Defenders of porn

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.


Industrialised intimacy


the dream

the dream

Twitterings from Number Ten have been heard recently, with regards implementing “filtered feed” broadband internet to UK households. ISP have been quick to clarify that the system would only apply to new contracts on an opt-in basis.

Any discussion about “the sex industry” must begin with the acknowledgement, at least, that the term is a contradiction in terms. Isn’t sex something intimate and delicate? Industry is something machinistic, mass produced, relentless. Ergo, the industrialisation of intimacy is dia-bolical. Sex was something intimate and delicate, once upon a time.

While there are more and more ‘Facebook of Sex’ type websites, whereby people meet up for anything from a straightforward shag (if such a thing still exists) to group sadomasochism, this wave of ‘sexuality’ is not bringing people together, it is, as researchers have been warning for some time, moving us further and further apart. The coming together is highly conditional – boxes must be ticked: tattoos, fetish, threesome, group, gay, lesbian, bi, hardcore, anal. No doubt there is a growing number of couples who met via these sites. Perhaps the dimensions of their relationships are limited. Perhaps love finds a way.

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. Defenders of porn will say: It’s always been the same; ancient times, medieval times, there was mad stuff going on; these days it’s just because we have the cameras and the internet that we see it.

Like any addict who denies there is a problem, the porn addict must continue the self-delusion of control, must insist that the relationship between psyche and media is one way. As much as porn might be an expression of parts of the psyche, it also leaves an impression.

Like all media, porn is psychoactive.

From the naked bodies piled one atop the other in Abu Ghraib to the murders of Meredith Kirchner and Joanna Yeates, we see actions in the world resembling those simulated in pornography. These examples are extremes, yes, but are they extremities, tips of the iceberg of mass dynamic?

With increased exposure to porn many men need higher and higher levels of stimulation, or more and more extreme situations, in order to become aroused.

Naomi Wolf, quoted by TowerTales on Tmblr

Like all media, porn is subject to the dynamic Jean Baudrillard called the Precession of Simulacra.

In other words, reality is hidden/buried/preceded by its simulation. The simulation is then simulated. As Kevin says in We need to Talk About Kevin, “People on TV – they’re watching TV.” Further layers are laid down, until we are quite removed from the original, from reality, and still removing.

Porn, once upon a time, was a relatively simple visual simulation. A painting of a couple having sex. A black and white photograph of a woman with her breasts exposed. A crumpled page from a magazine found in the undergrowth. Today, porn consists of many more layers. It has moved – we could even say ‘evolved’ – rapidly through its classic stages of bared body parts, through the utopian stage of bikini and heels by the pool, through the hardcore stage  to what I will call the biodegrading plastic stage. Here things get all mixed up.

The confusion is due in large part to the mass availability of the tools of the trade: cameras, webcams, computers and physical privacy (itself the diabolical result of the destruction of intimacy). Anyone can live the dream via simulation. The simulation –inside the screen – has more power than the real event. Hence the teenage muggers and rapists who film their victims on mobile phones and mass-publish the videos on the internet. Hence the men sexually diminished by overexposure to porn.

It doesn’t stop there. Because the simulation is more powerful than the real event, the real event is diminished. The actual fetish, lesbian, group, anal or whatever event is accessory to the simulation. Therefore the ethics and sensibilities of the simulation – which are nil, because it is a simulation – apply to the accessory. The rapist, the date rapist, the sexual abuser, the sexual tyrant operates inside a simulation in which other parties are only accessories. Women who assert themselves sexually in the biodegrading plastic phase must do so by wearing the simulation layer. “Stripper” heels and so on.

Sure, it can be a turn on.

Vagus nerve pulse trains are a powerful business. The vagus nerve connects pretty much all the major organs, including the reproductive ones. We are passionate, fun-loving, sensation-loving creatures. The rush of sexual arousal is all-consuming. We are on fire, at the apogee of physical being. Naturally, such intensity, such abandonment cannot be always available.

Porn tells us it is. Porn, like other diabolical devices like cocaine and its cracked derivatives, lift the neurological lid on old limbic pathways. The reptilian brain. Cold blooded. Seeks rushes of heat. At the extremes, Abu Ghraib, sex crimes. In the middle – well, anything goes, it’s only simulation. Knock yourself out.

Thing is with neural pulse trains is they attenuate. You need a bigger and bigger hit. Eventually you blow a fuse. And once you blow your fuse it takes a long time to recover – for the women degraded, the men hooked, society in general.