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We Need to Talk About Porn

Porn is being watched. So why don’t we really talk about it?
%28Design+by+Kristofer+Hoon+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29
Kristofer Hoon
(Design by Kristofer Hoon | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

 

Porn is a heavy and, honestly, culturally ugly term. There’s a lot of baggage and wincing at the sheer mention of it. As much as some of us (in the state of Utah) like to pretend that it doesn’t exist, the truth is that statistically, most people in the United States have watched, will watch, or regularly watch porn.

Porn, as an industry, makes more money than the NBA, NFL and MLB combined. It generates over $15 billion a year. In the last three months, Pornhub alone has received over 13 billion visits, more than a quarter of these coming from the United States. Sure, Pornhub is currently banned in Utah — although, searches for VPNs skyrocketed following the ban. However, this doesn’t mean much. Porn is everywhere, not just porn sites. Around 13% of all tweets are pornographic. It’s out there and it’s very, very accessible.

A recent study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that 79% of Utah adults have viewed porn in their lifetimes. The average frequency was weekly or monthly in men, and every six months for women. These figures nearly match the national average.

People of all walks are watching porn — mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers; Fellas, gals and non-binary pals. So why don’t we really talk about it? Furthermore, should we be talking about it?

‘Knowledge is always better than shame’

It’s hard to talk about porn. The word carries a lot of shame. Whether it stems from upbringing or religious teachings, a majority of people don’t talk about their porn usage. When was the last time you sat down with someone you know and honestly chatted about porn? Odds are, not recently.

One of the reasons for this could be a general misconception to group all porn into one category. That category is often associated with words like bad, filthy or dirty. None of us want to be branded as perverts or unsafe people. Yet, we still feel shame when approaching our relationships with porn.

Victoria Weiss works as a customer service rep for the alternative feminist porn company “Ersties.” Weiss also conducted her master’s thesis with the company and has an intimate understanding of the inner workings. Ersties’ goal is to produce adult entertainment with “real people, real bodies, real moans, real consent, real orgasms.”

According to Weiss, Ersties goes further and serves to overall provide sex education through consent, inclusivity and communication. They have a constant mission to combat shame and provide knowledge, for, as Weiss puts it, “knowledge is always better than shame.”

Weiss explained “masturbation is about the relationship you have with your own body. Everyone should feel sexy and have the ability to access that part of themselves.”

Feminist Porn

Weiss explained the media we consume, whether we like it or not, impacts how we feel about ourselves and the world. Porn, traditionally, takes the approach of the male gaze and has been made to fit specifically the needs of white American men. Ersties is doing things differently in a lot of ways — one of which is to be entirely run by women. They pride themselves on making ethical and feminist porn.

“That is not to say other kinds of porn are bad,” Weiss said. “Of course, there is what we call ‘sad porn’ — non-consensual, problematic, exploitative abuse porn, which we are wholeheartedly against. But it’s not about ‘us against the others.’ As long as it’s porn that is ethically and consensually made, it should be celebrated.”

Ertsies strives to provide an understanding that porn is much more nuanced than what we tend to think. Their goal is to provide a healthy alternative to the legions of exploitative and unrealistic porn that exists. Ersties wants to show that porn can even become something that is beautiful and artistic.

A Naked Expression

“Porn as medium has certain affordances that are completely unique from other media,” Weiss said. “Porn allows people to express themselves in a new way, a naked way. A way that they are usually not seen in society.”

Art is expression. The naked human form is celebrated in all forms of art. From “Venus de Milo” to “The Birth of Venus” to Kee revealing her pregnancy in “Children of Men.” Seeing a naked body in any form of art is clearly evocative. It does something to us that draws us in. Yes, in all forms we can find that exploration, but we can also find raw human beauty and celebration. So, why not porn? Can’t it find a home in art?

Each porn production, like any other form of entertainment, has its own set of core values. There’s a five-course meal, and there’s fast food. There’s “Five Nights at Freddy’s” and there’s “Killers of the Flower Moon.” There’s nothing necessarily worse or better about either option. While they are being expressed in the same medium, they have different values. Weiss explained that porn is the exact same.

“Some porn can be watched for its aesthetic value,” Weiss said. “There are people who enjoy porn the same way one may enjoy “The Titanic.” They will sit down and enjoy it for hours. There is also some porn that is like fast food. It only takes 15 minutes to get you off and that’s great.”

If we can approach porn with the same affordances we approach other mediums of art, we can pretty easily see the nuance. If we open our minds to this nuance, porn suddenly becomes more approachable. There’s very clearly porn that celebrates, and porn that exploits, porn that serves as straightforward stimulation, and porn that serves to engage.

Obviously, the vast majority of porn fails into the former. The porn industry has a lot more exploitation than art, which is all the more reason we need to talk about it. Is the alternative not better? Do we not want to see more consensual and ethical porn?

What About the Children?

What about the children? Should we not be shielding our precious youths from any sort of explicit content? The answer may not be as simple as “yes.”

“The well-being of children is often misused by regressive political agendas,” Weiss said. “Of course, sex is an adult topic, and something that is constantly blossoming for adults. That being said, we all know that teenagers have sex. So many of our first experiences with kissing, masturbation, touching and sex happen as teenagers.”

Children and teenagers seeking out porn isn’t something unique to the age of the internet either. The fact is young people are, and always have been curious. If they aren’t finding answers from trusted sources, they’ll start looking elsewhere. There is so much misinformed and reality-warping porn out there. Providing access to a safe alternative can go a long way in sexual and mental development.

“How can we expect teenagers and children to have healthy expectations and ideas of sex when there isn’t access to healthy portrayals online?” asked Weiss. “We want our young people to love their bodies. When they think of sex, we don’t want them to think of the problematic and unrealistic depictions that are so prevalent. Masturbation is healthy, and there are healthy ways to watch porn.”

While some parents may advise for their children to avoid porn at all costs, this isn’t a realistic expectation. Suppressing desires can lead to further shame regarding sexuality. Statistically, avoiding porn is nearly impossible. So, embracing porn and guiding youth towards healthy depictions of sex may be the better answer. This idea may seem foreign, but there is, and has been for a long time, literature aimed at teaching healthy sexual practices.

What we need isn’t politicians who work harder to ban porn. Instead, we need politicians brave enough to acknowledge that porn is real, sex work is real and there are modern solutions.

“No one wants to be the porn politician,” Weiss said. “It feels much better to be ‘the child savior.’ But we need politicians who talk to sex workers, acknowledge their existence and reach a common ground that benefits everyone.”

Let’s Talk About Porn

There is so much more to discuss when it comes to porn. What we need most of all is for a dialogue to just start. It’s very clear that porn is not going anywhere. Yes, it can be dangerous, and there is disgusting and exploitative porn out there. However, not talking about it is only making the darkness the filth dwells in darker and the healthier alternatives harder to find.

Porn is nuanced, and there are people out there, like the Ersties team, who want it to be healthier. We deserve real portrayal of pleasure. Sex workers deserve an industry that respects them, compensates them and allows them to ethically express themselves. Youth deserve to grow up in a safe space where they can develop in all aspects.

Sex is real. Porn is real. So let’s talk about it.

 

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About the Contributors
Luke Jackson is an arts writer for the Daily Utah Chronicle. He is currently pursuing a B.S. in games with a minor in creative writing. Since childhood, Luke has had a strong affinity for film and the arts. You’ll probably find him catching the latest movie or hanging out with his dog (and best friend) Theia. After graduation from his undergraduate studies, Luke hopes to pursue a career in video games or screenwriting.
Kristofer Hoon, Designer
(he/him) Kristofer is a junior currently studying Graphic Design. He is extremely passionate about creating art and is very excited to create designs for the Chronicle. In his spare time, he loves to play bass and go to local punk shows.

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  • D

    DaeganDec 23, 2023 at 12:27 am

    A wonderfully well researched and presented piece on the importance of dialogue revolving around that which is the taboo. Porn. Only by bringing porn from the shadows of our collective lexicon into the light of our common tongue can the darkness and shame be taken away. Well put, buddy. Well put.

    Reply