In Industrialised Intimacy yesterday, I wrote that:
Defenders of porn, be they unreconstructed ‘respect the cock’ testesauruses, animus-ridden ‘inspect the cock’ ‘feminists’ or closet addicts, generally drag in old arguments about liberty, freedom of expression, assertion of female power, outlet for male sexual tension without which there would be more sexual assault, more rape.
Well, I am slow off the mark, or at least, not religiously steeped in Guardian lore. Porn director Anna Arrowsmith (aka Anna Span) wrote, in her 12 October article about the government’s proposed net filter:
Porn keeps many marriages going.
Which, while it might be true, in the sad, degenerate, hyper-permissive postmodern sense, is hardly in the spirit of marriage, as expressed in the traditional (Christian) vow [my emphasis]:
With this Ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
I am not about defend the ecclesiastical institution of marriage. In the modern sense, good, old-fashioned marriage is very much up in the air. Even Charles and Diana couldn’t hold it together. The Y chromosome is programmed to broadcast itself, while X is…well, X just is. And therein lies the heart of the matter, dare I say so. If there is logic then to what Arrowsmith says about porn and marriage, it is a hidden one. Few if any men admit to their partners they are jerking off over porn rather than attending to said partner. And while some women might accept such a situation, I doubt they would be particularly enamoured of it.
Arrowsmith plays the disability card:
One man wrote to me recently saying that he had suffered cancer of the face, which left him heavily scarred and almost completely without confidence after a subsequent divorce. He said that chatting to webcam porn stars kept him from suicide.
We note that the disability card is often played to ‘trump’ arguments pertaining to the bulk of society (perhaps most absurdly in the world of web design, where effort must be made so that a quintessentially visual medium must be transformable into an auditory one) often at the expense of deeper insight. Here of course, Arrowsmith offers no background to this man’s facial cancer. What psyschosomatic disorder manifested the dis-ease in the first place? And is staving off despair via masturbation over pornography any sort of result really?
Next, the porn-as-instrument-of-female-emancipation argument:
Women’s rights are far stronger in societies with liberal attitudes to sex – think of conservative countries such as Afghanistan, Yemen or China, and the place of women there.
Again there is a tempting ring of truth here. Women are perceived as most dangerous in those societies where they are most covered up – e.g. rural Afghanistan, where the sight of an ankle, perhaps even a hand, provokes dangerous energies. Bringing the veil up on hands and ankles and everything else discharges this excess potential.
But in suggesting porn emancipates women, Arrowsmith takes us out of the frying pan into the fire. Rural Afghans transfixed by the sight of an ankle are in their heads, precisely as men in emancipated societies, transfixed by ankles, heels, legs, the full works, are in theirs.
As I said in Industrialised Intimacy, with porn we are getting off on simulacra. A carefully constructed visual syntax designed to evoke vagus nerve pulse trains. Porn, like certain drugs, is especially dangerous because it gets under the skin. We are literally hooked on the idea of it.
There is a chance that Western Man’s sexual response to the female form is attenuating. But the response of men who have ‘seen it all’ is, at least some of the time, to see more. And, in certain cases, to do more, like Vincent Tabak.
Is this not the dynamic of the virtual warned of in William Gibson’s Idoru, where the Singularity is manifested by the invention of a nanotechnology programming device that can transmute virtual into actual? Isn’t Vincent Tabak’s stepping over this line evidence of the power of vagus-nerve-train-powered ideas?
The work – for me, for any man, for any woman – is not to invent further titillation, not to fan the invisible flames of fantasy – at least, not until we learn to be mindfulof the forces of sexuality we unleash. Otherwise we are like Mickey Mouse, except neither David Cameron nor the ISPs are going to bail us out.
Touch is the medium of intimacy, not gaze. And touch requires relationship. Perhaps Anna Arrowsmith’s films have some modicum of relationship between the models. But modern porn, in its biodegrading plastic stage, excels in the absence of relationship, or in negative (strangulation poses etc) relationship.
End of the day, as with all diabolica, going down is much easier than going up.