Shocking Scene From New Porn Documentary Leaves Participants In Tears

porn laid bare scene leaves participants in tearsBBC Three

Millennials are known for their consumer consciousness, left horrified by the thought of sweatshops and battery farms.

We are quite rightly interested in supporting local businesses which aren’t causing the Earth to fry on its axis, while demanding greater transparency from corporate giants. Perhaps it’s high time we channeled this worthy sense of social justice into questioning porn consumption.

For many of us, porn remains something of a taboo topic, and maybe not one we would bring up at the dinner table.

However, porn consumption influences everything from your choice in romantic partners to your ability to become physically aroused. It is a part of life we need to give more serious thought to.

A survey of over 1,000 people – conducted by Deltapoll for the new BBC Three doc Porn Laid Bare – revealed over three quarters of young men (77%) and almost half of young women (47%) had admitted to viewing porn within the last month.

Porn can affect numerous aspects of our lives, from our sense of intimacy in the bedroom to our self-esteem. As a younger woman, I would feel hopelessly inadequate when comparing myself to the dolphin-smooth, bosomy female bodies depicted as the erotic ideal. And I am certainly not alone.

Our consumption of porn can leave a very real psychological imprint, enforcing harmful stereotypes and causing addictions which sap away pleasure when it comes to real passionate encounters.

Furthermore, approximately four in ten 18-25 year olds say porn has made them feel self-conscious about the appearance of their genitals, with one out of five claiming watching porn has even left them considering plastic surgery.

Disturbingly, nearly a quarter (24%) of participants agreed they had felt pressured to try things a partner had seen in porn, with almost one in five (19%) admitting they had felt regret after trying out things they had seen in porn. Over a third (35%) revealed they have had riskier sex because of porn.

Furthermore, almost one third (30%) agreed that porn is damaging to society, capable of promoting violence and risky sex, while being produced in awful conditions that feed into the wider sex industry.

Despite these disconcerting issues, more than half of those surveyed agreed that performing in porn is a good way to earn money, with over a quarter actually wanting to appear in porn themselves.

This begs the question, how much about the porn industry do most young people actually know?

Such issues are explored with nuance and care in Porn Laid Bare, a new BBC documentary which follows six twenty-something Brits as they head to Spain to examine the ethics of adult film-making in the booming Spanish porn industry.

Among the group is a 24-year-old woman whose porn consumption led to physical symptoms of addiction, a 28-year-old male porn super fan and a 22-year-old feminist who views porn as being incompatible with her principles.

There is also a 24-year-old woman who had previously been considering a career as a porn star, and two young recreational porn users.

The diverse range of opinions and perspectives within the group leads to various important conversations about gender, race and sexuality, with each individual sharing their personal stories about how porn has affected their lives.

UNILAD spoke with Neelam Tailor, 24, one of the female participants, who believes ‘opening up’ about porn is the best way to begin addressing the more troubling aspects of the industry.

Nearly a quarter (23%) of 18-25 year olds who watch porn believe they could be addicted, and Neelam herself has previously experienced some of the harmful symptoms of this addiction.

Neelam spoke with UNILAD about the importance of tackling taboos surrounding porn:

The porn industry is an important sexual outlet for many people and I think it’s vital to reduce the taboo around it. Much of the mainstream porn industry cements problematic gender, racial, and sexuality stereotypes.

It’s only by having these conversations and opening up about porn that we can combat the issues within it and make it more ethical. I started watching it from the age of 12 and got most of my sexual education from porn.

That’s something I think is really unhealthy because porn and sex are very different things. Because of the shame I felt about watching porn, I didn’t feel like I could speak about what I was learning. Opening up the conversation is the first step towards ethical porn.

For many people, porn is their day job, not their fantasy. And all too often, the industry falls far short of the glossy image, leaving actors vulnerable to abusive and exploitative working conditions.

Furthermore, almost three quarters agreed that the way sex is depicted in porn is unrealistic, creating ‘misogynist’ and ‘unrealistic’ expectations.

Many of those who are concerned by these factors turn to ethical porn, which claims to a greater focus on actor well-being and autonomy.

Often, ethical porn directors will consider the messages their films are putting across, attempting to offer alternative or more ‘realistic’ perspectives than you might see in the mainstream. For example, putting greater consideration on diversity or female pleasure.

The participants of Porn Laid Bare had their pre-conceptions challenged at every turn, and encountered people with a variety of perspectives. These ranged from ‘anti-fap’ YouTubers to neuro-scientists, anti-porn campaigners to industry whistle-blowers.

Certain scenes in the documentary made for troubling viewing. The group met a young man who was having his penis enlarged to emulate the porn star look. They also visited a porn set where the poor standards reduced some members to tears.

UNILAD spoke with Cameron Dale, a 21-year-old student who participated in the documentary. He was left feeling disgusted after the visit to the studio of Ignacio ‘Torbe’ Allende Fernández, sometimes nicknamed ‘the king of Spanish porn’.

Cameron told UNILAD about his concerns for the young woman at the centre of a graphic group sex scene, known as a ‘bukkake’:

Going into the Torbe shoot, we knew that he had a bad reputation in the media for producing extreme porn. He was exactly how I imagined, you definitely got the sense that he was different from the other producers that we had met.

It was when the men started taking their clothes off and preparing for the shoot by putting on balaclavas and masks that was a turning point for me.

Just the sheer number of men all surrounding this one 19 year old girl, it was disgusting. I definitely felt alienated by them, they were obviously on completely different wavelengths than me. It really upset me that these men thought what they were doing was okay and the fact that they weren’t even getting paid to be there and wanting to cover their faces up speaks for itself.

Anna-Louise, 22, was visibly disturbed crying during the filming of the scene, and did not appear to seem satisfied from the performer’s insistence that she was okay with the conditions of the shoot.

The 19-year-old Russian performer had only recently started in the adult industry.

The documentary also explored the potential for ethical porn. The group spoke with indie adult filmmaker Erika Lust – who describes her films as feminist – as well as with a couple, Eze and Jowy, who choose to share videos of themselves on the internet.

Neelam told UNILAD:

I think home-made porn that Eze and Jowy make is the closest you can get to ethical porn. It’s two people in a really loving and intimate relationship filming their sex.

There is nothing inherently wrong with people watching videos of other people having sex. It becomes unethical when those involved are being exploited, and when the porn serves to perpetuate gender, race, and sexuality stereotypes.

She added:

I enjoyed Erika Lust’s porn, especially because the way she portrayed people of different races was really coincidental.

Race is often used as an anchor for a porn title like an ‘interracial couple’, but in hers they’re just a couple who just happen to be of different races. If all porn was like that, I think it would have a huge impact on how people sexualise and stereotype people of colour.

The group appeared far more comfortable with the world of ethical porn, with some inspired to think a more ethical perspective could help create real change. However, could it be the porn industry is simply built on too much darkness for a full transformation?

UNILAD spoke with Dr Gail Dines, president and CEO of Culture Reframed and author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality (2010).

As an anti-porn feminist, Dr Dines believes there can be no such thing as ethical porn, with the industry itself being intrinsically misogynist.

Dr Dines has studied the porn industry for some 25 years, and has spoken with various women who have left the porn industry ‘forever changed’, having lost control of their bodies.

She believes the label of ethical porn is simply PR in a ‘misogynist industry profiting off women’s bodies’ in a bid to ‘legitimize their predatory practices’.

Dr Dines told UNILAD:

A feminist approach to pornography is one that shuts it down. You cannot save this industry. There are some institutions that are just too morally bankrupt.

UNILAD also spoke with clinical psychologist and sex therapist Dr David Ley, who believes the best chance of reforming the industry is to promote ‘ethical, transparent and responsible production’.

Dr Ley told UNILAD how the restriction of porn probably wouldn’t prove successful in protecting people in the industry:

In the US, and several other parts of the world, there’s a new attention to legalizing sex work, recognizing that much of the negative consequences of it relates to the shame and stigma suffered by sex workers.

The same is almost certainly true of porn. To best protect people, banning or restricting porn is unlikely to be effective, whereas promotion of ethical, transparent and responsible production offers the best chances for healthy industry reform.

After watching this gripping three-part documentary, I felt disquieted – and rather naïve – by my prior assumptions that standards in the mainstream porn industry would be more-or-less upheld in a developed country such as Spain.

The discussion of drugging performers and sexual violence was truly eye-opening, making Porn Laid Bare a must watch for anyone who cares about protecting human rights.

Furthermore, the conversations about racial stereotyping and female empowerment made for truly powerful viewing.

As a person who is generally quite open about a person’s choice to work in porn, I began to reconsider certain pre-conceptions alongside the participants, with certain worrying moments in the doc staying with me long after I stopped watching.

Education is power and – whatever your views may be on the porn industry – it is important we think critically about the impact of porn, both for the sake of the actors and for those watching at home.

Porn Laid Bare is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via stories@unilad.co.uk

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