Sometimes I read radical feminist writings where the authors decry pornography and prostitution in all forms and it saddens me and destabilizes me at the same time. It’s kind of like the effect of the true feminists can’t shave their legs argument, where I start to doubt to doubt my feminism for a couple hours, days, or whatever.
I have no doubt that most and nearly all (and arguably the totality of) porn and prostitution are misogynist. It is the ultimate objectification of women’s bodies – women only exist as a hole for men to fuck. OK, but I think this leads feminism down a really dangerous track. If porn, the depiction of sex for arousal, and prostitution, the selling of sex, is totally anti-feminism then sex is, too. In fact, there’s already been a lot written about sex oppressing women. I think that’s absurd. Intercourse itself oppresses women because of a subordinate position during sex? Well, I think that subordinate position is equal to a feminine position (because, let’s face it, women don’t have penises), and as long as people equate femininity with weakness, there is sexism. (This is speaking from my heterosexually privileged standpoint, of course.)
However, porn and prostitution don’t need to be misogynist. The current women-hating stems from the basic oppression faced by women in society. Let’s look at these aspects of porn and prostitution:
1. Use of “whore” and “cunt” (etc) as pejorative terms. Incidentally, or consequently, prostitutes are whores and they sell their cunts. And those terms are the worst names you can call a woman.
2. Emphasis on male pleasure in porn. No foreplay, no attention paid to female pleasure, and brutal handling of bodies (treating women like objects). Women have been conditioned from birth that it’s the pleasure of the man that really counts. Outside of porn, women orgasm less than men and MSNBC claims that 10% of women never reach orgasm. Porn reflects this societal attitude.
3. Acceptable violence in porn and prostitution and the overabundance of violence in porn. The pairing of violence with pleasure in the subordinate. It’s ok to beat up women, it seems. But domestic violence has been around for ages – and the violence in porn just adds to rapes and abuses which increases acceptance for violence in porn and… it keeps going.
4. Shame in prostitution. Prostitution is the lowest a person can go, and thus prostitutes disappear from the public eye. Violence is more acceptable towards prostitutes (they’re already worthless, anyway [tic]).
If those aspects were removed, porn and prostitution would be perfectly acceptable, in my eyes. Some people draw a line between porn and erotica, defining erotica as the non-stereotypical and the non-oppressive form of porn, but I think that distinction is unnecessary, in the long run. We just need to work on removing the misogynistic elements from porn and prostitution. That would be a major victory for feminism. (“But is this even possible?” might be a more reasonable question to ask. For later, perhaps.)
Now, as for why I think porn and prostitution are even needed for a functional society… that’s definitely for later. TBC.