SEX WORK AS A STAGE FOR (and of) LIBERATION
I call the stage that is pornography a stage for liberation. Why? Well, according to PornHub, over 23 BILLION people watched porn on their site in 2016. That’s over 64 MILLION people a day… that is equivalent to over 20% of the US population tuning in at the same time.
Don’t believe me? Check for yourself thanks to this fun infographic (and, c’mon! Who doesn’t love a great infographic!)
It’s important to remember PornHub is the largest site for pornography in the world, but it’s certainly not the only platform by which people view porn– not by a long shot!
What this means for me, and for this project, is that the medium of pornography allows for a tremendous ability to reach a HUGE audience. Put differently, all types of people from all places watch many different types of porn, and they watch often.
After I learned this, I thought, why aren’t more radical activists using pornography to assert their political agenda?!
Well, as it turns out, some are!
REVIEW OF MCNAIR’S ARGUMENT (applied to FTM porn)
There’s a lot being said about and around porn. Traditionally, religious zealots (of the Christian persuasion) and old-school feminists (think Andrea Dworkin) have raged a crusade against the medium for how it objectifies women and corrupts young men.
Now, I don’t mean to say all porn is good all the time. Porn can be problematic, especially when pornographers take advantage of their performers. Porn does not always do the body (or the orgasm) justice, in that it can misconstrue what we think is “sexy” or “acceptable” in sexual acts. Sometimes porn is viewed compulsively, kept secret, or abused– we usually hear those behaviors referred to as “porn addiction”. Pornography can even be forced upon an unwilling viewer, which is a form of sexual assault.
However, the concerns raised by anti-porn activists that seem to dominate mainstream media do not always do this medium justice.
In the book Porno? Chic!, academic Brian McNair hopes to prove that porn is good for society. In doing so, he says porn operates to do more than supply pleasure, that it can be transgressive. Porn continues to cross boundaries, and in doing so ….
The content of a society’s pornography reveals its morality and sexual ethics, only to violate them in the representation of an erotic fantasy. It is arousing because it transgresses, or enables scenarios of transgression to unfold in the mind of the user. (McNair 128)
McNair’s language is pretty dense, but we see that porn can show the things that are taboo, and in doing so, both normalize them and continue to show them as startling. When a male vagina is revealed, it is intended to be shocking.
In McNair’s final chapter called “Drop Porn, Not Bombs,” he explains how the shock of sexual culture can help to adjust our perception of masculinity, specifically that we can transform hegemonic, heternormative masculinity. He writes:
I suggest that we should not merely ‘suffer’ but advocate for and promote cultural sexualisation as a potentially powerful tool in the struggle against all forms of authoritarianism and religiously inspired misogyny and homophobia. Drop porn, not bombs, on those societies whose patriarchal ruling elites wish to dictate the sexualities of others. (148)
Accordingly, McNair combats anti-porn arguments by citing how pornography can benefit mental health, calling it “a safety valve for the release of pent-up desires” (123). And if you didn’t know, masturbation is GOOD for your health both mentally and physically.
(Here’s another cool infographic about what happens when you get off, according to the video linked above)
Thus, if we allow FTM pornography in our domestic spaces, we can accept these transgressive bodies to become what McNair calls a “pathway to pleasure” (124). When we drop porn, not bombs, we can reclaim the body and society becomes more willing to accept it, or at the least to recognize it’s existence.
In this blog, I want to take McNair’s argument one sex further by applying it to FTM transgender bodies. McNair does not devote any part of his book to indicate the truly transgressive potential of the transgender FTM body, instead he lumps transgender in with the whole LGBTQUIA+ spectrum.
In this blog I hope to show that FTM transgender porn (or porn featuring FTM porn stars) operates distinctively and radically to bring about this transgressive power.
McNair, Brian. Porno? Chic! : How Pornography Changed the World and Made It a Better Place. Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, NY: Routledge, 2013. Print.