?

Now, my objection to having the ad on MeFi has more to do with my love for the site and for the web in general. As someone who builds stuff for the web for a living, I want to believe that there are viable profit (or at least sustainability) models that don't involve naked chicks.
posted by whatnot at 7:23 AM on February 4, 2005


We aren't talking about ads on MeFi whatnot.
posted by spock at 7:27 AM on February 4, 2005


What's so bad about being objectified, anyway?

What's the matter with being sexy? ;>


Who says you can't be both?

Not all but MANY of these women are supporting drug habits and have low self-esteem and psychological and sexual issues because of sexual abuse at an early age.

I would like to see some numbers as well. And since you could apply at least the first part of that statement to many mainstream actors, comedians or, hell, people you probably know in real life, I'm not so sure I see the relevance.
posted by Cyrano at 7:29 AM on February 4, 2005


Cyrano, my little aside was just a reference to that joke about "sexist/sexy" confusion in Spinal Tap, but jessamyn has deleted it so maybe we shouldn't pursue that line of dialogue?
posted by jonmc at 7:32 AM on February 4, 2005


I have always regarded heterosexual pornography in a manner similar to the way I regard fur coats: not exactly wrong, but still in questionable taste. I have never had the same feeling about gay porn, and I'm not really able to articulate precisely why my reactions should be different. Except perhaps to say that among most heterosexuals, if you met a man or woman who did gay porn, you'd be a bit embarrassed for him or her, while among most homosexuals, if you meet a guy who does gay porn, then it's just kind of cool. (The same reaction is true, though to a lesser extent, with escorts; some gay men find them distasteful, but a lot just think it's a great way to make some money if you happen to have that good of a body.)

I question how much pornography involving women leads to larger attitudes towards women. On the one hand, I think it's more likely that one's attitude towards women drives one's tastes in pornography. On the other, I think that in many cases, sexual attraction is something uncontrollable and atavistic, and you just like what you like, and if liking that is embarrassing in other contexts, you just keep it to yourself.

Additionally, I think that a person's attitudes towards women are formed to a substantial part before a person first has much access to pornography. Certainly, such attitudes are malleable, but I can't see how porn has more than a marginal effect. It's probably better to concentrate your efforts on other aspects of the media, such as the TV shows and commercials that young children watch. Then, if they have healthier attitudes, perhaps they won't be as interested in pornography. But, again, perhaps not. Sex tends to override a lot of other things and desire is not as amenable to education as are other attitudes.
posted by anapestic at 7:34 AM on February 4, 2005 [1 favorite]


Shane, this question seems to be a trainwreck waiting to happen ...

No sign of a trainwreck so far *crosses fingers*. Frankly, your comment is the first one to sound a tiny bit confrontational. Wouldn't it be great if MeFi could maturely and intelligently discuss a subject like this? It if it gets out of hand, delete away. It's a good experiment and it'd be beautiful if a civil discussion took place. Taking the measure of MeFi...

Not all but MANY of these women are supporting drug habits and have low self-esteem and psychological and sexual issues because of sexual abuse at an early age.

cite please?


Well, like I said, Tracy Lords's own self-told story. Also at least one article on the subject I've read, which I'll try to Google. Maybe I'm generalizing. If that's your opinion, then consider me totally wrong. That's always a possibility I'll admit to.

- a lot of the het porn I see has women on the receiving end of pleasure as well as the guy.
- a lot of the lesbians in het porn I see don't all use dildos and penis substitutes


I don't see a lot of porn other than occasionally what belongs to hetero male friends. But I consider that to be representative of the majority of het porn, a good sample of a diverse representative segment of the het male population.
posted by Shane at 7:36 AM on February 4, 2005


I'm sure there are studies out there on this, but it seems to me that most "vices" carry with them some of the same concerns:
• That consumption of something mild leads to something stronger to get the same affect.
• That consumption is definitely something that should be kept from those of a certain age
• That the effects of the vice are not limited to the consumer (family members and society at large have an interest in avoiding the negative effects).

There may be others that you can think of. These underlying principles are brought to bear on everything from smoking, to alcohol, to drugs, to pornography.

The truth of the matter varies from individual to individual. Your perspective as a responsible adult consumer of porn may be different from mine as a father of a 15-year-old who was sexually assaulted this week by someone addicted to internet porn.
posted by spock at 7:42 AM on February 4, 2005


I've complex issues/thoughts/feelings about porn in general, but widdershins, I have to take exception with this: "We didn't order lesbian-made porn as neither of us is particularly attracted to bull-dykes or the lesbian paraphernalia.".

That's some sweeping generalization there. Perhaps you just haven't found lesbian-made porn that suits your tastes, but please don't perpetuate the myth that it's all strap-ons and, as you say, "bull-dykes" (a term, when used by other lesbians and bi-girls, that gets me aggitated).

There is a whole new world of dyke-made porn out there to suit many tastes.
posted by FlamingBore at 7:43 AM on February 4, 2005


Mainstream "lesbian" porn is really not for lesbians at all. My ex-girlfriend preferred straight porn and sometimes gay male porn over two barbie dolls with extra long tongues...

Generally I'm just not that stimulated by most videos - as others said, it just seems formulaic and kind of boring. A good sex scene in a good movie can definitely get me excited though, so it's partly contextual. A lot of porn just seems really mechanical. Which I guess is what people mean by "objectification" - it becomes all about pumps and pistons and not about human beings interacting, and for some people that kind of misses the point. But I guess the thing is that you have to project the right sort of fantasy, because when you have a sex dream, eg, you're dreaming the mechanics but also feeling the whole thing. I have just not usually been able to 'invest' myself in the depictions available in regular porn. I'm not against it for other people, though; I just don't quite 'get' it. I do better with pure fantasy or actual reality.

It's also been suggested that men get more turned on by visual stimulation and women by verbal stimulation, which is why so many women read porn, ie, slash fic or the more explicit 'romance novels', rather than watching it.

this question seems to be a trainwreck waiting to happen

nah. keep mefi out of it, for sure, but otherwise we should be fine.
posted by mdn at 7:45 AM on February 4, 2005


A lot of porn just seems really mechanical....it becomes all about pumps and pistons

Well, Robin Williams once said that closeups in porn movies looked like industrial films covered in fur, so I guess this is what he's talking about.

But somebody mentioned that porn does propogate myths about the availabilty of women, and I think there's something to that. Like a lot of young men raised in post-porn America, I remember feeling vaguely cheated that I didn't experience all the seduced-by-the-countergirl/sex-in-the-changing-room and all the similar scenarios we'd been fed by porn and 80's teen movies.

I realize that's kind of stupid when you think about it, but there's something to it.
posted by jonmc at 7:54 AM on February 4, 2005


Again, I haven't been exposed to a lot of porn and I've never broached the subject of porn with a lesbian or bi friend, so thanks for all the different viewpoints here.

And it's entirely possible I'm generalizing or over-reacting to certain things like Tracy Lords, as I've dated a few formerly abused women and have some painful baggage from it. While I think my insights into their psychology are pretty astute, I may have a tendency to project their psychology too much onto hardcore porn stars and prostitutes. Or not. People running shelters and homes encounter tons of runaways from abusive homes, and many of these runaways have supported themselves on the streets via prostitution. I've even met one man who was sexually molested as a child and who was (or maybe still is) homeless, often turning to prostitution for money. It's very common, according to him. I've read that teachers and social workers trained to watch for signs of sexual abuse in very young people know that acting out at prostitution is a definite signal.

I guess I just think the majority of women wouldn't naturally enjoy doing hardcore porn, although I'm sure some perfectly healthy women DO enjoy acting in hardcore, while other women in some parts of the world are forced into porn and prostitution purely out of economic necessity.
posted by Shane at 8:00 AM on February 4, 2005


I think most women in porn, regardless of their reasons for doing it, would be rather offended that you seem to keep lumping porn and postitution together, Shane.
posted by Cyrano at 8:06 AM on February 4, 2005


The whole porn debate is, for me, rather weird. My sexual interests have always been heavily laced with BDSM. In the early, adolescent days, I wrestled with the moral implications of porn not just because of the objectification issue, but also because I enjoyed porn in which people suffered. I was always opposed to violence (having had my fill of it at a very young age), so I didn't understand why I would be so attracted to it in this context. I wrestled with it for a long time and eventually arrived at the conclusions you would expect: it's okay to do whatever you want, as long as it's consensual; pictures of naked people aren't bad, but people being forced to do things they don't want to do in order to make a living is very bad; etc.

A couple of other things: 1. My most recent gf is, as I've mentioned previously, a dyke who really wants to be a guy. Some of the time. Anyway, she absolutely loves tentacle porn; the japanese hentai/manga films where women are attacked and raped by monsters with enormous tentacles. In fact, she's a sucker for pretty much any sort of "forced sex" fantasy or porn. 2. I hang around with other bdsm folks and most of them have no qualms about watching porn. None of them object to it on moral grounds, but some do on personal grounds and these folks are, I'm pretty sure, all female. I have a good friend who feels like, yeah, there's sex on the screen, but it doesn't involve her, so what's the point? 3. Personally, I'm fine with porn; I just wish the acting was better.
posted by Clay201 at 8:12 AM on February 4, 2005


I think most women in porn, regardless of their reasons for doing it, would be rather offended that you seem to keep lumping porn and postitution together, Shane.

Probably, regardless of whether there are connections or not. Sorry.

Then again, if they're offended, that means they view prostitution in a negative light or have moral objections to it, right? So prostitutes should be offended that porn starts potentially look down on them (following your logic to its implied conclusion)..?
posted by Shane at 8:14 AM on February 4, 2005


Back later, need to get some work done...
posted by Shane at 8:16 AM on February 4, 2005


Cyrano: I once read a supposedly true story about a porn actress. She did a spectacular, fluid intensive three way for the camera, finished, got cleaned up and was walking around the set. A guy came up to her, said he'd really enjoyed her scene and wanted to know how much she'd charge for a private session. She slapped his face, announced indignantly that she was an actress and not a prostitute, and walked off in a huff.
posted by Clay201 at 8:19 AM on February 4, 2005


I did a research paper once on Porn, where I did a content analysis on the frequency of certain sex acts. I won't go into it in detail, but almost every single MF het porn scene follows almost the exact same formula. (best. research project. ever.)

Laura Kipnis (author of Bound and Gagged: Pornography and the Politics of Fantasy in America, says the following (which sums up my position on the matter pretty closely):

Pornography should interest us, because it's intensely and relentlessly about us. It involves the roots of our culture and the deepest corners of the self. It's not just friction and naked bodies: pornography has eloquence. It has meaning, it has ideas. It even has redeeming ideas. So why all the distress?
Perhaps it's that buried under all the nervous stereotypes of pimply teenagers, furtive perverts in raincoats, and anti-social compulsively masturbating misfits, is a sneaking recognition that pornography isn't just an individual predilection: pornography is central to our culture.

A Cultures pornography becomes, in effect, a very precise map of its borders, tracing the edge, giving you a detailed blueprint of the culture anxieties, investments and contradictions.

Pornography is not going away anytime soon. In the meantime, maybe we can try to learn a thing or two under its mentorship.



Which is to say - in this thread, can we stop talking about the women who appear in these films as being "drug addict hookers" with no "choice" but to appear in porn movies to support their "habits." I strongly believe that this discourse is what keeps these women (and men) in the cultural gutter.
posted by Quartermass at 8:20 AM on February 4, 2005 [1 favorite]


Then again, if they're offended, that means they view prostitution in a negative light or have moral objections to it, right? So prostitutes should be offended that porn starts potentially look down on them (following your logic to its implied conclusion)..?

I'm sure some porn actresses do look down on prostitutes. And, to be fair, some of them do give "private performances." But sex for money is different when everyone is getting paid, I think is the argument.

I won't go into it in detail, but almost every single MF het porn scene follows almost the exact same formula.

I'm going to guess it's something along the lines of: groping --> cunnilingus --> blowjob --> cowboy --> doggie --> popshot?
posted by Cyrano at 8:27 AM on February 4, 2005


Is Suicide Girls less objectifying than the normal pictures of bleached blonde, silicon-bloated women in Playboy or on mechanics' calendars, in which the women have all the personality of a Barbie Doll and the only things to fantasize about are, frankly, tits and ass?

No, because girls on SG are, for the most part, the same body as the playboy chicks with tatoos & colored hair on top. When I first heard about SG a few years ago, I thought the idea was exciting. Burlesque was big in New York at the time, and it *was* very woman-centered; that is, the burlesque shows were very woman positive, and the whole vibe arund them was "women are awesome" as opposed to "heh, that chick is hot." I had hoped SG would be the same thing on the internet, but it just turned out to be a cheesy put on, with the same body types, lame positions, and shaved hair as other soft-core porn.

What type of porn do heterosexual women (who like porn) like?

I have found that porn from the seventies is pretty cool. Everyone still looks like real people & jiggles & stuff.

Overall, the porn I dislike is porn that seems to me about looking fake or "hot." There is too much shit already trying to make girls feel bad about the way they look. But porn with real people in it (and not fake real people like SG) can be really emboldening. Real naked jiggly people look sort of absurd & hot & there's a connection between them & us, not a pedastal.
posted by dame at 8:49 AM on February 4, 2005 [1 favorite]


There is too much shit already trying to make girls feel bad about the way they look.

I don't know if it's trying to make girls feel bad about the way they look, so much as it's an unfortunate byproduct of using sex to make money of an already appearance-obsessed culture.

Not that I don't lament the effects (and it affects men's self image as well, but that manifests itself in different ways), but I just don't think that the people who produce this stuff get up and say "how can we subjugate women today?" It's more that they want to make money and are either ignorant or uncaring about the side effects.
posted by jonmc at 8:55 AM on February 4, 2005


When is porn objectification and when is it erotica? is a brilliant question with possible answers that are ridiculously troubling. I can't even begin with this, and I'm making a point to not get into this much here, but I will suggest reading Robert Jensen. His major point admittedly doesn't overlap exactly with your inquiry--he's wondering, and I have wondered for a while now too, when we're going to be able to move beyond the second wave's total antiporn stance and the third wave's rejecting-any-porn-is-potentially-classist-and-at-best-close-minded argument, because as it stands there is very little discussion out there about the possibility of accepting the sex industry might have its place but personally rejecting certain aesthetics or trends within it. There's no way to speak of one's own dislike of porn and its messages without being labeled an enemy of free speech, which is patently ridiculous. Free speech involves being able to voice one's personal rejection of a practice and why as much as it involves Flynt being able to laugh about rape or mutilation of the female body.

I'm sorry if that's a derail, but maybe you'll find Jensen's articles helpful, compelling, or at least more nuanced than most screeds out there. I did.

Aaand that's it, I'm outta here. :) I hope this is a fruitful discussion for you--it's a great question.
posted by ifjuly at 9:12 AM on February 4, 2005


Well, Jon, I would argue that all advertising is trying to make you feel lacking and the advertizing for beauty products & fashion—directed mostly at women—tries to make you feel physically lacking, so yeah, they are trying to make women feel poorly about their looks on purpose. Then that image of unreal beauty gets transmitted as what feminine beauty is; combined with the fact that as a girl your looks count more, it become pretty pernicious. So it is a combination of on purpose and other unfortunate factors. But it is on purpose. You've read your Naomi Wolff, no?
posted by dame at 9:28 AM on February 4, 2005


You've read your Naomi Wolff, no?

Miss September 1978, right? ;>

I've read some of her stuff in passing, but not enough to really formulate a response to it. But if all the ads for Rogaine, "nutritional supplements," and other dubious contributions to modern culture (Queer Eye, once you get past the gay angle, is basically a milder version of The Swan for men) are any indication we men aren't immune either. And the Brad Pitt/Marcus Shenkenberg male ideal is as unrealistic as what's on the pages of Vogue.

But that's advertising which is a different beast. When it comes to porn, it's ultimate purpose is to make money by getting people off. So in that case it's a byproduct of our society's appearance-obsession/low self esteem/neuroses, not the origin.
posted by jonmc at 9:39 AM on February 4, 2005


Personally, the term "objectify" or "objectification" worries me when people use them without knowing the full extent of the situation they are judging.

If someone willingly participates in an act (no matter what the act) for whatever reason - be it money, gratification, for the hell of it, then it is their decision. Granted, the level of willing participation can be debated on any number of levels, but the fact remains that in a lot of porn or porn-esque ventures, the participants are doing it for cash and/or gratification. I see no difference between this or an assembly line worker who objectifies themselves daily in a highly depersonalized role in an organization just to put food on the table.

I think the preconception that the people who participate in this industry do so against their will is ridiculous. I have met and be-friended a number of SG models and they would kick someone's ass that even suggested that they (the models) needed their concern and/or protection. They knew what they were doing, they were conpensated, and most do it more than once for these exact reasons.

If you do not like it, do not watch/pay for it. It's that simple. The same goes for all porn.

...and not fake real people like SG

Uhhh.. they are real people. If they are not, I would like to know who I have been spending time with over the past few years. I am not a member of the site, but I have attended classes with them, hung out at non-SG parties with them, and even chilled-out and drank tea from time to time. If that is not real, then I would like to know what the hell else has been happening during those time periods. ;)
posted by purephase at 10:00 AM on February 4, 2005


dame: It isn't necessarily anti-woman or otherwise negative for pornography to feature skinny people who can't jiggle adequately. As a skinny, athletic person, am I morally inferior? Would I be "trying to make people feel bad about how they look" if I were naked on-camera?

There's an important distinction to be made between people who create a cultural aesthetic (advertisers, designers), those who successfully participate in/are products of this aesthetic (in this case, attractive porn actresses), those who hire products of the cultural aesthetic to have sex on-camera (pornographers), those who suffer due to the cultural aesthetic (in this case, women who buy into media images of beauty but cannot conform to them), and those who don't suffer because they don't buy in.

It seems silly to blame the media for the fact that you are an active media consumer.
posted by Luther Blissett at 10:07 AM on February 4, 2005


And the Brad Pitt/Marcus Shenkenberg male ideal is as unrealistic as what's on the pages of Vogue.

Not just Vogue. Open any men's magazine. Cars, razor-blades, tools, cologne, clothes... all featuring traditionally handsome guys: tall, strong jawlines, muscles, etc.

It's not that these people (male or female) aren't "real" -- of course they're "fixed up" in Photoshop, some of them have non-biodegradable parts... but they're still better looking than I am even without their makeup. That's why they're models and I'm not.

And who on earth considers SG porn? Unless the members area is filled with pictures of insertion or ejaculation, it's just a bunch of nekkid girls with piercings prancing around. Ho-friggin'-hum.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:12 AM on February 4, 2005


Ooh, shoulda' previewed:

It seems silly to blame the media for the fact that you are an active media consumer.

+1 Insightful
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:14 AM on February 4, 2005


I like porn, but I admit that it may have negative consequences. It certainly distorts the image of what women, men, sex etc. are like. I really would like to see higher quality porn, plots aren't all bad you know, but that is never going to happen.

I think this 'objectify' word is just stupid. Like duh! Sex is objectifying. (not all the time, I know, whatever)

Finally, I think we need to expand the definition of porn to include Anne Geddes and romance novels. They all exist for the same reasons, and they all have similar positive and negative effects (effects in the abstract, we would have to look at hard science to make any concrete conclusions).
posted by Chuckles at 10:30 AM on February 4, 2005


Bisexual female married to a straight male.

I prefer romantically themed porn. It doesn't matter to me if it's straight, gay or lesbian. As long as the people involved seem to care for each other and are enjoying what they're doing, I'm happy. I also tend to prefer the written word (which I tend to think of as erotica, porn is pictures or film).

However, that doesn't mean that other porn doesn't ..um.. stimulate me. In light of the child abuse I suffered through, some of the porn that I find attractive is rather dismaying (on preview: I won't go into details, but it's NOT child porn - I re-read what I wrote and realized some might get the wrong idea).

SG vs. "standard" porn - it's all the same to me, just different clothes and body art (or lack thereof).

Objectifying? Of course it is; it's the nature of the beast.
posted by deborah at 10:32 AM on February 4, 2005


At the risk of repeating myself (thanks for the notice, whatnot), here goes:

So what do lesbians or bisexual females think of Suicide Girls? What kind of porn subject-matter do lesbians (who like porn) like?

I'm a bisexual female. As I've said before, I'm an SG fan....although more of the appeal of it is in the groups and forums than the actual pictures themselves. I love the idea of a community built around celebrating the beauty of these women.

As far as other porn goes...it varies. Honestly, I tend to like literotica more than hardcore porn. It leaves more to the imagination, as it were.

Is it contradictory that some people admitted to liking (presumably mainstream, genital-oriented) porn, yet felt that Suicide Girls, which is soft-core photos of nude women, is objectification?

Not really contradictory, but I run the opposite side of the spectrum. I think hardcore porn (of the typical sort) is funny. I think SG-style softcore is beautiful. Apples and oranges.

When is a sexually-tantalizing photo of a nude woman (or man) porn and objectification, and when is it soft-core tantalization or erotica?

For me, it has to do with the motives behind it. SG and most amatuer porn (with which the internet abounds) is hotter for me because people are having fun. When the woman or man is tanned/bleached/whatever in order to fit a certain sterotyped American fantasy, it loses the sexual appeal to me and becomes gross objectification.

Is Suicide Girls less objectifying than the normal pictures of bleached blonde, silicon-bloated women in Playboy or on mechanics' calendars, in which the women have all the personality of a Barbie Doll and the only things to fantasize about are, frankly, tits and ass?

If I thought that the women in those calendars were having a good time and showing their personality as they sat naked on a Harley, I'd be all about it. Because I seriously doubt that, yes. I think there's significantly more objectification going on there than on SG.

Do heterosexual women agree that the bulk of heterosexual porn is aimed at a male audience? What type of porn do heterosexual women (who like porn) like?

Yes, but I think that's a limitation of the audience as much as the media. If a woman wants to get aroused from something, she will. If she has already made up her mind to not like porn, she won't...no matter who the makers of the porn were intending it for.
posted by amandaudoff at 10:36 AM on February 4, 2005


I don't understand the "When is a sexually-tantalizing photo of a nude woman (or man) porn and objectification, and when is it soft-core tantalization or erotica?" distinction.

I think all porn, (visual) erotica, whatever is inherently objectifying. You're taking a three-dimensional person, turning her into a two-dimensional photo, and using the photo for a one-sided (and one-handed, heh) encounter. Which isn't necessarily bad or evil or immoral, but I'm unsure how anyone can aruge it's not objectifying the model. Even with journal entries or whatever, she's not *really* interacting with you, she's just giving you more to base your own fantasies on -- giving you more to objectify.

And Shane, you seem to be cutting off discussion of alternative porn (women-centric, lesbian for lesbians, etc.) and yet you still seem to be asking about what turns women on, as if the answers should lie solely in the traditional heterosexual porn model. There's a reason that the alternative stuff (and by that I don't mean SG) is gaining ground; I don't know why you're trying to deny that it's an important part of answering your questions.
posted by occhiblu at 11:00 AM on February 4, 2005


>spock: Your perspective as a responsible adult consumer of porn may be different from mine as a father of a 15-year-old who was sexually assaulted this week by someone addicted to internet porn.

Whoa, is that a hypothetical?
posted by occhiblu at 11:05 AM on February 4, 2005


If I thought that the women in those calendars were having a good time and showing their personality as they sat naked on a Harley, I'd be all about it. Because I seriously doubt that, yes. I think there's significantly more objectification going on there than on SG.

The whole SG "thing" seems like a bit of a scam to me. You get insight into their personality, and thus it's less objectifying? Come on! The reason they're given their own little user area in the first place is to entice people to cough up dough. I have a lot more respect for the "girl on the motorcycle" because she understands the business is just a job, not a "lifetyle."

I mean, heck, Playboy used to have that centerfold area where you could read all about Miss February's tastes in literature and how she preferred "real guys who like football" to those rich, buff guys that are always hitting on her.

Having worked on a few porn sites, I can tell you that the biggest indicator for the success or failure of a porn site is repeated visits. That's done in two ways: one, lots of picture updates. Two: "blog"-style updates where the model waxes poetic about how bored they are.

SG came up with a really brilliant solution: give the girls they shoot their own blog-space. Brilliant! Now you don't even have to pay the girls to update their own web section! They do it for free!

(Sorry for the slight derail, by the way.) I have read some of the anti-SG tirades against the practices at SG, and two points are constantly brought up: 1. Banned users can no longer use their blog, and 2. SG can do whatever they want with the photos. Well, welcome to the world of modelling. If you think Linda Evangelista gets to keep the rights off her Vogue shoot, you're sadly mistaken.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:09 AM on February 4, 2005


I'm a heterosexual female and I like porn. I like gay, het and lesbian porn and some BDSM stuff (I can't take anything too hardcore but like light bondage stuff). I actually like older 70s porn better than the newer on-video stuff. I think it has to do with what dame was talking about upthread about the actors looking more "real", less plastic. I find it to be MUCH more erotic.

I do have problems with the way a lot of porn objectifies women and sometimes feel like a bit of a hypocrite for enjoying some of it so much.

As for SG, it annoys me not because it's porn but because of how hard it (or perhaps more specifically those who enjoy it) tries to resist the label.

"We don't objectify women! These girls are different! They have pink hair! It's liberating! It's alternative!"

Just embrace it already. You show pictures of pretty naked women. That's why so many people enjoy it. I'd admire them a bit more if they'd just own up to what they are and stop trying to make themselves out to be so much better than every other pretty-naked-women site just because the models have tattoos and nipple piercings. Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against the women on SG or the people who enjoy it. It's just not alternative. That word barely means anything anymore.
posted by LeeJay at 11:19 AM on February 4, 2005


It's just not alternative. That word barely means anything anymore.

[ot]

It never really did. Or rather it was basically a handy catch-all term for various people, artistic styles, and looks that fell outside the mainstream. Now it's just a scend mainstream more or less, one that's almost as conformist and predictable as the original, and maybe more strident about it. And SG is, whatever else it is, a great illustration of that.

[/ot]
posted by jonmc at 11:24 AM on February 4, 2005


If I thought that the women in those calendars were having a good time and showing their personality as they sat naked on a Harley, I'd be all about it. Because I seriously doubt that, yes. I think there's significantly more objectification going on there than on SG.

Why do you doubt it? Why would the woman on the Harley be enjoying herself any less? Why would the SG be enjoying herself any more?
posted by LeeJay at 11:27 AM on February 4, 2005


And Shane, you seem to be cutting off discussion of alternative porn (women-centric, lesbian for lesbians, etc.) ... [denying] that it's an important part of answering your questions.

Not at all! You misunderstand. That's part of my point. The only porn I ever see featuring lesbian sex is porn aimed at men. I'd love to hear about what I think must be out there, the lesbian porn aimed at lesbians, or women-centric porn, or feminist porn. Not that there's not some crossover audience. But 90% of what's on the 'Net or what my friends have shown me is the hetero schlock in cold, clinical detail that seems to comprise 90% of porn. I've only been in a porn shop once, but it all seemed the same there too, except for the fetish sections.

It's just not alternative. That word barely means anything anymore.

It never really did.


"Alternatve" anything probably became mainstream as soon as someone labelled it "alternative." ;-) Naming the demon takes away all its power, heh.

Good civil discussion folks! Thanks for proving we can do it.
posted by Shane at 11:56 AM on February 4, 2005


. . . the participants are doing it for cash and/or gratification. I see no difference between this or an assembly line worker who objectifies themselves daily in a highly depersonalized role in an organization just to put food on the table.

Thank You! A bit off topic, but I just had a huge argument with a (relatively) straight-laced conservative friend of mine about this. He really believes that his work (and therefore his whole life) is some how better or more honorable (morally or otherwise) than my roommate who is a male escort. I'm not sure who's the bigger whore - someone who makes money on his own terms and on his own schedule, or someone who constantly has to work overtime in an Office Space environment.

So, as for porn, its exploitive and objectifying, sure . . . but really, what work isn't?
posted by Boydrop at 11:59 AM on February 4, 2005


Move to San Francisco. You can get all the flavors and subtleties of porn you'd ever want. Alternately, try online places like Good Vibrations or Blowfish for what's often called "sex-positive" porn, where "sex-positive" connotes that even if people are, say, tying each other up and whipping each other, it's consensual and pleasurable to both parties.

I'm fine with porn. I just wish - for lots of the reasons discussed above about setting up really weird ideals - that it wasn't the place most kids learned about sex before having sex.
posted by judith at 12:19 PM on February 4, 2005 [1 favorite]


Some more info on non-traditional porn:

Sexpositive Productions: Women-Centered Porn That Still Takes Risks

What kind of porn do women like?

I don't necessarily agree with either article, just trying to get some more info in here.
posted by occhiblu at 1:12 PM on February 4, 2005


Some interesting questions raised here. I've never really enjoyed porn myself, but I didn't realize that the "verbal not visual" thing was something I shared with so many other women. Graphic images just don't leave room for my very literal mind to interpret, but when they work for others I think that's generally a good thing. We all need to get off, you know?

However, I do think the ubiquity of porn has given it the power to change what we consider normal. I'm an introvert so I'm biased, but I think sexually aggressive women have become commonplace enough in porn that I'm expected to be much more predatory. Also, while it used to be that women were expected to wax their bikini line, now it's not considered unusual to be completely shaven or waxed. As someone who equates pubic hair with sexual maturity, this creeps me the hell out. Finally, I don't think the implant business would've taken off the way it did without the enthusiastic response from the porn industry. In short, what becomes standard practice in porn eventually becomes accepted outside of porn. So I'd advise you all to go buy stock in anal lubricants right now.
posted by cali at 1:14 PM on February 4, 2005


Porn dictates culture to some degree, but it also reflects it.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:26 PM on February 4, 2005


When I'm fantasizing, I'm never fantasizing about just having sex with someone, or the way a guy or a girl looks, etc. There has to be a sexy situation that I'm fantasizing about. So most porn doesn't do anything for me - pictures are boring, the bad acting on Spice and Playboy is a turn off and amateur stuff doesn't do anything for me either. I like the sort of soft porn they show in Europe, sometimes even on regular television late at night - the films have nice plotlines, reasonable acting and usually feature a combination of girls with girls and guys with girls. Plus, the girls never have big fake boobs, there's no closeups, etc. No one looks pained and the production values are better. I think the ones I liked best came from Germany and England. I've kind fo given up on finding stuff like that here, there doesn't seem to be much of a market for it. (But, if there's a source for it I'd be glad to hear about it!)
posted by sophie at 1:40 PM on February 4, 2005


Luther Blisset (and to a lesser extent C_D): I think you misunderstand me (which is my fault for posting before coffee). I want to address your questions point-by-point because they are good, and (I think) genuine.

dame: It isn't necessarily anti-woman or otherwise negative for pornography to feature skinny people who can't jiggle adequately. As a skinny, athletic person, am I morally inferior? Would I be "trying to make people feel bad about how they look" if I were naked on-camera?

No, in and of itself it is not anti-woman. You are right about that. But when one body type is represented as beautiful in the mainstream to the exclusion of other types, it can become so. If we were in bizarro world and only fat black ladies were presented as gorgeous, the problem would be the same. Ideally, porn should be a celebration of an important facet of human life in all its forms. I dislike SG because it pretends that it is a wider, woman-friendly porn while essentially still buying into this exclusionary representation of sexuality. This is what I mean by "fake real people."

And you would not be "trying to make people feel bad" just by being naked on-camera. You, personally, would not be doing anything but being naked. It is the structres around that act that allow it to be seen in that light. Not everyone does, I know, and there are other, competing interpretations. It's like the interpretation of any cultural act that way--many contradictory readings can be true.

There's an important distinction to be made between people who create a cultural aesthetic (advertisers, designers), those who successfully participate in/are products of this aesthetic (in this case, attractive porn actresses), those who hire products of the cultural aesthetic to have sex on-camera (pornographers), those who suffer due to the cultural aesthetic (in this case, women who buy into media images of beauty but cannot conform to them), and those who don't suffer because they don't buy in.

Why is that distinction important to you? To me, each is simply participating in a hegemonic cultural discourse. There are I suppose ethical distinctions based on how you do or don't participate, but the question here doesn't seem to be about ethics. It was about why someone does or does not like SG, especially in relation to other porn. I was explaining why I don't like it. Like many preferences, some of my reasons are good and some maybe not so.

It seems silly to blame the media for the fact that you are an active media consumer.

I think it is more complicated than you see it. Personally, I don't buy in; not anymore (when I was sixteen is a different story). But I am still judged by those standards, whether I think they are justifiable or not. And when you are a girl, how you look has so much to do with what sort of social capital you have and how you can get yourself heard. In this thread, Jon and others have pointed out that men also have beauty pressure--this is true and that pressure has arguably increased in the last few decades. At the same time, your looks are still less of what people consider when they consider you. Let's say that for women looks are 60 percent of what people consider and for men, 40 percent. That is, for men other qualitities can override looks, but for women that thing is still very much there. I don't like it. I think it is totally lame. But I can't prentend that other people don't consider it.

And here's the thing: I am actually pretty cute. I like the way I look, and I don't think I would swap out now to look more traditionally pretty. I am not still laboring under something unobtainable. But I remember how I felt before I had the life experience and confidence to really deconstruct media representations. (And I was never even that active of a media consumer, but that shit is in the ether, especially when you're young. I am probably more *active* in my engagement now because I try to deconstruct pretty much every representation I come across--which isn't so much because I don't really watch TV or read women's mags.)

I also see how much power I had when I was skinny, how much a still have now being young and cute, and how that changes for women as they age. My not buying into it doesn't make it automatically disappear from everyone else's brains.
posted by dame at 1:57 PM on February 4, 2005 [1 favorite]


But I am still judged by those standards, whether I think they are justifiable or not. And when you are a girl, how you look has so much to do with what sort of social capital you have and how you can get yourself heard.

We can quibble about the degree, but it's basically the same for guys, too. No, we don't have to show man-cleavage to get a job. But natural height in a man goes just as far as large boobs for a woman. Tall stature, broad shoulders, a large mandible, a smooth baratone voice... and similarly, these are aspects of physical appearance that cannot be improved upon. At least women have the option of plastic surgery.

I think the real problem people have is that the aspects of male and female sexuality that are being exploited so much are not (for the most part) controllable. If advertisers only paraded around people who were physically fit, would there still be a problem? Because that's something we can all probably work on a bit, something to aspire to and (more importantly) something that's achievable.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:31 PM on February 4, 2005


Interesting questions and comments.

Now for this homo perspective: I am a very rare viewer of porn. It's interesting that while it serves a purpose on those occasions, I often find myself having difficulty with the concept of viewing it in those productions that involve female actors. Whether this is a function of some odd quirk or genetic sympathy, I don't know.

For me, intimacy with another woman is just that - intimate. Which for me, implies deeply personal and to be shared between the two alone. So, maybe it's the voyeuristic aspect that is bothersome as well.

Het porn has the same effect only I perceive the women to be more vehicular than in the girl on girl variety. Male on male porn doesn't bother me on any level.

So, in summary, if a female is involved, it bothers me, but not to the point of abject revulsion [caveat: nothing hardcore is included in this assessment.]
posted by sillygit at 2:35 PM on February 4, 2005


If advertisers only paraded around people who were physically fit, would there still be a problem?

I still think there would be, yes. For one, being fit doesn't actually mean looking one way. I was much fitter when I weighed 180 than when I weighed 140. Further, the whole question of fitness in the U.S. is so class based and class influenced, not to even bring in questions of race.
posted by dame at 2:42 PM on February 4, 2005


Ideally, porn should be a celebration of an important facet of human life in all its forms.

Why? Why is the responsibility of each individual porn/erotica maker to be as inclusive as possible?
posted by 23skidoo at 2:45 PM on February 4, 2005


>Why is the responsibility of each individual porn/erotica maker to be as inclusive as possible?

It wouldn't have to be each individual being inclusive, it could be the industry as a whole showcasing a wide range of individual voices. So one porn maker features thin blondes, another heavy latinas, someone else middle-aged women, etc.

Though in that article I linked above about the Good Vibrations porn videos, they did mention trying to be as diverse / inclusive as possible with different ethnicities, body types, etc. in each of their videos.

(C_D, I was going to argue with you that despite growing pressure on men, studies still show women having more body-issue problems than guys, but the stuff that I've just found indicates that the dissatisfaction rate of men with their bodies has recently tripled, and now men and women are almost neck-and-neck for physical insecurities (the article tied it to steroid use setting up more unrealistic models for men). So, yay, equality. Now we can all be unhappy and insecure. Sigh.)
posted by occhiblu at 3:00 PM on February 4, 2005


dame: Good points. However, if we're going to start in on anyone who has the misfortune of stumbling into the path of a speeding cultural discourse, I could assert that anybody who participates in global capitalism is at fault. Were it not for porn producers basing their production on supply and demand, we'd see less siliconed/airbrushed actresses groomed to appeal to the largest market (and thus, the lowest common denominator). For that matter, capitalism's existence also supports the sociosexual preference toward wealthy men, which oppresses men in much the same fashion that the sociosexual preference toward mainstream beauty oppresses women.

I'm exaggerating, but my point is that there is a value in drawing distinctions among the levels of participation in the heteronormative aesthetic hegemony. If no boundaries are drawn, everyone is culpable.

Ultimately, the best solution to the oppressive mainstream is subversion, which can be achieved to some extent by raising the population's awareness of cultural discourse beyond the mainstream. And, now that I think about it, SG itself may even have some merit for this very reason. While SG itself is still largely mainstream, it implies to the viewer that there exist aesthetics beyond the cultural norm. It has the potential to point porn consumers in the right direction, leaving them free to abandon the dominant porn/beauty construct if they so desire.
posted by Luther Blissett at 3:30 PM on February 4, 2005


You can find heavy latina porn and middle-aged women porn. It's out there. But until societal mores change to the point where being heavy (or middle-aged) is seen as attractive, it's going to be a niche market. That's not the fault of any single porn/erotica maker. SG takes nudie shots of girls that for the most part are young and skinny, it's not their fault that there aren't enough other companies taking pictures of heavy latinas or middle-aged women.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:43 PM on February 4, 2005


It wouldn't have to be each individual being inclusive, it could be the industry as a whole showcasing a wide range of individual voices.

The porn industry makes a good amount of it's money online these days. And if you feel someone is being left out, you haven't done enough Googling. The porno-web is nothing if not inclusive, up to and including things you probably weren't aware you needed words for until you stumbled upon the site.

Studies still show women having more body-issue problems than guys.

Without porn, Enzyte wouldn't exist. 'Nuff said about that.

And I'll go on record as saying that I think you could get to know the models on Danni.com (even if they are of the waxed, peroxided variety) a whole lot better through their frequent live chats and interviews than you could ever hope to on SG.
posted by Cyrano at 3:48 PM on February 4, 2005


Something I said about SG before.

Also, I find porn to be turn-OFF very often. I'm a straight male, and I'm visually stimulated like we're prone to be, but the clinical close-ups and general ick factor makes me feel ill. And I'm completely lost - and no offense to anyone who does enjoy this - when there are shots of semen/facials/bukkake etc. (I mean, I get it theoretically, this science of the money shot, but ugh.)

I'd rather look at an FHM/Maxim/Vogue picture than almost any kind of porn. YMMV. Oh, and the only porn video I've ever watched was Deep Throat on a female friend's 18th birthday. We laughed and laughed.

As for the "merits" of porn, it seems to me to be a functional mechanism of arousal with certain, almost ritualistic aspects that are dictated either by the tastes of connoisseurs or of those most inclined to go into pornography. And as for whether or not it objectifies women, well, it can and it can't, and it all very much depends on who's on either side of the camera. I'm not an expert on watching or being in porn, so I'll keep my theories to myself for now.

Certainly, the idea that all porn stars are junky whores appears to be a self-fulfilling prophecy of a sort, and part of the larger drama, even if - and especially if - there's any truth to it.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:14 PM on February 4, 2005


Certainly, the idea that all porn stars are junky whores appears to be a self-fulfilling prophecy of a sort, and part of the larger drama, even if - and especially if - there's any truth to it.

I have no data on the subject, but if something is completely untrue, how can it be a self-fulfilling prophecy?
posted by 23skidoo at 4:31 PM on February 4, 2005


The porn industry makes a good amount of it's money online these days. And if you feel someone is being left out, you haven't done enough Googling.

You can find heavy latina porn and middle-aged women porn. It's out there. But until societal mores change to the point where being heavy (or middle-aged) is seen as attractive, it's going to be a niche market.

But we were discussing the *dominant* depiction. So my point isn't about whether it exists at all, but how it is most commonly made. And, in case you've missed it, it isn't just that SG makes aesthetically hegemonic porn, but that they pretend they are not. That is why I, at least, have a special dislike for them.

Further, "attractive" doesn't exist in a vacuum. People find a certain look "attractive" because it is beaten into their heads all day long that "this is what is attractive." Obviously, people's brains are somewhat resilient, and some are going to like nondominant representations regardless of the image saturation they experience, but really, to argue that X is on top because it is what people find most attractive it a bit simplistic.

Occiblu: Thanks for checking that out. I still might argue that women get the look stick a little harder, but it is sad overall that equality is at the bottom.

LB: That's an interesting take on the SG things. I don't know that I agree, but it is an interesting take.
posted by dame at 4:42 PM on February 4, 2005


Porn and erotica are the exact same thing. Each is a media product defined by its goal of creating sexual arousal. Anyone trying to tell you there's an external distinction is deceiving themselves, so they've arbitrarily separated "media products that aim to create sexual arousal" into two categories, "ones I'm comfortable with (erotica)" versus "ones I'm uncomfortable with (porn)."

And it's time to realize that people are objects. Porn doesn't objectify people, reality does. Porn deals with aspects of people and their behaviors; it doesn't limit people to those. That's an impossibility.

dame, if everything is available (helloooo internet!) but one mode draws more more interest than the others, might that say something about the broad interest? Back in the day, the internet was the biggest freak magnet imaginable. The identifiable freaks didn't go away, the just got outnumbered by the unidentifiable freaks. If there's any medium that calls into question your assertion, this is it!
posted by NortonDC at 4:56 PM on February 4, 2005


to argue that X is on top because it is what people find most attractive it a bit simplistic.

Okay, if that's a too simplistic, what's the real reason that so many billions of dollars are made from the porn industry, which by all accounts mostly features women who are young and skinny?
posted by 23skidoo at 5:10 PM on February 4, 2005


It's manufactured desire, just like wanting a new pair of sneakers when your old ones are fine, though out of style. But I'm pretty argued out on this point. If you care to look, it's fairly obvious that in a consumer culture, there's a complex social web that creates desire. If you don't, then my arguing on a website isn't going to make you see the light. There are whole books devoted to arguments like this, and they do a better job than I could.
posted by dame at 5:29 PM on February 4, 2005 [1 favorite]


The cross-cultural research I've seen concluded that there are only two consistent cross-cultural ideals of human attraction: youth and health. Knowing that makes it harder for me to accept arguments that Suicide Girls, which hammers hard on the youth angle, is merely a product of American consumerism.
posted by NortonDC at 5:39 PM on February 4, 2005


It's manufactured desire

Completely disagree, unfortunately. As N_DC points out, the awful, terrible, painful truth is: men like young women who are healthy. This is never going to change.

That's why you see advertisers using young, thin women in their advertising. Old sucks. Wrinkles suck. Sagging sucks. Grey sucks. Bald sucks. Senility, sterility, and incontinence suck. You know why? Because death sucks.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:04 PM on February 4, 2005


Completely disagree, unfortunately. As N_DC points out, the awful, terrible, painful truth is: men like young women who are healthy. This is never going to change.

Tell that to the vast audience for "milf" porn (google it). Sexual desire is inscrutable ultimately, just embrace it, dude. I've ultimatly come to the conclusion that whatever someone looks like there's someone who wants to fuck it, even someone who fetishizes it. Whether that matches up eith the opposite numbers desires and fetishes, well, that's a whole different kettle of fish. But if your like most males, you'll hit it anyway, as they say.
posted by jonmc at 6:12 PM on February 4, 2005


NortonDC: Porn and erotica are the exact same thing. Each is a media product defined by its goal of creating sexual arousal. Anyone trying to tell you there's an external distinction is deceiving themselves, so they've arbitrarily separated "media products that aim to create sexual arousal" into two categories, "ones I'm comfortable with (erotica)" versus "ones I'm uncomfortable with (porn)."

I'm not sure this was directed at me, but I think I'm the only one to use the two different names. I don't believe that erotica is better than porn. I know it's all the same thing, they are simply labels that I use to describe different types of sexually explicit material. It's more like saying "this is a green apple and this one is a red apple."
posted by deborah at 6:42 PM on February 4, 2005


My porn=erotica comments were prompted by the implied dichotomy in the poster's [more inside] comment:
When is a sexually-tantalizing photo of a nude woman (or man) porn and objectification, and when is it soft-core tantalization or erotica?
posted by NortonDC at 6:54 PM on February 4, 2005


Sexual desire is inscrutable ultimately, just embrace it, dude.

True, I was merely talking in generalizations. And no dude, I ain't Googling that. Why bother when there's much better stuff to Google that would rip up my argument? :)
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:09 PM on February 4, 2005


Googlefight: MILF porn VS. teen porn
posted by NortonDC at 8:19 PM on February 4, 2005


the awful, terrible, painful truth is: men like young women who are healthy. This is never going to change.
That's why you see advertisers using young, thin women in their advertising.
Thin does not equate healthy in most societies. Starving people are thin. Many diseases cause thinness. There are various body types in the world, and the epitomy of health for these different body types would not be a single type of image.

Images are powerful. "Regular" people underestimate this. People who study advertising or propaganda do not.

The U.S. seems to have a really perverted culture. Violence is A-OK, but sex somehow is bad (though everyone knows it is a primal urge and is readily tapped into for advertising and manipulative purposes). It is a shame that the public bath culture is not commonplace in the U.S., as it allows everyone to see just how diverse we all are. I think the huge diversity online vs. what is "mainstream" just further shows that there is more going on than "what the customers want."
posted by MightyNez at 10:45 AM on February 5, 2005 [1 favorite]


Thin does not equate healthy in most societies.

But it does in our fast-food society. Just like tanned skin = outside enjoying vacation time in the West, while tanned skin = outside working rice fields in the East.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:57 PM on February 5, 2005


MightyNez: The U.S. seems to have a really perverted culture. Violence is A-OK, but sex somehow is bad ...

Some of the footage in this WWI documentary shows the Russian royal family swimming naked in a pond...
posted by Chuckles at 7:10 PM on February 5, 2005


But it does in our fast-food society. Just like tanned skin = outside enjoying vacation time in the West, while tanned skin = outside working rice fields in the East.
Though again, that's kind of assuming that the U.S. is one homogenous society. It seems that there is a desire to portray a single type of aesthetic, but this is in conflict with reality on several levels. There are many people not represented or reflected in these images, and their values can be quite different from "tanned skin = vacationed"... even in "the West" (as if that is some entity with common values and culture). This all comes back to the the questions about whether images should reflect reality, or should they be forced upon us.

Of course getting back to porn, I'm not sure if "objectification" is such a useful concept anymore, as has been brought up earlier. I think that it comes down more to the regular exploitation of women, the tendency to equate women with their bodies (ie. has there ever been a post here about a woman without a single comment about her appearance? or the level of interest in having sex with said woman?), and the extreme level of stereotyping involved in these porn productions. In all the conversations about sex and porn I've had with men, only one seemed to be uncomfortable with seeing diverse body types. It just seems that in the U.S. there is something taboo about reality...?
posted by MightyNez at 1:55 AM on February 7, 2005


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