You hear this lie crop up again and again, so often that it’s become a thought-terminating cliche: if radical feminism shares goals (like abolishing pornography and sex work) with the religious right, doesn’t that make their ideologies one and the same?
It’s used to shut down all feminist conversations about the harms of the pornography industry by buying into the lie that the only manifestation of patriarchal sexual values is puritanical. It also contains a lie within itself, by drawing a false equivalence between the movements based on their “goals” by naming something that isn’t the goal of either movement.
The “goal,” or ultimate end of radical feminist thought and action is the dismantling of oppressive power structures that exist to subjugate women as a class in order to liberate those women. The goal of religious conservatism is to prop up, reinforce, and otherwise maintain those same oppressive power structures that create a hierarchy of power between the sexes, with women subjugated to men. That a facet of each of the movements is, prima facie, the same does not mean that the movements themselves are the same. Radical feminism seeks to abolish pornography and sex work because it views them as harmful to women and antithetical to our liberation. The religious right seeks to abolish pornography and sex work because they view it these institutions as promoting unsanctified sexuality, and their opposition to these institutions is often tenuous or surface at best — while it is an ostensible goal of the movement to oppose, it is not uncommon to find lurking under the surface use of and support for these institutions as the proper place for women they consider undesirable. The virgin/whore dichotomy exists for a reason.
If the religious right succeeded in banning pornography tomorrow, radical feminism would not cease to exist. Radical feminism would not have achieved its aim, as all facets of radical feminist thought exist with the aim to support women’s liberation. The abolition of sex work that is not born from women, does not come from women refusing to be commodified, does not teach men that our bodies and our sexualities do not exist to be controlled or used by them is not the abolition that radical feminism seeks.
If you can’t see the difference between the two, I really don’t think you’ve done a whole lot of thinking about it.
Thank you Next Years Girl, for writing this stuff so I don’t have to!