Labels and Porn

Judgement and ignorance abound, and I’m at the point where I just can’t take it anymore. So I needed to write.

According to my parents, growing up in a smaller, very Catholic town seemed to be the perfect environment for raising children. We were private schooled, played outside until after dark, and we walked just about everywhere. I loved my hometown and developed some of the best relationships that have withstood the test of time.

But as a teenager growing up in that environment, it also meant that there were so many other cultures, creeds, beliefs and walks of life I never was exposed to. Thank goodness my parents are progressive Catholics, and overall, their main message to us was more about loving our neighbor than following the bible to the letter. I strongly believe it’s what led me to this place of questioning and grave concern for the future (especially in light of potential political outcomes in the US).

Like many of us, I was constantly labeled: fat, ugly, different, geek, nerd, know-it-all, coward, lesbian, bisexual, lazy. I have always been a curvy girl, and in the world of dance thirty plus years ago, that was not a good trait to have. I was also in AP classes – or as my catholic school used to call it – the TAG (talented & gifted) program. The idea that anyone not in these classes was neither talented nor gifted is a travesty of epic proportions. When I started dating a woman twenty years ago, I was labeled lesbian because it was much more acceptable than bisexual, which is what I really considered myself to be. And most recently, suffering from depression and living with my wife who has bipolar disorder has earned me labels such as lazy and enabler.

I wasn’t so innocent either. I participated in my own shaming of those who were different from me – redheads, dumb jocks, people of color. To this day, many of us struggle with our own self-worth so much so that we are still tearing others down to make ourselves feel better. Fat/body-shaming and slut-shaming are a couple of the recent newsworthy triggers. When will we learn that our time and energy is better spent focused internally? That if we loved with the same fervor we criticized, we become better people? The world becomes safer…stronger…healthier…and more joyful?

Why are we freaking out that a curvy girl in a bikini made the cover of Sports Illustrated? Why are t-shirts and profiles that say “no femmes, no fatties” laughed at and accepted? Why is non-monogamy viewed as being promiscuous and slutty? Why are people still refusing marriage licenses to same-sex couples? Why do we care that a trans woman wants to use the women’s restroom because that’s where she feels most comfortable? Why are we denigrating everything Prince accomplished in his life because he was human and (allegedly) suffered from addiction?

Why are so many still operating from a place of fear and not acceptance? Why are we still trying to group people into neat little boxes that only make it easier for us to talk about but debilitating for those being labeled?

Finally, this leads me to the topic of pornography. Now if I revisit that young girl that still exists in my brain, the one who grew up sheltered and stifled in that small town, she would say that porn is bad. I used to believe that exploring and being curious about our bodies was a sin. Masturbating was wrong, and porn was synonymous with prostitution. That everyone in the industry was forced or manipulated by creepy old men to perform sex acts in front of a camera. But then the older, more open me sees that as just another misjudgment of an industry that I don’t know.

That person also asks what the difference is between seeing nudes painted and sculpted, hearing explicit lyrics in music, and reading the details of sex and making love as described in a book. Is it different? And then how does the filming of two adults having consensual sex not fall into the same category? Isn’t it all art? Aren’t they all expressions of life, beauty, inquisitiveness, emotion, self-exploration. and understanding?

Before anyone goes there, I do draw the line at abuse, lack of consent, rape, assault, violence, and knowingly involving children under age. As someone who suffered a rape at a “friend’s” hand and both physical and mental abuse by a previous partner, I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of the difference between choice and force. And let me tell you, some of the adult films that are currently being made show a realness and honesty that’s so refreshing and yet still so taboo. I no longer group all pornography or adult models into a category of “bad”, as my younger, ignorant self did. I’ve seen films labeled “pornos” that are tender, raw and more true-to-life than the fluffy, romanticized and highly censored films that show us only what someone else wants us to see. (As a side note, my only wish is that there were a more diverse body type and ability featured in adult films.)

So what’s the point of all this rambling? First and foremost, I needed to express how pissed off I am at the world right now. I needed to lash out at those who degrade or discard us for being something they aren’t. I needed to rage against people who would vote for a misogynistic, disrespectful, deceitful, bigoted man who views money and power as more important than real people’s lives. And I guess I needed to purge my own demons too.

I don’t expect you to agree with me. If you do, great. But please understand that while I appreciate all respectful and thoughtful comments, I will not engage in any sort of debate about how I feel. This is me. Take it, read it, respond to it, or hate it, and leave it.