Let's fix porn

This post could be a bit of a trigger apocalypse. We've got discussion of both consensual and nonconsensual sexual violence, and graphic implication of what I get up to when the blinds are down. I know, it's a grotesque thought.

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To work! Let's fix porn.

I am a massive, massive pervert. I'm also a feminist. I don't feel that the two have to conflict. The crossover is a real (ahem) bone of contention among feminists. I can see the counterargument; the vast majority of pornography treats women as objects.

Pick up any mainstream video - particularly ones that feature women giving blowjobs - and you'll notice it in short order. The woman is sat there quietly choking to herself with tears streaming from her face as her gag reflex spasms uncontrollably, while the person on the receiving end groans ecstatically and talks at her, calls her degrading names, tells her that - not asks her whether - she's enjoying it. More often than not, it's fairly clear that she genuinely isn't.

The video usually fades to black, or another scene for more of the same, after the money shot. This is the zenith of objectification - she has no say, is allowed no reaction. The only response that the scene cares about is the mechanical and involuntary response of her body. This woman has been objectified.

And you know what? That's not fucking okay. But to make it okay doesn't take a lot of work - just a recontextualisation.

Pretend for a moment that the scene we've just described isn't part of mainstream porn, where it's depicted as a part of normal sex, without the need for any thoughts of responsibility or consequence because it's 'normal'. Let's say the same thing happens in BDSM porn. In this particular scene, the man is dominant and the woman is submissive.

We display a message beforehand establishing that the activity we're about to watch is fantasy. We establish the power dynamic beforehand with a bit of powerplay between both participants.

We then proceed into exactly the same scene as before.

After we fade to black, the woman is seen in a ten minute interview, sitting down with a bottle of water, discussing what she did and didn't enjoy with the other performers. If the narrative that porn is the product of consenting adults under no coercion is accurate, then we're showing that - she's smiling and happily discussing what we just saw. We're comfortable with the knowledge that she's getting a degree of aftercare by what we can see in the interview itself. She has a reaction, she has thoughts, she has likes and dislikes. In the moment, she was an object, and that itself was hot - but now she's a person who enjoyed doing it, and that's even hotter.

I've just described the usual structure of a video from one of the kink.com sites. The material that Kink produce is some of the best, hottest porn that I've ever, er, researched. I want to know that everyone involved is having a good time, even if on the surface what's happening is far from hugs and kisses.

Some of my friends run porn sites. Case in point is Pandora Blake, who runs and stars in Dreams Of Spanking. She is a genuine fetishist. The models, both submissive and dominant, are genuine fetishists. Everything you see is very clearly a mutually agreed fantasy that everyone involved is benefitting from. That's what porn should be - positive people doing positive things that they benefit from, shared with the viewer within a consensual and ethical framework.

A now-defunct site called Insex used to be one of my mainstays for imaginative, devious and downright raw BDSM content. PD, the top who ran the site, was an evil genius.

The crew behind Insex produced a documentary - Graphic Sexual Horror - about its rise and fall. At its height, Insex was an ethical BDSM powerhouse - PD and one of the models even began a relationship. The things that started its downfall, related with surprising honesty in the documentary, were violations of consent and issues of safety. PD crossed a pre-agreed line with one model. Corners were cut on the manufacturing of a glass-walled water tank causing it to rupture and smash, fortunately without anyone inside.

The video that featured the model whose consent was violated instantly changed in my mind. Once a favourite, for a long time I couldn't watch it. I decided to pull it up recently out of curiosity - how would I see something that used to be so unremittingly stimulating?

The answer was disgust and intense empathy. It was a deeply unsexy experience. With consent removed, I saw abuse, and as with most kinky people, abuse is the ultimate abhorrence in a scene where consent is so important.

That's what's matters. Porn isn't an inherently bad thing. Watching people doing something that you enjoy in order to enjoy it vicariously is not an inherently bad thing. The issue is one of abuse, safety, consent, and honesty.

I took the opportunity of being an extra in a gay BDSM shoot once. It wasn't hot to me, but it was incredibly eye-opening. The 'straight' submissive being 'abducted' and dominated by the group of gay men was genuinely straight. He wasn't getting off on it - he was in it for the money. That in itself isn't a bad thing.

What appeared in the final video aside, he was continuously cared for throughout. He safeworded once; it was immediately honoured, after which he chose to resume the scene. It was made absolutely clear to him (and the extras) that any of us could walk away at any point and be paid pro rata for however much material had been filmed. He was interviewed afterwards. There was no coercion or genuine force used - this was a man choosing to do something of his own free will in exchange for financial gain, just like any job.

Well, alright, there were potentially more latex-covered pool cues applied internally than in most fields of employment, but you see what I mean.

I was thoroughly impressed, and I genuinely hope that it's typical of responsible porn producers. Show me what these people think of doing what I just saw. Show me that they enjoyed it. Show me that they have opinions. It's not just a matter of feeling better about myself, it improves the experience because it lets me identify with them. Show me two (hey, or more, I'm no prude) people doing something that they want to do. I don't care what it is; if it's something that doesn't turn me on, I won't watch it. What matters is that it's executed with informed consent and genuine freedom - because when it is, it's beautiful.