Last week Australian broadcasting company SBS aired an episode of its program Insight called ‘Generation XXX‘, addressing youth & online pornography. Standardised sex ed in Australia is a hot topic at the moment, and I found it refreshing to see youth representing themselves on the matter, as the popular discourse is generally led by adults. While the program as a whole was disappointing for someone like me who is on the extreme left-of-centre on this issue, it did bring up some interesting questions for me as a pornographer.
I am of the opinion that porn is a useful educational tool. I’ve worked on pornographic projects that I’ve also used in educational workshops, and have frequently received the feedback that my work and that of my colleagues has been used, at least in part, as learning material. We need to see diverse representations of pleasure in order to map out our own. We learn by watching, and then by doing. Tell me how you learned to cook. Tell me how you learned to ride a bike. You saw it done, and then you did it. Not always well. But so it goes. I’m happy to further discuss whether or not porn is a viable educational tool in the comments, but for the purposes of this piece, I’m taking it for granted that it is.
Youth can’t pay for porn. Their options are what’s shared between them, on and offline, and what they can find on the web for free. The tube sites (RedTube, YouPorn, and the like) run the whole gamut in terms of quality and content, from the sacred to the profane, and it’s no simple matter to screen for that which has value as a representation of real sexuality, and that which does not. Especially if you’re of an age at which you haven’t had enough experience to separate one from the other.
For those of us who make some or all of our living peddling smut, tube sites have become the bane of our existence. Well, that and government regulating bodies. And the ‘standards of the community’. And the shitty American dollar. But I digress. While I wish it weren’t so and I’d rather not advertise it, it’s fairly simple to find my content for free with a Google search. On one hand, I’m enraged that my image can be so freely dispersed and consumed with no compensation for my level of personal exposure, my labour, my vulnerability. On the other, what I make is a hell of a lot better than what a lot of other people make in terms of its ethics, its politics, and its aesthetics. It’s been made with attention to detail, with a value on aesthetics, with a personal agenda of raw self-exposure of my goddess-given body, and with an explicitly sex-positivist perspective. Not all of that is immediately visible when you control-click save-link-as, but it does show if you look closely enough. And I do think youth are looking closely.
I want my work to be used in an educational context. I’d like you to share it with your children when you and they have agreed that they’re ready to see explicit sexual imagery. I’d have loved to have something like what I make 10, 15 years ago. You know where I went for explicit images when I was first web-enabled? rotten.com. Remember that one? Yeah. Not exactly a great standard to start with. And had I known better, I would have seen better. I would have done better. And I would have felt a lot more ‘normal’. But that was all I knew, and Google wasn’t yet a thing.
So: my content is 1) valuable educational material, and 2) freely accessible to youth if they know how / where to look. And of course this is the clincher – we need to guide them to the stuff that’s going to give them a positive experience, the stuff that’s going to foster a good body image, an understanding of the diversity of available acts / genders / styles / safer-sex practices, and an attitude of self-acceptance in regards to sexuality. But: I’m also broke. I’m the brokest ho I know (I should note that I know a very particular demographic of ho – the white middle-class sort). I have something to gain from combatting piracy, however theoretical that combat may be. I have a financial investment in being able to sell my smut. But that potentially removes it from the tubosphere, and thereby from accessibility to the folks who might actually need it. There’s no way for me to control the use of my pirated content, but if it has the potential to show some 14-year-old girl that squirting is different from pissing and a totally ‘normal’ and satisfying thing to do, do I really want to?