feminism and porn and prostitution.

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.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “feminism and porn and prostitution.

  1. So as a radical feminist, I have to ask the question you’ve already brought up: “But is this even possible?”

    It is possible to argue (read: I will proceed to argue) that porn and prostitution are necessarily objectifying. The former is the graphic representation of sex for someone else’s pleasure, which is an objectification of the sexual act. The latter is, by definition, selling one’s body as a commodity–once again, an objectification of the sexual act. Eliminating the misogynistic elements of porn and prostitution would merely make porn and prostitution equally objectifying to both sexes. Hardly a laudable goal.

    But I am not sure about whether illegalizing porn and prostitution is the solution to all of this. I can imagine that such legislation would be epically disastrous in its enforcement. Like the war on drugs, only worse.

    Have you been browsing the Twisty archives, by any chance?

    -Julia, who doesn’t shave her legs and still feels like a fraudulent feminist at times

  2. “But I am not sure about whether illegalizing porn and prostitution is the solution to all of this.”

    Exactly. I’m not advocating free porn for all, even if it is non-misogynistic free porn. (I think porn only works in very very specific circumstances, and nobody NEEDS it.) I think that as porn becomes less specific in dehumanizing a specific group of people, it’ll be easier to “wean” people from porn. And prostitution. Unfortunately, porn and prostitution (I’m just going to abbreviate PP from now on) are so ingrained in society that forcible removal is beyond reason.

    Is porn hot? Sure, a study (I’ll go dig up the link sometime) show that the majority of men and women respond sexually (as in, sex organs show signs of arousal regardless of what the person says) to all kinds of porn, but taking our pleasure from the misuse of other bodies is a really cruel and callous thing to do.

    If porn could ever be in a non-objectifying context, that would be totally acceptable to me. Although, characterization everything that’s for someone else’s pleasure as objectification is a tricky road to go down, too. That seems to be really nit-picking at details. So porn is dehumanizing. But what if it weren’t? What if porn was to become a one-on-one affair between the viewer and the actor/actress? (Then it’d become more like “traditional” cinema, hmm..)

    I haven’t being looking at the Twisty archives, although that’s a fantastic essay she wrote. (Except for this part: “Or does it reduce you to a miserable, drooling voyeur?” I find fault with the assumption that all voyeurs are miserable and drooling.)
    I’d been reading some of the commentary on Save the Night in London last weekend.

    I like the Robert Jensen essay that’s linked from it: http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~rjensen/freelance/pornography&cruelty.htm
    My thoughts are as follows:
    Robert Jensen: “Men typically consume pornography specifically to avoid love and affection.”
    This is a fundamental problem with pornography. Which leads to a lot of others. I think “to avoid love and affection” can also mean “to avoid the reality that women are human beings.”

    “Anal sex was seen as something most women don’t want; it had an edge to it.”
    Edgy vs vanilla (more sexual education might help fix this?)

    “Some segments of the feminist movement, particularly the high-theory crowd in academic life, want us to believe that the growing acceptance of pornography is a sign of expanding sexual equality and freedom.”

    Need to define pornography here – I’m sure (and I hope) that the “high-theory crowd” is definitely not talking about violent pornography. But there are people trying to make a difference in the porn business. (http://www.tinynibbles.com/violetblue.html Violet Blue and her “focus on female pleasure”)

    Hmm, perhaps this would best serve as a post. But whatever.

  3. Pingback: child pornography and pedophilia. « Let’s call it a night

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