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Rape Culture and the Concept of Affirmative Consent

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March against rape culture

March against rape culture

Throughout most of our history, rape was a property crime.

Today we do not, in the modern United States at least, think of a woman’s sexuality as a financial asset. But that is a recent phenomenon. For most of our history, rape was not treated the same way as other violent assaults because it wasn’t just a violent assault, it was also a crime against property.

You can see this view–of a woman’s sexuality belonging to her father and later her husband–in laws concerning rape and sexual assault. It was even possible for a father to sue a man who had consensual sex with his daughter because he had lost the value of his daughter. Based on this view, value is lost in terms of her work if she became pregnant and was no longer able to earn wages, or in terms of a future wife for someone else because of this stain on her character. Men could not be held accountable for raping their wives because a wife was a man’s property and consent to sex–at any time of his choosing–was part of the arrangement.

Lest you think that these laws are ancient examples of a culture that no longer bears relation to our current policies on rape, spousal rape was not made illegal in all fifty states until 1993, where it still may carry a less severe sentence than other rape offenses. The tort of seduction was technically on the books in North Carolina in 2003.

This context is important given our current cultural attitudes toward sexual assault. To understand this culture and how it can be amended, we need to look more deeply at the historical understandings of rape and consent.


Force Means No

The framework for defining rape underpins our understanding of who is required to prove consent or non-consent. The Hebrew Scriptures, which established longstanding cultural norms that helped form a basis for what was morally and legally acceptable in early America, make a distinction between a woman who was raped within a city and one who was raped outside of the city limits. The first woman was stoned to death and the second considered blameless (assuming she was a virgin). This distinction is based on the idea that it was the woman’s responsibility to cry out for help and show that she was non-consenting. A woman who was raped in the city obviously had not screamed because if she had someone would have come to her rescue and stopped the rape. The woman outside the city had no one to rescue her so she could not be blamed for being victimized.

This brutal logic, which is completely inconsistent with how we know some victims of rape react to an attack, was continued in the American legal system when our laws on rape were formulated. Rape was defined as a having a male perpetrator and a female victim and involving sexual penetration and a lack of consent. But it was again the woman’s responsibility to prove that she had not consented and the way that this was demonstrated was through her resistance. She was only actually raped if she had attempted to fight off her attacker. Different jurisdictions required different levels of force to show a true lack of consent. For example, fighting off an assailant to your utmost ability or even up to the point where the choice was either to submit to being raped or to being killed. Indeed, the cultural significance of chastity as a virtue that the female was expected to guard was so profound that many female Christian saints are saints at least in part because they chose to die rather than be raped or be a bride to anyone but Christ.

Potential canonization aside, it was consistently the responsibility of the woman alleging that she was the victim of a rape to prove that she had fought off her attacker in order to show that she had not consented. If she could not show that she had sufficiently resisted, she was deemed to not have been raped. Her chastity was someone else’s property, either her father’s or her husband’s/future husband’s, so it was always understood that someone, other than her, had the right to her sexuality. The assailant had assumed that he had the right to use her sexually and was only a rapist if she acted in such a way that a reasonable man would have known that she did not belong to him. Her failure to communicate that fact, that she was the property of some other man, was a sign that she had in fact consented. Therefore the rape was not his moral failing in stealing another man’s property but her moral failing in not protecting that property from being stolen.


Culture Wars

We can see the effects of this ideology in how we treat rape victims today. Although we don’t necessarily require evidence of forceful resistance, it is considered helpful in prosecuting a rape case. Rape shield laws may have eliminated the most egregious examples of slut-shaming victims, but an innocent or even virginal victim is certainly what the prosecution could hope for if they were trying to design their most favorable case. One of the first questions that will be asked of the victim is “did you say no?” In other words “what did YOU do to prevent this from happening to you?” The burden is still often legally and almost always culturally on the victim to show that they did not consent.

There is an alternative approach that has been gaining traction on college campuses and elsewhere known as the concept of “affirmative consent.” Take a look at the video below, which elucidates the differences between the “no versus no” approach compared to affirmative consent, which is often described as “yes means yes.”

In this video, Susan Patton and Rush Limbaugh both represent examples of rape culture. The contrast between the views of Savannah Badlich, the advocate of affirmative consent, and Patton, who is against the idea, could not be starker. To Badlich, consent is an integral part of what makes sex, sex. If there isn’t consent then whatever happened to you, whether most people would have enjoyed it or indeed whether or not you orgasmed, was rape. It is your consent that is the foundation of a healthy sexual experience, not the types of physical actions involved. In contrast, Patton expressed the view that good sex is good sex and consent seems to not play a role in whether it was good sex, or even whether it should be defined as sex at all. The only thing that could indicate if something is an assault versus a sexual encounter is whatever physical evidence exists, because otherwise, the distinction is based only on the assertions of each individual. Again we are back to evidence of force.


What is “Rape Culture”?

Rape culture refers to a culture in which sexuality and violence are linked together and normalized. It perpetuates the idea that male sexuality is based on the use of violence against women to subdue them to take a sexual experience, as well as the idea that female sexuality is the effort to resist or invite male sexuality under certain circumstances. It overgeneralizes gender roles in sexuality, demeans men by promoting their only healthy sexuality as predatory, and also demeans women by considering them objects without any positive sexuality at all.

According to this school of thought, the “no means no” paradigm fits in perfectly with rape culture because it paints men as being predators who are constantly looking for a weak member of the herd to take advantage of sexually, while also teaching women that they need to be better than the rest of the herd at fending off attacks, by clearly saying no, to survive. If they can’t do that, because they were drinking or not wearing proper clothing, then the attack was their fault.


“Yes Means Yes”

Affirmative consent works differently. Instead of assuming that you can touch someone until they prove otherwise, an affirmative consent culture assumes that you may not touch someone until you are invited to do so. This would be a shocking idea to some who assume that gamesmanship and predation are the cornerstones of male sexuality and the perks of power, but it works out better for the majority of men and women, who would prefer and who should demand equality in sex.

This video gives a brief highlight of some of the issues that are brought up when affirmative consent is discussed and the difficulties that can still arise even with affirmative consent as a model.


Evaluating Criticism of Affirmative Consent

The arguments are important so let’s unpack some of the key ones in more detail. The first objection, expressed in both videos, is how exactly do you show consent? Whenever the affirmative consent approach comes up, one of the first arguments is that it is unenforceable because no one is going to stop sexual activity to get written consent, which is the only way to really prove that a person consented. We still end up in a “he said, she said” situation, which is exactly where we are now, or a world where the government is printing out sex contracts.

The idea that affirmative consent will by necessity lead to written contracts for sex is a logical fallacy that opponents to affirmative consent use to make the proposition seem ridiculous. Currently, we require the victim to prove non-consent. Often the victim is asked if they gave a verbal no or if they said they did not want the contact. The victim is never asked: did you put the fact that you didn’t want to be touched in writing and have your assailant read it? The idea that a written explanation of non-consent would be the only way we would take it seriously is absurd, so it would be equally absurd to assume that requiring proof of consent would necessitate written documentation. Advocates for affirmative consent don’t want sex contracts.

In addition, even under our current framework we accept a variety of pieces of evidence from the prosecution to show that the victim did not consent. A clear “no” is obviously the strongest kind of evidence, just as under an affirmative consent framework an enthusiastic verbal “yes” would be the best evidence, but that is just what the best evidence is. That is certainly not the only kind of evidence available. Courts already look at the entire context surrounding the incident to try to determine consent. The process would be virtually the same under an affirmative consent model. The only difference would be that the burden would be on the defendant to show that they believed they had obtained consent based on the context of the encounter instead of placing the burden on the victim to show that, although they didn’t say “no,” they had expressed non-verbally that they were unwilling to participate.

The shift in the burden of proof is sometimes cited as a reason not to adopt an affirmative consent model. Critics argue that this affects the presumption that the accused is innocent until proven guilty. Which is, rightly, a cornerstone of our judicial system. If this model did, in fact, change that presumption then it wouldn’t be an appropriate answer to this problem. But it does not.

Take another crime as an example. A woman’s car is stolen. The police issue a BOLO on the car, find it, and bring the suspect in and sit him down. They ask him “did you have permission to take that car?” and he replies “Yes, officer, she gave me the keys!”

He is still presumed innocent and, as far as this brief hypothetical tells us, hasn’t had his rights violated. It looks as though he is going to get a fair trial at this point. That trial may still devolve into another he said, she said situation. She may allege that she didn’t give him the keys but merely left them on the kitchen table. At that point, it will be up to the jury to decide who they believe, but that would have been the case in any event. He is presenting her giving the keys to him as one of the facts to show his innocence.

If a woman’s car is stolen we don’t question her about how many miles are on the odometer. We don’t ask if she wore a seatbelt the last time she drove it. We don’t care if she had been drinking because her alcohol consumption doesn’t negate the fact that she was a victim of a crime. We certainly wouldn’t force her to prove that she didn’t give the thief the keys. That burden would rightly be on him and we would be able to both place that burden on him and at the same time presume him to be innocent until he failed to meet that burden.

Adopting an affirmative consent model changes how consent is perceived. It is primarily a cultural change in understanding who is responsible for consent. Rather than making the non-initiating party responsible for communicating a lack of consent, affirmative consent requires that the initiating party obtains obvious consent.

That is how affirmative consent works. It wouldn’t require a written contract or even necessarily a verbal assertion. Context would always matter and the cases would still often become two competing stories about what the context meant. And it doesn’t mean that we are assuming that person is guilty before they have the chance to show that they did, in fact, get that consent. It just means that we are placing the burden of proving that consent was obtained on the party claiming that consent had been obtained.


Conclusion

There is no other category of crime where we ask the victim to show that they didn’t want to be the victim of that crime. A man who is stabbed in a bar fight, regardless of whether he was drunk or belligerent, isn’t asked to prove that he didn’t want a knife wound.

We need to change our cultural framework of rape and consent. When we are working under an affirmative consent framework what we are doing is changing the first question. Currently, our first question is for the victim: did you say no? Under an affirmative consent model our first question is for the suspect: did you get a yes?

Complete Article HERE!

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Heightened Awareness: Anxiety Can Lead to Pain During Sex

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Clearly anxiety can be an obstacle to a healthy sex life and needs to be talked about.

By Carrie Weisman

clenched-fists

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Bend Over, Bro: The Men Who Love Pegging

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by Gareth May

With one sex toy company proclaiming 2016 as the year that pegging takes off, it’s time to re-evaluate the benefits of telling your boyfriend to bend over.

Men Who Love Pegging

This is the most vulnerable I have been in a long time. Flat on my back, pillow under my ass, legs akimbo; my ankles are so close to my eyes I can inspect the architecture of my bones. And then she’s on me, all hot breath and readiness, a portrait of cockiness and control.

“Do you want my dick?” she asks, leaning over me, prodding at my most intimate space with something slippery and cold.

“Yes,” I whimper. “I do…” and I close my eyes and think of Charlie Glickman.

The year is 2011. Japan has suffered its biggest earthquake in over a century, the Arab Spring is tearing up the Middle East and the English riots are lighting up cities like Guy Fawkes. It’s pretty safe to say the world is going to hell – and at this juncture, to suggest that the answer to stopping this big ball of dirt we call home death-sliding right down the pan can be found at the tip of a dildo is, well, borderline delusional. Unless you’re sex & relationship coach Charlie Glickman PhD, that is.

Of course, when Glickman penned the blog post ‘How Pegging Can Save The World’ his thoughts were far from the above. Sadly, he wasn’t saying the best way to patch up world peace was to have soldiers and cops pull on a pair of Triple Penetrator Dildo Pants. In fact, Glickman was advocating role reversal in the bedroom, as a way of offering straight men an insight—”when sex is about catching rather than pitching”—into their female partner’s pleasure, potential discomfort and vulnerability. It’s something that I can certainly attest to.

“[Pegging] won’t make communication miraculously easy and it won’t fix everything about sexism or gender-based inequities [but] what it can do (besides being lots of fun) is help people develop empathy, compassion, and understanding for their partners,” he wrote. “And the more of that we have in the world, the better.”

Five years on and Glickman’s prophecy is inching (six, if you care to know) ever closer, especially if we take into account mainstream references in hit comedy Broad City as well as new year blockbuster Deadpool. Of course, pegging is nothing new. The 1976 Golden Age of Porn classic The Opening of Misty Beethoven featured a pegging scene; and the act emerged again, in bisexual and queer circles at least, in Carol Queen’s 1998 sex ed video Bend Over Boyfriend, culminating with Dan Savage coining the term “peg” for the first time in 2001 after a vote on his blog, Savage Love (“bob,” named after Queen’s vid, was also in the running).

Abbi considers pegging her date

Abbi considers pegging her date.

Mainstream depictions on Peep Show (2005), Weeds (2006) and Dirt (2007) followed, but whereas these portrayals involved an element of shame or “putting something up a man’s ass WTF” weirdness, Broad City and Deadpool celebrate pegging in a completely non-judgemental way. In the former, Abbi rises to the challenge (with a bit of wall twerking enthusiasm from Ilana) to peg her super-keen date and in the latter, pegging is thrown into the middle of sex montage like it’s no big deal; it just happens.

Erotic content is also seeing a pegging boom that defies demographics. Extreme hardcore producers Evil Angel, which boasts a 99 percent male viewership, tell me that their Strap Some Boyz series (link NSFW) has grown in popularity in recent years. Couple-friendly luxury sex toy brand LELO tagged 2016 as the year pegging really takes off, after the sales of male “anal pleasure objects” increased by 200 percent in 2015. As LELO point out in their yearly trends press release, “the deepening knowledge of gender expressions and sexual identities” as well as “the language of non-binary genders” are freeing people, particularly men, from the conventional confines of sexual identity, gender, and pleasure.

Dr Chauntelle Tibbals, sociologist and author of Exposure: A Sociologist Explores Sex, Society, and Adult Entertainment concurs, telling me that such increasing acceptance of ‘taboo’ sexual play that destabilizes gender norms may point to wider social ideals about sex. “In the past 10 years we have seen such an explosion in public gender awareness, understanding, and a willingness to explore boundaries and the social norms that contributed to the construction of said boundaries,” she says. “It’s only logical that pegging is now something we see in a comic book Hollywood film (Deadpool).”

r/pegging is a subreddit for pegging enthusiasts. Any of the 34,000 plus redditors post on everything from harness advice to “we did it!” confirmation images (link NSFW). I spoke to two of its members to find out why they got into pegging and the impact it’s had on their sex lives. Drew Harris* is an American construction worker. We exchanged messages a few days after he’d first been pegged. “My wife thought the macho man/tough guy attitude was something she wanted in her life [but the expectation] was not making me happy as that isn’t how I normally am and she wasn’t very happy either,” he told me.

A sample post from r/pegging.

A sample post from r/pegging.

“When we switched roles [with his wife as the dominant sexual partner and he as the submissive] everything pretty much felt right for both of us.” I also messaged ‘getsome187’ who has introduced pegging into his last four relationships. “Some of the girls would wonder if I was bisexual or felt inadequate by wearing a fake cock but they got over it,” he said. “It’s like I’m sharing something intimate with them and it brings us closer because there is a kind of vulnerability to it.”

‘M’, who I messaged on the kink social network Fetlife, and who has pegged two of her male partners, agrees. “Sometimes it can be a really intimate moment, at other times it can be dominating and filthy,” she says. “I definitely think it can bring you closer though. It’s nice when someone trusts you with their vulnerability.”

It seems that this shared knowledge of vulnerability stems from experiencing two sides of the same coin: that of penetration. “For a man who has never received anal penetration, sex happens outside the body,” Glickman told me in an email. “So while men might intellectually understand the need for warm-up before penetration, it’s not the same thing as experiencing it. There’s a different perspective that comes from knowing on a somatic level and I’ve talked with lots of women who say that exploring pegging has given their male partners a more attuned, patient approach to intercourse.”

Can pegging save the world? It certainly turned mine on its head. In the wake of pegging, instead of feeling emasculated, I felt empowered. All the social norms of being a straight man in the bedroom (I must be the penetrator, I must be in charge) had literally been fucked into insignificance.

“I think that any time someone is penetrating their partner, whether with a cock or a strap on, it’s about pleasure,” adult star and director of Guide to Wicked Sex: Anal Play for Men Jessica Drake told me in an email. “Everyone should try it once.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Topping As A Disabled Person

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By Lyric Seal

Topping-as-a-disabled-person

People are often surprised when I say that, for me, topping is more vulnerable than bottoming.

I remember going to a sex party with a bunch of other queer people of color, many of them sporting strap ons and saying that they weren’t interested in receiving penetration, but that they would gladly top, as that was an empowering, safer place for them. From multiple gender and racial standpoints, I deeply understand this, but it is not what my body knows. The reasons are even more complicated than perhaps I am ready to admit. But I am going to try.

Even now as I write this, I feel a welling up in my face, under cheek meeting eye. This is tear territory. I want to write you a ferocious little article, a tasty little piece, like me, but topping with a physically and visibly disabled body is a place of uncertainty and fear for me. Luckily, they say I’m brave.

When interviewed by .Mic  on the subject of being an “alt/disabled porn performer”, I was asked to speak on the issue of disabled people being desexualized by an ableist society. I told my interviewer that. as a disabled child, I was nonconsensually sexualized and yet also constantly infantilized by people around me. There are many disabled femmes (can I get an AMEN?) who know the complex plight of being a sexy baby in a lover’s or society’s eyes, whether or not we choose it.

Some identify with this; in my personal, intimate sexual life I have a Daddy. I love being topped. I love knowing I have someone wrapped around my finger. I love being taken care of. But I am not only this. I am an adult too.

I have choices. I have desire. And there is a fire in me.

When my own desire and agency tried to creep through the baleen-like filter through which I was understood by minds inside bodies not like mine–able bodied people fed on ableism with narrow understandings what my body was for–I felt like this hunger of mine was monstrous, too big for me to let out or in.

I know all too well that bottoming is not passive; even when we are touched against our will, it takes every fiber of one’s being to receive, or to not receive, psychically or physically. When I am bottoming, submitting, opening to my lover, there is that fire too, that hunger, that capacity for desire. Maybe it’s that I feel I can let loose when I am bottoming. I feel I can be a screaming hole. I feel I can be a possessed banshee. I feel I can be a taken siren/muse. When I trust what I am opening to, I can be so generous.

Perhaps it’s the performance I fear with topping. It reminds me more of dance than of song. It feels more visual. It seems it requires precision. It is only naked, or near a bed, or bench, or car, or miraculously accessible rooftop with all my clothes on, about to have sex with someone who wants me to top them, that I get such stage fright.

Socially, I’m a great top. As a wheelchair user, with a visibly disabled body in other other ways too, with the privileges of being neurotypical with a quick tongue, I learned to make speech my tool, my entry point, my point of connection and flirtation. I don’t even always know when I’m flirting; t’s my comfort place. I like to make people blush! Have since I was a teenager and all my friends were having sex with their boyfriends in private and I was having no sex but coming onto awkward boys in public

If I don’t think someone’s a charming top, I don’t like being hit on by them in an aggressive way. I’m particular about tops. I have the best one now already.

With switchy people, with subs, I’m all about the bait and switch. I’m all about the talking and dancing not leading to anything. I am hung up. I am scared. I have created a locus of control through my social interaction, in which you can view me as powerful for my words, my dancing on my own, my compliments, my insight, my tease. Physically, once we are touching, I am less confident of my abilities, or that my desire will be received, once someone feels/sees how awkward the form. What if I am too slow? Too imprecise? What if I stop for pain or discomfort?

I had a girlfriend once, who encouraged me to practice topping her, which was wonderful, and then she would embarrass me by telling new dates in front of me that I was a “big domme”. Proud parent with bad boundaries much?

It was like she was saying, EVERYONE! NEVE HAS A PERFORMANCE THEY WOULD LIKE TO SHARE! My partner, my daddy, actually does invite me to top him sometimes. And the practice is heart-altering. I become a more well-rounded me. Despite my Picasso body.

When you are learning the dance of how to top someone well, in the way they like, in the way you like it, it can take time and experimentation. It can take translation, modification. It can take making up a whole new way to move and relate to another body from scratch. Especially if you are physically disabled, if your partner is, if you both are.

I have been learning, slowly, that while there are tricks of the trade on how to top or dominate someone safely, there is no rulebook (thank goddess) on what it actually means to top someone. I am learning to take the time I need with my gimp body to top in a way that is true to me.

When you are learning a new dance, you begin slow. In fact, some bodies will only ever be able to replicate a dance slowly, and some do not replicate at all. Fuck replication. This is not to say that there are not disabled people who have topping on lock. I am not one of them! But I’m sassy as hell.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Long, Hard Work of Running the Only Academic Journal on Porn

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In 2014, Clarissa Smith and Feona Attwood launched “Porn Studies,” the world’s first academic periodical devoted exclusively to pornography, although many of their colleagues—and anti-porn feminists—advised them against it.

Academic Journal on Porn

Clarissa Smith, a professor of sexual cultures at the University of Sunderland in the UK, is describing to me the ideal sex robot. “Maybe it wouldn’t look like a human at all,” she says. “It could be like a sleeping bag you zip yourself into and have a whole-body experience. How fabulous would that be? You could have your toes tickled and your head massaged at the same time.”

I ask if she’s seen the two-legged cyborgs from Boston Robotics that don’t fall over, even when shoved. “They kind of look like horses,” she says. “They’re not sexy.” She tells me that if she had any business acumen, she’d design her own pleasure bots. “I wouldn’t be talking about this journal.”

The journal we’ve been talking about is Porn Studies, the first academic periodical devoted exclusively to the study of pornography. Founded in 2014 by Smith and Feona Attwood, a professor in cultural studies, communication, and media at Middlesex University London, it’s since become the go-to quarterly for hot-and-heavy, peer-reviewed research on how porn is constructed and consumed around the world.

After receiving a raft of coverage from the Atlantic, the Washington Post, VICE, and, of course, the Daily Mail, nearly 250,000 people viewed the journal online over its premiere weekend. The first issue featured an article by groundbreaking film scholar Linda Williams, an essay on how porn literacy is being taught in UK schools, and a meta-analysis of porn titled “Deep Tags: Toward a Quantitative Analysis of Online Pornography”—which reads sort of like Nate Silver’s guide to PornHub. Later issues have explored topics as varied as the “necropolitics” of zombie porn to the “disposal” of gay porn star bottoms who bareback.

Porn has long been a popular field of academic research—professor Linda Williams’s seminal text on the subject, Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the “Frenzy of the Visible” was first published in 1989—but its scholarly inspection has not been without controversy.

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“It has been considered a ‘despised form,'” Smith said. “But I think there are enough people around now who are approaching pornography from a whole range of viewpoints, not just asking, ‘Should it exist?’ or ‘How should we regulate it?’ but ‘What is it? Who’s in it? How does it work?'”

Before Smith became a leading expert in pornography, she was working at an ad agency and pursuing a master’s degree in women’s studies. “I sat through so many lectures about the radical feminists’ rejection of porn,” she said. Then, one day at the office, she received a press packet from two publishers who were just about to launch soft-core magazines for women.

“I was like, hang on, two publishers think it’s worth it to launch porn magazines, and yet women supposedly have no interest in this?”

Smith had friends who were into porn, she enjoyed a good Chippendales show now and then, and she’d watched as the Ann Summers sex shop in her neighborhood had transformed from someplace dark and seedy to a “bright and colorful” spot to buy sex toys.

“I saw these things happening, which, according to theory, couldn’t be happening.” She had a gut feeling that porn, too, was being misjudged.

In 1999, Smith decided to analyze For Women magazine, a relatively upmarket glossy that ran features like “Semen: a user’s guide” and “Women who sleep with strangers night after night.” The magazine, Smith argued, sought to manufacture “a space where women [could] be sexually free” by writing about things like three-ways, cuckolding fetishes, and anal sex in a way that made them seem normal. It was also primo masturbation material, offering “male bodies for female consumption” and real-life sex stories.

Academics and peers she respected tried to dissuade Smith from continuing down the porn path. “They would ask me, ‘When are you going to move on from this area into more serious study?’ They’d also tell me I was really brave.” She laughs. “I wasn’t brave, I was interested!”

For Women

When academics analyze comics, horror films, video games, or anime, it isn’t generally assumed that their scholarship constitutes a ringing endorsement of everything in their field of study. But with porn, it’s different. The topic is so “burdened with significance,” as transgender studies professor Bobby Noble once described it, it’s easy to get trapped in the debate over its existence—instead of looking at it objectively as a cultural product.

But Smith ignored the naysayers and, over the next few years, penned a number of articles with titles like, “Shiny Chests and Heaving G-Strings: A Night Out with the Chippendales” and “They’re Ordinary People, Not Aliens from the Planet Sex! The Mundane Excitements of Pornography for Women.”

She was cavorting with other porn academics and traveling to conferences when she fortuitously met Feona Attwood. “It felt like we were the only two people talking about [porn], at least in the UK,” Smith said. The pair eventually brought their idea for a porn studies journal to the multinational academic publishing house Routledge, initiating two-and-a-half years of negotiation. When, finally, the two were told their proposal for the journal had been accepted, they “sat in stupefied silence for about ten minutes,” Smith said.

Nearly as soon as Porn Studies was announced, a feminist anti-porn organization in the UK called Stop Porn Culture circulated an online petition demanding the creation of an anti-porn journal for the sake of balance. Signatories claimed the journal was akin to “murder studies” from the viewpoints of “murderers.”

Smith and Attwood believe they somewhat missed the point. “We were trying to move away from the idea that there were only two ways of thinking,” said Attwood. “Like for or against television, or for or against the novel. It’s a bizarre way of thinking, from an academic point of view.”

porn studies

At the time, the UK had recently banned a long list of hardcore sex acts from porn produced in the country, including “spanking, caning, whipping, penetration by an object ‘associated with violence,’ physical or verbal abuse (consensual or not), urination in sexual contexts, female ejaculation, strangulation, facesitting and fisting (if all knuckles are inserted).” The country’s mood wasn’t exactly sex-positive.

“We have this idea that we can just keep undesirable things out of the country,” Smith said.

That fearful attitude, naturally, extends to university campuses. “I don’t think there was ever a golden age for studying porn,” Attwood told me. “It’s always been tricky!” She says the resistance the pair encountered—and continue to encounter—is part of a “much broader” problem related to academic freedom; at the University of Houston, for example, teachers were recently told they might want to modify what they teach in case students are carrying concealed weapons.

“The social and political context we are working in at the moment as academics makes our work more precarious and dangerous in all kinds of ways that are not just about what we study,” Attwood said.

Yet the history of porn research in the United States isn’t as dramatic as you’d imagine. Linda Williams was able to teach porn with full support of her administration way back in the (H.W.) Bush years.

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“There is still such a thing as academic freedom,” Williams said nonchalantly when I asked how administrators reacted to her porny syllabi when she taught the subject at UC Irvine, in the heart of conservative Orange County, in 1992.

Back then, Williams, who’d already published a book on the subject by that point, would screen whatever porn was floating around in the cultural ether. She had her students watch gonzo porn; feminist porn (“cleaned up with lots of potted plants and no money shots”); and sadomasochist porn (“the theatrical kind…and the other kind”).

The biggest issue students had was with the gay porn, which Williams says freaked out the hetero guys—a lot. Usually, though, what students did in her classes was laugh their heads off. “That’s kind of a protective measure, because otherwise they might, you know, get horny,” she said.

When I asked Smith if she screened porn in her classes, though, I was surprised to hear that she didn’t.

“Both Feona [Attwood] and I have tenure, but that still doesn’t mean that you can do what you like. Also, I’m at a small, provincial university that is one of the post-1992 schools [formerly polytechnics or colleges of higher education in the UK], and we don’t have a very bullish attitude that we’re the elite, so I have to be aware of the university’s sensibilities, which are: Can we defend this to parents? I don’t want to cause that kind of trouble.”

For now, Smith is advising graduate students, conducting research, attending conferences, and, of course, editing Porn Studies. She says she’s most concerned about making sure the next generation doesn’t feel the same sense of shame over their sexual desires as the older people she’s interviewed in her research. “In the research that Feona and I did, one of the key things that comes through when you talk to older people about their engagements with porn [is that] people say, ‘I just wish someone had had a proper conversation with me about sex. I just wish I hadn’t felt so much shame about looking and finding bodies attractive and going looking for it. It’s taken me a long time to understand what I like sexually.’ Why do we want another generation coming up afraid of their bodies and ashamed of their desires?”

Complete Article HERE!

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