The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Porn and cocaine – not quite the same

with 15 comments

liveandletlivePorn is the same thing as cocaine”.

This statement would have passed unnoticed if it had been uttered by a conservative minded American republican, you know the sort that want to illegalize abortions, condoms and homosexuality.

But it didn’t. The quote is from a recent column by a film critic in the leading morning paper in Sweden, a country with a worldwide reputation of sexual freedom and a relaxed view on nudity and sex in movies.

Caught by the headline I read the article with growing astonishment. After dismissing attempts to make quality porn movies and porn for women, the writer puts forward her thesis that pornography developed in a bad direction over the last twenty years.

Scenarios of abuse, incest between fathers and daughters, gang rapes, are more or less standard.”

The difference, according to the columnist, is that the scenarios nowadays are much more realistic. You can’t tell if the girls are playing or if they’re raped for real.

She goes on trying to find an explanation why the pornography has, with her words, “escalated”.

Is it because we live in an unusually evil time? Because men are animals? No, it’s because porn is drugs and the net has made the drug available to anyone who can spell the word p-o-r-n. To put out porn on internet is the same thing as dumping loads of cocaine on a school yard. The drug works the same way. First it’s exciting to see someone taking off their panties. After a while you need to go a step further. And further. Finally you only have two choices: either you quit or you see something worse. Or you make it come real perhaps?”

Yes, she argues like that. “Make it come real”. It’s an argumentation we’ve seen ad nauseam before, the idea that if you see violent movies or play video games, you’ll be reprogrammed to go out and do the same thing in reality. I have yet to see anyone proof that this is the case.

Her conclusion is that it’s hard to extinct porn, but that it nevertheless should be treated the same way as cocaine. It should be difficult and risky to get hold of and something that makes you a social outcast.

My view on porn
I admit that I’m not a big consumer of porn. It’s been years and years since last time I watched a porn film, so I can’t determine the accuracy in her claims that it has changed over time. I hope there has been some kind of development though, because what I remember from what I saw back in the days when I checked out what it was out of curiosity, it was shockingly badly made movies, which got awfully dull to watch ever so quickly.

What I do know though is that I’m a fierce defender of the freedom of speech. If people want to participate in making porn movies and there are other people who want to watch those movies because it helps them to fulfill their sexual needs, I can’t see in which way this is her or anyone else’s business.

Of course film critics could write harsh reviews about them (on a theoretical level, in reality you never see serious reviews about porn movies, at least not on the sites that I frequent.) You can and maybe should question how women are portrayed, the lack of realism or what other aspect that bothers you. But to compare porn to lethal drugs and ask for a ban is completely out of proportion.

Working conditions
This doesn’t mean that every form of porn is acceptable. Child pornography is banned for good reasons and people involved in that business should be persecuted and punished accordingly. You also need to make sure that no one was abused in the making of the film and that it was made with the safety and health of the actors in mind.

If you want to make people watch less porn, I think banning is the least thing you should do.  The only effect it might have is to worsen the working conditions for the people working in the industry, since it would go underground and not be exposed to the public eye the way it is now. But  porn movies wouldn’t disappear, quite the opposite. A standard porn film, which normally would have been dismissed as repetitive and boring, would all of a sudden become tickling and exciting thanks to the extra spice from the knowledge that it’s illegal. It’s the best marketing you could get.

Live and let live
I don’t love porn movies. Actually I’m not particularly interested in watching people having sex on the screen overall. I find most mandatory sex scenes in movies a drag and I just wait for them to get over with it so we can move on to something else.

But it wouldn’t occur to me to stop other people from watching it if they find pleasure in it.

In 1918, Sir Walter Scott wrote: “Live and let live”. And that wraps up my view on porn. It’s really nothing to get excited about.

Written by Jessica

March 24, 2013 at 1:54 pm

15 Responses

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  1. Interest write up and a good honest opinion. I always love hearing that and really appreciate it. I can’t speak for anywhere but here in the States, but I think there is some legitimacy to the porn and drugs connection. But for me the comparison lies in the addiction. Here, addictions to porn has ravaged and destroyed many households. I could give you several examples personally. All were men who became obsessed with it and it eventually destroyed their marriages. There are also cases of children getting caught with it at an alarming rate thanks to such easy access over smart phones. Historically, its very interesting that many of America’s most notorious serial killers also had porn addictions. It has had a bad impact here. Sure some have watched it and not been consumed by it but many have.

    Personally I find porn revolting. I see no purpose in it and its depictions of woman as cattle is pretty disgusting. But that’s my perspective. I’m also one who has never felt a dwelled on sex scene with nudity has added anything to a film. But porn has an addictive allure for some.

    Anyway, a fantastic and bold post Jessica. Like I sad, I really appreciate honesty like that and it makes for a wonderful discussion. Oh, one quickie, the Republicans aren’t against condoms. It’s a case of one side wanting the government to force some to pay for others condoms when we are going broke. But again we are also wasting millions of dollars on crap like studying gophers, etc!!!!

    keith7198

    March 24, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    • Actually I don’t think you and I are that far from each other. I’m not personally a fan of porn either. And yes, I don’t deny that people can become addicted to porn. But again you can get destructive addictions to a lot of things. Gambling. Food. Excercise. I don’t think you can equalize all sorts of addictions.

      A better way to approach those issues, in my view, is to not ban porn, but to have an honest and open climate where you can speak about those things. If the only source of information that youngsters have about their future sexlife is what they get from porn, things may go weird. It’s the duty of their parents to have enlightening conversations.

      Whatever bad sides that come with porn could and should be faught by other means than by trying to forbid it. Make better porn! Make conversations about sex! And make sure that the people who work in the industry not get harmed.

      Thank you for your your honesty as well! That’s the best start for a good conversation!

      Jessica

      March 24, 2013 at 2:51 pm

  2. Great post. I think it’s an excellent point for discussion, and I appreciate your honesty. I’ve always been ambivalent in my attitudes here – I’ve heard of the damage it can do, but not experienced it first hand. I’m OK with porn as a whole and think it can be a good thing if consumed with a healthy attitude

    I think that my main point of concern is the younger generation viewing hardcore material – I think this can be very negative for developing minds, and it should be more controlled.

    But on the whole, as you say – live and let live.

    georginaguthrie

    March 24, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    • Thank you! I understand the concern for the younger generation, but I think this should be handled by having open conversations with your kids, about sex and porn as well as about safe practices on the webs (teaching them about the dangers that lure in some shady corners.) Banning is not the way to go.

      Jessica

      March 24, 2013 at 3:00 pm

  3. American musician Frank Zappa, when testifying before Congress in the 1980s on the impact of “explicit” songs to negatively impact children said, “If songs really had the ability to change people then we would all love one another, because love songs are far and away the most popular genre.” Unsaid, but implied, is that obviously people do not all love one another, so therefore the idea that songs change the way people are is ridiculous.

    I use this example to extend to movies and books. There have been several high level attempts by people in my country (the U.S.) to link pornography with either violence or sex crimes, including an attempt by the sitting Attorney General in the 1980s. Despite these attempts, and the millions of dollars poured into them, there has been no link established. If anything, a tentative link between pornography and a REDUCTION in sex crimes was found, presumably because if a person could get their outlet in the privacy of their own home they didn’t need to go out on the streets and do something.

    Personally, I find the whole concept of people becoming addicted to pornography to be ridiculous. People are responsible for their own actions. Some people, though, want to blame their actions on others, so they say that they are “sex addicts” as an excuse. If the porn wasn’t there, they argue, then they would have been fine, upstanding human beings. Riiiiiight.

    It sounds like that author’s image of pornography is one that is out of touch with reality. Do the things like she describes exist? Probably in amateur movies. In “mainstream” pornography, though (which is the vast majority), they do not. And the whole idea that this is men degrading women is ridiculous. I’ve never understood why when a man and a woman have sex on camera the woman is degraded. Why isn’t the man? He was just as exposed as she was. And here’s the sure sign that anyone saying it’s a man’s world is out of touch – women have far and away been the driving force behind pornography for many years (at least in the U.S.) It’s the women who are the stars, who are paid far more than the male actors, who pick their co-stars, who direct their own films that they appear in, who set up their own production companies, and who set up their own web sites.

    Can you find tales of woe of former adult movie performers dying of drug overdoses or comitting suicide? Of course. What people who use this argument fail to mention is that you can say the exact same thing about performers in non-adult movies.

    Chip Lary

    March 24, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I think the Zappa quote is excellent. I was also surprised by her discription of pornography, but since I don’t watch porn myself I can’t tell how the vast majority of porn looks these days.

      The debate in US as you describe it is how I thought it ran. I haven’t seen people speaking in this kind of terms before in Sweden, and certainly not in a paper that could be described as an equivalent to NY Times or Washington Post. If anyone would argue the way she does it’s in a small scale religious news paper. I’ve seen a few reactions to it in Twitter. So far I haven’t seen anyone supporting the column.

      Jessica

      March 24, 2013 at 5:28 pm

  4. Thankfully, I live in a rather peaceful country (at least in comparison to others), so you could say that I’m in a bubble when it comes to the issues porn can arise. Like in Sweden, we haven’t really debated this in Portugal.

    Either way, like you, I’m very hesitant when it comes to restricting freedom of speech, so I have no feuds with porn in general. In obvious cases, like the ones you mentioned (child abuse, and I would also consider rape), it’s clear to me that it can’t be allowed. It’s not because it’s depicting a crime (particularly speaking of the rape aspect, since in child abuse it is not depicting — it’s practising), since it happens in plenty of “regular” movies as well, but because in porn it is done with the intent of pleasuring the viewer. So I don’t agree with any form of porn that humiliates women or men.

    However, I think the problem in practical terms is, like with all restriction laws, where to draw the line. It’s not at all consensual, and even I am not sure about it.

    Sofia

    March 24, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    • I see your point, but I think it would be a bit problematic to have legislation around the depicturing of rape in movies. In the case of child pornography you can determine if the victim is underage. But how can you judge the intention of a rape scene? There are people who are into s/m, who like to play this kind games and watch others doing it as well. As long as everyone knows it’s just a game, can we really intervene? I wouldn’t like to watch porn that humiliates either women or men either. I just don’t see that you necessarily can or should ban it.

      Jessica

      March 24, 2013 at 7:23 pm

  5. Good post, Jessica. I think what is really needed is open discussion about porn, but calling it names, and not dealing with facts is bogging the discussion down, as it does with discussions about abortion and other heated topics. We need to recognize from the beginning that porn is an emotional topic, and some will consider it negligible, and others will consider it of the deepest concern. It would be wonderful if both sides could understand both why they hold their opinion and why the opposite holds their opinion, and begin from there.

    stevekimes

    March 24, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    • Thank you Steve! You’re wise and thoughtful as always! And yes, porn can and should be discussed – I think it can give young people a weird view on sex, unless they get reality based information from elsewhere. But calls for bans and black-and-white argumentation won’t make a good ground for that sort of conversations.

      Jessica

      March 25, 2013 at 7:09 am

  6. Well, my go to voice on such matters, Dan Savage, is certainly weary on the notion of porn/sex addiction. I’ve watched a variety of things that make the claim that porn is getting more violent but I’m just not sure how one can quantify that kind of claim (is it based on the composition of what is being made or what is actually being viewed by the most people). A few of the things I’ve watched from the late-60s/early-70s tended to be much more likely to incorporate what I’d consider (fictional) actions of sexual assault than more modern stuff. At the end of the day such demonizing of porn just feels like Andrea Dworkin’s nonsense all over again, just 30 years later. It’s kind of throwing out the baby with the bathwater to rally against the whole class of things rather than the bad examples therein.

    Bondo

    March 24, 2013 at 11:00 pm

    • Yeah, I don’t have anything against people questioning bad examples of porn, on the contrary. It would probably be a good thing if we talked more about this than we do. (I can’t remember last time I had a conversation about porn with anyone. Have I ever talked about it with my teenage girls? Probably not).
      The problem starts when it’s so sweeping as in this article. It’s hard to take anything she says in this matter seriously.

      Jessica

      March 25, 2013 at 7:14 am

  7. I guess my attitude to all of this can be summed up the following “What two (or more) consenting adults do is up to them” – and that includes making money from their actions.

    Oddly enough, perhaps, this attitude for me is confirmed by being a Catholic. I value my religious freedom – but my freedom comes with the “price” that other people have freedom too. Since I wish my freedom to be respected, I think I should respect the freedom of others. I may or may not agree with what other people do, and may counsel for or against, but I certainly would never advocate using the law against consenting adults.

    In cases where duress is involved, well, that is another matter entirely.

    stnylan

    March 25, 2013 at 11:04 pm

    • This is my approach too. Provided that we’re dealing with adults that are in charge of their own will, I find it hard to support laws against it. Children and such is a different creature.

      Jessica

      March 26, 2013 at 2:42 pm

  8. […] Porn and cocaine – not quite the same […]


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