#SolidarityWithStoya: What the church can learn from porn about consent

2013 XBIZ Awards - Arrivals

How much can you change the world with 55 words?

On the 28th of November, in two tweets, Stoya—who is in no particular order a famous porn actress, an activist, a writer and a friend of mine—unambiguously accused her ex-boyfriend, fellow porn actor James Deen, of rape. “James Deen held me down and f–ked me while I said no, stop, used my safeword,” she wrote. “I just can’t nod and smile when people bring him up anymore.”

Within days, the porn industry had turned against its golden boy. In so doing, it became the first professional community to respond to allegations of serial sexual violence by actually believing women from the start (Read the full article here)

It’s probably not a surprise to know that I am no fan of the porn industry. I’m one of those feminists who thinks porn reduces women and men into nothing more than objects for pleasure, stripping them of their humanity.

That being said, there are plenty of porn actors who view porn as empowering, and genuinely love what they do. It’s those actors and those industries that respect its employees (by having a clean work environment and allowing contraceptives, for starters) that I want to talk about – not the ones in which abuse happens on set and employees are treated like chattel. Those exist, but that’s not the kind in the spotlight here.

With that in mind, I have to say that I’m surprised and yet not surprised to see so many people supporting Stoya. I’m surprised because, as we all know, the world is not always fair to rape victims. But I’m not surprised to see other people in the adult film industry supporting her because I really think such people might have a better understanding of consent than the average person does.

Think about it. As a job that requires all kinds of sex with strangers, porn demands consent. It requires a trust that all parties can be professional and courteous to one another in order to, well, “perform well,” just as all employees should in all other professions. But the nature of the job is so personal. Bodies, no matter your political or religious beliefs, are personal by definition.

Fundamentalists of the Christian Right, on the other hand, claim to revere sex as holy, which I agree with. Yet the notion of consent is almost entirely absent from their sexual rhetoric. We’ve heard of the appalling accusations against notable figures such as Josh Duggar, Bill Gothard, and Mark Driscoll. But the internet is full of people defending what they did because “none of us are perfect” and “everyone falls short of the glory of God.” For a religious practice that is supposed to revere bodies as temples, that’s a mighty callous response when someone desecrates that temple, don’t you think?

We also have theologians like John Piper claiming that marital rape and domestic violence don’t exist, as it is the wife’s responsibility to submit to her husband no matter what. Frankly, it is ironic that the porn industry places more emphasis on defending women than the church has! Christians, who (almost) universally condemn abuse and mistreatment, should be outraged by this.

I never thought I’d say that the porn industry could have anything positive to teach people, but in this case, it absolutely does. In this case, the porn industry (or at least the one Stoya works for) has a more comprehensive understanding of how consent is supposed to work, and frankly, churches ought to take note.

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14 thoughts on “#SolidarityWithStoya: What the church can learn from porn about consent

  1. jaklumen says:

    Hi. I’m here by way of Apryl Pooley, and a tweet.

    I happen to be a religious person- more specifically, a church-going one. But I don’t hold out much hope for change. In full disclosure: I’m LDS (Mormon). I remember an ex-gf telling me she left the faith, partly because abuse wasn’t taken seriously enough. I wasn’t sure what to think of it then, but now– well, leadership is still very much talking about the dangers of pornography, and not about the evils of lack of consent. Don’t get me wrong; there have been occasional scathing condemnations of those that would steal virtue and chastity, but nothing really comprehensive, or systematic. There’s talk about “honest discussions about sex” but ZERO that I can recall on consent, or respect. At best, you’ve got to dig through books authored by rank and file members to find anything close, in my experience.

    No, I don’t see anything in my particular faith, much less Protestant Christianity on the whole that would even dare to observe examples from the porn industry. There’s a very small minority that’s aiming to present porn from a Christian perspective– I don’t have links handy at the moment– but I rather doubt they are taking many cues from the industry at large. I’m not aware of the “born again” “ex-porn star” set doing this, either.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Am I Thirty? says:

    I am not a religious person at all. I have a lot of problems with religion. But whenever I read one of your posts, I always think, “I wish more religious people thought like you.” I love that your able to point out the hypocrisy in some of the beliefs of religious leaders while still staying true to your faith. Great article.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Captain Cassidy says:

    Well said. A huge swathe of Christianity has a lot of trouble with boundaries and the whole idea of consent – it relates way too closely to self-ownership and bodily rights, especially for women (whose bodies have, traditionally, been viewed as property to be owned by men, and to be transferred and utilized as those men see fit–and a lot of Christian men still think that way). A church that understands consent is a church that is probably doing a lot of other things right.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Beroli says:

    We also have theologians like John Piper claiming that marital rape and domestic violence don’t exist, as it is the wife’s responsibility to submit to her husband no matter what. Frankly, it is ironic that the porn industry places more emphasis on speaking up when someone is uncomfortable! Christians, who (almost) universally condemn extramarital sex, should be outraged by this.

    I don’t follow. Marital rape is many things, but “extramarital” is one thing it unambiguously is not.

    Like

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