Don’t forget – you can catch Violet Blue and other Best Sex Writing 2008 contributors Amy Andre (“The Study of Sex”), Violet Blue (“Kink.com and Porn Hysteria”), Jen Cross (“Surface Tensions”), Paul Festa (“How Insensitive”), and Melissa Gira (“The Pink Ghetto”) TONIGHT at The Center for Sex and Culture, 1519 Mission Street (between 11th and South Van Ness), San Francisco. Free! Hosted by Carol Queen.
Violet Blue is the best-selling, award-winning author and editor of over a dozen books on sex and sexuality, all currently in print, a number of which have been translated into several languages; she has contributed to a number of nonfiction anthologies. Violet is a sex educator who lectures at UC’s and community teaching institutions, and writes about erotica, pornography, sexual pleasure and health for major publications and blogs. She is a professional sex blogger and femmebot; an author at Metroblogging San Francisco (Metblogs); a correspondent for Geek Entertainment Television; she is on the Gawker payroll as girl friday contibutor and editor at Fleshbot; in January 2007, Violet was named a Forbes Web Celeb 25. She is a San Francisco native and human blog. Violet is the sex columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle with a weekly column titled Open Source Sex, and has a podcast of the same name that frequents iTunes’ top ten.
What prompted your piece “Kink.com and Porn Hysteria: The Lie of Unbiased Reporting?” I know you were reacting to articles about Kink.com specifically, but how long had you been noticing this trend of unbiased reporting?
I write for the SF Chronicle; I’m their sex columnist. and on the same day my column ran “Open Source Sex” I had an interview with sex-positive alt porn director Eon McKai up. it was a great interview that showed the breaking down of porn’s redundant gender and physical stereotypes, the sex-positivity and inclusiveness of modern sex attitudes into the mainstream (which had been going on for a while, I was just drawing attention to the newest wave of it). porn from the POV of the makers, not the critics who don’t know what’s really going on. that week, local BDSM empire (and all-inclusive, sex-positive, politically minded local porn company) Kink.com had purchased the SF Armory for its new studio location. the Chron’s website bumped my column to the bottom of the page and ran a totally anti-porn, completely biased piece about a staged “protest” in front of the Armory — many have said that even the number of protesters stated in the piece was incorrect and more than the few who showed up. the website showed photos of Kink employees who were there to wash the building and called them “protesters” (though later corrected their mistakes).
the piece was so anti-porn, and especially anti-kink, I saw red. especially since Kink is one of the most incredible places to work — they threat their employees better than any company I’ve seen (except for Google), the performers are treated with respect, paid really well, have hair and makeup people and are regarded as Olympic athletes. the cleanliness standards should be envied by every restaurant in San Francisco and copied by every porn company in the world. and the owner’s mission is to demystify kinky sex, normalize it, and make the world a better place for all sexual outsiders for doing do. the Chron’s hit piece disgusted me, the rest of mainstream media predictably followed suit, and I wrote a powerful response.
the reaction at the paper was extreme. let’s just say mainstream media found it a bitter pill to swallow when I criticized their lock-step anti-porn and anti-sex bias within its own pages. it was quite a scandal. but that’s what happens when a paper hires a blogger, you know?
You contrast religious groups’ opposition to porn with the coverage in mainstream papers like The New York Times and your own San Francisco Chronicle. Do you feel the anti-porn groups have been successful in getting their POV into mainstream papers or is it simply lazy reporting?
it’s both; mainstream media still sits behind its cozy little Fourth Estate wall of authority and assumption that everyone agrees sex is bad and wrong; journalists don’t have to bother questioning this point of view, even though the world’s view on sex has changed (and is changing rapidly) around them. MSM needs to get sex positive, because we can only make fun of them for so long…ultimately their attitudes are causing them to miss telling real stories and reporting with accuracy, which I think the corrective nature of the blogosphere will reign in eventually. but not without scandal and humiliation first — on the part of the sex-negative press. sex is normal, and they need to get over thinking people will agree with their assumptions of sexual shame. but I do feel that the anti-porn groups, while way smaller than the millions of people who feel the opposite, have been effective in disrupting accurate reporting about sex and porn. they’re loud, they have government backing, and everyone at Fox wants to keep their jobs; they talk about sex a lot, just as long as it’s bad and wrong, no problem.
Was there or has there been any positive mainstream coverage of Kink.com?
yes: the New York Times piece was a real piece of reporting, and in its unbiased accuracy reflected Kink’s positive impact.
What do you make of the fact that the porn industry seems to be flourishing, and certainly there’s much more porn available in more varied forms, with this continued insistence on including anti-porn viewpoints in major papers?
I think the mainstream porn industry is struggling to keep up with changing technology and how it’s consumed (just like Hollywood), but porn in general — especially homemade — is totally flourishing. people don’t read the papers anymore, or they know they don’t need to; they shop for their news and information now, and I think the democracy of consumption is reflected in people’s refusal to swallow lines about sex and porn being bad, when their individual experiences online are showing them otherwise. sex has become normal and healthy for many people, and they might click on a sex scandal story to see what the sex workers say about their jobs, but most aren’t buying that sex workers are Diane Sawyer’s sad stereotypes. they can go to wakingvixen or $pread and see a bunch of empowered women. people aren’t stupid — or, at least they’re not in the dark for information anymore and know when they’re getting a one-sided view.
Is there anything porn fans/consumers, not to mention creators, can do to make their voices heard? It seems to me that the anti-porn lobby also preys on porn users’ insecurities over porn and sex and assumes that there aren’t people willing to stand up and say that porn is both legal, as you point out, and can be healthy.
blog. vlog. make more media. show that you’re real people. link to people who show sex is good and healthy; don’t link to douchebags.
What are the main ways you think mainstream media gets porn wrong?
MSM needs to erase all their preconceptions about porn and start over again. they’ve been so mired in sensationalism, religious dogma, erroneous studies pushed by fundamentalists and dated stereotypes about exploitation and degradation that they have no idea what’s really going on in the worlds of porn and sex online. who is being exploited by gay porn, by the way? and, with all the baggage MSM brings to ordinary, self-defined sex work and healthy sexual expression, we can’t actually find the real voices of the people who do get exploited and need help. it’s shameful.
Do you think mainstream journalists are anti-porn, or simply want to give the appearance of being so? Is there any advantage to them to not including a fairer portrait of the industry?
the tradition of their jobs force them to posit anti-sex and anti-porn points of view. to do otherwise would cost them their jobs.
What can journalists do to become better versed in porn and provided more accurate coverage? What resources would you recommend journalists covering porn to check out to get a broader view of the topic?
What are you working on next?
Best Women’s Erotica 2009, trying to pull a web show together, more GETV (always!), writing about my teen years as a homeless kid on the streets, finding time to cuddle with my cat, sip fine absinthe, good chocolates, and ravage a certain Hacker Boy. oh, and change the cultural conversation about sex.