It’s easy for porn’s proponents to dismiss those who speak out against it as prudish, parental or even free speech-hating fascists. There might even be those who wouldn’t consider themselves pro-porn but they figure if they’re not part of the conservative, Christian camp, they need to speak out against them. I, like so many other thinking feminists, do not belong to either camp. I see porn and puritanical beliefs about sex and women as two sides of the same coin and reject both forms of female oppression.
How does porn oppress women?
Like puritanical religious beliefs, porn dictates a desirable image of woman based on her status as a sex-object. In porn, she must always be sexually willing and spread-eagle while the puritanical woman must always keep her knees together and remain chaste. The pornified woman increases her value with the amount of skin she shows while the virginal woman increases her value with the amount of skin she covers. The porn star is sexually adventurous and fun while the conservative woman is demure, modest and even withholding. Both women are objects to be conquered and possessed and both dictate how they’re treated with their behavior and dress (or lack thereof).
But if women are objectified by porn, so are men.
Hardly. To buy into this belief is to disregard centuries of female oppression at the hands of misogynists and complicit men as well as the current pressure upon females to look and act a certain way. Women are disproportionately affected by pornographic images and non-pornographic yet highly sexualized pictures of women. It takes nothing more than a glance at a group of men and women or a stroll through the local drugstore magazine or beauty aisle to realize that women have harsher beauty standards than men. Misogynists and complicitous others try to dismiss this fact by saying that:
Women choose to be this way/they like being this way.
This is yet another fallacy that requires dismissal of the multibillion-dollar marketing industry. Both the porn and beauty industries must create demand in order to sell their products. They bombard consumers with highly sexualized, unrealistic images of women which the average man desires and average woman must aspire to be. These industries bank on convincing women that they are not good enough as they are. The insidious message being communicated is that women will never be good enough thus, they must keep chasing this unrealistic ideal. When we are girls–we must be princesses, when we are teenagers–we must be sexually mature women, when we are mature women–we must be youthful and on and on. Women who fail to do so suffer ostracism, invisibility, and social death.
If you still don’t believe me, ask yourself “Who stands to profit from my beliefs?” Women who reject porn and its offshoots as degrading and oppressive are reviled in our society. They are bad consumers and even threaten these industries by criticizing them. Pornographer, Larry Flint has even featured various feminists he finds threatening in his magazine in order to defame and discredit them. Why would pornographers need to portray these women as prudes and fascists unless they were a real threat to sales and the patriarchy? On the other side of things, anti-porn activists gain nothing from convincing people that porn is degrading and oppressive. If anything, they suffer greatly, receiving harassment, death threats, and becoming social pariahs for their beliefs.
In closing, the next time you or someone you know decides to defend porn by discrediting its opponents as puritanical fascists, remember that the madonna and the whore are the same woman.