Point, Counterpoint: Feminism and pornography

By Linze Griebenow & Colin Remes

Linze Griebenow:

Pro censorship advocates and anti porn advocates are two birds of a feather. Here’s why:

It’s a common misconception that anti pornography feminists are pro censorship.

I would argue, rather, that censorship is a greater threat to the women’s movement; however, that’s not to undermine the pervasive harm porn causes women.

Despite sex positivism and third wave feminist critiques, pornography is highly influential to the way people view women in our culture. Although men participate in porn as well, their worth as a human is not reduced to their gender or sexuality in mainstream culture and therefore do not suffer the same consequences. To advocate for non degradation of women’s bodies and societal value is not to call for censorship, but to proclaim women’s sexuality as something not at the mercy of men.

The “It’s an empowering choice” Argument:

A critique of the anti porn movement is that it takes away women’s autonomy as sexual beings capable of making conscientious choices of participating in consensual sex. This, in some cases, is completely true. The same argument could be made for a female stripper; that she chose her career and considers herself a professional dancer. Perhaps some women are afforded this lifestyle by consensual means, but most women aren’t.

When we begin to make assumptions about people’s autonomy and agency in cultures laced with racist, classist, sexist and ageist institutions and attitudes.

Because men are at the helm of executive choices in the adult industry, women that exhibit the physical characteristics of the unrealistic, ideal busty-babe image are typically awarded a small amount of freedom of choice. Directors, executives and CEOs of pornography companies are the ones who truly benefit financially from the female’s commercial success.

Because as viewers we don’t see the intimacies involved in the production of porn, it’s easy to say that it’s a lifestyle women choose.

The “to abolish stops regulation and hurts women” Argument:

I agree the abolition of porn or its illegalization is not the solution because it would violate our First Amendment rights.

However, to hide behind fear of regulation violations in the form of guaranteeing everyone is 18 is indicative of the naïveté many men have for women in porn. Underage girls are rampant within the industry and are continuously, fiscally and physically exploited, regardless of porn’s legal or regulatory status. Just as we all play our “scout’s honor” claiming we didn’t know we were speeding, executives promise she told them she was 18.

The distribution of porn normalizes violence, sexual objectification and humiliation of women, and promotes violence against them and has an increasing affect on cases of rape and sexual assault.

Colin Remes:

When it comes to feminism, in this country at least, the lines seem to have been drawn between two different schools of thought on the progression of women’s equality.

The division is between feminists who are pro-censorship, and those that strongly oppose censorship. In the book Defending Pornography by Nadine Strossen, feminist, Harvard Law graduate, editor of the Harvard Law Review, and professor of law at New York Law School, Strossen discusses the division between these two groups in great detail and analyzes why pro-censorship feminists are not champions of their cause but rather agents of their own destruction.

For example, pro-censorship feminists want to make pornography illegal all together. The subject of porn can elicit extreme emotional responses from both men and women alike, but I urge you to see the logic as to why that would be a horrible idea. Making pornography illegal would not stop it’s distribution. If drug dealers have no problem breaking the law, why would pornographers?

There are state and federal regulations on pornography now because it is legal, like ensuring that all participants are at least 18 years of age. If pornography became illegal, do you think they’d bother to check IDs?

Absolutely not. The only thing making porn illegal would do is cause harm to the performers in it, both men and women alike.

Pornography aside, there are hundreds of pieces of what is considered historic and great art that portray both men and women very often in the nude. Pro-censorship feminists have drafted laws that would make these sculptures and paintings illegal.

Think of how much history and beautiful works we would lose. The overall idea here is that pro-censorship implies that women need to be protected from so called “offensive” images and men don’t. This sends the message that men are mentally tougher and superior to women.

Which, of course, is completely ridiculous. Women are not weak. Women are not inferior.

Certain extremists on the pro-censorship side like Andrea Dworkin have even perpetuated the idea that women are mentally incapable of consenting to sex with a man under any circumstances. This woman calls herself a champion of women’s equality? I hope you’re seeing the irony here.

I encourage you to pick up Strossen’s book and read it cover to cover. All the ideas mentioned above are hers; I support them, her, women’s rights and what she has to say needs to be heard.