The Porn Debate Shows The Union At Their Best

JACK RIVLIN: ‘Idiots will criticise the pornography debate and its speakers, but it is controversy – in the truest sense of the word – that the Union exists for.’

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The Union’s decision to hold a pornography debate this term should be applauded. For one thing, the promise of a woman best known for directing gritty, English fuck-fests with names like ‘Hug a Hoodie’ can’t fail to bring the punters in.

Just as importantly for the Union’s sense of purpose, pornography is swiftly becoming the issue of the day for many young people. The 21st century, with its social networks and 24-hour media, is a voyeur’s paradise. In this environment, the morality of pornography is less a debate than a battleground.

The reflex assumption made by porno-phobic feminists is that getting pleasure solely from how someone looks is wrong. This absurdly overlooks the realities of human nature and only exacerbates feminism’s image problem (excuse the irony).  Many people still view feminists as sour, puritanical spoilsports, precisely because feminism doesn’t seem to accommodate an appreciation of good-looking people. On the other side of the battleground are the apathetic addicts in denial who have no problem with the nihilistic-freak-show that porn has become. As for the rest of us, from the reluctant viewers to the blissfully ignorant, we need someone to say something new about pornography.

This is where the Union comes in. The real reason the Union should pat itself on the back is that, rather than relying on the headline-grabbing topic of debate to bring people in, they have booked four interesting speakers who might breathe fresh life into the debate. Here are four people who, because of their professions and circumstances, have thought deeply about pornography. Richard Woolfson’s doctorate obviously speaks for itself, but for my money the most interesting choice is pornstar turned chaplain, Shelly Lubben (above). Lubben might well offer a genuine critique of the porn industry, rather than the vague platitudes about objectification we are so bored of hearing from the cretins on Mumsnet and the part-time feminists who lurk in women-only meetings.

What unites the three pornstars (other than the obvious) is that they are all, in a sense, outsiders. Shelly Lubben was abused as a child and struggled with self-esteem issues. Johnny Anglais lost his job because of porn, and spent a lot of time defending himself in the press. Anna Span has tried to enter two male-dominated professions: pornography and politics. The porn debate needs their eccentric and original points of view if we are to learn anything new. Critics of porn often look down on porn stars, and I’m sure many will assume that the three who feature in this debate are incapable of sophisticated arguments. In fact, this might be a rare instance where pornography is discussed properly and honestly.

It is a cliché to say that uncomfortable topics are the most important ones, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. At its worst, the Union chases conflict for conflict’s sake, like a failing down-market newspaper. But, this is the Union at their best: picking up an issue where the good points have yet to be made. Idiots will criticise the pornography debate and its speakers, but it is controversy – in the truest sense of the word – that the Union exists for. Does pornography do a good public service? I’m not sure, but this debate certainly does.