While addressing the somewhat tired accusation that porn demeans women, Dr. Marty Klein writes some smart paragraphs on the role of power in sexual imagination, with specific reference to spanking games:
When some people criticize that “porn demeans women” I wonder if they’re objecting to men’s and women’s sexual imaginations, or men’s and women’s sexual behavior, or to some hypothesized interaction between the two.
A small amount of porn depicts male characters committing violent acts against female characters who seem to be suffering. Watching this appears to be erotic for some men (and more than a few women). Some people don’t like this fact—a fact that shouldn’t be blamed on porn. Do these depictions “demean women?” No. They are fictional portrayals that many people find distasteful, which is a quite different thing. They show situations, emotions, behaviors—and yes, sometimes cruelty—drawn from the human sexual imagination.
This material represents a very small amount of pornography, precisely because most consumers do not find such things erotically engaging—which is the whole point of watching porn.
On the other hand, some amount of porn depicts characters engaged in erotic power play: teasing, spanking, constraining, controlling, pretend coercion. Men and women have found stories, music, or pictures of such things exciting throughout history. And many lovers do these or related activities in real life. In the world of human sexuality, power is a primary currency, so our sexual imagination is rich with it.
To say that porn demeans women is to deny the reality of some women’s passion, lust, and desire. It’s to say that women never enjoy what men enjoy. It’s to say that women don’t enjoy playing games with their sexuality, including power games.