A recent article from Newsweek (that I’d recommend everyone read) outlines a study that examined characteristics of the men who, according to the article, buy sex. When I think “buy sex,” think of paying a prostitute. That’s just what it is. I guess I can also understand the classification of going to strip clubs and/or purchasing dances as “buying sex,” even though it’s not the first thing that comes to my mind. However, the authors of the study are quoted in the Newsweek piece as saying:
“We had big, big trouble finding nonusers,” Farley says. “We finally had to settle on a definition of non-sex-buyers as men who have not been to a strip club more than two times in the past year, have not purchased a lap dance, have not used pornography more than one time in the last month, and have not purchased phone sex or the services of a sex worker, escort, erotic masseuse, or prostitute.”
The part of this description that I don’t really understand is the pornography stipulation. I’ve never thought of porn as buying sex, but maybe that’s because I never pay for it? In this day in age, it’s so easy to get free porn that it feels almost like just another feature of the internet, like Facebook. This piece got me thinking a little bit – by watching porn (more than once a month, thank you very much scientific article) am I somehow supporting the same system that subjects so many women to the emotional and physical trauma that comes with being a prostitute?
To answer that question: I don’t know. I’d like to think not. The Newsweek article focused on the tragedy of human trafficking, an issue that is still very much a problem today. Men and boys get trafficked too, but the majority of people who are kidnapped and sold into sex slavery are women. When I go onto youporn and watch some grainy amateur film for forty-five seconds, am I perpetuating the demand for purchasable sex? I believe that porn objectifies all parties involved, not just women. So maybe I can forgive myself since my actions objectify and demean not only women, but also men.
I might be wrong, though. The people who star in porn might have faced down the same economic realities as people who have turned to prostitution. In many cases, the decision to sell sex is made from an economic standpoint instead of nymphomania or insatiability. I don’t always watch amateur porn. Even if I don’t pay for it, does using it at all bolster the clout of the same industry and mindset that leads to prostitution?
This classification as using porn as the same as buying sex has obviously got me thinking, but I have no answers. I’d like to defend porn since it’s a great tool and it doesn’t (have to) involve anyone except for me. But if the line for “buying” sex is providing money or support to people who make a living off of other people having sex, then I guess porn should be the same as prostitution. Except prostitutes are far more likely than porn stars (and everyone else) to be killed on the job so I don’t have to feel bad about that.
It’s a fascinating concept. Maybe I’m a john. That is that weird.