Porn is NOT a thing

I’m not a pro-blogger at all.  I just write things as they occur, but it seems this piece has already become part of a series.  I’ll post Part 2 soon (I know, I know, the suspense may be too much for some…).  So consider this the introduction…

 

It seems in Christian circles that the word PORNOGRAPHY is an agreed upon term that is universally understood.  It is rarely explained in the articles or resources talking about it.  Porn; a single entity that according to Martin Saunders’ recent survey 42% of Christian men and 15% of Christian women “struggle” with on a regular basis.

 

Pornography is not one entity.  Pornography is not a THING.  It is a spectrum of THINGS.

 

For many pornography is the sort of thing this cartoon by @easilytempted jokes about:

Porn Plumbers

At one point in time, pornography was an entity that involved bad acting, scenarios and actual scripts.  That time was about 20 years ago.

 

The problem with those talking about pornography in the church is that they have rarely seen any (which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself) or if they have seen any it’s usually because they have personally struggled with the desire to watch and use it.  This means that those who have seen it talk about it from a perspective of an ex-user (well hopefully EX-user), and those who haven’t often don’t actually know much about it.

 

The other problem with the word “porn” is that it hides the reality.  Language is very important.  We must stop reducing this huge thing that is the pornography industry to a four letter word.  It makes it easier to ignore, explain away and assume we understand.  At the very least we need to refer to this issue as a “spectrum of pornographies”.

 

Pornography can be written descriptions (often called erotica), photographs, video footage or animation.  It is either soft-core (“pornographic material that does not show penetration, genitalia, or actual sexual activity”) or hard-core  (“contains graphic sexual activity and visible penetration”).  Since the ‘90s hardcore pornographic material has become the norm.

 

According to Wikipedia (the MOST reliable of sources clearly…) pornography can be separated into different types:

Genre by physical characteristics

  • Age (This includes everything from “mature” women (MILFs) to “barely legal” images of adult women and pseudo child abuse images of adult women made to look like children.)
  • Body Features
  • Race
  • Subculture

 

Fetish

  • Bondage/BDSM (Everything on a spectrum between performers being tied up, blindfolded, enduring pain, to simulated rape.)
  • Bodily Functions (Varying from men ejaculating on women to scenes involving women lactating, urine, vomit and faeces.)
  • Other fetish (Scenes focussed on fetishes around particular acts, clothes or parts of the body.)

 

Sexual Orientation:

  • Men with women, women with men
  • Men with men
  • Women with women
  • Multiple men and women
  • Transexual or transgender people

 

Reality:

This includes amateur footage, “Gonzo” or “POV” footage is where a performer films while “performing” and also hidden camera footage.

 

Specific sex acts:

  • Anal
  • Other sex acts (This includes (usually) women being penetrated by multiple men at one time)

 

Other categories 

  • Computer generated, interactive and animated
  • Miscellaneous (including content created for and by women)
  • Extreme/illegal (this includes bestiality and some would include child sexual abuse images)

 

To view the most popular pornographic internet search terms across these categories in 2014 click here.  The most popular is “teen”.

 

From this brief overview it is clear that the idea of “porn” including plumbers or pizza delivery guys are a thing from a bygone era, almost quaint really.  The vast majority of pornographic content include or end with a man ejaculating on a woman’s face.  Almost all mainstream pornographic videos and images only feature female performers who have no pubic hair.  This has led to a generation of young people and young adults who think girls and women should be hairless (essentially pre-pubescent) and that the pinnacle of sex is not mutual pleasure or intimacy, but rather a man ejaculating on a woman’s face.

 

If we as the church want to engage with the issues we need to start by understanding what they are.  We can’t have conversations about the spectrum of pornographies without acknowledging what we’re dealing with.  And that means no longer being blind to the issues, but instead becoming informed.  Because currently it seems like the blind are leading the blind on this issue.

 

If you want to get a more informed a good (but deeply depressing) place to start would be by reading Gail Dines’ book “Pornland”.

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5 thoughts on “Porn is NOT a thing

  1. Hi Ms GLW,
    Great blog series. I’m a little confused by this bit:
    The problem with those talking about pornography in the church is that they have rarely seen any (which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself) or if they have seen any it’s usually because they have personally struggled with the desire to watch and use it.”

    I don’t really see why this is a problem? I would have thought that these people are uniquely situated to help others in either the same or a worse situation (i.e. in some ways analogous to “sponsors” in 12-step programmes), and the draw attention to the miserable reality of the situation? I can’t think we’d ever suggest that having ex-alcoholics taking a lead on ministries to the addicted is a problem? It seems a bit odd in the face of much of the talk regarding same-sex relationships – that one of the problems has always been people in the church who are unaffected by such desires patronising those who do, and failing them miserably.

    Women (and men) do right to be outraged about pornography, and there certainly is a place for unveiling the darkness therein. But, regarding your last post on de-euphemising, is there not a concern that requesting a full shift in how we talk about it will lead to unnecessary humiliation? Does Christ require us to stand on one leg on the naughty step and repeat our sins in visceral detail before He offers forgiveness?
    Don’t get me wrong: there should be full and frank admission of what the sin entails and an understanding of how it has affected others. But this would (should?) be within a group or duo with that particular purpose in mind, not necessarily widespread throughout the church.

    We wouldn’t say the same of any other addiction, would we? A recovering heroin-addict wanders into church and mentions their “grafting” for a hit. We’re not going say “whoa, hold up matey – you mean choosing to lie, mug, break and enter and scare vulnerable elderly people into giving you their meagre pensions so you could buy a drug to inject into your system for a few hours? Let’s tell it like it is.”

    This sort of talk may be necessary in close quarters, or to help someone accept the full extent of their sin, but your blog posts seem to suggest this approach should be taken even among people who acknowledge they have a problem and are at least trying to deal with it?

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    • Interesting you’ve already assumed the language of addiction is the most helpful to understand the issue. I wouldn’t say it is like any other addiction and I wouldn’t say that the majority of people viewing pornographic material are addicted. Immediately the addiction rhetoric places those who are using images and videos of people in a sexually exploitative manner as victims and reduce their agency. I think unless we de-euphemism-ise the whole subject, we won’t see people dealing with what they’re actually doing. We prop up continued usage and exploitation of people if we don’t start being clear about it.

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  2. Quick reply, thanks 🙂
    I would really like to hear about why you don’t feel addiction language is suitable.

    Personally I feel that addiction language for any “substance” has gone too far, particularly with opiates. I have just had somewhat unpleasant dose of the flu, and yet this is what the medical literature will describe as a typical withdrawal from regular heroin use. Neither do I think that anyone “falls into” heroin abuse: you have to choose to learn how to inject, to find veins, to put a needle through your skin etc. It is as much a social problem as a chemical one; self-medication. I don’t think “I’m a heroin-addict” excuses you from any of the choices you have made along that path.

    It is a massively complex interplay of social, physiological and environmental factors – there are perfectly civil, highly functioning members of society who use heroin recreationally all the time.

    However! (Particularly as a church) for one reason or another we have embraced the idea that this substance can somehow overpower one person more than the other; that it is not entirely his or her fault, that the unexpected modern-day availability of a refined substance to flood our opioid-receptors does, if not override one’s free will, at least tip the scales strongly.

    I see no reason why it isn’t fair to acknowledge high-speed video pornography in a similar category. Is it a modern stimulus that seems to be able to provide vast doses of something we would have previously had unreliable and sporadic access to as we evolved? Yes. Does it seem to ensnare some people worse than others? Yes. Is it’s supply governed by terrifying and pitiless greed? Yes. Do we over-diagnose “addicts”? Probably, just like with heroin use.

    In short, I think that “addiction language” should rightly be under scrutiny (for any substance), but if we are going to use it at all, surely it’s fair to apply it to pornography? If one imagines a population on which a particular vice is unleashed, on what basis do you separate the two?

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