Porn isn’t Torture

So Matt Smith wrote a really inflammatory article in the SF Weekly about Kink.com. There’s a California state program that helps train employees and Kink.com has used funds to help their staff develop their skills in video and multi-media tech.

First off, nothing that Kink.com is illegal. They get the consent (and enthusiasm) of their models, they treat their models and staff quite well, they pay their taxes, and they were transparent about what they were going to use the training for. But Smith got all worked up because Kink.com produces porn.

Not only that, but he’s angry because he’s convinced that Kink.com shows torture. And that bugs me for two reasons. First, when we draw the comparison between something that people do willingly, consensually, and (perhaps) even enjoyably and torture, it invalidates the experiences of real victims of torture. Victims who, by definition, are unwilling, non-consenting, and aren’t enjoying it. They’re not the same thing at all and I really dislike it when people talk about them as if they are. Second, it invalidates the consent, intelligence, and decision-making ability of the people who choose to engage in BDSM, whether for the camera or in their bedrooms. By definition, if you consent, it isn’t torture and if it’s torture, you didn’t consent.

Of course, some people will argue that if someone is doing something like BDSM voluntarily, there’s something wrong with them and they can’t really consent to that. But as Kleinplatz and Moser show in their book Sadomasochism: Powerful Pleasures, the stereotype that people who engage in BDSM are damaged are wrong. So how about we let that go?

There’s a crucial difference between doing because you CHOOSE to and having something forced upon you. It’s similar, in that respect, to the difference between choosing to have sex and being sexually assaulted. It’s about the agency of the people involved. Duh.

Smith also quotes noted anti-porn propagandist, Melissa Farley:

“In this economy, this is something women would rather not do, but they feel they have to,” she said. “This is a form of economic coercion. But people would rather not think of it that way. People think of it as a matter of rights, rather than ask the question, ‘Should people have a right not to do this?'”

“Something that women would rather not do?” How about taking a look at Maggie Mayhem’s blog. By Farley’s logic, either Maggie is lying, or she’s not a woman. And I think that’s the worst part of this- the anti-porn folks disregard the actual experiences of many of the people in the biz. Yes, there are some people who have negative experiences. That’s true. But it’s not the whole story. Some people actually enjoy making porn. And some people actually enjoy BDSM (not to mention, some people like making kinky porn). Yes, I agree that people absolutely have a right to not do this. And I invite you to talk to the people who have modeled for Kink.com before you make these outlandish, inaccurate claims.

Rights go both ways. We have the right to do something, and we have the right to not do it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone suggest that we don’t have a right to not make porn. So Melissa, what in the world are you talking about?

Whether the state of California can decide to pay for training people who work at Kink.com (or other porn makers) or not, Smith’s characterization of the company and kinky porn is way off the mark. It looks to me as if it triggers him and he’d rather lash out and blame the porn than deal with that. But then, that’s nothing new when it comes to some of the anti-porn folks, is it.

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Dr. Charlie Glickman

Charlie Glickman is the Education Program Manager at Good Vibrations. He also writes, blogs, teaches workshops and university courses, presents at conferences, and trains sexuality educators. He’s certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, and loves geeking out about sex, relationships, sex-positivity, love and shame, communities of erotic affiliation, and sexual practices and techniques of all varieties. Follow him online, on Twitter at @charlieglickman, or on Facebook.

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