Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: They Have the Best Rides

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  • Kyle Matthews,

    Am I the only person horribly conflicted and (almost) thoroughly depressed by this topic?

    I've now written a post on the topic three times and deleted it because it didn't say what I wanted to say. I get tangled up in the 'yes, but no, wrong here but right here' and end up with four paragraphs that don't end up saying anything useful.

    That 'Deep Throat' story was thoroughly depressing. The type of pornography which is of the nature that Anjum quoted on page 2 - not only is it thoroughly unattractive, but concerning about what it says about sex and power in parts of our society for me.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    a possibly unrelated point is that the porn industry depends on the notion that the women are behaving consensually and are enjoying what is done to them. when their income depends on looking and acting like they're enjoying it...

    Tangentially, it is very clear in quite a lot of mainstream porn that the women are faking their orgasms. That also weirds me out. Why on earth is that still hot to anyone if the woman is so obviously 'lying' to the audience? It's just like a normal film to me: if I don't believe the actor playing the part, the movie is ruined.

    OK, I think I might be done with the ranting now. Maybe. :)

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Tangentially, it is very clear in quite a lot of mainstream porn that the women are faking their orgasms. That also weirds me out. Why on earth is that still hot to anyone if the woman is so obviously 'lying' to the audience? It's just like a normal film to me: if I don't believe the actor playing the part, the movie is ruined.

    It's a genre, with conventions, a form of coded lying if you like. Think of the exaggerated acting in the silent movie era. Hard as it is to figure, that must have been seen to convey actual human emotion. I know, in hardcore porn the whole point is that the sex is real, and you must have, er, something to show for it, but of course everything that surrounds the moment of proof (and it's such a narrow definition of sex, isn't it) is acting and accepted as such. Somebody who has bought into the conventions of the genre will find the faked orgasms believable, and a hypothetical real orgasm not conveyed in that way conversely would seem not believable, just as restrained, naturalistic acting would have been in a silent film.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Tangentially, it is very clear in quite a lot of mainstream porn that the women are faking their orgasms. That also weirds me out.

    Oddly, I watched the trailer for Erika Lust's Barcelona Sex Project a couple of days ago, and it made me feel very weird, because it's clear that the orgasms, male and female, are real. I felt like I should be apologising and backing out of the room.

    This is possibly why I prefer written porn. There's no worry about performers or the line between... simulation, and acting, and real pleasure?

    Um. I can provide a link to that trailer, but I feel weird about doing so. It IS porn, but it also clearly demonstrates the difference between 'mainstream' chicka-wah-wah porn and modern femme/indie/goth/punk porn.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    I've now written a post on the topic three times and deleted it because it didn't say what I wanted to say. I get tangled up in the 'yes, but no, wrong here but right here' and end up with four paragraphs that don't end up saying anything useful.

    You too huh?

    I think there's a big gap between what the sex industry can be and what it often is.

    I suspect that a lot of what is "wrong" with the sex industry is really an exaggeration of what is "wrong" with society as a whole. I wonder what pron would look like in a society with true gender equality and no weird hang-ups about sex?

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 719 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    Think of the exaggerated acting in the silent movie era. Hard as it is to figure, that must have been seen to convey actual human emotion.

    I think you're not giving silent film enough props, Giovanni! There is some wonderfully subtle acting in silent movies, and it runs the gamut of human emotions and artistic endeavour... but if porn's only real aim is to have these 'moments of proof' quite regularly, and then the female versions of those 'proof moments' are totally fake, then it all seems pointless to me.

    I'm probably overthinking this.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Carolyn Skelton,

    It seems to me that the statistics presented here show that there's not a clear causal relationship between pornography, behaviour and/or good/bad responses or practices. Consequently it seems to me that other factors must also be in play: eg social context, peer group influences, gendered attitudes the users are exposed to in their daily lives and other/mainstream media, type of pornography etc.

    Ignoring any possible weaknesses in research method, the statistics show general trends: eg being correlated with certain kinds of behaviour in a high proportion of men studied. But what about the men whose behaviour/responses don't conform to that? What factors are in operation that some men who use a lot of pornography have mysogynistic attitudes and other pornography users don't?

    To me it seems some people are trying to give too much weight to the pornography itself (and in general) and not the other interacting factors, both for the sex workers/porn actors and porn users.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 39 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    It seems to me that the statistics presented here show that there's not a clear causal relationship between pornography, behaviour and/or good/bad responses or practices. Consequently it seems to me that other factors must also be in play: eg social context, peer group influences, gendered attitudes the users are exposed to in their daily lives and other/mainstream media, type of pornography etc.

    Yay! I agree with everything Carolyn just said.

    Sexual and physical violence is a big fcuking deal to me, and that's why I get so tetchy about people mis-identifying 'cause'. Say you decided that 'rugby' fueled violence against women, and you banned it. It doesn't, so you'd have done nothing to alieviate the problem, AND you've wasted a lot of time, energy and resources that could have been devoted to actually combating domestic violence. AND you've removed from some women the pleasure they were getting from playing rugby, even though it's mostly something men do.

    Wow my writing is deteriorating.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • andrew llewellyn,

    I think you're not giving silent film enough props, Giovanni! There is some wonderfully subtle acting in silent movies, and it runs the gamut of human emotions and artistic endeavour...

    Heh. I considered commenting on this - I have long thought that people's perception of silent movies stems from the old Mad Movies TV series - ie, stupid music & played at modern frames per second making it look like everything is speeded up.

    Catch something like Broken Blossoms, in a good print, at the right speed & with live music, and prepared to be amazed at how sophisticated cinema was in 1919.

    Sorry, I'll get back to pron now.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2075 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Catch something like Broken Blossoms, in a good print, at the right speed & with live music, and prepared to be amazed at how sophisticated cinema was in 1919.

    I defy anybody, and I mean anybody, to watch Broken Blossom and not laugh at the acting. Lillian Gish has a couple of moments that we'd nowadays define as almost restrained. That's it.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • andrew llewellyn,

    I defy anybody, and I mean anybody, to watch Broken Blossom and not laugh at the acting

    I took my girlfriend at the time, who'd never seen a real silent movie, to a screening in the 90s. She cried. Given that she's Chinese I thought she'd baulk at the casting of a white guy in the Chinese role, but she accepted that & was completely caught up in the emotion.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2075 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    I defy anybody, and I mean anybody, to watch Broken Blossom and not laugh at the acting.

    Erm... I think I might have cried in Broken Blossoms. I am a dork. :)

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • andrew llewellyn,

    I did laugh at the General though :)

    No really, I'll get back to the pron now!

    Since Nov 2006 • 2075 posts Report Reply

  • Carolyn Skelton,

    Thanks, Emma. Your writing doesn't look to have declined to me. But maybe I am blinded by the empathy generated by the fact that I grew up in a violence free, rugby-centred household, and that I continue to enjoy watching rugby on TV too.

    But I also don't see evidence of a clear causal relationship between the apparent correlation between the simultaneous rise in pornography (or accessibility of pornography) and decrease in violence against women. They could have been 2 parallel developments with either no influence on each other, or some other underlying (possibly totally different) factor that influenced both of them. Then there's the problems in getting accurate statistics on and reporting of violence against women, and the way this fluctuates over time.

    But I also agree with you that it's important to accurately identify causes of violence, and the relationship between media/pornography and that violence. I think mainstream media, social context, dominant gender attitudes and (as others have mentioned) commodification of sex have some influence here, though not necessarily in a straightforward way.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 39 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    No really, I'll get back to the pron now!

    Ha, I love the fact that this may be the first time in history a thread has gone off-topic and STOPPED talking about porn.

    I saw Metropolis with live piano in the Arts Centre back in the early nineties and it was strangely affecting, but being affected did seem to involve buying into the conventions. There are some very odd scenes in that movie.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Erm... I think I might have cried in Broken Blossoms. I am a dork. :)

    It's a gem of a film, no question. But it's a testament to our ability to suspend disbelief that we don't fall over backwards whenever Battling Burrows darts one of his brutish glances, is all I'm saying. It's the same kind of allowance that one makes for the shocking racism.

    Look at it another way: I couple of years ago I caught a bit of Ghostbusters. Now I swear that when I saw it for the first time the special effects looked fantastic and the monsters looked real. Now they look crude and ridicolous. The representational convetions have changed, the visual language has evolved, in spite of the fact that my ability to apprehend reality hasn't. In the same way, I think one should look at porn acting as another set of convetions, and if one buys into them then they will seem realistic, I have no doubt.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    But I also don't see evidence of a clear causal relationship between the apparent correlation between the simultaneous rise in pornography (or accessibility of pornography) and decrease in violence against women.

    Dude, I'm hoping you're agreeing with me, because twice now I've said it's not causal at all, and I don't even think it's correlative, just two things that seem to have happened over the same rough period of time.

    Then there's the problems in getting accurate statistics on and reporting of violence against women, and the way this fluctuates over time.

    Just to totally shoot myself in the foot, I've been trying to do research for a column on Australia's upcoming Total Net Filtering. But comparing rates of domestic violence and rape between countries is hugely difficult for just those reasons. "Yes, here in Qumar we have a total ban on pornography, and no domestic violence complaints at all!"

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    There are some very odd scenes in that movie.

    And there are soon to be more - scenes lost for 80 years were recently found in Argentina.

    (I actually squealed out loud like a little girl when I read that article last month.)

    Sorry, sorry, back to the pr0n!

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Darlington,

    I grew up in a violence free, rugby-centred household, and that I continue to enjoy watching rugby on TV too.

    Hmmm, has this thread morphed a little bit to where 'rugby' has become a comforting code word for some other kinds of activity that may or may not have been mentioned frequently in this thread?

    If so, I'd just like to say I haven't watched a huge amount of 'rugby' in my life, preferring to play the game either by myself or with a friend. But this thread is really making me think long and hard about my attitudes to 'rugby' and the people that play 'rugby' for our viewing pleasure and how many subtleties there are in the whole range of responses we may feel to 'rugby'.

    Oh, and if I did watch 'rugby' I would most likely prefer a men vs. women game to the men on men stuff.

    Ta.

    Nelson • Since Nov 2006 • 948 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    (I actually squealed out loud like a little girl when I read that article last month.)

    I have to actually LOL. I just squealed like a little girl as I read it just then.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Carolyn Skelton,

    Umm... yes, I think we are agreeing. And I've never been called "dude' before but it sounds cool.

    Peter... funny!!!. But just in case there's any mis-conceptions about the kind of dubious up-bringing I might have had, I meant rugby as just plain old rugby: no subtext intended.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 39 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    A bit late to this discussion, and only a moment to spare, because we're waiting for our boarding call to Melbourne, just Mr Deborah and me, leaving the kids at home with the grandparents....

    When it comes to free consent, you need to distinguish between formal freedom, and substantive freedom. A woman (or a man, but can we just accept that in this instance I want the female to include the male), may claim that she has freely consented, and may even use the words, "I consent to appreaing in pron / breast implants / whatever." But that doesn't necessarily mean that she has made an autonomous choice.

    It's worth reading Thomas Hobbes on this. (If I had time, I would find the exact quote for this, but maybe someone with a bit more time right now can hunt it down. If not, I'll post it on Sunday sometime.)

    Hobbes asks his readers to imagine a situation where you are on a ship at sea, caught in a storm. To save yourself, you can cast all your goods overboard, or you can choose to keep them, and drown. He characterises this as a free choice. It is your free choice to either lose your goods, or lose your life.

    If you find that implausible, then you will also want to be concerned about the to which at least some, if not many, of the women in the pron and sex industries really do freely consent.

    And back to something Emma said in her post, here's another good feminist carnival, The Carnival Against Sexual Violence.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • andrew llewellyn,

    Oh, and if I did watch 'rugby' I would most likely prefer a men vs. women game to the men on men stuff.

    OMG, I must totally tell you guys about when I was in IT support for the film censors (Jane Wrightson's watch). You wouldn't believe the stuff they'd have playing in the background on their TVs while someone was trying to explain the architecture of their new system.

    OK, maybe you would believe it, but it made my eyes water.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2075 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    When it comes to free consent, you need to distinguish between formal freedom, and substantive freedom. A woman (or a man, but can we just accept that in this instance I want the female to include the male), may claim that she has freely consented, and may even use the words, "I consent to appreaing in pron / breast implants / whatever." But that doesn't necessarily mean that she has made an autonomous choice.

    I understand this, believe me. Growing up very poor, I've experienced how particular factors can limit available choices. But I also know how 'set lasers to frag' angry this line makes Ren, because it, to her, implies that she is not capable of making real choices:

    I understand there are a lot of anti-porn people out there. They have the absolute right to be anti-porn, I can even understand why people are anti-porn. I seriously doubt I’m going to change a whole lot of minds on that, and further more, right now, I’m not trying to. But there is something that I every time I read it, it not only upsets and annoys me, yep, sure enough, it stings.

    It’s the blanket assertion that the women (all of them) in porn (all of it), are, in the course of filming porn, being raped. This bothers me for so many reasons. Chief among them, I really do think overuse of the word rape cheapens it. I really do. I think it’s an insult to women who really have been raped to liken what happened to them to what goes on with a consenting woman who makes pornography. It also is incredibly insulting and agency denying to the consenting woman who does make pornography. And no, I’m not saying that every woman in porn is there under ideal circumstances, but there are women who are. There are women in porn who truly choose to be there, even amid other attractive options. Women who really do have pretty level heads on their shoulders, who have educations, women who, aside from being in porn, are pretty normal and average in almost every other way. I’ve never been raped. To say I have been, that I am every time I shoot a scene, well, it’s not only incredibly insulting and yeah, hurtful and enraging to me, but I think its all of those things to women who really have been raped.

    And I don’t think me asking people to remember that, to see that, is too much to ask. When a woman (no matter what she does for a living) says she’s been raped, I want to believe her. I don’t see why it is so hard when a woman (in any business) says she hasn’t been raped, she can't be believed too.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Um. I can provide a link to that trailer, but I feel weird about doing so. It IS porn, but it also clearly demonstrates the difference between 'mainstream' chicka-wah-wah porn and modern femme/indie/goth/punk porn.

    I got an angry, abusive email (to which I replied constructively) this week from a reader about me describing Steve Crow's stuff as being at the "joyless end of the form" -- and demanding to know what "joyful" porn there is.

    Well, lots of it, from what I can tell: couples sharing their stuff, I Shot Myself (which makes me think that women can take really hot pictures of themselves), good-looking twentysomething amateurs, etc, etc. And even though there's a lot of blurring at the edges with industry porn, it tends to undermine the established critiques about explicit material. Or, to be more precise, it's an area where all generalisations are perilous.

    One question, though Emma: on video, is what women want really a chick-flick with penetration? Just asking.

    Also, there was an Australian study last year that concluded that while men went to a (perhaps) surprising extent for porn featuring natural women with bumps and flaws, women who looked at porn went for the airbrushed glossy idealised style. I thought that was interesting.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

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