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Quality not quantity

There's nothing wrong with porn apart from its quality, says Alison Fisher, a former writer of women's porn

January 21, 2008
5 min read

As I used to write porn for a living, it won’t be a surprise if I say there’s there’s nothing wrong with porn. Saying that, I can’t say I’m not repulsed by far more porn than I like. Much of it is also risible, with improbable plots, contrived settings, badly photoshopped and comically enhanced genitalia.

I find gynaecological close-ups as sexy as dead fish in Billingsgate market and the botox porn of fake tan, fake breasts and fake smiles found in top shelf girlie magazines and their faux lads mag equivalent leaves me cold. Porn that eroticises hatred of women – or men – is also abhorrent, I wish it didn’t exist but if made consensually I reluctantly defend a person’s right to buy it. It all comes down to taste – one person’s decadent erotica is another’s disgusting sleazy smut.

The ne plus ultra of porn is that it’s always degrading to women, encouraging men to rape, to see us as objects. I have problems with any argument that reduces men to nothing more than a sea of angry hormones. On the whole, unless a man is already fucked-up, he is not going to believe, outside the realms of fantasy, that women are available 24/7, waiting and ready to cater for his sexual needs and proclivities.

What’s porn got to do with it

The belief that porn is inherently dangerous for women, that we need protecting from it, is also letting men off the hook for rape and sexual assault – ‘It’s not his fault, the porn made him to it.’ Bullshit. Just as watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer won’t turn you into serial killer, porn cannot make anyone do anything. Violent men exist regardless of porn and from what I’ve read they are more likely to quote the Bible than the Marquis de Sade.

That porn is degrading is a subjective judgement, as is the belief women in the porn industry are automatically exploited. This reduces women to the level of children, incapable of giving informed consent. Yes, exploitation exists and porn may be damaging to some users and performers but there are already laws in place to deal with non-consensual porn – of any kind. None of this means porn is inherently wrong.

It is also dangerously subjective to argue one type of consensual porn is ok and another is not. In our new double standards culture, women’s porn is considered ok, empowering even and porn for men most certainly not. So what are the differences between female and male porn? I wish I’d kept my author guidelines, but as a generalisation, female porn stories often, but not always, have a greater focus on the relationships between the characters, more foreplay, seduction and flirtation. Women want more believable characters and a plot, sometimes missing from male-orientated porn, however, there is less distinction in the kinky sex market where a psychological interplay is important for both.

The most common sexual fantasies are predictably those classified by the moral majority as perverted or unnatural. Ok, so I wasn’t writing for Mills and Boon here, I mainly wrote about women with women, bondage, group sex, anal sex, exhibitionism, women penetrating men and forced sex. And sometimes all of the above in the same story.

The porn gender gap

Perhaps the biggest difference between male and female-orientated porn is in how rough and forced sex is portrayed. With women, the perpetrator is usually someone the woman is in love with or at least attracted to. There is also a generational element with a distinction between more submissive rape fantasies of the 1970s and the last couple of decades where the fantasy usually has a twist, with the woman turning the tables.

You may say women having these sexual fantasies are victims but isn’t porn about exploring all aspects of sexuality? There is a world of difference between sex play and porn within an artificial set of power dynamics and real violence. Just as life isn’t all hearts, flowers and scented candles neither is sex – porn is only reflecting this and as the saying goes, if sex isn’t dirty you’re not doing it right. Pornography is fantasy, allowing us to explore situations that may be an anathema in real life, fantasies of control and power are not the exclusive property of either gender, surely it’s more psychological damaging to bottle up feelings and emotions than find safe outlets for them?

To be able to share our fantasies, to act them out in a relationship of mutual respect, care or love is the nearest we get to knowing another and ourselves because sex reveals the deepest truths about us. Pornography can never replace this, relationships should be about more than sex, but it can add to the experience, the exploration, the desire and, shockingly, to the fun.

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