ByRachel Gambling, writer at Creators.co
Is there life on Mars?
Rachel Gambling

There's a lot of sex in #BlackMirror, which probably shouldn't be that surprising considering that as a society, we seem to be obsessed with the act of mushing things together. But, it's also because technology and sex are very closely linked. Thanks to modern creations like the internet, we can now watch two (or more) people we don't know get it on in the comfort of our own homes. It's actually really weird when you think about it, which is probably why we don't really tend to think about it.

In true Black Mirror style, we're being forced to consider something we'd prefer to ignore. All throughout this series, there's some sort of reference to porn, whether it be the blatantly obvious one in "Fifteen Million Merits" or the mentally scarring one in "Shut Up and Dance." Without seeming condescending or overly preachy, it highlights the problems with porn, giving us something to reflect upon next time we open up the spank bank — which we probably won't do, but should at least try.

Bored?

Then open up an incognito window and do something fun. In the land of "Fifteen Million Merits," our good friend Bing (Daniel Kaluuya) does just that in his lonely, single-bedded room, with not much to do but watch daytime TV shows and porn. Either that, or he goes to ride a bicycle for hours on end, earning more currency (known as "merits") to spend on possessions for his virtual avatar or skipping advertisements. The universe itself seems a little far-fetched on the surface, but it's the details — like the porn — that bring it back to Earth.

The porn that everyone's exposed to through the overt advertisements that are almost obligatory for all to watch is the stuff we see in our world's mainstream porn industry — marketed towards heterosexual men — which (for some reason) means it needs to be degrading towards women. In the end of the day, though, it's a fantasy they're creating and obviously not representing real life, so we don't really need to worry about it. Right?

If we educated people enough on the underlying issues within porn, then sure, maybe. That would mean everyone's aware that porn isn't really the perfect "beginner's guide to having sex," and wouldn't take tips from the actors on film and try to recreate potentially risky stuff in real life. Unfortunately, this isn't the case, and people end up having a pretty warped view of what sex should be like before they've even tried it. Oh dear.

It's also easy to forget when you're in the middle of masturbating that the porn you're watching might not be ethically made. "Fifteen Million Merits" shows us how Bing's love interest, Abi (Jessica Brown Findlay), gets pressured into the porn industry after being deemed not a good enough singer to enter the next round of the talent show Hot Shot, but attractive enough to enter a career in having sex. She agrees to become an adult actress, but we can tell by her response that she's really uncomfortable with it, and only agrees because:

  • 1) The audience around her encouraging her to do it.
  • 2) The prospect of entering a much more luxurious life that doesn't involve riding a bicycle for hours on end to receive invisible currency.

It's a pretty messed up situation, but it shoves some of the problems with pornography right in your face. While it might not lead you to never watching porn ever again, it leaves you feeling a little shaken, particularly after seeing Bing's extreme reaction to Abi's new life. It's not explicitly telling you to boycott all porn, it's just giving you a new, truly terrifying way of looking at it.

Futuristic Sex Dolls?

Ever wanted to watch Agent Carter and General Hux get it on? Well, now in the weirdest Marvel-Star Wars crossover fan fiction ever, you can. "Be Right Back" tells the story of how Martha (Hayley Atwell) struggles to cope with the recent death of her partner Ash (Domhnall Gleeson) after finding out she's pregnant with his child. A friend introduces her to a new software that allows her to communicate with a simulation of his personality created by his social media activity, which escalates to the point where she agrees to try out an experimental new version of the software that involves dumping a lump of synthetic flesh into a bath that gradually transforms into a clone of Ash.

The new Ash is basically a hyper-realistic robot that can live without doing normal human functions like crapping and eating (but can perform them if necessary). The most impressive function is probably the ability to turn his erection on and off whenever required, which Martha finds weird, but works with anyway, and ends up having some really great sex with Ash-bot. Martha's very impressed with her lifelike new sex toy, who apparently learned to have sex from all the porn that's available online (apparently it can be a good "beginner's guide to having sex," but only if you're a robot made of synthetic flesh).

It's a very convenient function (and clearly a very satisfying one too), but it's hard not to think about how odd it is. I mean, you're having sex with a dead person. But, not an actual dead body, because that's just bad. No. Anyway, it's basically like interactive, real-life porn, because what you're having sex with isn't an actual human, it's just a tool to give you a helping hand. This doesn't always mean it's a good thing, though — it could actually detach you from reality.

Due to the general peculiarity of the situation Martha's gotten herself in, she chooses not to tell her sister Naomi (whom she is particularly close with at the start of the episode) about clone Ash. They seem to drift apart from each other as Martha keeps this massive secret from Naomi, and becomes more absorbed in her life with clone Ash, which gradually begins to fall apart as her fond memories of real Ash become tainted by the weird replacement creature in her home. This, of course, isn't solely due to the fact that clone Ash is her own personal sex doll, but it is part of the problem.

Martha becomes too reliant on clone Ash to give herself something that she can't give herself: sex with her recently deceased partner, and the arousal she gets from that. So, this loosely links to the idea that perhaps if we become too reliant on porn to arouse us or give us an image of something we (for some reason) can't achieve, we could perhaps end up detaching ourselves from the reality of what real sex and real human relationships are like.

Again, it's not about condemning porn and driving us away from watching it, it's just giving us another thinking point on why we should be more cautious around it, and maybe encouraging us to get outside a bit more often.

The Even Darker Side Of Porn

Beyond garish videos and sex dolls, there's a side to the world of porn that we'd all prefer to ignore, most likely for the sake of our own sanity. In the murkiest depths of the internet, Kenny (Alex Lawther) finds indecent images of children to satisfy his needs in the episode "Shut Up and Dance." In "The National Anthem," Prime Minister Michael Callow (Rory Kinnear) is forced to have sex with a pig in order to pay off a ransom to free a kidnapped member of the Royal Family. Two people who you'd least suspect to be involved in this illegal content, and yet, due to two very different circumstances, they are.

The thing about Kenny is that for nearly the entire episode you feel sorry for him — he's a young man who works in a fast food restaurant who's had the misfortune of having his webcam hacked from a virus being downloaded onto his laptop. He ends up being threatened with the possibility of a video of him masturbating being leaked across the internet unless he follows every one of the hacker's sadistic demands. He's scared, vulnerable and alone. It's not until the very end that his paedophilia is revealed, sending you into state of shock for about an hour after the revelation. You just felt sympathy for a paedophile for nearly an hour without even knowing it. What if you're doing that in real life, too?

Kenny is so ordinary he's almost boring. So boring, in fact, you might even know someone in your own life with a lot in common with him. He doesn't "look" like a paedophile — some sort of greasy old man in a white van that hangs around outside schools. He still looks fresh from puberty who has a crush on the pretty woman in his workplace and has a box of tissues placed next to his laptop. How does he so easily find indecent pictures of underage children online?

Prime Minister Michael Callow doesn't want to be having sex with a pig, but because of the pressure being put on him by his country, he's forced to perform an act of bestiality live on national television. If he doesn't do this, Princess Susannah will be killed. So, after a couple of failed attempts to find another method of resolving the problem, people flock to their TV screens to watch Callow have intercourse with a pig. At first they're all amused by it, laughing at the Prime Minister's despondency, but after awhile everyone's left disgusted, as if they're not sure why this was funny in the first place.

How does this link to reality? Aside from last year's "PigGate" allegations against actual former British Prime Minister David Cameron and the nation's strange joviality over that incident, it kind of demonstrates people's desires to watch something they really shouldn't be watching. Humans are very curious creatures, and tend to want to see things that could actually be harmful to either themselves or other people (like weird, extreme porn). I mean, sure, curiosity's required to discover these harmful things in the first place in order to find a way to prevent them from being created and distributed, but when it gets to a point where we watch it for some sort of weird entertainment, maybe we should stop?

Porn will probably forever be a controversial topic, with many people who want it gone, and many people who are way, way too enthusiastic about it. The healthy thing to do is to not let it take over your life and detach you from reality, understand what it's issues are and educate other people on those problems. When things go beyond a healthy curiosity and venture into a place where reality becomes distorted or you find yourself engaging in harmful behaviors, it's time to reconsider your actions.

Have you ever considered that all Black Mirror episodes might exist within the same universe?

What do you think is the message behind all of the pornography in Black Mirror?