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Posted by Aparimita Pratap

We live in a society where although porn is considered a taboo, clandestine engagements of the same behind closed doors seem axiomatically acceptable. We as a society have flagrantly enabled the suppression of female sexuality such that the sex industry as well as the porn industry primarily focuses on men as their key targets, stigmatising the performers but not the consumers.

In doing so, the women who end up being a part of these industries, are exploited, raped and inhumanely violated with no redressal mechanisms at their disposal. The authorities often refuse to grant protection of the State to women engaging in sex work by pillorying them for choosing the immoral path of sex work and having voluntarily placed themselves in danger’s way. 

Problems with Mainstream Porn

Radical feminists like Mc Kinnon have rightfully argued that these industries are fostered on the innate misogyny of our societal structure and on the premises that women are subservient sexual objects even in consensual acts of intercourse. On a closer look into the production of mainstream porn, we will be able to see that the movies are made in a way to cater to the desires of men as the primary consumers whereas women are seen as the primary performers being used for the sexual pleasure of men. The angles with which the movie is shot is largely focused on women’s bodies and the acts performed by them. 

Studies have shown that people who tend to watch violent porn, engage in violent sexual activities in their life.

The type of pornography that is available to people also shapes their view on sex as an activity, especially children who tend to learn about sex from porn. It also shapes their attitude and behaviour towards women. Studies have shown that people who tend to watch violent porn, engage in violent sexual activities in their life. Mainstream porn furthers the idea that women are the submissive functionaries while engaging in a sexual act whereas men are the dominant ones. We can often hear women performers being addressed with derogatory terms such as ‘bitch’ or ‘slut’ and also being told that sex was inevitable since ‘you were asking for it’. This leads to a tacit internalisation of the myths around rape, victim shaming and blaming and a sexual excitement to images and videos of rape. 

Further, even behind the curtains, the industry has been accused of being the harbinger of degrading women and normalizing sexual assault through a lack of institutional apathy in dealing with cases of sexual assault against female porn stars by their co-actors, directors, producers, etc. One of the actresses claimed that she was anally raped on screen by a male actor despite having specifically stated that she has not consented to anal sex. The crew celebrated the actor having violated her and gotten an anal scene shot when they were just being paid for a vaginal scene. The performers have also accused the industry for not paying fair wages to them in comparison to the profits made by the objectification of their bodies in the movies. They are also made to work under stressful and often very dangerous conditions.

It is also reported by ex porn stars, especially women, that it is very difficult for them to quit the industry. Mia Khalifa, in her interview about the industry, stated that till date her videos exist on the websites and new morphed videos keep coming up that sell on her name. Her brief stint in the industry which lasted for 18 months, has left a long-term impact on her life and she is finding it extremely difficult to move on especially because the websites refuse to act upon the new morphed videos of her being uploaded. This has misled people into believing that she has not quit the industry which has continued to hamper her growth due to the stigmatization of porn actors. Many actresses are also blackmailed into staying in the industry or due to lack of other opportunities, are inevitably stuck. 

Porn sites like Pornhub

Pornhub is the biggest example of mainstream porn. It has been in recent controversy for profiting from rape and abuse videos including that of children. Many victims have identified their videos of assault and rape on Pornhub and have reported them since no consent had been provided by the victims to upload these. Infact, Pornhub is aware of these gross violations and made an effort to remove this content only after the internet was flooded with outrage.

A woman who was raped at the age of 14, found multiple of her rape videos on Pornhub and was forced to relive the trauma repeatedly. To add to her trauma, the videos were titled – “teen crying and getting slapped around”, “teen getting destroyed”, etc. There is no accountability for websites like Pornhub

A total ban on pornography by the State may not be a conducive solution since pornography has also been recognized as a mode of free speech used by people to express themselves and may also lead to the development of a sexually repressed society.

Way Out?

A total ban on pornography by the State may not be a conducive solution since pornography has also been recognized as a mode of free speech used by people to express themselves and may also lead to the development of a sexually repressed society. A total ban also does not lead to the porn industry being wiped out, rather, it makes it even more unsafe for performers to seek any redressal in case of unfair practices or abuse against them. An unregulated porn industry working much like the other illegal trades, it only going to further harm the society. 

One of the questions people, especially feminists, ask themselves is whether it is okay to watch porn while embracing their sexuality and ignore these blatant abuses committed by the porn industry. This is where ethical porn has emerged as an alternative to mainstream porn that aims at spreading sex positivity. The foremost idea that ethical porn promotes is of sex positivity and that sex is inclusive, i.e., caters to the pleasure of people of all sexualities and genders.

It also aims to be ethical with regards to ensuring that the performers are paid their fair wages and are given the same rights that an employee engaging in non sex work is entitled to. It also aims to ensure a respectable environment for the performers to work wherein there is active consent on the part of the performers at all times while shooting a movie. The same is usually done by taking a list of the limits and boundaries set by the performers before the shoot and respecting the same during the shooting of the erotic movie. This leads to more transparency, higher accountability and access to better redressal mechanisms.

Also read: Women Watch Porn Too – It’s Time To Get Over It!

How to Identify Ethical Porn?

It is important to do your research on the website and the production that claims it makes ethical porn. A general search on the lives of the directors and producers, their past work, their interviews and news surrounding them could give you a fair idea on whether their work is actually ethical or not. Even interviews of the performers who work closely with these directors and producers may help in understanding the practices carried out on the set and whether the performers are given a safe and comfortable environment to work in. The titles that ethical porn sites choose to give its videos tend to not be degrading and often try to capture real life sex instead of portraying fantasies. 

There are some free ethical porn sites that do exist, however, most ethical porn is paid for. But there is no reason why pornography should not be treated as any other form of entertainment which is charged for and why paying for it should dis-incentivise people into switching to ethical porn. Free porn is a porter of unfair practices and no accountability for rape and child pornography. 

Conclusion

Does ethical porn solve all the issues associated with the industry?

No, even ethical porn has its negative consequences on the society and on the expectations we end up having from our own real sexual lives. So if a person, like myself, decides to not watch even ethical porn, it is entirely fathomable given the intrinsic flaws with stimulated on screen sex. However, many people do use porn as a means of sexual liberation and exploration. Ethical porn can be an alternative for mainstream porn in such cases.

It can result in shifting the industry practice from abuse and degradation of women to that of sex positivity and consent. This can be achieved only by reducing the demand of mainstream porn and increasing the demand for ethical porn. The growth of the ethical porn industry will give the performers an alternative to work at. With the consumers and performers shifting to ethical porn, majority of the mainstream porn industry, to make profits, may shift to ethical porn as well.

Also read: Book Review: Cyber Sexy: Rethinking Pornography By Richa Kaul Padte

It is the people who give business to websites like Pornhub who do not reflect any guilt and shame in their practices. The consumers are equally to blame as the industry players for having ignored these violent practices attached to mainstream porn and continued to be avid subscribers of the degrading industry. The question is, how much longer do you want to continue to add on to the exploitation of porn actors when we can switch to a more responsible alternative.     


Aparimita is currently practicing law. Through her work with human rights activists and lawyers, she has developed a keen interest in human rights law and policy. She also closely follows and has conducted research on issues relating to international criminal law, refugee law, migration law and humanitarian law. You can follow her on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Featured Image Source: Metro

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