In Defence of Pornography

“There is no place for pornography in a just society.”

–          Gail Dines, ‘How the Hardcore Porn Industry is Ruining Young Men’s Lives’, as published in The Age, May 18, 2011.

“Those magazines, they aren’t about sex. They’re about beauty.”

–          Martin Grimwood, in reference to my collection of Penthouse Magazines, published circa 1970.

Some years ago, I wandered into a second-hand bookstore on Fitzroy Street, just next to the (now defunct) George Cinema in St Kilda. I had bought a number of wonderful books there over time, chief among them my much-loved, two-volume hardcover The Collected Works of e.e. cummings.

A stack of seventies’ stick-mags stood three feet high inside of the door, staggered because of the way their slick, shiny covers slid one over the other. I started sorting through them and soon found an edition of the first-ever Penthouse magazine I had stolen from my Dad as a teenager. I fished out all the other copies of Penthouse I could find. My friend and I, a former ad executive in his mid-sixties, sat out on the footpath and read through them over coffee.

The old ads themselves were worth the spend. Camel Cigarettes ads with guys whose haircuts resembled large, exotic Japanese mushrooms. Porsche ads where the most expensive model would set you back about $12K.

And the girls.

I personally didn’t see the sea-change in pornography between the seventies and the noughties. Or whenever it was that actresses began to get those ‘Frankenstein’s monster’ boob jobs. I remember looking at my father’s magazines as a young kid and being riveted; utterly breathless. There was a woman named Karen Pini, who became famous for her appearances on The Paul Hogan Show who I seem to remember was the first Centrefold in Australian Playboy. I can even remember the constellation of freckles on her chest and the way each detail of her immense sexual beauty burned in my legs and heated my guts like fear.

When I looked through those old Penthouse magazines, I didn’t see ‘objectification’, or ‘degradation’ or any of the other poisons feminists (in many ways, rightly) identify. I couldn’t see anything past the incredible phenomenon of those women’s sexual beauty. Big boobs, small boobs, freckles, scars, pubic hair; the lot.

Granted, there is a lot of demeaning and horrible porn out there. But really, how is it that actual porn, with the possible exception of some of the Karma Sutra carvings in Indian Temples, has never made it into art galleries? I can think of Chloe at Young and Jackson’s; the Birth of Venus which hangs in the Musee D’Orsay in Paris. These girls are solo, however. You don’t actually see them fuck.

So here’s my question: why not? Really, what’s the big deal?

I hate the word ‘pornography’. It literally means ‘pictures of whores’ and that’s no way to talk about any woman, much less a woman that you’re attracted to.

My favourite piece of pornography is this trailer for the site First Time Videos.

(Please watch the second trailer from the top on the right hand side of the page, entitled ‘Real Masturbation’; this is genuine hard-core pornography, however, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

There is no more riveting spectacle than the elegantly rendered images of such magnificent women. As a child, their simultaneous displays of power and vulnerability struck me with bolts of fear and desire. Now, it is a commingling of desire, awe, and the richest, deepest happiness I have ever known.                

somewhere I have never travelled, gladly beyond

any experience, your eyes have their silence;

in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,

or which I cannot touch, because they are too near


your slightest look easily will unclose me

though I have closed myself as fingers,

you open always petal by petal myself as spring opens

(touching skilfully, mysteriously) her first rose


or if your wish be to close me, i and

my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly

as when the heart of this flower imagines

the snow carefully everywhere descending;


nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals

the power of your intense fragility:

which compels me with the colour of its countries,

rendering death and forever with each breathing


(i do not know what it is about you that closes

and opens; only something in me understands

the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)

nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

– e.e. cummings

5 Responses to “In Defence of Pornography”

  1. Julie Hock Says:

    I’m not offended by beautiful bodies, male and female. I do however find quest ionable the trend nowadays for showing unrealistic sex, cocks the size of tree trunks being forced into anuses and the woman smiling, no doubt through gritted teeth. What people do in their own space between consenting adults is one thing, but to “sell” sex in this way with the woman being the receiver of what is undoubtedly a male sexual fantasy is the point where less intelligent people (men) begin to believe that they are either studs or losers. Unrealistic expectations all round.
    Whereas the centrefold girls were lovely, but airbrushed to an inch of their life, again setting up unrealistic goals for many women.

    Interestingly, I was listening to the interview given by Pamela Stephenson Connolly on the radio regarding her new book on Sexual life this evening. I spoke about the lifelong place sexual enjoyment hasthroughout our lives.
    Pornography has its’ place , to titillate and stimulate but it isnt only about nubile young women.

    • Hi Julie, I agree with much of what you said however I dont agree there is any trends for showing unrealistic sex. In fact a strong argument can be made that sexuality has never been more customizable and therefore the showing is chosen and not forced which is a big difference and considerably less concerning. For example the Penthouse Jarrod picked up was once probably hitting 90% of all porn consuming males being there was no other choice and so its social impact was much greater. I am sure most porn is now internet driven and there is really nothing that can be done about it so we just have to live with the fact there is alot of filth and extremely objectional porn online.
      I live part time in an Asian country with extremely strict online porn filters where many sites give an alert the police are on their way and yet every guy I know there has harddrives overflowing with porn so countries like Australia have no chance of change so well just have to live with it.
      Is it a healthy thing, probably not, I know too many lonely guys who if spent a fraction of the time & money they spent of porn / strippers / hookers just buying the local girl at the library flowers would have immesurably happier lives but the same could be said for many other aspects of ruination.

      One interesting aspect is in Australia I would hazard a guess that there is far less casual social sex happening than in many less internet connected countries. Is this due to porn availability neutering the men, im not sure most likely cultural but its worth thinking about.

  2. (This comment was posted on Facebook by the very excellent Liz Pryde).

    It’s a very fine line. The majority of porn out there is truly disturbing & would require some serious suspension of disbelief for a humane person to happily jerk off to. Perhaps they should come up with a new/different name for the ‘porn’ …you’re describing because, yes, there is a difference. So much porn out there is full of violence (emotional and physical) and presents the simplistic ideal that sex means domination (male or female). For me, I find that there is such a vast gap between what is represented as porn and the experience of sex. I really worry that Internet porn is what so many young kids are introduced to, and what they ultimately expect. Maybe I should leave some of those tasteful 70’s magazines around when my girl gets older so she gains a more realistic understanding of love, sex and the appreciation of a beautiful body (small boobs and all!). See More

    • True, the content on the majority of porn could well be the darker loveless variety, in fact it almost certainly is but id really be interested in what type the majority of porn is which is consumed or watched. It would take a large ISP to collate the data relatively accurately so not sure if those statistics are already out there.

      Ok while we are on the subject about the disparity between sexual media and reality id like to bring up the S&M issue. Is it possible that s&m is a natural part of sexuality? I once had a theory from being around various groups of people in high stress occupations and particularly amphetamine drug users that there was a much higher degree of s&m incorporated into their sex lives. It occured to me that perhaps weird sex became a way for the brain to psychologically blow off steam while under preassure and wasnt in of itself a bad thing but a symptom.

      Unfortunately the the internet is beyond everyones control and so personally im opting for my own solution for my kids which is no private internet, laptops must be out in livingroom areas. But what the hell do I do about modern mobiles which are all online, confiscate their mobiles? Its a difficult problem, we will probably install childlocks on everything with a net connection and hope that is doing the best we can we is of course all we can do.
      You know Jarrod as your readership it would be nice if we could send you off on journalistic missions for your blog, Id vote the first would be an S&M club and you must talk/interview some of the patrons and come to one of your eloquent determinations.

  3. Hi, your words here are my thoughts precisely, & I don’t know why Beautiful Agony & IFeelMyself videos aren’t shown in art installations across the western world.

    Came across your piece just now by accident, as it has the same title as one I’ve just written, which you may also conceivably enjoy:

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