Pornography: The Opposition, the Support, and Alternative sites

Introduction

Ever since the Internet has been invented, and way before, Pornography has loomed large within the sexual mystique. Within the last few decades it has become a multi-billion dollar industry within the United States and possibly outside as well. The debate for it and against it has been yelled over by those of the Christian right, the staff of Planned Parenthood, Porn Stars, mothers, fathers, feminists, professors, young couples, the queer community, and many more. The most unexpected people will debate for the topic or against it, and there is always the expected identity, for example, a pastor, to identify against porn (what I would guess would be argued as “tempting”).

As an introduction to this topic, for those of you who have never heard of Avenue Q (The Musical), there is a song that is fabulously called: The Internet is For Porn. The Musical is sort of like a parody of Sesame Street where the actors use puppets to act out the scenes. Here is a youtube video of the original: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-TA57L0kuc.

In addition, I provide the viewpoint of feminists. The view point of feminists was always an amorphous being because not all women are the same.

In conclusion, this post is going to be about debates that have been filmed, debates among the educated, debates among feminists, and any debates I can possibly find online. This is just an outline of the opinions as I am sure they differ in minute details and in specific situations. This is just the beginning.

Disclaimer

I am, by no means, supporting rape, harmful fetishes, or non-consensual touch of animals for sexual purposes by promoting educating others about both sides of pornography debate. I do not approve of human trafficking, kiddie porn, or sex slaves. Though I acknowledge people do engage in these acts, I do not promote them, but I also do not judge it either. I am in no place to judge the people who freely (or not) choose their behavior. What I aim to provide with this information is a resource and hopeful some eye-opening. I hope this post will do that and will help others to further investigate their own opinions.

Also, I do not attempt and will not attempt, to cover every perspective there is on porn. I have found some on the internet and these might be some of the more prevalent, obvious ones, or the ones that are more extreme than middle ground. The media likes extreme and that is probably more of what is out there. I could write a book on this topic so I do not expect to cover every little niche and cranny about the topic. This is just an overview, though it may be quite long.

To conclude, Sex will never be rational, controllable, or politically correct. Our desires are never completely politically correct.

For-Porn

The people who are thought of as for-porn, who are usually in the lime light, are people who are in the porn industry, men, and liberals (who, obviously, are for free speech). Although, many people who fall into these identities are anti-porn because of other identities they may have.

I could not find an abundance of information on this viewpoint. Do you have a pro-porn viewpoint? Do you know a site where they display an actively pro-porn perspective?

The Feminist Position

“As a “pro-sex” feminist, I contend: Pornography benefits women, both personally and politically. It provides sexual information on at least three levels:

  • It gives a panoramic view of the world’s sexual possibilities. This is true even of basic sexual information such as masturbation. It is not uncommon for women to reach adulthood without knowing how to give themselves pleasure.
  • It allows women to “safely” experience sexual alternatives and satisfy a healthy sexual curiosity. The world is a dangerous place. By contrast, pornography can be a source of solitary enlightenment.
  • It offers the emotional information that comes only from experiencing something either directly or vicariously. It provides us with a sense how it would “feel” to do something.

Pornography allows women to enjoy scenes and situations that would be anathema to them in real life. Take, for example, one of the most common fantasies reported by women – the fantasy of “being taken.” The first thing to understand is that a rape fantasy does not represent a desire for the real thing. Why would a healthy woman daydream about being raped? Perhaps by losing control, she also sheds all sense of responsibility for and guilt over sex. Perhaps it is the exact opposite of the polite, gentle sex she has now. Perhaps it is flattering to imagine a particular man being so overwhelmed by her that he must have her. Perhaps she is curious. Perhaps she has some masochistic feelings that are vented through the fantasy. Is it better to bottle them up?

Pornography breaks cultural and political stereotypes, so that each woman can interpret sex for herself. Anti-feminists tell women to be ashamed of their appetites and urges. Pornography tells them to accept and enjoy them. Pornography can be good therapy. Pornography provides a sexual outlet for those who – for whatever reason – have no sexual partner. Perhaps they are away from home, recently widowed, isolated because of infirmity. Perhaps they simply choose to be alone. Couples also use pornography to enhance their relationship. Sometimes they do so on their own, watching videos and exploring their reactions together. Sometimes, the couples go to a sex therapist who advises them to use pornography as a way of opening up communication on sex. By sharing pornography, the couples are able to experience variety in their sex lives without having to commit adultery.

Pornography benefits women politically in many ways. Historically, pornography and feminism have been fellow travelers and natural allies. Although it is not possible to draw a cause-and-effect relationship between the rise of pornography and that of feminism, they both demand the same social conditions – namely, sexual freedom.

Pornography is free speech applied to the sexual realm. Freedom of speech is the ally of those who seek change: it is the enemy of those who seek to maintain control. Pornography, along with all other forms of sexual heresy, such as homosexuality, should have the same legal protection as political heresy. This protection is especially important to women, whose sexuality has been controlled by censorship through the centuries.

Viewing pornography may well have a cathartic effect on men who have violent urges toward women. If this is true, restricting pornography removes a protective barrier between women and abuse.

Legitimizing pornography would protect female sex-workers, who are stigmatized by our society. Anti-pornography feminists are actually undermining the safety of sex workers when they treat them as “indoctrinated women.” Dr. Leonore Tiefer, a professor of psychology, observed in her essay “On Censorship and Women”: “These women have appealed to feminists for support, not rejection. … Sex industry workers, like all women, are striving for economic survival and a decent life, and if feminism means anything it means sisterhood and solidarity with these women.” (http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/mcelroy_17_4.html)

Articles/Blogs

This blog, called Feministe, includes Feminist Porn sites and is an extensive explanation of this woman’s view on being pro-sex and pro-sex workers, or rather, she is an activist for these things: http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2008/07/23/feminist-porn-sex-consent-and-getting-off/

This site is by a woman, who wrote XXX: A Woman’s Right to Pornography after interviewing hundreds of sex workers. It also includes a letter that was wrote by a man about empathizing with the women against porn and an article about Feminism and Porn:

http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/mcelroy_17_4.html

This is an article which supposedly “uncovers the fallacies of anti-pornography feminism”. See for yourself: http://fty.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/6/1/45

Anti-Porn

Many of the people who are seen or thought of as being anti-porn are women (but are mostly men) or are religious in some manner, but there are probably many people who are for-porn who are religious, women, and religious and women.

This is a really informative site (as Wikipedia always is) about the Anti-Porn position (it includes the law surrounding it, the medical position, etc): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-pornography#Feminist_criticism_of_the_anti-pornography_position

Medical Research Objections

“Dolf Zillmann asserts that extensive viewing of pornographic material produces many sociological effects which he characterizes as unfavorable, including a decreased respect for long-term, monogamous relationships, and an attenuated desire for procreation.[1] He describes the theoretical basis of these experimental findings:

The values expressed in pornography clash so obviously with the family concept, and they potentially undermine the traditional values that favor marriage, family, and children… Pornographic scripts dwell on sexual engagements of parties who have just met, who are in no way attached or committed to each other, and who will part shortly, never to meet again… Sexual gratification in pornography is not a function of emotional attachment, of kindness, of caring, and especially not of continuance of the relationship, as such continuance would translate into responsibilities, curtailments, and costs…[2]

Additionally, some researchers claim that pornography causes unequivocal harm to society by increasing rates of sexual assault[3][4], a line of research which has been critiqued in “The effects of Pornography: An International Perspective” on external validity grounds[5], while others claim there is a correlation between pornography and a decrease of sex crimes[6][7][8], an issue discussed further in public health effects of pornography.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-pornography#Medical_research_objections)

Religious Objection

“Some religious conservatives, such as Jerry Falwell, criticize pornography on religious-moral grounds. They say sex is reserved for heterosexual married couples, to be used only in accordance with God‘s will, and assert that use of pornography involves indulgence in lust (which in Christianity is a sin) and leads to an overall increase in sexually immoral behavior.[citation needed]

Gordon B. Hinckley, former president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was well known within the faith for expounding the church’s sentiments against pornography. Of pornography, he said, “It is like a raging storm, destroying individuals and families, utterly ruining what was once wholesome and beautiful…suffice it to say that all who are involved become victims. Children are exploited, and their lives are severely damaged. The minds of youth become warped with false concepts. Continued exposure leads to addiction that is almost impossible to break. Men, so very many, find they cannot leave it alone. Their energies and their interests are consumed in their dead-end pursuit of this raw and sleazy fare.” [9]

Many are opposed to pornography because of religious convictions and morals, as exemplified by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states:

“Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.” Section 2354[6]” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-pornography#Religious_objections)

The Feminist Position

“Feminist positions on pornography are diverse. Some feminists, such as Diana Russell, Andrea Dworkin, Catharine MacKinnon, Susan Brownmiller, Dorchen Leidholdt, Ariel Levy, and Robin Morgan, argue that pornography is degrading to women, and complicit in violence against women both in its production (where, they charge, abuse and exploitation of women performing in pornography is rampant) and in its consumption (where, they charge, pornography eroticizes the domination, humiliation, and coercion of women, and reinforces sexual and cultural attitudes that are complicit in rape and sexual harassment). Many feminists differentiate between different sorts of porn.

Beginning in the late 1970s, anti-pornography radical feminists formed organizations such as Women Against Pornography that provided educational events, including slide-shows, speeches, and guided tours of the sex industry in Times Square, in order to raise awareness of the content of pornography and the sexual subculture in pornography shops and live sex shows.

The feminist anti-pornography movement was galvanized by the publication of Ordeal, in which Linda Boreman (who under the name of “Linda Lovelace” had starred in Deep Throat) stated that she had been beaten, raped, and pimped by her husband Chuck Traynor, and that Traynor had forced her at gunpoint to make scenes in Deep Throat, as well as forcing her, by use of both physical violence against Boreman as well as emotional abuse and outright threats of violence, to make other pornographic films. However, in the documentary Inside Deep Throat, directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato interviewed several people connected with the filming of Deep Throat, including director Gerard Damiano and co-star Harry Reems; all stated that Lovelace was not forced in any way to participate in the film, and specifically that they never saw a gun on the set. Dworkin, MacKinnon, and Women Against Pornography issued public statements of support for Boreman, and worked with her in public appearances and speeches. Boreman’s criticism focused feminist attention not only on the effects of the consumption of pornography (which had dominated feminist discussions of pornography in the 1970s), but also the effects of the production of pornography, which they claim is rife with abuse, harassment, economic exploitation, and physical and sexual violence. They point to the testimony of other well known participants in pornography such as Traci Lords, and expressed in recent feminist works such as Susan Cole‘s Power Surge: Sex, Violence and Pornography. MacKinnon applies the critical test to determine whether the production of pornography is exploitative: would women choose to work in the pornography industry if it were not for the money? Critics note that this test fails to distinguish pornography from any other industry.

Some anti-pornography feminists — Dworkin and MacKinnon in particular — advocated laws which would allow women who were sexually abused and otherwise hurt by pornography to sue pornographers in civil court. The Antipornography Civil Rights Ordinance that they drafted was passed twice by the Minneapolis city council in 1983, but vetoed by Mayor Donald Fraser, on the grounds that the city could not afford the litigation over the law’s constitutionality. The ordinance was successfully passed in 1984 by the Indianapolis city council and signed by Mayor William Hudnut, and passed by a voter initiative in Bellingham, Washington in 1988, but struck down both times as unconstitutional by the state and federal courts. In 1986, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower courts’ rulings in the Indianapolis case without comment.

Many anti-pornography feminists supported the legislative efforts, but others — including Susan Brownmiller, Janet Gornick, and Wendy Kaminer — objected that legislative campaigns would be rendered ineffectual by the courts, would violate principles of free speech, or would harm the anti-pornography movement by taking organizing energy away from education and direct action and entangling it in political squabbles (Brownmiller 318-321)

Many anti-pornography feminists describing themselves as “sex-radical” such as Ann Simonton and Nikki Craft and other members of Media Watch have advocated working against pornography and been arrested for public nudity and apply civil disobedience against corporations by ripping up single copies of magazines that contained violent pornography that they insist glorify rape as sexual entertainment. They advocate rejecting the representations of sexuality as exemplified in publications like Hustler and Penthouse.

The Supreme Court of Canada‘s 1992 ruling in R. v. Butler (the “Butler decision”) fueled further controversy, when the court decided to incorporate some elements of Dworkin and MacKinnon’s legal work on pornography into the existing Canadian obscenity law. In Butler the Court held that Canadian obscenity law violated Canadian citizens’ rights to free speech under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms if enforced on grounds of morality or community standards of decency; but that obscenity law could be enforced constitutionally against some pornography on the basis of the Charter’s guarantees of sex equality. The Court’s decision cited extensively from briefs prepared by the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), with MacKinnon’s support and participation. Dworkin opposed LEAF’s position, arguing that feminists should not support or attempt to reform criminal obscenity law.

Controversy between anti-pornography feminists and their critics grew when the Canadian government raided and prosecuted Glad Day Bookshop, a gay bookstore in Ontario, in its first obscenity prosecution under the Butler criteria. The bookstore was prosecuted for selling copies of the lesbian sado-masochist magazine Bad Attitude. In 1993, copies of Dworkin’s book Pornography: Men Possessing Women were held for inspection by Canadian customs agents[10], fostering an urban legend that Dworkin’s own books had also been banned from Canada under a law that she herself had promoted. However, the Butler decision did not adopt the whole of Dworkin and MacKinnon’s ordinance; Dworkin did not support the decision; and the impoundment of her books (which were released shortly after they were inspected) was a standard procedural measure, unrelated to the Butler decision.

In Britain in the late 1970s, there was a wave of radical feminism. Groups such as Women Against Violence Against Women and Angry Women protested against the use of sexual imagery in advertising and in cinema. Some members committed arson against sex shops. However, this movement was short-lived. Its demise was prompted by counter-demonstrations by black and disabled women, who dismissed pornography as a minor issue that had been prioritised by white middle-class women above the discrimination that black and/or disabled women were facing.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-pornography#Feminist_objections)

Criticism of the Anti-Porn Position

“Other feminists support unregulated access to pornography; some describe themselves as sex-positive feminists and criticize anti-pornography activism. They take a wide range of views towards existing pornography: some view the growth of pornography as a crucial part of the sexual revolution and they say has contributed to women’s liberation; others view the existing pornography industry as misogynist and rife with exploitation, but hold that pornography could be and sometimes is feminist, and propose to reform or radically alter the pornography industry rather than opposing it wholesale. They typically oppose the theory of anti-pornography feminism — which they accuse of selective handling of evidence, and sometimes of being prudish or as intolerant of sexual difference — and also the political practice of anti-pornography feminism — which is characterized as censorship and accuse of complicity with conservative defenses of the sexual status quo.

Additionally, many point to the hypocrisy of advocating a ban on some forms of communication which may often be sexist (namely sexually arousing/explicit ones) while not advocating a ban of other, equally or more sexist communications (albeit not sexually arousing/explicit) “It’s a far different criticism to note that porn is sexist. So are all commercial media. That’s like tasting several glasses of salt water and insisting only one of them is salty. The [only] difference with porn is that it is people making love, and we live in a world that cannot tolerate that image..” notes Susie Bright in her book Sexwise. Notable advocates of these and similar positions include sociologist Laura Kipnis, columnist and editor Susie Bright, essayist and therapist Patrick Califia and porn actress and writer Nina Hartley.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-pornography#Feminist_criticism_of_the_anti-pornography_position)

Articles/Blogs

This article was not what I expected. From what I read it targets the liberal minded and asks them to question their views based on what pornography promotes: racial oppression, women’s oppression, and fetishization of sex. By making pornography an act of freedom of speech, this article asks: what are we supporting by supporting porn’s right to free speech?

http://www.alternet.org/story/21095/

This site includes many arguments against porn and also includes blogs, porn myths, rape scenes, “Why I am an Anti-Porn star”, and many other interesting things. I cannot possibly include all of the information on her website, so, check it out for yourself:

http://www.oneangrygirl.net/antiporn.html

The XXX Porn Debate

When searching and wondering about opinions on porn, I came across this article titled: “Porn Star and Pastor go head-to-head” and I was immediately intrigued because two thoughts popped in to my head. Either the people are having a debate or they were caught having sex in a scandalous sex tape. Unfortunately, it was not the latter. These two witty men, Ron Jeremy, who has been in over 1,800 porn videos, and Craig Gross, who is “a pastor and founder of xxxchurch.com – a Web site promoting a religious view on pornography” (http://media.www.redandblack.com/media/storage/paper871

/news/2007/08/29/News/Porn-Star.And.Pastor.Go.HeadToHead-2941052.shtml) go around and dish it out in front of large audiences of college students around the United States.

You can find the article about them, featured by Georgia University, at the URL above. The two men also have a site called The XXX Porn Debate, where you can watch a video of them throwing points at each other and learn more about how to recruit them to speak at your college about a hotly debated issue. The two men have also debated at Yale and the event is featured in the ABC News (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=4245514&page=1).

The XXX Porn Debate: http://www.porndebate.com/

On this website, you can download bios, media articles, myspace banners, and a poster for the debate.

Feminist Porn

This is just a start to the collection of sites that I will introduce. I plan on posting again on this topic, so I will only post a few of these sites here, but the main theme to Feminist porn are female directors, women obtaining as much of the lime light as men, having as much pleasure (orgasming), and having more control over the situation in the porn. These are some of the examples of the sites out there:

“Heather Corrina
The goddess herself. Also check out her sex-positive webzine and teen sexual health site.

Erotic Red
Feminist menstruation porn by women of all shapes and sizes who are, naturally and authentically, on their period. As the woman who runs the site writes, “In an industry where photos of women being throat-fucked and pissed on are commonplace portrayals of human sexuality, women enjoying themselves on their periods are viewed by most pornographers as horrifyingly obscene.” Erotic Red is out to change that.

VegPorn
One of my fav’s with models of all shapes and sizes. This site features only vegetarian and vegan models and is very inclusive of gender and sexual diversity including queer and trans models. It’s also woman-owned. I’ve thought of applying to model here, but am somewhat afraid of losing my job or causing a local scandal…which is usually a sign that you should not do something!

No Fauxxx
“Porn that doesn’t fake it!” A great site with self-proclaimed “radical porn” that is inclusive of all natural body types and embraces queer and transfolk. Porn with a political edge.

Good Dyke Porn
A brilliant new site based out of Vancouver with all lesbian, bisexual, queer women and transfolk artists. I especially love this site because they go out of their way to eroticize safer sex. You’ll see lots of gloves, dental dams, condoms, lube, and consensual kink on this site.

Furry Girl
The official site of Furry Girl, who also owns and runs Erotic Red and VegPorn and a vegan sexual aid shop. Furry Girl is an all-natural, hairy, self-proclaimed feminist that really gets the difference between the mainstream sex industry and pro-sex feminist pornography.

Nerd PrOn
This is not just some schoolgirl fantasy bullshit. Yes, this woman is putting herself through college with her porn site, but she is super brainy and proud of it. And yes, she writes the code for her site herself.

Berg’s Queer Foot Porn
Berg is a close friend of mine. Her site may or may not actually be porn…it’s up for debate, but this website is brilliant. It is a feminist deconstruction of women’s pleasure and a manifesta against violence against women. Coming from an anti-rape perspective, Berg’s critique of society and sexuality is truly poignant. I encourage you to check it out.” (http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2008/07/23/feminist-porn-sex-consent-and-getting-off/)

Conclusion

Porn has many faces. It has been viewed as destructive, helpful, oppressive, and economical. Porn has also been incredibly fantastical and demonized. The thing about porn that many do not realize is that it is not real (though many people may be pushed into the occupation, or be pushed by their director). The people, though they may be feeling pleasure, and not all do take this perspective, is in the end, a job, an act. The porn debate is much like the debate about videogames. That fetish porn creates fetishes and rape scenes in porn create more rape fetishes as akin to violence in videogames creates more violence. The attitude towards porn will create what porn is to society. If we view porn as positive, as a way for people to express themselves sexually without acting out harmfully, it will be that for people. If porn is seen as destructive, it will become that. Porn is what people see it as and right now, it is a series of mixed attitudes and may always be.

Feedback

What do you think? What opinion do you align yourself with? What needs to be done next? Is making porn really freedom of speech, expression? Is porn cheating?

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1 Comment

Filed under Education, Entertainment, Sexuality

One response to “Pornography: The Opposition, the Support, and Alternative sites

  1. “Do you know a site where they display an actively pro-porn perspective?”

    Well, as a matter of fact, I’m a contributor at exactly such a blog:

    http://bppa.blogspot.com

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