A question on our approach to pornography…

We recently received this message:

“I do not understand why your website is saying that use of porn is in any way respectful to your partner. How can using pictures of other people’s privates do anything but cause damage to relationships. it is incredibly disrespectful to your partner and is using women to get off. Nothing about porn is respectful. Masturbation fine just stick to imagination. If you are selling this website as one that encourages respect then surely you should not be encouraging people to objectify and use women.”

We always welcome feedback… here is our response…

I can understand why you may feel this way – pornography is for many people a very loaded topic. As you say yourself, for some people they find the idea of pornography to be misogynistic and that it is all about the male gaze objectifying women. However we need to be careful not to make sweeping statements that generalise or over simplify the issue.

Firstly, let me explain that all of the content on the website has been compiled and put together with the help of young people. We endeavour to ensure that all the issues that are covered are treated with an open mind and with a non judgemental attitude, even topics that we may find uncomfortable. We always try to deliver a balanced view that takes in to consideration the divisive nature of many of these issues. This is not always easy…

Indeed, the way the media writes about porn is as if it can all be nicely lumped together in one box labeled ‘offensive to women’ – however this is not the case. Like most things the term porn can be applied to vastly different types of media – some that admittedly aren’t very nice and involve the exploitation of the people depicted (men as well as women) but there are now also things such ethical or feminist porn. Not to mention the fact that there is gay porn too – that doesn’t even involve women… so is that ok?! It simply not that black and white… and it begs the question – where do you draw the line?

What about 50 Shades of Grey or other erotic literature? Does that count? Just because one person doesn’t like something or finds it offensive doesn’t mean that everyone agrees or feels the same…Who decides what is ok and what isn’t?

Here in the UK there was recently a campaign No more Page Three –  I am not sure if you are aware that there is a newspaper that has always posted a picture of a topless young model on page 3 everyday. And whilst it was a very successful campaign to highlight the needless objectification of women by the paper – it failed to highlight the fact that Page 3 was possibly one of the least offensive parts of this particular tabloid. The way it, and many other newspapers for that matter, report issues or talk about women is often highly damaging.

Take some of the comments about the women’s world cup where players have been described as ‘easy on the eye’ and even the head of FIFA has said they should play in tighter shorts! Not to mention the way papers report sexual offences by always mentioning what the victim was wearing or how drunk they were as if this justifies the crime! This language is highly offensive and truly damaging to young women.

We live in a culture that focuses on how women look and how they dress and yet on the other hand criticises them for displaying any sort of power or sexual identity by calling them sluts or slappers. It is definitely a double edged sword…

And here is another issue – there are plenty of women that actually use and enjoy some forms of pornography. Indeed, some women find pornography as something that is empowering and enables them to take control of their sexuality and explore their sexual identity… so again who chooses – does it have to be offensive to all women…?

Furthermore, some couples like to watch together and find it helps them explore their relationship. Indeed, how is it different if a couple sit down and watch a comedy film together and share a laugh or horror film that makes them scared – why is it so offensive to consider that a couple may wish to sit down and share a film that turns them on…?

It is interesting to consider your point about masturbation – that using your imagination is ok but watching pornography is too far. What about if you are getting off by remembering past encounters with other people or on thoughts of your ex? Or what about fantasies of that cute neighbour that lives down the street or of cheating on your partner by having sex with their best friend… Are we going to start policing people’s fantasies too?

Ok I am being a bit daft now – but I am simply making the point that many of these issues are mine field. The point is, if a couple are going to have a healthy relationship – they need to agree their own boundaries about what they both find comfortable and acceptable. But remember not all couple are the same.

Yes we agree that pornography does have issues – and we aren’t huge advocates of porn –  but we need to recognise that not all pornography is the same. Indeed, pornography is changing… there are plenty of couples that make and distribute their own films and show loving and caring relationships. There are plenty of female producers and directors that make female friendly and feminist porn that does not simply follow the male gaze.

Our view is that we recognise that some young people (and plenty of adults) of both genders watch pornography for a variety of reasons. Our approach is to try and be sex positive and talk about the issues it raises, rather than simply labelling it as wrong and dirty.

If you explore the site, we continually make efforts to challenge disrespectful attitudes to both men and women – some that derive from porn and many more from mainstream media too – however, we will also recognise that for some young people watching pornography can occasionally be liberating and empowering.

If you feel strongly about pornography and would be upset if your partner watched porn behind your back then this is a discussion you would need to have with your partner. However, not everyone shares your view. We all have the right to our own opinions and living by our own beliefs, but we do not have the right to force our beliefs on to other people – and that is the essence of respect.



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