When I went to college, I minored in Women’s and Gender Studies. Despite the fact that this was about 20 years past the start of the feminist “sex wars,” porn still did come up every now and again.  I did a paper on in my junior year of college about porn and sex toy marketing and the tactic of advertising promising “liberation” through the use of a particular video or vibrator – basically, attempting to expand on Kipnis and “Ecstasy Unlimited” in my clumsy undergrad way.  And I am not alone, evidently: I have noticed that in the wild world of the feminist internetz, people are still going at it (HA!) about pornography.  (Me, I just wanted to quote the title “Weapons of Ass Destruction” in an academic context.)

I was recently perusing the archives at Sociological Images, and came across this post, discussing a recent documentary show on changes in the porn industry. The blog author, Lisa Wade, admits to being a bit unsettled at the notion that porn is “just another job.” While not coming from a strictly anti-porn standpoint, she wishes that the program had addressed more of the negative aspects particular to pornography.

I’m of two minds on this.  There are issues specific to porn production, just as there are specific issues attending any industry.  It’s true with porn, a lot of those issues are gendered – for example, women in mainstream pornography usually have a very specific body type, and it seems like the fellows have a lot more freedom to be tubbier or hairier or what have you.  On the other hand, acting like porn isn’t a legit job, and exists in a shadowy twilight zone of Bad, doesn’t do any favors for porn performers who may not mind their line of work in general, but do mind when (for example) some asshole skips out on paying them or expects them to do acts they don’t want to do.  How can you agitate for your labor rights if you’re stuck on trying to convince people that what you’re doing is, in fact, work?  I think sometimes sleazy producers and their ilk take the “just another job” tack in an attempt to normalize abuse of actors and such (pretending that such abuses are simply part of the work), but I’ve also seen that tactic used by workers (for example, the peep show dancers in Julia Query’s film Live Nude Girls Unite!) who were sick of hearing that their work wasn’t “real” work, and it didn’t matter whether or not they were getting paid fairly or treated well, they were still getting exploited.

Such an attitude can be seen in the comment left by “Duff,” who wrings his hands over images of bound women on, invokes Hannah Arendt (find someone else to fucking quote already, Christ…if I had ten cents for every time some clown tried to sound intellectual by invoking the banality of evil, I’d be a rich woman) and compares their content to “tigers mauling a Jew,” and “a gladiator match to the death.”  Yeah, totes, bro.  Except that if you bothered to actually look at’s lists of director rules and model rights you would know that the women in those pictures are calling the shots as far as their health, safety, and fair payment are concerned.  (THOSE LINKS HAVE NAKED LADIES.  DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU.)  The director has to establish verbal consent, on camera, and the model has the right to stop the shoot at any time, for any reason, and get paid for the time they put in. That’s the most important thing, in my book, regardless of the content of the images.  They may not be my cup of tea, but if the participants are willing and well-compensated, hats off (and other clothes!  HAR!).  But I guess little matters like whether or not those women are actually being mistreated are irrelevant when you’ve just got to shoot your Sensitive New Age Guy wad over some damsels in distress.

~ by Smellen on November 27, 2009.

One Response to “prawnography”

  1. Almost too starved a subject for my sword (HAR HAR!), as so many conversations attest… Still, I’m keeping a sharp eye on this thing. Here’s to clotheshorse academics (when you travel a lot, it hit me, clothes are like furniture).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: