Enlarge Photo credit: Tim Birkbeck

On the Hot Topic of Pornogrind…


Serena Cherry is the guitarist of British metal/post-hardcore band Svalbard. Follow Serena on Twitter and Svalbard on Facebook.

It’s Christmas. Your uncle, who owns a couple of Black Sabbath albums, hears that you now play in a metal band. His eyes light up.

“Wow, cool! What type of metal do you play?” He asks.


Porno. Grind. How have these two words combined into a submetal genre? 

Porn is something that sexually stimulates. The word porno has connotations of, well… getting off. It’s an exciting word. 

Yet all the imagery and themes in pornogrind are centered around brutally raping women and killing them. Is the intention to imply that the abuse of women is somehow… stimulating?

So, first, I must ask: where exactly does the porno prefix come from? I’ve yet to watch porn that depicts “6 Ways of Female Butchery” and culminates in a gory, bloodbath massacre of women. And I’ve yet to hear a pornogrind band sing about an erotic lesbian three-way in which every girl cums and no one is physically harmed.

The word porno is wildly unrelated to the themes of pornogrind. But I guess “misogyny grind doesn’t have the same ring to it.

So. Pornogrind. Even the mere name of the genre has issues. Let’s move onto the content.

This is a subgenre of metal dedicated to depicting women in brutal, violent, helpless sexual positions. The song titles (“Fistfucking Her Decomposed Cadaver,” for example), lyrics and artwork paint women as worthless objects to be sexually abused and disposed of in the most grotesque ways possible. And when pornogrind bands get (rightly) questioned on their offensive subject matter, they reel out the same old tropey excuses.

Lame excuse number one: “It doesn’t mean anything.” 

Right. Okay. There is a level of deliberation involved in creating music. It takes time to write lyrics, time to write an album, and it certainly takes time to draw immensely detailed horrific artwork of women being raped. And during all the time it takes to create these components of your pornogrind band, not one of you had the time to reflect and ask, “what the fuck am I doing and why? Why am I dedicating so much time to something so degrading and trashy?”
Why go to the effort to write songs if they “don’t mean anything?” Do you genuinely think there’s not enough hatred towards women out there already? 
If it’s supposedly meaningless, then why do it at all?

Lame excuse number two:

Pornogrind is “just a joke.” If Pornogrind is a joke, what’s the punchline? What’s the bit that actually generates the laughs? I’m all for silliness in metal, but someone please enlighten me because I’m failing to see the humor in pornogrind. Even the majority of band names / song titles aren’t punny. 
I just can’t shake the thought that “I was only joking” is exactly what bullies say. It’s a get out clause for anyone who can’t be bothered to think before they act.

Lame excuse number three:

Pornogrind is about “shock value.” Okay. What exactly is the value of a clichéd shock in this day and age? Is it a worthwhile, lasting currency, upsetting people with outlandish cartoony depictions of violence and rape? Pornogrind bands often say that they are “pushing the boundaries” — no! They are reinforcing the boundaries of a patriarchal society. Being tongue-in-cheek doesn’t excuse it. Doesn’t make it worthwhile. Anyone can be offensive, and the supposed irony doesn’t often translate well in the metal world. 

Pornogrind adds very little to the dynamic array of subgenres in the metal world. In the sense that it represents an utterly stupid, thoughtless, cartoonish misogyny, I believe the metal world would be better off without pornogrind entirely.

However, I do not think that policing underground music to eradicate pornogrind is the way to go. When it comes to art, I don’t think anyone should have the power to dictate to others what you can and can’t create. I’m all for having constructive discussions on the merits and demerits of offensive musical genres. I’m not for simply banning everything that does not share the same ethical values as me. How will things truly progress if we just shun and delete the aspects of culture we find the most difficult and disagreeable?

So, no: banning pornogrind is not the answer. But asking pornogrind bands what is so “funny” and “meaningless” about their themes of sexual violence against women is probably a good place to start.

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