Francis Scally grew up Catholic in a sea-side village in Ireland with her seven sisters, brother and parents. The loss of her religion, which she questioned in her teens, was painful but liberating and coincided with her coming to terms with sex.
Scally has a BA Hons degree and she is faking a MA degree in Belfast exploring Renaissance society's attitudes—surprisingly similar to oar own regarding sex, women, and hierarchy.
Pornography: n. writings or pictures or films etc. that are intended to stimulate erotic feelings by description or portrayal of sexual activity. Pornographic: adj.
I probably discovered pornography well before I was ten years old but if I did I can't remember any specific incidents. The first time I can actually remember recognizing porn was when I was about ten years old and I found Jackie Collins' Hollywood Wives. The first few pages describe incest between a young boy and his mother. It described the "warm, wet, softness" of the mother's vagina in detail and it scared me to death. I knew so little about sex and anything I did know was very basic, like seeing my older sisters kissing their boyfriends when I was supposed to be asleep and they thought they were kissing in private.
The opening chapter of Hollywood Wives scared me because I was reading not only about something totally new and inconceivable, but because I couldn't control it by retreating back into the safety and familiarity of my bed as usual. I knew something now and I also knew that I couldn't tell Mammy about it. I'd heard her saying that those books were disgusting (which ironically was probably what made me investigate them in the first place) and I wasn't even allowed in my older sister's room, where 'they' were hidden, never mind being allowed to read them.
I remember feeling a dread; I knew that I was leaving something familiar and safe behind. I ran downstairs to two of my sisters (one and two years older than me) crying (but really looking for reassurance that it wasn't true, that there was no such thing as strange and scary as sex), but one of them just laughed and said, "That's what you get for reading dirty books!" I had half expected to be dragged to the priest to be exorcized, but my sister's reaction was so healthily unmysterious it enabled me to go back a few months later and finish the book!
I didn't mention that I'd read the book to anyone else. I wanted to remain a good little girl in everyone's eyes and I knew that I would be teased if everyone knew. I would feel exposed and dirty by their reactions. This feeling is something which remained with me over the years until I eventually and painfully let go of my projected self-image as a 'good little girl'. I read Hollywood Wives with guilt and fear but avidly! I spent every spare moment with my back against the door and my foot to the bed in case anyone came in unexpectedly. When anyone did come in I put the book under the bed and pretended to read Bunty or Mandy (magazines for girls) instead.
The only time I found porn threatening was when I was with a boyfriend who couldn't get sexually excited unless he was surrounded by porn. I felt a bit inadequate until I realized that he was just stuck in a rut that he was too comfortable to come out of. I eventually just found him boring and got rid of him (but I did keep his porn collection!). Porn is a means to an end; I think it shouldn't always be an end in itself (although sometimes of course it's just the thing). Variety is the spice of life and all that....
I suppose porn doesn't have any conscious relevance in my life anymore insofar as I don't go out and buy it on a regular basis, although if I feel like it I do. However, I still love coming across it. I have found, however, that very little, if anything, that I read shocks me. Personally I've reached my limit as far as written pornographic fiction. Personal accounts of sexual experiences still turn me on because I suppose they're more intense and real, and they're being recounted for their own sake and not just a poor, obvious attempt at selling a magazine or whatever. I can still discriminate even when I am looking for a quick, cheap thrill and the poor quality I've encountered is the only offensive thing to me in porn. I find less obvious, more suggestive porn much more stimulating than two models in a barely awake clench. A beautifully toned muscle, a strong looking back or heavily lidded eyes, for example, does so much more for me (and female friends) than those awful poseurs wearing nothing but white socks and sun-(un)kissed white buttocks against a tan—Yuck!
Admittedly, I do find it a bit surprising how men I've known have accepted anything pornographic they've come across as potentially stimulating (although I've never been with any man with a higher sex drive than me). However, I think this is very healthy, if a trifle boring, and it may come from the fact that it is more acceptable in our society for men to be sexual, and not women. Perhaps women's seemingly more discriminating tastes are a left-over reaction to 'being nice' towards sex, even when they're sexually uninhibited in every other way.
Our society's and media's pressures are intense concerning the portrayal of women. For example, it is a standard banality to present prostitutes (who are indubitably having sex for the money) as having the inevitable 'heart of gold', as if, firstly, that indisputably sexually active women are 'bad' on the surface, rather than, more obviously, women using whatever they have; i.e., their bodies, to do business and make money for whatever reason. Secondly, even 'bad' (equated with being sexual) girls are 'good' (equated with being virginal) underneath just by virtue of being female, as if it's innate for women to only be sexual when driven by circumstances.
Feminism was supposed to be a reaction to such limiting of women's potential, but from my own experience, many women are being taught the equation that being a feminist automatiscally means being a censor of porn. I encountered this attitude very strongly from my peers in third-level education. People try to be 'politically correct' by denouncing pornography as supporting bad treatment of women. This is a reflection of the academic attitude (with a few exceptions) towards porn. Personally, I find it illogical and a contradiction on feminism as a by-word for women's liberation and, more sinisterly, another attempt at controlling women's sexuality, only worse because this time it comes under the name of so-called female liberation.
Porn exists in my life, but it's usually incidental. Where I've encountered it I've embraced it, sometimes defiantly, which is something I don't want. I now consciously reject being defiant about pornography as a reaction to the would-be total imposition of censorship, because I prefer to just get on with my own sex life. However, I think it is really bad that feminism is getting such a poor name because it is increasingly equated with sexual repression. Feminists are seen as unsexy, men-hating lesbians where I come from because of the bitterly vehement censorship of some feminists, like clearing the shop shelves of what they view as offensive material.
Feminism should allow each person the space to be an individual first and labeled a feminist second. The best way to contribute to a feminist movement is to lead primarily through individual example and achievement. I'm a feminist but I do not want to be neatly categorized away as such, I want to explore my personal identity, the very thing feminists accuse men of denying women and this exploration includes the expression of my individual sexuality whatever that may be. As long as I do not hurt anyone in the process then no one has the right to censor me.
I love sex and porn for me is something that is positive, a good healthy sex aid at best, repetitive and unimaginative at worst. Porn only truly offends me when it looks like someone is being exploited or hurt or definitely is not enjoying it (usually children or animals although I acknowledge their natural sexuality).
Porn is a reaction to a society which doesn't allow freedom of sexual expression and which rejects anything but the heterosexual 'norm' generally. Censorship is a clue to a dangerously repressive attitude to sex. Sexual preferences are highly individualistic and personal and uniform repression can only result in even more hypocrisy and confusion and even less healthy sexual expression. Victorian London, for example, the supposed epitome of Puritanism, was rife with prostitution. Men love my openness about enjoying sex, because so many women remain passive or subconsciously express feelings of guilt during sex. I think many women remain passive because they fear rejection for being sexual. They fear being called dirty or a bimbo because they have been conditioned to believe that being sexual is equal to having little self-respect, self-worth or intelligence. Such notions take their roots in the same fear and ignorance I felt growing up and would still be experiencing if I had not had the early influence of porn leading to the bliss of guilt-free sex.
Porn is a natural reaction to unnatural repression. Censorship is a fear of self-knowledge. Many women have been so controlled they fear being seen as being out of control, that is, uninhibitedly and boldly sexual, in case it is equated with weakness or being all those negative things we are taught about being women. Thankfully, my natural sexuality is too strong for me to try and reason myself out of it. Coming to terms with one's sexuality is difficult enough in such a screwed-up society without being forced to feel and try to relate to some sort of myth about standard sexuality and sexual practices.
Censorship of porn is not liberation, it is just someone else trying to dictate their 'norm' of sexuality deliberately ignoring the fact that we are all individuals. Ignorance via censorship may indeed be bliss but for me (carnal) knowledge empowers and helps liberate the woman from the 'good little girl'. Pornography breaks down gender assumptions and asserts the individuality which I for one demand and embrace. We must all have the unrestricted right to choose and to express ourselves sexually if ever we are to be truly liberated.