Another article on the great porn debate, this time from the Guardian. And yet another superficial analysis. The article begins with a male student fantasizing about a female librarian.

There was the librarian moment; a flash of how porn might shift the way he responded to women in the real world.

This is one of those ‘der’ moments of stating the bleeding obvious whilst missing the deeper point. Well guess what? Young male students have been fantasizing about female librarians for a long time and young males have been objectifying women since the beginning of time: long, long before internet porn.

The fact is that our culture shapes the way we all view each other. If young men objectify women in particular ways, it is because they have been raised with a particular set of narrative stereotypes. Just as women have been raised with stereotypes of men.

Porn merely reflects the stereotypes that already exist. Porn is a product of our culture. So if we want to change some of the misogynist imagery in porn we need to tackle the deep rooted problem of misogyny in general.

The real problem lies in the way we raise our children, in the narrow gender scripts we give them. If boys believe that women are one-dimensional sex objects, it is because they have not been taught to view women as multi-dimensional ‘subjects’.

But the problem of objectification is not well understood anyway. In some senses it is inevitable. The only way we can get to know a person as a complex subject, is to spend time with them. And as much as ‘feminism’ is critical of objectification, as an ideology it must necessarily objectify and condense complex subjects into stereotypes. This is the problem with all ideologies.

Thus feminism reduces women in the sex industry to simplified ‘victim’ stereotypes and men into stereotypical ‘abusers’.

For that half an hour when I was watching porn I thought, ‘This is separate from my life, it won’t affect how I view the world.’ But then I realised it did.

What a non-revelation! Guess what? Watching, reading or engaging in any cultural activity affects how you view the world. A boy raised in a strict religious community will be affected by the dominant narrative.

The solution is to access multiple ways of seeing. Of bloody course, if you only view misogynist porn your view of women will be affected. And if you only read romantic fiction your view will be similarly affected.

Of course, some young men will find partners who are keen participants in the practices found in pornography, but others won’t.

Shall I tear my eyes out now? More uncritical nonsense. Guess what? Some men will encounter sexually competent and assertive women, but others won’t, regardless of porn. And guess what? Both women and men will dump an unresponsive lover in preference to a superior lover. What’s the real complaint here? That porn somehow sets the bar too high? Isn’t sexual naivety and incompetence the result of ignorance, a lack of education? Hasn’t greater openness about sex lead to improved knowledge and competence, or do we want to go back to the 50’s?

Let’s change the sentence a little to reveal the absurdity:

Of course, some young women will find partners who fulfill the romantic fantasies found in Jane Austin novels, but other won’t.

Well, some women will find rich husbands and sensitive lovers, and others won’t. Some men will find the perfect partner, others won’t. Isn’t the real problem that our culture sets up a number of unrealistic fantasies, especially consumerist fantasies, and isn’t porn just one of many such commercially driven fantasies?

Isn’t the solution to create a multiplicity of narrative possibilities? Should we attempt to censor possibilities, including the possibility that some women might like extreme sex (the most extreme and visceral porn I have ever read was in a radical lesbian magazine, and let’s not forget Wetlands by Charlotte Roche)? Doesn’t the porn debate skate awfully close to condemning sexually adventurous and assertive women? For example, the female run Suicide Girls?

Aren’t we really talking about nice girls versus bad girls and nice sex versus bad sex? And isn’t this about who gets to decide?