Porn and Feminism

 One of the most highly debated questions in the feminist community is: is porn anti-feminist? There is no definitive answer to this question; ask around and you’ll likely hear a variety of different stances. Although this article will aim to explore this question from an unbiased standpoint, I do want to make it clear that I do not view all forms of pornography as being anti-feminist and harmful to those involved; however my views are entirely my own and do not represent feminism as a whole movement.

But let’s return to the question at hand: is porn anti-feminist? Certainly there are a lot of serious reasons to believe so. After all, it is an industry that – at least in most heterosexual pornography – is often degrading to women and portrays them as being passive participants in the act. What I mean by this is that most women in mainstream porn don’t necessarily look like they’re enjoying what they’re doing. Rather, they look like objects being used by the male actor or being ordered around by the director (who is often male). In addition, mainstream pornography oftentimes depicts, and therefore normalizes, violence against women. A whopping 88% of pornographic videos contains violence against women, according to Gail Dines in her 2010 book Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality. With a lack of comprehensive sexual education, many people might think that pornography is what sex should be like, and given that violence is so prevalent in pornographic videos, it’s scary to think that this is what some might deem as “normal”.

Beyond the content itself, sex workers often face stigma and discrimination outside of the work place. Many former sex workers have gone public about the abuse that often takes place in the industry, including famous Girls Next Door star Holly Madison. A former Playboy bunny, she later expressed that the conditions were so bad inside the mansion that she considered suicide as a way out.

As we’ve seen, there are clearly a lot of problems within the porn industry that would indicate it is, as an institution, anti-feminist. Yet many pornographic actresses get involved in the work willingly and view porn as a way to positively express and embrace their sexuality. Better yet, “Feminist Porn” is becoming more and more mainstream, and aims to create porn that is empowering, intersectional, and does not objectify women. According to this great article from Everyday Feminism, feminist porn must abide by these five rules:

  1. The male and female performers, or their characters, should be treated as equals.
  2. Male-female sex should not be presented as something that penises do to vaginas.
  3. Sex is something that people (usually) do in the context of a larger relationship.
  4. Kissing and touching matter, because that’s what people do when they have sex.
  5. Sex is something a couple does for themselves (not other people).

 

Whether or not you think pornography is anti-feminist, I think we can all agree that abuse within the porn industry must stop. By raising awareness and recognizing the issues within the pornographic industry, we as women can ensure that in the future the institution as a whole will be a safer, more inclusive one.