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"I'm a Feminist Who Loves 'Demeaning' Porn" -- Is That Normal?

Sex questions so often boil down to "Am I normal?" Tracy Clark-Flory explains where individual readers fall on the spectrum of sexual behavior.

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Jaclyn Friedman, a feminist activist and author of  “What You Really, Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety,” agrees. “It’s a fool’s errand to expect ideological perfection from yourself or anyone else in the bedroom,” she says. “Sexual response is wildly complex, and many people use their sex lives to safely explore parts of themselves or their world that they have trouble accessing otherwise — a kind of psychodrama which can be awesome and powerful.” Regardless, Friedman recommends some reflection about the impact this “demeaning smut” has on you. Does it ultimately make you feel bad — about your body, about sex, about men? “If that’s the case, think of it maybe as the equivalent of junk food — it’s fine to eat once in a while, but making it the main staple of your diet is going to do serious harm,” she says.

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that she also has concerns about the wider cultural impact of “degrading smut,” which tends to reinforce a very narrow view of desire, sexuality and pleasure. The problem isn’t that “any particular image exists, but that so much of the one kind exists that all other types of porn are marginal at best.” Friedman asks, “Can you spend some money supporting feminist porn, even if that’s not the stuff you click with as much? Can you spend some time or effort advocating for better working conditions for porn performers?” Some may laugh it off, but just as progressives of means have devoted themselves to buying local, organic produce, it’s possible to be a conscientious porn consumer — even while enjoying politically incorrect smut.

Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon, where she writes about sex and relationships through personal, cultural and scientific lenses.

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