In Defence of P*rn


“Ermahgerd, I saw his thingee!”

“The internet is 95 percent porn and spam”
― Margaret Atwood

by C. Margery Kempe

I only starred the ‘o’ out to avoid auto-censoring filters because there are people who won’t countenance even the sight of the word. My esteemed colleague came up with an idea for ‘lady porn’ that pretty much does not include any actual porn. There’s a persistent image of women as frail vessels that cannot abide real sex (the erotic romance industry suggests otherwise) and must lie back and think of England.

Need I say, I am not one of those types?

As someone who’s regularly too sexy for my other genres I find it weird to feel a need to be defending the pleasures of sex in the realm of erotic romance. As a crime writer, I write noir because at least there’s a little leeway for sex in the narratives even though it seems to raise a few eyebrows as well if there’s too much, but why do people commit so many of those desperate crimes if not for the burning flame of sexual attraction?

“You can’t talk about fucking in America, people say you’re dirty.
But if you talk about killing somebody, that’s cool.”
― Richard Pryor

No one agrees on what’s sexy: I’m mystified by people’s attraction to Channing Tatum. But there’s so much loaded into the word ‘porn’ to talk about explicit sex. It’s used in casual senses, like the Food Channel referred to as ‘food porn’ and similar metaphorical ways that mean we’re supposed to laugh at the sighing and longing that goes into it — and never notice how our culture teaches us to equate spending with sex. I write explicit sex scenes in my erotic romance: and yes, it includes emotion and beauty and connection and relationships. It unspools like a movie in my head and I just write it down.

The problem with the word is that if you say ‘porn’ most people are going to have the picture in their heads of the worst sort, which for me means bleached blondes with trowel-thick layer of makeup and lots of ugly men trying to humiliate them. But you know what? There’s porn that’s beautiful and even porn that’s funny and kind of sweet. And it’s for ladies as well as men and everybody else, too.

‘Pornography is somebody else’s erotica that you don’t like.’
― Erica Jong

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9 Comments

  • Liz Everly
    February 6, 2015 at 8:30 am

    Everybody’s definition of porn seems to be a bit different. I guess I always say that I know it when I see it. But, in truth, I’ve not watched porn in years so I am really uneducated about it. There’s porn that’s beautiful and sweet? I. Had. No. Idea.

  • Clancy Nacht
    February 6, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    In a previous incarnation as a photographer who skated the line between porn and art, you cross that line in a legal sense when there’s penetration or you see “pink.” It’s a very bureaucratic line, but the line had to be drawn somewhere.

    I love porn. The thing is, there’s a lot of it out there of all different…stripes… so to speak.

    • C. Margery Kempe
      February 6, 2015 at 4:15 pm

      Interesting to hear the photography perspective. I tend to think of legal and literary battles.

  • Alexa Day
    February 6, 2015 at 11:52 pm

    “There’s porn that’s beautiful and even porn that’s funny and kind of sweet. And it’s for ladies as well as men and everybody else, too.”

    Yes, and yes, and yes again! It’s a shame that we are so distracted by our perceptions of one subset of it that we fail to see how much decent work there actually is out there.

    • C. Margery Kempe
      February 7, 2015 at 4:56 pm

      I really hate that the lowest common denominator is the default but people sure have a lot of hang ups about sex so I think they prefer shame.

      • Alexa Day
        February 8, 2015 at 4:50 pm

        Yeah, I agree with you there.

  • Madeline Iva
    February 7, 2015 at 8:06 am

    Some people would say that if it’s beautiful, funny, and sweet it’s not actually porn. Which is not to say anything against the beautiful, funny, and sweet thing…. I like what Clancy says above — if you’re not showing pink, you’re not showing porn because to me this fits in with my perception–it’s not ‘classic porn’ if it’s not explicit.

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