The world needs more pornography. Considering the amount of porn shops and theaters in New York City alone, I realize that this sounds like a suspect statement. However, it is important to keep in mind that pornography is not necessarily a bad thing. Studies have shown that porn, especially hard-core porn, is one of the few mediums in which women are not punished nor made to feel guilty about having sexual needs and wanting them to be fulfilled. In addition, in American culture, which remains very puritanical and sex-negative even today, pornography is one of the only genres which advocates sexual experimentation, openness, and expression. The pornography that we need more of is the kind that portrays men and women as sexual equals and revels in the glories of mutual pleasure between two willing individuals.
Slowly but surely, the porn industry is evolving toward a change in this direction. Because more and more women are using pornography, (about 40% of all pornography is consumed by women), the industry is moving towards the needs of its new following. It is increasingly making distinctions between good (consensual and safe) and bad (coercive or unsafe) sex. Surprisingly enough, the leader in this minor cultural revolution has been hard-core pornography.
It is also interesting to note that there is, empirically, a positive correlation between a society’s consumption of pornography and its level of equal opportunity for women in education, employment, and politics. Sweden and Denmark, for example, have high rates of gender equality and low levels of violence against women, especially when compared to the U.S. Residents of these two countries are known to be very comfortable with the subject of sex and have low rates of unintended pregnancy, despite their extremely liberal attitude towards pornography.
Obviously, then, porn is not necessarily related to violence against women or sexism in society, as censorship advocates claim. Conversely, the more society engages in open sexual discourse, the more opposition between the artificial dichotomies of male and female, subject and object, active and passive, begins to break down. Honesty and openness end sexual stereotypes, while repression helps create and maintain them. This is why a pro-sex attitude is healthier than a negative anti-porn one and why more pro-sex porn is needed.
In order to promote sexual equality free of gender stereotyping, we need more pornography that addresses and affirms our sexuality as human beings. Many feminists have responded to this need and are partially responsible for changing pornography in American to a more equal portrait of sexual relationships. Yellow Silk, for example, is a journal of erotica that has the motto “all persuasions, no brutality.” Susie Bright (also known as Susie Sexpert), Laura Chester, and Lonnie Barbach have all edited pro-sex fiction anthologies. (Try Bright’s Herotica collections, featuring an excellent collection of erotica by women or The Best Erotica of 1995, also edited by Bright, but including male authors.)
Anka Radakovich, the sex columnist for Details magazine, brings a feminist perspective to her writings about sex. In what is essentially a men’s magazine, Radakovich dispels the notion that only men want and enjoy sex, and she often gives men advice about how to give women more pleasure. Writings such as these help end repressive gender roles and expectations and promote healthier attitudes as a result.
Filmmaker Lydia Lunch supports the notion that more, but better, porn is needed. When challenged by censorship advocates about the depiction of women in pornography, Lunch simply answers, “Women never look foolish in pornography, they look beautiful, they get paid more than the average day job, and they’re doing what they like to do…Period.” Hence the porn films are empowering. Women who watch porn realize that it is not abnormal for a woman to want and enjoy sex. Men who see it learn that, despite popular myth, women also have sexual needs.
Forum, a soft-core British magazine with a 40% female readership, works hard to present a balanced view of sexuality and sex. “We feel we’ve got to keep up to date with everybody’s sexuality, whether… man, woman, straight, or gay, because there’s so much intolerance around,” an editor explains. The magazine seeks to dispel myths by acknowledging that everyone has different sexual needs and that these needs must be met. It is views such as this – that everyone has a right to his or her own sexuality – that come across in pornography and are helpful to society. Fortunately, such views are being expressed with more and more frequency.
Pro-sex pornographers create a more gender-equal society, as well as a society that has healthy attitudes toward sex, by portraying more gender-equal sex. They destroy the myths created by a repressive culture concerning women’s sexuality by openly instigating discussions and challenging the viewer. Pro-sex porn helps to bring about a better sexual environment by forcing society to re-evaluate its beliefs about sexuality. In addition, it makes people realize that sex and sexuality are natural and good, not things to be ashamed of. Only through honest, open portrayals of sex can society become more comfortable with sex and role it plays in our lives.