Alright so the history of this one is fairly long, but just as an example we can see some of the arguments made against porn here: http://overland.org.au/previous-issues/issue-207/feature-gail-dines-sharon-smith/. Why this is of interest to SCUM is that we are looking at porn through a feminist lens- Is porn, in sum, good or bad for women? In the linked article Sharon Smith largely ignores this, preferring instead to combat Gail Dines (who is the antagonist of this particular post) on whether porn is the single most dangerous threat to feminism and women’s rights generally. What I plan to do is give a quick run-down of the Dines argument, and then try and elucidate why, for my money, the amount of porn we consume is actually good for feminism (of which I am an avid proponent).
Dines and other anti-porn activists make a couple of arguments;
1. That most porn is violent and demeaning to women. This argument is based on what can only be described as an interesting view of what sex should be. In the linked article and previously Dines has said that 90 percent of mainstream porn involves some act of aggression towards the female performed.
Interestingly, there is no stat for aggression against the male performer/performers. Now you may think this is a glib response (and normally the but wait men are discriminated against too what about ladies night arguments are), but let’s review the things that are included in this category of ‘violent’- hair pulling of any kind, spanking, saying ‘bitch’ with reference to the female performer. This level of ‘violence’ would mean calling a male performer ‘bastard’ or scratching his back during sex or biting his ears/neck. These aren’t violent in the way that Dines wants us to read that word. They can be playful, aggressive even, and they can also be legitimate ways of communicating desire and even love between two people. I’m not saying there isn’t really violent, really demeaning porn out there! The internet is a scary place! But there is also clown porn out there, and I’m not worried about children getting strange feelings about clowns.
2. That the increase and widespread consumption of porn is changing our culture for the worse, that we are ‘pornifying’ young women. This argument focuses on examples cited by Dines of young women sending naked photos, wearing shirts proclaiming “slut” or “bitch” and the waxing their pubises with increasing frequency.
Yes, the media we consume affects our preferences. Of course it does. This is why someone with eighties hair and clothing who went out clubbing next Saturday night would most likely not be viewed as attractive by the majority of the people there. Let’s be honest; they probably wouldn’t get in. The question is whether or not this is a bad thing. It is different to the way we used to dress and groom sure, is wearing a shorter skirt or getting a wax any less or more demeaning an act for a woman to do than always keeping your hemlines below your knees or covering your shoulders? One is a societal expectation from our age, one from another; that Dines prefers the other age, or even one closer to our own like the seventies does not make it inherently better.
The real sexism that exists is that there are societal expectations AT ALL and that those not conforming with those preferences are ridiculed rather than accepted as not particularly wanting to wear that thing other people are in that way. This is not a problem of porn, it is a problem of society at large, deal with it there and it will disappear in porn. (The other point to make here is that as a whole the porn industry does a better job than magazines, tv and movies at selling different body types as ‘hot’ or ‘desirable’- I’ve never seen a movie play large women or even hairy women as anything other than punchlines, not so with porn.)
3. Young people are being exposed to dangerous and unhealthy sexual acts at younger and younger ages and they are recreating those sexual acts at home, the men often, according to Dines, pressuring the women into fulfilling these porn-only acts. Studies do show an exposure to porn at a very young age, especially amongst young men/boys, and there has also been an uptick in differing sexual activities, although it is still pretty slight, and a lot less kids are having sex in high school than you thought when you were there. Dines claims young men get their sexual education through porn, and they then accept what they are shown in porn as normal, which leads them to educate women this way also.
You may have noticed this overview of Dines’ argument is longer than the others, this is because I have OPINIONS on this topic and I am about to let them be known. This is probably what I disagree with most about Dines’ arguments, and it is the reason that I feel comfortable putting this post in S.C.U.M.- society (yes that includes Dines) for some reason cannot comprehend the idea of women desiring sex. Not ‘lovemaking’, but sex. Physical, intense, sweaty sex. Yet despite society’s disbelief, it happens. Women like sex too. I say this because as S.C.U.M. raised in the Catholic school system and on sitcoms, I actually had no idea that this could be the case until I was at university.
You think our sexual education is bad Gail Dines? You’re damn right it is. That’s not because of porn though. I always assumed porn actresses were, you know, acting. That porn was kind of like a James Bond film, yes there are spies out there, but it doesn’t really happen like that. Women have to be cajoled, tricked, married, swept off their feet, in a word- CONVINCED to have sex with men. As a FAVOUR. I think it’s bad porn is the main form of sex education for young men, and I agree that this is partially the case (there is a lot of informative stuff on the web for inquiring minds too), but the sex ed you get in schools by itself? Without porn? That would be worse.
What porn does, and why I think it advances the feminist cause is that it is one of the only places that a woman with sexual desire- not marriage desire ala Pride and Prejudice- but sexual desire, actually exists outside of a punch line. Think about the movies that you have watched recently- even Bridesmaids, which is largely touted as a tour de force for women empowerment (and man, Kristen Wig is hilarious and I am so jealous of her talent) plays this up as something to be laughed at. We used to live in a world where women’s involvement in sex was passive (lie back and think of England), as an enjoyment tool for men or as a womb to be impregnated- this is no longer the case. I think porn can claim some credit for that.
4. Final thoughts.
At the very least if men are being taught that porn is how you should do sex we should have a lot more guys trying to please their partners, so there is that.
The other great advantage of porn is an increasing awareness of sexuality for those who aren’t women, to mention the ‘S’ in S.C.U.M. for a while, how many gay men have figured out their sexuality on the basis of porn? Dines doesn’t seem to acknowledge that gay porn exists most of the time, so there wasn’t much room for me to discuss it here, but it applies not just to queer sexual preference- porn is a safe way for someone to explore the sexual preferences they may have be it clowns, men, women or just Twilight fanfiction with the names changed.
There is some truly sexist porn out there. It is terrible. My point is not that it doesn’t exist, but that *on the whole* porn is a plus to society, and that most of the negatives Gail Dines and other anti-porn campaigners ascribe to it are problems in larger society as well.
The privilege we are talking about here, in case anyone questions its place on S.C.U.M. is that men are allowed by society to be whoever they want to be when it comes to sex, are they bugging a women to have sex with them. Whelp, can’t help it, they have all that porn in their heads, plus, they are only men, they always want sex, it’s just a natural desire, whatever, and if they aren’t? Well then they are paragons of virtue, fighting against almost impossible odds and winning. Not so for women, who, upon expressing desires or wearing short skirts or heaven forbid enjoying a bit of porn now and then, are in the clutches of the evil porn industry! They must be saved.
Perhaps it goes without saying but this whole post is prefaced on CONSENSUAL sex, sex-positivism does not apply to nonconsensual acts, whether or not they are depicted in porn.
Hopefully all the mentions of porn and sex drive up my site views