I realised I don’t really buy into this debate much because I feel like I’m not educated enough about porn. Like is it pro- or anti-feminist these days? Is it exploitative or empowering?
But I think that not knowing what academics and politicians and other vocal, public people have to say is a really bad reason not to figure out what I think.
Firstly, I haven’t looked at much traditional porn in my life, but I’ll admit that the few times I did it kinda turned me on. And if they weren’t terrifyingly seedy I would probably go to an x-rated cinema in the middle of the day one time all by myself to satisfy my curiosity. But I guess aside from having a mildly benevolent outlook, that kind of porn doesn’t really interest me.
As far as I can tell, most of the problems people have with that kind of porn is the exploitation/objectifying of women. And maybe further down the list (much further down) comes an unease about feeding purely physical sexual desire.
When people call romance novels soft porn, their problem seems to come from the idea that women sitting and enjoying (often graphic) sex in the privacy of their own brains is somehow wrong/distasteful/degrading/unnatural, maybe even scary? No one’s being exploited here, as far as I can tell.
I’m really curious – does it matter if someone enjoys a sexual fantasy?
Personally, I love skin and boobs and bums and all the other lovely, fleshy bits of the body. I think desire is healthy, and romance novels promote a healthy, adventurous, brave relationship to desire that is rarely voiced elsewhere.
(For those of you who’ve never picked up a romance novel, the non-consensual quasi-rape thing really isn’t in fashion anymore. I don’t think it has been since the 80s.)
I love the idea that, thanks to the more than 200 years of women who stood up for all women, I have a real say in my sexuality. I also find the idea that I can be a woman to my husband’s man disarming and wonderful.
What I don’t like is that it’s hard for me to say that, for fear that I’ll sound unempowered, unemancipated. Like I’m undoing all the work of all those women.
I think romance novels these days are exploring that fine line between being sexually powerful and acknowledging what fantasies are made of.