Tag Archives: documentary

Liberalism and porn

‘Where and how does pornography fit into Liberalism?’ is a question that I asked myself when I was being filmed for a Channel 4 documentary. The three-part programme features five mothers, including me, who are introduced to the problem of easily available online porn for children to watch. While the impact on children was my primary concern, the content that I was viewing was disturbing for another reason. 

Much of it was highly dehumanising and derogatory of women. I found it distressing. Scenes of women being violently grabbed, slapped and shoved raised my feminist hackles. Teenagers were the favoured category of content on these porn sites. Women of colour were stereotyped and highly racialized. 

I saw an inherent immorality but I am mindful that porn, to many others, is recreational.

Porn is watched by women. Many women choose to watch porn either on their own or with their partners. If porn dehumanizes women but women are consumers of porn too what should a Liberal’s conscience dictate? Feminist friendly or ethical porn, as it is also called, could be situated as an acceptable middle ground but these are niche productions. Most people view porn on mainstream hubs. The commodification of the female body in porn is linked to the male gaze. Let’s face it, most of porn is made for men by men. 

My conscience was also pricked by wondering about whether the female porn actresses had consented to being manhandled. Male porn actors, allegedly, are often forced to do things against their will too. Their choice to become porn stars cannot always translate into consent for everything that they are told to do. There is also the question of authenticity. After having been on a real-life porn set, I can say that what people watch as consumers is half the story. 

It would be naïve to attach free will to everyone who works in the industry. If you do that you are choosing to exempt them from your conscience for your viewing pleasure. Thus, the concept of choice is an inherent paradox in Liberalism.  A concept of choice which disregards the reality of people’s social context, like austerity, is a false God. When students turn to sex work to fund their studies and mothers see the sex industry as a way to earn a living, then ‘choice’ becomes something between the devil and deep blue sea. 

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 4 Comments
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