In pornography, there's literally a market for everything: Why 'feminist porn' isn't the answer

“If there’s something you don’t like about your body, put it into a search engine, put ‘+ porn,’ and you’ll find a whole host of sites that find that’s the most attractive thing about you,” porn producer, Anna Arrowsmith said in an interview with BBC, with reference to a debate she would be participating in, hosted by Intelligence Squared in London.

The debate was centered around the motion: “Pornography is good for us” — indeed, a stupidly simplistic and unanswerable question in and of itself; the debate shone a light on the intellectually void and anti-feminist nature of the delusion that is “feminist” or “queer” pornography.

Arrowsmith begins her argument in a most telling way; describing how, one night, walking through London’s red light district, she realized that, rather than feeling angry, she was “envious” that men’s sexuality was being catered to “in so many different ways.” This feeling is likely familiar to many of us and is also an entry point into pro-porn/prostitution feminism for many women. After all, it’s not particularly unreasonable that a woman might feel “envious” of men’s position in this world. It makes perfect sense to feel as though we’ve gotten the shaft (pun!), as women, as far as cultural and social prioritization of female sexuality goes. But is the answer to take what men have in the sex industry, break off a corner piece, and try to mold it into something marginally less male-centric? Is the answer to exploitation to provide “equal” opportunity exploitation? Is our goal, as feminists, to be more like men and to merely adapt to a male-dominated world as best we can? Are we so unwilling to imagine something different than simply “more porn!”?

“I knew then that it was far more productive and feminist to invest my time in creating something that allowed women to explore their sexuality than it was to thwart men’s freedoms,” Arrowsmith said.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. And while you’re at it, be sure to let the men know you’re on their side. They need change nothing — you’re jumping on board with them. Arrowsmith wants to be seen as one of the “good” feminists. Non-threatening. Fun. Sexxxxxy. Alas, the logic and ideology behind her arguments is not only confused, it’s anti-feminist.

Not only does Arrowsmith want to reassure men they are doing nothing wrong, that she’s on their side, that all she wants is a piece of the pie — but she goes so far as to blame feminism (in particular, Andrea Dworkin) for victimizing women: “Such theorists see women as inevitable victims which, in turn, encourages women to see themselves as victims. It is this anti-porn feminism that gave men the power to taunt women with porn…”

It’s all in your head, Arrowsmith’s self-help style, faux-empowerment discourse goes — Just change your frame of mind, and you can change the world. Yet no amount of positive affirmations or standing in front of mirrors, telling ourselves we are not victims and that we are empowered, will stop men from raping and abusing and objectifying us. Feeling good is great. I highly recommend it. But a political movement to end oppression and inequality, it is not.

Feminism hasn’t victimized women. Neither does the word “victim,” victimize women. Perpetrators of violence victimize women. Blaming women for their own oppression is the lowest of the low. Naming the perpetrator is rule number one in this movement.

Still think Anna Arrowsmith is on our side? Still think “feminist pornography” has anything to do with feminism?

Arrowsmith imagines herself to be making a case for female empowerment via the sex industry. That is, if the fetishization and sexualization of everything and everyone is the be all end all of liberation.

She believes that the problem with objectification (which she understands, in her muted and apolitical way, to mean: “seeing someone for their sexual attractiveness alone”) is simply that it isn’t “socially acceptable” for women to objectify men (though they are capable of doing so “just as easily”).

You see, Arrowsmith has limited her vision of female sexuality (and is working very hard to convince us to limit ours as well) to what she sees in a male-dominated world — understandably — this is all we know. If only we could have what they have, that whole injustice thing would fade away. If women, too, were able to objectify men as men objectify women, objectification would cease to play a starring role in the global epidemic that is violence against women.

Just imagine! If a woman had objectified Joe Francis, he never would have made a lucrative career off the backs of young, inebriated women he convinced to “go wild” — Certainly if women could produce similar films, the objectification and exploitation that support his hatred of women would vanish. Certainly Francis’ view of women as objects that exist solely for his financial gain and/or male pleasure had nothing to do with his recent conviction on assault charges. Nope. The fact that if you don’t comply to Francis’ wishes, and you happen to be a woman, he may or may not smash your head into a tile floor, has nothing at all to do with his soft-core porn empire (which he, like all pornographers, presents as “free speech”). He has a long history of exploiting and abusing women and girls. If you should ever need a clear picture of the connections between prostitution, pornography, and violence against women, look no further than Joe Francis. Or Larry Flynt. Or Belgian porn king, Dennis Black Magic. Turning living beings into objects erases their humanity. It’s far easier to abuse an object. Men who don’t respect women, don’t respect women.

Would “queer porn” have changed how Joe Francis saw and treated women? If it were “socially acceptable” for women to objectify men, would Girls Gone Wild have ceased to be an exploitative, woman-hating, dick-fest? If more women with tattoos and real breasts were made into porn, would the billion-dollar porn industry lose a cent? Would it change it’s misogynistic ways? Would those porn producers suddenly start respecting women? What’s the logic behind this?

Cover your eyes and plug your ears, ladies. Objectification is for everyone. This could be your liberation.

Arrowsmith’s arguments outline many of the problems with discourse around so-called “feminist pornography” — One of those arguments being that diversity will address and erase the misogyny that is integral to the industry. So, the argument goes: if we simply include diverse bodies in our porn, it will cease to be sexist. But, if the problem with pornography lies in narrow definitions of beauty, then we’re making the argument that it’s impossible to objectify women who aren’t thin or who don’t have surgically enhanced bodies. Or that somehow it’s more ethical to objectify “alternative” or “diverse” bodies.

This is, of course, not true. Objectification doesn’t only work on hairless, orange ladies whose bodies have been trimmed and buffed and stuffed full of silicone. Oh no. Men are fully capable of objectifying all kinds of women. Rape happens to fat women and disabled women and older women and racialized women, too, Anna. Is the ability to watch “an amputee,” as Arrowsmith suggests, in porn, progressive? Would we feel better if we watched a woman over 40 be gang raped? Would fetishizing cellulite end male violence? Please.

Another key problem, according to “feminist porn” pushers, is that porn is simply misrepresented. Arrowsmith says, for example, that the oh-so-diverse ways in which porn objectifies all kinds of women isn’t represented in the “mainstream press.” But the problems with porn goes far beyond “representation.”

Germaine Greer, who was placed on the other end of this debate, points out that “porn is not a style, and it’s not a literary genre… It’s an industry.” In other words, this isn’t merely an issue of representation. Nor is it an issue of diversity. Today, pornography is just as much about capitalism as it is patriarchy. It’s about the commodification of bodies and of sexuality for the purposes of profit. Under an inherently exploitative system, such as capitalism, I find the idea that porn is about anything liberating or has anything at all to do with democracy (as Arrowsmith calls it: “the democratization of the body”) deeply ignorant. Capitalism’s whole deal is profits before people, so the notion that one who aligns themselves with a movement towards social equality, such as feminism, would advocate for an industry that exists at the expense of women’s lives, is illogical.

Arrowsmith presents the industry as one that caters to women’s needs and lives, saying: “The porn industry is organized around the women who perform in the films as they decide their limits and are hired on that basis.” Ok sure. If you think that having a three year career (which is the average amount of time women last in the porn industry) in which women are pressured to perform more and more extreme acts and, once they do perform those acts, can’t return to the more “vanilla” acts they were doing before constitutes a female-led industry. The ones who get longevity, financially and career-wise, are the men who run the industry. Women get a few thousand dollars, maybe three years, and a lifetime of humiliation as those images follow them around for the rest of their lives.

Perhaps worst of all, Arrowsmith believes that pornography is a useful stand-in for actual sex education: “It’s where most men learn about where the clitoris, A-spot, and G-spot are.” But the fact that porn is actually seen as a kind of sex education and is actually where most boys and men are learning about sex these days is not something to be celebrated. Not only does porn provide a warped understanding of what women enjoy, sexually (being dominated, facials, gang bangs, double-penetration, everything men enjoy sexually, etc.) but it doesn’t teach consent. Instead it provides viewers with the impression that women are always up for anything and, furthermore, that rape is something that turns us on, even if we think we don’t want it.

By far, the most common female character in porn is “teen.” I tend to think that sexualizing teenage girls isn’t best sex education for men. Is this the “diversity” you’re talking about, Anna? Is this the sex education we want for men? Anna Arrowsmith should probably google “teen porn” and then get back to us about this great, pro-woman sex education porn is providing for men.

Ironically, Arrowsmith runs a “campaign website” called WeConsent.org. The site purports to “campaign against moral panics and anti-erotic industry legislation.” Everything from the name to the supposed aim of the site should be raising red flags. The intentionally meaningless language intends to manipulate the public into believing that 1) the porn industry is interested in “consent,” and 2) opposition to the porn industry stems from puritanism and some kind of illusory “anti-sex” position.

I say “ironically” with reference to the name of the site because, in fact, the entire basis for the sex industry is lack of consent. And no, before sex work advocates start manipulating my words to mean that I think sex workers or porn performers can’t be raped, because every sex act that is paid for constitutes rape, that isn’t exactly the argument I’m making. Consensual sex happens when both parties desire sex. If one partner does not want to have sex, and sex happens anyway, that constitutes rape (i.e. nonconsensual sex). In porn, those involved are being paid to perform sex acts. They are paid because the sex acts they are engaging in are not desired. Once you are paying someone to have sex with you, it no longer counts as consensual, enthusiastic, desired sex. Yes, you agreed to perform whatever sexual acts — but you did so because you were being paid. Not because you really, really, really wanted to fake an orgasm while that very special man fucks you in the ass.

“Whatever happens between consenting adults…” is another manipulation put forth by the sex industry advocates. But is this the kind of consent we’re looking for, as feminists? To be paid to perform sex acts and fake enjoyment? Really? It doesn’t sound liberating to me. That doesn’t sound like “free sexuality” to me.

Even more odd is how the pro-porn “feminists” have also positioned themselves as “sex-positive,” implying that there exists a faction of feminists who are “sex-negative.” I’m perpetually amused to have been placed in some imagined “anti-sex” camp due to my criticisms of the sex industry, though it becomes less and less laughable as more and more people seem to be buying into the notion that “pro-porn” equals “pro-sex.” After all, what’s so “sex-positive” about commodified, coerced sex? What’s so “sex-positive” about promoting an industry that encourages an understanding of sex and sexuality that is not only male-centered, but prioritizes profit over the well-being, pleasure, and respect of women?

Greer’s comments, in fact, were the only “sex-positive” thing I heard in the entire debate, who said (and I completely agree): “I’m in favour of erotic art. I’m desperate to find a way to reincorporate sexuality in the narrative that we give of our lives.” That I feel nothing less than elated in the rare moments I’ve seen women’s bodies and sexualities represented onscreen in ways that don’t objectify and degrade shows me how desperate I am for this as well. We’re so accustomed to pornographic representations of sex and sexuality that we can’t even imagine an alternative. We’ve been told that porn equals sex and that, therefore, to be critical of porn is to be critical of sexual expression. That argument is then extended into one that says that, by either criticizing, limiting, or “censoring” pornography, we are repressing people’s sexualities and sexual freedom. But, as Greer points out: “Pornography doesn’t make us less repressed — pornography is a way of making money off of the fact that we are repressed.”

The solution to the massive and insidious impacts of porn on our lives and views of women, men, and sexuality is not “more porn”. Neither will “diversity” resolve the misogynistic and exploitative nature of the porn industry. The fact that Arrowsmith believes that objectifying “an amputee” or women who don’t look like Playboy models is liberating shows a depressing lack of understanding with regard to how the industry functions and the ways that objectification impacts the status of and real lives of women everywhere. The fact that she believes that women will feel better about their perceived flaws because they can find porn that fetishizes said flaws is, frankly, stupid. “Ooooh look! That man just came all over that lady’s tummy rolls! Body-hatred = resolved.”

“Whatever gives you pleasure, gives you power” can only be your mantra so long as power (rather than social equality) is your modus operandi. When Arrowsmith tells us that “whatever interests you, sexually, is what you should practice,” what she’s condoning and advocating for is not women or female sexual liberation, but a model that says that individual desire, whatever that desire may be, takes precedence over justice, equality, and human rights. Beyond that, pornography limits possibilities for, and our ability to explore real sexual pleasure outside the confines set up by the linear narrative of porn which prioritizes male ejaculation over all else and teaches women to focus on their performance (and faked orgasms) rather than their pleasure.

Arrowsmith says pornography is like “a game or a sport,” and she’s right, in a way… The “game” is one of narcissistic conquest wherein, as Anita Sarkeesian reminded us recently, with respect to “the game of patriarchy,” rather than being the opposing team, women are the ball.

Arrowsmith’s “queer, feminist porn” is nothing more than a desire to jump into the court and grab a racket in the vain hope she won’t get hit.

 

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • Lela

    Great piece, Meghan. I find that to be such a revealing statement, this idea that pornography is like “a game or a sport.” Porn promoters clearly can’t even be bothered to conceal the dehumanization that is central to their product, even while pretending to speak in feminist terms.

    The porn industry has been so blatantly abusive to women, in so many ways, for so long, and somehow it expects to placate feminists by offering up “feminist porn” and not addressing its own obvious human rights violations…. what a twisted joke. Doubtless, the greatest fear of pornographers is women telling them “no.” As in, “No, we do not need your product in any way, shape or form.” “No, we will not accept the abuse of women masquerading as entertainment.” Consent, my ass.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Totally. It’s a way to avoid making real critiques of porn. Like,’look over here! FEMINIST PORN. Shhhhhhh.’

  • Terre Spencer

    How can anyone take objectification of a perceived body “flaw” as a justification for an industry that grooms, tortures and sometimes murders women?
    This makes me weep.
    Thank you for writing this.

  • amongster

    i’m glad i found this post. i’ve been struggling with this topic for a while and you really got me thinking. i’m ashamed that even as a rape-survivor i bought into the pro-porn-nonsense. maybe i ‘joined them’ because i felt already beaten by them, i don’t know.
    i know much better now what to fight and what to support. thank you for waking me up.

    • stringofpearls

      Don’t be ashamed, you’re being groomed not only by the industry, but by women who have lost any semblance of working for their mandate, to promote women’s health, including sexual health. If it was only the sex industry, the official ‘porn promoters’ who sought to brainwash us, but I’ve heard this point of view from sexologists, from authors of texts used in women’s studies courses, from women in taxpayer sponsored non-profits purportedly serving Canadian women’s health, from women who put the strength of their organization behind such women-hating “health” information as Cotton Ceiling. I have long since got over thinking if it’s run by feminists it warrants my support. In my opinion, Canada has a feminist industry that runs auxiliary to the pron corps.

  • Ivan Sorensen

    there’s some pretty insidious cultural hegemony going on in the choice of “sex positive” as a term. The notion being that you are somehow “against” sex if you do not approve of the sex industry.
    By setting up the narrative that porn = sex, they are defining the terms of the conversation, which is how a cultural hegemony is maintained.

    after all, sex is natural, healthy and most people engage in it. so if porn = sex, then porn must be natural and healthy as well, right?

  • Rayna

    Pro-porn women’s acceptance of pornography as harmless fun and free speech is pretty confusing at first when you notice that many of them are actually capable of producing thoughtful critiques on subjects like sexual objectification in other types of media. They understand that women play the role of sex object in a lot of mainstream media. They understand that Britney Spears’ very publicised transformation from an innocent, pigtailed virgin teen to a scandalous, pornified icon of sexiness was intentionally documented for male fap fodder. They understand that Megan Fox in Transformers, Emily Browning and the other asylum inmates in Sucker Punch, the young women who appear in the James Bond films, etc. etc. etc. appear primarily to be hot sexy eye candy for the teenage male gaze. They understand that many actresses have a limited number of available roles for non-sexualised, stereotype-free, complex, multidimensional characters. They understand that this is especially the case for actresses of colour.

    But when it comes to pornography, suddenly all the women freely choose to perform for the male gaze and suddenly it’s liberating to earn money by being as sexually available to men as possible. Totally sticks it to the puritans! But yeah I think you pretty much covered the reason for the dissonant views in this post. Being vocally anti-porn in a culture in which men love porn and will defend their right to create and watch it to the ends of the earth has risks. At best, you will be a shrill, hysterical, oversensitive, prudish “bad” feminist who hates free speech. At worst, you will be pressured into silence through the risk of harassment and/or violence. When liberal feminists decide to board men’s “porn is free speech” train, it’s usually not because they don’t believe it’s misogynistic, it’s because they figure there are safer ways to approach the issue, ways that don’t involve getting tarred as bad feminists who hate men and sex. So then instead of dismantling the abusive, exploitative industry, the solution becomes making “woman friendly” porn! And they repeat those ideas often enough until they truly start to believe that porn can be good for women. They are very frustrating but ultimately I pity them because I recognise that most of them come from a place of self-preservation and neoliberal brainwashing.

    I don’t include female pornographers like Arrowsmith in that remark, by the way. Women with race and class privilege who make alliances with the most vile misogynists in the world and serve to support male power deserve only my scorn. When you trample on women with far less privilege and power for your personal profit you are actively aiding their oppression and I won’t easily forgive that.

    Of course there are also women who love the hardcore violence of porn and profess to be feminists and I can’t even begin to describe how depressing they are.

    • Meghan Murphy

      “When liberal feminists decide to board men’s “porn is free speech” train, it’s usually not because they don’t believe it’s misogynistic, it’s because they figure there are safer ways to approach the issue, ways that don’t involve getting tarred as bad feminists who hate men and sex. So then instead of dismantling the abusive, exploitative industry, the solution becomes making “woman friendly” porn! And they repeat those ideas often enough until they truly start to believe that porn can be good for women. They are very frustrating but ultimately I pity them because I recognise that most of them come from a place of self-preservation and neoliberal brainwashing.

      I don’t include female pornographers like Arrowsmith in that remark, by the way. Women with race and class privilege who make alliances with the most vile misogynists in the world and serve to support male power deserve only my scorn.”

      No, it’s clear that Arrowsmith just wants in on this. To be honest, I’m not quite sure what to make of her ideology/logic/arguments — does she really believe what she’s saying? I tend to think that women kind of ‘brainwash’ themselves in many ways, just because it’s easier. It’s easier to try to feel good and try to make the best of a bad situation, rather than confront it and try to change it. I do agree that women like Arrowsmith need to be held to account, rather than pitied, though — as they are colluding with the misogynists for their own personal gain…

    • This is the best comment ever. Seriously. I was so incredibly thrilled to read this. I feel pretty much exactly the same as you do on this, and I have many pro-porn (or at least pro-“feminist porn”) who believe the things you’re describing. Please follow me on Twitter if you aren’t already. Not saying that as a plug… just would like to connect. Let me know which one is you! 🙂

  • vouchsafer

    I think it’s pretty funny that Arrowsmith tells us that whatever interests us sexually is what we should practice.

    First of all, what”interests” me sexually is first being respected as an equal-status human. Without that, I’m not interested.

    Secondly, thanks for the permission, lady. Like women are this great fluttering flock of brainless ninnies running around waiting for someone to explain to us what is or is not permissible for us to participate in sexually.

    Third, I don’t know about anyone else, but I think it’s probably time we all started spending a little less time worrying about getting off and a little bit more time paying attention to the fact that the world just passed the 400 ppm carbon dioxide level.

    Meghan is right, the capitalists are to blame for dehumanizing women in the name of profit. They’re also to blame for just about everything that contributes to carbon emissions, the whole economic downturn, sweatshops, and every other fucking thing that ruins something beautiful, and the way they get away with it is because they’ve found a way to hypnotize 80% of the population by keeping them focused on their own orgasms, and that way is porn.

    There’s more to life people. Wake up!!

    The answer is not to create feminist porn. Arrowsmith is the stool-pigeon of capitalism, I bet you two high-fives. The answer is to reject altogether the capitalist propaganda that women are dehumanized sperm receptacles and men are nothing more than chittering jack-off monkeys.
    Maybe then we could all work together to do something about this train-wreck that is our planets survivability into the foreseeable future.

  • I found it really difficult to watch/listen to Arrowhead miss the point entirely. She presents herself as pro-sex, but advocates for an industry that fetishizes and objectifies people and body parts in order to make profit. She does not seem able to imagine what an honest, open, and exciting exploration of our sexuality (through sexual intercourse and intimacy) would look like, and instead thinks that more porn will liberate us indeed (and make us less repressed! I think she must have misunderstood Foucault as well).
    Her arguments were so illogical I wouldn’t even know where to begin!
    Thank goodness Greer was present as well to offer some intelligent arguments.
    Also thank you for writing this piece.

    • lizor

      Arrowsmith like so many others is pro-rape culture, not pro-sex. This is classic Orwellian language usage. Radical feminism is pro-sex, not this rape-culture propping/neoliberal everything-is-exploitable-and-that’s-good-for-us-all psycho-social poison.

  • Rye

    I’m confused.

    According to (http://feministcurrent.com/7173/girls-explains-the-difference-between-porn-and-nudity-in-half-an-hour/), there is a difference between portraying female naked bodies on film, and portraying women in a sexualized and exploitative way (porn).

    So, is “feminist porn” a contradictory concept because:

    1. By definition, porn portrays women in a sexualized and exploitative way.
    2. It does not matter if the male and female actors are portrayed in a an equal context. Material that is produced to stimulate masturbation is inherently objectifying and degrading to women.

    And does this apply to pictures? Even if the pictures are of one’s own sexual partner, and there’s nothing obviously degrading about the context?

    or

    3. Something else?

    • Me

      1. Yes
      2. Yes
      3. Yes

      Did you stop using porn yet or still feeding the addiction? That’s not optional to trying to understand this, you know.

      • Melissa

        How much do you want to bet that Rye’s next post will be about how he watches only female friendly “feminist” porn with his “privileged” prostitute?

        • Me

          I bet he gets his idea of consensual, respectful male-female relationships from “feminist porn” and then tries to enact with the woman he exploits. Not just the sex but the entire relationship, which he looks to validate. Makes me sad to think of her.

        • michael

          Of all the comments I’ve posted today, If the one I just posted to Melissa isn’t publically shown on the site, I will be most offended by that then if any of the others aren’t shown.

    • vouchsafer

      @rye

      3. Imagine a pie chart that represents porn. 100% of the pie chart is taken up by one category -porn that seeks to dehumanize women.
      Now imagine someone cutting in a teeny tiny slice of the pie so narrow you can barely see it and label that Feminist porn’.

      Then, imagine Pornographer X going ” see? We can erase the entire feminist critique of our product because feminists like porn too. Look! They’re on the pie chart.”

      That’s your something else, that is what you’re missing from the post.

      • MLM

        Also, much of what’s labelled as “feminist porn” is ostensibly no different from mainstream porn, and nor is the mindset of the so-called “feminist” pornographers.

        For example, Tristan Taormino, who has made films for US porn company Vivid with titles like “The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women”, “House of Ass”, and “Rough Sex”, and who actively sought to work with notoriously misogynistic pornographer John “Buttman” Stagliano, seems to dismiss the idea that mainstream porn is misogynistic in the first place.

        “… I can identify with John Stagliano because he is obsessed with women’s asses, and well, so am I, which disrupts that whole philosophy, that porn made for men is misogynistic.”

        In other words, because she absorbs the male gaze and internalises the misogyny to the point where she can identify with the misogynist, it apparently then ceases to be misogyny. And calling herself a “feminist” pornographer must apparently be little more than a marketing ploy, because there’s apparently nothing anti-feminist about porn in her mind to begin with.

    • “By definition, porn portrays women in a sexualized and exploitative way.”
      This is correct.

  • Rye

    @Me

    I still use porn, but it’s not an addiction. I use it maybe once every two days to relieve my sexual tension. True, I need a visual stimuli to jerk off, but how a man is supposed to masturbate without a visual is beyond me. I could use my imagination instead, but it’s not like that changes anything. Moreover, I doubt women masturbate without at least imagining themselves having sex either.

    When I think of examples of sexual objectification, I think of men harming women or violating women’s right to bodily autonomy for their own gratification. Basically, men using women without regard for the moral considerations they deserve. I can see why it’s wrong to treat a woman that way, and I can see how porn trains men to treat women that way. But it doesn’t make sense to me how masturbating to a visual or mental image of a body is objectification.

    • Meghan Murphy

      “how a man is supposed to masturbate without a visual is beyond me” — what??? Men masturbate all the time without visual stimuli. What planet are you living on?

      • Me

        I don’t know about that, Meghan. How many men on Planet Pornsick have a healthy sexual relationship to themselves?

        @Rye, it is an addiction. You can’t imagine release without. I get it, I totally do. And you need to stop, first of all for the good of others because that’s the caring and compassionate thing to do that you may on some level want to do, and then do it for yourself as well and extend that same caring to yourself. Put your money into therapy. Give to feminist organizations because they need it. You’re projecting onto porn and whacking something. You’re projecting onto the prostitute something and forcing her to deal with shit you need to deal with yourself. FFS, I haven’t been able to masturbate for nearly a year now except once, so what? I loved that once and I love myself in other ways. I’ve got sexual tension too, lots of people do, so do I ram my ass to feel okay in feeling violated and in forcing myself to orgasm? That’s essentially what you do: you force yourself to orgasm when you don’t feel like it. I hindsight I realize I’ve forced myself before. But that was fucked up and I now see some of the reasons that led me to it. Why does ANY kind of sexual release have to be helpful and good and has to be had? GOD! Get over it, get help and stop making women pay! It’s not their fucking fault and it’s not in your right to make it so!

        AND I’m so not interested in hearing your reply if you can’t be bothered to be honest about it, way beyond how you’ve been. I don’t care to hear about men when all they do is lie–to us, to themselves.

        • Meghan Murphy

          True – and that isn’t to say that people shouldn’t question their fantasies/why certain things turn them on, etc. But there is, of course, a distinction between making pornography and selling it to men and people masturbatory fantasies in their head (of course these things are also very connected).

      • Hahaha yeah because men TOTALLY NEVER jerked off before porn was invented right?

    • Melissa

      Why do you think it’s ok in any way, shape, or form to come onto a feminist website and wax idiotic about your porn use and masturbation habits?

      Feminist discourse is not about you. If your intent is to come on here and have women fawn over you about how *your* porn use is ok and *your* misogyny is of the speshul snowflake variety, you’re sorely mistaken.

    • “how a man is supposed to masturbate without a visual is beyond me.”
      Now I think I can safely say that this is a troll. Any man who’s masturbated in his life would know it’s entirely possible for men to masturbate without visuals.

    • Rye, instead of visual porn, why don’t you try some Tyrion slash for a change. I bet there’s some wild stuff out there, and he’s shorter than you, no?

    • Henke

      dear rye, you wrote “I still use porn, but it’s not an addiction. I use it maybe once every two days to relieve my sexual tension. True, I need a visual stimuli to jerk off, but how a man is supposed to masturbate without a visual is beyond me”
      That truly sounds like an addiction to me and someone that is wounded by pornculture.
      from my own life I can relate to what you wrote though.
      And my only advice to you is to stop watching porn alltogheter which can be easier said than done.
      There are some good ways of dealing with it, first off is to also stop masturbating for quite some time 1-3 months and not watch porn. This is so that one can break the images in the head that usually pops up when you masturbate and are indoctrinated by pornculture.
      it takes time to decolonize yourself from pornculture but it can be done and your life (which incl. sexlife) comes out in the end as so much better.
      trust me on that.

  • BK

    I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have heard this “victim-feminism” bs being tossed around in “debates” or explanations of the waves of feminism — it’s a really pathetic attempt to shut down all critique and opposition. I find it horribly depressing that some women desire to just be like men and take part in oppressive behaviours.

    • Melissa

      Hi BK,
      I just wanted to say that I appreciate reading your comments here and at other radical sites! Out of curiosity, will you be updating your blog in the future? I really enjoyed your posts.

  • sporenda

    “”. It is this anti-porn feminism that gave men the power to taunt women with porn…”

    Yeah, and it’s this anti-rape feminism that gave men the power to taunt women with rape.I can’t believe such ridiculous pretzel logic.

    Most women who defend porn do so because they have a financial stake in it anyhow: they are shilling for pimps and trafickers. That’s the case of Arrowsmith, and her arguments are as transparent as a slave master defending the morality and all around goodness of slavery.

    And feminist porn is a joke, the Nessie of the porn world: some women keep talking about it, nobody has ever seen it.

    A US radfem tried this experiment: she did an extensive Google search about porn by theme: rape porn, pedophilia porn, bukake porn, big tits porn, Asian women porn, nurse porn, cow boy porn etc–including very specialized little niches, like one legged Asian women bukake porn.

    And she counted the number of times a particular topic would come up: feminist porn came last but one, the only least popular type of porn being…”janitor porn”.

    Porn images that are respectful of women don’t interest anybody, what porn is about is the degradation and torture of women.
    Selling woman-friendly porn makes as much sense (and would attract as many customers) as selling tobacco free cigarettes.

    • MLM

      That was Nine Deuce on her blog Rage Against the Manchine:

      http://rageagainstthemanchine.com/2010/12/20/get-on-the-fucking-ball-janitors/

      She also did a brilliant 10 part series of posts about porn that can be found on the same site.

      • MLM

        “A US radfem tried this experiment: she did an extensive Google search about porn by theme: rape porn, pedophilia porn, bukake porn, big tits porn, Asian women porn, nurse porn, cow boy porn etc–including very specialized little niches, like one legged Asian women bukake porn.

        And she counted the number of times a particular topic would come up: feminist porn came last but one, the only least popular type of porn being…”janitor porn”.”

        Sorry! This was what I referring to and providing the link for. (Nine Deuce did the experiment).

      • Meghan Murphy

        Love Nine Deuce.

        • MLM

          Me, too. Wish she was still blogging.

  • Rye

    @Melissa

    Watching porn with a woman? No way. That’s twisted.

    Besides, porn is for masturbating. If I’m going to have sex, then porn is completely pointless.

    @vouchersafer

    So, I gather that you mean that the problem is not with masturbating to sexually stimulating images, but because:
    1. Nearly all pornography today dehumanizes women.
    2. “Feminist porn” is a barrier to feminist criticism because it gives pornographers a superficial argument to silence feminist critique, and “feminist porn” has no chance of seizing a sizable market share.

    However, I think I misunderstand you because feminists seem to be wanting to say that masturbating to any sexually stimulating image is objectification?

    @Meghan Murphy

    True, in the sense that they aren’t masturbating to video footage or a picture. However, I doubt that they aren’t imagining themselves having sex. It sounds inconceivable that a man could masturbate while keeping his thoughts empty of anything sexual.

    That said, maybe you have nothing against a man imagining himself having sex within a context of equality. But if it’s okay to day dream about sex while masturbating, then is that really so different from looking at a picture while masturbating?

    • Meghan Murphy

      No, obviously I don’t have a problem with people imagining themselves having sex or fantasizing while masturbating. Creating images of sexualized oppression or violence and selling them is another issue, though.

      It’s not about “looking at pictures” — it’s about the message the pictures convey, what they tell us/teach us, the context for the images. “Pictures” of sex aren’t, in and of themselves (or don’t necessarily have to be), objectifying or misogynist. That’s what porn turns images of sex and sexuality into.

    • Me

      “However, I think I misunderstand you because feminists seem to be wanting to say that masturbating to any sexually stimulating image is objectification?”

      No. You misunderstand vouchsafer because she despite all the crap you’ve spouted wants to see you as a human being and and you on the other hand insist on women being your fucktoys.

      • Grackle

        I know, right? Hasn’t he brought up this same question on this blog about fifteen thousand times?

    • Are you seriously unable to make the difference between an image in your imagination and a pornographic image?

      Hint: one of them involves real people.

  • Rye

    @Me

    I appreciate your good intentions, but I think our experiences with pornography are so radically different that few helpful comparisons can be made.

    Besides, 80% of what I watch is probably more appropriately called erotica anyway (and I use less porn). I hesitated to call it “erotica” because I was under the impression that contemporary feminists concluded that there is no helpful distinction between erotica and pornography.

    Also, I think of women as people, not fucktoys.

    @Melissa

    Sorry, I was responding to Me.

    @Meghan Murphy

    Ah, that sounds reasonable. Thanks for the clarification.

    • Me

      “I think our experiences with pornography are so radically different that few helpful comparisons can be made.”

      I couldn’t have said that better. It was because my experience of porn was different from yours that I stopped. I didn’t want the kind of “intimacy” porn culture promotes. I first began to reject it with myself and then I sure as hell didn’t want it in a relationship with someone I loved, even though I admit unlearning it as far as I have now took time.

      That, my friend, is why you will never stop using, lying, and feeling good about your exploitation of women. Because your experiences are so radically different that few helpful comparisons can be made. Because we live by our experiences.

      For me the understanding of what I rejected in porn, both the product and the industry, and why I rejected it came only later, through articles and discussions such as this. I’m not so much responding to you as I am responding to people who were like me ten or fifteen years ago, who still have some memory of their humanity and could be helped to find the courage to embrace it and fight for it, to fight against this.

      As marv wrote so well below, “Subtle interpretation, sensitivity and nuance are used to cover over broad realities of sexual injustice.”

      And as Alix Olson put it, “Subtle, like a penis, pounding its target, subtle like your hissing from across the street, subtle like the binding on my sisters’ feet, subtle like her belly, raped with his semen, draped in his fuck, funny, doesn’t seem even.”

  • BK

    ps.

    wtf is an “A-spot”?

  • vouchsafer

    The reason watching porn is different than imagining is because a real person got violated in order to bring you those images.
    Ever notice that gutteral kind of voice women acting in porn use?
    Its because they’re squashing down their true feelings about what’s being done to them, often while enduring pain, and repeating lines they’re being fed by a prompter guy. they’re just saying what they’re being told to say. They don’t actually enjoy the taste of shit, for example, even if they’re told to say it.

    So to turn that around, YOU’RE being marketed a made-up script that’s been crafted to suit your market, whatever that may be and please don’t tell us.
    What does it say about you, do you think, that you can no longer differentiate between imaginary sex and watching video footage of other people having sex? Is the woman being degraded in the video of no more consequence than a thought fleeting through your head?
    Did a woman wrong you, Rye? Was it that or is it that your life didn’t pan out how you thought it was going to, how the corporate media assured you subliminally that it would? Whatever the reason is why you get off on images that drag the archetype of woman through the mud, you need to let it go because guess what? The one who ends up losing their humanity, in the end, is the porn sick one.

  • I understand your points about pornography and its contrast against feminism which could be valid when considering heterosexual society with two genders involved. In the world of all-male porn such as the all-gay porn i have seen, i’m not sure if this applies, although i wonder if you could help me understand if i’m missing something.

    It reminds me of a soliloquy from Scott Thompson in his character of Buddy Cole:

    “The idea of persecuting Gay Porn is redundant; gay life is porn; what you see up on the screen are the community standards! Nobody’s being exploited here, these are faggots people!” [He gets raucous laughter from the dozen gay friends and audience in the (TV set) gay bar around him.]

    I don’t see my friends who made gay porn as exploited people; on the contrary, they were very pleased with their performances, and i thought rightly so, from a purely artistic and erotic sense. But also in the socially-enforced sense of being compensated for something exceptional they could do to the pleasure of everybody else. It all seemed not just consensual but actually desirable to the people i knew, and i can’t see it as exploitation any more so than any socially acceptable form of career or work or artistic endeavour or hobby leading to remuneration. But i do not want to be naïve, so i would gladly be enlightened if i’m missing something there.

    • MLM

      While heterosexual porn contributes far more substantially to gender inequality (undermining the status of one entire gender – women – as human beings, and enforcing misogynist rape cultural messages in more obvious and pervasive ways) much gay male porn actually mimics the same misogynist patriarchal violence as heterosexual porn, with one man occupying the same kind of role as a woman would in heterosexual porn.

      “If gay pornography is free speech, suggests Kendall, then what would a paraphrasing of the speech look like? Turns out it looks a lot like the same old homophobic, humiliating pornography for heterosexuals that eroticizes domination and sexualizes violence between a hypermasculine “top” and a feminized “bottom”. Instead of breaking down heteronormative gender binaries, gay porn reinforces oppressive sex roles regardless of the actual gender of the participants…

      …feminized gay men are the subjects whose rape, battery and degradation are meant as a stand-in for women’s usual roles in pornography. Traditional masculinity is glorified and femininity is an instrument of abuse. Predatory, violent men attain the usual male position of superiority by mistreating less masculinized men to make clear one of them is the “bitch” or “cunt” and one of them isn’t. Such pornographic depictions promote inequality and subjugation as the preferred model of gay male sex as well as reinforcing homophobia and racism.

      https://againstpornography.org/harmsofgayporn.html

      What effect does that have on the way young gay men, especially, view themselves? What effect on notions of consent? What effect on ideas about relationships? Is there a correlation between this and violence, particularly sexual violence, in male same sex relationships?

      http://www.queerty.com/study-domestic-violence-among-lgbt-community-on-the-rise-20121010/

      What response would a young gay man who expressed discomfort with or opposition to porn be met with by the wider gay community? (And why am I guessing, especially given what you quoted in your comment, that it would be equivalent to the libfem response to other women who oppose it i.e. some version of don’t be a “victim”, get over your own “anti-sex” attitudes, it’s “empowering” etc.)

      In fact, how difficult might it be to pose any of these questions and expect a thoughtfully considered answer when the dominant cultural meme is “gay life is porn”? (Which, is my view, is exactly the reason such questions need to be asked).

      At any rate, that is probably an entirely separate (though important) conversation from the one in this particular post and comment thread about “feminist” porn.

    • Norne

      I only ever hear men say, “Golly, I wish I could get paid for sex as easily as women do, that would be greatest thing ever!”

      Why might that be?

      • lizor

        Because male performers’ experience of “sex” in porn is not that of females’. All of the guys I have heard spouting that little gem don’t mean being the bottom in a gay porn gang bang video.

      • Laur

        Men assume women love being used by them (something they’re taught by porn) Indeed; it’s the rare men that doesn’t believe an expression of pain on a woman’s face means “she likes it.” So, since women are just doing something they like and making $$$, well, that seems like almost cheating to men, right??

    • Missfit

      As mentioned, gay porn will usually reproduced the male dominant/female submissive paradigm. But since everybody is male, the roles to be adopted are not prefixed. The focus still being on the male orgasm, all the parties involved, being males, are entitled to it. If gay porn was always portraying white men objectifying the bodies of black men, using them for their own ends, humiliating them, inflicting pain on them while using racial slurs, we would say gay porn is overtly racist. When a media glorifies inflicting pain and humiliation on an identifiable group, it is called hate propaganda.

  • Missfit

    ‘“I knew then that it was far more productive and feminist to invest my time in creating something that allowed women to explore their sexuality than it was to thwart men’s freedoms,” Arrowsmith said.’

    Thwart men’s freedom? Freedom to what? To sexually exploit and degrade women as much as they please? OMG, we must not thwart that!

    When I hear the arguments from the pro-porn crowd, I always wondered: have they looked at it? How then can they say this:

    “It’s where most men learn about where the clitoris, A-spot, and G-spot are.”

    Is she talking about the porn men and boys watch or the ‘feminist porn’ that nobody knows about? The clitoris is practically non-existent in hetero porn. Women in porn are there to make men come, period. Women’s orgasms in porn sex is, at best, faked. Porn teaches girls to focus on men’s orgasm, to exagerately fake their pleasure (they might even think that there is something wrong with them if they don’t get much pleasure from the acts the women in porn perform enjoying) and boys that girls should do and like absolutely everything they want them to do. In fact, the message is the same old patriarchal dictum that says that women must be subservient to men, nothing revolutionary here. Also, porn normalizes sexual practices that most women experience as painful (but who cares since only men’s pleasure counts). And this is what is being referenced as good sex ed?

    I am not against ‘feminist porn’ if that means focussing on genuine female pleasure and equal representation of bodies and faces. But it will remain too marginal to have an impact on the overall effects pornography is having. And I would still critique it if the aim for ‘equality’ (the end-all be-all for some feminists) means men would have to be degraded and called gendered slurs and experience pain at the hands of women. I mean, who wants to foster a sexuality where hate and disrespect is normal? (unfortunately, too many people it seems)

    The sex industry likes to brush away any critique with an emphasis on consent. They do so in an attempt to reassure people that everything is a-ok. They put efforts at convincing us because we know, instinctively, that something is wrong when we see a teenage girl enduring painful acts and humiliation. We know that whatever motivated her consent, if there is actually such a thing, is not a desire that comes from within but a pressure that comes from outside which is the result of patriarchy/capitalism. Accepting such consent as valid without questionning the basis for it is accepting patriarchy and capitalism’s hold on female bodies and sexuality. This is not feminist.

    • Maria Luisa

      I agree. Most of the guys that act in these porn movies wouldn’t know a clitoris if it hit them in the face.

  • Missfit

    Oh, and women do not need anti-porn feminists to tell them that porn is problematic. There are plenty of internet forums with no relation to feminism where women, from the girl starting her first relationship to the middle-aged mother, testify on how porn negatively affects them. They see and they feel. And it happens that the misogynistic ways women are depicted in porn makes them very uncomfortable. But contrary to the pro-porn crowd who constantly invalidate these women’s feelings and thoughts by telling them they are wrong, while men’s behaviors remain unchallenged, anti-porn feminists actually acknowledge women’s feelings and thoughts.

    • Laur

      Right. And therapists who work with both people of all genders are seeing more and more people dealing with porn related problems. I’ve seen a therapist who cringes at the “f word” but has worked with prostituted women and is totally against prostitution. She also works with male sex addicts and sees the harm porn does to their lives.

      A woman does not have to have any feminist consciousness to have male porn sexuality literally shoved down her throat; all she has to do is have sexual relations with men.

  • Aphrodite

    “Feminist” porn is merely a binary solution that does not get to the root of the problem It’s just another market to tap into. Consumer culture has completely hijacked feminism today and has transformed it into a water-down depoliticized “fun” action. Femininst Porn is bascially “power” feminism which gets us nowhere. Uggh..I’m glad you wrote a piece about this because I’m sooo sick of hearing about feminist porn. Like, what is that? If porn, as we know it, is grounded in the white male patriarchal imaginary, how are we supposed to transform its fundamental oppressive values into feminist ones?

  • marv

    Once you demythologize feminist porn as Meghan and the rest of you have done there is nothing left but a mound of dust. Alternative pornographers will continue to muddy the waters of debate by advancing the freeing, enchanting and healing aspects of porn. Subtle interpretation, sensitivity and nuance are used to cover over broad realities of sexual injustice. Women’s (man)acles are refashioned as bracelets and necklaces. Though all cultures and societies live out many of their fictions as reality, pornstitution is a particularly sly and pernicious type. Picturing women as objects of desire for men is indispensible to the formation and sustainability of the male colonial imagination. These images are a potent political force without which male conquest could not be so successful.

    Art is an essential ingredient of revolution: http://www.rapereliefshelter.bc.ca/learn/resources/some-examples-more-50-sheets-created Authentic art would not countervail feminist revolution. That revolution could liberate art from its grotesque repression of freedom and equality

  • Xia

    Feminist porn? Really? That’s a thing?

    • Henke

      I was actually thinking the same 🙂

      However anything that has the word “porn” in it has to be just another toxic mimic of sexuality. At least Ive not seen anything to date that is labeled porn that would be of any help to help humans out there gain a healthy sexual life.

      • Xia

        But why even bother to create “feminist porn”? What, are they trying to use the “master’s tools”? I just cannot wrap my head around it.

        • Henke

          Good question that I personally have no answer on, not more than to say that its just another toxic mimic of sexuality branded under a new banner.

  • pisaquari

    There is a reason women aren’t turning up in droves to complain about their boyfriend’s massive fem porn collection. Creating films misogynists don’t want to watch will not subvert misogyny.

    • lizor

      People have been talking about “feminist porn” since the 80s. Given how long this terrific idea has been around, one has to wonder where all the videos of women over 30 with normal bodies and all of their pubic hair receiving skillfully performed oral sex from a dude whose mouth is too busy giving pleasure to spout any of the standard hateful lines we’re all familiar with in porn. If 10 year olds are going be educated about sex via porn (and that’s a good thing as Arrowsmith claims), if porn is so women-friendly, where are these scenarios?

  • ceg

    While on the subject, can we talk about this weird phenomenon about women talking about James Deen as if he’s porn’s gift to women? I know women’s sexuality and desires are often completely ignored in the media but jeez, are we really so desperate that “well, he doesn’t have the body of a male power fantasy” instantly equals women waxing philosophical about how he’s this big feminist who really cares about his costars’ pleasure and so on?

    • Meghan Murphy

      “While on the subject, can we talk about this weird phenomenon about women talking about James Deen as if he’s porn’s gift to women?” Seriously. What a joke.

    • Grackle

      Back before I stopped watching porn, I used to really like James Deen. He absolutely is a breath of fresh air for women who are into the sort of thing he does and are absolutely desperate for any male in porn who is attractive and will provide some affection to his female “partners”. The standards are just so low in porn when it comes to appealing one whit to female viewers that he stands out in a huge way. A lot of female porn consumers have set out into what equates to a desert–either they went there themselves or were dragged in by a partner–and when you’re marooned in the desert, a drop of rain is a cause for celebration. James Deen is a drop of rain for a lot of them, but they’re acting like they’ve stumbled into an oasis. (I think this metaphor is starting to fall apart but my basic point here is probably clear.)

      In case it’s not clear, I’m not defending him–he’s part of a poisonous system and not a great guy anyway. (I remember he was against the condom bylaws in CA.) But I do see why women like him.

  • “I say “ironically” with reference to the name of the site because, in fact, the entire basis for the sex industry is lack of consent. And no, before sex work advocates start manipulating my words to mean that I think sex workers or porn performers can’t be raped, because every sex act that is paid for constitutes rape, that isn’t exactly the argument I’m making. Consensual sex happens when both parties desire sex. If one partner does not want to have sex, and sex happens anyway, that constitutes rape (i.e. nonconsensual sex). In porn, those involved are being paid to perform sex acts. They are paid because the sex acts they are engaging in are not desired. Once you are paying someone to have sex with you, it no longer counts as consensual, enthusiastic, desired sex. Yes, you agreed to perform whatever sexual acts — but you did so because you were being paid. Not because you really, really, really wanted to fake an orgasm while that very special man fucks you in the ass.

    “Whatever happens between consenting adults…” is another manipulation put forth by the sex industry advocates. But is this the kind of consent we’re looking for, as feminists? To be paid to perform sex acts and fake enjoyment? Really? It doesn’t sound liberating to me. That doesn’t sound like ‘free sexuality’ to me.”

    Maybe I shouldn’t bother, but I’m still confused as to how you can so clearly understand the dubious consent in porn, and yet turn around and say the sex/nudity in Girls is somehow different. Both industries are about profit and exploitation of workers. Porn is obviously more severe. But how is feminist porn bad and Girls not? To me they’re both feminist porn. Intent isn’t magic – it doesn’t erase harm.

    Have you seen the Annenberg research on sexualization of women in mainstream films? http://annenberg.usc.edu/News%20and%20Events/News/130513SmithStudy.aspx I emailed Dr. Smith and she is as concerned as I am about working conditions for women in this industry.

  • Pingback: QotD: ‘equal opportunity exploitation’ | Anti-Porn Feminists()

  • Stephaney

    I’m so glad to have found this. I’ve been trying to verbalize these feelings for so long.

  • Pingback: The sweetest revenge (porn): Joe Francis meets karma | Feminist Current()

  • Randie

    Below is from the anti-pornography feminist site Pornography And The First Amendment. Twiss Butler of The Washington NOW said to me that women who support pornography and call themselves “feminists” are supporting sexism and woman-hating and are *NOT* feminists,and she’s totally right they are traders and hypocrites!

    Women’s Institute for

    Freedom of the Press

    Pornography and the First Amendment

    Twiss Butler

    from her chapter “Why The First Amendment Is Being Used to Protect Violence Against Women,” in The Price We Pay, The Case Against Racist Speech, Hate Propaganda, and Pornography, Laura Lederer and Richard Delgado, eds. (NY: Hill & Wang, 1995)

    “Twiss Butler argues that men’s control of institutions of communication and education allows them to support speech that harms women and to suppress speech against that harm. She observes that the publishing industry funds legal, journalistic, and nonprofit organizations endorsing a First Amendment absolutist position. She contends that the industry’s defense of pornography as protected speech serves the double purpose of dignifying misogyny and establishing the First Amendment as the publisher’s product liability shield.” (p. 160)

    “When feminists criticize pornography as graphic misogyny, they are attacking not only the system of sexism itself, with its economic and social pay-offs for men, not only Playboy’s advertising rates, but also publishers’ broad First Amendment shield against liability for any harm caused by the products that they produce and sell.

    “The publishing industry and the men in it therefore have a conflict of interest in reporting a critique of pornography as inimical to women’s civil rights (unsecured as those rights are by the Constitution). We need to consider how that conflict of interest distorts the information we receive through journalistic coverage of public debate and action on this issue.

    “Publishers protect their liability shield either by silencing feminists while granting speech to those who vilify them, or by misrepresenting the feminist critique of pornography. Women are given credibility and access to speech to the extent that they say what men want them to say. Stray from the script and you will be attacked, misquoted, or simply go unheard. As power brokers in a large industry profiting from sexism, publishers disguise this censorship as selfless concern for the First Amendment and freedom of speech. (p. 163) …

    “In the news business as elsewhere, men have long relied on the weapon of pornography to avoid having to compete on their own merits. The role pornography plays in keeping women journalists at a disadvantage is evident in the experience of Lynn carrier, an editorial writer for the San Diego Tribune who sued the paper in 1990 for sex discrimination and harassment. Men coworkers attempted to intimidate and segregate Carrier by displaying pornography in the office, using sexual insults when talking with her, and asking her to run out and buy a copy of Playboy for her supervisor–who also wondered aloud what she would charge Playboy for posing nude for photographs. Carrier won her civil suit (refusing, incidentally, to accept a secret settlement), but the outcome was typical–she no longer works at the Tribune, but is employed instead as a smaller paper in the area. (p. 164) …

    “To protect pornography, women’s speech must be carefully controlled. When Linda Lovelace said she loved starring in pornographic films, she was treated as credible; when Linda Marchiano said that she had been beaten, raped, and coerced into making those films, her credibility was questioned. No risk is overlooked. At a National Press Club speech by Christie Hefner in 1986, I addressed her ‘as a pornographer’ in a written question about her lawsuit to censor testimony from a federal hearing that referred to Playboy as pornography; when my question was read aloud by the club’s president, these three words were deleted.” (pp. 166-167)

    [This chapter by Twiss Butler alone is worth the purchase of The Price We Pay, The Case Against Racist Speech, Hate Propaganda, and Pornography. The entire book is excellent and highly recommended.]

  • Randie

    Studies by Dr.John Court found that in Australia Queensland did not allow easy distribution of pornography but South Australia allowed easy and accessible pornography.He compared the rape rate of 100,000 at risk for more than a 13 year period and found Queensland had no increase in their rape rate,but South Australia’s rape rate increased 6 times! In 1974 Hawai allowed easy distribution of pornography and their rape rate increased,then they restricted it and the rape rate went down,and then they allowed wide distribution again,and the rape rate went up again and then when they restricted again,the rapes decreased!

    Sociologists Larry Baron and Murray Straus also did a state-state circulation rate of pornographic magazine sales and the connection to states with the highest sales of these magazines including playboy and the rape rate in those states.And in Alaska and Nevada is where the pornographic magazines sold the highest,and those 2 states also had the highest rape rates compared to any other states.They repeated this study the next year and the findings were exactly the same,even when they controlled for other causes,and it was only sexual assault that increased not other crimes.

    And,

    Linnea Smith By Patricia Barrera

    Linnea Smith is your average woman of the 90s. She has a satisfying family life, rewarding career in mental health and interests that include traveling with her husband, spending time with her daughters, babying her dogs and reading pornography. Yes…reading pornography–and using her professional skills and expanding international network to fight it. Like most of us, she never really thought about pornography as a critical social issue until a 1985 media conference where she learned about past and present research on pornographic materials. And what she learned shocked and angered her.

    As a psychiatrist, feminist, and woman, she was well aware of the personal and societal consequences of battery, rape, and child sexual abuse. The results of the studies delivered at that fateful conference were an indictment to the connection of pornographic materials, both directly and indirectly, with these violent sex crimes. For Smith, pornography became an issue of public health and human rights that needed to be addressed.

    As every critical thinker should, Smith went straight to the source to see for herself what was going on. She turned to Playboy, the nation’s first pornography magazine to earn mainstream acceptance and support. By 1984 Playboy had 4.2 million subscribers, and was selling 1.9 million magazines at newsstands (Miller, 1984).

    The results of her extensive investigation of the magazine (from the 1960s on) are presented in three brochures. “It’s Not Child’s Play” is a disturbing brochure that outlines the specific ways in which Playboy sexualizes small children and presents them as sexual targets for adult males in their magazine. The collection of cartoons and pictorials is damning, and made even more so when juxtaposed against pathetic statements made by Playboy representatives denying they ever used children in their publication. Smith very well could have called the brochure “Playboy Exposed”.

    Right alongside their claims that “Playboy never has, never will” publish such offensive imagery (Playboy, December, 1985), Smith placed pictures the magazine did indeed publish- of children in sexual encounters with adults and references to girl children as ‘Playmate’ material. In December of 1978, for example, Playboy published a picture of a five year old girl with the caption “my first topless picture,” and in March of that same year published a cartoon in which Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz is pointing out the Lion, Scarecrow, and Tin Man to a police officer as having just raped her on the yellow brick road.

    Smith did not limit her investigation to the use of children in Playboy. She found jokes about sexual harassment, abuse, manipulation, dehumanization and avoidance of intimacy by men toward their partners and callousness toward women in general, and the promotion of sexual conquest over women instead of sexual intimacy with a woman.

    In another powerful and well documented brochure, “As Sex Education, Men’s Magazines are Foul PLAY, BOYS!,” Smith once again had Playboy do the talking for her. The brochure featured Playboy cartoons that dehumanized women like the one in which a man was shown holding a pornography magazine over his girlfriend’s face and body as they are having sex (Playboy, August, 1974), and another featuring a taxidermist calling a man to come and pick up his wife, who had been stuffed (Playboy, April, 1995). Was she hunted down and killed, too?

    Smith’s brochures include extensive documentation and commentary by recognized scholars and researchers addressing the impact of pornography on our society. There are chilling statistics, like the finding that 100% of all high school aged males in one survey reported having read or looked at pornography, with the average age of viewing the first issue being 11 years old (Bryant, testimony to the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography Hearings, 1985).

    In another study she lists, three per cent of the women in a random sample and 8.5 per cent in a survey of college undergraduate women reported being physically coerced into sex by someone inspired by pornography. Ten per cent of the nonstudent and 24 per cent of the student respondents answered yes to the question of whether they had ever been upset by someone trying to get them to do something out of a pornographic book, movie, or magazine (cited by Anderson in Lederer and Delgado, eds., 1995).

    Also included is a study conducted by Mary Koss on 6,000 college students in which she found that men reporting behavior meeting legal definitions of rape were significantly more likely to be frequent readers of pornography magazines than those men who did not report engaging in such behavior (Koss and Dinero, 1989).

    Smith is one of few people to expand her analysis of pornographic magazines to include the presence of drugs and alcohol, especially important today considering the almost epidemic level of drug and alcohol use by adults and teenagers in this country, Smith agrees that drugs and alcohol are contributing factors to high risk and coercive sex, and that the relationship between them within pornographic materials is an overlooked, and greatly needed, area of research.

    As Smith explains ” . . . No [other] reputable publication brought positive drug information within easy reach of juvenile (or adult) consumers. Since 1970, Playboy has been glamorizing intoxication as a mind-expanding, sexually-enhancing experience. It is difficult to conclude these magazines have not played a major role in popularizing ‘recreational’ drug consumption and the myth of its being fun, risk-free, and even sexy. What greater reinforcement for drug taking behavior than to eroticize it?”

    In “Drug Coverage in Playboy Magazine,” a brochure she developed for the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), Smith compiled a plethora of cartoons that favorably paired sex with drugs and alcohol. Cartoons, articles and columns advise readers on how to use drugs for sexual enhancement. References to negative effects were usually humorously presented and so, easily dismissed.

    Playboy’s depiction of underage users of drugs and alcohol even included their own version of the Official Boy Scout Handbook in (Playboy, August, 1984). Their suggestions for Scout Merit Badges included “Water Safety” for the scout who ordered his Johnnie Walker whiskey straight up, and “Free-Basing” for the scout who smoked cocaine. A similar feature in 1979 stated that “Today, ‘boyhood fun’ means cruising and scoring; overnight adventures’ involve Ripple and car stripping; and ‘survival skills include cocaine testing, bust evasion and cutting into gas lines” (Playboy, December, 1979).

    Once Smith contacted the NCAA about her serious concerns, media attention and public scrutiny increased. Playboy denied any wrongdoing, claiming they were only reflecting a “major cultural phenomena”, but they did scale back the more obvious pro-drug and alcohol features in the magazine. damage control campaign resulted in a politically correct editorial statement on the magazine’s position on drug abuse in the May 1987 issue as well as a few anti-drug articles. To counter Smith’s NCAA attempts, the magazine also courted collegiate sports information offices with a mass mailing of a hastily compiled slick, glossy booklet “The Dangers of Drugs”, explaining their “real” position against substance abuse. However the magazine still includes covert messages glamorizing substance abuse and pairing sexualized alcohol consumption with easier prey. According to Smith, “we succeeded in exposing yet another dimension of the destructive nature of pornography, and, at the very least, cost Playboy some time and money.”

    It may also cost Playboy the niche they are trying to carve out for themselves in organized sports. Playboy’s strategy for commercial success has been to include respected and well- known public figures in their magazine, an old tactic for aspiring to legitimacy. That way the magazine may be looked at as more of a credible news journal than just a porno rag. Readers too, can feel better about their consumption of pornographic pictures of women when they are “wrapped” in articles about current social issues. It made business sense to Playboy to seek out an alliance with athletes who, in some countries, are accorded hero status.

    So they came up with an annual pre-season award for college level athletes and coaches, the Playboy All-America Award. The nominated players and coaches receive an all-expenses paid trip to a luxury resort for a weekend party, photo session and public relations blitz.

    The team selection process is unorthodox at best. It is not a panel of sports officials but rather Photography Director Gary Cole, doubling as sports editor when needed, (Playboy, March, 1996, p.117) who chooses players and coaches for the award. The prerequisite is not athletic ability but rather who agrees to be photographed for the magazine. Again, a common tactic for legitimacy. Playboy rejects players unwilling to have their pictures associated with the magazine- -its content and underlying messages–and keeps making “awards” until the sufficient number of players and coaches agree to the photo sessions. The event hit some legal snafus as well. Complaints were officially lodged with the NCAA which included the presence of professional agents at the photo sessions. This charge, like the others, was also denied by the magazine in a letter to the NCAA.

    Go to Part II

  • Randie

    From Feminist Psychiatrist Linnea Smith’s Excellent Site With *TONS* Of Great Important Research Studies On The Endless Harms Of Pornography

    ANOTHER LOOK AT CENTERFOLDS

    NOTE: This website contains material that may be offensive. All visuals are drawn from Playboy magazine. The purpose of this website is educational. Research in the field of sexual media indicates that the actual use of the material is far more effective than just text in relaying the covert messages and harmful implications of pornography. We have used the least explicit yet still representative examples.

    YES, I’M OVER EIGHTEEN AND I WISH TO PROCEED

    Playing With Boys’ Fantasies… Is Not a Game
    PART I PART II PART III PART IV

    Child Magnets Help Attract a Young Audience
    PART I PART II

    Targeting Children is Big Bu$iness
    PART I PART II

    Soft Core’s Hard Sell
    PART I PART II PART III

    Sex with a Scorecard
    PART I PART II

    Is There Anything about Children NOT for Sale?
    PART I PART II PART III

    Youth Public Health Unzipped
    PART I PART II

    A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Sexist Words
    PART I PART II

    The Pornography Party Line: Sexualizing Inequality, Teaching Contempt
    PART I PART II

    The Sexual Subordination of Women Puts Females at Greater Risk for Harassment, Manipulation, and Harm
    PART I PART II PART III PART IV

    Readers are Sexually Shortsheeted by Messages Devaluing Relationship, Intimacy and Partnership.
    PART I PART II PART III

    Soft Core is Costly “Speech” for a Free Society

    PART I PART II PART III PART IV

    “I Read Playboy for the Articles…” But Do You Get the Message?
    PART I PART II

    Activism Section

    We All Need to Take A Closer Look

    And Work Together for Social Justice

    People Take Action: What YOU Can do

    Beyond the Cost of Pornography

    Bar Endnotes

    Men who said NO to PLAYBOY
    Project Director
    Linnea Smith
    WebCrafter
    Nikki Craft

    For more information, contact:
    Linnea Smith, M.D., P.O. Box 16413, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

    This complete Playboy brochure is available for downloading and viewing on Acrobat Reader. For more information on getting this brochure with Acrobat go to Linnea Smith’s Homepage. Or the brochure can be read directly from your WWW browser.

    Since Feb 18, 1998

  • Callista Lee

    I believe you make many good points but your argument proves irrational when you insist that all porn is rape…because it can’t be consensual if people get paid. HUH? There are indeed, many people happily engaging in sex in front of cameras and even happier to be paid for it.
    If YOU only want to have sex for private, romantic reasons, that’s fine, but don’t assume that you have the inside scoop on women who feel differently.

    Are actors in other arts whores too? How about pro athletes?
    Is there no place for juicy, explicit erotica in your worldview? Isn’t that what femme porn is? You hear the word “porn” and lose your rationality. I find it ironic that feminists will tell other women how to enjoy their sexuality and whether or not they should cash in on it. A person does not sell herself but she can sell her services (like my hairdresser, my massage therapist, my doctor, etc.)

    Remember when most straight people thought gay people were disgusting because they had same-sex partners and the heteros could only see it from their own point of view? Why can’t you listen to the experiences of women in the femme porn community as openly as someone with a sexual orientation different from yours? Sexuality is multi-faceted and the enjoyment of sex on film is one of those facets. Some people just don’t find it sexy; others do. It CAN be done in a way that supports women’s choice, women’s freedom, women’s desires, etc.

    I will agree that most porn is trash and is anti-woman, but it is NOT ALL THE SAME.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I don’t ‘insist that all porn is rape’.

    • lizor

      @ Calista Lee

      Here’s an important link for you:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

      You write to Meghan: “You hear the word “porn” and lose your rationality.”

      It would seem you read a critique of porn and you lose all your rationality. Meghan did not write that all porn is rape. She did not write that all porn is the same. She did not call anyone a “whore”.

      Perhaps you got confused and commented on the wrong blog because nothing you are saying in your post responds to anything written here.

    • Henke

      I have to ask, what kind of social place in life are one in when it begins to sound like a good idea to exploit ones most private bodyparts for money ?
      “There are indeed, many people happily engaging in sex in front of cameras and even happier to be paid for it.” And I guess the same people would have no problem then in doing it for free either, taking the whole money issue away from sex, like going to certain clubs in which people can watch them have sex, no cameras around ?

      You ask if others actors are whores too ? Personally I don’t belive any actress is a whore but while we are on the topic, most “blockbuster” movies out there today are nothing but sexist macho bully crap, the humour (if it can even be called that) is most often bully humour. We shall laugh because someone is fat, or mexican or old or homosexual and so on and so forth. the movies themselves are deeply questionable as a whole and tells alot about the state popculture are in which is deeply disturbing.

      And as to why women end up in the pornindustry are probably a question with many answers, I can’t but think what happened to that person in that particullar moment in life when she thought that getting paid to exploit the hell out of her body is a good idéa.
      And also I don’t find them to represent women as a class at all, they seem to not even represent themselves most of the time, using screennames instead of the regular names and their words just sound like typical industrial nonsense if you ask me.
      And no, I’m not out to ban anyone from exploiting his/her body but I do belive they have no right do do that and also spread it so it can be viewed by minors for example. If one truly gets a kick out of having other people watch them have sex then there are clubs to go, no movies needed for that, no pornculture needed.

    • Grackle

      “juicy, explicit erotica”

      what.

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