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Posted by Philip on 10 May 2017, 4:38 pm in , , , , , ,

What we're not saying about porn

There's a lot of moral hysteria about pornography — sorry to state the obvious. The panic targets both the industry and its main audience, young men.

 guy watching porn on laptop

Summed up, the industry exploits women and its products create bad sexual attitudes in men towards women. I'm referring to straight porn — I think things are different with gay porn but that's not the point of this post.

I'm not going to take a stand on any moral ground. I think the concerns are both legitimate and unfounded to different extents in different situations.

What I want to suggest is that there's something we're not saying about porn that is important and that, if it was said, it might significantly change, in particular, the impact of porn on young men.

Porn is to sex as Hollywood is to life.

Do we send young men to Superman movies and let them think, if they put on a blue leotard and red cape, they can fly? No.

Do we say it's fine to drive at 200 km/h because the latest action movie features a high-speed car chase? No (though of course some people break the speed limit).

Is murder ok because a huge number of movies are murder mysteries? No.

Should we expect to time travel because we've watched Looper? Of course not.

Because we know Hollywood movies aren't real. They're stories about life. They're fantastical and exaggerated versions of life.

Porn movies are the same. They're not real. They're stories about sex. They're fantastical and exaggerated versions of sex.

This is what we need to be telling young men, in particular, but all young people: "Pornography is not real. It's not a model for real sex. Real sex is different to porn sex, just as real life is different to Hollywood life." 

And then have a conversation about real sex, in the same way we talk about real life. I know it's a bit more awkward but, come on, let's toughen up. And, if you can't say it yourself, ask someone who can. Sex education needs to be part of this new conversation, too.

As for Hollywood or the porn industry, I'm no expert, but I'm aware enough to know that Hollywood doesn't treat all its actors well. And don't tell me Hollywood child actors make free choices to enter the industry (I'm not condoning child porn by proxy, though I find it interesting that we easily condone child Hollywood stars in the wake of kids like Gary Coleman and Macauley Culkin). I think the level of willingness or choice of porn actors to engage with the industry — and its treatment of them — is as varying as Hollywood.

Demonising porn isn't working. It's 30% of the internet's content (and "90 percent of boys and 60 percent of girls are exposed to Internet porn by age 18").

We can't stop porn. Like sex work, it's been around forever, despite our individual and collective biases. But treating sexual entertainment as real sex is a problem.

What we can do, starting tomorrow, is have honest conversations about porn. It doesn't represent real life. Like Hollywood, it's entertainment, and being entertained is nothing to be ashamed of.

But just as we don't use Hollywood as a guide to real life (although we may have crossed that line with Trump), we can't use porn as a guide to real sex.

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