So, pornography. Yeah, bet you stopped and re-read that for a second. It’s one of those elephants in every online room, lurking around at least one late-night household screen, and of course the little flashes before every illegal streaming of Suits. Yet, even though I’m willing to bet no one reading this line hasn’t actually watched some porn in their time, we never talk about it. In fact, there are few other words that make us squirm as much. And although the culture of repression that has created this silence is abhorrent, I’m a little more interested in how this multi-billion-dollar industry hides behind its taboo nature and capitalizes on it. Under the guise of “having something for everyone”, they churn out content that is at best, entirely male-driven and at worst, sexual assault. But it isn’t just the porn industry at fault, the demand has to come from somewhere, right? And be it the videos of schoolgirls who are barely of age, or desi women being reduced to a fetish- our morals are suddenly very flexible when it comes to the porn we watch. In this age of “wokeness” where consumers have started actively using their voice to determine what kind of content gets
published, be it speaking out against the cancellation of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, or not showing up to support Kevin Spacey’s unofficial goodbye from cinema- we have started recognizing
and using the power our voices have. So at what point do we assume culpability for allowing
this pit of derogatory content to grow?
If you ever find yourself on Pornhub, you may notice that the categories are a little different
from your typical movie genres, as is expected. But upon closer inspection, you’ll realize exactly how entrenched in a straight white male gaze all of them are. There’s a single
category out of almost fifty (I can’t actually check and count, college is mostly a free environment, but I guess we don’t talk about it here either), for women! This is wrong on so many levels, but in essence, it’s saying that the content is created only for men. In the same vein, there’s the category of “ebony” porn, a particularly disgusting term used to label the reduction and fetishization of black people, not even really disguising it as something more ethical. And that is where the issue lies: they aren’t trying to seem better than they actually are. The porn industry is not, ‘under the surface of it’ a insidious beast, it just is one! When I say that it grows in the shadows, that silence feeds it, I’m talking about us! About the fact that when we can’t find porn that fits our moral code (if we ever bother to look), we just stick to what’s available and let it permeate our thoughts, our actions and of course our sexual interactions. Particularly those of men, for whom the content is primarily created.
Now, it’s impossible, given the numbers that only straight white men watch porn, but since availability of content aimed at diverse audiences is virtually non-existent, every marginalized group must indulge in some perverse representation of sex they can relate to. This normalizes the exploitation of their race, gender, sexual orientation and a host of other classifiers and categories. It becomes a ‘preference’ or a ‘kink’ and somehow touts itself as
the paragon of sexual inclusivity, because there is no judgement. It allows viewers to get away with their inherent biases and have a private outlet to see them realized. When we don’t hold the industry accountable for their, they grow bigger and louder. When we remain passive consumers, it is taken to be active demand. When we don’t speak, we leave a huge
gap for them to fill (pun not intended) with more content.
For some reason, we’ve never recognized the issue here, or verbalized it. There’re always
groups shaming the existence of porn, but no one actually inspecting it. No one knows where
to start with tackling it. Hollywood for instance, is so part of our public existence that we can
afford to criticize it and change it publicly too. When we tear down moguls like Harvey Weinstein, we are all great feminists and paving the way for a safer environment in the
future. We demand more inclusive, diverse stories with attention to wider audiences, less problematic actors, directors, cinematographers even. But if every single casting director in an adult film had a sexual assault case against him, we’d assume it was par for the course and wouldn’t make a sound. What’s worse is we’d continue to watch whatever is served to us, because we can’t find our voice to speak out against the far bigger predator in entertainment. And until we do, the damage is just getting worse.