The Healthy and Unhealthy Consumption
Let me stipulate right from the start that I don't have a problem with pornography, I often indulge in porn myself and would on no account advocate that it be banned. However, what I do I have a problem with is the the way that some men percieve pornography and the women that work in the industry.
I would never criticise a woman who decided to make a living as a stripper, porn star or centrefold. In fact living in a society where it's hard to get a well-paid job (especially for women who often have to care for children and can only get part-time jobs with little room for promotion) I would encourage it for any woman who is comfortable with her sexuality and thinks she could handle the industries' less glamourous aspects.
Until recently I have been puzzled by my own ambivalent attitude towards pornography. While I find images of people having consenting sex incredible arousing, and I consider myself very sexually liberated, as soon as I enter a male-dominated house and find it plastered with Picture/Penthouse and Playboy centrefolds, I have an instant repulsed gut reaction that leaves a sour taste in my mouth. It wasn't until I was debating this reaction with my partner recently that I understood this contradiction in my personality.
I don't have a problem with pornography, but I do have a problem is the way it is consumed particularly by some men in this society (and I say some because this criticism is by no means directed at all men). There's nothing wrong with perceiving a person as a sex object, and I don't feel guilty about the raw sexual reaction that stirs in my groin area when I gaze at this months Women's Forum Centrefold, or a similar publication filled with muscle-bound sweaty nude men.
However, while I might gaze at a male centrefold with pure lust, with little regard for his personality, I would not think any less of my boyfriend/younger brother or son if they announced to me that they wanted to pursue a career in the sex industry. The thought of other women gazing upon my boyfriend/little brother/son in the same way I gaze upon centrefolds doesn't irk me in the slightest.
However, you ask most men how they would feel if their girlfriend/ little sister or daughter wanted to be a stripper, centrefold or porn star and watch for the slightly mortified expression flicker across their face at such a thought. If they respond negatively to this suggestion, ask them why they wouldn't like to see their nearest and dearest making a living in such a fashion. Most of the time it would be because they wouldn't want their loved ones to be gazed upon, thought of and masturbated over in the same way they gaze and masturbate over women in the sex industry.
At this point gently remind this man that the naked girl on the fridge with her legs spread wide and a pouting submissive look on her face is someone's daughter, sister, girlfriend. Then if he's really naive he might go on to argue that his loved ones wouldn't do that kind of thing because she's not 'that type of girl.'
That's where we get down to the real issue, the hypocritical attitude prevalent in our society about 'that type of girl.' The virgin/whore dichotomy is still raging strong despite attempts from feminist authors to reconstruct this myth. It's tragic that women are still called sluts for being sexually liberated while sexually active men are spoken about in hero-worshipping tones. Most men want to be the legend stud who has screwed half the town but no girl could imagine a fate worst than being the tainted slut who has had the audacity to flaunt her sexuality.
It's a sad misfortune that women let these codes of society regulate their sexual behaviour. When I was a teenager I refused to sleep with a guy on the first night and kept a meticulous count of my lovers, always fearing I would have one too many and step over the line, to be forever deemed a slut/mattress/bucket and other equally flattering names. I would often turn down men that I wanted to sleep with out of fear of being known as the town bike. I can't imagine too many men who have memories of rejecting someone they wanted to have sex with because of what the town might think.
It is so aggravating and disheartening to hear the way some males talk about women's sexuality as something to be mocked and the butt of jokes. One personal favourite of mine that never fails to put a big smile on my face is this blonde joke:Q: What do you call a blonde standing on her head? A: A brunette with bad breathWhen I hear men tossing jokes like this around I feel like saying, "look if you really feel that way about female genitalia then maybe you should reconsider your sexual preferences. If vaginas are that disgusting maybe you should investigate some hairy arseholes as an alternative!"
The messages these men are sending women are confusing indeed. They spend excessive amounts on pornography (out of all fascinating sites on the internet, porn sites are the most frequented) but when real women behave sexually brash they become the butt of jokes. A friend of my partner recently remarked to him after having a threesome that his girlfriend has organised that "you've gotta love these liberated women". The same friend has been responsible for telling numerous jokes like the one above. It appears that they love sexual liberation when it caters to their sexual fantasies, but for anything other than that and it¼s something to be feared, scorned and joked about.
Is is a control factor? When a woman is a porn star she is rendered submissive in the act of consumption. She is performing for her consumer, he has control over her actions, he can fast forward her, close the magazine, turn her voice up or down. However a woman in control of her sexuality is her own person. His control is limited. She can't perform for him the way he wants, in fact she can reject him. Female desire appears to be seriously underrated in this society unless it serves the male purpose.
I think it is such a shame for both sexes that we have been conditioned in this way. The concept of women flaunting their sexuality without fear of judgment can only be mutually advantageous for both sexes. The whore in our society should be revered just as much as the virgin- she is only one of many archetypes of womanhood. Most women long to explore the vampish side to their nature. Talk to any woman about her sexual fantasies and most women will have created situations where they are the whore. What I am advocating is that the whore should no longer be conceived as the bad half of the dichotomy , the half to be feared and degraded. She should be as valued as the virgin. As Naomi Wolf states in her recent book about female desire, Promiscuities: A Secret History of Female Desire:"....in the wake of the sexual revolution the line between good and bad girls is always shifting keeping us unsteady as it is meant to do. It will not be safe for us to live comfortably in our skins until we say: you can no longer separate us out from one another. We are all bad girls." (P.5)So celebrate and embrace the bad girl in you and perhaps one day the rest of society will follow.