objectifies women." You've heard this phrase before. It's
constantly used as a reason to destroy pornography, or to censor
it. Here's my view.
I've never liked the phrase "porn objectifies women"
because it just doesn't really work. There's so many things wrong
with this idea. Just an attempt to put this in point form (and I
suspect a bad attempt):
a. Advertising, film, and particularly music video, objectifies
women too... why are we picking on porn?
b. What exactly do we mean by "objectifying"? Do we mean
stripping away the humanity of women, or do we mean temporarily
looking at women from just one angle? If we mean the latter, then
everybody does this to everyone else all the time. We objectify
the sales assistant as just the person who processes our credit
card. We don't care about who they are... we just want them to do
what we need them to do and then leave us alone.
c. If men DO objectify women in porn by reducing them to a cunt,
as Dworkin says... it does not necessarily mean that men do it all
the time. This comes back to the fatal flaw of the anti-porn
feminists: they make gross generalisations about how men think,
without actually bothering to find out if it's actually true.
d. This sentence ignores what mainstream porn is all about, which
is narcissistic sexual fantasy. It's about men thinking purely
about themselves without having to worry about morality or
reality. In this situation, of course there's going to be some
"objectifying" going on. If you're focused on simply
satisfying desire, the focus is on the genitals, and the orgasm.
e. What kind of "porn" are we talking about here?
Because not all porn is "porn". The "porn
objectifies women" argument talks about "porn" as
this scary, amorphous mass of material that's all the same; it
classifies all sexually explicit material as bad, male oriented,
corporatised, fake, and demeaning to women. Porn comes in many
different varieties, and it's a tactic of those who seek to
repress it to speak in generalisations about porn. Porn for women
certainly doesn't do this... indeed, one could argue that porn for
women objectifies men. Is this OK or not OK?
It's interesting that Women's Studies courses keep sticking to the
official Andrea Dworkin line on porn about
"objectification", even though other younger feminists
have put forward alternate legitimate views e.g. The New
Victorians by Rene Denfield.
OK... having said that, I will say that a lot of mainstream
pornography disrespects women, and disrespects sex (I see this as
different to the "objectifying" thing)
Mainstream porn often treats women as 2nd class citizens, it
happily maintains the madonna/whore dichotomy, and it also depicts
a skewed version of female sexuality and female sexual response.
It gives primacy to the male orgasm and the male method of
obtaining orgasms. And far too many mainstream porn sites,
particularly "reality" sites are out to humiliate or
degrade women, to laugh at them after they have been tricked into
sex. Mainstream porn depicts sex as dirty, and it often sees it as
a power relationship (someone has to be "the bitch").
The reason this is a problem is because the majority of porn seems
to be like this. It's not balanced.
It's also a problem because this kind of disrespectful porn is
presented as something that all men like. But the thing is that
porn is created by replicating traditions from decades ago, and
it's created without any real consumer research. It's simply: we
make it, they buy it, that must mean they want more. No-one
actually asks. No one stops to consider if men buy this kind of
porn because that's all there is (or that's all they can find).
The big concern about porn is of course that men will adapt their
sexuality to be like porn, and that they will start to think that
the disrespectful world of porn is normal. I have no idea whether
this happens or not, but I do suspect it does have an influence on
people. If it does, I think there are a lot of guys out there that
have to "unlearn" what porn has taught them once they
get into a relationship, and they most likely come to realise that
porn isn't sex education. If this is the case, then it will
definitely help to have porn that is more realistic, more
intimate, and less disrespectful.
I see my role as a pornographer as one of helping to create a
better balance, a more diverse viewpoint within sexually explicit
material, through my various sites.
When a great balance within porn happens, anti-porn conservatives
will lose one of their weapons against the industry, the
pseudo-defence of women. They won't give up, of course, but it
will be significantly harder for them to campaign against the sex
industry when their arguments revert back to the anti-sex ideology
which lies at the heart of their thinking.
- Grandma Scrotum, 23rd January 2004
Porn Is Available for Women?
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