Porn: What’s the Harm?

“A Short Break In Proceedings” by esper8

Last night, there was an interesting programme on the soon-to-be-defunct BBC 3 called Porn: What’s the Harm? It was essentially a film about the effect pornography has on young people, specifically children.

I guess that since many people might consider me to be a purveyor of porn, I ought to make some comments.

The programme didn’t come up with any real answers to the questions that bother me most which are (1) Is pornography harmful? and (2) What are we to do about it, if it is?

There is a view held by those in the porn industry that since watching images are not actually harming anyone then there shouldn’t be anything to worry about. In a sense, I agree with that as a bald statement. In any case, I wonder what good is achieved by making something inaccessible for children to view when later in life they will have to deal with it for real. In earlier societies, children were exposed to a great deal of sex and violence simply because there was a lot of it about and not many ways to shield them from it. And many societies exposed children to a lot worse than a few images of people having sex together.

But there are serious questions still, which I think come to issues of appropriateness and content. Is it right that children should learn about sex from the sort of films that you can easily stream on xHamster, PornHub and the like? As was pointed out in the film, porn stars generally have unattainable bodies (particularly with regards to genitalia) and astonishing levels of stamina. The films also generally present a kind of idealised world where women are easily accessible, men often behave very discourteously towards the women they have sex with, and extremes of sexual behaviour are presented as normal and only to be expected. And, just as early silent movies bred a generation of women who closed their eyes when kissing, are the young people of today expecting all sex acts to start with a blowjob and end with a facial?

My own view is that there is a great deal that is wrong in the pornography that can be easily accessed, not so much because of its content (though there are many sex acts which for health reasons alone should be more actively discouraged), but because of the attitudes towards sex it promotes. But such complaints about how pornography idealises or perverts standards of sexual behaviour can be just as easily transferred to, say, romantic novels which encourage unrealistic expectations in women of what men are like; action movies which glamorous a brutal world where problems are resolved by extreme violence; and gross-out comedies which rely on crude and offensive stereotypes to be amusing.

Furthermore, what was not actually hinted at in the television programme is that, although a great deal of porn is exactly as bad as the presenters suggest, it’s not quite as straightforward as all that. There is lesbian porn by studios like Girlfriends Films which are designed for women and have a great deal more conversation and negotiation between characters than in the average movie. The major pornographic studios also make films which put emphasis on humour and plot (even though 70% of the films are still just sex) and make an effort to be more responsible in their portrayal of women. There are also many film studios which feature very ordinary-looking men and women. Sometimes that is simply to make it easier to humiliate them, but on other occasions it is because the audience they are attempting to appeal to are not that interested in the idealised man or woman.

Also, there are clear differences in how porn is used. As a result of the internet, just as there are now more women gamblers because it is now possible to gamble from the bedroom, there are many more women who regularly use porn. But women apparently use porn differently from men: more to learn about sex than to have something to jack off to. There is also a lot of porn for gays, lesbians, transgendered individuals and many different body types which provide some kind of validation as well as a shared activity for a particular community. There must be many young people confused about their sexual identity who feel reassured by seeing film of men having sex with one another or of men part-way through a sex-change.

So, I don’t really know the answer to the question as to what is the harm of pornography. But I’m pretty sure that any young person stumbling across a Bradley Stoke story, even one which deals with relatively taboo subjects, is just as unlikely as the majority of visitors to Literotica or Stories OnLine to think of it as perfect material for masturbation and may, indeed, learn something from it.

Party Slave

party_slave.003

Party Slave – Brett Empty

 

The above is another illustration from the now defunct website, Ruthie’s Club, where I submitted the science fiction story Party Slave.

The reason I post this is because I recently got a very interesting comment on Literotica from Steve150177, an American of senior years keen on BDSM and disarmingly honest about himself. His comment is as follows:

This story clearly illustrates the 2nd reason that real (as opposed to consensual) slavery is always evil.

The 1st reason is because of what it does to the slaves.

The 2nd reason is because of what it does to the slave owners.

and
The 3rd reason is because of how it retards technological progress in society as a whole.
. . . . Notice that the Age of Enlightenment began after the Black Death had undermined the basis of the serf system by killing so many of all classes off.

It’s an interesting comment and, it has to be said, not the kind I normally receive from those into BDSM who comment on my fiction. As I have no real understanding of the appeal for Bondage, Submission or Sado-Masochism, it is generally only a tribute to my imagination that any one keen on such things would enjoy such fiction.

I’m sure this analysis isn’t entirely original, but I’ve never come across it before and I must say it is very compelling. The story Party Slave is indeed about how someone from a society where there is no slavery (and black as well) becomes socialised into a slave-owning culture and (in this case) legitimised cruelty. This, as Steve150177 points out, exemplifies the negative affect the institute of slavery has on those who are not slaves (and illustrated very well in the film Twelve Years a Slave where Steve McQueen is remarkably sympathetic to slave-owners).

The other point regarding the economic impact of slavery is interesting and almost certainly valid. I’m not sure how true it is of Mediaeval Europe which at the time wasn’t quite a slave-owning society but one where a high proportion of the population were serfs. I think that slaves have even fewer rights than serfs, but it is well testified that when the value of labour increases due to, for instance, the Black Death the economy as a whole benefits. Cheap labour only benefits employers and then only in the short term. Generally, the case is that a fair distribution of wealth bolsters demand and brings about other desirable side-effects such as lower crime, social stability and a greater incentive to enhance marketable skills.

I also recall a reference in the book Team of Rivals on which the film LIncoln is based where there is a description of the Southern States compared to the North which showed how relatively impoverished the South was both as a result of slavery and used as its justification.

And this, probably more than the example of the Black Death, is a good example of the third reason why slavery is always evil that Steve150177 mentions (and a lot closer to home, even in Colorado).

 


 

 

 

Snoggs

The Boredom of Royalty - RGUS

The Boredom of Royalty – RGUS

 

Every now and then I do a vanity search on Google to see where my fiction is being featured. Usually it’s where I expect to find it, but often it isn’t. And sometimes in these unexpected places it’s been attributed to someone who isn’t me, is illustrated by pictures I would never choose and has words highlighted to links and products I would never endorse. So, it’s always a pleasure when such unexpected places treat my fiction with respect.

And so it with Snoggs, the website and pseudonym of Jules Artvan, a fellow author on the web and a frequent visitor to ASSTR.  He is also a talented illustrator and web designer who uses his skills to attract people not only to his own fiction but to those of other authors that he likes.

And as I am one of those authors I can only be flattered and grateful.

There are some authors on the internet who are very precious about their fiction. Their websites are sprinkled with ineffectual threats against people who really don’t give a toss about the law regarding the copyright of their fiction. No doubt they will be upset to see their fiction appear in a place that they’d never expected, but I am very grateful.

Snoggs’ selection of my fiction includes Degrees of Intimacy, No Future, Glade and Ivory and, of course, The Anomaly. As you can see from following the links, Snoggs confines himself to linking to my website rather than rehashing, rebranding or re-presenting my fiction.

Snoggs’ own taste is decidedly vanilla. He has a taste for fairy tales which is why I chose the above image by RGUS and why he features one of my more unpleasant stories: Snow White. Actually those few stories inspired by fairy tales (Cinderella, The Golden Knot and Chums of the Ring) are amongst my most unpleasant and least vanilla of my stories, which would make them a fairly bad choice for Snoggs to feature. This is, of course, because my interpretation of the spirit and ambience of fairy tales as described by, for instance, the Brothers Grimm is decidedly darker than that of, say, Walt Disney (although I’d say that his film of Snow White is remarkably dark).

So, for those of you who’re looking for somewhere else to surf my fiction, Snoggs has provided a new and invaluable service.

 

 

 

 

 

Votes and Scores

Shear Read by Image-Edit

Shear Read by Image-Edit

On many occasions I get posts and e-mails that raise the issue of why in those places such as Literotica, Stories OnLine and Lush Stories that have the facility for readers to vote and give ratings to stories that my contributions don’t rank at all highly. These comments fall into two camps. Those who think that my fiction should rank much more highly. And those who believe that this is clear evidence of how crap my fiction is.

Obviously I’m far more inclined to the former view, but I don’t want to suggest that the votes are all by idiots for whom posting my fiction is like placing pearls before swine. This is a view that is very persuasive given the nature of the fiction that ranks most highly on these sites.

My view is that the votes are genuinely a fair view of the majority opinon of the readers. After all, most readers who go to these sites do so because they’re looking for a particular kind of story and if my fiction doesn’t conform to what they’re looking for, then it is voted down accordingly. The readers aren’t necessarily interested in the sort of stuff I write and there’s no reason why they should be.

But what do the readers want?

Well, beyond the obvious in sex story sites (i.e. sex), it isn’t that obvious. Certainly stories on incest, bestiality, child sex, etc. get a lot of hits, but they aren’t actually the highest scoring. In fact, the stories which get most rewarded for the nature of the content are decidedly vanilla and quite soppy. What readers aren’t looking for (judging by the votes) is adventurous style, imaginative narrative or even compelling story lines. Unless the world is truly made of two-dimensional characters who talk rather too much about what’s just happened to them and have a very binary view of love, sex and human relations, it’s not even about plausibility or realism.

In fact, the most popular stories tend to be re-working of previously popular themes and the worldview is distinctly conservative, sometimes downright reactionary, but never very questioning of social norms. Those on Stories OnLine are especially reactionary from an American perspective whereas those on Lush Stories are generally coy and quite slushy. But I can’t criticise them for that. This is what readers want to read and this is what they choose to vote for. Those writers who supply this demand score well, and I guess I should say deservedly so.

So, why don’t I write the sort of stories that would score well on these sites?

Well, I don’t think it’s  matter of ‘dumbing down’ my fiction. I could never write in the popular style about the popular subjects and remain at all convincing at it. Despite some comments I’ve received, it’s not about writing badly, but writing appropriately. The average reader only notices style, grammar, spelling or such things when it impedes their understanding (which is why I sometimes get some very weird ‘corrections’ to my grammar and spelling from Americans who don’t appreciate that theirs is just one variant of the English language). The reader wants a story that, for instance, considers high taxation to be more of an issue than economic fairness. Or has a very chauvinistic view of the roles of women and men in society. Or expects stories that plod along pedestrianly with frequent recaps and has a rather adolescent view of sexual activity. It takes a certain type of person to write all that and to do it convincingly.

The truth is that I write fiction that in a sense is written according to what I believe fiction should be and then submit it to whatever web sites or places where it might be read. I don’t think that is arrogant or presumptuous. No one has to read my fiction (or vote for it) and I’m not making any money from it.

Of course I’d like to get good votes for my fiction. I’d love to get high scores. Then I’d get more people to read my fiction and I might even be in a position to make some money from it. But I don’t think it’s a good idea to write fiction with the intention of getting high scores. Firstly, I don’t think I’d be very good at it. And secondly, I think I would be very dishonest in my intentions to do so.

Totalitarianism

Day Order by W Black

Day Order by W Black

I recently got comments following the posting of Chapter 8 of Into the Unknowable which mention that there is a great similarity between the dystopian parallel future it describes and the novel 1984 by George Orwell.

It’s easy to see where the two imagined dystopias are the same, not to mention the simple fact that I read the book as a child and it’s been an influence on me ever since. Just like Orwell’s imagined world, the political organisation is tri-partite between the forces of Eurasia, Oceania and East Asia (but with different names if similar geographical boundaries).

However, when George Orwell wrote the novel, there was a prevalent view that it was in the nature of political systems to gravitate towards totalitarianism irrespective of their nominal ideology. This is reflected in the novel where the ideology of Oceania is known as English Socialism (Ingsoc) which was precisely the name that best describes Orwell’s political views but was in practice something that contradicted everything that Orwell believed in. The power at the top is diffused amongst the Inner Party which imposes conformity and in which there is a shadowy mythical figure of Big Brother.

The Big Brother of the novel is shown to be merely a figurehead of the Party and that it is the Party itself that wields power. This was the myth most strongly associated with Bolshevism where Stalin always appeared to defer to the ideology of Marxist-Leninism. A similar approach was used by Mao with regards to Chinese Communism, Hitler with National Socialism and now Kim Jong-Un with Juche. 

However, current evidence of all these and many other totalitarian regimes is that rather than these leaders being just figureheads of an ideology (rather like the Pope is the head of the Catholic Church or the Queen is the head of the Church of England), these are almost all absolute dictatorships where the leader is driven by the very process that keeps him in power to ensure that there is no freedom of opinion or action and to impose this very often by a policy of terror most often manifest as purges.

In all these regimes, once the power base is fatally weakened, the whole edifice collapses, but it is primarily maintained for the quite simple reason to stay in power. And also because in almost all cases those who keep power by the most oppressive and cruel means are usually then the subject of pretty gruesome revenge (and normally of being effectively written out of history).

So, my account of these regimes is less about the dominance of an ideology and rather more about the maintenance of a repressive system to keep a very small elite in power.

And that pattern is not just a modern feature of powerful governments but has been common of many societies throughout history, including the Roman Republic, the Mongol Empire and the Normans. And in all these cases, the actions were always justified in terms of religion, national sovereignty and political necessity. of which only the last is likely to have been a genuine reason.

Her Husband’s Ex

Her Husband's Ex

Her Husband’s Ex

The above image is taken from the now defunct website Ruthie’s Club where my short story Her Husband’s Ex first appeared.

The story is basically about the difficult relationship that exists between a man’s current wife and the ex-wife, in this case complicated by the fact that the husband has now started an affair with the ex-wife. This is scarcely that unusual a scenario, but it raises interesting questions about how the current wife feels about becoming just an intermission in the otherwise continuous relationship between a man and a woman. To make the story more interesting, the story involves the sexual attraction by the current wife for the previous wife.

I’ve submitted many stories that cover quite taboo subjects, such as incest, bestiality, golden showers, and so on, of which I have absolutely no first-hand experience. I’ve also submitted many stories which are much more fanciful than this, involving fantastic universes and bizarre parallel worlds. However, none of them have generated quite as much hostility as this story.

My suspicion is that the story has inadvertently struck a nerve: which is of course about the ways by which a wife can discover about her husband’s infidelity and the consequences thereof. In fact, one of the most bizarre comments was how the story was ‘barely credible’, which is choice given that most sex stories on Stories OnLine and Literotica are many times less credible (especially in terms of natural dialogue, plausible scenarios and realistic characters).

However, it is strange when some seven years after the first time the story appeared, I get a very strange comment from monkcalm at Literotica which can be found at http://www.literotica.com/stories/storyfeedbackboard.php?id=358905&pagehint=2#cid2640380.

The complaint is difficult to read because it’s all in upper case, but it seems to be a general complaint less about my story and more about the changing relationship between white males of middle-to-late years towards those who are not white, male or of increasing years. Bizarrely enough, in amongst all the illiterate, offensive bile there are a few words in lower case that say that I “write well easy to follow, nice pattern“. I’d almost prefer for someone so misogynistic and racist to have a more negative attitude. He is clearly American as can be seen by following the link to his Literotica page where the sole story he seems to like is a story about a Country & Western group that is much more popular than anything I’ve ever written, but several times less original in content and many times more likely to appeal to a certain kind of American white male. I find it difficult to credit Rod Stewart with anything like the level of artistic credibility that is propounded in Chapter 5 of Gonna Sell The Bitch’s Car. The singer is famous in the UK for almost the exact opposite (after a promising start in the early 1970s).

I was gratified to see an almost immediate rejoinder from the ubiquitous Anonymous, who points out to monkcalm that for biological reasons alone I can’t possible be a lesbian and that he shouldn’t have read a ‘cuck story’ set in the UK if that was something he so manifestly won’t enjoy. I could say the same about many readers of my stories who make similarly bizarre comments.

Also, I wasn’t aware before that this was classified as a ‘cuck story’. As far as I’m aware, it’s been classified as ‘Erotic Coupling’ which I probably chose in the absence of a better classification. I guess ‘cuck’ is short for ‘cuckold’ and stories so classified are intended to appeal to people who get their kicks from the humiliation of cuckolded husbands. Well, this is more a ‘cheating’ story I guess if you need such a classification, but since I’ve never written a story with the express intention of satisfying one sexual kink over another, even that may be a bit misleading.

The Anomaly Volume Three: Into the Unknowable

The Anomaly Vol. 3: Into the Unknowable

The Anomaly Vol. 3: Into the Unknowable

This post is simply to announce that I’ve started posting chapters of the third and final volume of the Anomaly Trilogy: Into the Unknowable.

It is both a continuation and a culmination of the previous two volumes of the Anomaly. Consequently, it resolves all the outstanding questions raised in The Battle for the Known Unknown and The Schemes of the Unknown Unknown, as well as bringing the narrative to a satisfactory conclusion.

As in the previous two volumes, it is set in the 38th Century, but does not jump around in time and space quite as much (at least not after the first few chapters). We find out more about Vashti and how she got to be the way she is. We discover more about the Anomaly. And on the way, we find out about the fates of Paul, Beatrice and Captain Kerensky.

As before, there is plenty of sex and violence, but also a great deal of hard science and satirical fiction.

I hope you enjoy reading it.