A healthy relationship?jcorrius

Cambridge loves to watch porn. I’m sure that an awful lot of the almost 1.4 million hits on Pornhub last year came from the 25,000 students that swamp Cambridge for at least six months every year. Porn is clearly made for busy, lonely students who have damaged their eyesight from reading dense texts in poorly-lit libraries, and enjoy being able to have solitary sexy-time with their computer.

Porn is great. Or at least it should be. It should mean less sexual harassment as a consequence of lower levels of sexual deprivation, and more relaxed students producing better exam results. Only a little bit more waste in the form of tissues for men… Bullshit. They’re the best arguments I can think of, and I was really pushing the boat out.

How many porn viewers are women? A minority, at least. It’s actually not even a fifth. Does that mean that the average penis has more of a life on its own than the average vagina? Perhaps.

But more than that, most women simply don’t like to imagine themselves crawling naked over leopard-patterned sofas to be verbally abused by a man. Not to mention the physical abuse and trauma that (my girlfriend assures me) many pornographic sex acts involve for women.

We don’t have to agree that porn renders sex unnatural, inauthentic and plastic. Equally, we don’t have to think that sex education is nowadays done best through pornography. The only thing that definitively renders porn anti-feminist is its unbelievable depiction of gender relations.

Apart from some types of fetish, how often have you seen a porn movie where the man and woman are even on roughly equal terms? How many of the sex tapes involve women being degraded, beaten, spat at or forced to obey in one form or another?

Even when women are ostensibly in control, it is purely for the enjoyment of men watching. The same goes for lesbian scenes, which say little about the sexuality of the women involved given that they are intended to be viewed by heterosexual men.

In light of this, it is great to hear that the porn industry is actually more or less on its knees. The internet is, for better or worse, forcing many of the production companies that made fortunes through sales of videos and merchandise in the 1990s and 2000s into bankruptcy. Piracy is its biggest problem.

This does not mean that the several billion page views, which the big porn websites get every month, are even slightly decreasing. On the contrary. It’s just not commercial stuff people are watching nowadays. DIY and user-generated content are the new big hitters. And this is what makes my argument a little more delicate.

Not all porn is the same. And the porn I have singled out it is mainly the type in decline. But even a considerable amount of DIY porn has been built upon the conventions of its commercial predecessor. Is DIY porn really different?

Take the example of Reddit’s Gonewild. Thousands of people upload their pictures to the site every day, mostly to boost their confidence and get that special kick from getting naked for a stranger – or more accurately, a couple of thousand strangers. With this type of ‘porn’ (perhaps it’s wrong to call it that) there seem fewer reasons to worry that women are being exploited; some people are exhibitionists, right?

But it’s a different story when we consider that what is going on is thousands of people literally prostituting themselves in front of their webcams. In order to finance their studies, for instance, many young women are turning into virtual prostitutes. Via the internet, it’s possible for a guy in Cambridge to enjoy a small adventure with a girl from Romania, Brazil or Korea while sitting in his room – all for just £2.99 a minute.

But here it comes, the string of critiques (and counter-critiques) attached to this: the women can’t choose; the alienation; forced by family and circumstance. Yes, but at least they don’t get ill – and they can choose their online time and customers. Still, can feminists –male or female – support such prostitution?

What can we take from all this rambling? The solution is surely not regulation – we have seen often enough where this leads with alcohol and drugs. As with the more general question of how men can help the feminist agenda, it is an issue of awareness. ‘Yes, I am a dude and I obviously watch porn’.

No. Porn – particularly commercial porn – degrades women. There are nuances to be made – different kinds might be more or less problematic. But in general, supporting porn by watching it is not acceptable if you care about women’s rights. Choose carefully at least. It might be a first step – secret, if need be –on your way to becoming a better (wo)man.