Women and the Web

There is a site I recently started using that I’ve come to enjoy. It’s called Pinterest. Essentially what Pinterest does is it allows you to ‘pin’ all the interesting visuals you see online onto what they call a pinboard. So once you’re in there you type in any word and it’ll give you everything every member has pinned under that tag. So I love Pinterest and so far I’ve spent about half an hour on it every day. It helps me see what lots of people are thinking except it’s visual.

Today I read an article  on the MSNBC blog that spoke of how Pinterest is fast becoming a location for soft porn. The article spoke of how pictures like this were disguised under other tags, for instance, thin or sexy. I found it myself when I looked up hot and women. Like the curious Googler that I am, I promptly did a search on the porn industry and its possible benefits. Of course, the internet has no shortage of opinion and this subject was no different.

In the course of searching, I came across a similar site about three weeks back called Snatchly. Snatchly was unashamedly a porn site, mimicking Pinterest in many ways except that it lets users ‘snatch’ porn from across the web and leave it on their board. Aside from the general interest and conversation all these sites generated, it also got me thinking. I began wondering what their role in and opinion on porn was.

Looking to define porn was where I sought to begin. Most definitions like this one from Wikipedia and this dictionary definition weren’t well rounded enough for me. I found I could Wendy McElroy’s definition worked better for me. She defines porn as ‘the explicit artistic depiction of men and/or women as sexual beings.’ That definition worked for me better that most did because it left out most of the subjective requirements like whether there was a line between porn and erotic or whether it was degrading. The only issue I had there was the word artistic, again because what is artistic is subjective. For the purpose of inclusiveness and this blog post, however. That definition works well.

My big question with this was how women relate and react to pornography and also how their role in it is seen. I asked about thirty people on their opinions on the subject. A disclaimer, however, the demographic of these people were all similar. Urban, middle-class. People with access to pornographic content and people I was comfortable discussing a topic like this with.

The most common answer was that it was educative. People told me that they first understood sex outside biology textbooks thanks to porn. It provides both men and women with sexual information they would not otherwise possess. None of them saw it as either liberating or demoralising, simply something that existed. Both from the side of the porn-actor and the viewer. Keeping aside all extra factors like the reasons a woman chose to enter the industry, many people found it a liberating experience. It was seen as being able to break various social and cultural stereotypes that have formed allowing for an interpretation of sex.

There are arguments at every stage. What expression when pornography makes everything standard and explicit? Whose choices come into play? Who is the winner? The multi-billion dollar industry is one that is benefiting many but who is it subjugating? In the end, porn and the sex industry are accessible only to the comfortable elite. So what happens to the people who do not have access to it? Are they less knowledgeable? More instinctive/natural in sexual territory?

The idea of porn being an almost disgusting existed only superficially. Mostly because that is what was said. Yes, some people, men and women, admitted that they didn’t watch it at all but that was a matter of taste. Women, while more reluctant to admit it, among the people I spoke to and in other surveys, do watch porn and have knowledge of it’s existence. When I wondered if women felt a pressure to be that actor in a porn film, I was told that until men are the boys in chick-flicks, we’re not going to be the women in porn-films.

This is a 2007 video I found while writing this post. Interesting stats presented in an almost NSFW format.


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