Porn objectifies everyone, but it’s more abusive when it’s trans

A friend recently told me he he didn’t see a problem with porn using transphobic terms. He compared it to other kinds of porn being sexist against women for the purposes of men’s power fantasies. But is it "just porn"?

His argument: They’re not going to carry those same beliefs into the real world just because they wanted to indulge in their sexuality for a little bit. 

I get that argument, even if it deals with a gross topic of an entirely different beast, and even if it is absolutely true of some viewers of said material. 

The problem is the nature of the representation itself, and therefore, those who are drawn to it. There’s a vast difference in how cis women are portrayed in not only porn, but the rest of the media as a whole, as opposed to the treatment of trans women.

Someone who’s somehow never met a cis woman in their life is still going to see plenty of other cis women portrayed in media that is not porn. It’s far from perfect, but it’s at least obvious that they’re being portrayed as human — as opposed to, let’s say, semi-sentient objects that have been biologically engineered solely to be a sexual fantasy for men.

On the other side of media representation, we have trans women. 

Someone who’s never met a trans woman is also not likely to have seen a trans woman in other media — except if they watch a lot of porn.That’s a huge problem.

Until just recently, most people saw trans women as sex objects or the occasional bad joke, and it’s only gotten a little better. As a transgender woman myself, it’s glaringly obvious that our entire identity to many, many people can be based on and traced back to porn alone.

This is something I’ve rarely if ever heard brought up in mainstream trans discussions, but if we’re going to make any progress in normalizing LGBTQIA people, it’s something that desperately needs to be not only looked at, but carefully considered.

The entire point of most porn featuring transgender people is to highlight and fetishize the fact that someone has the genitals of someone we don’t associate with the rest of their gender presentation. That is straight-up objectification beyond what other porn actors and models are subjected to.

Trans porn has always been lumped in with the “stranger,” less common, more “exotic” varieties of porn that are often relegated to those with either “adventurous” tastes or those who have become too jaded for “regular” porn. 

Despite advances in trans representation and trans awareness, this idea behind transgender objectification still persists, and it’s not likely to change anytime soon with the gross way the porn industry operates.

In fact, it’s doubtful that most porn sites will even change the name of their transgender porn away from one of many offensive slurs. You know the ones, and I’m not going to sink to the level of perpetuating it here.

These purveyors of nothing less than trans abuse are providing their audience with what they want and only what they understand, and that’s the problem. So many are left without any real-world experiences with trans folks, and without actually communicating and connecting with someone who’s different, people will, without a doubt, see trans folks as just “them” in a world of otherwise “us.”

Add onto this entire issue the problematic nature of porn itself, and it’s no wonder people obsess over the genitals of every trans person they come across.

Heather Maloney is a transgender writer, editor, and creative thinker from Atlanta with special interest in issues of gender and sexuality.

Photo by Robin Rayne Nelson/Zuma

This column originally ran in Q magazine. Read the full issue below, or click to find more Q Voices opinion columns.



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