Can Ethical Porn be Made and be Acceptable?

Is there such a thing as ethical porn? Many South Asians shy away from the notion of porn and feminists detest it. But what if it can be made ethical?

Can Ethical Porn be Made and be Acceptable?

"Porn is about showing an authentic representation of human sexuality."

Porn – the very word will spark different reactions from many, mainly negative. But is it possible to transform it to ‘ethical porn?’

The culture surrounding porn commonly considers it as a degradation of those involved, notably women. Across the globe, self-declared feminists will feel too careful to ever admit they can think of it in a positive light.

This means not many will even consider an ethical aspect to it. And whether ethical porn does indeed exist.

In Asian culture, it is often viewed as a taboo, an immoral and unmentionable act. However, former porn star Sunny Leone has captivated the world with her transformation. One doesn’t need to look far to see she has become a household name in India.

Attitudes have also changed in regards to sex. Both men and women are experimenting, secretly embracing sexuality rather than shunning it.

This raises the question: Can ethical porn be made and become acceptable? Let’s explore the conceptions behind porn and what needs to be changed.

Why is Porn ‘Unethical’ in the First Place?

Can Ethical Porn be Made and be Acceptable?

Those who oppose pornography cite a number of reasons why society should look upon it as unethical. Gail Dines, an anti-pornography campaigner, suggests that it gives unrealistic depictions of the female body to young girls.

Within the industry, many of the women involved will have ‘ideal’ bodies that many young girls want for themselves. Images that simply do not create a realistic portrayal. The campaigner explains:

“The more porn images filter into mainstream culture, the more girls and women are stripped of full human status and reduced to sex objects. This has a terrible effect on girls’ sexual identity because it robs them of their own sexual desire.”

Despite porn viewed as a taboo, men and women still watch it in India and Pakistan. Within the South Asian culture, women are traditionally stripped of full human status. Add porn into this mix and it could place further pressure on women.

Backing up Dines claims, a 2012 study conducted by the University of Florida explored self-esteem and porn. It found that young women experienced low self-esteem and felt less satisfied in relationships where their partners watched porn.

These thoughts resonate with young Desi women. Ivvy Khan, 20, from London says:

“You start comparing yourself to other women, and you’ll be like: ‘Oh I need to look like her to be perfect.’ I also feel that these are fake expectations and I try to be content with my body.”

An Object of Pleasure?

Can Ethical Porn be Made and be Acceptable?

Gail Dines also believes that porn ignites aggression towards women, and serves as propaganda for male patriarchy. She cites several sexual assault centres, where they found an increase in women reporting anal rape.

In addition, many stories have emerged of Indian men committing sexual assaults against women, while also becoming regular viewers of porn.

Everyday Feminism delves into why porn is unethical, but how the industry can improve it. They believe the issue at heart lies in most of the material catering to men. Offering a male point-of-view and what a man wants to see and do.

In contrast, women in most porn videos only serve for pleasure and the male eye. This means only she is shown, not the man with her. These videos show the man having sex with the woman, not the other way around.

With this kind of imbalance, Everyday Feminism claims these videos do not create ethical porn.

Countering this argument, Huffington Post outlines that both women and men are objectified in porn. They cite a study where the University of Amsterdam studied 400 porn videos. In their findings, they revealed that only the men’s orgasms were shown. This means the women acted as “instruments of men’s sexual pleasure”.

But the men also suffer dehumanisation as the videos rarely showed their faces. In addition, only 3.8% of the videos contained violent sex acts.

This serves as only one study and whilst they found rare violent acts – this doesn’t remove the fact they still took place.

What Needs to Change?

Can Ethical Porn be Made and be Acceptable?

Everyday Feminism says the industry must implement equality. For example, men and women should give and receive pleasure. In addition, porn should show sex as an act a couple does together with their bodies, not one gender dominating the other.

Lastly, both men and women should have equal amounts of on-screen time; not shown as an object or body part.

David Ley, a clinical psychologist, also outlined the principles of ethical porn in his book Ethical Porn for Dicks: A Man’s Guide to Viewing Pleasure. He defined it as:

  • Made legally.
  • Respects performers’ rights.
  • Pays performers.
  • Respects producers’ copyrights.
  • Shows both fantasy sex and real world sex.
  • Representing the diverse nature of our society.
  • Celebrating sexuality for its diverse, complex nature – with no ‘right or wrong’ way.
  • Created by people who want to make ‘better porn’.
  • Watched by those who support and want ‘better porn’.

Yet it is not only the industry itself that has had a big role in representing pornographic material.

Media’s Attitude towards Porn

Can Ethical Porn be Made and be Acceptable?

The media arguably has a big hand to play when it comes to the representation of pornographic images and videos through popular culture.

Take the success story of Sunny Leone, the porn star turned Bollywood actress. Originally from Canada with a Punjabi background, she found fame in India, a country shunning sexuality as a taboo.

The public still took greatly to Sunny, regardless of whether she featured in ethical porn or not. If Indian society can accept her, one could argue that she acts as a positive role model, showing that porn should be frowned upon.

However, not all have agreed with this thought. The media still has its doubts, with those disbelieving ethical porn can exist despite Sunny’s efforts.

In a 2016 interview, journalist Bhupendra Chaubey completely avoided asking Sunny Leone about her film Mastizaade. Instead, he bombarded her with misogynistic questions on her past. At the time, he said:

“I’m told that Kapil Sharma… (The comedian) at one point said that he was not too comfortable shooting with you because he thought that he had family audiences and Sunny Leone really didn’t fit into the description.”

This reaction suggests that not all of India accepts Sunny and her past. They may consider her past unethical, but it does not change the fact that India has a high porn viewing rate, of which none is ethical.

Chaubey mentioned married women detest Sunny and view her as a “threat”. However, women across the globe actually admire her and brush off her past. Nazia Begum, 26 from Birmingham, said: “Who am I to judge. I think she’s pretty, seems like a nice person.”

Sunny herself does not care what people think. Perhaps this could help young women in India also understand that watching porn is not a bad thing.

Can I be a Feminist and Still Watch Porn?

Can Ethical Porn be Made and be Acceptable?

The answer to this question lies in the type of porn you watch. Even then not everyone will agree in what would act as ‘most appropriate’.

Porn isn’t directly bad or shameful; the issue doesn’t lie with people having sex on screen. But the viewer’s morals and how it is presented are what gives porn an unethical view.

According to Huffington Post, porn leads to self-knowledge. They suggest that many women don’t really know what they’re looking for because when they have watched porn with a male partner, he chose what to watch.

Pornhub reports show that women accounted for 26% of traffic in 2016. In addition, a 2015 Marie Claire study found that 56% of women felt conflicted with watching porn. This could suggest that there is a gap between porn and female attitudes towards it.

Erika Lust, an erotic filmmaker, believes ethical porn can be created if made the right way. She said:

“Porn is about showing an authentic representation of human sexuality … Mainstream porn is full of repetitive codes and tiring power tropes that are all about (female) genitalia and body parts, yet nothing about the woman.

For the men who dominate the industry, pleasuring women normally entails rose petals and silk sheets. Oh no — women like sex just as dirty, kinky and exciting as men do. That’s a myth mainstream porn has set out for us and it’s completely untrue.”

Perhaps if the industry created porn in such a way that respects both women and men involved, then those who watch wouldn’t feel so ashamed.

Is it possible to create ethical porn? Sticking to the guidelines, then it can become possible. Porn doesn’t have to degrade women. Instead, the industry chooses to do so to cater towards men. This needs to change.

Until then, many will still have negative attitudes to this particular taboo. In Desi culture, it will also hold the same issues.

The industry needs to respects a gender balance in its pornographic content, catering to both men and women. Perhaps in time, South Asians can then embrace and accept ethical porn.

Alima is a free-spirited writer, aspiring novelist and insanely weird Lewis Hamilton fan. She's a Shakespeare enthusiast, with a view: "If it were easy, everyone would do it." (Loki)

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