#40: Musings on Feminist Porn

Our 40th prompt comes from B. They ask:

Feminist Porn?

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B,

What an interesting question. This is yet another divisive subject within the feminist movement, with many feminists either identifying as anti-porn or pro-porn. [This is the sixth in a series of posts about feminism, so for anyone looking for background/Feminism 101, check them out.]

Anti-porn feminists root their ideology in that of the second wave, and believe that it is not possible to make pornography – something that objectifies women and has long involved violence – feminist.

Can porn really be made or depicted in ways that don’t involve oppression? Most porn is made for men. By men. The work practices around the making of pornography are usually unethical, and many of the women who are porn actors are poorly paid, have little or no agency, and do not give informed consent to their being in porn. Porn presents women as objects through which men achieve whatever fantasy/desire they have, and does not consider the women’s pleasure as a result. It also presents a very skewed/untrue portrayal of what women’s bodies, desire and pleasure look like. Men are then able to imagine themselves in the scene, which is why the gaze of the camera focuses mostly on the woman and very rarely on the man (I’m sure homophobia plays a big role here). Anti-porn feminists believe that ultimately, porn degrades women and denies them autonomy.

On the other hand, we have pro-porn feminists, who root their ideology in third and fourth wave ideology. They say that yes, porn objectifies women, and that it is violent, but it doesn’t have to be this way. That it can be something that helps women reclaim their sexuality and express themselves. That it can be made feminist by making it empowering to the women who perform it (by ensuring that they are paid well and have agency, that they give informed consent, and that the workplace in which it is made is ethical) as well as the women who watch it (by portraying women as subjects of pleasure, not objects of desire, and by ensuring an accurate portrayal women’s bodies, desire and pleasure). The gaze of feminist porn would also not be male (much of it is made by women who identify as feminist). I believe that both sides have solid points.

I think it is difficult, if not outright impossible, to rehabilitate porn and make it feminist while we continue to live in a patriarchal world where the male gaze rules all. It reminds me of the endeavour to rehabilitate marriage. While patriarchy continues to be the most pervasive form of oppression. The damage it does to how people view sex and sexuality is undoubtable. Women learn to accept sexual objectification and sexual activity that is not pleasurable, while learning that the way their bodies look naturally is unattractive. Learning that their body parts need to look “a certain way” for them to be considered beautiful. Men, on the other hand, learn not to prioritize women’s pleasure, and to view them as receptacles. They are taught that women’s bodies look a certain way, and go about inflicting damage on the many, many women who differ from that image. They are taught that male sexuality is frightening and violent.

Anti-porn feminists have come out severally to clarify that they are not against sex. That their stance is in no way moralistic. Instead, they are against the “pornification” of our society, as Julia Long would say. They say that porn pervades all aspects of our society, and that no one is immune to its effects because it affects our core identity. That we have to end this pornification.  On this, I agree.

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This post is part of a daily writing experiment that I’m running for a year. I’d love it if you took part! 🙂

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