Wet: Why my writing partner and I decided to write a play about women’s experience with porn

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The idea came to me via my lovely co-writing partner of the project, who told me a story about a drinking game she was playing at a festival with a group of friends where they each had to go around and admit a secret to the group. The secrets many people told were relatively tame and didn’t produce much of an outcry, people stealing minor items, or cheating in a past relationship, the secret that received the biggest response came from a woman who admitted that she watched internet porn every single day.

Although my friend was shocked, she said the men of the group were floored that a woman would do this. I don’t think they were disrespectful or judging, but they always thought of porn as a gross thing that boys do, and not something that women, with all their lovely lady ways would ever consider.

It kind of got us thinking; do women watch porn? Do they enjoy porn? And finally why not write a play about women and porn? A lot of discussions we had heard regarding women and the porn industry, documentaries such as Hot Girls Wanted, focused on the treatment of female performers, which is usually reported to be bad. But what about the female viewers of pornography, which exist, in a smaller percentage of men admittedly, but they are out there. If the porn industry is inherently, as a lot of people perpetrate, misogynistic, what about the female viewers of pornography, are they not feminists for watching it? Phoebe Waller-Bridge, creator of Fleabag, said in an interview this was something she worried about when watching pornography in her twenties. Tellingly a key moment in Fleabag (spoiler warning) is when her boyfriend finally dumps her for finding porn on her laptop.

Knowing we couldn’t answer these questions between ourselves. We decided to create an anonymous survey asking women ten question about themselves and porn, questions like: do they watch it? Do they enjoy it? I put it on a playwriting facebook group, asking the women of the group to answer the survey. We hoped the anonymity might make women open up a little more than they would in social settings.

I knew there might be some backlash, there were men in the group after all, and some men don’t really like being told that you don’t really care about their opinion on something, but it just wasn’t relevant to what we were doing. Within a day I had a response from a man saying that asking women about their thoughts on porn was redundant since all woman probably find it gross. A writer friend responded to him saying that assuming women will have a certain response to something is not good, another accused him of mansplaining, he responded saying most feminists don’t like porn, he then quoted famous feminists, as if to show us, a group of women, that we don’t know as much about feminism than he does. This is pretty laughable, it’s like me trying to explain racism to a black person, it doesn’t really matter how much I read about it, it doesn’t really compare to the personal experience. It was interesting however that he so badly wanted to confirm he knew what women thought about the issue, he didn’t really want to think that different women can have different thoughts. It’s always been easy to put women into one box, whilst men can be lots of different things, women can only be one thing, especially feminists, who must hate this and love that, otherwise are they really feminists?

Luckily, my anger to his assumption was justified since the response to the survey has been incredibly varied. To 5% having watched porn every day to 7% watching it once a week. Some people think porn should be banned to others thinking by assuming female porn performers are exploited, we are condescending and belittling their existence. I find myself in a rare position where I partially agree with all the opinions offered. I think in a lot of ways porn is a horrible industry and sets appalling expectations for what sex should be, however, is it possible to illegalize something so widely used, and by pushing it further underground, don’t we run the risk of not being able to regulate it and it becoming seedier than it was before?

I’m not an indecisive person. I have a lot of different opinions on a lot of different things and I’m not afraid to be decisive but by not having a firm opinion on the topic what I am hoping to do with this play is not push any particular standpoint. By giving out the survey, we are giving the chance for a lot of different type of women to have an opinion on the topic and to show these responses in our play.

We hope that many women will continue to share their thoughts on pornography with us despite the survey being now closed (it costs money to keep it open!). Please tweet at us @screwtheatre if you would like to share your thoughts or receive a copy of the survey! You can also connect with us on instagram @screwproductions

 

 

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