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Porn & Rape Culture Exist In The Same World

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

The sex industry is the oldest industry in the world, dating at least all the way back to ancient Greece. And you know how we place the Greeks on a pedestal. Simply, no patriarchal society has ever survived without sex work. Now in the 21st century, porn accounts for a majority of the sex industry. Last year, PornHub racked up a total of 49 billion visits and 115 million visits a day. The country leading with the most visits is, of course, none other than the United States. The United States has held this top spot since PornHub first released yearly reviews in 2013. 

We’ve talked about how overlooked rape culture is in the United States before. Here, we briefly touched on the subject of porn — how it can create unrealistic expectations and promote sexual violence. We didn’t really talk about how it does that though, so let’s get into it. Where do we start?

The Sexual Revolution of the ‘60s, baby!

All about female sexual empowerment, this feminist movement loudly and unapologetically preached, “Women like having sex for the sake of having sex too!” Women wanting to have sex for the sake of having sex gave society a scare. Before the Sexual Revolution, the thought was that women only had sex to have children, not to experience sexual pleasure. Tired of the standard ‘50s housewife image, women demanded to be seen as equals in the workplace, in the house, in the bedroom — in the world. 

The ‘50s housewife is a symbol of unrealistic domestic perfection. She cooks and cleans all day for her husband to come home to a kept house. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with being a housewife. It is absolutely a full-time job. The problem with the ‘50s housewife, though, is that she is expected to never do anything for herself. Her purpose is to serve the man’s needs, never her own. If she’s even seen taking a break, she’s instantly seen as lazy and inattentive. By the time the ‘60s rolled around, women were through performing the perfect housewife persona. Viva la revolution!

Kind of. 

Women’s sexual liberation and freedom quickly became a new area of a woman’s life for men to control and to own.

By the late ‘60s, we enter the “Golden Age of Porn” —  a roughly 15 year period (1969-1985) that celebrated porn with mainstream success and attention. 

Quickly, let’s talk about the term “porn.” The term itself originates from the ancient Greek tax called “pornikon,” which taxed prostitutes working outside state brothels. Otherwise, prostitutes working inside state brothels — who weren’t slaves — were essentially independent freelancers, in a sense. Independent prostitutes were still tied to their city-states in their state-controlled brothels. 

The patriarchy is all about men controlling women.

Now, back the Golden Age of Porn.

The two films of greatest note during this period are Andy Warhol’s 1969 film blue movie (it’s other title is simply f*ck) and Gerard Damiano’s notorious 1974 film Deep Throat. Warhol opens this era, and while Damiano’s Deep Throat doesn’t close it, there’s a clear descent in value just over this short 5-year period. This descent is only further evidenced by these two men’s artistic backgrounds.

American artist Andy Warhol is most probably most famous for his prominence in the pop art movement. But Warhol’s talents expand way beyond his famous Campbell’s Soup Cans painting. Well-versed in visual media, Warhol’s blue movie marks the first wide theatrical release of an erotic adult film. 

Gerard Damiano’s introduction to the film industry is through the horror genre. After serving 4 years in the U.S. Navy, Damiano moves to New York City and pursues his interest in film by working on low-budget horror films. His first notable feature is the pornographic film Deep Throat.

There’s a major distinction. Deep Throat is defined as a pornographic film; blue movie is defined as an erotic film. It might not seem that this phrasing makes that much of a difference, but that’s the thing: it actually does. 

Warhol’s blue movie is a work of erotica. Erotica, in all its forms, has artistic value and integrity. Erotic work not only aims to arouse its audience, but simultaneously works to showcase the unique individuation of its subjects. In order for that to happen, the performers have to be comfortable in their environment. In other words, they have to be treated with respect. Deep Throat is a pornographic film, not simply due to its content, but due to its creation, which falls flat in the respect department.

Deep Throat’s star, Linda Boreman, has spoken out about her treatment during filming. Boreman has come forward with stories regarding sexual abuse, coercion, and rape, summarizing that

virtually every time someone watches that movie, they’re watching me being raped.” 

Both pornography and erotica are evocative.

Though unlike erotica, pornography doesn’t care about its subjects. If you’ve ever watched porn, you know firsthand that its camera angles are weak and unflattering. Whether or not there is an emotional connection between performers is unimportant. And yet, people evidently crave emotional connection. Otherwise, what are all those clips of fictional characters getting together on YouTube doing? 

Erotica celebrates the human body. Rightly so, the human body is amazing. It holds together our mind, spirit, and sex. But, humanity is so much more than just a physical body. Erotica values that humanity is also about the connections between people. Meanwhile, pornography’s display of the human body is not a celebration. Rather, it diminishes its subjects to just that: a body, not a whole person. Boreman experienced this exact objectification during her time filming. Consent and Boreman’s personal autonomy were thrown out the window, deemed nonessential. How can any connection exist when one person is stripped of their humanity? 

If you were to have heard of one of these movies before reading this article, I’m going to guess it was Deep Throat. Maybe you caught Amanda Seyfried in LoveLace, the biopic about Boreman’s life released in 2013. Or maybe the title sounds familiar because it infiltrated the ‘70s Watergate scandal. 

Media shapes the way we see our world. 

For a more recent uncomfortably hilarious, satirical real life take on this, check out Jena Friedman’s Soft Focus report on campus rape:

 

 

Here, Friedman’s “Cannot-Consent-Carrie” sex toy doll further proves the correlation between porn and rape culture. Reducing people into perfectly proportioned “f*ckable” mannequins is disconcerting and is the literal personification of objectification.  

Erotica promotes love and intimacy. Porn is the definition of “sex sells,” but it’s nothing more than that, leaving it feeling rather empty.  

So, where do we stand right now? Well, the adult entertainment industry has closed due to COVID-19. And it has been taking a major hit. Quarantine has led many adult performers to take matters into their own hands, meaning they’ve had far more control over their content, environments, and way more control over their profits. Lit, right? Right. We want more of this.

  • Question of

    Does porn contribute to rape culture?

    • Yes
    • No
  • Question of

    What are you getting off on next?

    • Erotica
    • Porn
    • My imagination.
    • Nothing.

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Written by Nina Slowinski

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