Sexual Liberation? Or Ideological Nutrients for Sexism?
Trigger warning: Contains explicit sexual content relating to pornography and oral sex.
This article has also been published in Wom*news #4.
What comes to your mind when you picture the mainstream, heterosexual porn industry? Do you imagine the people featured in the production want to be there, or are they there for the money? Does this image change when you consider the female participants and their male counterparts?
In terms of who views porn, it is easily assumed most men, particularly teenage men, watch porn on a regular basis. What is astounding about this stereotype in my own experience is that it is considered acceptable for a man to do this because ‘that’s just what boys do’. Let’s face it, if I were a man and I knew there was an entire industry out there designed to please people exactly like me, why wouldn’t I look at porn every time I felt a little horny or insecure?
But what about women who watch porn? Women who watch porn are for the most part considered sick, or slutty, or obsessed with sex and are socially discouraged to participate in it. Of course, this is a double standard. What you may not have considered before, however, is how this double standard extends into the pornography itself.
When making a porn video, to what extent are the needs and wants of the actors taken into consideration? Do the actors want to be there, or are they participating entirely to earn money? Do the motivations of and respect for the actors change if they are different genders? In a professional setting, it is easy to believe that the actors in a sex show want to be there and whose ambitions reach beyond the motivation of cash in hand. It must be admitted that some videos do appear to simply be a couple who are simply enjoying themselves. But particularly in the amateur porn scene, it is possible to see a lot of videos with all focus on the female performer (you rarely ever even see the face of the male actor) who is obviously in the video with the sole purpose to please the man and look good doing it. Entire attention is placed on the penis; the woman may stimulate it using any means possible, whether it gives her personal pleasure or not, and a change of pace or position is almost always orchestrated by the will of the male.
You would find this predominantly with videos containing oral sex. There are hoards of entire videos dedicated to fellatio alone, where a man receives oral sex from a woman, she gets nothing in return, and the video is simply a close-up of her for the length of a video. If it is true that the majority of people watching porn are men, then what message does this send to them and how do you think this affects their relationships, both sexual and social, once they turn their computer off? If so much research is going into how violent computer games affect crime rates and community violence, then perhaps research should go into how pornography affects female oppression and patriarchal attitudes in society.
…‘Just take it bitch’; as if to say, ‘I don’t give a damn about what you feel, you have an obligation to suffer it and give me what I want because I am a man and you are a woman’.
Fellatio plays a huge role in symbolising the oppression of women, particularly in regards to the act known as ‘deep-throating’. As a fun fact, it is interesting to note that oral sex does not only belong to humans alone in the animal kingdom. Animals such as goats, primates, hyenas, bats, and sheep have been known to participate in auto-fellatio and oral sex. However, where these species participate in the activity because they are horny, humans have developed the act into an art; and art always contains meaning, which is sometimes hidden, and ultimately reflects the culture in which the art belongs. Deep-throat really epitomises female oppression and disregard for a woman’s wishes, and perhaps exists as a reflection on our patriarchal culture when deep-throating, the tongue of the ‘receiver’ (the person giving the oral pleasure) is immobilised. Physically, the act of deep-throat can be strenuous, stressful, and not to mention wholly uncomfortable. What advantage could a woman have when participating in this action?
Ordinary fellatio in porn brings up similar issues. Female oppression is heavily symbolised in the position of traditional fellatio: the man (who traditionally stands, towering over the woman) is thought to be the main perpetrator, as he is receiving all of the pleasure, and how the woman (often kneeling, symbolising a woman’s supposed inferiority) and has to be placed in an uncomfortable position and receive no pleasure as a kind of ‘duty’ to the man they are giving it to. Particularly in porn, it is often seen the man’s hand on the back of the woman’s head, forcing her to go deeper or faster; whatever way he wants it. This obviously illustrates the idea that women are ‘below’ men and should ‘obey’ their commands in complete disregard to their own feelings. There are such statements on the grapevine such as ‘girlfriends who don’t give their boyfriends blowjobs are just mean’, indicating that fellatio is simply expected. It is also a quite popular notion that ‘practice makes perfect’. Does this mean that if a girl doesn’t like giving fellatio that she is encouraged to keep doing it until she becomes complacent with it? Another popular and rather derogatory saying is ‘just take it bitch’; as if to say, ‘I don’t give a damn about what you feel, you have an obligation to suffer it and give me what I want because I am a man and you are a woman’.
It is words and behaviours such as those associated with fellatio that link directly back to porn that underpins female oppression within our society.