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.

The prevailing notion is that women get forced into all forms of sex work and/or are somehow “damaged” (e.g. sexually abused) if they “choose it themselves”. Not only does this ignore the reality of male sex workers, it also leaves the impression that sex workers are powerlessly led through their lives instead of being active agents who make conscious decisions. Of course, there are women who are trafficked and forced into prostitution and sex work in general – that’s clearly a crime and those responsible for it should be prosecuted and the women helped. But we shouldn’t ignore the fact that there are also women who make completely un-coerced decisions to enter sex work and some even like doing it!

The anti-porn movement tends to acknowledge that if someone is not forced or coerced into pornography they do it because financial circumstances force them to. Please, just take a minute and think how many people you know do their job simply because they love it so much and not because they need the money . . .

The anti-porn movement focuses on the (undeniable) dangers of porn addiction, violent porn and young people being prematurely exposed to it. In order to remedy these problems and try to prevent them gaining access to porn should be easy to control by parents (e.g. all porn on .xxx sites) porn addicts should be helped, violent porn producers should be particularly closely monitored and perhaps there should be a warning/ statement shown before the start of each movie etc.; still – porn cannot, and should not be judged as simply “bad.” By making such judgment calls and acting on them by working towards cutting off access to it the anti-porn movement, it is willing to take choices away from grown men and women – the choice to view and act in something of their own free will. What’s more, they discount phenomena such as (the admittedly still minor) feminist porn productions. More importantly, they ignore the basic reason for which porn exists: it’s arousing and can enrich our sex lives and increase sexual satisfaction whether in partnered sex or during masturbation.

This is a bit of a crude analogy but I feel the anti-porn movement could be compared to diabetes campaigners wanting to ban all sales of sweets. Yes, candy can lead to diabetes. But the majority of us can have it in moderation and never get sick. Most of us wouldn’t even want to have too much of it if we could, but we’re even less likely to overindulge if we educate ourselves a little about the possible consequences of too much sugar. We might also decide to go for the higher-priced fancy chocolate instead of the cheap supermarket candy . . . There are all sorts of options and ways to have candy without getting diabetes.

I’m sure you get it by now, but what I’m trying to say is that you should be allowed to enjoy porn without feeling like a bad person and being accused of perpetrating violence against women and possibly ending up as an addict. The bottom line is this: there’s nothing wrong with any form of sexual expression if it involves willingly and enthusiastically consenting adults – and porn can be just another expression of it.

About Maria:
A recovering scientist, healthcare analyst and junkie of all things gender and women's health

Comments

  1. Maria, I totally agree with you. Woman can, and do, enjoy watching/making porn. In fact, porn is one of the few industries where women earn more than men. That in and of itself doesn’t mean that pornography itself is a feminist career path – but it certainly ought to give us something to think about before we decide to shut down the porn industry.

    You made a good point that some people do their jobs because they love them – not just because of the money. I would take the argument a bit further. Most people hate their jobs and feel like their job exploits them. Does that mean we should shut down every single industry where people hate their work?

  2. Sorry but I don’t buy the idea that just because some women enjoy being employed in the porn industry means that we should turn a blind eye to how pornography -on the whole- hurts women far more than it does men. For example, below is a link to an article about how researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and Boston University School of Public Health did a study that found that watching porn is influencing the sexual habits of teenagers. The report said that 11% of girls claimed they were forced to to sexual acts their boyfriend saw in porn while those girls who watched (or had boyfriends who watched) porn were were 500% more likely to engage in “multiple-person sex”. (http://blogs.philadelphiaweekly.com/phillynow/2011/12/17/study-shows-disturbing-trends-in-group-sex-amongst-urban-teens/).

  3. You are 100 percent right about everything. I am an author/advocate for sex workers’ rights. I’m the author of the 740 page book entitled: Are They Bad Girls or Brilliant?. In all of those pages I am in one way or another pointing up everything you say.
    YES the “we know what’s good for you” position is offensive, YES there are women who like sex work, and YES candy should not be outlawed because a few people get sick from it. And yes to this, too (this one’s mine): I’d rather see candy outlawed, because sugar is a proven health risk, whereas sex between consenting adults is the healthiest, most natural form of stress relief on earth.

    If porn is being watched by minors, I say WHY? Where are the parental controls? Sex work of all kinds is only for adults to watch or be in bed with. Whenever someone uses the argument of what porn or prostitution does or might do to minors, I answer with what I just said right above this and also with: is that all you’ve got??? That minors should not watch porn or be prostitutes is a no-brainer for anyone, and it’s no rationale for banning porn or prostitution for adults.

  4. I have to disagree with you on this one Maria. I understand that yes women enjoy sex and that there may be cases where women participate in the porn industry because they enjoy it. And I’m not saying that porn is all bad and nothing good comes from it. But I believe that children are trying things at younger and younger ages because of how easy it is to access porn. They are also re-enacting things seen in porn and expect them to be acceptable. No girl should have to do something because it was seen by her partner in a porn. It seems that the media has also grasped the idea that sex sells and are using adds which depict things such as the “money shot”. These are disrespectful acts and no female, or male, should ever feel that it is necessity to perform such actions. I agree with Find Porn. Destroy Porn. as they stated above, the stats are there supporting this issue.

  5. Dan Factor says:

    As a man I find the Anti Porn Men Project terribly and embarrasingly patronising and insulting to women. They are basically going on the following lines…

    We are men who don’t like porn and we don’t think women like it or like being in it. We don’t think they enjoy posing nude and we think they need to be stopped for their own good.

    Essentially it’s men telling women what they can and cannot do with their own bodies. I believe women should be free to do whatever they want with their bodies. If they want to strip off as glamour models so be it. Yet if I say that some feminists will say I am misogynist and condoning rape.
    Madness.

  6. No one sees anything wrong with the fact that the pay-per-rape industry is the only one in which women earn more than men? Or the fact that the women in this industry routinely experience rectal collapses (due to the majority of the most-watched porn demanding heterosexual anal sex), sexually transmitted infections including HIV, vaginal infections and damage to reproductive organs, chronic pain, alcholism, drug addiction from being provided with drugs before shoots to endure the filming (some of it can last for hours, women having to have sex with several different men, one after another), frequent throat and eye infections from the new appeal of ejaculating in women’s eyes and choking them with penises and intimate objects, PTSD, on-set rape, abuse and threats, and unwanted pregnancies from the industry’s refusal to implement condoms – that’s to name a few. What a fantasy hey? For who? Is someone supplying an attached consent form to every download or streaming video clarifying that those involved are “fully choosing” to take part in every aspect of the filming…? Go tell that to Neesa, an ex porn star who went public about being raped by a director. Go tell that to Laura Rox who, after 2 months of being in the industry, was diagnosed with HIV. Tell that to the women placed into debt bondage by pimps and pornographers. I severely suggest looking at the research supporting anti-porn claims on the basis that it is violence against women, as in, the INDUSTRY that is worth billions is a capitalist institution that is concerned with making money and portraying women as sex-bots. I really urge all of you who have not already done so, to read some feminist literature on this topic – Dr. Gail Dine’s “Pornland” is mind-blowing, Gloria Steinem’s Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch, Andrea Dworkin’s “Woman Hating” and “Pornography: Men Posessing Women.” “Not for Sale” which features essays from women of all backgrounds and cultures. Further, I suggest the academic work of Diana H. Russell as well as Jackson Katz, Sheila Jeffreys, and Kat Banyard. Also, and obviously, the work of Meagan Tyler, some of which is featured on this blog!!!!

    The blog “the Feminist Current” is doing groundbreaking anti-sexploitation work, providing concise analysis and depth. That’s here:http://feministcurrent.com/
    Also, I blame the Patriarchy is an essential blog for feminist theory and how it intersects with the porn industry as well as the blog of Michael Laxer, a socialist ally, provides a great critique of the porn industry based on anti-capitalist and radical feminist theories http://mlaxer.blogspot.ca/2012/01/on-pornography-and-persistance-of.html Kathleen Barry also does a lot of research that I would offer you looking at before you buy into this false notion of porn being an issue of “personal choice.” Choice doesn’t exist in a vacuum, just as we are “not islands” neither are our choices. Anti-porn is not about sex, porn is not about sex – and it’s certainly not about fantasy (you can check out all of the dead, raped, beaten porn stars here: http://thepinkcross.org/gallery/?g2_itemId=84 or you know, take a gander at Jenna Jameson’s “How to Make love like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale” porn is part of the patriarchal status quo – it is about profit maximization and creating a pre-packaged sexuality within a specific type of society (called patriarchy) that oppresses women all over the world.

    The personal is political, sisters – open your eyes. We can’t dismantle patriarchy if we’re too busy celebrating it.

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