Monday, November 1, 2010

Porny Dilemma

We were discussing use of pornography in committed relationships in one of my classes last Friday, and toward the end of the discussion, a man in my class raised his hand and said something to the affect of, "It's important people know that all porn stars are victims of earlier sexual abuse, and by consuming pornography, you are witnessing a woman re-traumatizing herself for money."  I could go into how obnoxious I found this comment to be, but I would only be re-traumatizing myself.

"...I had to roll my eyes...roll them so was awful..."

Mr. Extreme-y pants did get me thinking legit was this?  I knew it couldn't be "all" porn stars, because in my 30-some-odd years on this planet, I've learned that descriptive statements about groups of people that begin with the word "all" can almost always be immediately discounted as bullshit.   Even so, I suspected there was probably some legitimacy to what he was saying.

Chakabox is on the case

From what I could find, anywhere from 30% - 80% of female and gay male porn actors have experienced some sort of sexual abuse or trauma in their pasts (I couldn't find any info about straight male talent).  I'm guessing it's closer to the 30% - 50%, but even that is alarming (the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse in the general public is more like 17% of boys and 28% of girls).  Unfortunately, though, there's really not a whole lot of information out there on the subject, at least not from sources that don't seem to have some sort of an angle.  

exactly, skeptical baby, exactly.

I did find two articles which I thought were interesting and relatively unbiased, though.  One was written by a journalist who spent time in the adult industry world while working on a photo/essay last year.  She reported that while it was true that several of the porn stars she knew had a history of abuse, she had discerned that there are 5 main reasons people went into porn, and sex abuse was only 1 of them.

so implied, it wasn't even mentioned.

The other came from The Independent, in the UK, and points out that while yes, there is a lot of history of sexual abuse amongst porn stars, not all of them are re-living trauma as they work.  One British porn actress said, "For a lot of these girls it's a safe outlet.  Where else are they going to go?  Do you run away from what's happened to you, or do you wrap your arms around it and bring it under your own control?"

She'd wrap her arms around it if she could.

I don't mean to make light of the subject, because it is important that people understand the truth behind the fantasy, which is that there is a definite dark side to the adult entertainment industry.  There is a lot that is not particularly sexy about porn (pretty much everyone has herpes and has a hard time holding on to a serious relationship, for starters), but I also don't believe it's the hellhole that anti-porn people make it out to be.

There are two things that rubbed me wrong about my classmate's comment:  #1, it implied that there's no way a woman could possibly just want to screw men with giant penises for money, and #2, it implied that abuse survivors, female or male, are just mindless victims of their abusers. That once someone has been hurt in a sexual way, they lose their ability to make sexual choices in a healthy, informed way.  

Not a representative representation, thank you.

That being said, I'll leave you with the thought I've been rolling around for the past few days:  not everyone in porn is a victim of abuse reliving his or her trauma on camera...but there's no way to tell who's who just by watching.  What seems hot and sexy and fun on my end of the screen could be hell to someone on the other end - and if they're doing their job right, I'd never know.

I haven't quite landed on how I feel about that yet.  How do you feel about it?


  1. if all the porn i consume is free, does that then bring me closer to some sort of culpability for their continued self abuse, as i don't even provide positive compensation?

    more research is needed on my part...

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  3. I think that porn is also a safe outlet for those who like to be watched. This way it's all people choosing to watch versus some random person pulling up in a car next to someone and pulling out his wang or flashing her tits. It's also a safe consentual way for those who like to peep to peep at people choosing to be watched and not some random neigbors... Just another angle I suppose. Good thoughts though. Thanks Chakabox!

  4. I'm glad to hear you characterize the comment in class as obnoxious. I was afraid to speak up. I've heard similar things recently (such as 80% of porn actresses are essentially slaves [are we talking worldwide or in the US? Might the level of oppression be dependent on the relative freedom of women of each specific region?]).

    I don't doubt there are abuses and oppression, but I also don't doubt that some actresses are asserting their sexuality in a healthy, self-actualized way in the right circumstances.

    Rather than demonizing porn as an evil, oppressive activity, why don't we work to relieve the oppression? Or is someone just afraid of sex?