Every action has an equal and opposite reaction — porn included
It’s a good rule of thumb that if a thing is taboo, someone has made porn about it. I call this phenomenon “the third law of pornodynamics”, after the thermodynamic law that ‘Every action has an equal and opposite reaction’. This third law of pornodynamics is in full and repulsive view this week, via two contrasting, incest-flavoured stories.
In the first, a young woman revealed that she’d cut contact with her father after he borrowed her iPad and left multiple porn searches in her Safari browser history including ‘teen’, ‘flat teen braces f***’ and — most queasily of all — ‘dad and daughter’. In the second, the Scottish Sun ran a feature on topless model Lucene Duarte, who posed with her 18-year-old son for a story on how he “opened an account at OnlyFans for his own mum, in order to help with expenses and pocket money”.
Defenders of porn are fond of framing it as a matter of freedom of speech and personal self-expression — in essence, a neutral feature of human culture that will exist whether repressed or not and as such best regulated and taxed. But the differences as well as the similarities between these two stories tell us something about why this is inadequate as an account of the now-pervasive online porn industry.
Both stories take as their core assumption the belief that to be female is to be an object of desire, and to be male is to desire. It’s a view expressed baldly by trans scholar Andrea Long Chu in Females, where ‘female’ is “any psychic operation in which the self is sacrificed to make room for the desires of another”.
The twist in the OnlyFans story is meant to be the idea that 18-year-old Leonardo ought to feel territorial about his own mother — but has instead participated in arranging her objectification. Meanwhile he is pictured standing right behind her, and staring down her ample cleavage. In contrast, the clear inference of the young woman’s reaction to ‘Porn Search Dad’ is a sense of being objectified by proxy.
This is, of course, not the full picture of human sexuality, as most normal people know perfectly well. And yet this reductive, one-way dynamic, in which males are the desirers and women ‘make room for the desires of another’ has been relentlessly propagated as a basic paradigm for relations between the sexes. It’s a worldview where women are ‘entrepreneurs’ for self-objectifying, and men are choosing subjects simply enjoying a fantasy when they consume.
It’s not real. But it makes a lot of money — even as it forms an addictive trap for many consumers, and a trigger for violence in relationships. And it shapes the landscape of what’s taboo as well: for as every taboo becomes searchable, so new, buried ones must be found —and we end up with men using their own daughter’s iPad to search for child pornography.