Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Desensitised and Anaesthetised

A group of us were round at a friend's house the other day, chilling out together, and we began to watch a film which someone had heard was good... 10 minutes later we were stopping it again, overwhelmed by the violence. Don't get me wrong, my friends and I aren't fragile or exceptionally sensitive. But when a man was depicted being graphically tortured, we were in agreement: it wasn't 'entertainment', it was sick.

I got to thinking afterwards how desensitised our culture has become. That this sells as entertainment is a little disturbing. But how much more disturbing that pornography is so widely accepted as 'harmless' and 'fun' and 'entertainment'! The blood in this film, the violence in this film, the cuts and bruises in this film were special effects: they weren't real. The actor would most likely object were it otherwise!

Yet in pornography, real women are penetrated and used and fucked and cum on or in, for real. No faking: the vaginas and anuses and mouths in the close ups are all part of the 'models', the women being sold. When that woman looks like she's in pain, that's because it hurts, it hurts her, for real, no acting required. That she is given lines sometimes in films to repeat, that it feels good, doesn't diminish that fact, though it increases her pain.

When I was raped and being hurt and it was being filmed or photographed for the entertainment of others, to make money for others, it was the final insult, to be made to 'smile' or say I enjoyed it. I didn't want to say those things, didn't want to be there, didn't want to smile, or at least, try to smile, not knowing whether I was or if I was grimacing. I remember thinking, I can't remember how to smile.

Sitting here at my computer, knowing that those images are still out there, I see that the best I can hope for is for that pain, that real pain and suffering, to be acknowledged. But I also sit here in the knowledge that pornography is becoming ever more accepted, ever more available, and ever more extreme, because as people become accustomed to it, it no longer seems shocking, and something new, something more 'hardcore', more 'shocking' is needed to gain the same 'effect'. All this combined with the fact that pornography is bizarrely seen as fantasy, inspite of the fact that the women it uses are real, and shrouded in a language of 'rights' and feminist terms, is deeply disturbing.

It hurts.

The women directly involved are damaged. But women who are not so involved are damaged by it too. What we view has a direct effect on how we act in our lives. So if in pornographic magazines and films women are treated as sex objects, and treated violently, and shown to enjoy it, and pornography is now viewed widely as acceptable, something men need to be men, something harmless, we are normalising treatment of women that should not be normalised. We are making the unacceptable acceptable. If we allow some women to be treated as fuck dolls, nothing more than a bunch of orifices to be used and abused for men's pleasure, we allow every woman to be treated as such.

Women need to know this. Women need to see that while they may not be in those pictures or those films, this touches their lives too. No one is immune. The prevalence of violence against women makes that clear. If I allow other women to be sold as sex objects, penetrated, wanked over and cast aside, that leads me to 2 possible conclusions, logically. Either I say that there is a sub-class of women who are in some way different than me, and therefore it's ok for them to be treated that way, but not ok for me to be. In this way I can remove myself from the picture, and say: not my problem. Or I have to say that the woman in the pictures is just like me, and that if it's ok that that can be done to her, it's ok for it to be done to me. I stand alongside of her and say: no, I wouldn't want this for myself, so it shouldn't be happening to her.

I am one of those women in those pictures, one of those women in those films. I am no different than you, reader. I laugh and cry, have hopes and dreams, have family and friends. I'm a middle class young woman who found that domestic violence, that addiction, that rapes and pimping can happen to anyone. That being used in pornography can happen to anyone. I'm not special or different, or unusual in any way other than to have come through it, to have survived it, and to be in recovery and finding a voice to speak about that now. I'm speaking for all those women who aren't able to, for all those women without a voice, for those women who won't make it out.

We don't have to let future generations of women suffer this way.


  1. Thanks so much for writing this. It a very powerful and moving post.

    I cannot get my head around that porn is viewed as harm-free and just fantasy, for it is so real in my body and my mind.
    As you said - it's hurts so much when it is dismiss that way.

    I was filmed when I was violently gang-raped and other sadistic stuff when I was prostituted. I have no idea what was done with that film - whether it is still out there.
    But if it was made into porn, and made a profit - I had no say or rights in that.
    If it viewed as entertainment - then know I was in terror, my body was close to death and I had no rights or dignity.

    That is just a small example of what porn is.

    It is not empowering. It not just acting. It not usually done out of a free choice.
    It is about degradation of women and girls. It is real and terrifying violence. It can be life-threatening or giving serious injuries or diseases.

    There is no reason that porn should exist - not if you truly believe in making women and girls have full rights to be humans.

  2. Yes, thank you so much, it's a very inspirational post. I'm trying to write a play about porn at the moment! Maybe I'll send you that one too when it's ready :) Your courage really inspires me to keep going, and to be brave with what I'm saying. Hope you're hanging in there. xx

  3. Hi Angel
    I have been a prostitute for 15 years. I can truely identify with your posts having suffered from drug abuse, sexual assault, and feelings of isolation and low self esteem.
    I also despise porn and the men who use it. Most of it is degrading and promotes the attitude that it is ok to use and abuse women for sexual gratification.
    My blog address is
    Take care and stay strong x

  4. Whenever people lump condemning pornography with condemning violent video games and movies (which is always thought of to be a bad thing), I lose it. They don't see it as real. But when are women ever real, breathing, living humans to them? Nothing scares me more than the fantasy rhetoric-it proves the person in there is only a doll to them. It's sick the things people will defend.

    Thanks for writing this. I really needed it.

  5. The other thing I think is how does pornography shape our tastes and sexual attitudes? It's one thing for a woman to negotiate what she likes and doesn't like in a sexual encounter, but what about a 15 year old who is involved with a boy who has been watching hardcore pornography for years, what if he wants rough sex, and in her inexperience she thinks this is normal? and what if her sexuality is formed by this, and this normalises what she thinks of as sex, and then maybe when she does come into contact with pornography it doesn't seem so strange because this is what sex has always been like to her.