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The issue of censorship of pornography has caused a harsh divide in the feminist community. Anti-porn feminists are opposed to pornography, not because of its alleged obscenity which most other anti-porn groups protest, but because they claim it is harmful to individuals and women as a whole. Below I will analyze their arguments and present the opinions and experiences of women actually involved in the porn industry. My intent is to view porn in a realistic light, and to show that the arguments made by anti-porn feminists are not only inaccurate but harmful to women. One claim that anti-porn feminists make is that porn reinforces negative stereotypes towards women. Prominent anti-porn feminist, Mackinnon, claims that porn "erotizes hierarchy" and always shows women as submissive.1 With this generalization, MacKinnon is either ignoring or completely unaware of a whole genera of porn dedicated to females dominating males. If her claim is that porn is harmful when it shows women being submissive or "used" then isn't porn that breaks this stereotype beneficial to women? If Mackinnon wants her argument against pornography to be taken seriously then she should at least have a good understanding of what she is attacking. She further generalizes pornography claiming it, "sexualizes rape, battery, sexual harassment, prostitution, and child abuse; it thereby celebrates, promotes, authorizes and legitimizes them."1 What about porn that does not contain any of those elements? If her argument is against pornography as a whole then this generalization does not support her cause. Not all porn contains rape, battery, sexual harassment, prostitution or child abuse. However it could be argued that porn itself is sexual harassment, and some have gone as far as to call it rape.2 But rape and harassment can not be present when someone has given their legal consent to be involved. Although some anti-porn feminists have questioned this idea in the past, I feel that it is such a basic and obvious truth that I do not need to discuss it further. These generalizations Mackinnon makes against porn are just that; generalizations, not universal truths. If Mackinnon is against pornography that portrays specific things then she should be attacking that type of porn, not porn in general. MacKinnon also claims that, "Pornography constructs what a woman is in terms of it's view of what men want sexually…".1 Note that she is not claiming that pornography shows men what they want but what pornographers think men want. This is an important distinction because it admits that there is or can be a difference between what pornography portrays and what men are actually interested in. This statement also shows the assumption that men are the sole consumers of pornography. Though this assumption is widely accepted both in the general public and in the porn industry, I strongly disagree with it. Candida Royalle, owner of Femme Productions, started her company with the intent to, "create materials that bespoke a more loving and healthy attitude towards women" and market them to women and couples.3 When she approached distributors about her idea most dismissed her claiming there was no such thing as a market for women or couples. Debi Sundahl faced similar problems when starting up her company, Fatale Video, of lesbian porn intended for women.4 Both women eventually succeed in their endeavors and created lucrative companies based on female consumers. While the majority of porn may be produced and purchased by men, it is unfair to ignore women's desires to view pornography. All too often women's sexual desires are ignored or dismissed by our male dominated society. The very idea that only men watch porn shows how ignorant our society is about women's sexual desires. Anti-porn feminists deny that fact that "healthy" women are actually capable of enjoying their work as pornographers. Wendy McElroy examines this cl.. …gender feminists insist, no healthy woman would consent to the humiliation of pornography. Therefore, women who make this choice are so psychologically damaged by a male-dominated culture that they are incapable of true consent… But gender feminist were raised in the same culture. Presumably these "enlightened" women wish us to believe that their choices are based on reason and knowledge; somehow, they have risen above the culture in which they were raised. They are unwilling however to grant such a courteous assumption to any woman who disagrees with them. 5 The idea that women who choose to make pornography are psychologically damaged by society does not hold up very well. As McElroy points out, anti-porn (also know as gender) feminists were raised in the same culture yet seemed to have escaped this psychological damage. So theoretically if they were able to escape being psychologically damaged then couldn't some women who consume or make porn have escaped this psychological damage too? And what about women who initially believe the anti-porn rhetoric but then accept and even participate in porn? Nina Hartley is one such woman who used to see women in porn as victims but eventually choose to make porn herself. She describes her life as, "richer and more rewarding for having chosen a sexually oriented occupation."6 She further explains the benefits of her career saying, "It has made me a happier and more loving woman. It has increased my capacity for compassion and pleasure, and I'm still learning and growing."7 This does not sound like the life of a victim or someone who has merely been brainwashed into accepting something that they should find demeaning. The idea that women who choose to make porn are either victims or "unhealthy" is in and of itself demeaning. These arguments made by anti-porn feminists reinforce the stereotype that women are either not capable of or should not enjoy sex outside of a relationship. The lack of discussion about men in porn can be seen as an acceptance of the idea that men can enjoy sex outside of a relationship and that society deems it permissible for them to do so. If anti-porn feminists are so concerned about the damage porn has when it reinforces negative stereotypes then maybe they should stop doing the very thing they claim to be against. And the stereotypes that anti-porn feminists are reinforcing are damaging. They are denying women the right to explore their own sexual desires by telling women they should be ashamed and feel degraded by certain types of sex. The fight for equality can not be won by denying women the same sexual freedoms that are so freely given to men. The porn industry, like all industries, is not perfect when it comes to its treatment and portrayal of women. As Annie Sprinkle, a well know feminist pornographer admits, "no sex worker, no matter how much she loves her job, can deny (however hard she tries) that there is great room for improvement for women in the sex industry."8 But telling women what they can or cannot do (even when it's coming from other women) is a step backwards for the women's movement. 1. Catharine MacKinnon, Pornography, Civil Rights, and Speech. ed. Daniel Bonevac, "Today's Moral Issues" (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006), 190. 2. Wendy McElroy, Sexual Correctness. ed. Daniel Bonevac, "Today's Moral Issues" (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006), 200. 3. Jill Nagle, First Ladies of Feminist Porn: A Conversation with Candida Royalle and Debi Sundahl. ed. Jill Nagle, "Whores and Other Feminists" (New York: Routledge, 1997), 156-157. 4. Jill Nagle, First Ladies of Feminist Porn: A Conversation with Candida Royalle and Debi Sundahl. ed. Jill Nagle, "Whores and Other Feminists" (New York: Routledge, 1997), 163. 5. Wendy McElroy, Sexual Correctness. ed. Daniel Bonevac, "Today's Moral Issues" (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006), 204. 6. Nina Hartly, In the Flesh: A Porn Star's Journey. ed. Jill Nagle, "Whores and Other Feminists" (New York: Routledge, 1997), 58. 7. Nina Hartly, In the Flesh: A Porn Star's Journey. ed. Jill Nagle, "Whores and Other Feminists" (New York: Routledge, 1997), 60. 8. Annie Sprinkle, We've Come a Long Way- And We're Exhausted!. ed. Jill Nagle, "Whores and Other Feminists" (New York: Routledge, 1997), 66.
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