How Porn Can, Should, and Does Change the World
About the author: Allison Leigh is a pornographer, producer, polyamorist, and professional kinkster. When sexuality is business, business is fun!
Conversations about porn and making porn rarely involve discussions about real sex. “It’s just a fantasy” is a commonly repeated trope within the older echelons of the adult industry, uttered with exasperation between scheduling talent and setting up perfectly-lit cumshots. “It’s not supposed to be real. This isn’t sex ed.” The disconnect between sex on screen and sex in real life is supposed to be apparent - but the reality is that more and more people are getting their sexual education through porn. In a world where sexual education is often limited to abstinence, or information about birth control and STI’s at best, people have increasingly turned to adult entertainment to learn about pleasure. Is the adult industry ready for that responsibility?
From a purely theoretical viewpoint, these ideas, which are vestigial remnants of porn’s laissez-faire origins, are accurate. Adult films and pictures are made to be stimulating, to provide the viewer with something that they do not have - a fantasy. Producing monetarily successful adult movies is just as formulaic as producing monetarily successful mainstream movies - gather a few trending taboos, lay them across the skeleton of a scenario, and populate it with the latest talent, and you’re sure to make a little money. We’re not being paid to be sex educators, right?
In reality though, nothing exists in a vacuum, especially not media. People can’t help but be influenced by what they see and experience, particularly when it’s emphasized with a strong emotional response, such as pleasure. Porn is already serving the purpose of sexual education: a NUS survey in 2014 found that well over 50% of UK teens were getting their sexual education from adult movies. People can deny porn’s responsibility in the world, but the fact remains that it is a necessary resource - especially as other resources like social media sites are shutting out sexual content.
Far from needing to be shut down, porn remains to provide the visibility that healthy sex requires. As women have stepped up to take charge of their own careers as actors, producers, and business owners in an industry that has traditionally profited from their bodies, they have, one after another, lifted the veil of shame that surrounded them in the past. Using their open identities as a form of protest, the faces of porn have normalized themselves and the industry more than ever before.
The rise of performers in the spotlight has led to their becoming role models, and more people than ever before view “porn star” as a legitimate career choice, with thousands flocking to independent production methods like webcamming and clip production. Porn’s open identity takes a lot of stress off those in the industry, and has opened up a new conversation in the adult industry: how can we maximize the change we create in the world? What good can we do?
With the weight of secrecy lifted, innovators in the industry have stepped forward to answer those questions. Performer owned-and-operated sites stud the internet with ethical porn options that provide the beauty and fantasy required to entertain, as well as presenting the multifaceted realities of sex and intimacy. Consent has become a prominent storyline, and viewers are more likely to search for “porn for women” than ever before - a category that departs from violent or over-manufactured scenarios and puts intimacy, connection, and trust in the spotlight.
The demystification of porn has changed the world of politics, as well. Suddenly, sex workers are able to speak up in the public sphere and be heard. When Kamala Harris announced her intention to run for the presidency, the sex industry spoke out about her history of anti-sexwork legislation. Stormy Daniels, a porn actress, escort, and stripper, has now famously stood up against the President of the United States. Sex workers are credited with the election of Julia Salazar in Brooklyn, and thousands spoke up against the policies of SESTA-FOSTA, which put workers in more danger than the traffickers it sought to curtail. A Belarusian sex worker is held in Russia, and the world cares. The sex industry has become the adult in the room, stepping forward to speak reason to the squabbling children that rely on them - and finally, with some hesitation, humanity has started to listen.
Nothing changes in a day, and pornography is no exception to that rule. So long as there are people who want to see it, there will be questionable content made without regard for responsibility. However, it is clear that more and more people are demanding something real from an industry that once thrived on empty fantasy. The populace has turned to porn for education, and now, pornographers have stepped forward to become educators, leaders, and role models for those who need them.
This post first appeared on MyErotica.com
Baker-Whitelaw, G. (2015, December 11). U.K. survey says more than half of sex education comes from porn. https://www.dailydot.com/irl/sex-education-porn-study/
National Union of Students. (2014, November). Student Opinion Survey 2014. https://www.nus.org.uk/Global/SRE%20Research%20Nov%202014.pdf.
Padgett, E. (2018, October 02). How Julia Salazar Became the Patron Politician of Sex Workers. https://www.playboy.com/read/julie-salazar
Tyng, C. M. et al. (2017, Aug 24.) The Influences of Emotion on Learning and Memory. Frontiers in Psychology, 2017(8):1454.