Why Pornography is More Documentary Than Fictional Fantasy and Why That Makes Pornography Inherently Problematic
Pornography: Harmless Fantasy or Documentary of Brutal and Unnatural Sexualised Violence
One of the most frustrating aspects of the debate surrounding the effects of high speed internet pornography on society, as well as on the performers, is the persistent myth that the performers featured in pornography are actors and actresses, and the related belief that the scenes depicted in pornographic films are representations of fictional fantasies. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
There is a reason, other than the inclusion of graphic nudity in a performance, that no one has ever won an oscar for their appearance in a pornographic movie, and that reason is that the roles displayed in pornographic films are not acts; they are the recorded evidence of something very real being done to or by the performers in these videos.
This is also the reason why the performers in pornographic videos are not protected from the real world consequences of taking on the roles they play in these videos; unlike any other genre of supposedly fictional film. The pornography industry fails to protect its performers from the potentially very serious health impacts of the work they engage in, as well as psychological and emotional trauma which often results from doing the work they do.
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Consumers Desire Authenticity - Not Fantasy
The reason that performers in pornography videos are not afforded simple protections such as condoms to guard against the inherent risks in the work they do is that the pornographers' clients desire authenticity above all else. They are not nearly as interested in fantasy as the pornography apologists and pornography advocates would have us believe. Invariably, the products produced by the pornography industry are authentic above all else; because that is what the client demands.
Pornography does not sell a fantasy, it sells the documented proof of very real and totally authentic experiences being lived out in the real world by its performers. Pornography, like rape, is about power above all else. Look at any pornographic video and you will see extreme power imbalances among the performers.
This is why there are no stunt performers or tricky camera angles or special effects designed to spare performers from the physical, psychological or emotional consequences of engaging in the very real activities being depicted on screen. Virtually everything depicted in a pornographic video is actually happening with 100% authenticity to the performers. There is authentic intercourse with authentic penetration. There are authentic and strict roles of domination and submission, and in a great many cases there is authentic violence and assault recorded on video for the world to see.
The performers in the so-called adult film industry are not acting. They are being paid to have sex on camera. Somehow the fact that this prostitution takes place on a film set makes it so that law enforcement has very little interest in the prosecution of this well documented prostitution and soliciting; but that does not make the prostitution any less authentic.
What About Storylines and Roleplaying in Adult Films?
Some may say that the performers in adult films are, in fact actors, because occasionally a pornographic film may have some weak concept of a story line. In other words, in some of these films the performers - who are engaged in authentic prostitution on camera - may be asked to role play or - even more rarely, to memorize a script. However, this is fairly rare, especially in the most common venue for contemporary pornography - which is the modern high speed internet connection. In this - the most popular form of contemporary pornography by a country mile - instances of role-playing are extremely uncommon, and when it does exist it is exceedingly obvious that the roleplaying and/or storyline are dispensible when it comes to the ultimate production of the film itself.
It is this expendable nature of the storyline and roleplaying which is at the heart of the open joke about porn performers being terrible actors. In point of fact, pornography performers are not actors at all. What they create are not fictional fantasies, but documentaries of authentic sexual intercourse involving strict dominance and submission roles; and most often also involving outright violence and sexual degredation of the (almost always female) submissive performers. In other words, these documentaries are about sexual abuse, extremely unequal power dynamics in sexual situations, and quite often involve sexual assault and sexualised violence or outright rape.
Women are told to smile and pretend to enjoy it when men are spitting in their faces, slapping them, choking them; and brutally penetrating them in every orifice. The scenes depicted in the especially violent videos are quite often filmed rapes - whether or not a contract has been signed. Rapists often tell their victims, in a bid for total control, to smile, to say they like it, as they are sexually assaulted. Rape is about power, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a disorder which arises from situations in which a victim feels totally and completely disempowered; such as during a rape. Now, who is going to be capable of putting on an oscar-winning performance; or even just a convincing performance - that they are enjoying something inherently unenjoyable under circumstances of feeling such a sense of complete and total disempowerment? At least real actors are most often asked to act out situations in which their emotional response makes sense for the situation their character is facing; which gives the actors and actresses something to go off of when creating their performance. In pornography, there is very little, if any, difference between the performance and the performers' lived experiences.
Pornography is Inherently Problematic and Cannot be Reformed
When is the last time you saw a pornographic film which included genuinely sensual, mutually enjoyable and respectful sexual intercourse among two equals? When is the last time you saw a pornographic film which even appeared to attempt to celebrate normal, healthy, mutually enjoyable and mutually satisfying human sexuality?
Part of the problem with pornography is the nature of the technology of film; which requires inequality in the sense that the performers are being forever observed as through a one-way mirror. The watchers can see the participants, but the participants cannot see their observers. It is much like the inequality of a sexual experience in which one party is naked and vulnerable while the other party is clothed - except exponentially more unequal because there are potentially millions of people in that invulnerable position of power over the performer.
The other issue making it impossible for pornography to represent healthy human sexuality is capitalism; which drives the producers of any potentially addictive product to make that product as addictive as possible for the consumer; thereby driving as much revenue as possible to the producer. A lot of research has gone into establishing that pornography is most addictive when it is constantly pushing the envelope - making the power inequalities between performers more extreme, and constantly offering the consumer more and more bizarre representations of sexualised violence. It is no secret that in any dimension of the film industry, both sex and violence sell, which is why a lot of films even outside of the pornography industry have a strong tendency to conflate sex and violence. This is a huge problem for those in capitalist societies who would like to see healthier forms of sexual education emerge; and it is an insurmountable problem for those who would like pornography to be reformable, rather than inherently problematic.
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