Politics of Online Porn?

Are you a daily porn watcher? Or perhaps only when the setting is right? Different patterns exist, different tastes and habits, yet one thing is for sure, online users can access porn like never before.

The online porn industry is a billion dollar a year business according a recent Forbes article. But our society is not thinking in numbers, we are concerned with how access to online porn is shaping sexuality particularly when it comes to our youth.

What is missing from this conversation is the way that porn images promote gendered and racialized sexualized violence (see Susan Cole), as something working in intersecting ways to produce the technology we are using in order to access porn, and produce the images online users desire.

How are we talking about online porn? How can Ginsburg’s analysis of the relationship between society and technology be useful in understanding porn’s new medium – the internet? More specifically does access to porn online produce opportunities for social inclusion?

BBC recently posted an article titled “Should Children Be Taught that Porn is Not Real”. I think the article misses so many key points, so I posted it to my Facebook page begging fellow feminist bloggers to help generate some material.

“RECAP of my comment, which I hope someone will add too! I agree, interesting article…I’m on the radical side. obviously children can access porn, but I think we should be more concerned with the kinds of porn made available. similar to my views on sexuality, I think kids should be taught a wide variety exists. However, most mainstream porn tends to show very ridgid stereotypes of a mostly male centred sexuality (feminist porn being one exception ofcourse!)”

My Facebook friends really picked up on the feminist porn example I gave in my comment (also see feminist porn awards for up to date stuff). Alternatives were brought to my attention, as a reader brought to my attention links that explain how to post your own porn to YouTube. At first, I was offended, and I assumed the reader misunderstood my point, but I’m taking this all as part of a larger conversation.

The internet is not the sole force impacting how our society approaches online porn, the technology shapes aspects of our attitudes, this is evidenced by the fact bloggers and readers continue to generate alternative meanings and attitudes. As Ginsburg points out, these attitudes influence the way that technology is used, which is never a neat and tidy category, but continuously shifts what we desire from social interaction online.

Furthermore, by explaining how to post porn to YouTube, my reader was also acting as prosumer (marijkelard.wordpress.com provides an excellent example of the prosumer identity). The ability to produce, consume, and distribute porn is not simply the result of technology because we still need to learn what these behaviors will mean in the larger landscape.

What role can producing your own pornography play in promoting social inclusion?

This is a question asked by Warschauer in terms of the digital divide, but it applies to online porn access. If we look at the issue of online porn and what access is doing to our society, I think we have to go beyond the passive consumer. The relationship between society and technology is visible in the way we are talking about porn attitudes, such as shown on my Facebook page. But we also need to focus on the means available to produce online porn, and therefore activism.

I started my post on Facebook to express distain for the limited images mainstream online porn provides. I wanted to stress to readers it’s not access to online porn that is the problem, but what we are doing with it, how we understand the attitudes which arise.

Similar to the youtube porn maker, access to Facebook and blogging directs me to open-source model of advocacy. I was able to get people talking about social change through a collaborative online model that should perhaps be incorporated onto Github in the future. I picture this medium as a place to re-edit the challenges to mainstream porn as new blogs and social media arise. I think the medium serves as a de-fragmented space for the already fragmented personalities of online space.

Maybe even future feminist porn videos will adopt an open-source model to the design and production of online porn? So, instead of blogging about it, porn sites could act as Wiki sites, and we can actively create the porn we want to see. This is already happening in video games, but with extreme violence which is disappointing.

Our technology has the capacity to do it…but do we have the political will to make it happen? Within the current climate of porn I think an open-source model has the potential to further perpetuate gendered and racialized stereotypes, like any technology, if used to promote mainstream images, Github would not be a good feminist project. The political will needed for project like this to work for feminism would require looking past the billion dollar porn industry and the damaging potential of online porn, and towards our power as producers, consumers, and distributors to change the landscape.

About missmediawatch

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One Response to Politics of Online Porn?

  1. chrisroud says:

    I enjoyed reading your blog this week especially around a topic that is heavily debated. You bring up a good question at the beginning of your post about pornography is often racialized and sexualized violence. This is very true especially when most pornography has a woman being beaten, choked, tied up, gagged and in some instances, being raped. Racialized women’s bodies are commodified because they are seen as cheaper than white women’s bodies. It is crucial to note however, that pornography is made by men for men – it captures the male gaze. As Wacjman (2004) posits there is a sense of freedom while being online – people can distribute, post, upload and/or download pornography because they have they are free to do so.

    I would have to disagree with Ginsburg’s analysis about social inclusion especially when we discuss pornography. I feel that people are not being inclusive but rather exclusive. Since women and men’s bodies are being gendered and racialized, it does not surprise me that there is no inclusion. Again, whose voices are being heard and for whom? This would suggest that it is for the male gaze – pornography for men by men. I would argue that many women would not like to view other women being raped and violated because women are often harassed and sexually assault more than men. Since this subject is close to home for many of us – since we probably know at least one person who has been sexually assaulted, it would not surprise me that women do not find this arousing. Why would it, especially if they are a survivor of assault and rape. Also, I feel that pornography excludes people who are not abled-bodied.
    There are of course some sites that offer free porn access but numerous sites only give you previews. If the pornography on a website is something that you would like to view all the time, you can pay to become a member in which you have unlimited access to the photos, videos, and films of pornography on that site. This type of consumerism is the reason why the porn industry is multi-billionaire. It makes more than Google, MSN, Yahoo, and Facebook combined!

    I agree with you that people and technology have the capacity to design an open-source model. It can be like a networked community just as Wajcman (2004) proposed. She suggested that “individuals build their networks, on-line and off-line, on the basis of their interests, values, affinities, and projects” (60). However, do you think it is beneficial to do this? Here is an example of open source pornography – this video is problematic in my opinion. [Discretion is advised – language and content] Is it better that people do this in the privacy of their homes and not afraid that people will be judgemental? Also, the pornography that I may view or like to view may be completely different than Joe Blow down the street? Will we categorize videos and photos like it already does on porn websites? There is going to be a constant battle between anti-pornography and pro-pornography. It is something people avoid talking about because it can cause family problems. Is this something that would make family problems go away or would it make it even worse?

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