Culture

Sexual Assault Survivors Now Have Their Own Porn Site

Talking masturbation, unrealistic sex, and trigger warnings with the founder of the "Clit List."

by Madison Griffiths
24 August 2016, 12:00am

Date rape, gang bangs, forced blow jobs—honestly, a lot of conventional porn kind of thrives by being most women's worst nightmare. And while some things may have shifted over the years, there's still one group that's pretty candidly disregarded by the porn industry: sexual abuse survivors. Sure it's hard to imagine a porn site being designed for people who've experienced sexual violence. But then there's The Clit List.

The website is just one part of nurse Pavan Amara's 2014 London-based project, "My Body Back," a broad initiative to support women who have experienced rape or sexual assault. It ranges from the practical, like offering cervical cancer screenings, to things like Cafe V— a quarterly session where women openly and candidly discuss how to love their bodies and sex again after experiencing violence.

Pavan, who also founded the UK's first sexual health clinic for victims of sexual violence, thinks people waste a lot of energy victimising rape survivors. "Society is overly dramatic about sexual assault in the wrong way, rather than the right way," she tells VICE. She remarks how interviews she's done about the Clit List often foregrounded the fact that she herself was raped as a teenager. The fact she's well and truly reclaimed her body, conquered her rapist's actions, and provided a safe-haven for other survivors, is often pushed aside.

Another assumption society seems to make is that women who've experienced sexual assault can't handle anything sexual ever again. But Pavan says that during Cafe V sessions a lot of woman would express that they wanted to explore mainstream pornography again but felt really isolated amidst all this unrealistic sex, designed solely to turn men on.

"Women just weren't being asked what they wanted," Pavan explains. "They were labelled only as victims who were a bit broken.

"[The Clit List] is about listening to what women want, and what women want is a resource that will help enable them to get in touch with themselves sexually."

The goal of the site is to help survivors of sexual assault in their recovery. Part of this, for many women, is being able to feel sexual pleasure again—to masturbate, to orgasm. As it turns out, porn can be helpful for that.

Content is submitted to the Clit List for review by the online community. Not only porn but also erotica, instructional videos, and anything that touches on aspects of sex and sexuality in all its fluidity. The idea is to give the site's users as much information as they can about what they're about to watch—not only what they should expect to see but also what they might feel.

Part of this is trigger warnings—a word, Pavan contends, that has just completely lost its meaning. "The actual reason for trigger warnings and the idea of "triggering" is very sensible and a real thing," she says.

Being triggered, seeing something that brings back the memory of their assault, is what the site is trying to help these women avoid. "You don't want to remember these experiences again; especially when you're trying to have an orgasm through masturbation," Pavan says. "They need resources to get around those triggers. The Clit List is, I like to think, something that is very practical and a form of common sense."

Clit List founder Pavan Amara. Image supplied

Pavan is not naive, she knows the word "triggered" has become a loaded term, particularly online. Interestingly though, she doesn't see the trolls commenting that they've been TRIGGERED! as the main problem. She says it's "been hijacked by very political correct people who argue on Twitter and just want to use it as a phrase of one-ups-manship."

I probe a little deeper, wondering what she means specifically. "Unfortunately, I find this with feminism sometimes—and I am a total feminist—but..." she says. "Some people are more interested in not doing stuff to make the world safer, but in sounding cleverer than another person. To sound more feminist, rather than actually be more feminist."

For her part, Pavan is working to build up the Clit List's archive, which she says isn't exactly an easy task amidst all the videos of brace-faced teens getting "destroyed" and MILFs being "pounded." She just wants to give these women back their agency, when it comes to one aspect of their sexuality. She wants survivors of sexual assault to finally be able to see themselves as powerful consumers of sex, rather than subordinate victims. And there are a lot of these women.

"So many women have been assaulted," Pavan says. "In the UK, it's one in five. Worldwide, it's one in three who've experienced some form of violence. That's a lot of women who should not be told to just 'neglect sex.'"

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