Porn Doesn’t Bring People Together, Moms Do

Porn Doesn’t Bring People Together, Moms Do

While I wouldn’t advocate embracing a daughter’s choice to make porn, I do advocate a mother embracing her daughter.
D.C. McAllister
By

Antagonistic relationships between mothers and daughters are common tales, but it’s not every day that you hear about them finding reconciliation through pornography. Yet that’s exactly what happened to two women, according to a recent article at Cosmopolitan, “How Porn Brought My Mom and I Together.”

A lot of women can relate to the first part of the article, where the author describes the “tense and antagonistic relationship” she had with her mother, even as the second part leaves many of us scratching our heads.

The author begins by describing her turbulent relationship with her mom and how they just couldn’t get along: “At the age of 16, I was sure that I would never speak to her again once I could move out of the house. We were too dissimilar: she, a methodical scientist and introvert; me, a free-spirited writer and extrovert. The tchotchkes [trinkets] around the house that gave her such joy made me want to scream, and the pop culture I adored seemed toxic and damaging to her feminist politics.”

It took time and distance for the author to realize that her mother “was not just a parent, but a person with life experiences of her own.” Often she thought her mom was just out to ruin her life, but now she realizes that her mother was trying to protect and guide her. Now they have a relationship that is free from those parental restraints, and they’ve finally become “friends.”

Good Goal, Troubling Method

This is the outcome most mothers and daughters want at the end of an oftentimes tumultuous journey. As daughters grow and develop, forming life experiences of their own, they begin to see their mothers not as an obstacle in their lives, but as a much-needed support. Mothers, on the other hand, learn to appreciate their daughters as adults—grown-ups who are responsible for their own decisions and individuals who should be loved and respected despite their differences.

Most women would be worried about their mothers finding out they’re a porn star because their moms would disapprove on moral grounds.

What’s odd about this particular story, however, is that this reconciliation came through the daughter’s involvement in the porn industry. She says she didn’t want her mom to know about it at first because her mother is “a second-wave feminist.” I thought this was odd because it’s more likely most women would be worried about their mothers finding out they’re a porn star because their moms would disapprove on moral grounds.

Not this woman. Feminism was the basis of her mother’s morality. The less sex-positive philosophy of the second-wave feminists with their focus on reproductive rights and workplace inequality defined her mom, and the author believed her porn exploits would violate those values.

However, she soon discovered that her mom accommodated her porn work more than she expected. After her mother found out what she was doing, they began to talk more, “sharing feminist writings on sex work (pro, con, and somewhere in the middle), talking about self-care, and discussing the ins and outs of ethical porn.”

Our Relationship Matters More than Your Bad Choices

I don’t know what “ethical porn” is exactly. It seems like an oxymoron to me, but her mother embraced it, refraining from yelling or telling her daughter what she should or shouldn’t be doing: “She listened. She listened when I had great days and felt like porn was the most empowering thing I could do for myself, how I was claiming sexuality in a way that felt safe and fun for me.”

Parents of grown children often choose to overlook behaviors they disagree with simply so they can develop a good relationship with their children.

Her mother never told her to quit and never accused her of having made a bad decision: “She never asked me how I could be a feminist and a sex worker. She made space for me and my experiences, and she gave me advice or sympathy when I asked. So I found myself reaching out to her more often, grateful for her analysis and her wit. Now, I consider her one of my closest friends.”

In commenting on this article, I’d like to give the mother the benefit of the doubt since we’re hearing about this only from the daughter’s perspective. The author admits her decision to have sex on screen wasn’t easy for her mother to “wrap her head around.” It would be understandable for her mother to struggle with this, but clearly in the end, her mom chose to build bridges with her daughter rather than allow porn to come between them and deepen their animosity.

One good thing we can take away from this article is the reality that parents of grown children often choose to overlook behaviors they disagree with simply so they can develop a good relationship with their children. This is especially true if nothing the parents say is really going to change their child’s behavior. Sometimes parents choose to heal the relationship as best they can rather than focus on trying to “fix” them or make them comply with their moral code.

I’m Here for You Even If You Hurt Us

This might very well be part of what was going on here, and when dealing with adult children it’s not such a bad thing. Throughout my life, I’ve witnessed many instances of parents of adult children deeply opposing what their child is doing or the choices they’ve made, but they choose to remain engaged in their child’s life no matter what. They make that choice even if what their child is doing is reprehensible to them. Some parents are more tolerant and supportive than others, but most try to build bridges where they can.

Their children’s choices could lead them down a dark path, and the parents want to be there for them with open arms.

I’ve also known parents who cut off all contact with adult children who are living a life they think is immoral. I’ve seen this with adult gay children, children who have affairs, children who work in the gambling industry, etc. I’ve seen this happen in situations that aren’t so black and white—for example, a daughter marrying a man the parents don’t like or a child worshipping at a church the parents don’t think is credible.

In these situations, parents refuse to have anything to do with their children until they repent and reform. They build no bridges, and the relationship is destroyed until the child turns his life around (if that happens), and he one day decides to reach out to his estranged parents.

Everyone has to make his or her own decisions on how to parent according to his or her own conscience, but I just want to point out that many parents, who deeply love their children, will put up with a lot to keep their children in their lives. They also wisely know that things can change. Their children’s choices could lead them down a dark path, and the parents want to be there for them with open arms, to help them pick up the pieces when everything falls apart.

They also believe they can have more of a leavening effect in their children’s lives if they remain involved, being tolerant of their lifestyle choices to one degree or another, rather than rejecting them out of hand.

A Major Question: Is Porn Empowering?

Some of this might very well be going on in this situation in Cosmopolitan, but I do find it troubling that the standard of right and wrong, the measure of acceptance, centers so much on feminism and its focus on female power. The author is concerned that her mother won’t approve, not because it’s morally bad, but because it isn’t empowering to her as a woman based on her feminist sensibilities. Indeed, many feminists do think porn debases women rather than empowers them.

Porn reduces human beings to material entities and makes sex about power rather than love.

Sex-positive feminists like Camille Paglia would say that porn is very empowering as women use their bodies for their own personal gain and out of their own self-interest. Others, of course, (and I’m one of them) disagree. I believe porn degrades, rather than elevates both men and women, as it reduces human beings to material entities and makes sex about power rather than love, a point I make in a post I wrote called “We Can Either Have Sex Like Animals or Humans.”

In this case, however, because the mother seems to look to feminism as her moral standard, female empowerment is key. That’s what she wants for her daughter—to be empowered. Once her daughter convinced her that porn is actually empowering, they could come together in full acceptance of one another.

Again, that’s how the author tells her story. I don’t know if the mother is convinced that porn is really good for her daughter and that it empowers women, but that’s the conclusion the author comes to: Porn empowers, therefore, porn is good for women.

This Isn’t the End of the Story

I believe the contrary. As I said, I don’t think pornography empowers women at all. It’s an industry fraught with abuse and exploitation. It is degrading and harmful to all people involved, including those who watch it. Human beings are meant to be so much more than creatures driven by our animal appetites. Our sexuality is inextricably bound to our spirituality, to our humanity, to our inner morality—a core principle based on love, which is part of who we are as beings made in the image of our Creator.

Human beings are meant to be so much more than creatures driven by our animal appetites.

I hope this young woman will eventually leave this life of porn and find something that is truly empowering and edifying to her as a woman and an individual. In the meantime, I’m glad her mother is in her life. While I wouldn’t advocate embracing the daughter’s choice to do porn, I do advocate a mother embracing her daughter.

At the core of this article, I think that’s what is happening here, and in the midst of the muck—from the feminist ideology so front and center, to the darkness of the porn industry—it’s the love between a mother and daughter that matters most. Through that love, maybe both will find healing and a Higher Love that is truly empowering and eternal.

Denise C. McAllister is a journalist based in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a contributor to The Federalist. Follow her on Twitter @McAllisterDen.

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