Feminism | Posted by Caroline A on 09/27/2013

Growing Up Through A Vaseline Covered Lens

I adore sex and I adore myself. By exploring my body as a teen, I experienced a personal revolution: I was suddenly able to see a new wealth of beauty in everything around me. Sex, it appeared to me, was the great mystery that united us: in present and through time. The way every historical period and culture saw sex differently is a testimony to our majesty as human beings, our endless appetite for connectivity and self- knowledge. I used to think that the sex-positive attitude I maintained was one shared by everybody, no matter what. But then I discovered mainstream porn.

I feel that the language of sexuality in the 21st century, especially as it relates to the mainstream, hardcore pornography industry, doesn’t live up to acceptable standards of mutual respect and adoration. I obviously don’t feel this way because I despise depictions of sex generally — I’m all for creating more depictions of sex and eliminating the cultural attitude that sex should be a private, secretive, shameful thing. I dislike the pornography of today because it celebrates shame, secrecy and malevolence. It celebrates crude caricatures and coarseness instead of sensitivity and nuance. It celebrates misogyny and (perhaps most sadly of all), it celebrates an unimaginative world of sensuality where we are only permitted to see our sexual selves through stereotypes. People argue that these stereotypes (often racist and nearly always misogynistic) are justifiable because they are harmless fantasies, but that’s something I struggle to understand. Why do we have to see sex as so shameful that we cannot embrace our own identities? Why do the monotonous cliches of porn (which to me appears passionless and dull) have to be our society’s epitomizing depiction of human sexuality?

The problem with mainstream porn is actually very simple: especially with the advent of technology like the internet that makes it constantly and widely available, porn becomes monotonous. It’s this monotony (problematic in and of itself) that further leads to more misogyny: because there are only so many “naughty” things to do, pornographers feel compelled to depict even more shocking (and thus, often sexist) techniques to grab the attention of viewers who are predictably bored of endless thrusting. This not only hurts women and men (both in porn as well as viewers who try to emulate what they see) but dulls our sexual imaginations, reduces them to violence rather than sensuality, mutual pleasure and creativity.

As a person who hates censorship, I understand the perspective that adults should be able to watch whatever they want (within reason). But what about the children whose first exposure of sex is hardcore, mainstream porn? You can argue that most adults have the emotional intelligence to know that these videos don’t depict reality, but children don’t have that luxury — in fact, we’re raising our kids to believe the opposite: that such misogynistic depictions are what they should expect and perform.

Although some people argue that porn can never be art, I disagree: sex itself can and should be viewed as something beautiful and indeed artful and therefore our depictions of sex can and should be equally artful. Porn should express complex emotions and social commentary, should make us reflect on ourselves and each other in all our complicated glory. Let’s celebrate cultural and artistic depictions of sexuality which honor the personalities and individuality of every person and show a wonderful connection with all the beauties of this world — and speak out against depictions that are harming us all.

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