Feminism is the new misogyny: On 'Belle Knox feminism' and the new backlash

This just in from the backlash: everything is feminism’s fault and we are the real woman-haters.

You knew that, didn’t you? That it was not men, but women — and not just women, but feminists — who were responsible for things like violence against women and sexual repression. It’s a pretty good trick, actually, because guess who gets off scot-free? Men. Also, oppressive systems of power. With women busy attacking other women for their own oppression, who has time to fight the real enemy?

As illogical as it sounds on paper, this phenomenon actually makes a lot of sense.

The most obvious explanation for feminist-hating among women (or even among feminists) is that we live in a culture that teaches us to hate women — that it’s acceptable to hate women, that it’s sexy to hate women, and that it’s funny to hate women. We see this normalized hatred of women manifested in a number of ways:

1) Cosmetic surgery

Here we have a “trend” that involves women hating their bodies so much that they quite literally cut the offending body parts off of their bodies and replace them with other, more “attractive,” more “perfect” parts. While breast augmentation surgery used to be the more required form of plastic surgery in porn, it is now vaginoplasty. We know that women who get cosmetic surgery don’t actually gain confidence or feel any better about their bodies, but rather continue hating their bodies despite the surgery that was meant to empower them and make them feel good about themselves. Women who get breast augmentation surgery are also three times as likely to commit suicide than the general population. You can’t “fix” body-hatred with cosmetic surgery.

Vaginoplasty is a fairly recent trend that seems intricately connected to the mainstreaming of porn and woman-hating (of course, porn and woman-hating are inseparable). Women have always learned that their bodies are dirty, flawed, ugly, gross, and wrong. And women are now cutting off our “ugly/flawed/gross/wrong” labia in order to make them match what we are seeing in porn. Misogynistic programming complete.

This seems an extreme form of internalized misogyny to me and that women are being told it’s simply a “personal choice,” that it’s no one’s business (because: my choice!), that women do this “for themselves” and that anything we do in order to make ourselves “feel better” is empowering is, most certainly, an attempt to co-opt feminist ideas and language and use them against us. What’s maddening is that actual feminists use this rhetoric all the time to defend misogynist systems and behaviours and use it against other feminists in order to shut down critique (but more on that later).

2) Rape jokes

HA! Get it? Raping women is a hilarious joke. If you don’t get it, it’s probably because you’re a woman. Maybe one who’s been raped! You know, like many women and girls on this planet have. Now, not all rape jokes are created equal and plenty of comedians have managed to make rape jokes that don’t actually promote rape but rather are critical of rape culture and point out how horrific and ubiquitous sexual assault is. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the way in which not just comedians, but your regular, average dudebro thinks that violence against women is a punchline. I’m talking about the bazillion pages on Facebook that make abuse, sexual violence, and the murder of women into entertainment and laughs. Women’s actual lives are being mocked on a daily basis and many people don’t bat an eye.

3) Porn

As the brilliant Catharine MacKinnon wrote: “Pornography sexualizes women’s inequality. It makes the inequality of women sexy. It sexualizes, most broadly speaking, dominance and submission. Every kind of woman is used, each one’s particular inequalities exploited as deemed sexually exciting.”

A study in the UK showed that 50 per cent of 11-14 year olds have watched porn online. A generation of boys is growing up on pornography. We, as a culture, believe porn is simply a “normal” thing men indulge in and that it’s just about sex. It’s as if we think men aren’t capable of masturbating without it. Even progressive men use porn. It’s just not seen as something that’s really “bad” for women (and even if it were, it’s unlikely many porn-users would care). It’s considered to be harmless.

We tell ourselves that pornography is “just a fantasy” and that it has nothing to do with “reality” except that porn is a reality — in our lives, in the lives of the women in porn, in the minds of the men we interact with on a day-to-day basis. Pornography shapes our sexual fantasies and if men’s fantasies (or even women’s fantasies) are shaped by images of women being degraded, abused, and/or objectified, I fail to see how anyone could argue that has nothing to do with “real life.” Are our thoughts, feelings, ideas, and desires not “real life?” Is the fact that men want women to play out porny scenarios in the bedroom and that women learn they must perform as though they are porn stars in order to keep their male partners interested not “real life?”

The mere fact that pornography is used to punish and harass women should tell us that this is not an empowering thing. The use of pornography in the workplace is acknowledged as constituting sexual harassment (not that it stops many men from using and displaying porn at work in order to be clear about whose space this is). Pornography is used to punish the ex-girlfriends of embittered ex-boyfriends and is used to harass and bully teenage girls, sometimes to death.

Liberals absolutely refuse to talk about pornography as something that is used to harass, punish, and subordinate women — even many feminists engage in this form of denial, pretending as though “consent” erases all of that, a mere signature making everything a-ok.

When our primary understanding of sexuality, sexual imagery, and sexual freedom is in hating and humiliating women, there’s no arguing that we live in a misogynistic culture.

What’s disconcerting about this reality is not only how accepted it is, but that it is defended by some feminists and that those defenses are used as a way to attack and silence feminists who don’t toe the popular “anything a woman chooses or does is empowering”/”criticism = shaming”/”‘agency’ is magic” party line.

It’s the Belle Knox brand of feminism. It says that if an individual woman consents to — or even enjoys — performing in pornography, it must be ok. It says that if an individual woman likes pornography, it must be ok. And not just ok, but potentially empowering. I have no idea why we would assume that only men’s sexualities can be shaped by porn or why, simply because a woman’s fantasies have been shaped by porn that means those fantasies and that pornography is necessarily feminist. I don’t give a shit how many people like porn. I don’t give a shit if you say you like performing in porn (most women don’t, for the record, but there are exceptions to every rule that you’re sure to find if you look). That changes absolutely nothing about what porn is and how it impacts our lives and society as a whole.

Whether or not people like things or even whether or not they consent to them is not a good rule by which to judge whether or not that thing is ethical, “good,” or promotes equality.

Now, back to “feminists are the number one top enemies of women.”

I am told on the regular that I am responsible for the death of prostituted women. By advocating for the Nordic model, a model that decriminalizes prostituted women, criminalizes those who perpetrate violence against and exploit prostituted women, and offer services and support to those women who wish to leave the industry. I don’t see these women — supposed “feminists” — attacking pimps and johns on Twitter or in online forums, telling them they should rot in hell and die and that they have “blood on their hands.” I and many other anti sex industry feminists are accused of “harassing” sex workers or sex work advocates as well which, I suppose if you think blocking trolls online, responding to those attacking you, or writing about the sex industry in a critical way constitutes “harassment” then, guilty! The mythology and lies that travel the internet, painting women I know and work with as violent bigots — women who work alongside abused women every day, women who have fought in the women’s movement their whole lives, women who are kind, gentle, loving, strong, powerful, generous souls who are in this movement purely because they care about women and women’s lives — are appalling.

I think it’s a form of woman-hating. I think it’s internalized misogyny — to attack and slander and attempt to silence feminists, to paint them as bigots for taking a stand against male power and violence. You may well disagree with our ideology or our goals or our arguments, but simply disagreeing with someone does not mean they are perpetrating violence against you. Using “safe space” as an excuse to silence and no-platform feminists doesn’t fly either.

The way in which it has become acceptable in some feminist circles to blackball and tar women who fight pornography and prostitution or to ignore and discredit them by calling them “sex-negative pearl-clutchers” — to claim feminists are the ones doing the oppressing because they criticize selfies or burlesque or, really, anything else one might feel attached to — that’s all part of the backlash. Which isn’t the same as saying women are to blame, but it is saying we’ve been had.

Capitalist patriarchy has sold us all these ideas — that cosmetic surgery will make you feel good, that stripping and gyrating for an audience is empowering, that sexing up your own exploitation is the path to liberation, that stilettos are feminist if women choose to wear them, and that face-fucking is feminist so long as we’ve signed a waiver. It’s also told us that feminists are the enemy — that they are prudish and repressive and no-fun. It’s told us that women are all jealous, catty, bitches and that any criticism of another woman must be envy. We learn to hate one another, you know…

Many of the online responses to Katha Pollitt’s piece in The Nation this week, criticizing feminists and the left for trying to normalize sex work, reeked of sexism and ageism. The never ending trope used against abolitionists is that we’re simply scared “our men” will visit prostitutes or, alternatively, that we’re scared of sex workers themselves, as they represent, supposedly, a liberated sexuality we simply can’t handle. Hey, we know how many men around us use porn and buy sex — and we blame them, not the women they buy.

Other women and even some feminists have joined in on anti-feminist efforts to turn us into slurs and stereotypes in order to slander us silent, pretending as though, to critique a billion-dollar industry equates to “hating” those exploited and abused within that industry.

Rather than understanding objectification as something that happens to women in a culture that has learned women are pretty things to look at, to impose our fantasies onto, to decorate space, and to provide pleasure, we accuse feminists who speak critically about the objectification of women of doing the objectifying. It is comparable to saying that those who point out racism are, in fact, perpetuating racism. Like, if we pretend objectification doesn’t happen, if we pretend it is not objectification at all but something else entirely, it will be so.

We are, as a culture, in deep denial. In many ways — we have to be in order to function as we do. There is no way that a person could acknowledge the truth about what happens to women in pornography and prostitution and still continue on, pretending it’s perfectly fine as opposed to an overt and gruesome manifestation of woman-hating. You would have to turn a blind eye to so much. You would have to tell yourself lies. Yet men continue to watch and certain factions of feminism try to claim it as their own. “If it’s my choice it’s ok,” is what they tell themselves. And not just “ok” but untouchable. This version of feminism sounds like a joke straight out of The Onion, but it’s not.

“We as performers have rights to express ourselves and as long as everything is consensual and legal, then more power to everyone involved,” Belle Knox writes. “Whatever choice a woman is making and she is the one deciding to do — reclaiming the agency behind the decision to do, even if it is a degrading sexual act — is absolutely feminism. To me, feminism is about women not being shamed but rather being empowered.” (This woman, I should point out, is 18 — shoved into the spotlight and forced to find something to say.)

That sure is convenient for capitalism, isn’t it. One can assume that any purchase we make constitutes a “choice” which, if chosen by a woman, would make that purchase “feminist.” It sure is convenient for patriarchy, too… It means that if we “choose” to participate in our own abuse, it’s not only empowering, but it’s feminist. And any feminist who opposes these ideas, we’re now told, is an oppressive, hateful, bigot. To challenge this idea is, we’re told, to “take away women’s agency.” It’s a trap! Can’t you see it’s a trap?

“The truth is,” Knox says, “my favorite adult genre is rough blowjob porn. I find it incredibly arousing. My fantasies in the bedroom are ONLY about what arouses me, which is completely unrelated to gender roles, feminism or my value and worth as a woman or human being.”

So first of all, you’re free to “like” “rough blowjob porn.” No one is stopping you from doing that. But if you are, on one hand, telling us that your private, personal, bedroom fantasies are only about you, and on the other you are naming that fantasy as something that was learned from porn — something that exists as a masturbatory tool for men that is overwhelmingly racist and sexist, fetishizes underage girls, sexualizes the degradation and humiliation of women, and exists in order for porn-sellers to profit, not in order to promote the sexual liberation of women — there are a few screws lose in that version of “feminism.”

Knox continues: “The way I see it, there is an unfortunate and significant schism in our movement between the sex negative feminists — women who believe that sex, especially pornography, is degrading and imbued with power struggles — and sex positive, pro-kink, pro-fetish feminists — women like me who believe that sexual liberation is paramount to achieving progress and equality.”

There is a schism, that’s for sure. There’s one faction of feminists who believe feminists are preventing them from achieving true liberation (which, oddly, looks a lot like plain old sexism), who perpetuate sexist, ageist tropes about what pearl-clutching prudes women who aren’t into gangbangs are, who trash second-wave feminists and invent slurs in an attempt to shut us down, and there’s another who want an end to male violence and seek liberation on feminist terms. Not patriarchal ones.

There are more than just two factions, of course. Not every feminist who disagrees with radical feminists or with abolitionists paints them as tyrants. It’s just that the kind of feminism that is popular and that gets the most air-time — both in liberal feminist spaces, progressive publications, as well as in the mainstream — is the kind that paints feminism as women’s worst enemy. Internalized misogyny tells us to side with the boys, because we’ll fare better. And it’s true in some ways. It’s certainly easier in the short-term.

But it’s a trap. I’m telling you, it’s a trap.

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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  • Erin

    THANK YOU for writing this. I’m glad I am not the only one who feels this way.

    • Catharine Mackinnon interviewed on Makers about brilliant Andrea Dworkin’s important work on the harms of pornography to women,specifically her 1980’s book,Pornography Men possessing Women.


    • http://articles.latimes.com/2014/feb/13/local/la-me-ra-gloria-steinem-what-women-want-20140213

      In this February 2014 LA Times with Gloria Steinem she is asked is the portrayal of women and girls onscreen improving? Gloria says,that women still have to be younger than the guys. She says that’s a problem onscreen.She then says what she is even more worried about is pornography.

      She then says that pornography is about violence.Gloria then says,that the combination of the right wing suppressing sex education in schools and the availability of pornography is making pornography into sex education,and its really,really dangerous.She then says that she supports the 1st Amendment and she says she’s not going to censor people.Then she says,but [women need to say] ”I’m not going to have this in my house.” Gloria then says pornography is to women what fascist literature is to Jews.

    • Scott

      I wonder if the author considers the disgust that many women hold for a penis with a foreskin similar to the pressure some women are feeling to have “designer vaginas”.

      • Ellesar

        Scott. No, I am guessing that the author did not consider this as it is absolutely not the same thing. Circumcision has a history of thousands of years, and only recently has a cosmetic ‘appeal’. This appeal is culturally specific, and if women in cultures where cosmetic or ‘hygiene’ circumcisions have become the norm find uncircumcised penises disgusting then this is due to the widespread acceptance of that belief – NOT created by women. The roots of non religious circumcision still lie in religion, therefore not something that mothers were insisting happened to their sons.

        Whereas the idea of a ‘designer vagina’ comes from porn, also male created and supported (for the most part, just as some women will happily get their sons circumcised). One of the big objections to porn is that it depicts entirely unrealistic appearance and behaviour, and female porn performers are very commonly subject to pressure to get all sorts of procedures done to be more ‘sellable’, including labial trimming etc. I would imagine after their ‘career’ they feel the need for several more procedures of a rather more necessary nature!

        There is also the dimension of a woman feeling that she has to have a tighter vagina (usually after childbirth) in order to please her partner. This is the most depressing aspect of all, as it has little cosmetic appeal, but something to me far worse – the idea that as a woman ages, has children, whatever, her partner, or possible future partners have a say in what she should do about the natural processes have affected her body. The other nasty aspect of this is the idea that younger is always better – not uncommon to find forums where men go on about ‘tight young pussy’.

      • Yeah Scott, delve into the history of circumcision and you’ll find that it’s rooted in meeting the proclivities of the culturally dominant ethos of female sexual preference, and has nothing to do with patriarchal institutions and their weird rituals.

        In the immortal words of Bugs Bunny: “Whatta Maroon!”

  • Holy fucking brilliance.

  • morag

    Yes to all of this!! And how surprising that Knox’s favorite porn is where she services the man while getting zero reciprocation. I have never seen famous female pornstars or sex industry advocates say that they love clitoral stimulation. Of course where’s the fun in that, considering they’re speaking to men who bareley view them as human?

    I’ve seen this woman hatred directed a lot towards lesbians on the feminist blogosphere lately, b/c they unequivocally say no to men, and are soooo mean to the poor straight women who perform femininity.

    If you want to see a recent example of pure woman hatred, look at the recent thread at IBTP. They eviscerated a European Jewish woman for not prioritizing men, and for daring to have a truly radical view of feminism. It’s so much easier to hate a woman than to realize someone who’s not American may have a different perspective. American women don’t hold a copyright on feminism and to screech “educate yourself!!” to women who are really suffering is deplorable. It’s the liberal vs radical feminist debate in macrocasm!

  • Ashlee

    Reading Belle Knox’s article thingies, I really couldn’t believe what I was hearing and how much support she got. And also comments like, ‘Radical feminists are often transphobic.’ It’s a sad state of affairs when just being a plain old feminist is radical, and most of what people call feminism looks conveniently like, as you put it, plain old sexism.

  • Candy

    “Whatever choice a woman is making and she is the one deciding to do — reclaiming the agency behind the decision to do, even if it is a degrading sexual act — is absolutely feminism. To me, feminism is about women not being shamed but rather being empowered.”

    Yeah, how far can you stretch that logic vis-a-vis degradation porn? Porn has become increasingly more degrading as women gain independence and power, but imagine if it gets even worse. What’s next, if a porn actress consents to being thrown into a dumpster at the end of the scene, is that feminist? What if this genre becomes popular? What if she consents to being photoshopped/edited in a scene to look like an underage girl- is that feminist? If she consents to being portrayed as an anorexic or bulimic woman, is that feminist? (Porn of this nature already exists, however). If she consents to being mocked for her body, mocked for her child sexual abuse, or even somehow portrayed as dead by the end of the scene, is that feminist? The first two are characteristic acts of the misogynistic porn site Facial Abuse, which Ms. Knox acted for. If women are called niggers and other racial insults and shown in a racist context, is that not racist? Is the use of “shemale” in porn not offensive to trans people?

    How can people think this has nothing to do with patriarchy and gender roles when “punishing the slut,” a common motif in porn, is also reflective of real life attitudes toward female sexuality? How does women being called sexist epithets when men are not have nothing to do with society? How does male degradation porn that features men being dressed up as women or shamed for being effeminate have nothing to do with the toxic masculinity status quo that infiltrates the mind of men, nothing to do with the notion that for a man to be like a woman is humiliating?

    If it’s okay to portray women in a sexist manner in porn, why isn’t it okay to portray them similarly in other media? Considering the fashion industry’s long-standing relationship with sexuality, why not have some women looking bruised up with “cum dumpster” written on their chests in an “edgy” fashion ad? It’s all about sexy fun, right!? This is altogether upsetting, but not only that, it’s irrational. Her feminism contradicts itself. It can’t stand up to Socratic method-style questioning whatsoever.

    I think, at the end of the day, I can’t just blame the porn. I don’t exonerate it, but I place most of the blame on the people that drive up demand for such misogyny. I think it’s a bleak, uncompromising view into the darker aspects of human nature that people even wish to see pain inflicted on others in any context.

    • Sandra

      well, I’m guessing the first step is giving better sexual education to people, not actually condemn porn.

      secondly, fantasies are fantasies, and the sex you have doesn’t really define you as a person – man or woman, neither does it have to reflect your own views or beliefs. sex can be a way to explore almost everything without judgment. and then you can go back to your own self.
      for instance, I don’t like degrading people in real life and I would never do it. but I’d like to know what that can be like, and if I do it with someone who enjoys being degraded (for whatever reason, there can be millions), I can experience what I want, the other person can experience what they want, for that moment, and no one gets hurt. because that’s not the point at all.

      when sexual acts are negociated, both men and women make sure there’s attention to the other person’s needs and desires, and everything is consensual, then yes, even a degrading sexual act can be empowering. to both genders.

      porn is a different discussion at this point. we don’t really know, most of the time. it’s a job, it’s an industry. what people are consenting on may or may not be their preference. even male pornstars might not actually enjoy doing some of the stuff they do.
      I agree porn is not about sexual liberation of women, nor men, it’s about delievering fantasies to consumers and making a profit out of it. then again, having such fantasies doesn’t define you as a person.

      but besides that, we actually don’t get to decide what is or isn’t liberating or empowering to women. nor get to decide what their fantasies should be about, how they should behave, etc. people here saying that women who choose to be sexually submissive aren’t actually making a choice is so fucked up and is a statement that also reflects trying to control them (straight women, of course, and only) and their behaviour, diminishing their own capability and right of thought and desire. which is kinda familiar, right?
      and since when is it wrong to have fantasies that envolve pleasuring your partner, like the rough blowjob thing? you can not feel pleasure while you’re giving pleasure, if you’re a straight woman? what’s up with that? did she even say she didn’t care about her own pleasure just because she enjoys that kind of porn?
      if a guy has this constant fantasy of having a woman sitting on his face and “force” him to go down on her until she comes all over his face, do we have anything to say? if a gay male enjoys rough blowjob porn, or even if he only gets off when he is doing it, what is he a “victim” of?

      • What a complete load.

      • There is nothing wrong with whatever fantasies you have with a partner … however when you choose to film and broadcast it, that becomes promotion of that behaviour as at that point you loose the ability to control your fantasy. So what is fantasy and consensual to you becomes material that a man uses to guilt another woman into doing or force her into doing or force a child into doing. Most abusive men use porn as an tool to groom their victim and performing abusive acts on camera and broadcasting it means that you lose control of the use of your controlled abuse. You are doing the same as the weapons industry that says its not our fault our equipment is used to kill people or the cigarette industry saying its not our fault our products kill people who don’t even smoke … none of us is an island and we all have responsibilities to each other not to engage in behaviour that might be used to harm another …

      • jo

        Where do one even start with this comment? This sentence really bothers me:

        ”sex can be a way to explore almost everything without judgment. and then you can go back to your own self.”

        I don’t get it, do you think sex is some abstract context separate from yourself and reality? And why would you use sex of all things to explore any issue. Isn’t that what things like thinking, literature or even non-sexual roleplay is for. Why sexualize it? I mean..what…”I want to explore my concept of God, and what happens after death. I think I’m going to masturbate to some old religious texts. Perhaps my lover can dress up as a tombstone. That will solve it!”

        Also remember that after getting an orgasm to something, your brain has now made a really strong positive connection to whatever you climaxed to.
        Sexual activity isn’t some neutral fantasy land.

        • Sandra

          ok, so, first of all, english is not my native language, am I’m sorry for the misunderstanding.
          did I say sex was the only way and only to explore things? I just said it was one. that people shouldn’t be judged for their sexual preferences or desires. and that putting women in a position where they can not make a choice is getting some of their freedom away as well. that’s all.
          thank you and I wish you all the best.

          • kate

            yes ofcourse she should always be allowed to explore any kind of fucked up kink she wants to.sure it shouldnt necessary define you as a person or reflect on your beliefs.but thats exactly what shes doing wrong here sandra.every chance she gets she starts to draw direct linkage between her sex life and her liberal and feminist views.n it comes off as glorification at times.its as if shes trying to justify herself n resorts to diverting attention to ‘radical feminist’or puritanical patriarchy.if indulging in kinks is called ’empowerment’ now,it completely trivializes its meaning. if she was just calling it like it n just and owning up to it from the get-go then it would have been far less controversial.she shouldnt have attempted to bring politics into this.she constantly pulls the victim card even though she consciously ‘chose’ to start what she started n repeatedly said she has no regrets n wouldnt change a thing.ofcoutse she only 18 n naive but given a public platform,a huge number of people are taking her very seriously n jumped onto her bandwagon without a second thought.as for implications of abusive porn on generations of boys and girls, thats a whole other ginormous issue.

  • polarcontrol

    Great piece Meghan!

    I wonder when will these choice feminists start advocating domestic violence situations as a woman’s choice. You know she can always leave and it’s her life, if she says she’s fine with it, dont judge! And when discussing domestic violence don’t talk to those who did leave but those who are actually living it they have the clearest view!

    “As long as everything is consensual and legal” – well rape in marriage used to be legal, and by marrying you consented..

    • huha

      Domestic violence and rape should be legalized and regulated so that women can form groups/unions to protect themselves. It’s illegal now so look what’s happening! Three women are killed by their partners every day. If violence was legalized and regulated, women would be able to hire bodyguards and protect themselves.

      • Derrington

        How about the victims of Hitler being seen as ‘choosing’ their own death because they didn’t leave the country?

      • lizor

        Nice one, huha.

  • “Whatever choice a woman is making and she is the one deciding to do — reclaiming the agency behind the decision to do…”

    Was that supposed to mean something? It sounds like liberish (liberal + giberish) to me.

    • em em em

      best! liberish needs to be a hashtag.

  • Missfit

    You will find plenty of ex porn performers saying how they were hurt through porn. You can find a multitude of women, from all ages, testifying how porn has been used to harass them, pressure them, or simply make them feel worthless or unsafe (yes, specifically porn, not comic books – for those who like to argue that porn is not the problem and should never be singled out). The mere fact that porn is mainly denounced by women (a lot of them!), while most men are ready to say anything to defend it, is quite revealing in itself. Andrea Dworkin said it 30+ years ago : porn hurts women thus feminists are against it, not for it. It was true then and it is even more true today and there should not be any debate around that.

    You can consent to do porn scenes where you as a woman (because it’s not about you, it’s about you as a woman, it could be any woman) is being violently used and called derogatory names by men for the sake of their orgasms, but your consent does not erase the misogyny. And it ceases to be about individual choices when these scenes are being largely broadcasted and consumed. Misogyny is not and will never be feminist even if people try to cover it with words like ‘consent’ and ‘agency’.

    I noticed that people who argue that everything is a matter of choice mainly do so in reference to choices that are not contested by patriarchy, that will maintain/reinforce the status quo. We always hear ‘I choose to have cosmetic surgery’ and ‘I choose to be sexually submissive’ and I choose my choice. They just coincidentally happened to make the choices that are expected or rewarded by patriarchal society, those which fulfill women’s decorative and submissive roles. They confuse receiving cookies from the patriarchy with empowerment. Conforming to what patriarchy expects of you, even though you consent, has nothing to do with doing or promoting feminism.

    • kate

      excellent points!!

  • Belle Knox is only 18 years old; while this may be the “legal age of consent”, it is by no means a magic number at which people gain any new intellectual or emotional wisdom. She is really still just a child, and apparently one whose young impressionable mind was warped by pornography (which is mental sexual abuse to a child), and possibly physical sexual abuse as well, evidenced by her comments about how she enjoyed submissive “play” as a young child. If a young person’s view and experience of sexuality is shaped by pornography, it should be no surprise when they defend it or even participate in it. However, this does not lend any validity to her argument any more than a person who grew up watching violent films or playing violent video games expressing the opinion that injuring or killing people for fun is okay. I pity Ms. Knox and other young women like her who are so metabolized into the system of patriarchy that they are blinded to their own abuse, and actually believe that they are “empowered” because they are choosing to participate. The truth is that even a “willing victim” is still a VICTIM. Knox seems to be convinced that her white middle-class privilege and higher education make her exempt from victimization, but in reality there is NO PRIVILEGE FOR WOMEN UNDER PATRIARCHY. Perhaps she and her contemporaries will wake up before it’s too late. Either way, I can just about guarantee that she will be singing a different tune by the time she’s 35. Belle Knox, if you are reading this, I invite you to respond.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I feel sorry for her as well and I feel that the media and some feminists have been irresponsible in shoving her into the spotlight and forcing her to defend herself and come up with something to say about feminism.

      • kate

        shes at best stupid,at worst just really doesnt give a fuck.

    • I agree Belle Know is being exploited– used by the sex industry to sell porn. I’ve hated watching this unfold. She is so young, and has already lost the promise of her Freshman year At Duke– as she took a leave of absence.

      Let’s look at what’s in front of us: it’s being called “feminism” but what is it really? It’s simply marketing and publicity for the ugliness of commercial sexual exploitation/sex trafficking being promoted as “feminism” so it gets taken seriously.

    • I don’t know anything about Belle Knox (and am not interested) but I do object to calling a young woman “just a child”. I’m a long way past 18, but I was a radical activist then, and I was well-read, rational and fearless.

      • Blue

        Maybe not a “just a child”, but being well-read and being a courageous girl is not the same thing as having the maturity and wisdom to understand the full implications of getting yourself involved with the pornographic industry, and then becoming the poster child for pro-porn/pro-sex crap… apples and oranges ^^.
        This young lady has no life experience.

  • Wow… I didn’t know who this girl was until recently, so I googled her and found this article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/20/duke-porn-star-belle-knox_n_4995159.html
    And after she goes through so much pain, it baffles me how she can stay so ignorant about objectifiction and rape as punishment and whatnot… It baffles me how she can keep promoting something which is obviously dangerous to HER OWN self on so many levels.

    • Poseidon

      Stockholm Syndrome

  • marv

    As the brilliant Catharine MacKinnon wrote: “Pornography sexualizes women’s inequality. It makes the inequality of women sexy. It sexualizes, most broadly speaking, dominance and submission. Every kind of woman is used, each one’s particular inequalities exploited as deemed sexually exciting.””

    She also said, ” The dominant view is that pornography must cause harm just as car accidents cause harm or its effects are not cognizable as harm. The trouble with this individuated, atomistic, linear, exclusive, isolated…..conception of injury is that the way pornography targets and defines women for abuse and discrimination does not work like this. It does hurt individuals, just not as individuals in a one-at-a-time sense, but as members of the group women. Individual harm is caused one woman and not another essentially as one number rather than another is caused in roulette; but on a group basis, the harm is absolutely selective and systematic. Its causality is essentially collective and totalistic and contextual.” (Toward a Feminist Theory of the State, p. 207-8).

    Small wonder light and truth flow through the current of your words, Meghan. You’ve learned from the best including the abolitionists who comment here.

    • Perhaps a better analogy would be that pornography causes harm as CARS cause harm, as carcentric society causes harm even to those not killed or maimed by cars colliding with pedestrians, cyclists or other cars, and running over non-human sentient beings. By poisoning the planet and its denizens of all species. And by blaming pedestrians and cyclists for getting in the way, and calling murdered animals “roadkill”.

      • marv

        Yes! Keen allegory! Perhaps both descriptions are accurate. Keep responding to us. I’m lovin it.

      • I liken it to smoking and passive smoking. I might choose to perform an act that I find personally empowering … the moment I broadcast it I am promoting it to others. If the act is harmful, either to the doer or viewer physically or mentally, then I am promoting a harmful act. Why doesn’t porn have public health warnings on it saying this act can cause this that and the other physical damage and 1 2 and 3 self esteem issues. That way we wouldn’t be banning it, but people would see it for the damaging propoganda that it is, particularly the young and women. Being told that double penetration is not harmful as its part of porn is the equivalent of saying smoking or passive smoking is fun. We should be enlisting health professionals to talk and measure the damage …

    • “Pornography sexualizes women’s inequality”
      That is a briliant statement, I’d not seen it before, thank you.

  • This is one of the finest, clearest pieces of writing I have read since I became a second wave feminist therapist activist. Bravo Meghan.

    • kate

      yeah absolutely agree!

  • Taryn Thomas

    Super. One can only hope that Belle Knox (and the publicist who is pimping her out to every microphone coast-to-coast) reads this very thoughtful piece. It contains a bit more quality than the standard “You go girl” and “Haters gotta hate” support provided by Knox’s “fans.”

    • I don’t know Belle Knox, but far too many young porn stars and mediatized sex workers have wound up murdered, committing suicide, or dying from various means and substances to dull the pain. Here in Québec, Nelly Arcan is a famous example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nelly_Arcan

  • This is one of the best articles I have read too – thank you for writing it and putting it so clearly. It can be exhausting having to defend yourself repeatedly – as a supporter of the No More Page 3 Campaign I have got used to being told that if I object to soft porn being published in a national newspaper available in the public space, then it is ME who is de-humanising the models and seeing them as sex objects. It’s no longer enough to just call you a prude, now you are shamed for being anti-feminist too, as in ‘no true feminist should tell another woman what she can do with her own body’. So now the glamour models and porn stars can be the true feminists, striking out for the freedom of female sexuality, and guess what…? Men prefer this kind of feminism too!!!

  • This has to be one of the highest and sickest achievements of the patriarchy, that is, convincing so many women that humiliation and degradation are empowering.

  • Laur

    “My fantasies in the bedroom are ONLY about what arouses me, which is completely unrelated to gender roles, feminism or my value and worth as a woman or human being.”

    Why is sexual arousal, and what happens in the bedroom, be completely unrelated to an unequal society? Why is the bedroom the one place feminism does not have to go? It seems by saying, “hands off” to analyzing my sexual arousal, women and men who promote these ideas are pointing to their importance.

    I do think it’s important to discuss sexual fantasies, especially one’s based on being violated, with other women. ANd not just discuss, but ANALYZE. It’s not that anti-pornstitution feminists are, like, a different breed of women, who don’t have fantasies many other women have. But we realize our speech and behavior has consequences for ourselves, other people involved, and the society at large.

    As mentioned earlier, a website Knox performed in was called Facial Abuse. The name has ABUSE in the subject line!!! But hey, this is one place feminism ain’t supposed to go, am i right?

    That said, I don’t know that any other woman in Knox’s position would say anything much different. I feel a lot of sympathy for her–she is very young, being publicly sexually abused for entertainment, had her privacy violated, and now feels she needs to defend her abuse. I really wish the media would back off from this story and give the woman a chance to work things out for herself. By stating repeatedly she is a “porn star”, that’s all men (and many women) are going to see her as. It will get harder and harder for her to find a way out when she does want to leave.

  • Pingback: A great read | Love & everything in between()

  • Yes lots of feminism does seem anti woman, it can be bitchy, nasty and shames so many no wonder women are put off. Bodies are a huge issue in feminism, do we show them or not? They are ours to do what we have surgery to make them better or please capitalism? The more I study feminism the more confused I get, I wrote some blogs on slut shaming pop stars, I don’t think it’s about our daughters it’s about stopping women expressing themselves.

    • Candy

      No one’s stopping anyone. This is what I despise about certain sects of feminism. They’re so worried about not hurting other people’s feelings that debate is censored. If my opinion, expressed in a non-inflammatory fashion, offends someone, that’s not my problem. I’m not stopping them from doing what they wish whatsoever, nor do I think I should. While I think, for instance, women should be able to do whatever they want with their bodies, that doesn’t make it a feminist act that’s aiding the dismantling of patriarchy. Rather, (even based on the terminology you use – rather than change, you use “make them better, as if a woman going from B-cups to DD-cups is objectively “improving” her body), surgery is usually sought out of insecurity to make the body conform to a precedent and an image set by an industry. Take a gander at breast augmentation forums and look at the plethora of women trying to look like stereotypical porn stars. Insecurity doesn’t spring from nowhere; it’s accumulated over a lifetime. Feminism isn’t and should not be about giving a woman a gold star for being able to make a choice. To me, that’s infantilizing. And the same goes with the porn debate.

      There’s more to reality than just the surface, more to a decision than a choice. I actually agree with you, however, that feminism is often contradictory. Some people aren’t ratiocinative enough to really rethink through their positions and well, we’re only human. It really can be frustrating.

  • mauritia

    I read Belle Knox’s articles on xoJane and was pleased to see many of the comments arguing against her porn-as-liberation, consent-makes-everything-OK thesis and rightfully suggesting that it was super exploitative for the website to use her for clicks. I’m also seeing more and more critiques of these tropes on places like tumblr lately as well. So at the very least, it does seem like the feminist discourse online about sex, pornography etc. is becoming a lot less one-sided.

  • Thank you!!! Finally someone spot on…I don’t feel alone anymore…it takes taking a huge step back to look at this from “above”, and the author did just that!

  • Rob H

    I do think that the more violent porn videos should be put to rest. The fantasy is unhealthy if not between two lovers who trust each other. But the public doesn’t see two lovers trusting each other; they see strangers. So yes, violent porn videos are a problem.
    But I don’t think those types should cause people to urge that the porn industry close altogether, because there are tons of other kinds that are enjoyed by both men and women.
    Back to the violence, though. Let’s flip it and use dominatrix porn as an example. I’m actually very curious about radfem opinion when it comes to this. Or is that still bad because the men are enjoying being treated badly? Is the point here to take away all male pleasure?
    Also…just throwing this out there: sex scenes in movies? Bad to radfems?

    • Meghan Murphy

      The problem isn’t sex or nudity (re: sex scenes in movies), the problem is objectification and sexualization. Nudity on film doesn’t *have* to sexualize or objectify women, but it does more often than it doesn’t…

    • Candy

      Even in non-violent porn, women are still called sluts, whores, bitches, and hoes. I’d be curious about a man’s opinion on this, though I agree with you that the porn industry shouldn’t “close altogether.” Radical reform is needed, though the main problem, to me, is negative human drives that are influenced and filtered through patriarchy.

    • “Back to the violence, though. Let’s flip it and use dominatrix porn as an example. I’m actually very curious about radfem opinion when it comes to this.”

      I can’t claim to be an expert on radical feminism, but from what I’ve read, radical feminists are opposed to all sexual acts which involve clear power inequalities. Female dominated pornography/sex falls into this category. In general, radical feminists do not believe that women should “empower” themselves by blindly copying men. Radical feminists believe that the role men have been assigned to in our society (a.k.a. masculinity) is about dominating and oppressing others and that nobody should want to take on this role, in the same way that Marxists believe that no one should want to take on the role of a capitalist. In the eyes of radical feminists the masculine role itself is a problem, regardless of who occupies it.

      “Or is that still bad because the men are enjoying being treated badly? Is the point here to take away all male pleasure?”

      Radical feminists do not object to male pleasure itself (or to female pleasure for that matter.) It is the cause of the pleasure in question that concerns them. They are against domination, submission, violence and degradation, because all these things are contrary to the aim of equality between men and women (and egalitarianism in general.) Thus they do not want domination, submissive, etc. to be causes of sexual pleasure, because making those things into causes of sexual pleasure promotes them. I suspect that radical feminists would also be highly critical of behaviours which involve experiencing non-sexual pleasure from dominating, and inflicting physical pain onto, others (though to be honest, I am yet to see discuss such a phenomenon.)

      One of the goals of radical feminism is to break the link between domination/submission and sexual pleasure. This does not mean that they want to abolish sexual pleasure, but rather they want it to have a different, more healthy, origin. If you can’t imagine sex (and male pleasure) existing seperately from domination/submission that’s your problem, not ours.

      My personal view (and this may not represent all radical feminists) is that in an ideal world, sexual attraction would result from interacting with another person (who could be male or female) and getting to know them as a human being. This means learning about their personality, beliefs, values, dreams, etc. and developing an emotional connection with them based on these attributes. Sexual attraction would develop out of love and more emphasis would be placed on expressing love through sex than on the mechanics of the act (body parts, genitals, etc.) And lastly (and most importantly) sex acts would not involve a “dominant” and a “submissive” or a “sadist” and a “masochist” or a “pleasurer and a “pleased”, but instead would involve a human and another human interacting as equals (crazy right?). I will admit that what I’m describing is an ideal that may not ever be fully accomplished, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to get as close to it as possible.

      “Also…just throwing this out there: sex scenes in movies? Bad to radfems?”

      It would depend entirely on the specifics of the scene and whether or not the scene encouraged people to have sex in a loving, egalitarian manner. This is not to say that rape or violent sex should not be represented on film, but it should never be endorsed (i.e. the audience should not be encouraged to find it pleasant/arousing.) There’s the also the issue of human bodies being depicted in an idealised manner (although this problem is not specific to sex scenes.) Basically, radical feminists analyse sex scenes the same way they analyse everything else. They don’t see sex scenes as being particularly bad because they feature sex.

      • Meghan Murphy

        I think that was a pretty solid answer, Independent Radical.

      • KyleWells

        Serious question here, is the debate now over as to how much of our sexuality is nature and how much is nurture? There are arguments based on evolutionary psychology that much of the male desire to “dominate” or whatever you want to call it, has a natural basis. Same with a woman’s desire to be “dominated.” I’m no expert, I can’t break it all down for you, but I’ve read enough and know enough of my own leanings that I still wonder if there is some validity in this. Not that natural desires shouldn’t be ignored or fought in order for the better of society, that’s another topic. And not that culture doesn’t play a HUGE part in shaping our sexuality. But this idealistic zero-ground for sexuality, where all is equal, is there such a thing?

        • KyleWells

          Maybe “equal” is the wrong word. Where sex is based purely on love, emotional connection and souls intertwining. However you want to put it. I hope that makes sense.

        • Meghan Murphy

          It’s socialization. I don’t ‘desire to be dominated.’ Believe it.

          • KyleWells

            Oh I certainly believe that you don’t, that’s totally fair. But is this a hard rule for all? For the majority, even?

          • KyleWells

            And maybe “domination” isn’t the right word, because that’s loaded with ideas of all kinds of degradation. I mean, to varying degrees for individuals of course, but the role of power, possession, objectification and other factors in our natural, instinctual sexuality.

          • Meghan Murphy

            But it is domination. Domination and subordination.

          • KyleWells

            OK, I agree on the term. I still question the absolute certainty on the role of socialization in introducing domination into human sexuality. And I’m not saying it’s an admirable trait, only I question whether it’s more complex than monkey see, monkey do. Because we’re all exposed to a wide variety of stimulants and cultural influences, and yet each of us tends to veer to some more than others, suggesting an innate inclination. I could be wrong though.

          • marv
          • KyleWells

            Thanks, I’ll take a read!

          • KyleWells

            Or a listen, as it turns out. Very interesting, and it’s clearly important not to universalize sexuality for women or men. But the interview doesn’t get into socialization and the role it plays in our sexuality. I understood the expert to say that people experience sexuality in a wide variety of ways and that hormones, etc, play a large role in determining that, suggesting our sexual leanings are for a large part natural.

            I guess my issue is the over-simplification of denouncing someone’s sexual interests by dismissing them as a symptom of patriarchal society, for both men and women. While I think that plays a huge part, I don’t think it’s that simple. I agree with the root article’s central premise that the current pornography industry is harmful overall for both participants and consumers. Where I start to get uncomfortable is when we’re suggesting people who are into some sort of power-play in sex (or any sort of sex which isn’t of the soul-intertwining variety) are purely conditioned to be that way. I certainly think culture plays a role, but dismissing natural urges takes away agency and freewill. I think many people know themselves well enough to have steered their sexuality through culture in a way they determine at a root level. If we’re a pawn to anything I would think it’s our own instinctual desires, which absolutely encompass a broad spectrum. Maybe we have been conditioned, but if so at some level it’s been over millions of years and is as ingrained in our personalities as being territorial, aggressive and opportunistic.These traits may not be admirable, and their strength will vary person to person, but they are human qualities which run deep.

          • jo

            Really gross of a man to tell women they have a natural need to be dominated by men.
            Would you say the same to a group of black men? If they weren’t natural subordinates of whites, slavery and racism wouldn’t have existed right?

          • KyleWells

            Sorry, not trying to be gross, just interested in exploring how psychology works into all this and the age-old nature versus nurture question. I’m not trying to say women have a natural need to be dominated by men, I’m asking whether women who do have a desire to be dominated by their partner, of whatever gender, are acting on a naturally occurring sexual impulse or whether it is purely a result of having grown up in a patriarchal society which has taught them to be submissive? One could also argue a man’s desire to dominate a woman is fundamentally gross, I wouldn’t disagree.

            I would not say the same to a group of black men because their submissive role was forced upon them, not desired. Slavery and racism absolutely do exist without any sort of natural submissive traits, it was able to be achieved through dominate power; much as the subjugation of women is due to the power structures keeping men large and in charge.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Submission is a learned behaviour/gendered trait, not a biological one.

          • KyleWells

            OK, thank you for engaging. I enjoyed your article, very insightful,

          • *Exactly* Meghan you are *so right* !!!!

        • Candy

          I wonder, though: If women want to be dominated, hypothetically, how much of that is only sexual? Just look at the women in Conservative Christian marriages, patriarchal religions, women who want a “man of the house,” all consented to. Why do women adhere to these systems? Is it patriarchy, or do women want to be dominated outside the bedroom as well? Women are certainly more likely to put themselves in submissive positions. By your logic, if empirical evidence demonstrates this leaning, then what if it’s natural? After all, evolutionary psychology has also said women are innately more passive, which might insinuate that many women would in fact prefer patriarchy.

          Not that I totally disagree, but I think it leads to some troublesome territory.

          • Donkey Skin

            Andrea Dworkin wrote a brilliant analysis of the appeal of the Christian right to women in her book ‘Right-wing Women: The Politics of Domesticated Females’. Rather than attribute women’s allegiance to the Christian right to some innate conservatism or submissiveness, or to false consciousness, Dworkin argued that conservative right-wing women were in fact acting quite rationally in what they perceived to be their best interests.

            She argued that right-wing women understood that the world was ruled by male power, and that they had deduced that the best deal possible for women under such a system was the deal offered by the conservative right, namely: order, safety, shelter, love.

            The right makes a number of promises to women that the left does not: if offers protection from male sexual aggression, in the form of rules around sexuality that will allegedly keep women safe from such; it offers shelter, in the form of a promised home for every woman who performs her wifely duty; and it offers love, in the form of valorisation of women’s traditional role as childbearers and mothers.

            Of course, the deal the right offers women is a false one. The marital home does not provide women with safety, shelter and love; women are subject to male violence, denigration and poverty regardless, but the illusion is a very powerful one, and absent any genuine liberatory alternatives, it is not surprising that many women prefer this ‘deal’ to the one offered by the left, which frequently demonstrates its contempt for women and the fact that it only wants them to be public rather than private property (as in its endorsement of prostitution).

            “Right-wing women have surveyed the world: they find it a dangerous place. They see that work subjects them to more danger from more men; it increases the risk of sexual exploitation. They see that creativity and originality in their kind are ridiculed; they see women thrown out of the circle of male civilization for having ideas, plans, visions, ambitions. They see that traditional marriage means selling to one man, not hundreds; the better deal. They see that the streets are cold and that the women on them are tired, sick and bruised. They see that the money they can earn will not make them independent of men and that they will still have to play the sex games of their kind: at home and at work too. They see no way to make their bodies authentically their own and to survive in the world of men.

            They know too that the Left has nothing better to offer: leftist men also want wives and whores; leftist men value whores too much and wives too little. Right wing women are not wrong. They fear that the Left, in stressing impersonal sex and promiscuity as values, will make them more vulnerable to male sexual aggression, and that they will be despised for not liking it. They are not wrong. Right-wing women see that within the system in which they live they cannot make their bodies their own, but they can agree to privatized male ownership: keep it one-on-one, as it were. They know that they are valued for their sex – their sex organs and their reproductive capacity – and so they try to up their value: through co-operation, manipulation, conformity; through displays of affection or attempts at friendship; through submission and obedience; and especially through the use of euphemism – ‘femininity’, ‘total woman’, ‘good’, ‘maternal instinct’, ‘motherly love’.

            Their desperation is quiet; they hide their bruises of body and heart; they dress carefully and have good manners; they suffer, they love God, they follow the rules. They see that intelligence displayed in a woman is a flaw, that intelligence realized in a woman is a crime. They see the world they live in, and they are not blind. They use sex and babies to stay valuable because they need a home, food, clothing. They use the traditional intelligence of the female – animal, not human; they do what they have to do to survive.”

            Andrea Dworkin, Right-wing Women: The Politics of Domesticated Females

          • The biggest proof (in my own opinion at least) to why this is not natural but social/cultural is to actually look at other human cultures that has lived totally different in which women, or females, since many of them didn’t have gender pronounce like we have in our culture, were not into the domination/subordination imperative at all.
            If it were natural you would find it across all human cultures that exists or have existed but you don’t find it among all of them and yet we are exactly the same species.

          • Candy

            I’m interested. Do you have any studies/articles you can link? I’ll seek them out on my own but I’d like a start.

          • Conservative women are not stupid. They fear male violence as much as progressive women, with good reason. They know the choice is between men who will provide at least a modicum of protection (the male protection racket) if they accept the patriarchal roles assigned to them or men who want unfettered sex with no responsibility for the consequences women face.

            Women are free to choose between the safety net (such as it is) provided for them and their children by the conservative community or progressives who tell women the sex industry is just chock full of career opportunities for women who would be better off if they quit resisting “nature” and exploit their assigned sex role for fun and profit.

            Progressive/liberal men think it would be a great idea to teach pole dancing in girls’ phys. ed. They think high school counselors should advise girls to consider stripping as a career choice. They want to legalize prostitution so that, among other things, women can be denied unemployment benefits if they refuse a job in the “sex industry.”

            Instead of finding common ground with women, men have chosen to use religion on one end of a spectrum and pornography on the other to keep women submissive. Conservatives use sex to control men, vilify women and instill fear and shame. Progressive men use sex to appear as transgressive, rebel bad boys, perpetuating the sadistic game of dominance and submission to control women. Either way women have all the status of a battered hockey puck.

            The google machine is your friend. Use it. Instead of sucking energy from radical feminists by asking the same willfully ignorant questions for the millionth, billionth time, try cracking open a book or two, starting with “Right Wing Women,” by Andrea Dworkin.

          • KyleWells

            That’s two recommendations for Dworkin, excellent, I’ll have to take a read. Not trying to be “willfully ignorant,” if that were the case I wouldn’t read or engage with blogs such as this. And I don’t think it is a moot question, as there are entire fields of academic study devoted to it. These are all great points though, lots to ponder. Thanks!

          • She was an amazing writer and I’m sure you will find it of interest and value.
            I would also like to recommend looking up some work with Robert Jensen, his book Getting Off: Pornography and the end of masculinity is a really good read and should be read by all males on this planet, well all of us males brought up in the dominant culture at least.

          • Me

            There’s a way how basic things that have nothing to do with wanting to be dominated, like economic security, career, community acceptance, help with raising the children and so on, are mythologized to be accessible to women only through a “strong”, dominant man. That’s all patriarchy, right?

          • lizor

            “evolutionary psychology has also said women are innately more passive” – which is some pretty good evidence that ego-psyche should be approached with a truckload of mistrust. Try inserting “jews” or “blacks” instead of “women”. How’s that for “troublesome”?

            Every struggle against a hegemonic power has had collaborators. Some jews collaborated with the Nazis, some black americans fought on the side of the south during the civil war. If your issue is survival, it’s not too hard to understand. It’s only truly troublesome when its used as an excuse for maintaining the status quo.

            Gender hierarchies may take a bit more mental effort to identify because they are globally ubiquitous and so being always get swept to the side in lieu of “more pressing” issues, as if women’s subjugation were a marginal, particular issue rather than the single most central issue in addressing power and exploitation. Recall that the original documents proposing the intrenchment of “universal” human rights were written at the height of the trans-atlantic slave trade. They were “universal” rights for white dudes. The rest of us have been fighting for inclusion ever since.

          • Donkey Skin

            On the topic of evolutionary psychologists, whose hypotheses are untestable and unfalsifiable, I can’t resist another quote from Dworkin’s Right-wing Women:

            ‘While gossip among women is universally ridiculed as low and trivial, gossip among men, especially if it is about women, is called theory, or idea, or fact.’

        • “Serious question here, is the debate now over as to how much of our sexuality is nature and how much is nurture?”

          I wouldn’t say the debate is settled, but rather that the debate is irrelevent to what I was saying. Until there is agreement regarding the need to abolish masculinity, femininity and sexual desires which revolve around dominance/submission any debates about the causes of these things are moot. That’s not to say that such debates should not occur, I do not wish to discourage human curiousity. However debates regarding the cause of a particular behaviour do not reveal whether the behaviour is good or bad, feminist or anti-feminist. If we agree that a particular behaviour is harmful, then finding out the cause of it could help us to abolish it. If the cause turns out to be society then the behaviour can be abolished by changing society and if the cause turns out to be genetic, then the behaviour can be abolished by changing human genetics.

          Personally I’m no fan of human genetic engineering and I would prefer it if gender/anti-egalitarian sexual desires could be abolished by changing society. Nevertheless, if genetic engineering turns out to be the only way of ending gender (and thereby seriously lowering the amount of rape, domestic violence and physically harmful sex that goes on in society) then we should definitely consider using it. In any case, the idea that our genes programed us to be a certain way and that it is impossible to change the way humans are is outdated. The nature vs. nuture argument can no longer be said to have anything significance when discussing the way that the world should be.

          “There are arguments based on evolutionary psychology that much of the male desire to “dominate” or whatever you want to call it, has a natural basis. Same with a woman’s desire to be “dominated.” ”

          I may not have a degree in “evolutionary psychology” (is that even a recognised science? It’s certainly not being offered at my university) but I don’t see what advantage any organism would gain from being biologically programed to like pain and domination. In fact the whole reason animals evolved the ability to feel pain is so that they could stay away from things that hurt them. How exactly does a positive reaction to domination/pain enable survival/reproduction? Any (non-human) animal that had a sexual preference for those things would bang its head against a tree until it died or run straight into a pack of predators hoping to be dominated by them, which is probably why no non-human animal appears to have such preferences. Try sticking a dog, cat, bird, etc. in a cage that’s too small for it or tying it up and whipping it. I doubt they’ll like it. Of course over time they’ll get used to it and then you can give them treats for letting you dominate them and then they’ll “submit” to you. The same thing applies to humans, even though our brains are more complex than those of other animals.

          “Not that natural desires shouldn’t be ignored or fought in order for the better of society, that’s another topic.”

          You’re entire comment was another topic. I didn’t start off making animals claims about the origins of human sexuality/behaviour. You brought up that topic. Funnily enough the topic you pose in this one sentence would have been more relevant to what I was saying. Pity you don’t want to discuss it. But for the record, yes, if a desire is harmful, it ought to be resisted, not just through individual self-control but by changing society. In case you haven’t notice the society we’re in does everything it can to undermine our self-control and then it blames individuals for not having any.

          “But this idealistic zero-ground for sexuality, where all is equal, is there such a thing?”

          I’m not sure what you mean by an “idealistic zero-ground”. Are you talking about the view that humans are blank slates? I’ve never promoted that view. Genes do influence behaviour, but there is no such thing as a genes which makes it 100% certain that someone will behave a particular way. Genes merely increase the odds of a person behaving a particular way. Other factors can counteract the effect of genes.

          If you’re talking about my notion of what an ideal society would look like, I never claimed that such a thing existed, especially not currently. That’s why I began with “in an ideal world” and ended with “I will admit that what I’m describing is an ideal that may not ever be fully accomplished, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to get as close to it as possible.” We should strive towards the ideal, that way when we fall short the world at least winds up being a lot better than it is now.

          Oh, and thanks for the compliment Meghan!

          • KyleWells

            Thank you for the detailed and well expressed response! I think this is a well balanced view of the roles of nature and nurture and how we as a society should be approaching how we act and behave and how it affects one another. And I’m more than willing to discuss any topic! I agree, I mean it seems apparent that territoriality is something built into all of us at some level, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to move away from that level of thinking.

            One point, it’s not that I think we’re programmed to like giving or receiving pain, I think we’re programmed, at some level, to give and receive pain, but now we have socially evolved past the point where these instincts are helpful or condoned, they start to come out in different ways. In so many ways our society has evolved much faster than our bodies and minds have, it seems to this totally-not-an-expert.

            Even if only read to disagree with it, I found Robert Wright’s “The Moral Animal” a thought provoking layman’s read on the fundamentals of evolutionary psychology, even if a lot of it is a bit of stretch.

            Thank you again for the engaging response.

          • marv

            Kyle, you are over theorizing oppression. Male supremacy is social reality. It is a world emergency and has been for thousands of years.. Rather than more theory about first causes from men we need more practice to stop porn, prostitution, rape, battering, capitalism, militarization… Where is your sense of urgency and action?

          • Me


          • KyleWells

            Not that I really need to justify how I live my life or what I do, but I have a mind for theory, it interests me greatly, always has. I don’t see that as a fault. Even Buddha said education is the first step. In terms of urgency and action I do what I can in my own life to educate myself, question my beliefs and treat those around me with respect and love. I have participated in events against violence against women, I support friends who do the same. This is just a comment section on the Internet, not a reflection of how I live my life. I posed a question, had some wonderfully well considered responses and feel the richer for it. Sorry?

          • KyleWells

            Sorry, that may be a bit defensive. I agree practice, action, is the most important step to take. And I imagine all of you who have responded take action in your day-to-day lives, your passion is more than evident. Keep up the good fight.

          • Me

            Please stop about our having socially evolved past anything. We live in a severely deranged society, not an evolved or an advanced one. Its technologies are destructive, not advanced. If you look at science and the technologies it produces, most of it is about the advancement of control and violation. Yet that’s almost universally seen as a good thing, foundational to life, what have you. It’s foundational only to this deranged and destructive culture, and certainly not foundational, but rather antithetical, to life.

            Why would any sane person want to compare humans to other animals only to create a hierarchy? Mind to body to spirit to create the same? All of this flows from a culturally imposed framework that recreates rigid, submission-domination hierarchies in everything, men as somehow superior to women being perhaps the primary one and certainly central to our deep learning of this way of thinking and (un)relating. And you seriously wonder how much of it is cultural and how much natural? It it were natural, there’d be no life. We’d all have been long dead, because everything alive would try to wipe out everything else. Which I suppose matches the culture’s view of life. Your gut bacteria, too, would be out to eat you alive, and I’m sad to say, you’re vastly outnumbered! All of it makes mutuality seem impossible and aggression and violation the standard, which is precisely the point. Sexuality, too, is made dirty, and refraining from sexual aggression becomes some lofty goal for noble males to attain to–a “level of thinking” high-minded males should try to move away from hard and unnatural as it may be. In reality these are all signs of the level of insanity white males and the culture are gripped by.

            It’s not that we’ve somehow evolved socially and technologically beyond our bodies and minds. That’s got nothing to do with anything. It’s nothing but more white man’s burden. It reflects the internal, cultural environment, not how and who the world and life are.

            In these type of discussions, often all I can wonder is, have you ever actually loved? Has love ever had you want to fight for anything, for anyone? Are you alive? Do you want to be?

          • What a wonderful post! “The Dominant culture and most of its members are insane, they are driven by an death urge and urge to destroy life” // Derrick Jensen

          • KyleWells

            Surely someone can pose a question in the comment section of an online article (not an attack, not a close-minded denouncement), listen to and engage with responses, and not have it reflect their capacity for love. I think everything you all have said to me has been extremely rich and has given me new ways to consider what is clearly a very important issue. I may not agree with everything said here, but discussion helps all of us to formulate or strengthen beliefs. I believe it plays an extremely important roll. Thank you all.

          • Missfit

            If you are interested in this topic, I recommend to look at the work of primatologist Robert Sapolsky and his book ‘Peace among primates’.

      • Poseidon

        This is an excellent analysis.

    • Me

      “the public doesn’t see two lovers trusting each other; they see strangers.”

      Right. The *public.* Haha, very funny!

      No. The *men* who consume porn don’t see strangers. We see other men hurt women, often severely, and it turns us on and helps us get off. The point is to imagine yourself to be the man with the power to do it, with a woman to do it to. That gets men off.

      Of course you will argue back that *your* porn use is different and what you see and seek out is not violence. But nobody really cares about that. We care about the women who are hurt in the making of porn, as well as those many women hurt by men demanding and enacting porn sex. Not to mention caring for what girls’ and women’s lives could be like if they could grow up free from porn, sexism, abuse and the constant threat of it all.

      If you are committed to living with integrity, you have more than enough reason to stop using porn. There really is no excuse for men, only obfuscation. Once you do stop using porn, in a couple of years you’ll be surprised to notice how *all* the porn you had previously consumed and thought benign at the time has been terribly violent–really nothing but objectification, abuse and rape on tape–and yet you thought differently when you were still using and it turned you on back then.

      Is the point here to take away all male pleasure? Seriously? Why does the point of male pleasure have to be the degradation, control and violation of women? And why is sexual pleasure suddenly all pleasure, is there no other kind of pleasure? Come on. Just stop using. The violence in pornography–the product, the industry, the culture–is plain to see for anyone who wants to.

    • Why is there a need to have any porn industry at all ? It’s not making anything better on either a personal level or on the large whole in our society.
      If I’m too lazy to use my imagination while masturbating I should maybe not masturbate at all rather than advocate for an industry that destroys healthy sexuality among us (civilized) humans.

  • duaneh1

    What about Pro Dom porn that features female performers putting men in restraints and verbally and physical abusing them, would that genre be the exception to the rule that porn degrades women??

    • Laur

      Um, no.

    • morag

      No, because the man is put in the “woman” position so in the end it just reinforces the hierarchy of “women=lesser.” I find the whole BDSM justification so idiotic, they always try to make it seem like women are the ones in control when it’s far from it. If a woman is a sub:”the subs are the ones with the power b/c safewords!” When she’s a dom:”doms are the ones in power b/c they give the orders and have handcuffs!” Oh really, women are in power all the time and feminists should just go home? Nope, I refuse to buy the idea that a woman dressed in restrictive clothing and either subtlety or overtly taking orders from a man is an example of empowered female sexuality.

      • Meghan Murphy

        And when a man plays the role of ‘submissive’, part of the titillation is that he isn’t acting ‘masculine’, but rather ‘feminine’, which still reinforces those gendered roles and sexualizes inequality, no?

      • Rob H

        He’s actually put in the “sub” position, where he gives up control.
        I have witnessed several domme/sub sessions, and in none of them did he act “feminine” (as Meghan puts it.) He simply obeyed his mistress. Seems to me that you are the one automatically deeming sub as a “woman’s position.”

        • Meghan Murphy

          Submission is coded as a feminine quality. It has nothing to do with what I believe.

          • duaneh1

            So when it is all said and done…there is no possible way to depict a woman degrading a man? This viewpoint contradicts the idea that women are equal to men.

          • Meghan Murphy

            1) Women aren’t equal to men
            2) Yes, it’s possible for a woman to degrade a man. But that doesn’t change the larger social structure, nor does it change the fact that in the vast majority of porn, it is women being degraded.

          • duaneh1

            I think you misunderstood what I meant by women=men. What I meant by “equal” is equivalent intellect and human potential. For example, cows and pigs aren’t equal to humans so of course, are not treated as equals to humans nor afforded the same rights as humans either in practice or in theory. If women are not equal to men, why would anyone expect that they given the same rights as men? Actually, given what you and your associates have opined with regard to pornography and how the women is always portrayed as “submissive” no matter what, feminists like you and your cohorts
            seem to have an inferiority complex.

          • Meghan Murphy

            It’s not an inferiority complex. It’s an oppressive social system.

          • NitroGirl

            “actually, given what you and your associates have opined with regard to pornography and how the women is always portrayed as “submissive” no matter what, feminists like you and your cohorts
            seem to have an inferiority complex. ”
            OH WOW. We have found our misogynist troll.

          • What Meghan says here; It’s an oppressive system rooted in an extremely oppressive culture, a culture that also paves way as to why cows and pigs are not seen equal to humans, because they are or more to where I will be going with this post; we humans are equal to them.

            I find it a bit troubling how many out there that talks about equality so often talks about the class of women should be equal to the class of men or nonhuman animals should be equal to humans.
            I say turn it around, its about damn time that we men becomes equal to women and (civilised) humans becomes equal to everybody else on this planet.

            All of this is rooted in human supremacism and this supremacy, at its core, is centred around men and it flows downhill from there. So men are superior over women, white humans are superior over humans of colour, humans are superior over other animals, humans are superior over the world, humans are the numero uno on this planet and the dominant culture is superior to all other cultures.
            And by humans I of course means civilised humans, other humans have never really counted anyway being nothing more than lesser humans that are in the way of our resources.
            This patriarchy, our cultures centre, is so mean, so evil that I wonder if there has been any other patriarchal culture that has been this cruel. I know there has been others but none of them got so far as to actually be in the process of murdering all life on the planet.

          • marv

            I strongly identify with what you declare. Deep thanks. Here are a few links you may be aware of:

            http://academicabolitionistvegan.blogspot.ca/ https://www.facebook.com/VeganFeministNetwork

            Reformers are fiddling while the oppressed are burning.

          • Thank you. I will take a closer look.

      • well put and not to forget what is it mainly about ? of course the male sexuality. Even a dominatrix “job” is to please the man no matter what position he has in their little sex play.

        • epic woman

          How very revealing it is that johns rarely or never have intercourse with their dominatrix prostitutes. Nothing ruins the paid-for illusion of a woman’s dominance over a man more thoroughly than his penis penetrating her, an inescapably dominating act in the minds of misogynists.

          • Thank you for writing that. I have never thought of that before, makes so much sense.

          • duaneh1

            Wow! That was a very insightful answer and no doubt true. Sex workers often describe themselves as Entertainers being paid to put on a show, which is a very apt description. That being said, why are erotic services whether stripping, Pro Dom, and sex acts being performed by women to entertain men regarded as “exploitation”, when the reverse is not true. Plenty of women regularly see male masseuses, hire male strippers for parties and birthdays, visit “women’s clubs” featuring buff male strippers working for tips from the female customers, All Male Stripper Revues such as the “Thunder from Down Under” perform for sell out female crows…why is this not Male “Objectification and exploitation” of men by females?

          • morag

            I would say it’s not the same because after the show is over, women aren’t at any less risk of being raped, having their rights dissolved by law, or going to a job where they will make more money than men. Women visiting male strip clubs is not an expression of women’s power, whereas strip clubs for men are built on the very foundation that men have a natural right to access female bodies.

            I would go as far to say that things like Thunder from Down Under aren’t an expression of female sexuality at all. I don’t know any women who finds that attractive. Female sexuality has been so hijacked by the patriarchy that even when we’re given an outlet for “ourselves,” it’s very much male defined. In my observations I’ve seen that women usually go to things like male strippers as a joke, and it’s not uncommon for a female patron to say that a male stripper ignored her boundaries and wouldn’t leave her alone. To go even further, I really believe that what’s marketed as female desire, i.e men with really big muscles and stuff, is really an expression of gay male sexuality. Like I said, I know a lot of women, myself included, who don’t find such overly masculine men attractive, but gay men on the other hand seem to. This can also be extended to the fashion industry, male designers seek out a very specific type of woman (rendered further unrecognizable by make up and photoshop) that most average women would never be able to emulate.

    • Candy

      Like I said in my comment, take a gander and observe how much of that porn includes men being humiliated for being feminine or a “sissy.” They’re called sissies for a reason- it’s a feminized word. Though there are always exceptions, most porn consists of female degradation:


    • Missfit

      This kind of porn is so marginal that it is not even a category in mainstream popular porn websites. Verbal and physical abuse is so the norm that they invented a special category for the porn that is NOT that (they call it ‘female friendly’ and it consists mainly of videos of lesbians).

      That this marginal subgenre of porn exists does nothing to counter the trend that women are the ones to be degraded and hurt through sex (whereas reinforcing the idea that there must be someone degraded and hurt).

      In regards to dominatrix, as Dworkin said, ‘she is a fantasy, as opposed to a symbol: the power attributed to her nowhere resonates in the real world’.

  • Meghan Murphy, I like your stuff. Keep bringing it.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thanks Dean.

  • Kathy Knight

    This is so well said. Thank you!

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thanks Kathy!

  • Rev

    I’d like to know your opinions on things such as crashpad, pornography done by females for females, or pornography of males done for males. Also I find some quite conflicting views around, such as people like Stoya who are quite pro-porn. Ex-porn stars and their stories, and sex workers who have neutral views of sex work (both pornography and self-prostitution).

    • Yes, there are ex-porn stars that say they enjoyed their time doing that and there are ex-prostitutes that enjoyed their work and, not to go completley off the rail here, you can probably find jews and other inmates that “enjoyed” working in death camps as well if you would look closely.
      Wherever there is abuse you will always find a number of individuals so hurt, so traumatized by the abusive culture they do a “make believe” in what they have been doing or are doing is righteous and in fact okay and not bad at all, ending up protecting the very culture and individuals that are exploiting them.
      That doesn’t change the bigger picture though that death camps was ultimately destroying human lives and healthy human relations, just as porn culture destroys healthy human sexuality and healthy sexual relations (and feeds rape culture) and just as prostitution at its core is there only to feed male sexuality and males “need” to access female bodies 24/7 which strengthen the dominate/subordinate imperative between the sexes. It’s not a good thing and will never be a good thing.

  • Part of the difficulty with us, in this culture, is that we are often so heavily identified with the oppressor that we can’t see the situation for what it is. So in this culture everything, every action, every moment, every thought is set up to protect the abuser(s).

  • Poseidon

    Thankyou for writing this Meghan. Your work is brilliant. I always look forward to reading your articles as I can actually feel myself learning as I move from one paragraph to the next. More so than anything else I will read for the rest of the week. You clearly would be a talented writer no matter what you chose to write about, but its fortunate you choose to turn your gift to a cause as worthy as defending women. Made all the more significant given you have to put up with being pilloried from time to time for it.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thanks Poseidon. Much appreciated.

  • @Candy

    “I’m interested. Do you have any studies/articles you can link? I’ll seek them out on my own but I’d like a start.”

    I would highly recommend looking into the work of anthropologist Ruth Benedict (1887-1948). She did some amazing work on what she calls good cultures and bad cultures.
    What she put much weight on was why was it that in some cultures women were treated good, children were treated good, they were peaceful. individuals were mostly happy, individuals in these cultures were more or less cooperative towards each other and so on and in bad cultures, such as ours, it was the other way around.

    What she found was that no matter if a culture was good or bad in all cases humans understood that we as a species are both selfish and social. What set them apart was how this was worked with in the social structure. In the good cultures the social structure was basically rooted to reward unselfish deeds, so for example if I go to the river and catch fish and I came back to the village and I share the fish I was rewarded by the other members.I was look upon as someone that was good and respectful, on the other hand in the bad cultures I would have been rewarded for keeping the fish for myself and not sharing, see the pattern with our culture and capitalism for example ? In which the more selfish you are the more you are rewarded by our culture, you climb social ladder by accumulating wealth at the expense of others (in other words not sharing).

    Anyway her work is amazing.

  • enilador

    “I have no idea why we would assume that only men’s sexualities can be shaped by porn or why, simply because a woman’s fantasies have been shaped by porn that means those fantasies and that pornography is necessarily feminist.”

    that’s perfect.

  • jose

    There’s nothing dumber than a worker that votes conservative. The feminists you describe here come real close though.

    • Actually, it’s much dumber to call women names who are only doing what they have to do to survive in The Dumb System created by dumb boys. (Please refer to the above comments re Andrea Dworkin, “Right-wing Women: The Politics of Domesticated Females.”)

  • Jennifer “Renee” Bernard

    All this is just so disheartening to me. I agree with everything Meghan says and I am utterly disgusted by the human race. I have nothing to say about this because its already been said. I only want to know what I can do to help make a difference. I don’t even know where to begin. It seems that any time I mention anything about how men are destroying our world or about the negatives of pornography; people get so defensive and angry that you can’t even talk to them. The level of denial is shocking to me. The other thing that is important to me besides fighting against the sex industry is sex crimes against children. This is a whole other topic that is minimized by the majority of both men and women, just as pornography is overlooked. And ironically, even pornography and child sexual abuse is connected. Sigh…….just so sad.

    Oh, and Megan, have you read the comments on the Andrea Dworkin’s Youtube videos? OMG, I know it shouldn’t surprise me, but i was so disturbed and puzzled by the comments toward her.

    Thanks for this Blog, Meghan!

    • Meghan Murphy

      Ugh. No, I would never venture into YouTube comments — they are just the worst.

      • Jennifer “Renee” Bernard

        Yah, I had to learn that the hard way.

  • We have in France a beautiful and sad text about all this stuff : surrender is not consent
    conclusion is also not to tell about domination but oppression, not about consent but collaboration (as meant during IId world war, , French working with German occupation)
    Thank you for this text, making things much more clear for me about porno and being calling myself bigot because of my feelings toward this industry ))

  • Ellesar

    I have yet to read anything that has explained exactly how porn, or any kind of exploited sexuality is ’empowering’. ‘Girl Power’ was also empowering, and all the Spice Girls achieved was making loads of money… Oh right.
    Making shitloads of money may make someone more powerful in society, but frankly there are as many rich fuck ups as anyone else. I have looked at Bella Knox, and I watched a vid. It was horrible, and I saw a too thin, sad looking young woman who has exchanged cutting herself for the self harm of ‘rough blow jobs’.

    I try not to focus on porn too much as a part of feminist debate because I find it so sad and depressing, and distressing. But every now and then I do dip my toe, as I know that you cannot criticise something without knowing it. Every time I just hate it more and more. I think maybe it is because the women in it are young enough to be my daughters now, and these are women who have only just become women, and already have learnt that their value is so low.

    Many years ago I worked in prostitution for a short time. It was OK. I did not have any bad experiences and only left that work because my partner wanted me to (my partner was a woman, so I wasn’t exchanging one form of male control for another!). But just because my individual experience was OK does not mean that I feel that the wholesale rental or sale of our bodies to men is OK. I could hardly recommend the work to my daughter! I believe totally that we need to reject the sex industry as it stands, and that includes the type of prostitution I did (decriminalised and safe) if we are to have any real change in power inequalities between men and women.

    Right now feminism is suffering such a backlash that it is hard to see the way forward.

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