We Must Dismantle The False Dichotomy Between Porn And Erotica

Tina Horn
The Establishment
Published in
10 min readMar 21, 2016

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flickr/Nannydaddy

When we apply matters of morality to matters of taste, the most marginalized people get thrown under the bus.

II t’s never been easy talking to my mom about my career in porn, so I’m always on the hunt for ways to help her relate to my ideas about, and experience in, sex work.

Several years ago, my friend and colleague Violet Blue was a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show to talk about porn. Like many retired boomers, my mom gets a lot of her ideological guidance from daytime talk shows, so I called her in advance to make sure she watched.

The next day, I got a call back from her — and discovered my plan had totally backfired.

“Well your friend was very smart,” she said. “And I learned something about your work from Oprah!”

“Oh yeah?” I asked nervously.

“Well,” she said with newfound authority. “Oprah explained that there’s a difference between porn, which is the bad stuff, and erotica, which is good for women!”

Oprah and my mom are hardly the first to make this distinction between “bad porn” and “good erotica”; in fact, one of the most vocal proponents of this damaging dichotomy is feminist icon Gloria Steinem. And every time I hear her or someone else trot out this tired trope, I recoil — because it is indicative of our culture’s persistent stigmatization of sex work, classist attitudes about sexual morality, and suppression of healthy sexual expression.

It’s a dichotomy that demands to be not only challenged, but dismantled.

On the November 30, 2015 episode of the WTF podcast, Marc Maron’s guest was Steinem, who, by the end of their conversation, managed to trumpet a number of played-out, harmful stereotypes about porn and the state of its performers.

At the end of the interview, Maron asks Steinem about “the pornographication of the world through the Internet. Do you think that’s destructive to women, to intimacy, to . . .”

Steinem interjects:

“Yeah, it is destructive. I mean, I think that we have successfully said that rape is not sex, it’s violence. But what we have…

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Tina Horn
The Establishment

Host & producer of the kinky slut podcast “Why Are People Into That?!” Support indie pervert media: Patreon.com/TinaHorn . I can’t get enough of myself