Porn: Should We ‘Fight The New Drug’?

‘Fight the New Drug’ is an organisation that exists to raise awareness of the harmful effects of porn, supported by science, facts and personal accounts. The website contains short videos explaining how porn affects the brain, relationships and society, as well as promoting t-shirts that read ‘porn kills love’ and articles titled ‘10 reasons why you should (not) be cool with your partner watching porn’. Although members of the group say that they do not seek to ban pornography but rather ‘influence young people to make an informed decision’, the message of the site is clear – porn must be avoided at all costs. But the internet is not going away and neither is the availability of porn. So, is ‘fighting’ this ‘new drug’ really the answer?

Numerous studies and journalists have shown how dangerous the mainstream porn industry is to both the consumer and for those in the business. Jon Ronson reported a 1000% rise in erectile dysfunction since the arrival of free internet porn in 2007, suggesting that our consumption of porn is changing sex in real life (‘The Butterfly Effect’, 2017). Feminist porn director and creator, Erika Lust, is critical of the business: ‘Mainstream porn shows sex as something that men do to women, or what women do for men; this makes it misogynist porn that actually objectifies women and places unrealistic expectations on both sexes.’ Rashida Jones’ Netflix documentary Hot Girls Wanted reveals an industry that thrives on manipulation and little regulation. ‘Fight the New Drug’ is right – the mainstream porn industry is a dangerous place, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

It is easy to vilify porn and demand its removal, but this is unrealistic in a digital world. Porn is not going away so we must change the way it is produced and alter our relationship with it. Erika Lust explains that ‘the way we consume it matters. Conventional pornography is a bad educator, but another type of pornography can fight against its influence and even be positive.’ She sets out four important factors that could improve the porn industry: women’s pleasure must be important, adult films can have cinematic value, there must be a wide range of race, age and ethnicities, and the production process must be safe and ethical. A principled and representative world of adult cinema could be enjoyed as one ‘corner of sexuality’ and stop the negative impacts on consumers and actors (Eva Wiseman) .

Another important step is needed to improve society’s relationship with porn – better sex education. In 2016, Middlesex University found that 53% of 11 to 16 year-olds had seen explicit material online, nearly all of whom (94%) had seen it by age 14 (BBC). If children are accessing mainstream porn at such a young age, they need to be taught that what they are seeing is not reality, but crucially girls and boys must be taught about female sexual pleasure. So long as society views sex as revolving around ‘power and pleasure for men’, a view that is perpetuated by an education system that fails to teach individuals about female sexual pleasure, we will continue to have a warped relationship with porn (Jess Phillips, Guardian 2018). If teens are using mainstream pornography to understand sex because their education does not adequately prepare them, we must change how we teach sex in schools.

Porn is not going away – instead of ‘fighting the new drug’, let’s improve education and support the creation of diverse and ethical porn. The mainstream porn industry is far from ideal but that doesn’t make all porn inherently bad. Erika Lust is creating ethical adult cinema; let this be our guide and aim for the future.

Hannah Rashbass

 

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