Feminism in London 08 Workshop:
What’s Wrong with Pornography?
Run by Anti-Porn London
Our Blog: https://antipornfeminists.wordpress.com/
Contact: anti.p.london [at] hotmail.com
- What this is not
This is not a debate about censorship; we are not a lobby group trying to change the law; we are a grass-roots group campaigning for social justice for women. Pornography reinforces the notion that women belong to the sex-class; that we only exist as and for sex, with no autonomy or destiny of our own. Pornography promotes misogyny that limits women’s full participation in society.
- What we are not
There are generally two types of people who campaign against pornography. One type are social-conservatives who think that sex should only occur under narrow and specific circumstances; the other type are anti-porn feminists, who recognise pornography as violence against the women and children and men used to make it, and recognise the images themselves as hate-speech and anti-woman propaganda.
- What’s wrong with pornography
Pornography isn’t just about sex
It’s also about power, which, because we live in a hierarchical, male-dominated society (bell hooks calls it a white-supremacist, capitalist patriarchy), means that for most people sex and power are interchangeable and intertwined. To challenge pornography is to challenge hierarchy in all its forms.
It is also about money. Pornography exists only because of money, which is also inextricably intertwined with power in our society. The pornography industry is a multi-billion dollar global industry. The trafficking of women and children into prostitution and pornography is the third largest illegal industry on the planet after drugs and guns.
Pornography creates ‘Men’
Power is gendered. In this society, to be a real man, you must have power over someone (that someone doesn’t have to be biologically female, only socially powerless by comparison). If you have power over someone, that makes you masculine, if you are powerless, that makes you feminine. Pornography reinforces hierarchy, regardless of who is dominating whom in it – this has real consequences in the real world. We are experiencing a backlash against the social advances woman have made, if a man feels powerless in real life, then he can use pornography to reinforce his sense of male supremacy.
Pornography doesn’t expand our sexuality – it stunts it
Mainstream heterosexual pornography dictates a narrow and limited idea of human sexuality. In pornography, male sexuality is predicated on cruelty, coercion and degradation; female sexuality is predicated on submitting to or appearing to enjoy being subjected to cruel, coercive and degrading treatment. Pornography eradicates women’s sexual agency, and makes it harder for women to find out about their own bodies and their own sexuality.
Sexual desire does not develop in a vacuum, the prurient attitude we have to sex in this country, combined with a lack of decent sex education, means that many people use pornography as their primary source of information on what sex is supposed to be like. Mainstream heterosexual pornography portrays sexual violence against women as normal, natural and an inevitable part of male sexuality. It tells men that the sexual abuse of women is exciting, and that women enjoy being abused. It tells women that in order to do sex properly, they have to put up with and enjoy such abuse.
Pornography portrays sex and women as disgusting, the words used to describe women and women’s bodies in pornography betray the fact that women and sex are seen as dirty and disgusting by the men who use it (‘bitch’ ‘cunt’ ‘slut’ ‘fuck toy’ ‘fuck hole’ ‘dirty’ ‘filthy’ etc etc.). Pornography is also racist, in that it employs degrading sexual stereotypes about different ethnic and racial groups.
Pornography promotes misogynistic beauty standards, in mainstream heterosexual pornography women are interchangeable; it trains women and men to see a natural female body – one with pubic hair, or small breasts, or any fat – as unnatural and disgusting.
The porn industry is the only industry in the West where exposure to the risk of violence, harassment, injury and infection are seen as normal and acceptable. It is the only industry where these risks form the work itself.
- Personal Attacks
You will be called a man-hating anti-sex prude for your beliefs. As with all the misogynist crap that the patriarchy throws at us, it is considered our problem for not changing ourselves so that we like it; the problem with porn isn’t that it’s virulently woman-hating, the problem is ours, for not deciding, in our heads, that we’re fine with it.
- Pro-porn arguments (and their counter-arguments!)
Porn as ‘free speech’
Pornography is not speech, it is not fantasy. Pornography happens in the real world, to real women; everything you see in pornography happened somewhere to a real woman. If pornography is speech, then the speech of pimps and pornographers is worth more than the lives of women and children.
Porn as sex education
Unfortunately, pornography already acts as sex-education. The idea that all we need is ‘better’ porn to provide ‘better’ education is superficially attractive, but who, then, decides on the curriculum? Pornography exists to make money and to sell as much of its product as possible, you wouldn’t put a junk-food manufacturer in charge of setting nutritional education, why trust pornographers with sex education?
The only difference between alt. porn and mainstream porn is in the beauty standards applied to the women (and even then the differences are only superficial); the women may have died black hair instead of bleached blonde, they will have piercings and tattoos, their breast-implants will not be so obviously fake.
‘DIY’ is a vague term, a lot of porn claims to be ‘amateur’ and a recording of ‘real’ events. If individuals wish to film themselves as part of their sex lives that is their business, but being ‘DIY’ is no guarantee that it will not follow the same pornographic paradigm as mainstream porn.
There are women in the pornography industry who are producers rather than performers, they may call themselves feminists and claim to be making ‘feminist’ porn. They are still part of the porn industry, their porn is sold in the same shops, shown on the same channels, reviewed in the same websites and magazines, and put up for the same industry awards; they are never going to be too critical of other porn, they are never going to bite the hand that feeds them. There is very little difference in content between ‘feminist’ porn and mainstream porn, the women may look like they are enjoying it more, but smiling for the camera doesn’t prove anything.
Pornography made for gay men or lesbians can be just as abusive and produce images that are just as harmful as pornography aimed at heterosexual men. It can still enforce the pornographic paradigm that sex is about having power over someone.
- Practical things to do
Don’t consume pornography and do not tolerate the consumption of pornography by the men and women you are in relationships with – this is easier said than done of course! Look to other feminists for support, and remember, you are not alone in the way that you feel.
Challenge people’s attitudes to pornography, ask them how they know that the women in it are enjoying it; ask them what smiling for the camera proves.
Join APL and take part in our next Bin the Bunny protest (Sat 25th October)!