Pornography


Feminist positions on pornography currently break down into three rough categories. The most common one is that pornography is an expression of male culture through which women are commodified and exploited. A second view, the liberal position, combines a respect for free speech with the principle "a woman\'s body, a woman\'s right" and thus produces a defense of pornography along the lines of, "I don\'t approve of it, but everyone has the right to consume or produce words and images." A third view, a true defense of pornography, arises from feminists who have been labeled "pro-sex" and who argue that porn may even have benefits for women.


Little dialogue occurs between the three positions. Anti-pornography feminists treat women who disagree as either brainwashed dupes of patriarchy or as apologists for pornographers. The liberal feminists who are personally uncomfortable with pornography tend to be intimidated into silence."Pro-sex" feminists, at least in my quick research, often respond with anger, rather than arguments.


The most common argument against pornography is that it is degrading to women. Degrading is a subjective term. I find commercials in which women become orgasmic over soapsuds to be tremendously degrading. The bottom line is that every woman has the right to define what is degrading and liberating for herself.


The assumed degradation is often linked to the "objectification" of women: that is, porn converts them into sexual objects. What does this mean? If taken literally, it means nothing because objects don\'t have sexuality; only beings do. But to say that porn portrays women as "sexual beings" makes for poor rhetoric. Usually, the term sex objects means showing women as body parts, reducing them to physical objects. What is wrong with this? Women are as much their bodies as they are their minds or souls. No one gets upset if you present women as "brains" or as spiritual beings. If I concentrated on a woman\'s sense of humor to the exclusion of her other characteristics, is this degrading? Why is it degrading to focus on her sexuality?


Another anti-porn argument is that pornography leads to violence against women. A cause-and-effect relationship is drawn between men viewing pornography and men attacking women, especially in the form of rape. Studies, such as the one prepared by feminist Thelma McCormick in 1983 for the Metropolitan Toronto Task Force on Violence Against Women, find no pattern to connect porn and sex crimes. Incredibly, the Task Force suppressed the study and reassigned the project to a pro-censorship male, who returned the "correct" results. His study was published. What of real-world feedback? In Japan, where pornography depicting graphic and brutal violence is widely available, rape is much lower per capita than in the United States, where violence in porn is severely restricted.


Longino went as far as saying that pornography is violence because women are coerced into pornography. I do not dismiss reports of violence, every industry has its abuses, and anyone who uses force or threats to make a woman perform should be charged with kidnapping, assault, and/or rape. Any such pictures or films should be confiscated and burned because no one has the right to benefit from the proceeds of a crime. However, throughout my research I could not find a single story of a woman being coerced into it.


Helen even suggested that pornography is violence because women who pose for porn are so traumatized by patriarchy they cannot give real consent. Although women in pornography appear to be willing, anti-porn feminists know that no psychologically healthy woman would agree to the degradation of pornography. Therefore, if agreement seems to be present, it is because the women have "fallen in love with their own oppression" and must be rescued from themselves. If such a woman declares her enjoyment in flaunting her body, anti-porn feminists claim she is not merely a unique human being who reacts from a different background or personality. She is psychologically damaged and no longer responsible for her actions. In essence, this is a denial of a woman\'s right to choose anything outside the narrow corridor of choices offered by political and sexual correctness. The right to choose hinges on the right to make a "wrong" choice, just as freedom of religion entails the right to be an atheist.