I recently spoke to Lauren Vino at MTV News about life without porn – what would it be like?
Our hour-long talk was summarized by a great quippy piece on MTV News. Have a read and enjoy!
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“A Sociologist Explains What Life Would Be Like If Porn Disappeared”
You think porn is a problem? Try living without it. (3/24/15 here)
You’ve seen it. You’ve hid it. You’ve likely even giggled over it (yes, as an adult). We’ve met porn and whether you like it or not, most of us go about our lives knowing it’s there. But after seeing MTV’s “Guy Code” sketch about life without porn, we wondered how weird it would be if porn really packed up and left?
We sat down with sociologist Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals to look for answers. Dr. Tibbals’ has been researching the social and cultural significance of adult content over the past decade, and unlike many scholars, spent a lot of time with the adult entertainment industry. This led to her forthcoming book “Exposure: A Sociologist Explores Sex, Society and Adult Entertainment.” She gave us a lot insight into the role of porn in our culture… and where we would be without it.
MTV: Is it even possible for there to be life without porn?
Dr. Tibbals: There’s always been erotic representation. There are carvings and chalk drawings in caves on the other side of the planet of people in different sex positions. Us wanting to visually represent sex has been around since humans have been around and porn is just another medium to do that. I don’t think it’s possible for there to be no erotic representation.
MTV: What if there was only erotic representation, but no commercial pornography?
Dr. Tibbals: In California it’s interesting, because it’s almost like there are people trying to drive the industry into the ground and get rid of it. And that’s really distressing because even if you aren’t into it, if you limit other people’s capacity to professionally produce and legally produce that content, the demand for it is not going to go away.
MTV: How significant is the demand for porn?
Dr. Tibbals: Porn makes a lot of money and there’s not just a handful of people watching billions of dollars worth of porn. Billions of people watch porn. That is a huge demand.
MTV: What would the consequences be of cutting off the porn supply?
Dr. Tibbals: So if you limit people’s ability to safely create it, legally and within a community that has checks and balances, that brings so much danger and so many problems for the workers in the industry and the consumers who want to see it. Right now when people watch porn legally made, they know that they’re watching consensual sex on a safe set run by professionals. That’s not to say that every set is perfect, but consumers can watch that content and know that the people working on it want to be there.
MTV: The idea of there being a demand for pornography without a regulated industry seems pretty terrifying.
Dr. Tibbals: It is. There’s all kinds of things that porn does that’s good for society, but no one wants to talk about that.
MTV: Why is that?
Dr. Tibbals: Porn has a deck stacked against it. Women’s sexuality is something we struggle with. Wild and crazy sexuality is something we struggle with. Commercial sex is another rough one for us to talk about. The idea of separating images for entertainment and fantasy from literal representations that should be internalized, this is something we also struggle with. So porn has all these issues and more.
MTV: Is there anything that people can learn from porn, and also, should they?
Dr. Tibbals: There are many things people do take from it, and many of them can be problematic. So the idea of porn being used as sex education, it’s such a bizarre, troubling and really unnecessary issue that we’re dealing with right now. What it’s predicated on is our discomfort with sex as a culture. Based on that discomfort we get judgmental behavior about sexuality and sexual expressions that don’t match up with our own.
MTV: Why do you think people using porn to get information about sex?
Dr. Tibbals: This is not because porn is saying, “Hey society, let me educate you sexually.” Porn does not market itself that way. It never has. But because of this world we’re living in, all these things: sexual shame, lack of sexual education, availability of the internet, piracy of adult content. The easiest answer and the easiest place to look so see nakedness and sex being had is porn.
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Got a sociology question? Need some social justice informed life advice? Contact Dr. Chauntelle right here.