Porn, Intimacy and Censorship

LexingtonSteele

I have wanted to write this article for a while. I have not been too sure as I know that there are those who are easily offended. I am also conscious that there are young people who read my blog and so I have censored it, ironically, to see how it will be read and who would be brave enough to click through.

The man pictured on this article is Lexington Steele. Probably the most famous African American porn star. He has a raft of videos easily accessible online for free as well as many that you have to pay for. He has won awards within the adult movie industry for his work as a porn star and runs a multi million pound company. I found out about Lexington when a number of years a student remarked that I looked like him. I asked who he was and he said check out the internet then ran off laughing with his friends.

He is one of few big income making actors in the adult entertainment or porn industry.

What is Porn?
Pornography is defined as writings, pictures, films or other media designed to stimulate sexual excitement. Porn is clearly about the exaggerated sexual act and is distinguished from erotica where the emphasis is placed on emotions and feelings. It is a medium that has its supporters and detractors in equal measure.

Porn can be classified as softcore, where there is suggestion and nudity, or hardcore, which tends to have more focus on pentetrative sex and shall we say more explicit elements. It is often debated in the media, more often around censorship and issues of obscenity associated with hardcore porn. More recently the term pornification has become commonplace in our lexicon especially when it comes to children being exposed to sexual imagery.

But why is it is such an issue for people? What is wrong with consenting adults enjoying coitus and feeling brave enough to share it? Of course it’s all harmless exagerrated fun anyway and far from reality, isn’t it?

Initimacy
There are those that argue that porn can tak away from the intimacy of sexuality. That what is obviously entertainment can be perceived as many as the benchmark of what is acceptable in the rules of sex. Ladies with cosmetically enhanced bodies and faces and all too happy to be engaged in whatever is meted out by chiseled, or sometimes not, bodies of alpha males wanting to have their way.

A host of terms common to porn culture and familiar many youth but lost on an older generation also come with the territory. Those considered gentle like cougar, dilf, milf, cuckold have entered the mainstream vernacular and can even be seen and heard on popular broadcast and online media. But what about the darker terms such as bukkake, spit roast, creampie or a dirty sanchez which would have an older generation scratching their head in what it means and then shocked to the core when they do find out. Yet a younger generation au fait with the likes of urban dictionary and using these terms at will on social media (and sometimes the imagery to go with it) have in many respects became all but accustomed to it.

Of course some of the more extreme and darker sides of porn that are readily accessible to young and old without some kind of gatekeeping do raise a question of what could or should not be censured. I will talk about that a bit more a bit later. As a parent I know that I would not want my daughters exposed to some of the acts online that such language talks about or as contained in the often uncensored and fastly growing gonzo style content. Yet at the same time I have a duty to have an open conversation about sexuality, variations of that theme and if per chance they stumble upon such material through their friends of otherwise (parental controls are quite stringent up in here) how to critically think and process it.

Porn in and of itself raises up a whole lot of questions about male control and dominance. Whether straight, gay, lesbian or trans the industry is by and large owned, controlled and dominated by men in the key hearts of the industry in San Fernandon Valley (USA) and Bucharest (Europe) and Japan, the largest producer in Asia. In many ways they shape and direct much of the content consume and given the rise of the internet have opened up a whole new world to people of variations on sexuality.

On another note is porn and its effect of sexuality on children. For example in Japan it is not actually illegal to possess child pornography, where child poronography is defined as explicit images of children having sex. Lolicon and Shotacon being the labels for these industries and they are huge. Now it is estimated that 30-40% of manga, japanese animation, contains sexual themes. All it takes is one tabloid or fundamentalist to jump all over that and Dragonball Z is reclassified as porn. Seriously though the themes of these industries is worrying for consumers in the WEst whose age of sexual consent is some three or more years later than that of Japan.

Which brings me on to censorship.

Is Censorship the right thing?
CensorshipLast week Iceland declared that it was considering censorship. Ogmundur Jonasson, Iceland’s interior minister, is drafting legislation to stop the access of online pornographic images and videos by young people through computers, games consoles and smartphones.
“We have to be able to discuss a ban on violent pornography, which we all agree has a very harmful effects on young people and can have a clear link to incidences of violent crime.”

Of course people have come out in protest accusing Iceland of being a dictatorship, comparing them to China, Iran and a host of other strict countries across Africa. Yet is censorship the big monster it is made out to be if it protects the vunerable? Is there a room for partial censorship or at least a debate in taking this forward?

So let’s go back to the conversation I had with the young person in school about the actor Lexington Steele. An internet savvy youth could should you how to access the said stars videos on a phone, tablet, console either directly through proxy. I would say imagine a 14yr old, but let’s just say 11yr old, could sit down and have access to a range of videos depicting couple or gang bangs on their devices. Not only that but a host of other content and activities that without a discussion or context could either set the tone around expectations on what constitutes sexual behaviour. Heck that doesn’t mean a child should be protected from BDSM, if they are listening to Rhianna they probably know anyway, however
I wonder if there should be at least a gateway to ensure that at least there is some restriction as to how they could access this.

Some would argue that it is down to parents to protect and censure what young people have access to but to a digital savvy generation born with workarounds as standard, this is not as easy as it sounds. It’s a start but it makes the assumption that parents actually know what they are doing. OK on many mobile phone carriers it is already done but broadband providers are whole different kettle of fish and having discussed with them they are not advocates of censorship in any way.

Iceland I think are bit stringent and I don’t think all pornography is violent. Yes there are some rather extreme videos and media which in any other context would be considered rape but this is not the whole of the industry. I get what they are trying to do and in many ways their thinking of this reflects my view on child abuse in that I would prefer to have carte blanche activities to protect the rights of children. However on the same instance I think that censorship and prohibition as a blanket approach always creates an alternative culture.

In an open society, people will always consume porn. They have that choice. Whether in the privacy of their own home or not. Some will have tastes we agree with and others not. As adults we have that choice but with the growing younger mind I think controls should be in place to make it more difficult for children access some stuff.

What are your thoughts?

2 thoughts on “Porn, Intimacy and Censorship

  1. Dave, I caught a few long reads from US writer and sex worker Conner Habib last week. This summative post on objectification reflects his underlying philosophy about the body and what it means to be a subject and object at the same time (http://bit.ly/YoEWRf). And this reflection on how cultural anxiety about intimacy and sexuality impacts our discussions of porn generally and gay porn specifically (http://bit.ly/15H62s4) was the one that put me onto him. He’s a very thoughtful writer and so, since you’re thinking about how to “read” the porn industry in relation to your family and your daughters, consider including his articles in your list of sources.

    Re. censoring media and “protecting the vulnerable.” I have no problem with media ratings generally speaking. When executed properly, age ratings are a useful way to brand media because they show who the publisher believes is his/her most appropriate audience. They also help other gatekeepers (like parents) to make access determinations based on the consumers they’re serving. Ratings don’t, never have, and never will stop people outside that primary audience from accessing the material in increasingly genius ways. No device restriction or legal censorship process really can unless what pulls users to it is also addressed and re-routed. In fact sometimes product restrictions and “exclusive” branding rhetoric increase an item’s power to attract people who aren’t well served by it. I don’t think that effect will ever go away either: it taps into a universal wish to belong and/or fit in or not be left behind.

    My thought is that the best way to protect the vulnerable is to do just that: protect the vulnerable, not to use legal media or device censorship as a proxy for doing so. If children are being trafficked and used in sex media, then the media produced by the traffickers is both the outcome and not the source of all the child abuse that has happened up to that point. Joe in Ohio or Okinawa’s demand to view it is consumer interest that’s fed by and feeds the trafficking industry. So is the media product itself the core issue? Or is the real issue a global culture that passively and actively supports the manipulation, trafficking, and dehumanization of those we consider “weak”? Child porn couldn’t thrive without that underlying culture. Banning one or two kinds of products from the culture doesn’t undermine the culture, and changing that culture would threaten a lot more in our societies than porn — anti-trafficking activist Dr. Sunitha Krishnan has found that out.

    Sooooo… I understand the political drive to “do something,” and prohibition has always been the easiest “something” because it requires no subtlety. But while we sustain the culture that yields the darkest aspects of porn and sex work without embracing and regularizing its light aspects, I don’t expect legal restrictions to have much of an positive impact on our children or the adults responsible for them.

  2. Iceland is stringent and stringent with a lot of pride. It was a country who fell in love with excess and went bankrupt recently. It is a country that knows hard times. A country that does not make mistakes twice ( well tries not to)
    Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir the prime minster is first openly lesbian head of government in the world. They are not closed to change but there most be responsibility. The bombardment of pornography and the excess that is on the net is viewed harmful.

    Many laws in Iceland differ from other western countries:
    First names well there is a registry from this.
    Personal Names Register, a list of 1,712 male names and 1,853 female names that fit Icelandic grammar and pronunciation rules and that officials maintain will protect children from embarrassment.
    A lot of Icelandic Genealogy an back to the 9 or 10th century.
    March 1, 1989 the Prohibition on alcohol ended.

    Pardon I saw your post and had to reply.

    þakka þér David McQueen

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