Kat Banyard is apparently a leading young feminist who is Intelligent! and Quiet! and Not Sexy In That Liz Lemon Kind Of Way Where Straight Dudes Can Congratulate Themselves On The Progressiveness Of Their Boners Without Actually Liking A Girl Who’s (Eww) Not Conventionally Attractive!* Or so her profile in the Guardian tells us. She would also like to tell us about the evils of the sex industry.
Fun facts! Here are the groups that are allowed to talk about sex work:
1) Sex workers
2) Former sex workers
3) Academics who have respectfully studied sex workers with proper care for their agency and voices
4) Psychics who can tell what the sex workers are thinking
5) Okay, I’m out of ideas
I am fucking sick and fucking tired of how sex workers’ voices are the ones that are continually and constantly ignored in the discussion of sex work. Clearly there is absolutely nothing problematic about talking over a bunch of mostly-marginalized mostly-women, believing you are more of an expert on their lives they are, and claiming to be a fucking feminist. Everyone else needs to shut the fuck up about sex work until sex workers are a part of the conversation. In deference to my beliefs on this matter, I am not going to talk any more about sex workers’ rights except to point everyone to Lori Adorable and Audacia Ray, and instead discuss this.
Banyard regards the sex industry’s male consumers as victims too. “I think their sexuality has been co-opted by a predatory sex industry, which distorts and exploits it for profit. A new generation of boys, the vast majority have watched hardcore pornography on the internet, so we have a generation of boys coming through whose first sexual experiences will be vicariously participating in prostitution. They are watching filmed prostitution and getting their ideas about sex from it. This is an industry dedicated to finding ways of getting men to come back and keep coming back for more, so it tends to be increasingly violent to keep upping that response.”
Another way of looking at it would be less charitable. Offered limitless choice, it turns out that what men really want is the most violent, degrading, misogynist porn imaginable. Does that tell us something about men?
Well, let’s see here. The first time I read porn on the Internet I was eleven; by the time I was thirteen I was writing porn, which was one of my major hobbies throughout high school . What horrific damage did it wreak on my sexual life?
Self-acceptance. The vocabulary to conceptualize myself as queer, a sadist, a submissive, rather than just knowing that something was weird about my sexuality. Greater familiarity with sexual anatomy and how to safely and pleasurably perform several sex acts. An appreciation for the diversity of human sexuality: some people were trans or poly or whatever, and that was cool. A better understanding than most people of how consent worked and the difference between fantasy and reality. Orgasms. Lots and lots of orgasms.
I’m not saying that it was perfect, but porn gave me a hell of a better sex education than school did.
“But Ozy,” you might say, “that’s different. You wrote fanfic, she’s talking about hardcore porn.” So? The principle is the same. I see no obvious reason why reading about people fucking is a-okay but watching people fuck leads to the oppression of women, the destruction of healthy male sexuality, and the mass murder of small adorable kittens. When porn teaches people that women are naturally hairless, that sex usually ends in a facial, or that lesbians exist to get straight men off, the solution is not to ban porn; the solution is to make better porn. I’ve talked before about how a lot of porn is legitimately awful. That doesn’t mean that the concept of porn is awful.
Second, that thing about “the most violent, degrading, and misogynist porn imaginable”? Sure, you can find violent, degrading, and misogynist porn (hi, Bang Bus). But you know what? You can find balloon porn! You can find enema porn! You can find that one picture of dragons fucking cars! That doesn’t mean that all men get off to dragons fucking cars while getting an enema and sitting on a balloon.
There’s this odd idea anti-porn feminists have that violent, degrading, female-submissive sex is The Sexiest Sex and that if we don’t control men by banning porn they’ll all only be interested in violent, degrading, female-submissive sex. It kind of reminds me of the insistence of some homophobes that only constant homophobia keeps all straight men from running off and taking it up the bum from a big burly guy in leather. Most vanilla people aren’t interested in violent, degrading sex, just like most straight people are not particularly interested in sex with people of the same gender. You don’t have to try to keep them not interested, they just don’t.
And you know what? Even if you like violent, degrading, and misogynistic porn, that doesn’t mean you’re a violent misogynist who wants to degrade women. I mean, not unless you think every toppy BDSMer who likes women is a violent misogynist who wants to degrade women, in which case… props for consistency I guess? It is an observable fact that many people of all genders can enjoy hitting people in the bedroom and know that hitting random people is still wrong, can have rape fantasies while being deeply respectful of consent and boundaries in the real world, can think it’s hot to call a woman a slut and still treat her as their equal. The problem is not the fantasies; the problem is the inability to respect consent and distinguish reality from fantasy.
Finally, I had to keep myself from writing “Kat Dennings” about ten million times, so I’m going to finish up with a picture of Kat Dennings because YOU’RE NOT MY REAL DAD.
*The official policy of NSWATM is that NSWATM is in support of all kinds of boners, but finds it highly tiresome when people feel the need to congratulate themselves on how non-oppressive their boners are and when conventionally attractive women are presented as Not Sexy. (Also that “boner” is now officially a term that applies to all genitals.)
Other photo– Matt Sayles/AP.