I don’t subscribe to “Lean-in” feminism. It doesn’t take into consideration the lived experiences of the millions of women below the poverty line, women who cannot afford to go to university, and women of colour. It does not acknowledge the systems in our culture that keep so many women who do not fit a specific profile – white, rich, English speaking – from reaching the top. That said there is one area o
f our modern society to which I think Sheryl Sandberg’s misguided ideology can be applied, and that’s porn.
I find myself talking about porn a lot these days, mostly because of another brand of feminism that I don’t subscribe to – the kind that tells women what they can or cannot do with their own bodies or that specific types of consensual sex are the wrong types of sex.
This is not to say that degrading porn doesn’t exist. I have seen some horrific stuff on free tube sites. But again, that is down to my perception of what degrading is. The people in the film have both/all consented, and if they haven’t, as writer Roe McDermott puts it, “it’s not porn, it’s filmed abuse.”
The problem isn’t with porn itself – porn has been around since we’ve figured out we can draw pictures on the walls of caves – the problem is our squeamishness to stand up and be counted as consumers. For something so ubiquitous, so part of our everyday lives, we still have problems talking about it. Well actually that’s not true. The media love to sensationalise stories about women, especially when they do something bold or out of turn like make a sex tape, get too drunk, or flash a bit of nipple; and they love to fret and complain about how porn is damaging to young minds. I find it funny though that despite all the pearl clutching and hand ringing, they never have a solution. Well I do.
Make better porn, and have critical discussions about what porn is, and isn’t.
If you don’t like what is being said, add to a conversation instead of remaining silent. It has never been easier than before to contribute. As smartphones are fast becoming the first piece of electronic technology that everyone on Earth will own, more and more of us each day have access to a porn studio in our pockets, if we are so inclined to use it that way. It’s actually one of the few industries in which we can do it ourselves without a whole lot of money to start with.
“But Shawna!” I hear you shout, “I think it’s very unreasonable and unfair of you to expect every-one to get naked in front of a camera and post it on the internet.”
Now hold your horses. I didn’t say that was the only way to make better porn. That is just one of the many sexy options available. You can also PAY FOR YOUR PORN! Shock horror! I know that if you’re reading this, you’re probably a student with not a lot of extra cash on hand. However you don’t have to be in Economics Society to know that not paying someone for their products devalues their work. As tube sites use other people’s work, and give it away for free, studios have been forced to churn out more and more content of decreasing quality, whilst paying performers and crew less and less for their work.
So be a responsible consumer by putting your money where your mouth is, or in this case genitals, and invest in the kind of porn you like to see. There are great feminist and queer porn studios out there who are doing great work both cinematically and by making sure that all different body types, aesthetics, and sexualities are represented; but they can’t continue doing that work unless their wages are paid. A great way to save money, especially if you’re living in student digs, is having a conversation with your housemates about what types of porn you’re into, drawing up a venn diagram, and setting up a collective house account for whatever type of porn ends up in the middle of that venn diagram.
Another way to get the kind of porn you want doesn’t cost you anything, and you don’t have to get your clothes off to do it. Talk to porn performers and studios. In a very polite and professional manner, tell them what you’d like to see. They’re all quite social media savvy these days and are generally keen to listen to their customers.
If you are not happy with the way porn is, it’s time to shake off some of that shame and do your small part to mould the industry into something better.
Shawna Scott is the owner of Sex Siopa, Ireland’s only Bodysafe, design focused sex shop.