If You Can Hear Me, Touch Your Nose.
A production assistant on a music video shoot I did recently works with children during the week. She said that, for her, the most effective way to get the attention of a group of kids is to stand at the front of the room, loudly say “If you can hear me, touch your nose” and then wait for everyone to have their finger on their nose. She uses this method for large groups of adults, too.
So: If you can read me, touch your nose.
Pornography is entertainment. Pornography is a business. Pornography is not a substitute for sexual education. The scenarios in porn plots are not a guide to dating or picking up partners for casual sex.
I always figured that anyone old enough to be legally viewing pornography would be able to comprehend the difference between entertainment and real life. I forget that we don’t all understand that a movie like Forrest Gump is not the same as a History Channel documentary on the Vietnam War. I also forget that we don’t all understand that a History Channel documentary on the Vietnam War may not be entirely accurate. I forget that even though pornography is made to be entertaining and portray fantasies, there is a large void in practical sexual education that people sometimes attempt to fill with porn.
I want to believe that people use critical thinking skills. I want to believe that people see Brazzers/Manwin’s Get Rubber campaign and the safer sex/condom use speech at the beginning of Vivid’s DVDs. I want to believe that people watch the pre and post scene interviews included in Kink.com’s videos. I really want to believe that people don’t need to see these disclaimers and interviews to understand that what they are watching is done by tested, consenting professionals. Apparently, though, this comprehension is not always the case.
As adult performers, our job is to show up with a clean STI test and act/perform in an adult production to the director’s satisfaction. It isn’t our responsibility to take on the task of educating people about sexual technique or safer sex practices. Our job description does not include worrying about the people who can’t differentiate between what they see on a screen and what is acceptable behavior in real life, the same as it isn’t Bruce Willis’s job to go around reminding people that action movies are super cool but shooting actual people with real guns isn’t, or that calling 911 is a much better tactic than shooting someone full of adrenaline in the event of a heroin overdose. But some of us do…
There are adult performers and sex workers who talk about these things: When Nina Hartley recounts a recreational sexual encounter on her blog, she regularly mentions the use of condoms and gloves. Sometimes she mentions less standard practices, such as having a specific pair of boots for BDSM that don’t touch the ground outside so that they can be licked without concern for what they’ve walked through. Danny Wylde writes frankly about his experiences in sex work and openly discusses his thoughts and emotions. There are countless others who do frank interviews or keep blogs discussing topics relating to sex work, the adult industry, and sex-for-work vs. sex in personal lives. If someone actually wants to know about porn, there’s a wealth of information online from a variety of perspectives.
We just don’t get nearly the amount of traffic or visibility that a major news outlet gets. Our voices need to be louder, because we are talking.
Context and Generalizations and Paintbrushes, Oh My!
Everything you do can be taken by other people and shown out of context for their own purposes or to support a view that you may or may not share. Everything I do can be taken by other people and shown out of context for their own purposes or to support a view that I may or may not share. Most of the time I accept people projecting their own opinions onto me as what happens when you put things (art, photographs, writing, orifices) out there (on the internet, in stores, museums, or plastered over a spray painted stencil of “Post No Bills”) for others to consume and go on with my life. Sometimes, though, I feel like words are being put in my mouth that I strongly disagree with and need to contradict.
Just because my job is in the category of sex work does not mean that my opinions and experiences are the same for all sex workers. Just because I like my job and chose it doesn’t mean that all sex workers like their jobs and actively chose to be sex workers. Just because I had other options and opportunities that are not sex work easily available and grew up in a comfortable middle class household does not mean that all sex workers had that same level of advantages. Some had more, some had far less. Being an exclusive performer for a couples oriented plot-driven porn company is not the same as being a freelance performer. Also, the American pornography industry is not the same as the European pornography industry, neither of which are the same as prostitution, professional BDSM, stripping, or any number of subcategories of the sex trade.
Pornography is entertainment. The final product is a fantasy. Most companies don’t discuss the testing protocols we use. They don’t explain that actually the guy playing the pizza delivery man (Mike Blue in one case and James Deen in another) is someone that I at least casually know. They don’t show the viewer the parts of our day where we discuss limits and specific preferences before we start a scene. I would draw a parallel to the way that romance novels don’t have an epilogue reminding you that relationships don’t actually work like a fairytale. They don’t point out that two people can be head over heels for each other but both parties have to put in serious work or have a likelihood of breaking apart the first time they have trouble resolving a major conflict. Alternately: the same way that action movies don’t have pop-ups saying “This daring maneuver would never have worked in real life because of physics.” This is because we expect the viewer, as an adult, to know the difference between entertainment and reality.
I am not trying to tell you that all porn is good. I am not trying to tell you that we are all healthy and happy. If anything, I am trying to provide a balance to all of the sensationalized stories (Linda Lovelace, Jenna Jameson’s autobiography, the Mr. Marcus debacle, statements from feminists who seem to mean well but don’t seem to have actually watched much pornography, news outlets who I suspect find it much easier to paint all sex workers as victims than show a potentially unpopular but neutral or positive view). Most of the time I’m just saying “Hey, a few thousand people on the internet seem really interested in this stuff so here’s what I did today or my thoughts about something” or “This thing happened to my vagina and I thought I’d share since it’s a common but infrequently discussed gynecological issue that could use some more awareness.”
Not all pornography is sex/body/woman/queer-positive. Not all pornography is sex/body/woman/queer-negative. It isn’t all exploitative, but it isn’t all ethical either. Like most industries, it’s a mixed bag. If you’re going to paint pornography as entirely bad, know that I’m going to put my experiences and opinions out there to balance yours. If you’re trying to paint pornography as entirely good, know that I will not sit quietly and be used as your paintbrush.
Not-cool things to do, bro… Part 2
It seems like women have been sharing their experiences with sexual harassment all over the place in the past few weeks. That’s what prompted me to share mine. As Jen Bennett said on twitter, there is clearly something in the air. It should be in the air. Speaking up is the only way that we can help people understand that something is an issue. Sharing is how we let each other know that we are not alone. Open discussion raises awareness of things like http://www.slutwalktoronto.com/ and http://www.ihollaback.org/.
Street harassment is not a rare or isolated occurrence. It does not only happen in America. It does not only happen to young or traditionally-considered-“beautiful” women. It does not only happen on public transit or in low income areas.
We shouldn’t have to have a big angry dog named Funster to protect us. We shouldn’t have to carry Mace or a knife, hoping that we’ll be able to use it properly if necessary or investing hours of our lives in self defense courses (something a lot of women have neither the time nor disposable income to do). We shouldn’t have to travel in packs to feel safe (again, something that isn’t really feasible).
Men have been responding saying that they want to divorce their gender. That they didn’t realize, until we started sharing our stories en masse, what it is like to be a woman. That they wish there was something they could do. That they’re sorry for the way other men treat people. Men shouldn’t *have* to feel like they need to apologize on behalf of their gender, or feel ashamed of being male. Unless they’re one of the ones doing the harassing, I don’t think they should apologize.
There are things that can be done. When someone you know engages in inappropriate or harassing behavior towards a woman, let them know they did something totally not cool. Like: “Actually, that woman had a right to be upset when you chased her down the street. She was completely accurate when she called it creepy.” or “Hey, this story you’re telling me about putting your dick on a drunk stranger’s face at a party when she clearly didn’t want it there but was too sleepy(2) to fend you off, that was a totally not cool thing to do with your penis, bro.” Teach every moldable male(1) mind (brothers, friends, sons) that treating women (humans) with respect is the right thing to do. Don’t have sex with jerks. Don’t blow them, don’t give them a handjob, don’t give them your phone number. If you hear a woman asking a man to leave her alone or calling attention to the fact that he’s whacking off in the train station, add your voice to hers. Say “This is not ok. This is not cool. We see what you are doing and it is unacceptable.”
(1) I’m focusing on the men here because I’ve never experienced or heard of a case of menacing street harassment by a female. I could be misinformed. Could be. Possibly.
(2) EDIT: By “sleepy” I mean “incapacitated by being potentially drugged or just being a poor judge of her alcohol tolerance.”