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Posts Tagged ‘pornography’

greenp1After reading a recent local story about public outrage over a porn billboard, I was reminded of a course I did as part of my Philosophy degree back in my university days. It was called “Philosophy of Feminism” but it might as well have been called “why you should be a lesbian”. I’m only exaggerating a little there – we were taught the theory that all heterosexual sex is rape and yes as an impressionable young lass I actually took that (and most of the course) to heart for a while. Our class was mostly female, one or two guys, and one of the guys openly stated he was only there to cause trouble and pick up some chicks, which really didn’t help counter the whole all-men-are-bastards line.

Part of our lessons included trying to understand whether porn was good or not, in and of itself. Or – like the people claim in the article I’ve linked above – does porn categorically hurt women and children? It is very hard to put together a cogent argument that pornography in and of itself harms women and children. It is far more logical and coherent to approach the issue as one of adult consent. If you’re over 18, and the participants in the porn are also over 18 and are taking part consensually, then you have some lovely sensible boundaries in place. The billboard in question in the article was not actual porn, just a rather amusing and dodgy reference to porn, so no matter how you bend that one you’re going to have trouble not coming off like a nut-cake. Yes it was out in the public view, but again – it wasn’t actual porn so pretty weak argument still.

I would be doing the anti-pornography movement a dis-service if I didn’t mention the arguments that porn objectifies women and encourages sexual assaults. But I don’t find those lines of reasoning well-founded or overly relevant either: First off, not all porn objectifies or casts women in the subservient / “objectified” role. And even if it did or it could be described or analysed in such a way that it did – and even for the unquestionable amount that does – porn is not the only industry that “uses” people to achieve something else. Are not the modelling industry and medical trials and so on, also arguable instances of objectifying people – not treating them as individual thinkers but as means to some end? Once you start stretching your definitions of what it means to objectify someone it catches a lot of fields. And it makes it more obvious that what is the offensive bit is that it objectified them for sex. So the problem must be the sex bit right..? And if we’re going to start trying to claim that sex is bad, wrong or should only ever occur between people in a committed relationship, then you’re going to get the other half of the feminist pool jumping down your throat for trying to dis-empower female sexuality and control her reproductive cycle through male norms established under patriarchal systems…

As for porn encouraging sexual assaults, even in the course I took they had to put forward the other argument that states that pornography also keeps some potential sexual offenders satisfied in their own homes instead – living out their fantasies in a safe non-violent environment. There will always be sex offenders (I wish that wasn’t true but I don’t see how that crime would ever be wiped out), and those people won’t be encouraged to do something otherwise not in their nature just because they watched porn, just as they will not be stopped in the act just by watching porn. Sex offenders existed before porn was so widely and easily available on the net, yet I’m yet to be told of or see any studies finding a sudden surging of rapes aligning with the growth of the Internet. In fact I’ve just gone off and Googled it before I totally put my foot in my mouth, and found many links to the point I’m trying to make here even though I’d searched for a link between the two rather than a refutation of the link. I found this article quite a useful analysis of such issues, just as a singular example. Here’s a link to an opposing view arguing for a link between sexual violence and porn using a singular perverse individual as their starting point. It’s not as convincing or as well-backed as the more prolific claims backed by actual studies showing online porn doesn’t increase sexually violent acts, but it’s there for you anyway. You’ll no doubt find other examples too, feel free to share any that you find particularly persuasive or insightful.

Speaking of the Internet and porn, we get to Second Life. According to still very-popular belief, Second Life is just another way to get your porn fix, frequently referred to as “cartoon sex”. It’s accidentally topical that Linden Labs is currently “cracking down” on this aspect of their service. Even before this latest issue the question of whether pornographic acts between consenting adults are always OK has come up recently in a fair few Second Life blogs relating more specifically to the question of adults playing as children. The issue of child pornography in Second Life is a not a new one, it just comes up now and then in varying guises. I started out with my guideline as to when porn is OK – that it be restricted to and done by consenting adults. Second Life is theoretically at least, only open to this group of people (but even that’s likely to change some-point soonish-ness). So in as far as Second Life conveys a lot of pornographic content, it is subject to the same arguments about whether it is encouraging or helping hold back the tide of sexual violence and the various other evils that porn is held responsible for. Second Life takes it that much further though doesn’t it – because you are actually interacting in a way that most mediums of pornography don’t cater for (an aspect which I’ve discussed in a previous post).

However if we’re going to hold it responsible for the supposed negative aspects of porn, should we also not be ready to grant it the benefits that porn produces? There are many benefits beyond the decrease in actual sexual violence, such as the following quote nicely summarise: Even given the constraints under which it is currently produced, pornography is valuable. It sends out messages of comfort and rebellion. It says: Lust is not evil. The body is not hateful. Physical pleasure is a joyful thing and should not be hidden or denied.. Through that link you will also find links to studies about the various social benefits in particular, of pornography.

I’ve barely scratched the surface here of what I want to discuss, but considering the current climate of discussion about pornography and future of Second Life, I will no doubt have plenty of fodder to play with and expand on over the next while.

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While doing research for a post I’m writing about the merits of porn and Second Life, I came across this story, released a few hours ago, about Linden Labs cracking down on Second Life Porn. Here’s the release from Linden Labs themselves. This should be interesting…

(And I’ll be posting my piece about porn and Second Life soon, just had to put that link up first).

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Link to my opinion piece about Linden Lab’s decision: https://landsendkorobase.wordpress.com/2009/03/13/too-adult-for-adults/

Link to the piece I wrote about Porn and Second Life referred to in this post: https://landsendkorobase.wordpress.com/2009/03/13/the-merits-of-porn/

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If you’ve seen someone try to do sex pictures from Second Life, chances are what you’ve viewed is utter crap. Second Life is not well made for such pictures – body parts end up in the wrong place; when women’s legs are spread they get an odd dark long shadow along the inner thigh that makes them look like they’re about to split; overly long female thighs dominate the picture; skinny-as arses look ridiculous; pose balls get out of sync etc etc.  The list of problems is long. None of these things can’t be fixed in a combination of careful in-world set-up plus lengthy post-processing. However this brings us to the sorts of people who usually do these pictures: Men. Men who are often so clearly enamoured with the picture they are making that the genitals or breasts sit smack in the centre of the shot, and their excitement has got the better of them to the point that they couldn’t pause long-enough to smooth out the shadows and put bits in the right places. They gotta share it man, they gotta share it now!

I have some bloke on my Flickr contacts list who was doing shots like this over and over – almost every (and there were very many a day) picture he did was BREAST or VAJAYJAY smack there, with a tokenistic bit of (rather bad) post-processing for each one. He was passing himself off as an “SL Photographer”, little studio named at the corner of the shot, clearly charging people for these pictures. Each to their own, fine, whatever, but it was very clear that he wasn’t in Second Life for the charming banter and the international flare, he was there to get female avies to strip for him.

This theory of mine was proven when one-day most of his pictures stopped being Second Life and started being from Thrixxx.com. Previous to this I hadn’t heard of Thrixxx. Putting it simply, it’s sorta like Second Life in some ways, but made expressly for sexual imagery, and is often linked to paying sites. The women’s bodies in it are much better rendered, so pictures taken need less post-processing and have more realistic detail. So suddenly this guy’s shots improved, through not any improved skills of his own – which remains clear each time he lowers himself to take pictures of Second Life again.

Now I only did what little research I could into Thrixxx from a “clean” distance – I do not go to Second Life for that sort of thing, so I’m not going to click through any further than I have to or join anything connected to something like Thrixxx. But you know what occurred to me? I really wish more men who came to Second Life just and purely for the sexual animation, would bugger off to places like Thrixxx instead: Second Life is not well suited to that in my opinion and these people give it a bad name, and often ruin the experience for a large number of other people who take it for the richer experience it actually can so easily be.

Before I finish this post I’m going to have to protect myself from the angry beavers: I am not saying every picture I’ve ever seen of Second Life sex is crap, just the vast majority of them. Maybe this is your area of specialty and you want to defend it, but don’t try to tell me you don’t have to do some serious re-jigging and post-processing just to make the people involved look like people. Secondly, if you think the artist I’m attacking is you, it probably isn’t, stop being so paranoid. I have no doubt there is more than one guy who fits this description, and the example is illustrative, it’s not meant to be a personal attack per se. I haven’t included anything that should point too solidly to the individual, if you think it’s you and it is too obvious I’ll remove this blog post for ya. Though I stand by everything I’ve said all the same:

Second Life is not ideal for sexual imagery, and I really wish that people who went there only for that purpose would go somewhere else – especially since it’s clear that other places do exist solely for such things, and apparently do it so much better.

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A friend recently claimed in her blog that SL sex, in any of its varied forms, is cheating on your RL partner. ( http://baileylongcloth.wordpress.com/2008/10/06/its-not-always-as-it-appears/ ). I immediately wanted to give a lengthy reply refuting this claim but then I remembered I have my own blog and can go on at length about it here instead 😀

To me, the answer to whether it’s cheating or not is clarified and answered by considering your attitude to porn itself. Let me explain.

When a not-single person watches, reads or looks at porn, are they cheating on their partner? If they get turned on and satisfy their needs through personal means because of the porn, is that cheating? The vast majority of the world’s population says no, and acts like the answer is no. So let’s consider how it differs from SL. In SL you’re talking to an actual person who is there at the time, interacting to some extent, so it’s closer to the interactive porn of asking someone you’re viewing on the net to take off their clothes as you watch – typing in commands of what they need to do next. Now for many people that’s getting closer to the line they are concerned about in RL, but don’t forget something very important here that makes SL nowhere near as bad: In SL you cannot see the other person, you’re literally getting off on a body that doesn’t even exist. There is an extremely high chance you’ll never meet the person at the other end just like porn, but it’s not as bad as porn because you’d never recognize them from the online pixelated image even if you did meet them.

Now let’s consider the bit that usually makes people say “but, but..!” If you decide you want to meet the person behind the pixels because you want to have relations with them, that makes it cheating right..? Nope. No more than if you wanted to meet the porn actress would it make it cheating. If you take steps towards meeting them, that’s cheating, right? Nope, and this brings us to the heart of the issue, so let’s just deal with it up front.

Cheating is a physical act of having sexualised relations with another person, and this is, in essence, why SL sex is not cheating. Of course if you’re having pixel relations with someone while you’re in a pixel relationship with another person, it’s cheating because of the context of the original relationship, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.

And before you start with the “but, but!”s again, let me say what you’re thinking. You’re thinking cheating is about more than just the physical, it’s the emotional too. Wrong again. People in both short and long term relationships get crushes on other people, whether a stranger off the street that they wouldn’t mind banging or a work colleague they kinda have the hots for. We’re animals with hormones at the end of the day, it happens, it might annoy you but it happens. What matters is whether you act on it or not. If you decide despite your crush and longings that you’re going to stay with your partner, and choose not to act on your desires, then you haven’t cheated.

What starts to concern us and what we tend to want to call cheating, is when people regularly have contact of one sort or another that looks like it might end up in physical cheating. The reason this concerns us is because it, I repeat, might lead to cheating, not that it actually is cheating. If nothing comes of it and the person stays with their partner, then it is a blip on the radar.

Now there’s one major piece of the puzzle left as I see it: The feelings and attitudes of the significiant other about it. If they know about either the physical or emotional actions that people might otherwise decide to label “cheating” and they don’t care because their partner at the end of the day stays with and comes home to them, then that is not cheating. Every relationship has it’s own rules – some are open, some are closed, some say porn is great and to be shared, some say porn is private use only, some say porn is wrong and to be excluded from the relationship at all times. These are variations from the basic approach based in the reality of human experience and physiology that I outlined about: That cheating requires the physical act.

There is a kindness we do for those we love, we don’t tell them (usually) if we develop a wee crush on someone, cause we know it would make them feel bad and unwanted, even though that’s not the truth of the matter – they are wanted still despite the feelings for another. The most open relationships where people openly tell each other about their crushes are ones I am in awe of – they must be so secure in their relationship to be able to do that. Chances are these healthy couples also watch porn together as well as apart.  Most of us can’t handle this level of openness and honesty – we harbour insecurities and doubts, both about us and our partner. That they might cheat on us if they had those emotions.

Now like I keep trying to say throughout, couples will have their own rules about what’s acceptable and what’s not. They will know what will upset the other person, and if they are in a caring relationship, they will avoid that behaviour. Many couples don’t want their RL partner mucking around in SL, and that’s fine, that’s their perogative. But I think we need to be very careful before we throw the porn out with the bath water and start calling everyone cheaters for what is, at the end of the day, looking at a rather soft version of porn. Ask some questions and do some thinking before we unnecessarily and incorrectly label people in ways that can hurt them and those they love.

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