No, seriously, why DO you hate porn stars?

No, seriously, why DO you hate porn stars?

A gentleman by the name of Conner Habib recently wrote about his experience as a porn actor. Not the actual day-job side of it, but about how his profession caused him all manner of hassle in his day-to-day life and his love life.

"Well," I said to Alex, "I'm a porn star".

It's the kind of thing that when you say it, you're worrying you might flinch a little, since you're expecting the other person to.

At the time, porn was my main job. One to five movies a month. I was still getting used to telling people about it. Making movies was my favorite thing in the world, but it was tiring sometimes. And it followed me around. Every meal was linked to the shape of my body and my livelihood. I had to go to the gym a lot, which I'd never done regularly. But then, because I was going to the gym, because I was making porn, things like this happened – I got to meet guys like Alex.

"Oh," he said, and then looked into his tea.

Why do you hate us? What is it about us you don't like? I never get the answer, just the symptoms of the answer.

It's an incredible piece of writing, from someone who's been through a lot and is able to share it very eloquently, and is well worth a read.

Anyway, I'm picking this up because a friend of mine shared it on Facebook, having had the same reaction that I had to it, and there was a reaction that neither of us had expected.

Would you tell a victim of abuse not to deal with their own trauma by making disturbing forms of art? How about taking up a punishing physical sport like mixed martial arts? No, of course you wouldn't, because it's their trauma and it's their decision how to deal with it. The base disgust that Conner Habib talks about in his article is on display here – because it's porn, it's obviously a negative influence.

Here's the 'porn is base/disgusting' viewpoint. It's entirely up to someone whether they consume porn, and it doesn't affect anyone who chooses not to, but somehow by existing it taints the person involved.

Again – "this is my preferred presentation of human sexuality, any other presentations are inferior" is the message here, and the concept of porn is lumped together into one amorphous mass of negative influence.

A person who went through a horrible experience and struggles to sustain his chosen coping mechanism without losing friends and relationships isn't entitled to be upset with the situation and write about it? I have to wonder if the same would be said if he chose to write about his abuse without reference to his career in porn.

Let's consider an allegory: drunk driving. Banning alcohol, or banning driving, or both, would put a stop to drunk driving. Neither are desirable. People enjoy alcohol, and consumed appropriately, it's harmless. People need to drive, and when done safely, it's harmless. Clearly targeting the specific issue – driving and alcohol together – is the pragmatic course of action.

Now, it's extremely important to bear in mind that there are serious problems with the production, distribution, and consumption of pornography. That must not be ignored if we hope to change it. That said, though, just as we wouldn't ban cars and alcohol to stop drunk driving, we can't take the easy option of pushing porn as far into taboo as possible in the hopes of reducing its prevalence. All you need to do is take a good look at some of the murals discovered in the ruins of Pompeii to realise that the representation of human sexuality is something that isn't going away.

So, how do we move forward? First, we accept that the sex work industry is not going away, and in fact can be a very positive thing for those involved. We also accept that it has serious problems. Secondly, we agree that we want to fix these problems ('drunk driving' in the previous allegory), without stopping people from doing something they enjoy ('drinking alcohol') or something that is a necessity in their lives ('driving a car').

It's worth noting and examining a recent significant change in the landscape of porn. Internet connections and media distribution opportunities are getting better and cheaper. Payment processing is getting easier. Content marketplaces are springing up. As a result, indie porn is seeing something of a renaissance. People are starting their own small boutique studios, producing their own content, and selling it themselves.

This is a big deal. Whereas the image of the sleazy LA lounge lizard was the previous stereotype of the porn studio head, exploiting desperate people in order to make his filthy lucre and buy really bad suits, it's being replaced by someone who has nobody but themselves deciding what they do, how they do it, who they do it with, who they want to sell it to, and for what price. There will always be a consent issue with porn – even with the best of communications and pay structure, the premise of 'doing it because you have to' applies to anything which pays the rent and bills. That said, independent studios are able to optimise for enthusiastic consent within that scaffold.

Even the larger studios are able to take steps to maximise enthusiastic consent and minimise grudging resignation. Pro-rata payment structures are taking hold, meaning that if an actor chooses to stop filming at any point, they are paid fairly for the proportion of the material completed. On-camera discussion of consent and humanisation of the actors is starting to take off, with filmed consent negotations being part of the content itself, and the participants talking frankly about what they enjoyed or didn't enjoy before and after the shoot.

I'd like to take a minute to talk about condom-visible porn while I'm at it. I'm a huge believer in safer sex. I was of the opinion that condom-visible porn was a goal to work towards, both to promote their use and for the safety of the performers. However, after a conversation with someone involved in the kink.com production team, my opinion has been changed, and I'd like to share why. It's fairly simple – penetrative sex means friction. Over the course of the production of a piece of content, you can expect many re-takes, meaning lots of penetration and lots of friction. Friction means two things – firstly, degradation of the condom, and secondly, tiny ruptures in the thin skin of the genitals; tiny ruptures that are perfect entry points for STIs.

Had I not had the chance to speak to a performer, I wouldn't have known this. By denying sex workers a platform, we're missing out on this kind of information and advocacy. That puts people in danger, and that is unacceptable.

I have been an extra in a porn shoot (fully clothed, and unavailable in the UK, but by all means, go hunting). My flat has been used as a set for a few shoots. More than one of my partners have been involved, or are involved, in the production and sales of indie porn. I'm not a performer, but I do know what I'm talking about.

Let's focus on providing resources for the undeniable few who are abused in the sex work industry, and reducing the risk that those who work in it face every day. The alternative is what's happening now: wasting our efforts hand-wringing about the morality of a few naked humans doing the same naked human things that naked humans have done for thousands of years.

Dave Williams

Dave Williams

https://dave.io

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