Porn Joins Pimp

By Maeve Maddox

A reader has called my attention to a new use of the word porn:

I would like to know, what do you think of the recent use of the word “porn” to mean anything pleasurable to view (i.e. “Earth Porn” or “Word Porn”)? I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on this.

A Web search showed me that the word porn is indeed being used as if it were an innocuous synonym for beauty (“Earth Porn”) or wisdom (“Word Porn”).

Here are some of the examples I found:

A collection of beautiful landscape photography and animals from all around the globe.— Tag line for a site called “earthporn.”

EarthPorn Volume 1 is an immersive audible and visual experience that explores that landscapes of British Columbia, Canada.

Beautiful EarthPorn Will Make You Feel Very, VERY Small—Headline, Huffington Post.

EarthPorn: Mother Nature in all of her succulent [sic] beauty—Reddit.

My search also showed me a blog devoted to “inspirational #wordporn quotes.” The quotations are of the kind found at sites like Brainy Quote; nothing pornographic.

I found a thread on Yelp called “word porn.” It’s a forum for comments about words that are often used incorrectly, such pairs as affect/effect.

Most repellent of all, I discovered a site called “FoodPornDaily” that publishes colorful photos of plates of prepared food.

Porn is a clipping of the noun pornography, a combination of Greek porne, “prostitute,” and the element graphia, “depiction, drawing.”

pornography noun: the explicit description or exhibition of sexual subjects or activity in literature, painting, films, etc., in a manner intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic feelings; printed or visual material containing this.

It’s a paradox to me that a culture that calls for the abolition of everyday words like blind, fat, and crippled for fear of offending someone who is blind, fat, or crippled feels no compunction whatever in turning words associated with the sexual exploitation and degradation of men, women and children into everyday words.

What do I think of the recent use of the word “porn” to mean “anything pleasurable to view”?

I think it’s an abuse of meaning and the reflection of a callous culture.

Related post: When Did Pimp Become A Positive Term?

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11 Responses to “Porn Joins Pimp”

  • Precise Edit

    A book I read 10+ years ago described “news porn,” referring to highly compelling, hard-to-stop-watching streaming news stories. Different content than what we normally label porn, but same addicting qualities. I liked that term and still use it.

  • Autidiva

    I agree 100%. When the author of “Dummies For blah blah blah” reached the $1 million dollar mark in sales revenue generation, I knew the World was in serious trouble.

    The authors proved that one could be persuaded of basically, anything, given the right word-sentence-paraphraph-report usage; strung along in advertising, marketing and brandind style. That indeed the society at large could no longer Think, for itself; logically, pratically, sanely, emotionally, authentically, compassionately, Lovingly.

    Society at large has proven itself to be really, rather Dumb, because it has lost it capacity to Remember all it has fought for Childrens and Women’s Rights, yesterday, because they are co-signing the retardation of language usage, today.

    Thus, a legacy of ignorance, confusion, and profound disrespect for the one thing which truly and authentically provides proof of Intellect: Word Usage and the plain and simple fact that it has power, serious power, when strung together to form the Written and eventual, Thought.

    I am so glad, even at 52, I am still in college, because at least I will have a fair shot at Learning Better, in the 21st Century, because I definitely Ain’t No Dummie! (and the books do not even use the tense of ‘dumb’, correctly) Dummy-Author!

  • Erik Ketcherside

    Brava, Maeve. I agree. The difference between the lighthearted use of “porn” for food, nature photos, words, etc. and what Precise Edit notes above is the exploitative, damaging nature of actual pornography. News can be that as much as sexual pornography. The meaning of “porn” — all its meanings and baggage — should not be softened by innocuous repurposing.

  • Stephanie

    I agree. It’s troubling. You see this normalization of sexual words all over – “nerdgasm” for instance.

    The meaning of the word will soon be lost entirely, and it will go the way of the word “gentleman,” which used to indicate specific social status, then someone of good manners or breeding; now it’s just a way to say “male.” This is all stuff Orwell predicted with Newspeak and C. S. Lewis talked about in his essay “The Death of Words.” We keep using extreme words to describe everyday things — we end up sucking the life out of those words. They all just become synonyms for “good” or “bad.”

  • Cygnifier

    Yes. Thanks, Maeve, for calling this to greater attention. I find this trend in using the word “porn” quite disturbing — it softens the notion of something that is abusive and repellent by making it seem desirable, making it almost fun. And, all too often, if this use of the word is challenged, the response is “What’s the matter with you? You take things too seriously.” Words have power and this is not a usage we ought to be empowering.

  • Bill

    To me, using “porn” in this way is best done when referring to things you look at a lot but don’t feel good about looking at in the same way no one feels good about looking at pornography. You’re never going to keep the word in its lightest sense off the internet, given the huge amount of actual pornography there is on it, but it should be avoided in everyday speech and formal writing.

  • Nancy Frye

    I loathe the use of “porn” as a label for anything extreme or amazing or compelling. This kind of dilution of the language is right up there with people who pepper their speech, and often writing, with judicious use of the “F-word” in order to sound edgy and hip. Hate it.

  • thebluebird11

    Agree with Maeve and all above except Precise Edit. I had not seen or heard this word used in the contexts noted, and I would not have understood what was meant had I seen it misused, or “repurposed,” this way. I’m not naive nor am I a prude, and I have nothing against porn per se, but it has a specific meaning (“I can’t define porn but I know it when I see it!” LOL) and should be confined to it. We have plenty of words in the English language and there is no need (IMHO) to use this word for anything else, certainly nothing so mundane as something “attractive” to look at. In addition, the word “porn” is not directly related to addiction just as the word “food” is not directly related to addiction. It’s repulsive to see the word “porn” attached to these other words and makes me wonder about the people who write stuff like that. Maybe just another example of how “sex sells” and people will do anything to get attention.

  • Agua Caliente

    Funny, I just shrug off porn, but pimp gives me an uneasy feeling. Worse still are “addict” and “addiction” when used in the pop-culturish way. That’s colloquial language, though, where all you really can do is to avoid the usages you don’t like. Finger-wagging has little effect.

  • thebluebird11

    @Agua Caliente: Thankfully neither my work nor my hobbies expose me to these kinds of things, and I only hear about them here. If I were an editor, however, and someone submitted this kind of thing to me, I would not be wagging my finger; I would be using it to hit the “delete” key. Often.

  • Agua Caliente

    Possible worst case: “I just pimped my ride and now I’m going to check out some car porn on the web. I’m addicted to that stuff.”
    Thick skin is a must these days.

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