Monday, October 18

Clarissa Smith: “Porn exploits the idea of ​​the passive woman, but has not invented it”


“Like radio, TV or movies, porn is a medium. Many people do not like it, but this does not mean that it exists and that their stories can be analyzed.” Clarissa Smith, a professor at the University of Northumbia (United Kingdom), argues in this way the reason why in 2013 she launched the academic journal ‘Porn Studies’, which publishes research on the content, evolution and impact of pornography.

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What is the relationship between porn consumption and sexual pleasure? What is the impact of the Finnish feminist porn magazine ‘Ménage à trois’ in the middle of the digital age? How did searches on the Pornhub web change during the pandemic? What was it like to write about porn in the 30s and 40s, before the sexual revolution? These are just some of the issues that this magazine addresses in its latest edition, which is published in the Routledge publishing house and which has been controversial since its inception. A campaign involving dozens of British academics He accused them of promoting porn and denying its negative consequences on young people.

Smith, who was in Barcelona last week participating in the ‘Men in Movement’ congress –on new masculinities, organized by the UOC and the CCCB–, explains in an interview that he does not deny that porn has an effect on its viewers and on how these are raised or live sex. On the contrary. “It does condition it, but in very different ways,” he says. “The arguments that porn makes boys inconsiderate of girls rests on the idea that there was a time, before porn, when they were always nice to them, but the reality is that the unpleasant treatment of girls Women have existed for millennia, “argues this teacher, who also refers to the macho stereotype of the active man and the passive woman in sex. “Porn exploits and even exaggerates that idea, that’s for sure, but it hasn’t invented it.”

Can you blame porn for the violence?

Smith argues that blaming sexist and even violent behaviors during sex on porn consumption is a kind of easy solution to a complex problem. “If we blame him for the rapes, what we do is absolve a whole culture that encourages men to see women as inferior,” he says.

Part of the controversy generated with the magazine, which he co-publishes with professors Feona Atwood and John Mercer, has to do with the fact that its birth almost a decade ago coincided with the publication of a report from the British Commissioner for Children which, after reviewing thousands of academic research, concluded that the internet porn boom exposed children to violent and sadistic content. And that this did increase the likelihood that they would engage in risky behaviors, such as having anal sex without a condom or using drugs and alcohol.

Violent porn, in which women are subjected to degrading treatment, exists and is lavished with thousands of videos on most major platforms. “If you look for it, you’re sure to find it,” says Smith. “But we do not know the reasons behind those who look at it”, adventure. And he gives as an example the bondage and sadomasochism, in which violence is consensual: “There are people who do not belong to that subculture and who try to decide whether a behavior is appropriate without understanding its codes.” “I am not advocating a porn that includes representations of violence towards the people who participate in it, but porn, especially audiovisual, tells stories, and these include violence at the narrative level, just like series or movies,” he adds.

The porn industry is a recurring protagonist of news related to illegal or unethical content. In United States, a New York Times investigation revealed that Pornhub, one of the most visited web pages in the world, hosted scenes of non-consensual sex or made with victims of exploitation. And uploaded by unverified users. This led them to erase millions of clips at a stroke and to be vetoed by Mastercard and Visa.

Other porn and sex ed

In this regard, Smith advocates prosecuting illegal content, but at the same time calls for a “serious debate” on regulations that do not consist of banning porn. In the same way, it is requested to pursue violent content on Facebook and YouTube without demanding the total closure of those websites. “There is a certain idea that if we end porn, nothing will be lost. But the erotic imaginary is important for many people and also for society and culture. I at least believe that,” explains this researcher.

In this sense, he affirms that if what concerns us as a society are the “learnings” that young boys take from porn mainstreamWhat you have to do is give them “a good sex education.”

Smith points out here that, although they have not achieved large quotas of visits, there are porn initiatives that go beyond the usual roles or the exclusively male approach. Cite MakeLoveNotPorn, Pink and White or directors like Erika Lust or Jennifer Lyon Bell, who shoot sex scenes with greater diversity and sometimes with educational components. “This aspect has always existed, the problem is that it is drowned in the big market,” he says. Even so, he argues that there are small companies that work in this line and that they can be considered “successful” on a smaller scale.

“There are many reasons why people are interested in porn,” warns this researcher. Although the imagination is that of a young man locked in his room watching videos to masturbate, he assures that in his work they have detected many other reasons. “There are young people that it helps them to see if their body works. ‘Can I have an orgasm?’ ‘Can I feel things?’ And curiously, there are older people who tell us the same thing. This is a very important aspect that not everyone sees, “he says. In the same way, he points out that there are cases in which porn has contributed to breaking couples, but there are also cases in which it has brought them closer together.

Finally, and asked about another controversial aspect of porn, that of the working conditions of the actors, Smith makes self-criticism. Although there are porn stars who have become millionaires, there are also – especially women – who have denounced extreme conditions to which they have been subjected from a very young age. Here again, Smith is committed to “guaranteeing” that workers are protected by the same labor regulations as the rest of the population, with their minimum wages and stipulated hours. “We are an academic journal, we do conferences and we talk about stories and ways of thinking, but we have not been good enough at including performers, directors and cameras in these dialogues. We need to do better, “he says.



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