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Weinstein, Trump and Porn

Is this a watershed moment, or will it be lost?

For many people like me, the recent Weinstein revelations and the multiple stories coming out after it are in no way a surprise. Not because I personally knew Weinstein or knew of the rumors about him, but because it’s just so obvious. I have spent my life fighting to put women in positions of power for this very reason. When it is exclusively men in power, when we live in a male dominated society or in a male dominated workplace, women are subjugated, neglected, objectified and abused. There’s been huge debate around why “no-one spoke up” before, but I’m sitting in the corner with Emma Thompson internally screaming “Yeah we’ve been trying to explain toxic masculinity to you and the culture of silence, and you called us feminazis…”

In case you missed it… (yes, you are indeed living under a rock):

63 women accused Weinstein of coercion, assault and three counts of rape.

5 women so far have accused Louis C.K. of assault and coercion, which he has admitted is true.

14 men have accused Kevin Spacey of sexual harassment and assault.

And in case you forgot, at least 16 women have accused Trump of assaulting them. He is now President.

and so on and so forth, through Casey Affleck’s Oscar win, post sexual misconduct lawsuits, or Polanski having sex with a minor or Woody Allen making yet ANOTHER film based on his obsession with underage girls after marrying his step-daughter…

A male dominated workplace is endemic to a male centric society, and one simply cannot exist without the other. Hollywood, and indeed the porn industry and pretty much every other industry in the world have the highest positions of power overwhelmingly dominated by men.

Putting women in these positions instead, giving them the power whether to hire or fire people, to support other women, to condone inappropriate behavior (perhaps simply by being present) is the only way to create safer work environments for women where they can flourish and grow and prosper in the same way men can. Of course, before all the “not all men” whiners chime in, women can be abusive and greedy and power hungry too, and capitalism has taught every one of us to stand on one another’s shoulders and then lift the ladder behind us to get ahead of the game. The difference is that women do not use their power to sexually assault or abuse people to the same extent that men consistently are proven to do.

Or perhaps, even more interestingly, the way that women abuse their power doesn’t include a constant need to swing their dick about. I would argue that when Louis C.K got his out to masturbate in front of women, it was about sexual power. A power rush, having control over women with his genitals and feeling their discomfort is what turned him on. Knowing he could get his dick out and maybe there would be a consequence, which was a little thrilling, but more thrilling was the idea that there wouldn’t be because he was so powerful and “admired” by his fans; which he actually reiterated multiple times in what was a shockingly self-aggrandising statement admitting his actions (in which he never actually said “I’m sorry” and spent more time apologising to his Producers than the women). I was interviewed by a journalist last year who visited my set, and the next day the set of a mainstream porn shoot. The difference, she said, was overwhelming. In fact, when she was sitting on the sofa, eating pizza and waiting for the mainstream shoot to start, one of the male performers got his dick out and stood in front of her masturbating, asking her to suck it.

Sex and power and misogyny are inextricably interlinked, and this is no clearer than in mainstream pornography – one of the best mirrors to society that the audiovisual entertainment industry has to offer. Some argue that male violence towards women is exacerbated by pornography, and I think possibly that might be true for the younger generations who have grown up on abundant, free access to deeply violent and misogynistic porn. However, gender based violence has been prolific throughout most of our history, so it’s not just porn. And this is where the divide will come between the feminists, and those shocked by the recent allegations. Because if you are a feminist, you understand the gender divide, the internalised shame and misogyny we all carry, and you know that this is just the tip of the iceberg. That it doesn’t matter if you choose to sell your body for a living, if you choose to be a nun, if you work as a cop or an artist, a plumber or nurse or teacher or cleaner, if you are a woman you will be exploited, objectified, ignored, belittled, abused, harassed and condemned for your gender. And yes, men may experience all of those things too, but not solely because of their gender.

This conversation has sparked a massive, global conversation on assault and coercion. But it’s happening within Hollywood – because Hollywood is glamorous, and the victims are our beautiful heroes, universally loved by millions around the world. The conversation needs to spread, and it needs to come to pornography. Mainstream porn is the most accurate expression of toxic masculinity- meaning an idea of what it “means to be a man” in society, which includes among other things having sex with a lot of women, being strong and emotionless, enjoying violence and putting bros before hoes. And women exist merely as multiple orifices that require filling in ways that humiliate and shame them, while giving the male as much pleasure as possible. Many, many female performers suffer through coercion and inappropriate behavior on set and on screen. No, not all sex workers are victims. And it’s dangerous to perpetuate the idea that they all are, because for many it is a beautiful choice. But many are victims and survivors. And because sex is so taboo, and nobody wants to admit they watch porn even though we know everyone does people are even less willing to speak up than they were in Hollywood. For fear of never working again, for fear of giving the industry a bad name, for fear of worse repercussions.

It may shock you to know that porn stars do not make much money – and the abundance of free porn on the internet means that producers are always looking for new, younger faces rather than using the same performers on repeat. So performers are pushed, through the nature of free porn, into doing more and more extreme films until eventually they are being throat-fucked to the point of vomiting and then being made to eat it. Are you really going to tell me that those women are into it? And that the men fucking them, and the people watching it, enjoy it because they think the women are into it? No, it’s humiliating, and that’s why they like it (and I don’t mean in a consensual BDSM way). Just like Louis C.K. masturbating in front of women he fancied, just like the porn star and the journalist. It’s asserting the male power that all men are told they should embody. It’s a perfect reflection of a patriarchy that tells men that they should be the most powerful, the strongest, and fuck the hardest with no emotion. And that women are simply objects that you use in order to reach that goal.

We cannot let this conversation fade. We cannot let it skip the porn industry. We must be there for women, and people of all genders, that are suffering alone. We must speak out and we must begin to question how we consume our porn, and our entertainment. Are you going to boycott Louis C.K. stand up? Then you should think about the ethics of the porn you watch too. What are the producers, directors, other people on that set doing to keep the women safe?

p.s. for something to cheer you up, it turns out Gal Gadot is a Wonder Woman IN REAL LIFE after refusing to work with Brett Ratner, due to sexual misconduct allegations, on the next WW movie. Power to you Gal, you total heroine!!

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