Why "wedding porn"?

Why is it called Wedding Porn?

Since this is a woman-friendly community, why do you call your wedding photography "porn"? My wedding pictures won't be pornographic.

I have no problems with porn, it's useful, especially women porn (for women, by women). I'm a sex-positive feminist. But why do we participate in "wedding pornography"?

-Brady

Great question! "Wedding Porn" is a term I appropriated from an old Salon.com article by Heather Havrilesky.

The phrase is meant as a playful take on the thrill of gawking at images from other people's weddings.

For me, this appropriation of the word "porn" has nothing to do with sex or even gender — it's about covetous voyeurism.

In this context, "porn" simply refers to images that incites desire.

Sure: when you're horny, you want sex porn. When you're hungry, you want food porn.

…And when you're planning a wedding, you want wedding porn.

I'm using the term as a play on "images that inspire desire," rather than "images of naked people engaged in sexual activities." I do recognize that "wedding porn" is definitely a contextual term, and that it might make some people uncomfortable.

I'm a big fan of reclaiming/appropriating words, and it doesn't always work for everyone. I used to refer to my readers as "offbeat bitches" and people REALLY didn't like that. So while "bitch" is a term of endearment for me, I had to recognize that it's just not for others.

That said, I think the contextual use of "porn" is being used pretty commonly online these days, so I'm sticking with it. Most importantly, thanks so much for taking the time to ask! It means a lot to me to have readers who are invested enough that they'll start a conversation with me when they have concerns about the site.

  1. I have to admit that I was a bit taken aback the first time I saw the term "wedding porn", but I agree with Ariel's use of it, specifically as it is "porn" not "pornography". those who drool over sex images have much in common with those who drool over wedding images, or even car images, kitchen makeover images or anything really that we can't stop staring at because it excites us. it is exciting and wonderful to see all of these different, beautiful, joyous weddings all in one place with new things happening all the time. yay for Ariel, and now Shrie, for posting the profiles so that we get the story of how it all came together too! keep that wedding porn coming!!

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  2. I love the term. I found it perfectly explained my obsession with looking at as many wedding pictures as I could, before, and now even after my wedding! Thanks for helping me get my porn fix daily!!!

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  3. the term resonates with me because (at first) i felt slightly guilty and simultaneously addicted to looking at wedding porn, clicking away from the screen when my fiance walked by. lol

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  4. My future husband called it wedding porn without even knowing that others called it that as well. In fact, anything I enjoy looking at in a DO WANT! way – yarn for knitting, wedding goodies, 1950s dresses – is called my porn. I'm really surprised that anyone would be put off by the term.

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  5. I think the phrase "food porn" has become pretty commonly known, so the first time I saw this blog and saw the words "wedding porn" I associated it more with the food porn type of meaning, not sexual porn.

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  6. ooh, is there such a thing as real porn for women by women? That is awesome.

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  7. I'm a bit of a hypocrite on this one. Usually I mangle the English language to my own nefarious ends, and am a great believer in localized contextualization of language, but I can't help but look at the word porn and remember that it comes from the greek word for prostitute, and I can't bring myself to make that association with the brides I photograph.

    I know that the meaning of the word has changed since the time of Plato, but for me, the word carries too much negative baggage.

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  8. Ariel's justification of the word 'porn' is watertight. I certainly use the word 'porn' with regard to my fascination of shoes, cupcakes et al. I believe it is commonly used in this context and following 'i4detail's comment, I believe you can use this phrase with conviction and without feminist reprise. Indeed, language evolves, for example the notorious stigmatisation of the 'c' word (I won't say it to be on the safe side!) This word is actually LESS offensive than the medical/physiological term 'vagina' as the definition of this literally means ' a swords sheath' ie. its only purpose is for the penetration of a mans weapon! Whereas the 'c' word is just an old colloquial term for exterior lady bits.
    We must always take into consideration the appropriate context of any language and judge from this accordingly.

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  9. As a women's studies major who is engaged, all I have to say is I LOVE the feminist theory and rhetoric used on your site, Ariel. I am consistently blown away by the woman-friendly and fabulously feministy rationale of weddings. You rock.

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  10. I love the term! I was aware of Food Porn before I came to this site. It definitely fits me. I love looking at wedding photos and my boyfriend thinks its funny, but useful!

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  11. Just because Gemma brought it up…regarding the "c" word–if you read Inga Muscio's amazing, wonderful, brilliant, life-altering book "Cunt: A Declaration of Independence", you will learn that the etymology of this word extends far beyond a "colloquial term for exterior lady bits". It was actually derived from ancient goddess worship surrounding the cult of the fertility/love goddess Kunti. Now if that doesn't call for some proud re-appropriation, I don't know what does! Waaaay better than "sheath for a sword", am I right?

    p.s. I'm fine with "wedding porn"!
    p.p.s. Ariel, sorry if it's not okay to say "cunt". You can edit it if you need to! :o)

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  12. Emily, it's all about context: Saying cunt in this context is 100% appropriate.

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  13. I am totally into the use of the term wedding porn and all the other variations on the phrase… I am partial to real estate porn because I am looking for a new apartment and NYC has a lot of real estate porn to salivate over.

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  14. The term "wedding porn" is a hilarious and wonderfully connotative term that describes the inexplicable desire for a woman (or a guy…) who, upon becoming engaged, begins to ravenously view everything wedding related.

    When I began planning my wedding, suddenly I just HAD to have every bridal magazine (whether or not it actually had any merit) and I couldn't pass by computer without doing a wedding search. The word "wedding" reached my ears and suddenly I was part of the conversation – "Tell me more!" "Really?" "Do you have any PHOTOS?". Overnight, a subject that had meant little to me became a guilty obsession.

    When I first saw the term "Wedding Porn" on this site, I about died laughing. That's exactly what it is! Knowing that others were engaging in the same wedding "voyeurism" and could delightfully poke fun at it made me feel a bit better about drooling over tiered cakes and birdcage veils.

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  15. I don't know why this had to even be addressed. People need to not be so uptight about stuff!!

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  16. p.s. I SO wouldn't mind being referred to as "my offbeat bitch," btw.

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  17. I did run into what I consider the only "down-side" to this phrase during our reception. I'd been telling our photographer beforehand that I wanted him to get all the "wedding porn" meaning all the details- flowers, centerpeices, all that jazz. Then, during the reception, I blurted out to him "Dont forget to get the PORN!" right in front of my new wifes grandmother. That was a bit embarrasing.

    So uh…use with care.

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  18. The only thing that bugs me about this comments thread is this:

    I don’t know why this had to even be addressed. People need to not be so uptight about stuff!!

    That's actually …well, significantly antifeminist. It smacks of, "You feminists need to stop making up things to get mad about." Just because you're not offended, that doesn't mean that someone else loses their right to be offended, and I believe that if someone was offended enough to e-mail about it, it's a safe guess that they found it troubling for the aforementioned reasons.
    The same thing happens with the words "lame" and "crazy" in the feminist blogosphere: using them to mean "stupid", "silly", or "ridiculous" is basically the same thing as implying that the worst thing one can be is to have a physical disability or mental illness.

    ::awaits a "you humorless feminist" beatdown::

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  19. Aargh: let's see if we can side-step the "humorless feminist" debate/beatdown. I agree with theelusiven that Brady's concerns with the phrase "wedding porn" are perfectly valid and not worth dismissing with a wave of "oh it's just a joke!" That's why I took the time to address the issue in this post.

    That said, I also bristle when readers start accusing each other of being "anti-feminist." It doesn't help the discussion, and if the conversation starts sliding into y'all attacking each other or invoking Godwin's Law, I'll be closing comments.

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  20. yay for reappropriation! i remember being totally confused when i first heard the term "commodity fetishism" in school for the same reason.

    and anyway, there's nothing unfeminist about porn…of any kind, lol.

    ps, teri b, that is hilarious.

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  21. I think it's funny! The term porn has been added onto lots of other things, not just weddings (and not just here on OBB). My FH was watching a documentary about sword making, and it referred to samurai movies as "sword porn," so I find it rather amusing. I thought it was a little odd at first, but it makes a ton of sense, IMO, with the way everyone starts trying to find images to inspire them or convey what they idealize for a wedding.

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  22. Everyone's going to get upset about something at some point in their lives an Ariel's response is open and amusing without being condescending or offensive.

    But to toss in my two cents, I think allot of these pictures are better then porn, in that there's so much variety and the emotions behind them are actually genuine!

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  23. I enjoy the term "wedding porn" in this context, and I'm also very glad the subject has been brought up, because in some ways it does make me uneasy. Some connotations of the word "porn" for me include objectification, voyeurism without concern for the enjoyment of the object of that voyeurism, exploitation, etc etc, you know the shpiel.

    And I'm really GLAD to get those connotations pushed at me in the context of weddings! So much of the images coming out of the wedding-industrial complex ARE exploitative, objectifying, and demeaning to women. I really, really like having a little niggle in the back of my mind when I look at someone's wedding: Am I objectifying someone else's spiritual moment? Are they performing for me?

    Maybe even especially in the Offbeat Tribe land. I'm getting to know my fellow tribe members, moving out of the realms of performance and objectification, but there's still an element of… well, let me put it this way, blog posts with "PORN" in the subject get more comments. Are we using our wedding porn to sell ourselves?

    I don't think we are. But I do think it's a good question to ask.

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  24. I didn't get the feeling that Brady (the original questioner) was offended necessarily, just concerned and curious, and I think Ariel's response was right on. That's part of why I have such a great affection for this site and the OBT, respectful disagreement and discussion are good for the soul (and the intellect!).

    Also, I happen to love all those shows on TV where they come in to someone's messy, cluttered house and make them pare down and re-decorate. I refer to them as my "organizing porn" and the first time I referred to them as such, my husband knew exactly what I was talking about!

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  25. Blimey Ariel! porn, c*nts and nazi's (godwins law)! You get more than your wedding worth 'ere!

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  26. Ive always felt that a word can only offend you if you choose to let it be offensive to you. I find it extremely liberating to let words be nothing but letters strung together to make sounds. Its our actions and attitudes that have meaning.

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  27. Just as an aside, we're not the only people to do this – I work with a bunch of horticulturalists and believe me, they throw the phrase "plant porn" about a lot! :)

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  28. Personally I love the term "wedding porn" I think its fun and original… and there's lots of lustful ogling over photos…so its very apropos. I call books that I really really like "Word Crack" – because for me – good books are really addictive!

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  29. I think it's a great term actually… it really does fit the action pretty well in my opinion. I love seeing people's reactions! I use it for a lot of things now. heh!

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  30. My favorite term I've gotten from this site is still "wedding detritus". Makes me smile every time.

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  31. M ex used to like to watch tornado porn on the Weather Channel, and I can watch real estate porn on HGTV for hours. (Plus, at this point, "house" has become porn for me.)

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  32. I think "wedding porn" is the perfect terminology: I'll spend hours looking through other people's wedding porn, drooling over pictures of centerpieces and unity candles and venues and, as I'm doing so, I find myself imagining myself in her position and I decide if that would fit us or not. And it tends to work me up into a wedding-talking frenzy, which isn't quite the thing he wants to talk about after a long day at work, but he does anyway. hehe See? Just like porn!

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  33. i'm just sad you stopped using the term "offbeat bitches"…. maybe people wouldn't mind if it was "offbeat biiaatches…" :)

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  34. I love "wedding porn." I have a hard time holding myself back from saying it when talking to others. "Oooo, check out that wedding porn!" LOL.

    I also think the "offbeat bitches" is funny. My friends and I call each other "bitches" all the time and we call our menagerie of pets "bitches and hos."

    But then again, not much offends or grosses me out anymore.

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  35. I like the term actually, reflects perfectly my lusting after photos of offbeat and nontraditional ceremony and rites. But correct me if I am wrong Ariel; didn't you once write in an article about the nuts and bolts of making a website like this a financial possibility that part of the reason you choose "Wedding Porn" was to increase the number of hits? That is a perfectly valid reason for use of the term as any.

    Gotta say I don't like "offbeat bitches" but I am an animal person and to me a bitch is a female dog and many men have used the word dog to denigrate women.

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  36. Cate re: SEO reasonings for the term. I actually wrote about that on my personal blog back when I launched Offbeat Bride:
    A more cynical way I used SEO was by naming my Wedding Photos section "Wedding Porn," knowing full well that having the word "porn" in the title would attract hits. Granted, probably not hits that were going to be sticky, but at least initially traffic is traffic. As it stands, I get close to 100 hits a day from searches for things like wedding porn, bride porn, and wedding dress porn. It's sort of cynical and gross, but I've spent enough time in my referral logs to know that people spend a lot of time looking for porn online. And I'm more than happy to milk some of that traffic.

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  37. In my case, I am not an engaged person – I just like looking at this stuff, the more offbeat the better! The thing is this: because I'm not planning a wedding currently, I feel that drooling over strangers' cool wedding shots and stories would be considered strange or even shameful to some people.

    When I found Offbeat Bride and saw the term "wedding porn" emblazoned near the header I knew I had come to the right place. I take the term to mean "hey, those pictures of orange dresses dresses and blue cakes and opera ceremonies and bicycle bridesmaids and coffin cookies…the ones you don't tell your boyfriend you look at when you're alone…they're right here. It's ok, I know how you feel and there's nothing wrong with it, so just look at 'em already!" In other words, I felt like someone understood, embraced and validated my harmless interest.

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  38. for teneisha
    yes, there is porn for women by women – look up Candida Royale – she directed some, now on DVD, and also had a group of women directors do a "short story" type of flick then put them all on one disc. her later works are, as I understand it, more of a movie-that-includes-porn.
    no doubt you can find it on the interwebs.

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  39. A few things (most are non-related to each other, and thus the reason for my comment being in list form:

    1. This was actually an excellent post/comments section. I love this site so much because of these feminist questions. So thanks Ariel.

    2. The book 'Cunt: A Declaration of Independence' by Inga Musico was indeed a wonderful, life changing book. It's always fun to find other fans out there. Especially on this site.

    3.I too use the word "bitch" as a term of endearment. But I like bad words.

    4."Plant porn" may be the funniest damn thing I've heard in a long time.

    Ok that's all!

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  40. It's interesting to think about word meanings and how they change according to a)context and b)audience/speaker.

    For me, "wedding porn" was immediately illustrative, appropriate, and completely inoffensive.

    When it comes to terms like "bitch" though, I find that my acceptance depends on who's speaking. I know women who use it as a term of endearment only for close friends, and it invokes a type of solidarity in the group. But when a guy tries to use it in the same way, it just doesn't work for me, regardless of how good a friend he may be. ::shrug:: Call me completely gender-biased in that respect, but for me, that's just the way it works.

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  41. Ariel, Thank you so much for addressing this! I got caught up in offline life this past week, so I hadn't even checked OBT to see if there was a response posted. I really appreciate your explanation, and also all of this fabulous discussion. I think it's important to have conversation on feminist issues, whether they surround word choices or how to celebrate commitments like marriage.

    Thanks again!

    (Now I'm off to go research the etymology of vulva).

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  42. Porn or pornography is for women as well as men. There is no validity to the assumed link between being feminist, sex-friendly or not, and claiming porn is inherently not woman-friendly. I reject the idea that porn needs to be for women, by women in order to be woman-friendly.

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  43. I'm all about saying "cunt" and various other fowl language, but "porn" just isn't for me. Like another person said, "it has too much negative baggage."

    Porn can have some very negative side effects that I think many people are not aware of yet or simply underestimate. Of course, it isn't all bad- many people watch/make porn and still lead completely healthy lives. But it does take a toll on some. I never had a problem with actual pornography until it seriously affected my current relationship; and outside of my relationship, I have no problem with porn except that I feel sympathy for the people that it affects the way that it affected my relationship.

    Not only is it negative in this way, but I know porn throughout the decades has played roles in the lifestyles of some of my family members. I don't mean they participated in making porn, but rather how looking at porn affected them and their actions. They are very unpleasant people, and because their overall horrible dispositions, I haven't had any contact with these people in about 15 years.

    Those are the reasons the word "porn" is not one that I like to look at. Just like other negative things I've experienced, I don't like to see those words spelled out, either (such as names of my exes, name of fiance's ex, "domestic violence," "self-mutilation," Hurricane Katrina).

    All of those words incite high anxiety in me. However, I am aware that many words have the same affect on numerous people, and I did not create this website so I'm not going to love every single thing about it. So, this is one of those things that I overlook while I give my attention to more positive aspects of the site.

    I have never looked at the wedding porn section, and I don't plan on it. If I could remove that section from my OBT homepage, I would so that I wouldn't have to see the word every time I'm on the site. I also don't look at this site with my fiance or have it open in his line of vision because the word "porn" is at the top of every page, and to someone with a porn addiction/hoarding problem, seeing the word "porn" on a website can be dangerous. So, like I said, I just try my best to overlook it.

    Also, I did not become a bride-to-be until the porn problem was properly dealt with, and since the porn problem has been addressed our relationship is as it should be.

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  44. I'm not sure where to leave this, and it's possible you already know, but on my ipad I can't view the wedding porn slide show :( is there any way to make it possible for me to view it on things other than a laptop or desktop computer?

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    • We don't have the resources to fix this (it's caused by Flickr using Flash, and Apple refusing to serve Flash on their devices — neither of which we have control over), but there's an easy workaround: just click any of the photos in a wedding profile to go to Flickr. Once you're on Flickr, you can scroll through all the photos!

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