I awoke one morning aged 13 and had a profound epiphany – profound by 13 year old male standards anyway. It struck me with a degree of considerable sadness that the pretty red-haired girl, with a gap in her front teeth, who I had seen in a video the day before, probably didn’t want to be spreading her legs at all. I faced the realisation that I was almost certainly gaining sexual gratification through some poor woman’s misfortune – through her lack of alternative career choice. Such is the tragic nature of commercial pornography. I sipped my cocoa that morning with a feeling of considerable self-disgust, before throwing my uniform on, shoes on the wrong feet no doubt and cycling off to school in the pouring rain to tell all my friends.
It goes without saying that commercial pornography is a huge business. Not even the most boring member of the Christian union will be surprised to hear that Montreal University’s 2009 survey on porn in modern society, failed to find one man, who hadn’t watched it at some point in the last year. When it comes to blokes, everyone’s watching it – from your dear grandfather, to your lecturer to your younger brother. Yet if you have just a modicum of humanity, you should be able to recognise that it is a loathsome business – as the “Queen of porn”, Jenna Jameson, poignantly puts it, it is a business which debases the performers to being mere “products”.
The Adult Industry Medical Heath Care Foundation estimated that 7.7% of “performers” had Chlamydia, 2% had gonorrhoea, 66% had Herpes and an unlucky 7% had HIV.
In 2001, in California – a neon Mecca for porn stars, The Adult Industry Medical Heath Care Foundation estimated that 7.7% of “performers” had Chlamydia, 2% had gonorrhoea, 66% had Herpes and an unlucky 7% had HIV. Does that sound to you like the sort of industry that anyone gets into intentionally, perhaps as an alternative to a grad-scheme at Linklater’s, or a Ph.D? Of course not. The famously beautiful feminist, Catherine MacKinnon, recognises the coercion in the commercial porn industry, noting that the career “isn’t chosen for the sex. Money is the medium of force and provides the cover of consent”.
Whilst it would be easy to write 300 pages on how terrible the commercial porn industry is, it would be an utter waste of time, for I assume, and I sincerely hope that you all know it anyway. But note the word “commercial”. It may well be that the internet surfing, one armed bandit doesn’t have to give up his habit just yet – I strongly believe that the genre of “genuine amateur” provides a humane, preferable and far less socially destructive alternative to commercial porn.
“Money is the medium of force and provides the cover of consent”.
There are many easily found websites out there which people submit their own videos to. Think of it as a sort of sexual YouTube, or peeking through your neighbours’ bedroom window. There is a remarkable, sexual symbiosis about these websites; the performers are gaining exhibitionistic gratification, whilst the viewer is gaining voyeuristic gratification. I can’t pretend that we can ever be sure that each performer is appearing with equal willingness, yet it appears that the emotions are real; there is often visible, genuine, mutualistic enjoyment, as well as visible frustration when the poor, middle aged man struggles in vain to maintain his erection. But isn’t that so much better than watching some poor girl contract chlamydia, whilst pretending to have multiple orgasms in order to fund her coke habit or feed her children.
We must recognise too, that for most young males born post the “.com” phenomenon, their first encounter with sex is on a screen. Long before they grow up and have a mutually enjoyable sexual experience, and certainly before they are old enough to consider gender relations in a meaningful way, almost all of them have witnessed scenes of men with absurdly large penises, objectifying and degrading airbrushed blondes. This becomes the young male’s notion of what sex is -the female becomes a facilitator of male sexual enjoyment. Amateur porn, whilst being produced largely for a male audience too, presents sex in a far less degrading and far more realistic manner. I am not mindless enough to suggest that watching amateur porn as a young teen is not harmful but due to the content and tone of the genre it is certainly less harmful.
Further advantages of the amateur genre are apparent – where commercial pornography dangerously warps notions of bodily normality, creating a female paradigm of perfection which is neither realistic nor natural, amateur porn raises a glass to soft white tummies and unremarkable boobs. I must confess that whilst I came to realise some time ago that not every girl has two matching breasts that point skywards, I have only just come to terms with the fact that unlike the heroes of my pre-epiphany childhood, I don’t have a 9 and a half inch penis.
I of course don’t expect all of you to cancel your Brazzers accounts this minute, yet I urge you to consider the inherent exploitation and degradation in what you’re watching, as well as the social harm that commercial porn causes, and to recognise that in amateur, a healthier, less destructive, even mutualistic and preferable alternative can be found.
Written by Patrick Galbraith, originally published on www.epigram.org.uk