Friday, 30 October 2009


By Jason Todd - Guest Contributor

Pornography. Escapist fantasies? A bit of harmless fun? Sexually liberating? Plain old wrong? Whatever your view, because let’s not pretend you don’t have one, porn is here and it’s here in a big way.

Porn has moved off of the top shelf and is in our homes. You may think this sounds a little like something Mary Whitehouse would storm the BBC saying, but none-the-less, it would be hard to deny that it’s true. Pornography has crept onto mainstream television. Films like 9 songs have brought it back into the cinema and with magazines like Nuts and Loaded it is still firmly in the newsagents.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I think in the main, pornography is ok. Well, at least in the sense that I don’t see anything inherently wrong with a consenting adult(s) watching another set of consenting adults having sex for the purpose of sexual gratification, or just for a laugh. In fact, one could argue that pornography has done some good. I think on the whole people today (certainly those of my generation - the ’20 something’s’) are more open and confident about their sexuality and sexual practice. They are more aware, and have better sex as a result. I’m not sure many people would argue that we should return to the sexually repressed age of doctors inducing orgasms for stressed women… although, judging by some porn titles, apparently some people do.

But here is my ponder, when did this happen? When did porn become ‘OK’ and do we really think that it is actually all ok? Gone are the days of having to travel to a seedy shop in Soho and leave with a paper bag. Now pornography is well and truly out in the open. People talk about porn, people buy it openly, hell your nan’s probably seen it.

I am opting to avoid any huge social commentary, because there are more able and eloquent people amongst us who can do a better job, but seriously, when did this happen? And whilst we’re at it, by having this ever more open view of pornography have we opened the door to something seedier, that by default we all now have to accept? Gone are the days of having to hide porn away, but gone too are the days of Shannon Tweed politely bobbing up and down on some mullet-wearing man in time to Santana-esque electric guitar, and in are the days of “gagging”, “puking” “abuse of drunks” and the now infamous ‘two girls one cup”. By opening the way for porn in its most general sense, did we also inadvertently invite these more extreme forms into the open? Did we legitimise them?

I stated by saying that I don’t have any real issue with pornography in the abstract sense, but I’m uncomfortable with the idea that this means I then have to also accept it in its extreme forms. Sex should be fun, it should be pleasurable, and so too then by extension should pornography. So why then is it now nasty? Something happened in society to make pornography acceptable, but what on earth happened to make this new form ok? My original reason for writing this piece was a conversation I had with a friend. Although never explicitly stated it was clear than in our time we had both watched porn and by the sounds of it enjoyed it. What concerned us was not people watching porn in the abstract, but rather what it purported to tell or show us about socially acceptable norms of sexual behaviour. The subsequent risk then of course is the impact that extreme but recently legitimised forms of pornography could have on young, sexually na├»ve minds.

And there folks is the heart of my ponder, when did it become ‘ok’ and where do we draw the line of ‘ok-ness’? This musing is full of questions, perhaps then it is fitting to take you back to the title: pornography?

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  1. Good article.

    My general view on porn is that it's a good thing. People who still see it as all the things it was traditionally accused of being(disgusting, sexist, sad etc.)are slightly outdated now. Most people use porn these days.

    I think it's really important that the internet came along and un-repressed this country. Because let's face it, the rest of the (Western) world have been openly watching porn for ages. We've only just gotten over the embarrassment. I remember being shocked on holiday in Italy as a child seeing hard core porn on the same shelf as all the other newspapers and magazines on golf and gardening. Jesus, in this country hard core porn (erections, penetration, blow jobs etc.) were illegal until 1999!. All of the bits of porn where you actually saw anything were edited out! Effectively, only soft core was legal in this country until 1999 when we came into line with EU policy. I am glad that we are now moving towards a similar liberal approach to porn as countries like Holland, America, France, Denmark etc.

    While it was important in the 70s that feminists like Andrea Dworkin, god rest her soul, spoke out against porn as part of a wider issue of women's rights. Today I think women like watching porn almost as much as men do. And there are so many different types of porn out there now that it renders the idea that all porn = men degrading and possessing women outmoded.

    I also think porn is like art. As there is good art and bad art. So there is good porn and bad porn.

    As for the extreme porn, I think it's fine too. Some people like to do extreme sexual acts, some people like to film people doing extreme sexual acts and other people like to watch other people doing extreme sexual acts. And they should be allowed to. Even if that literally means watching people eating poo. The Marquis de Sade was doing these things and writing about them hundreds of years ago. People do these extreme things in their own homes so why should it not be included in modern porn?

    We have to of course have faith in humanity and hope that the people watching porn are aware that it is a fantasy. A non-reality. It's the movies. And don't use it as their motivation to go out and attack women. Surely we should not censor what adults choose to watch, unless what they are watching is criminal or paedophilia. As long as people understand what porn is and its boundaries they should be free to use it as part of their private sex lives.

    I'm going to stop now because I'm beginning to sound like Dr Pamela Stephenson!

  2. Wow really? I don't really have much of an opinion on "normal" porn, which I suppose means I think it's fine. And yes I agree that the UK was much slower than others in catching up to the rest of Europe but surely we should have some boundaries?

    Clearly when talking about extreme porn we are excluding the illegal things because, well, they're illegal.

    But as Jason notes, we have to recognise the potential impact on sexually and emotionally immature minds that legitimising extreme behaviour (whether it's pornography, violence, politics) may have.

    I'm not suggesting that porn should reflect the lights out missionary position adopted by most of middle England (no offence Middle England if you're reading, which you won't be), but, it should reflect slightly exaggerated and playful versions of the types of behaviour that we as a society would want to encourage. So nothing violent, nothing derrogatory. No?

  3. I think an issue is that mature adults are aware that pornography in the main is fantasy, it is an exagerated act. After all its not very often that you open the door to a refridgerator repair man and ask him to stick his tool somewhere that for most is exit only.

    But for younger immature minds are they aware of this invisible line between fantasy and relatity, or do they watch violent, derrogatory porn and think this is what sexual behaviour should be?