Why (and How) I am Anti-Porn

I listened to an addition of The Moral Maze a few weeks ago that was – shock horror! – actually interesting and informative, and not just pointless willy-waving.

It was on the subject of censorship, and, particularly, the fact that Mein Kampf will soon be out of copyright and therefore could be published in Germany again.

One of the viewpoints expressed on the programme (by a German lawyer) was that it should be banned. Germany obviously has a very detailed, intimate history with this document, and what works for them in this specific case won’t necessarily work as a universal principal for how to treat Mein Kampf, or any other ‘problematic’ text.

I can’t help but agree with one of the panellists who said that banning it would only make it seem more exciting and appealing. The discussion moved on to the subject of contemporary hate merchants, particularly certain extremist Muslim preachers, and the case was cited of a young woman student in London, who, after watching a series of videos on YouTube of a particular preacher, went on to attack her local MP.

It was pointed out that she must have been a disturbed individual in the first place (I agree), and the idea was discussed that when it comes to censorship, it is always for other people, not ‘us’, the ones making the rules. It is assumed that such material, will, to use a phrase from the programme, ‘infect’ (some) people’s minds. The counterargument was that no one would be turned into an anti-Semite simply by reading Mein Kampf (I agree with this as well).

So why, then, if I do not think a document like Mein Kampf should be censored/banned, am I anti-porn?

Firstly, I don’t think pornography and Mein Kampf are the same kind of thing; it is not just one porn film, made decades ago, of interest only to historians and anthropologists, or to people who are already raging misogynists, it is thousands, if not millions of porn films, available instantly, with the same kind of imagery and messages also appearing in mainstream culture as well.

Mein Kampf was published at a time when a large number of non-Jews in the Weimer Republic (and later the Third Reich) were anti-Semites, and it was not the only document or the only piece of propaganda around. The racist propaganda created by the Nazi party didn’t create anti-Semitism, or directly cause the holocaust, but it did make it that little bit easier to carry out.

Pornography is relentless propaganda, in a culture that is already misogynist; in that sense, it has more in common with advertising than any political tract (and if you think advertising doesn’t work, ask yourself why big companies spend billions of dollars a year on it). As well, the consumers of porn superficially see what they are consuming as entertainment, not politics (although the producers some times let slip otherwise), so that they are not necessarily active aware consumers (although the more and more violent, degrading trends might suggest otherwise); and lets not forget the fact that porn is masturbated to, that its message is reinforced with an orgasm.

Also, sexual violence is not a rare occurrence; it is not something committed only by outlier men with underlying mental health problems. Sexual violence is a common, everyday occurrence, committed by otherwise ‘normal’ men (and the mainstream tacitly admits this with its ‘boys will be boys’ rhetoric).

I have already written before on this blog that trying to ‘ban’ porn is not one of my main aims. Criminalising the viewing of pornography would be draconian to enforce, and an unjustifiable drain on resources, and internet filters already block things other than porn (eg websites on sexual health). Banning the sale of porn would be much more efficient, and something credit card companies could do easily (let’s see how interested pornographers are in exercising their ‘free speech’ when they can no longer turn a profit from it); also, properly enforcing health and safety/labour laws would shut down most porn sets. Passing laws allowing women and girls (and boys and men) who have been abused in the making of porn (not just ‘revenge porn’ victims), and women and girls (and boys and men) who have been abused by men obviously inspired by porn, to gain civil redress, would also help in terms of tipping the balance of power away from dominant men.

One of the interviewees on the programme said that to ban something is society’s way of showing its moral disgust at that thing. It’s true that laws have a normative value, but if a society really were morally disgusted by something, it wouldn’t need a law to enforce that disgust!

This is the thing, I don’t want men to stop consuming porn because they are afraid of getting caught and punished, I want them to stop because they are descent people who view women as fully human, and therefore can’t get off on their subjugation. Misogyny is a hydra, cutting off one head alone will never be enough; better sex education is a start, better handling of rape and domestic violence cases is a start, elimination of misogyny from other media is a start, challenging the idea that porn is merely ‘fantasy’ is a start. Being anti-porn is necessary, but not sufficient, for effecting real change.

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51 responses

  1. You say you are not aiming to ban porn but you are advocating banning the sale of porn which would be banning porn.
    The problem is what do you find to be porn? All sexual imagery? If so would you ban the sale of all sexual images?

  2. Learn how to think, I said I don’t think anyone should be criminalised just for viewing (adult) pornography (lots of pornography on the internet is free, and hosted outside of the UK).

    Your question about the definition of porn is a red herring, pornographers know what porn is, no pornographer has accidentally staged Hamlet because it’s just so difficult to work out what porn is.

  3. No I am asking you what you think is porn.

  4. Porn is what is sold, purchased and consumed as porn. Do you have difficulty working out what porn is? Have you ever accidentally walked out of a shop with a My Little Pony DVD when you went in to buy porn?

  5. But there are many levels of pornography. Would you ban videos of fully clothed women popping balloons? Guys dressed in latex rubbing against blow up dolls? Collections of denim clad women? Nothing but videos of people smoking? All porn I have seen for sale. How about films containing sex and nudity? Should Winterbottom’s nine songs or Kechiche’s blue is warmest colour be banned or edited? Is there a difference between the dream of the fisherman’s wife and the Japanese hentai movement? You mention my little pony, but trust me, you can find PLENTY of my little pony porn.
    If you only ban the sale, is that only brick and mortar or do we ban online dvd sales? How about a porn producer selling his own created stuff? How about if I record my own videos and want to sell those?
    Ending misogyny is a truly noble cause, but to say that the people (men and women) who consume pornography only view women as sex objects is absurd. I consume pornography of a flavour that you would not enjoy and I treat everyone with respect, love and compassion, I don’t see people as sexual meat, i see them as human beings who are also capable of human desire and should be free to engage in whatever they wish to if they enjoy it. Sometimes that can include knowing that a stranger on the other side of a lens is appreciating what they are doing.

  6. I am well aware that there are many different types of porn, and that there are fetishists who can get off on things that are not seen as sexual by anyone else (I am also aware that there are pervy men who have decided to co-opt a children’s cartoon; I’m sure it was clear to you with my question that I was referencing the actual children’s cartoon).

    I still maintain that this is a red herring, it is not about any one specific image or film in isolation, it is about an industry, an institution, that chews up women and children and shits them out again, and produces imagery that is misogynist propaganda.

    I don’t think all sexual imagery should be banned, I do not think explicit sexual content should be banned from films, each film can be judged on its own artistic merit.

    It should also be obvious that a ban on the sale of porn includes a ban on porn dvds (or VHS, or betamax or vinyl, or whatever media comes next). Your reference to small-scale porn producers is also a red herring, a rapist with a camera phone can make and try to sell pornography, this is not like food production, the size of the business tells you nothing about the ‘quality’ of the product.

    “I consume pornography of a flavour that you would not enjoy and I treat everyone with respect, love and compassion […]”

    Well, we’ve only got your anonymous word to go on for on that one.

  7. Okay, so where are you on written porn? You talk about it as though it is all violent towards women… just ‘extreme’ porn (though what constitutes extreme?), are the ‘nicer’ genres also verboten? What about the sale of services such as webcam modelling? TV phone sex lines? Personalised porn, no? Not to forget male models exist, as well as female consumers of porn.

    I fail to see how criminalising the purchase of porn works if you will allow people to watch it for free where they can online (comment above). You mention hosted aborad… some of that from certain countries may actually be ‘unethically’ produced in the treatment of the actors. A homegrown industry can be monitored to ensure no exploitation is occurring. And where does this ban stop? Will certain fetishes come under scrutiny as the next step?

    Saying ‘you know what is porn and what isn’t’ is not helpful or practicable- look at govt/ISP ‘filters’ for ‘adult’ content, taking down sex education, LGBT, sex worker right sites and more. It is incredibly lazy to hand-wave some correlation with violence into being, leave it to the state to ban something. I will be educating my kids on the nature of porn, difference to real life and having respect for others. This is not the state’s job, certainly not because of pressure form people who can’t back up their points and resort to insulting responses to critism, as above.

  8. I do not believe the written word should be censored, from Mein Kampf to 50 Shades of Grey. But saying something should not be censored is not the same as saying we should not think critically about it.

    I do not believe in ‘good’ porn, everybody thinks their porn is ‘good’ porn. I include all ‘live’ services in my definition of porn, and it is still porn if it is a man doing it/being done to in it.

    I have said that I do not believe the viewing of porn should be criminalised, not because I think free porn is more ethical (I don’t, it isn’t), or because I think watching porn is fine as long as you don’t pay for it (I don’t, it isn’t), but because any attempt to enforce such a law would be impossible, and a completely unjustifiable waste of police resources; also, I don’t think someone should end up with a criminal record just because they saw some porn. Credit card companies refusing to process payments would be cheap, easy and effective.

    I have already expressed my concern with filters blocking out breast cancer and sex education etc. websites, in this post and elsewhere, so you are not telling me anything new here.

    “It is incredibly lazy to hand-wave some correlation with violence into being”

    There is plenty of evidence, the correlation between the viewing of porn and the holding of misogynistic beliefs (eg rape myths) is well documented. The fact that coercion into painful, dangerous sex is now seen as a normal part of heterosexual relationships is more evidence.

    “This is not the state’s job, certainly not because of pressure form people who can’t back up their points and resort to insulting responses to critism, as above.”

    Laws have a normative value; nobody but a libertarian would say we shouldn’t have drink-driving laws, or tobacco companies should be allowed to sell cigarettes to children. It’s only in the realm of women’s human rights that things suddenly become ‘private’ and the state shouldn’t interfere.

    I have backed up all of my points, this blog is my argument, how may other posts have you read?

    I get stupid, arrogant, finger-wagging men trying (and failing) to put me in my place all the time, I am not going to be 100% civil all the time, I am not going to apologise for that. Even if I am rude, I still put forward an argument; saying I’m wrong because I was rude is a pure ad hominem attack and therefore invalid.

  9. This (from the Times, which I can’t access in full) is pertinent:

    Labour is pushing for new measures to stop British children accessing “shocking” hardcore porn videos on foreign websites.

    The Opposition has proposed requiring the offshore sites to obtain a licence and put age restrictions in place, or face having their revenues from adult customers in the UK cut off.

    Their proposal comes after new research revealed that more than 200,000 children a month are freely accessing illicit videos behind their parents’ backs. Almost all of the worst sites were overseas, the study by the Authority for Television on Demand (Atvod) found.

    http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/technology/internet/article4093416.ece

  10. If I understand your argument correctly, you’re not saying that porn is inherently bad by itself but that it is correlated with misogyny which is inherently bad. If I’ve got that right I’m wondering whether you would suggest that reasonable people should not drink alcohol because unreasonable people drink and drive and cause fatalities. I think that we all agree that alcohol consumption causes deaths. And causation seems to me a stronger argument than “correlation.”

    I agree with you that the argument that we have difficulty defining porn and therefore cannot legislate around it is a smokescreen. But by the same token I would say that we should have the will to identify behaviors associated with misogyny and enlist reasonable people to stop them rather than to focus on correlative behaviors.

    I’m very unclear that my watching porn inclines me toward misogynistic thinking or action. If there were a way for me to measure this I would be most interested in hearing about it.

  11. If you can’t work out if you’re a misogynist or not, you probably are one.

  12. Since GG isn’t coming back to play, I will point out that his alcohol analogy is flawed, as there are safe levels of alcohol consumption, but there are no safe levels of misogyny.

    By demanding proof of causation, he is demanding something that sociologists cannot prove definitively, because you cannot experiment on humans the same way you can experiment on laboratory mice.

    It would be ethically impossible to show a group of men violent porn, and then ask them to keep a diary of how many rapes they commit. Also, there is no control group of men raised outside of patriarchy, because there is no outside of patriarchy; any psychological tests could not prove causation conclusively, because there are other factors involved.

    (And as a side note, science does not deal in ‘absolutes’ anyway, theories always change when new information comes along.)

    The ‘gold standard’ of pharmaceutical testing, the double blind randomized placebo controlled trial, is impossible for testing porn’s relationship to misogyny, there is no ‘placebo porn’, the researchers and the subjects are both going to know if they have viewed porn or not, and you are not going to find subjects who have not been exposed to any pornographic or other misogynist material before.

    There is plenty of research showing that porn viewing has a negative effect on the viewers’ attitude to women, there is also plenty of research showing that sexual behaviour has changed along with easy access to internet porn. Such demands for ‘absolute proof’ of causation are disingenuous, and often from men who would dismiss or deny any evidence you place in front of them anyway.

  13. Certainly did not seem like play to me.

    I am not a troll. I am interested in discourse, but not name calling or personal attacks. I see no basis for your attack on me.

    I believe your anger or hurt or whatever your motivation is to accuse a stranger of misogyny may be justified. Sometimes social progress requires excess in order for an issue to gain sufficient attention. Personally I am not interested in an exchange which causes either party pain. I am open to having my thinking changed, but not to being attacked. Is it safe here?

    With that said, I’d like to make two points.

    First, your analysis of the impossibility of teasing out the effect of porn on behavior made me think of a similar issue which was solved maybe 50 years ago. The problem was to measure to what extent seat belt saved lives. Obviously, the straightforward approach of running experiments with people in cars was not moral. The solution, to the best of my recollection, turned out to be using the passenger seat to give a norm, and looking for driver fatalities. I believe the economists who figured that out won a Nobel Prize for it.

    I certainly don’t know how to separate these two behaviors statistically, but I believe that solving that problem might convince more people than just asserting the beliefs of one camp can possibly do.

    My second point would be that you assert that no level misogyny is safe. Hate is bad; I completely concur.

    I made no demand for “absolute proof.” I am new to this discussion. You say there is much evidence on the viewing of porn on its effect on attitudes toward women. I will look for it.

    I would certainly take that into account in my thinking. But it still seems to me that the analogy to drinking alcohol and it’s contribution to road deaths remains intact. Perhaps the answer is to say both are bad;what should a reasonable and moral person do then?

    Thank you for letting me express my opinion.

  14. Dude, you used a lot of words to say not very much.

    This pattern is getting rather familiar, and very boring.

  15. […] the industry can be regulated to make it ‘safe’, but at the same time, any attempt to ban it would drive it underground – isn’t the latter claim just admitting that it’s a […]

  16. You mentioned that porn features many violent and degrading trends. I wholeheartedly agree. Back in the “old days,” from what I know, porn was people (mainly women) posing in the nude. There wasn’t much to it, like there is now. NOW, porn is insanely violent, hauntingly degrading, and very, very traumatizing to view. I cannot fucking believe that todays porn is so “hardcore.” Having a huge dick being shoved in my butt for hours on end is NOT my idea of sex. That’s called…torture, in my opinion. Guys always say “duhh, well some women like it..” These “actresses” are getting PAID. They are NOT doing it for free, unless they are victims of trafficking, and are being FORCED to do it. Watching too much violent porn like this (I am using anal “sex” as an example..there are loads more violent, degrading scenes that I do not want to get into right now), will normalize these visions. Soon, it will seem commonplace for sex to be equated with violence and extreme degradation! This porn really screws up men’s heads! I feel porn is very dangerous for the mind. Once you view those disturbing images, its almost impossible to forget about them. They’ll stay in your subconscious, and will haunt you later! Imagine how the victims feel??! The whole dynamic here sucks. The best thing to do is to not choose to watch porn. If a man really loved a woman, he simply would NOT open himself up to watching this shit!

  17. […] this is where it gets interesting. I am against censorship of any speech except hate speech (if pornography counts as speech – and I don’t think it does – then it is hate […]

  18. I just want to get this right ,”Porn has underlying political propaganda?”
    IMO, I don’t think pornographers think more than …. V***,d***, and sex……
    I don’t mean to justify the nature of porn, and it should be banned.But truly this started back in ancient Greece and most European countries…. But in the modern world there is a growing need to push toward equalitarian rule but every good invention meant to help and aid humanity are always turned to darker deeds.
    All we can do is hope to influence the younger generation and hence approach a solution.
    You can’t stop a plane in the air but you can fix one in development to better it.

  19. Nanda,

    In Ancient Greece women were literal chattel and had no rights to participate in democratic life, and throughout much of European history, women couldn’t vote, get an education, own property, have custody of their children after divorce, and it was legal for their husbands to rape them, so I’m not sure what point you are trying to make here.

    Also, something doesn’t have to be rubber-stamped by a committee of mustachio-twirling super-villains in an underground lair for it to be political.

  20. Dudes, if you spent more time getting laid than worrying about whether you would continue to be allowed to consume porn, you might have a much healthier and happier sex life. Shocking, I know.

    Healthy people don’t need to consume porn. Large segments of the world don’t even think about porn. They’re too busy actually living their lives. Contrasted with a guy I used to be involved with who was quite sexually compatible with me and certainly had no complaints that I knew of, but he’d stay up til 3am downloading porn when he had a live woman in his bed. That wasn’t why I eventually left him, but it didn’t help.

    Porn isn’t the same thing as sex, either. I hear this a lot when someone states they are anti-porn: “Oh, you’re just a prude. You’re sex-negative.” I have lost count of how many sexual partners I’ve had, and I enjoyed most of them. Doesn’t mean I can’t recognize how harmful porn can be–and I have experience as a consumer, too. I have SEEN the misogyny, for myself. And frankly even the sex-poz stuff could be seen as woman-hating from a certain angle because the people who make it still refer to anti-porn activists as prudes and worse. There is no room for feminism in their worldview whatsoever.

  21. Antiplondon, are you opposed to porn for sale, or any and all sexually explicit audio/visual media? That is, are you framing an argument against an media industry with a history of deliberate exploitation of both it’s employees and consumers, or against everyone who photographs/draws sex acts? Are you asserting that a couple, with no motive for profit, cannot make a home video because it is morally reprehensible?

  22. Did you actually bother reading this comment thread before asking your questions?

  23. I mean ~morally reprehensible~, why not just ask me if I clutch my pearls and reach for the smelling salts?

  24. I have decided to avoid your inevitable whining over the fact that I refuse to spoon-feed you information, and give you a clue now.

    If you had read the comment thread properly, you would have already seen that I have given a clear definition of how I define porn, and I am not going to repeat myself on that.

    If you had read the above post, taken it in, and actually thought about it, you would have worked out that my saying that I don’t think anyone should be criminalised just for watching (adult) porn, and that I would prefer a legal approach that hit pornographers in the only area they really cared about (their wallets), means that I am against overly heavy-handed and intrusive policing methods.

    I actually don’t care if people film themselves having sex. I think it’s a stupid thing to do, mostly for practical reasons (the risk of it being released as ‘revenge porn’ primarily), and I think it most likely signifies something going wrong somewhere if the only way a couple can enjoy sex is by filming it, but that’s not actually any of my business, or an area that should be controlled by the law (beyond obvious things like indecent exposure etc).

    Why, when this blog is so clearly about the way patriarchy and its institutions (primarily the sex industry) systematically harm women and children, do you think I give a shit about your dorky hobby? And why do you give a shit whether or not I approve of your dorky hobby?

  25. I would agree that criminalising watching (adult) porn is not the best solution in the short term, but what is required is education of the male of the damage that porn causes to women, and also to their (the man’s) chances of becoming the type of person they would aspire to be (e.g. not a dork, someone women might want to spend time with).

    Further down the line, once education of males has been implemented then I think backing it up with appropriate criminal measures might make sense, once even the slowest witted males have had adequate chance to understand the negative impact they are having on women. This might take some time though….

  26. Ooooops sorry just realised I’m just repeating things you have said elsewhere, such as in August 2010

    “The best method is education. Pornography is bad for all of us, men as well as women, and we’re beginning to see the fall-out from the first generation of young adults who grew up with unlimited access to extreme pornography in terms of relationship violence and STIs etc.”

  27. I’m 31 years old, bisexual. Let me get this straight: you’re telling me I’m a mysoginist because I just got off on a feminist porn video of two dykes and a femme having sex? Please do explain.

  28. How is your porn ‘feminist’, beyond you just saying that it is?

  29. i hope i'm a nice bloke

    First, a big thanks for your blog – I really do think you’ve hit the spot on the primary motivation behind the sick and depraved aspect of this business. It is quite separate from love scenes within a movie with a narrative. The driver of pure smut for smut’s sake is money. Sure, a little portrayal of sexy scenes helps sell a mainstream movie, but doesn’t involve forced, dangerous enslavement. (Director’s couches are another topic.)

    I’m male, happy to defend individual right to voice the feminist view, but more an ‘equalist’ myself and hopefully not a ‘masculinist’ of the alpha-dominant persuasion.

    One of the hurdles to this issue is completely natural human desire, regardless of orientation, otherwise known as the sin which so easily ensnares; basic instinct we’re not going to change overnight.

    Yet, I picked up on two points, which if operating jointly form a far stronger two-pronged attack:

    1. “Banning the sale of porn would be much more efficient, and something credit card companies could do easily (let’s see how interested pornographers are in exercising their ‘free speech’ when they can no longer turn a profit from it)”

    2. ” to gain civil redress,”

    By banning sale, I agree the wind is taken out of their sails (and sales!) by starving the hand of the cash that feeds the disease. It doesn’t ban an individual male or female from whatever personal free-will choices they may exercise and doesn’t infringe liberty of expression so no danger of draconian censorship outrage.

    By civil redress, I assume you mean that a wronged individual can extract financial resources for damages arising in the course of coercive abuse etc. Again, a valuable tool in curtailing the options and wealth of those with mindsets who seek to gain and maintain power over the subjugated class (includes males as well as females).

    I think by focusing on the root cause, identified as money, the desired corrective action of a) eliminating through sales the extent to which porn spreads could be achieved without curtailing precious and hard won rights of expression, & b) simultaneously granting legislative power to the individual over the corporate ‘adult’ film interests otherwise routinely defended by slimy slick legal outfits.

    It would be good to hear how you could make a distinction between the classification of two opposing legal teams in such a lawsuit. Even if establishing a set fee for lawyers on both sides, the wealthy one is going to be able to defend longer without payment, just to avoid penalties. Perhaps you could describe in a little detail the legislation you would pass to ensure absolute fairness in a court setting?

  30. I’m not a legal scholar, and I don’t have to be, I’m not dictator of the world. I suggest you google the civil ordinance that Dworkin and Mackinnon created in the 1980s.

  31. i hope i'm a nice bloke

    Thanks very much for the names for reference. I began with WIkipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antipornography_Civil_Rights_Ordinance
    There’s an exhaustive listing for the definitions of what constitutes porn. It illustrates that the damage done is not just against women by providing a substitution of men, children, trans, etc. Civil action could be brought against perps by, for example, if filmed evidence of children being abused were presented in cases against, dare I say it, any church or member, or members of other wealthy organisation found complicit or culpable in profitable distribution of said material. (…an opportunity to hire an accountant to review the books of the mafia perhaps?) As children are even less able to speak for themselves than abused adult females, maybe supporting the cause of the worse-off has some mileage and benefit for everyone?
    Potentially very powerful law.
    Shame it has been met with such resistance.
    Keep up the good work.

  32. Saltysloth above said:

    I’m 31 years old, bisexual. Let me get this straight: you’re telling me I’m a mysoginist because I just got off on a feminist porn video of two dykes and a femme having sex? Please do explain.

    Her misogyny is obvious in her comment, she reduces women to objects for her consumption: ‘two dykes and a femme’ – how is this any different from the brothel menus that offer ‘salt and pepper parties’ (one white woman + one black woman) or ‘Neapolitans’ (one blonde + one brunette + one redhead)?

    Also the use of the term ‘dyke’ by a woman who is not a lesbian herself; many lesbians consider ‘dyke’ to be a slur, and object to any attempts to ‘reclaim it’ because it is often the last word a woman will hear before being raped or murdered for being a lesbian.

  33. Why do you think so much of modern mainstream pornography is misogynist? If the porn industry is motivated by profit, surely they will produce whatever sells, they have no vested interest in producing particularly violent or degrading images.

  34. Hay Dale, why do you think disingenuously pretending that you have no idea what the mainstream of heterosexual pornography looks like would be a convincing argument?

    If you really are in the 0.000% of men with access to the internet who hasn’t seen any porn (but still, somehow, managed to make your way to this blog with porn in the title), why didn’t you try using the clearly available categories in the side bar to ~educate yourself~

    https://antipornfeminists.wordpress.com/category/porn-industry-conditions/
    https://antipornfeminists.wordpress.com/category/pornography-harms/

  35. @antiplondon – thank you for your response. Unfortunately I think you misunderstood my question.
    I’m not disputing that most porn aimed at heterosexual men is misogynist and that much of it also features violence against women. I’ve seen plenty of violent and misogynistic porn; I find it disturbing.
    My question is *why* does porn look like this?
    If you assume that the porn industry is trying to maximize their profits, then the rational thing for them to do would be to make whatever kind of pornography is most in demand.
    So given that so much porn is violent and depicts degrading acts towards women, are we to assume than many men want to watch women being degraded?
    Anti-porn feminists like Gail Dines seem to believe that porn has become more violent than it used to be; does this mean that men have become more misogynist over time?
    I’m not trying to dispute the existence/prevalence of misogyny in porn, I’m asking you how you would account for it.
    One theory is that violent porn we see today is part of a “backlash” against feminism; i.e. that the more equal women’s position in society is, the more men see their masculinity under threat; this leads them to fantasize about degrading women, and pornographers are catering to this fantasy.
    Do you agree with this analysis? If not, what is your explanation for all the violence and misogyny we see in porn?

  36. Dale, you could have worded your first comment a bit better, we could have saved some time.

    I think the back-lash argument holds, that men use porn to make up for feeling inadequate in the face of women’s advances.

    Men have always been murderously misogynistic, at least as long as patriarchy has been around, look at the witch burnings in Europe for an example.

    I think the addictive nature of pornography, specifically internet based pornography, also plays a part in the increased violence, as users become desensitised, they need more violent images to get the same effect.

  37. Antiplondon, you should listen to dale, all you did was reference your own articles. that is not what professional writers do. Porn producers make what people will watch. Porn is not degrading to any one specific gender. Using just the stereotypical man dominated porn video as an argument doesn’t hold up, as its just as degrading to men as women. If anything, it gets women the sympathy vote while men look like disgusting brutes. There is every different kind of porn for every fetish. Its all degrading to every gender. Men don’t use porn to make up for feeling inadequate. that’s made up banter. all of your argument are stereotypical Feminist whining about non-existent problems.

    you definitely arent a legal scholar. but if you want to run an effective blog, maybe you should start acting like one.

  38. Melissa,

    The majority of the posts on this blog are quotes from other sources, so when I link to this blog I am citing my sources (if you had bothered looking at this blog properly, you would realise this).

    You didn’t even read Dale’s comment properly, as he admits that porn is violent and misogynistic.

    As for the rest of your comment, if porn is so degrading to men, why do they love it so much? If it really was just as degrading to men as it was to women, why are men consuming it? Do you think all men are stupid?

    Also, if you admit that porn is degrading, how is my critique of porn ‘whining’ about a non-existent problem?

    If you want to leave an effective comment, you are the one who needs to improve.

  39. Pornographers themselves admit that porn is about men getting revenge for feeling powerless in the real world:

    One porn executive explains why users like anal: “Essentially it comes from [every man] who’s unhappily married, and he looked at his wife who just nagged at him about this or that or whatnot, and he says, `I’d like to fuck you in the ass.’ He’s angry at her, right? And he can’t, so he would rather watch some girl taking it up the ass and fantasize at that point he’s doing whatever girl happened to be mean to him that particular day.” Similarly, one producer at the Expo told me that he was specializing in anal-themed movies because “men like to see just how far the women will go with the cocks up her ass. I like to see them pushed to the edge, so I make films I like to watch.

    Gail Dines, Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality

  40. Also, the claim that ‘professional writers’ don’t reference their own work is patently rubbish. Investigative journalists and academics in any field can’t fit everything they know into one article or one paper, so they are going to reference back to previous publications.

  41. Very apropos the above, I am currently re-reading Murry Bookchin’s The Ecology of Freedom, and in the introduction (to the 1991 edition) he writes this:

    My work’s theoretical arch, if I may call it such, is reared by some nine books, among which The Ecology of Freedom may be regarded as the keystone. But I would ask readers of this book to consult some of the other works as well that round out a social ecological perspective, notably The Rise of Urbanization and Decline of Citizenship, Remaking Society, and The Philosophy of Social Ecology. Taken together, these works provide a comprehensive statement of social ecology as it exists today and form a basis for its development in the future.

    Look at that! A ‘professional writer’ asking his readers to read some of his other books, because he can’t fit all the ideas/evidence contained in nine books, into one book – who would have imagined such a thing?!

  42. God, this is so refreshing. Thank you. Thank you SO MUCH for standing up against the overwhelming tide of a society that seems to defend pornography no matter how outrageously abusive, degrading or destructive to women at large it is.

  43. Thank you for the lovely comment Tanzamarie!

  44. I feel like you’re not actually against porn and its use, but you’re against aspects of its creation, distribution and consumption; you’re opposed to the genuinely degrading practices in the porn industry and the effect porn may have on people who aren’t capable of exercising good judgment. When you mention “porn,” what I’m really hearing in your context is some amalgamation of these aspects.

    I could be wrong there. I tried to read all of the comments and your responses, but a lot of the ones I did read covered more or less the same material and weren’t useful to me. My apologies if this comment is a repeat–I don’t mean to waste your time.

    My perspective on porn is that it’s a special form of art that is generally used to cause sexual arousal through the engagement of one’s senses and psyche. I’m not saying that other negative things can’t become attached to it, but I think by itself it’s a generally benign construct in its most basic form. I’ve actually created things of this nature for my own enjoyment in the past (by myself, with my own imagination), but I don’t feel that I was being degrading to women, contributing to the degradation of women, or perpetuating sexism within myself through its content. I honestly don’t understand how a depiction of consensual and co-interested sexual activity between people could be construed as being necessarily against the spirit of feminism. I am concerned about the claim to my being wrong you seem to make because I take feminism very seriously.

    I should admit swiftly that I’m an amateur to all of the state-of-the-art high-brow academic/sociological discourse on issues of feminism and social justice. I’m doing my best these days to stay up to speed, but I understand that you might be sitting there snickering at my patriarchially-brainwashed naivete like Kathleen Hanna or something. Please try to be respectful, that’s all I ask. I’m trying to make sense of this issue with what I understand thus far. Thanks.

  45. You are wrong, and I can’t believe you have actually read anything I have written properly (including the post you are commenting under) if you thought I wasn’t actually against porn (this blog is called ‘anti porn feminists’ for goodness sake).

    This particular post is about censorship and my preferred legal approach to porn, and it is my preferred legal approach not because I want to create loop-holes for (non-existent) ~ethical porn~, but because I am against heavy-handed, inefficient and ineffective law making.

    Porn exists, for real, in the real world. It is created in the real world, by recording real things being done to real women (and children, and men).

    The ~theoretical porn~ you, and other men, are so keen on does not actually exist, no porn is simply a recording of sex, there is always intrusion and intervention; even porn that (falsely) claims to be ‘feminist’ involves the intrusion of a camera and contrived positions to allow the camera access to body parts. Where does this porn “in its most basic form” come from? What companies produce it in the real world? You more or less admit that this ‘basic porn’ only exists in your head.

    All porn objectifies and commodifies sex, and the bodies of the women (and the children, and sometimes the men) who are used to make it.

    What goes on inside your own head is your own business, I don’t have the power to stop you fantasising about sex, and I do not want that power – but where do the templates for your fantasies come from? If you are just re-editing the porn you have consumed, then you are still consuming the degradation of women; if your fantasies are not reliant on a porn template, why the need to defend porn in the first place?

    Just because you don’t think you are a misogynist, that doesn’t prove you’re not one.

    There is nothing “state-of-the-art” or “high-brow” about the idea that women are fully human, and that we exist for ourselves, and not to be used by men.

    Feminism is about liberating women from male supremacism, facilitating orgasms is not going to achieve that.

    Most men (and a lot of female porn users) are so porn-sick they can’t even see women’s suffering any more, and when they do see it, it just turns them on. Which real world porn contains images of “consensual and co-interested sexual activity between people”? Even current porn performers admit that they have to use a load of artificial lubricant because the women are not enjoying what is going on, and porn shoots take all day because the scenes have to be shot from multiple angles, that is the reality of pornography.

  46. I’m not in agreement with much of your philosophy, but it seems to me that something could be done here jointly by people who don’t necessarily agree on everything. And I do agree that mainstream porn is bad for the women who work in it. So bad that making it fall out of use and wither would be beneficial to them despite the loss of income.

    And as for methods to make it wither, I think there’s something even easier to enforce than a ban on sales. (A card company ban would be routed around by selling cookies with pron thrown in for free).

    The option I would propose is absolutely fine with freedom of speech, even in an American First Amendment interpretation. And, it works wider than the country. *And* something innocent being caught in it is not harmed too much, as nothing is ever censored by this measure. *And* genuine ethical small-scale producers are nearly unaffected. *And* porn users won’t come out in support of the industry, too, because they will love the measure.

    Remove copyright protection from porn.

    Copyright is a state-created privilege, intended to incentivise creation of works. You don’t want to incentivise creation of porn. Fine, remove the copyright. Make “pornographic content” a definitive automatic defense against any criminal or civil copyright suit, a takedown claim (DMCA or equivalent, unless the claim is by the pictured person on personal privacy grounds), etc. (Note: this does not impede prosecution of child porn cases as they are not copyright cases).

    Independent ethical producers already rely to a large degree on Patreon and that model is unaffected. People who produce porny photos/videos just for the thrill of it are unaffected too. (Revenge porn is to be handled by separate law anyway).

    However, the market for new mainstream porn shrinks – and it shrinks worldwide by just one country implementing the measure. Mainstream porn, unlike “artisan” porn, is a commodity, any video in a “genre” can replace another. With the huge amount of existing porn suddenly out of copyright and freely available from websites in that one country, many people will refuse to pay for new productions.

    Sadly this screws models on royalties, too. But so does a ban on sales. And this option is even cleaner on freedom than a ban on sales. Very few people will defend copyright as a bulwark of freedom. Besides, this option is much easier to enforce, because you only need to enforce it on judges, not independent companies.

  47. Your copyright idea is interesting, but I don’t just want to stop porn production, I want to remove it from circulation as well, my stopping payments idea is not the be-all and end-all of what I want to do (and I would extend the stopping payments to the advertisers who effectively pay for the ‘free’ sites – nothing is genuinely free on the internet, except content provided by mugs like me). All losing copyright would do is flood the internet with free violent porn. (and I am sure there must be a way around the loophole of free porn with some other purchase.)

    My going for stopping payments is because I am against heavy-handed, draconian, and inefficient policing, which is what any attempt to criminalise the viewing of pornography would be.

    Also, to be specific/clarify (because I think I said this already), it’s the payments that would be most efficient to target, so that’s credit card companies and things like paypal etc, not trying to enforce sales bans on every individual porn company/website.

    Also, there is no such thing as ‘ethical’ or ‘artisan’ porn, and ‘models’ don’t get royalties in mainstream porn (or in much so-called ‘ethical’ porn either), they are paid once only, per sex act or scene, then those images can be re-edited endlessly by the porn production company that owns the images.

  48. I do not want to go into a debate about ethical porn here, I do trust words of women like Kitty Stryker who actually do it, but I am very definitely not an expert on the issue myself. (And yes, when you say a royalties mechanism does not exist it, I trust you too. I know it does exist in writing, including erotic writing, but I guess this is a different area).

    Rather I’m looking at solutions that would work across opinions. And I know much more about copyright than I do about porn. I was interested in freedom of speech campaigning, which includes pushback against copyright, for more than is the age of consent in most places.

    Yes, “flood the internet with free violent porn” was sort of the idea – if there is an oversupply the price falls, driving producers out of business. And stopping industrial production is one place where many, probably most, reasonable people would agree, whatever their philosophy about other things. Industrial production of porn exploits most models, period.

    This would also set a precedent that copyright is really a government-granted incentive. not some sort of “natural property right”. No need for incentive? No copyright.

    The problem with setting rules for paypal etc is that the sites will make it sales of cookies with porn included for free. And then, also, there is Bitcoin and the like. Not that I have any problem with setting those rules, on their own. The rules would restrict commerce, not speech, and commerce is where regulation belongs. No problem with advertisement restrictions either as long as they are clearly limited to paid stuff.

    Enforcing labour regulations is also a very good idea, but the problem with that is that production can easily move to other countries.

    I understand you might be only interested in avoiding excessive policing, but for me freedom of speech *is* an important principle. It does cut both ways – I also do support freedom of speech for radfems despite strongly disagreeing with the philosophy on many things from class theory to transgenderism. To give a point of reference, I am very much a fan of Peter Tatchell where freedom of speech is concerned. And so, to take a case where very definitely no model was exploited for lack of model, I would vigorously defend any sort of written or drawn porn.

    (I would view the hate speech exemption to free speech very narrowly – actual positive incitement to violence. Depiction of violence is not in itself hate speech – or else one would have to ban many non-pornographic mainstream movies and some games, which I would not support).

    But freedom of speech does not mean freedom to use people in its making. And that’s where things become interesting – and by this I mean there might be a wide enough coalition to do something.

  49. “I do not want to go into a debate about ethical porn here, I do trust words of women like Kitty Stryker who actually do it, but I am very definitely not an expert on the issue myself.”

    Ok, if you want to keep commenting here, at least show me some basic respect by reading what I have written, even if you don’t want to debate it. I think Stryker is a complete phoney, and, in the link provided, I have demonstrated how.

    “(And yes, when you say a royalties mechanism does not exist it, I trust you too. I know it does exist in writing, including erotic writing, but I guess this is a different area).”

    This is a basic fact about the porn industry, maybe if you are this lacking in knowledge, you should go away and read up some more, before coming here and leaving long comments.

    “I was interested in freedom of speech campaigning, which includes pushback against copyright, for more than is the age of consent in most places.”

    Is this a typo? Or do you think the age of consent is a ‘speech’ issue??

    “Yes, “flood the internet with free violent porn” was sort of the idea – if there is an oversupply the price falls, driving producers out of business. And stopping industrial production is one place where many, probably most, reasonable people would agree, whatever their philosophy about other things. Industrial production of porn exploits most models, period.”

    Yes, but porn also acts as advertisement for sexual violence, or do you think nobody ever wants to try out what they see in porn?

    I care very much about the mistreatment of women (and men) in porn production, but that is not the entire story.

    “The problem with setting rules for paypal etc is that the sites will make it sales of cookies with porn included for free.”

    Like I said, there must be a way to close that kind of loop-hole, otherwise drug dealers would be handing out ‘free’ heroine with expensive cookies.

    “And so, to take a case where very definitely no model was exploited for lack of model, I would vigorously defend any sort of written or drawn porn.”

    Did you bother reading the comment thread? I already said the written word should not be censored.

    “(I would view the hate speech exemption to free speech very narrowly – actual positive incitement to violence. Depiction of violence is not in itself hate speech – or else one would have to ban many non-pornographic mainstream movies and some games, which I would not support).”

    This is disingenuous, porn is sold to be masturbated to, it is sold as sex.

    I don’t think the comparison to violent films or video games is a good one, these are known to be fantasy, not a part of normal everyday life (although they do still give out messages, for example about masculinity and femininity). A far better comparison is cookery programs; like sex, preparing and eating food is a normal part of everyday life, some people will watch cookery programs without any intension of ever copying what they see, others will follow every recipe to the letter, most people will fall somewhere in between; but nobody would seriously argue that cookery programs were pure fantasy, and that nobody would ever try to copy the recipes they see.

    “But freedom of speech does not mean freedom to use people in its making. And that’s where things become interesting”

    Well that’s exactly the radical feminist argument. Dworkin said that if pornography was speech, that reduced the women used to make it to the chattel of the pornographers, because the pornographers cannot make their ‘speech’ without using them.

  50. The age of consent reference was simply that I am “on” the free speech and copyright issue for over 16 years. Sorry, the joke was probably too complicated. No, I do not think age of consent itself is a speech issue, because sex is not speech (well, duh).

    (But as you asked: there is a related speech issue when children are “protected” from too much speech, when laws or filters allegedly designed to protect them from porn strike things like sex ed and description of non-heterosexual relationships – while porn gets in through the cracks anyway. Another related issue is that, while bans on “child porn” – or rather, child abuse images, a more recent term – are completely valid and necessary, sometimes teenagers are prosecuted for photographing themselves. This is not really a part of the topic, but just shows that speech issues are everywhere, absolutely everywhere, it’s such a huge topic).

    Regarding the radical feminist argument on porn, looks like I agree with half of it, well, more or less. (I still do believe some women and some, mostly gay, men who claim to actually make porn of themselves, so there is no “chattel holder” in the mix, but this is not a part of the industry, so if one concentrates on the industry this is not an issue). And so if we concentrate on making life harder for the industry, we want the same thing.

    I don’t however agree with the other half, about porn being some sort of propaganda of violence simply by being porn.

    One could apply it to certain very violent genres (there is actually a ban on those in the UK), but in general I see this as a very dangerous line of thinking. The kind that fuels the law against “homosexual propaganda” in Russia, where I originally come from. The Russian lawmakers think that seeing depictions of gay relationships will make people gay. The radfems think that seeing depictions of violent sex will make people violent. You can at least see why I’m suspicious of the idea. (This before we touch upon the kind of porn that does not even contain violence, but never even mind that).

    I grew up in the place when it was yet the Soviet Union, and censorship was really big there, because bad depictions would make people do bad things – and then, of course, everything eventually crumbled and people ended up doing all those bad things and more, because the forbidden fruit is always sweet!

    But the thing is, people will disagree about these things. And about a lot of other things. And in a democracy, while people concentrate on disagreement nothing is going to get done. My question was, really, whether there might be something that, while not perfect, could actually be agreed by a large enough amount of people. And if one concentrates on disabling the industry, there just might be something there. Copyright is an obvious solution from the cyber-freedom perspective I’m used to, there might be others. (I’m not averse to your sales idea if there is a way to enforce it, but with heroin. I think this works simply by banning any distribution, free or not; something else is needed to close loopholes for porn payment).

    But when talking about a coalition – preferably not the kind of unholy alliance emerging on trans issues between radfems and conservatives in the US – this will never work. Supporting the NC law because of bathrooms, while ignoring the part about forbidding local non-discrimination protection for LGBT in very different issues, is pretty sure to backfire. As is uncritical distribution of every anti-trans hit piece by a right wing hack. This is not gender theory – I do love a good debate on what “gender abolition” would actually mean, but at this point it is about politics and doing it wrong.

    For anyone who wants the porn industry weakened or dead, for whatever reasons, I suspect one should be thankful that the right wing has left porn alone. They tend to lose every battle on internal policy. Just look at the shambles of the Kim Davis story! Just look at abortion, where they waste huge resources on tugs-of-war over a few weeks and pushing out a clinic or two, while they could instead finance medical research, bring viability down to 15 weeks and have Roe v Wade work *for* them!

    I predict that the anti-trans part will end up in something as ridiculous as the Kim Davis “protest”, pulling the radfems down with the ship, and if the Right were to do anti-porn that’s where it would end, too. They’re toxic.

  51. Ok, I am really bored of you and your long rambling comments now.

    There is plenty evidence about porn influencing sexual behavior, from pubic hair removal, to labiaplasty, to the normalisation of coercive heterosexual anal sex, and things like choking and hair pulling during sex (all things I have blogged about).

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