Lusting for diversity

Porn

Pornography is not a swearword, it can be a great thing, but because of the lack of nuanced storytelling and positive, women-friendly and racially diverse content based on realistic experiences, MS ALUWANI RATSHIUNGO fears that women are doomed to enduring bouts of relentless, one-sided sex as performance.    

I have often found myself, in the midst of impersonal, theatrical sex, wondering: “does this guy think this is a porno audition?”. This is the kind of unmitigated hardcore sex that lacks emotional stimulation or sensuality. It is never enough for me and the majority of women out there not paid to pretend that they enjoy that sort of thing.

As a woman, most of the time when I watch pornography, I go from being barely aroused, to feeling displeased and ultimately disgusted. What unfolds on the screen tends to be unrealistic, male-centric and often violent. This is one of the reasons why the majority of porn consumers are men; it is aimed at their erotic fantasies, which clearly sit variously on the sadism scale. Most men start watching porn at a young age, before they even break their virginity. Their understanding of sex is informed by porn. It has warped their views of women and intimacy. As a result, sex for many is a performance; women are subjected to unattainable standards of sexiness and there are unreasonable expectations – sucking without gagging; miraculous immediate arousal; an innate attraction to other women and swallowing like a champ, all for his pleasure. Porn ruins sex for everyone!

We cannot wish away pornography, nor would that be a desirable solution because it CAN be enjoyable and encourage arousal and intimacy in men AND women. This is why there is an urgent need for people to watch alternative pornography. Instead of the mainstream porn that encourages men to rush into intercourse while ignoring the fact that it usually takes women a lot longer to become receptive and also accustoms them to instant gratification. Alternative porn that is not just about the guy’s erotic satisfaction but mutual pleasure.

We cannot wish away pornography, nor would that be a desirable solution because it CAN be enjoyable and encourage arousal and intimacy in men AND women.

This is the type of porn that portrays the characters as normal and complex human beings, not just sex machines. It uses sex as part of the narrative and prioritises the fun element in sex. It offers diversity of sexual images and sexual stories. It offers body diversity because – let’s face it – not all women look like porn stars and not all men are heaps of muscle with jumbo-sized penises. Seeing ‘normal-looking’ people that are relatable could encourage people to stop prioritising physical appearances and focus on the pleasurable act itself. This is what award-winning erotic filmmaker, Ms. Erika Lust aims to achieve with her films.

“I don’t view myself as a pornographer. I feel I am a filmmaker who is interested in sexuality and who films sex. When you put explicit sex on the screen it becomes pornographic by definition,” said Ms. Lust in a recent Dazed interview. The political science, feminism and sexuality graduate is the main brain behind XConfessions – a website that takes submissions of sexual fantasies from users and turns them into erotica. Ms. Lust started filming pornography to address the need for female-led porn that took gender and sexuality into consideration. She not only wanted to film sex but placed emphasis on the casting, art direction, styling, music, the script, and cinematography. But while people like Ms. Lust are changing the status quo, racial diversity is something that is still missing in porn evolution.

Fair representation of people of colour is not sufficiently addressed. Porn performer and producer Ms. Trick Wolf founded and runs Slanted Tendency – an adult-orientated multi-media company. As a queer woman of colour, Ms. Wolf founded Slanted Tendency to celebrate, feature and educate gay/bi/trans/intersex people of colour and to cater to an audience that is grossly underserved and relentlessly misrepresented. Black people are often portrayed in stereotypical and degrading ways; reduced to their body parts and lacking humanity. The most common themes in mainstream porn are mimic age-old racist tropes: black men have large penises; black women have big butts and both sexes are hyper sexual with an uncontrollable sexual appetite.

Black people are often portrayed in stereotypical and degrading ways; reduced to their body parts and lacking humanity.

Asian men on the other hand hardly ever feature in mainstream porn and Asian women are depicted as docile. They are shown as having no self-agency and are merely there to please the men. This is all evident in the language that is used in porn titles. Black women are described as “nasty/dirty hoes/sluts”; “cute little Asians” are always ready to please some guy and “big black cocks” are offered to white women as treats by their white husbands who can’t “measure up”. This is a manifestation of the inherent racism and assumed superiority of the white men behind the lens in mainstream pornography.

They refuse to complicate the narrative and, instead, lazily regurgitate the same stereotypes that were fed to them. As much as sex-positive, women friendly pornography is on the rise, people like Ms. Wolf, who seek to address the lack of racial diversity, are still an exception to the rule. Until this narrative changes, we are doomed to the soulless mimicry of the latest “Slutty teen meets a Big Black Cock” episode.

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