Not Just Any Kind of Sexuality: The Pornography of Everyday Life

I have a thing for advertisements, especially when they portray sexism, gender stereotypes, or the pornification of sexuality. Elin and I frequently write about advertisements that we find disturbing, annoying, or just plain sexist. And there are many kinds to choose from, as different forms of advertising are everywhere. Some of my favorite analyses and discussions of popular culture and advertising are Jean Kilbourne’s series Killing Us Softly and Tough Guise: Violence, Media, and the Crisis in Masculinity. I also wrote about the documentary Orgasm Inc, concerning female sexual dysfunction.

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Should Manga Drawings be Classified as Child Pornography?

Recent discussions concerning Manga drawings are challenging the debate around what constitutes child pornography. A few days ago courts wrapped up a hearing involving a man possessing over fifty drawings of Manga which depicted children in pornographic and sexual settings. The case went to the highest court in Sweden where the man was freed from charges of possession of child pornography on the basis that the drawings depicted fantasy characters and not actual children. The debates have since been on going with many people supporting the verdict.

Manga is a Japanese form of drawings that are usually presented in the form of comics. If one does a Google search for Manga the drawings that are shown very often depict young and childish looking girls dressed in revealing clothing. The women, men, boys, and girls appear extremely stereotypically created; the women and girls are very feminine while the men and boys are depicted as traditionally masculine. It is not difficult to understand why erotic Manga has been under discussion since it appears that the characters often seem very young while being sexualized in a manner that can be interpreted as inappropriate.

So can drawings of children in sexual situations or children being depicted performing sexual activities be labeled as child pornography?   [Read more...]

Feminist Conversations – Meagan Tyler

Feminist Conversations is a regular feature at Feminists for Choice, in which we spotlight activists. After reading Meagan Tyler’s book Selling Sex Short: The Pornographic and Sexological Construction of Women’s Sexuality in the West, and not being able to put it down, I had to ask her a few questions. 

You have written extensively about pornography, the sex industry, and the construction of women’s sexuality. How did this interest come about?
Looking back now, it seems rather an odd thing to have chosen to research! What really got me interested was teaching in high-schools in my home town of Melbourne. Most schools in Australia have uniforms and on the few “free dress” days a year, students often want to wear their most coveted pieces of clothing. All the way back in 2004, I noticed a growing number of 12 and 13 year old girls wearing Playboy branded t-shirts, which seemed like a new phenomenon. I wanted to know about the marketing operations that were going on with companies like Playboy and if they were consciously “mainstreaming” their brands. So I went back to uni to do a PhD.

What was your motivation for writing Selling Sex Short?  [Read more...]

Why being anti-porn does not mean you’re being pro-feminist

I have been aware of the “Anti-Porn Men Project” Movement for quite a while, but it wasn’t until I went to the UK National Feminist Conference FEM 11 that I actually sat through a discussion with its representative. And I have to say, what I heard was a little annoying, to put it mildly.

I understand that these guys mean well and they probably really believe their mission statement, by which making porn unavailable would result in “tackling both violence against women and wider gender inequality, as well as an important personal issue in the lives and relationships of many people.” However, my problem with being anti-porn stems from my strong allergic reaction to two things: patronizing adult people by “knowing what’s better for them” and discounting of women’s sexuality and its varied forms of expression which commonly results in a “I don’t believe there are women who actually enjoy it” attitude.

No one – man or woman – should be forced to any sexual act they do not want to perform and sex work should happen in safe conditions and be adequately remunerated. But I can see no problem whatsoever in adult females and males consenting to sexual acts which get filmed and distributed for money, if the participants are treated with dignity and respect. [Read more...]

Abortion on TV: Friday Night Lights

To quote Gloria Feldt, “Media portrayals, real or fictional, don’t merely inform us — they form us.” In this series, I will be examining five films – classic, mainstream, independent, foreign, and pre-Roe – and five television shows – daytime soap, pre-Roe, drama, critically lauded, and teen-oriented – that address unexpected pregnancy, to examine how past portrayals can influence and reflect society’s view of abortion.

The NBC drama “Friday Night Lights” has been drawing critical acclaim ever since it premiered in 2006, but it has struggled to find the wide audience that this show deserves. Set in a small West Texas town where life revolves around high school football, “FNL” follows the lives of a high school coach, his family, and several of the players on the team. The first season alone dealt with infidelity, teenage sex, steroid use, and bipolar disorder – so really, the only surprise around the most recent season’s abortion storyline is that the show hadn’t explored the issue before.

The storyline played out over a number of episodes, and realistically portrayed 16-year-old Becky’s struggle.  Pregnant by a classmate that she liked but hardly knew, and keenly aware of the difficulties her own mother, who had Becky when she was a teenager, had gone through in her own life, Becky had a number of conversations with her mother, the boy involved, a close friend, and her school principal before deciding that having an abortion was the best decision.  Delicately written and extremely well-acted, the storyline served as an important corrective to the glossy, simplified way that teenage pregnancy has long been represented not just in film and television, but in the larger media as well.

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Are Women Coming Out on Top of the Porn Industry?

live nude girlsA recent prime time special about the economics of the porn industry got me thinking about feminist views on porn and what increased revenues mean for the position of women within the porn industry (pun totally intended).

Porn is Big Business
Pornography is a $13 billion dollar a year industry. According to the CNBC special “Porn: The Business of Pleasure,” the porn industry is so large that every second of every day

  • $3,075 is spent on it
  • More than 28,000 Internet users are viewing it
  • 372 Internet users are using search engines to find it
  • And every 39 minutes, a new porn video is being produced in the U.S.

However, the economic recession has caused DVD sales to decline by 50%.  And unfettered access to the internet means that movies are no longer the driving force behind the porn industry – internet videos are.  Anyone can make a video of themselves having sex, upload it to the internet, and then grant people access for free or for much less than the cost of a DVD. [Read more...]