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Friday, September 06, 2013

How Pornography is Humanising

Thea Pilarczyk's answer to Jobs: What's something that is common knowledge at your work place, but would be mind blowing to the rest of us? - Quora

"The first job I got out of college...the only job I could get...was working for a website that streamed adult videos on demand...

My job was as a "Describer"...I would watch the videos all day long, take screenshots, and then try to write the most enticing copy that I could (which often all ended up sounding the same, and used far too many exclamation points). I got pretty good at it...I used to be able to get through about 20 movies a day...

I had never seen a company so serious about avoiding sexual harassment charges...

Most smart employers (in the tech, entertainment, or advertising industries) actually value someone with adult industry experience. Adult distribution companies are far and beyond the most innovative; pioneering new advancements in media formats, payment models, and website features.

It's the adult industry that always determines the winners in the format wars. VHS vs. Betamax, Blu-Ray vs. HDDVD, and even the success of the DVD are all thanks to porn.

The company I worked for pioneered video on demand online, and created a successful digital rights management (DRM) system to avoid piracy before companies like Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, and Amazon ever even tried it. They also pioneered micro-payments before any Facebook or iOS games did.

Adult companies are flush with cash, so they can afford to take risks and try new things. So if you can get past the content, there is a ton of amazing stuff you can learn from companies like that. At least, that's what I tried to focus on during my time there, and how I spun it in future job interviews. It worked too, I don't regret my experience...

Johan Sundström: After changing jobs, did you ever do anything to resensitize and humanize your relation with sexuality (or however you would categorize the impacted part of your perceptions about things) — human awareness institute workshops, spiritual retreats or similar, and if so, what felt the most valuable to you?

... I did feel rather desensitized by it, as I said. But I wasn't dehumanized; rather, it was the opposite. I saw more humanity watching those films non-stop for eight hours a day, five days a week than I have ever seen in such a condensed timeframe since. Even some bold documentaries I've watched haven't held the same amount of raw humanity that I saw in most of those movies...

[I got to] rediscover sexuality in my own way. One good thing those films taught me is that sexuality and desire come in many forms, and that each is valuable, no matter how odd - or even gross - it may seem to me. It also taught me that there should be no shame in what you find attractive...rather, that you should celebrate it.

That sort of leads into my point about the humanity in porn...if ever there was a great equalizer, perhaps it is human sexuality. Aside from pure and unstaged violence (which I've had the fortune not to view), I can't think of anything that is more raw and basely human than people engaging in consensual, sexual acts.

This may sound ironic given the stereotype that most people think of: women with perfect hair, plastic surgery, and more makeup than skin, who were obviously hired for abilities other than acting. And of course there's the men with perfect muscles, no body hair, and faces that are cropped out of the frame so that they can be anyone...a blank canvas on which to project oneself. There doesn't seem to be much raw truth in that.

The thing is, these types of films are popular and well-known, but they make up only about 10% of the overall content at a site like the one I worked for. It may even be closer to 5%. Remember I said that we had to watch it all - amateur, alternative, and films that were "off the beaten track," so to speak. Those glossy hetero-normative films are the most well-known because they are the idea of what is normal and acceptable in this country, as far as sexuality goes. ("If you're going to do something as taboo as watch people having sex, then it should be Caucasian hetero sex between thin, perfect-looking young people with all of their limbs.") But just like most culturally acceptable things in this country, it happens to be in the minority.

I saw things that opened my eyes to parts of human nature I never even thought about. I watched films where there was no nudity, no intercourse, nothing but fully clothed women in a field, acting like waitresses for one another and having tennis matches...and yet it was strangely sensual.

I saw people of all shapes, sizes, ages (18+), races, sexual orientations, self-identities, and defects. I guarantee you that there is no other entertainment genre on Earth that is as inclusive as adult films. There is a role for anyone.

Once I saw a girl with whom I graduated high school in a starring role, which made me think about my friends, my neighbors, and my community very differently.

I began to understand other parts of the world by seeing what kind of films they produced...both what was popular and acceptable there, and what was banned but produced there anyway with great enthusiasm. I understood how Brazil views transsexuals before I ever learned that they speak Portuguese (both of which I learned at this job, by the way). I won't mention what I learned about Japan.

I learned that relationships of a different kind than my own aren't to be looked down upon. As an example, I was fairly naive about homosexuality. What I did know, based on the poorly informed opinions of my former classmates in middle and high school, was that homosexuals were deviants and perverts (as I said, stupid and naive). So naturally, I had some anxiety about watching such films, expecting them to be harsh and disturbing. But what I saw completely blew my mind: compared to the hetero films I saw, where women were routinely used as objects, the partners in gay films were far and away more loving, caring, and considerate of one another - as if they really cared. These films seemed like lovemaking, rather than carnal needs being met. The difference was striking, and completely changed my view of homosexual relationships.

I saw films that...well, I won't describe them here because this is a PG site. I've gotten too close to the line already...hopefully I haven't crossed it. (That happens sometimes after having gone through this experience - I get to talking about it, and I forget that not everyone is as comfortable with it as I've become.) But suffice it to say that I learned pornography is not always about sex - more often it's about pleasure, and the definition of pleasure covers a wide range indeed.

I'm rambling now, and have more than answered your question. But it brings me to some conclusions I wish to share. These are the worldly things that I learned while watching porn for eight hours a day, five days a week, for a year:

  • To be tolerant of others. When you're forced to view acts that you're taught are deplorable, you begin to see the humanity in them. You begin to see the humans behind them. You learn to accept that the points of view which differ from your own are valid, even though you may still disagree with them.
  • That everyone deserves a chance. It doesn't matter how old, fat, scarred, or inexperienced they are...it doesn't matter where they're from, what race they are, or what they were or were not born with. Anyone can be very talented if you just give them a chance to show it.
  • That the people dominating a situation aren't necessarily the ones in control. Often the people who try to look like they're in charge are actually the ones with the least amount of influence.
  • That it's possible to be feminine and womanly without sacrificing any power.

These are the lessons I learned which, I would like to think, have made me a better human. So I can't rightly say that I have ever wanted to "recover" from this experience, and go back to being who I was beforehand. Who I am now is too valuable."
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