A Feminist Outlook on Mainstream Porn

We’ve heard a lot lately about various new-age forms of pornography and sex work careers that appeal to the modern, self-aware and feminist woman. Onlyfans, Admire Me and various other forms of porn that give the woman in the production back control of her own wants and desires. It’s 2020, as people have remarked. This isn’t anything new. 

 

But what about looking at mainstream porn from a feministic viewpoint?  Porn is part of a very lengthy debate between feminists about whether or not it is in essence, empowering or degrading to women. 

 

Results of a poll conducted by The Journal in 2015 on this topic came back with 50 per cent of responders feeling that mainstream porn is not derogatory to women. However, 2015 was five years ago and it’s difficult to say how much opinion has swayed. 

 

A simple yes/no instagram poll, posing the question “Do you feel porn is degrading to women?” came back with 87 per cent of responders feeling that it wasn’t. 

 

However almost 80 per cent of responders to the question, “ Have you come across porn that you felt was degrading to women?” said that they had. 

 

On the subject of specific niche areas of porn, for example BDSM and humiliation porn blurring the lines between consensual and non-consensual participation in these areas, 83 per cent felt that they did. 

 

One of these niche areas or categories on mainstream pornography websites is the ‘teen’ category. When you delve a little deeper into the profiles of the women starring in these videos you will most likely find that they’re usually in their early twenties posing as teenagers, similarly to how actors do in films. 

 

However, the idea that a common fantasy is to have sex with a teenager seems to be an issue. Many of the videos in the ‘teen’ category on PornHub and similar websites aren’t studio made, they’re homemade videos and there can be no way of telling whether the content being watched is an act or if it is genuinely someone who is underage. 

 

This has become a big problem for pornhub recently. In one instance a man posted 58 pornographic videos of himself having sex with a teenage girl to several different websites, including Pornhub.  In another, a woman was raped at 14 and then the video of it ended up on Pornhub. 

 

Lauren Burberry, a creative writing student at the University of Brighton has strong opinions on the subject. 

  

“I think that porn as an industry benefits from misogyny and violence against women,” she said. 

 

“While the women who are in the porn industry may be happy with their careers and making lots of money, there are still lots who suffer.” 

 

A recent petition to shut down PornHub has received over 400,000 signatures. The petition is sponsored by Exodus Cry, a group based in Kansas City Missouri that  aims to “break the cycle of commercial sexual exploitation and help those who are sold for sex,” according to its biography on twitter. 

 

The petition brings to light a missing 15 year-old girl who was identified after videos of her being raped were spotted on the website in conjunction with videos of 22 other women who were tricked into having sex on camera. 

 

Pornhub only requires an email address in order for users to be able to post content on the website and the petition argues that the website isn’t being moderated properly. 

 

In relation to this Burberry said, “I think it’s the outliers and the dangerous side of porn like sex trafficking and child porn that causes mainstream porn to be so harmful.” 

 

A quote from Catharine A. MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin’s book Pornography and Civil Rights: a new day for women’s equality reads, "Pornography is central in creating and maintaining the civil inequality of the sexes. Pornography is a systematic practice of exploitation and subordination based on sex which differentially harms women.” 

 

The women believed that porn was completely exploitative to women and in the 80’s called for a civil law that made pornographers accountable for harms that could be shown to result from the existence of their publications. 

 

McKinnon felt that pornography posed physical, psychological and economic coersion of women who starred in it, even if the films themselves depicted the women to be enjoying themselves. 

 

However, if you go on mainstream pornography websites like Pornhub or XVideos nowadays pornography that focuses specifically on women’s pleasure can be hard to come by. 

 

Most videos are geared towards stimulating men, an example of this is a 10 minute long videos being at least half consumed by shots of men receiving oral sex. There can be very little inclusion of shots of the man pleasuring a woman and often there is no foreplay. The woman is treated, in the context of the video - as an object. 

 

Tammy Feeney who admittedly, “ does not watch a lot of straight porn” feels that from her limited viewing of it “it doesn’t really seem to be focused on the woman’s orgasm.” 

 

“Porn that actually focuses on the woman’s pleasure is harder to find, even free lesbian porn doesn’t do that,” she said. “ It’s mostly about the visual.” 

 

If you scroll through some of the lesbian porn videos on any of the main porn websites, you’ll might find what Feeney says to be accurate.  

 

Many videos feel passionless and hyperfocus on the process of women stripping each other from their clothes and posing for the camera. The porn which is aimed at women who like women seems to be aimed at anything but that, straight men with a lesbian fetish. 

 

Feeney spoke of “porn subscriptions that label themselves as feminist porn that basically just focuses on the women’s pleasure.” 

 

This does exist. In an article on Bustle they spoke to Erika Lust, a feminist pornographer who gave them recommendations on where people could find woman-centric and ethical pornography. 

 

"It’s important to say there is not yet a consensus about what exactly it is, but in simple terms, ethical porn cares about the performer's welfare. It is adult cinema where consent has been given for every part of the film from all parties involved. This means consent regarding the sexual acts being performed, but also the rate of pay they are receiving.,” Lust told Bustle. 

 

In 2020 there shouldn’t be anything inherently anti-feminist about porn. Women like sex, women like porn. The kinds of porn women are comfortable watching of course varies by individual and preferences. 

 

But we as a society have mostly accepted that women are sexual beings equal to our male counterparts and we shouldn’t have any issues finding porn that is consensual and cares about the performer’s welfare as Lust described. 

 

As mentioned previously, women are taking back the concept of their own pleasure by making porn themselves. OnlyFans and Admire Me give women the opportunity to be the star and the pornographer.  

 

The problems in the mainstream porn industry still remain and may consist as long as the notions still circulate  that female pornstars are doing it for men, that enjoying sex is only for men and that women aren’t watching all of that porn on the internet with the same enthusiasm as men are.