Ethical porn, are you for real?

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There have recently been a number of programmes and articles discussing the notion of ethical porn. The BBC aired a three part series called Porn Laid Bare in which a group of young people travelled to Spain to take a closer look at the pornography industry, their porn consumption and their beliefs and values. Channel 4 aired a programme Mums Make Porn where five mums collaborated on their own porn film aimed at challenging the norms in pornography and presenting a film they would want their own children to see. In addition there have been a number of radio programmes questioning the adult film industry and I feel encouraged to a degree that people are starting conversations about the morality, ethics and values communicated through pornography. However, I am also dismayed. Mums getting together and making a porn film that they feel holds ‘healthy values’ - are you for real?! Porn is fake. It’s never authentic because, whatever anyone says, it has been created to make money.  

Feminist pornographers such as Erika Lust are making porn intended to be from the ‘female gaze’. Apparently these films feature a story, and performers should be valued. The films are about the arousal of women as well as men. But whatever Erika wants to broadcast about the porn she is making, ultimately she is still making money out of sex. For me, sex is not and never should be something that can be traded or bought. Sex is about connection, intimacy and honesty - it is not a performance. 

The need for what we do continues because, as much as people are questioning the pornography industry, these debates seem to centre on the consequences for performers. Don’t get me wrong, we need to have discussions about the implications of the industry on performers and those who work in the world of porn. But critically we also need to start questioning the morals, values and ethics for the consumer, especially when they are school aged children. What does it mean for the viewer who is being satisfied by watching other people have sex? Ultimately their desires are being hardwired to a computer screen. Their experience is not about connection because who are they going to connect with? They are watching porn by themselves to satisfy themselves and no one else is involved other than the distant performers on screen.  

Young people are at increasing risk of becoming a generation of voyeurs. People seeking endless novelty with multiple tabs open, viewing any act imaginable and doing all of this completely alone. We have millions of young people who may not have even had their first kiss, yet have viewed incredibly explicit pornography online. What does this mean for their sexual development? Surely young people are emotionally and mentally confused by all of this. They inherit unrealistic ideas and expectations before they even embark on their first relationship. What is this going to mean for their future relationships and their ability to form healthy and lasting relationships.  

I listened to a debate recently where a pornographer and lawyer said they were happy for people to watch pornography which shows simulated rape as long as it's not hurting anyone! How can that sort of behaviour not be hurting anyone? It's hurting lots of people, even if a performer has 'consented' to this act they are physically and emotionally living it, they are being debased and humiliated in the name of entertainment. As Eleanor Mills of the Sunday Times said, porn is a “smorgasbord of unimaginable depravity.” Are we ok with people consenting to these acts for a living? Are we ok with people viewing this for pleasure? 

I recognise there are people out there saying "Well, what about consenting couples who film themselves having sex and then upload it online?" I would say that those couples are likely to be still making money from their content and I don’t think sex should ever be commodified. In addition, it is still focused on creating spaces for others to be sexually satisfied by themselves. It's all about me. We are living in a generation where all we are focused on is individual needs, about getting what I want when I want it. What about connection with others, what about their needs. We have become so self-focused, we've forgotten to consider anybody else. 

I recognise that there are plenty of people viewing porn or people who work within the adult film industry who enjoy it. They find porn pleasurable and they don't see how they're hurting anyone else. And for performers and I guess for many people in society, every time we share intimate acts with someone we give part of ourselves to them. We can't get that back. The more we share that part of ourselves we deduct from its value, sex becomes less meaningful. Sex is no longer safe, it is no longer authentic, there aren't any boundaries anymore, so how on earth do we protect our hearts. And as we fritter sex about, sex becomes ultimately about getting a fix, a high in an instant, rather than about intimacy. And I say to viewers that you are hurting yourself every time you view it because it's not a relationship, it's about people being products. It's about objectifying the people on screen. If that was your daughter or your brother or mum how would you feel. It's hardwiring you to experience a fraudulent form of sex that means that whilst you may experience pleasure in the short term you can no longer find pleasure in real connection with a partner. 

At Love Matters we want to encourage people to seek an alternative to viewing porn, to help people to get back to connecting with real people, permanence in real relationship rather than the titillation and transience of online content. We want to see young people forming healthy bonds with others, developing respect, honesty and a willingness to give up time to see a relationship flourish. We also believe in hope and restoration, we believe that whatever someone might have seen, heard, partaken in they can renew, they can start again. People can choose to stop watching porn. People can set up safeguards on their computer, they can get accountable to others, they can seek counselling, they can join a support group. We are not powerless. We do not need to be defined by our past, wasn’t it Jesus who said come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest. Let us seek rest, let us seek hope, let us seek transformation.

Written by Kate Mitchell, Co-Founder and CEO of Love Matters

Rachel's Story

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From the ages of 8-18 I was a girl addicted to pornography.  I think for a guy watching porn, it's more accepted and almost encouraged, and at the time I felt like I was the only girl watching it. I don’t use the word addicted lightly; I would watch it every time I was by myself, first thing when I got home from school, before I went to sleep. I literally needed to be with people all the time otherwise I would watch it, I was never satisfied.

It first started when I discovered a clip of a couple kissing online with a friend, we watched it, giggled a bit then shut it down. However, I went back to it later on my own, watching more and more.  The scary thing is that for all the years I watched porn, I only ever watched it on non-porn related sites, that is how much there is online and how easily accessible it is. 

Throughout my teenage years, porn continued to be something I viewed every chance I got. By the time I was 17 I had very low self-worth and consequently became depressed. I wanted to go to university to study medicine, but I really struggled with my advanced higher subjects and didn’t see how I was going to get the grades to get in.  Reflecting back on my time at school at that point, I felt like it had all been a waste; I didn’t have many friends, I hadn’t had that much fun, I wasn’t going to get into university and had spent so many years stuck in the same cycle of watching porn. 

I finally got help when I went for counselling and discussed my addiction, this resulted in porn losing some of its appeal.  I did make it to university and when I moved away from home, I intentionally spent lots of time with other people and hardly any time on my own in my room to avoid the temptation to go back to porn. I had nearly gone without it for a year when there was a series of challenges in my personal life… I was stressed and alone in my flat and went back to the familiar comfort and cycle of watching porn.

My porn addiction remained my shameful secret that I kept from everyone.  I didn’t drink at parties because I didn’t want to accidentally tell someone about it if I got drunk, I was so scared about anyone finding out. It wasn’t until I told my university friend about my addiction that things really turned around. She kept me accountable and, being a Christian, prayed for me.  Frequently, without realising, she would message me at night just before I was about to watch something, she helped me so much. 

The final breakthrough came when I was prayed for at a Christian event. Prior to that, I was overcome with the shame from years of watching porn, but it was replaced with love, hope and peace. Afterwards I felt so much more comfortable sharing my story with friends and less embarrassed by it all. 

I can now see that pornography consumed my childhood and adolescence. It gave me such low self-worth, I felt dirty and unlovable, I carried so much guilt and all my relationships seemed tainted.  In friendships I felt dishonest to people for not telling them, like I was somehow being fake. I felt like a bad Christian and that my relationship with God never advanced because of it.  I didn’t ever tell my parents because I didn’t want them to feel responsible that I had found it at such a young age.

For a while in my early teens it even made me confused about my sexuality because I was never attracted to males or even females that I saw in person, but I enjoyed watching both online.  All relationships to me were sexualised and not loving. Even the idea of kissing a guy gave me so much fear. My view of affection and passion was completely warped, I saw it all as possessive, self-gratifying and borderline abusive because that was my experience of it in porn.  My view of guys was that they were only out for one thing and that they were incapable of actually caring. I was guarded around guys, I didn’t give them a chance to like me or get to know my personality or trust them with my feelings, I only ever flirted.  I didn’t know how to have a normal relationship without it being sexualised. I had so many confused thoughts and this damaged my view of relationships. I’d allowed my past experience of pornography to create such unhealthy expectations.

However, I do believe there is a purpose for all that I have gone through. I first became aware of Love Matters when a girl I knew posted on social media about designing their website. The name really struck me because of how I viewed relationships after years of porn’s influence. I thought the aims of Love Matters were great, so I contacted them and asked how I could get involved. I am thankful for the opportunity I now have to share my story and how I have been restored through the help and support of professionals and good friends. I hope my experiences will show others, guys and girls, that they are not alone and that it might give them confidence to seek help and not keep their addiction hidden for so many years like I did. 

If you think you, or someone you know, has an addiction to porn there is help and support available. The Naked Truth Project is a place you can find help, particularly through their online support groups. More information can be found at Naked Truth Recovery here.

Why Love Matters

I was sat chatting with my 4 year old yesterday morning. I was trying to keep my baby boy asleep in his sling and my daughter was checking what the proper names are for different parts of our bodies, most notably our genitalia! It got me thinking, when is it the 'right’ time to talk about these things?

Children are not mini adults, their brains, like their bodies, are still developing. But I don't want to lie to my child. I want to inform, to be honest and help her to navigate life. I don't have any problems telling her what the names are for our 'bits’, but when she asks what my charity does, I've only got as far as telling her that ‘we help young people to learn about what healthy relationships should look like’. That is all she needs to know just now, but one day I'll need to tell her we want to help young people protect their hearts and minds, most notably from the scourge of pornography. I'll need to tell her that porn hates love, hates connection, hates intimacy, that porn is an anathema to love. I'll need to tell her that porn is about exploitation, it's about violence, manipulation, it is based on falsehoods and lies, it's crass, damaging, destructive. It's supposedly consensual, but it is base and filled with some of the very worst things one person can do to another.

And the saddest thing is that porn is positively promoted as arousing, desirable, titillating and exciting. How much more damage can we do to relationships? Sex and relationships are inextricably and wonderfully linked, they are symbiotic. Sex cannot be isolated, it's part of relationship, connection and meaning. Sex cannot be limited to a physical act however it's dressed up, no matter how much people fool themselves.

I'll have to tell my daughter all this one day, before someone shows her something on their phone in the school playground, before someone asks her for a naked photo or before something unwanted pops up on the internet. And the worrying thing is that day is getting closer. Not simply because my daughter is getting older but the people consuming porn - the people who are addicted, the people who think it's harmless, acceptable or that its ok to watch because everyone else is doing it - those people are getting younger and younger. I don't know about you but that scares me, for my little girl and for everyone else's children.

But Love Matters is here to shine a light. We will provide understanding and hope, helping young people make better choices and have better futures through better relationships. We have the information, the facts, the tools and the passion, and would love to give them to you. One day this is what I will be sharing with my children, and before then, we would love to help you share it with yours.

Written by Kate Mitchell, Co-Founder and CEO of Love Matters

Project Launch in Glasgow

The time has arrived! We would love you to join us for our project launch in Glasgow next month. It will be at St George’s Tron Church on Thursday the 14th February from 10.30 am till 12 pm.

This will be a chance to gather people together who share an interest in supporting young people in Scotland with their relationship choices and to find out more about the Love Matters project. There will also be an opportunity to be informed about how you can get involved and support our work.

Tea, coffee and pastries will be available from 10.30 am. We really hope to see you there.

For more information check out the event page on Facebook. For directions to the venue please visit www.sgt.church

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