As a poet, I thought to myself, as a writer and as a socialist, why would I write about internet pornography? Why would I want to wander into the outraged suburbs of the Daily Mail? Why now, in my fifties, would I wish to throw a clichéd pair of arms up in the air at my bewilderment with the modern world? As someone barely literate in the digital realm why talk about what I don’t really know about? And maybe I should have listened to those questions and written about something else but I haven’t because I wanted to write about internet pornography as someone who is all of those above but also, quite simply, as someone who is a man.
For a man is what pornography is always seeking out. Now I have to admit that I’m from the pre-internet age. If a dirty magazine turned up in our Catholic school in Birmingham it was illicit goods of the highest value. We knew pornography was out there somewhere and we knew there were pornographic cinemas but in essence these were all mysterious lands only others seemed to have visited. Now, we are all only too aware of what a regime of repressed sexuality leads to, we are only too aware here in this State of the country it builds. I’m not in any way lamenting the don’t-mention-sex-and-it-will-go-away culture I grew up in. I’m not in favour of the sex obsessed condemnation of the religion I grew up in. Every step away from the nuns and the priests is a step towards freedom in my opinion. But internet pornography? I don’t know. Is it really such a laugh, after all?
My own experience of it is tied in with us not having a television which is a pre-broadband attempt to manage our own domestic environment. Sounds kind of quaint now, doesn’t it? Anyway, without any TV channels but still wishing to watch football from time to time someone put me on to a website where I could watch every game under the sun. The wonders of it. Now because this is sport and because it is presumed I am therefore male the advertising algorithms begin targeting me as I watch. I didn’t realise this for a long while in fact, that while I watched the match there were all these other pages queuing up behind. Gambling sites and insider tips on how to become a millionaire or watch all the movies ever made for free. And porn. Now I’m a man in his fifties and I have a lot of life experience behind me since the days of a mythical porn magazine in the classroom above.
Still, there it all is and I’m a little bit shocked and a little bit taken aback and I didn’t order it and for a while I’m just wondering how the fuck it got there. Which is one of the points I wanted to get across because capitalism works hard at finding its consumers and in the case of porn and you being a man it looks like it will find you whether you look for it or not. So anyway, there’s the porn and there’s me the male, the target audience. Only trouble is I do like football and I do have a bet in the bookies but what I’m looking at now leads me to quickly realise that internet porn is as far removed from being erotic as, well, the average football match or visit to the bookies. The comedian I heard saying I don’t use internet porn because I don’t want to see people looking sad having sex has more than a uncomfortable ring of truth to it. It’s grim. It’s presented in a series of thumbnails and I presume you click on whatever takes your fancy. To be honest it leaves me feeling just that little bit depressed. It bothers me. So with writing this article in mind I found that just through sports sites, without once actually searching for a porn site, that porn of varying levels would find its way in to the open market place of my PC. Most of it the usual exaggerated images of porn that any of us might have but others with worryingly young looking females or straplines saying things like, mother or desperate or forced. Yeh, forced. Is that not disturbing? Is that not desperately worrying? To be honest? It’s like a sewer. It’s really not much of a laugh at all. But what it is most of all is the apex of capitalism. In the market everything has its price, everything, every angle, every orifice, every hole. And just who are these women and these men? Are they happy, well-paid workers from wealthy countries? Or is porn eating up the poor and the desperate? As industries go is there another one that is more exploitative?
I have to admit that my journalistic fervour didn’t last too long in investigating this. It truly is just that little bit too desperate, too dark and too sinister. I did find out that it is there on YouTube too and I did find that far from bringing an eroticism in to my life that I hadn’t been seeking that it left me feeling a little bit depressed. But if I jump ahead, if I jump from the world of the mythical dirty magazine floating around a Catholic boy’s school to the-everything-there-at-your -fingertips in the privacy of your own hand held device, what kind of jump have I made. I’m not a psychological expert in this by any means but if it brought a darkness to my fairly well worn mind what does it bring to the minds of those only just getting to know the world. And, hey, I’m fairly happy to concede that I might be wrong. Maybe porn is harmless. Maybe it is fun. Like I’ve said I’m not wishing a return to my shrouded days for today’s young minds. But as a man, as a socialist, as writer, I can’t help feeling that porn is both typical capitalism and a form of assault. I don’t think the right and The Daily Mail and the Church and all of those sexual hypocrites should be the only ones allowed to express concern about this. And I think at the very least that those of us on the left should talk about the subject. I don’t think, for instance, that we should confuse freedom with exploitation or accept that sexual freedom for our society should come at the cost of sexual exploitation of poorer ones. Pornography. Just a laugh? I don’t think so. I really don’t.