Is Porn Toxic?

By Julia Stonehouse

Okay, somebody needs to give me a medal or at least a certificate of bravery because, in the cause of feminism, I went into a shop, walked past the children choosing candy, reached up to the top shelf of the magazine section, and bought a porn magazine. The shop-keeper gave me creepy looks as he put the magazine in a brown paper bag. I avoided eye contact, and felt like I was carrying a bomb around all day.

Feminism has long maintained that “porn=theory, rape=practice,” and I wanted to make some kind of judgement on that statement. I bought just one magazine (porn is available on the top shelves of most UK ‘newsagents’ which sell magazines, candy, cigarettes etc.), and didn’t look at porn online because I don’t want my digital devices to become contaminated with porn pop-ups. So, I’m not making any generalisations here, just a few limited observations.

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The photo spreads of women in the magazine are literally that – women with shaved vulvas and their legs spread wide apart. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is left to the imagination. The text in the magazine is mostly in the form of letters from so-called “readers,” telling of their escapades – all of which involve horny women who can’t wait to have sex.

But it’s the hundreds of phone-sex adverts that really tell the story. Many purport to be placed by young women: “Just Legal and Eager to Fuck!”, “Sweet Princess first time fucking wanted – be gentle with my tight holes,” and “I’m just 18 - I need my Fanny Spread Wide Now.” Teens feature big-time: “Filthy Teens Want You to Fuck Them Today,” “Sweet Teens, She’s Waiting for Your Cock,” and “First Year Students want more Playtime – Teach them how to Fuck.”

There are lots of ads for men for who want to imagine oral sex, “50 Yr. Old Bimbo Gagging For Cock,” or anal, “Cum up my A**e and Watch me Dribble.”

And there’s plenty of variety, “Psycho Fuck – It’s so intense dirty rough sex – you’ll fucking love it,” “Sniff my Stinky Panties,” “Fat and Fuckable – Cum all over my fat flabby tits now,” “Spank Me – I need Pain,” and the unforgettable “Feed Your Poo Fetish – shocking shitting fucking.”

Of course, the word “slut” appears countless times, including “Posh slut,” “Smoking sluts,” and “Just Horny Sluts that Love a Good Fucking.” Even grandma is desperate for it: “Hear Granny Scream! As she takes it too Deep!!!.”

The adverts for phone sex are all about women enthusiastic to communicate with some guy while he does his business, and the alternative – women who don’t want it – would be far, far worse.

But the problem is, how do men who see countless images of women who are apparently “gagging for it” separate, in their minds, porn-world and the real world? Will they think women in the real world are likewise available and willing? Will they think that, secretly, we’re all sluts and hoes? And if men buy sex from women on porn phone lines or websites, will they think that if they pay for a woman’s drink or dinner, she owes them sexually? Will he begin to think that sex is essentially a commercial exchange?

Men might think they know the difference between porn-world and real-world, but women know from bitter experience that some men think a woman really wants to have sex with them, even though she has clearly said “no.”

And men might be able to distinguish, logically, between porn-sex and the real world, but on a subconscious or emotional level, they might find it more difficult. A man can rape a woman even knowing, logically, that it’s wrong, but on some level he still feels he has that right. And it’s those less obvious levels that porn may be influencing.

One in five phone searches is for porn, which is a huge business. ‘Free’ sites make their money from adverts. The porn industry reaches its bony fingers into men’s pants and extricates their cash. When someone looks at porn, someone else is making money. And women are the commodity on sale.

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So when women talk about feeling objectified, it’s hardly surprising. Women are being commodified, objectified, and monetized – on an industrial scale.

Porn has always been secret. Once, men hid their magazines on top of the closet; now they delete their search history. And men don’t brag to the women they know about how much porn they access. So, given that porn is men’s secret, and it’s a huge industry, it’s a statistical reality that those porn customers are all around us: at work, at college, on the street, and in our homes.

Men might say “But I only look at nice porn that depicts loving couples.” But porn is in the business of giving men what they want and the question is, is that porn about men controlling the sex and the woman? I’m using the word “porn” and while some of it may be perfectly okay, from a feminist perspective, porn is on a spectrum and let’s not forget that on the sicko end of that spectrum there’s rape-porn, and child-porn.

I have not enjoyed writing this article. But I do think we need to have a more open discussion about porn. Maybe buy a magazine yourself, and see what you think. There’s a dual world out there: men for whom porn is a known reality; and women for whom porn is an unknown quantity. Yet we need to understand men, so we need to step into their reality.

The vocabulary used in the magazine I looked at was disgusting, and I can’t help feeling that it contributes to the toxic masculinity women experience in their daily lives. It seems to me that porn-world has crossed-over into real-world. And yes, I do think “porn=theory, rape=practice,” because the core notion of porn is that women of all ages and races are “gagging for it.” That essential idea is bound to have a subtle or not so subtle influence on men, especially the young.

Now, I have to get rid of this magazine. I’m not going to put it in my recycling bin and I’m thinking I’ll have to drive far away and put it in a public waste bin. That’s because it’s toxic – toxic porn.

 

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