Sunday, 28 August 2011

The Fantasy of Fantasy

I find it truly bizarre when the women who are used in pornography are called 'actresses'. It strikes me as something of a misnomer. While it is true that they are often given lines to repeat to camera ('fuck me harder', 'it feels so good' being staples), and are told to smile as if they were enjoying it, there the acting ends. What is done is really done to the woman. It's not like any other show where you tune in and watch as actresses and actors pretend to be hurt. Take Casualty for example, or Midsomer Murders. It is stating the obvious to say that when the written role involves violence against the character or harm done to them, whether it be a car accident in Casualty or a murder victim in Midsomer Murders, this violence or harm is not actually done, is not actually perpetrated against the actor or actress. When, however, in pornography you see a woman being fucked, she might be speaking lines but the experience is real, it is something that is happening to her, that is done to her. It is real. The penetration, the 'money' shots, the aggresiveness, are her experience. The obviously painful tricks and the less obviously, they happen, they hurt her. No fake blood or fake bruises here, no painstakingly crafted fake body parts to take the impact of the actions. Whatever is done is done to her, done to her to make him money, done for your consumption, for your pleasure. Her expression of pain is for real.

The money she receives, what if any she gets of it after her pimp or 'agent' has his cut, simply expresses the fact that women have to be paid to take this crap. Or the men who control us have to be paid for our use. We don't do it cos we love it, as the pimps and pornographers would have you believe, we do it because we need the money, be it for drugs or food, and we see no choices, or because they want the money, our pimps want the money and there'll be Trouble if we dissent. The women used in porn don't generally come from the happiest backgrounds. We're damaged, and in porn we get more damaged.

The risks and the harms done are grave. Unprotected sex with numerous parties having unprotected sex with numerous other parties is hazardous, with or without screening. HIV and Hepatitis B are a couple of a whole host of other blood and fluid borne diseases. Prolonged rough sex, be it vaginal or anal, or the insertion of objects can lead to internal damage and bleeding, to urine infections, prolapses, fissures and other long term problems. Many of the more 'hardcore' acts are undisguised expressions of aggression.

Put yourself in her shoes for moment if you will. She is hurt, she is humiliated, by one man or several, while somebody films this happening. While she is physically in pain, she is called names like whore, cunt, slut, bitch, and told that she likes it. She is told to say she likes it -'fuck me harder' 'fuck my arse'. She is made to say she enjoys being abused. They laugh at her, about the damage done to her body - 'she just might be wearing diapers soon!". Imagine being her, opened up for the camera, nowhere to hide, for the pleasure of a bunch of men she never even met, who pay the men who do this to her to do it, who will also sit and laugh at the damage and sit and orgasm to her pain.

Not good for the old headspace, is it? Or for the body. The physical experience of pain of being used in pornography is matched only by the mental pain. The rates for PTSD, drug and alcohol abuse and suicide in prostitution and porn speaks for itself. Trust issues, body issues, dissociation, self harm, substance abuse issues... and on, the glamour of 'acting' in porn goes on, it doesn't just end with a quick scrub off in the shower. The nightmares begin, the triggers begin.

Powerless to remove yourself from that situation, you do the only thing you can do to cope, just to survive, to get through. When the pain is unbearable, the fear is unbearable, the degradation is unbearable, you split off. Your body feels like it's no longer your own, you're not even safe in that, and their words are in your head, they're in your head. No place is safe and so you go to no place, a kind of disconnected numbness that pulls you through at times. When I can't get there by willing it, I cut or I drink or I use. I try to forget, try to maintain some shred of this self, such as it was, against all the odds.

In recovery, I often find myself disconnected, sometimes pleasantly so but mostly it scares me, I feel stuck outside my body and there's no getting back. Every movement this body makes feels like an immense effort, a conscious pulling of strings. I feel fake because I don't know who I am, who Angel is, which of the shards and the fragments and the competing but opposing voices are me. The despair or the hope, the optimist and the pessimist, the hard and the soft, the cold and the warm. What you get when you encounter me depends largely on whichever part of me is dominant at that time. Trying to integrate myself is slow progress and right now I feel as if I've gone backwards. Trust them - don't trust them! Be honest - show nothing! I matter - I don't matter! I live in a warzone and it's exhausting and scary. I don't know who I am, and that makes me sad and lost.

My experience of being used in pornography has been one of extreme and enduring trauma.

Now I'm no mental health professional, but I'll wager that the actress who was in a car crash in Casualty went home with a paycheck, nothing more. The 'extras' a porn 'actress' leaves with - physical and mental trauma - mark her as separate. Porn is not fantasy, it is not acting - it happens to and hurts real women. Instead we should see it for what it is - lies and abuse. The women in porn are the rubbish dump for our perverse imaginations, used and discarded for our pleasure, at the bottom of the pile in a series of unequal power relations.

Actresses? My arse.

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