Censorship, Porn and the raising of boys
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois
I was listening to a podcast from BBC (if you are not listening to BBC podcasts, do yourself a favour and start downloading). This doc was about girls around the world - specifically how they lived in Jordan, Lesotho, Iceland and the UK. In the interview with the girl from the UK she was talking about the sexism of boys and how you simply have to move on because it was so constant. I was pretty much mortified (as was the BBC interviewer), but particularly so by the fact that in the parlance of the boys, "to beat" meant "to fuck" or even "to make love to", as in, "I'd really like to beat you."
What was not surprising was that boys now all watch mountains of porn. It's out there, it's free (on sites like Porn Hub and You Porn) and it's completely normal to watch it.
So I hit Facebook, asking my friends if they felt the prevalence and easy access to porn was perhaps making boys more sexist or even more predatory.
But what are we teaching kids about sex to balance what they think they are learning on Red Tube?
Porn has always been fascinating to me as it has always felt like an extreme extension of the performing arts. I find the buzz from good theatre almost sexual. I find that great acting and writing makes voyeurs of us all, and that if you follow down that path it's not hard to make the connection between porn and art. (Indeed, filmmakers like Catherine Breillat and even the late Patrice Chéreau - a theatre man as well - stretch the limits of film-making into near-porn. In the latter's Intimacy, Kerry Fox performs fellatio on Mark Rylance in a very explicit scene.)
When I was on ACTRA's national board, we studied the question of censorship and porn and the industry. The reason? Directors here were beginning to push the boundaries of onscreen sex in some pretty bad movies and we were worried the line between legit and porn actors would be blurred (not at all the case in the US where the two types of performers are very well segregated).
Fact is, sex exists in the arts. From choreographer Dave St-Pierre, to the film-makers mentioned to nudity and simulated sex onstage, it has always been a question of degree. And even that is a blurry thing; a fine performance can make simulation seem utterly real. (What is theatre, really, but extremely well-simulated emotion?)
Now, back to the porn the boys see. Yes, most of it is laughably bad (I've heard...) but there is well-made porn. Moreover, as came up in various threads on Facebook, what was once considered "adventurous" sexual behavior is presented as the norm. More germane to the discussion: the dirty talk. Calling a sexual partner a bitch, slut, whore, faggot (in Gay films) and demanding he or she "take it" is common dialogue. (I won't even get into the sexual practices I, and my FB friends, were stunned to have seen in very common porn scenarios.)
Is it time to talk about porn again? Should we open that can of worms, slide down the slippery slope that invariably leads to censorship of all arts?
What is to be done about the internet?
What is to be done about boys?
Can I ask the same question I ask about most of the issues affecting our kids today? Where the fuck are the adults? The teachers, the parents? What the fuck are we actually teaching our boys and girls about being boys and girls?
No one who cares about arts and freedom of expression wants to see them squelched by an enraged, pseudo-religious, nanny-state. But what are we teaching kids about sex to balance what they think they are learning on Red Tube?
Remember those girls in the BBC documentary? None of them felt the battle for equality was done. Not even the girl from Iceland, the nation said to be the number 1 country in terms of gender equality.
It seems to me, as long as schools, parents and interested adults are not doing their jobs in the gender-wars, there is a place for the arts. There are teachable moments. As long as our performing arts - almost always bastions of liberal thinking - are making voyeurs of us all how about they also force us to watch scenes where a boy thinks to make love to a girl is to "beat" her.