This is another blog I have been afraid to post because I know how controversial this subject is and how difficult it is to talk about and I know I will be misunderstood. And really, when it comes right down to it, I am afraid I may offend people – which I really hate to do. But I have been trying to learn to not allow fears dictate what I do and say and this is an issue I really care about and want to see discussed more openly and more seriously, so here it goes. Just please know I do not feel like I have this figured out at all and I look forward to hearing your thoughts as well.
I am anti-pornography. In fact, I think pornography usage is detrimental to both individuals and society.
I know just saying that negates the few “cool girl” points I may have. I know this makes me sound anti-sex. I know that some people may question how forward-thinking I am. I know that I am supposed to believe it is normal and without stigma. I know some people may assume I have this position just based on bad personal experiences. I know it is currently avant-garde for most feminists to be pro-pornography and so even stating this can bring my feminism into question. And I do not generally like to label myself as “anti” anything.
All of those potential assumptions make me hesitant to write about this but I want to be able to be open about and have honest and serious conversations about why I think pornography is so harmful. Please do not think I am a prude or frigid or anti-sex. I am very much sex-positive. I regularly champion films just because they show any aspect of the sexual experience from a female perspective. There is a shocking lack of scientific study of sex and especially of female sexuality and I think that is a problem that needs to be rectified. I completely reject the hypothesis that women are biologically less interested in sex than men. So when I say I am anti-pornography, what I am against is objectification of women and men.
The limited research there is on porn’s influence on an individual’s sexual behavior is pretty dismal. Most studies show a correlation between increased porn use and decreased real-life sexual satisfaction. Being introduced to sex by way of porn is unfortunately becoming the most common way young people (especially boys) first learn about sex. This has been proven to severely limit their ability to perform well sexually or find sexual satisfaction when they are old enough for an adult sexual relationship. Several studies also show strong correlations between regular male pornography usage and more domineering and/or misogynistic views of women.
Women and girls use pornography also. And once again, because of the limited research on sex, there are even fewer studies correlating female porn use with their real-world sexual satisfaction but I have a hard time imagining it is any more positively correlated than the male studies. Some women view porn usage as an inherently feminist action – taking control of their sexuality and sexual expression on their own terms. Even this makes me uncomfortable. I do not want to simply turn the tables and as a woman start objectifying men. This does not feel like progress to me.
Personally, it is in a large part because of my feminism that I am so anti-pornography. Women have had to work very hard to come to a place where their bodies and sexuality are not their main commodities but where their talents, minds, creativity, and hard work are appreciated and monetized (though unfortunately still at a lower wage than their male counterparts.) And we still have a long way to go until women globally enjoy the same workplace and societal status as men.
These inequalities are obviously not porn’s fault. These inequalities come from a long history of women being undervalued and objectified across cultures. Pornography just so easily undermines the achievements that have been made by once again making a woman’s body and sexuality the items that are for sale. Now I realize that not all porn continues the culture of objectification. I know there is female-positive porn but the vast majority of it is not.
I do not see men and women as essentially in conflict. I personally believe that gender is pretty skin deep and it bothers me when too much personal identity is tied to gender. When we define each other primarily by our sexual characteristics, I feel like we are over-highlighting differences that may be fun and interesting but should not put us at odds with one another. I love the ways that men and women are different and also the ways we are really so similar.
And even though personally, morally, I do not think sex outside of committed relationships is a good idea, I think pornography use is an even worse idea. It takes sex – which is meant to bring two different people together – and makes it a (usually) solitary and self-centered activity. It is the opposite of what makes sex great – two people connecting and discovering each other in a deeply intimate way.
It seems unlikely to me that there is a way to view porn without objectifying the actors involved. And when we can easily sexually objectify people on a screen, it seems likely that we can begin objectifying the people around us as well. This seems very detrimental to relationships of all types but especially committed sexual relationships. It is so easy to take a significant other for granted already without the added complication of sexual objectification.
This is not even getting into all of the murky ethics involved in the pornography industry itself. Even if there are some adult actors who knowingly and willingly choose their career path, there are many, many young girls who are coerced or manipulated into performing extremely degrading sexual acts on camera. Rather than even attempt to begin discussing this side of the issue, I recommend the documentary Hot Girls Wanted.
Trying to sum up my many (probably disparate) thoughts on the issue, I think it comes down to this: I think sex is great and I think pornography undermines great sex. I also think pornography can really hurt both the performer and the user. And why in the world would we want to do that?
P.S. After reading this again, I realize this post is very hetero-normative and I apologize if that is offensive to anyone but that is my experience of sexuality and all I can really write from authentically.