Tuesday, 30 March 2010

This is Hardcore: A feminist's journey into porn

It all started with Secretary. I was watching the film in bed one night, on my laptop. Maggie Gylenghall was bent over the desk, her pert bottom raised skywards, expectant. James Spader(so perfectly cast) did the honourable thing and spanked it to a pink, tender pulp. The next thing I knew my hand was down my knickers, and the rest is very wet, sticky, breathless history.

Why did it take me so long? I had wanked before, obviously. I'd watched sexy films before, of course. So why never the two simultaneously? The answer is short, and also long. I am a feminist, you see. I am a feminist the way many people are Roman Catholic, or Muslim, or Manchester United. I was just born into it. My Mum was a feminist, and her mum before her. I read Spare Rib when I was eight, went to Greenham when I was twelve, stormed a Pro-Life rally when I was eighteen. (I can still see the image on the screen now, a giant, pulsating feotus-'Fight Alton's Bill: A Woman's Right To Choose'. And then we were ejected from the building). But what I never, ever did, was watch porn. Feminists didn't do that kind of thing where I came from. We barely even spoke about it, except in dismissive, throwaway statements. Pornography exploits women. It sells a version of women's sexuality that is unrealistic, objectified, demeaning. It is part of 'rape culture'.

So there I was, aged 34, fricking myself off to a film about a woman who got her kicks from submitting herself to the will of a very unusual, slightly creepy, but sexy as fuck man. What did I do next? Did I rush to the internet to find 'Four Girls One Cup?' or to explore the complete back catalogue of Seymour Butts? No. Not yet, anyway. I did what I always do at times like this. I had a little think. And what I thought was this. Somewhere along the line, my beloved feminism has let me down. In theory, it has been nothing but laudable, teaching me that my body is my own, to do what I please with. That I don't have to be told by a man how to dress it, when to give it up, whether or not to use it to make babies. But feminism has also made me confused about pleasure. All those demos, all those meetings. We talked about rape, oppression, abortion, prostitution, but never about sex as fun, wanking as blissful release. What about a woman's right to cum?

A few years on, and my feelings towards pornography are incredibly ambivalent. I choose my stimulants very, very carefully, and when in doubt, I don't look. I agree with all the main feminist arguments against the industry, and I have added some more of my own (*'bareback' film companies:wtf?). I will return to what is wrong with porn at a later date. But this is a defence, not of an industry, but of a woman and her horn. You may be reading this and tutting, drinking your Starbucks cappucino, dressed in your H and M T-shirt, planning your Easy Jet flight to New York. But as soon as we consume anything, whether it is a cup of tea, or a harcore porn movie, we are implicated. We are part of 'the system'. Think about it. I did. And it has made me a better feminist, and a much more satisfied one too. Now I am off to watch the latest offering from waterbondage.com. Why not dive in with me?


  1. Interesting points there. As a gay woman I despair of the desexualisation I found around me in the "women's scene" - not merely in fact, the total desexualisation of women, but the outright de-feminisation of the same women. I might as well have been in a bar full of bricklayers.

    Part of the problem is that while feminism has - correctly - condemned the objectification of women, its put nothing in place to replace the joy and fun of enjoying ones own body - whether alone or with others, by self decoration or self pleasure - or with others!

  2. I agree with both of you. There's nothing wrong with taking pleasure in your own body and the various ways it can be stimulated. You go girl!

    That said, some porn films do exploit women economically, and actresses who take part in them shouldn't be ghettoised, badly treated, etc.

  3. Hi Thanks for your comments. I agree that many many porn films exploit women, but like Yewtree says, those women shouldn't be further 'ghettoised' and judged.