Erotic movies versus porn — times and terms are changing

from Market Design at https://bit.ly/3AVTVMl on January 29, 2022 at 12:57PM

In a 1964 case, Jacobellis v. Ohio, Supreme Court Justice  Potter Stewart famously declared that it was difficult to define pornography, but that "I know it when I see it " (Less well known is how he continued that sentence: "I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”

But "porn" has now become such a big category that it isn’t even clear that the word retains its original repugnance.  A New York Times story that considers its redeeming features is about a film director whose website characterizes her this way: "Female provocateur and porn film director Erika Lust is creating a new world of indie adult cinema" (It turns out that Lust isn’t her original family name…)

 Here’s the story from the NY Times:

‘There’s Not Just One Type of Porn’: Erika Lust’s Alternative Vision. The Swedish moviemaker thinks pornography can create a society that sees sexuality as myriad and joyful, and where women’s pleasure matters.  By Mary Katharine Tramontana

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And here’s another story, which features the megasite Pornhub, in Vanity Fair:

XXX-Files: Who Torched the Pornhub Palace?  BY ADAM GOLLNER

"Pornhub, with its undulating ocean of explicit content, is often ranked among the 10 most viewed websites in the world. More Americans use it than use Twitter, Netflix, or Instagram.

"starting in December, a series of legal and P.R. scandals slammed the company. First, a New York Times exposé accused the firm of knowingly hosting child sex abuse materials (CSAM). Antoon denied the charges: “Any suggestion that we allow or encourage illegal content is completely untrue and defies rational reason, from both a moral and business standpoint,” he told me. Still, Canadian senators and MPs called for a criminal investigation. In the uproar, credit card processors suspended payments on the site.

"Forty years ago, debates about porn focused on the idea that the sex industry was inherently dehumanizing and rife with abuse. Activist Andrea Dworkin famously argued that porn was detrimental to women, full stop. But not all second-wave feminists agreed. A vocal faction argued for an erotic-positive approach to rejecting sexual repression. The phrase “pornography is violence against women,” wrote Ellen Willis, an influential pro-sex feminist, “was code for the neo-Victorian idea that men want sex and women endure it.”

"The argument remains as contentious as it is unresolved. This fall, the Times published an op-ed by Michelle Goldberg—“Why Sex-Positive Feminism Is Falling Out of Fashion”—citing a TikTok-based “Cancel Porn” movement. Then again, Cosmo contended that “As we all know, women enjoy porn just as much as guys do.” In fact, an estimated one third of Pornhub’s users are women. And the current feminist perspective on the porn debate might best be summarized by Oxford philosopher Amia Srinivasan in her new book, The Right to Sex: Feminism in the 21st Century: “If a woman says she enjoys working in porn, or being paid to have sex with men, or engaging in rape fantasies, or wearing stilettos—and even that she doesn’t just enjoy these things but finds them emancipatory, part of her feminist praxis—then we are required, many feminists think, to trust her. 

"The most seismic attack on the company came a year ago—in the form of a Nicholas Kristof New York Times op-ed stating that Pornhub was “infested with rape videos. 

"Soon, a merry-go-round of lawsuits started being filed on behalf of underage or nonconsenting victims: an Alabama case invoked the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act

"When Pornhub released an app last summer directing museumgoers to classic nude paintings, legal action was threatened by the Louvre and the Uffizi. As one Montreal source put it: “They’re in trouble all over the world.”

"The new crusaders aim to outlaw the commercial sex industry altogether, regardless of how that might affect sex workers, already a marginalized group. The main outcome of credit card bans on Pornhub—which Mickelwait considers an important victory—was that content creators stopped getting paid. The fallout extended to OnlyFans, the booming subscription-based platform that connects users directly with content creators. In August, OnlyFans threatened to remove all “sexually explicit” content, which would have had a chilling effect on free speech, open expression, and private digital commerce. Under pressure, the company reversed that decision

"While the internet continues its Wild West resistance to law and order, porn keeps getting ever more mainstream. (When Facebook and Instagram both went down one day last fall, for instance, Pornhub saw a 10.5 percent traffic spike.) Meanwhile, making porn has become America’s “side hustle,” Ruby told me, describing an expanding movement of makers selling their sexuality online. “People figured out that they could just document that part of their lives and earn an extra two or three thousand dollars a month and feed their families.” Pornhub, OnlyFans, and other digital portals played an integral part in that phenomenon."