When it comes to pornography feminists are divided. Where do you stand?
Feminists who call themselves “sex-positive” say sexual freedom is essential to women’s freedom. They feel patriarchy represses women’s sexual expression, and say porn can liberate through challenging conventional notions that women should be monogamous, romantic, and that sex should be tied to procreation. They do not believe that laws written in a male-dominated society would serve women’s interests.
Feminists who oppose pornography say it turns women into objects, promotes misogyny, eroticizes male dominance, and leads to violence against women. As one anti-porn blogger put it, “instead of being portrayed as individuals, as human beings, they are treated as fragmented body parts; women, men and children are depicted and used as holes, cunts, living sex aids, receptacles for the depositing of waste fluids.”
Does pornography cause violence against women?
Studies are not conclusive.
Researchers asked male volunteers to administer electric shocks to women, under the guise of providing feedback in learning experiments. Men who had been exposed to violent and humiliating pornography were more aggressive in administering shocks.
Men who were shown violent and humiliating pornography also developed attitudes that were closer to those of rapists’. But the effects evaporated after a couple of months.
And we still don’t know whether pornography causes actual rape.
On the other hand, correlation studies often find that the more pornography is consumed, the lower the rate of rape. Does pornography decrease rape? Other factors could be in play. Over the last 20 years:
- pornography consumption increased due to the Internet
- women’s power and status rose because of increased opportunity in our society
- the rate of rape decreased according to Justice Department victimization surveys
Has rape decreased because of higher pornography consumption or because women’s power and status has broadly risen despite porn?
Civil Libertarian Feminists
Other feminists believe that pornography is offensive and even harmful, but they feel that protection of individual rights and freedoms is more important.
What should be done?
Should pornography be celebrated as “pro-sex” feminists believe? Should laws be imposed against pornography as many anti-porn feminists advocate, and as civil libertarians fear? Should those who are concerned about negative effects of pornography turn to dialogue and education rather than the law?
Where do you come down on the issue?
Gloria Cowan. “Pornography: Conflict Among Feminists.” Women: A Feminist Perspective, Fifth Edition. Edited by Jo Freeman. 1995
Michael Kimmel. Guyland. Harper. 2008