Porn: Pro and Con

When it comes to pornography feminists are divided. Where do you stand?

Pro-porn feminists

Feminists who call themselves “sex-positive” say sexual freedom is essential to women’s freedom. They feel patriarchy represses women’s sexual expression, and say porn can liberate through challenging conventional notions that women should be monogamous, romantic, and that sex should be tied to procreation. They do not believe that laws written in a male-dominated society would serve women’s interests.

 Anti-porn feminists

Many feminists who oppose pornography say it turns women into objects, promotes misogyny, eroticizes male dominance, and leads to violence against women. As one anti-porn blogger put it, “instead of being portrayed as individuals, as human beings, they are treated as fragmented body parts; women, men and children are depicted and used as holes, cunts, living sex aids, receptacles for the depositing of waste fluids.”

Others worry that porn can lead men who over consume to become disinterested in real women. Naomi Wolf points out that some porn-users come to find real women less than porn-worthy, in body or in bed, leading to detrimental effects on relationships. High consumption can leave sex without its mystery and men with decreased libido.

Does pornography cause violence against women?  

Studies are not conclusive.

Researchers asked male volunteers to administer electric shocks to women, under the guise of providing feedback in learning experiments. Men who had been exposed to violent and humiliating pornography were more aggressive in administering shocks.

Men who were shown violent and humiliating pornography also developed attitudes that were closer to those of rapists’. But the effects evaporated after a couple of months. Of course, men who view violent and humiliating pornography probably don’t wait a couple of months between viewing.

But we still don’t know whether pornography causes actual rape.

On the other hand, correlation studies often find that the more pornography is consumed, the lower the rate of rape. Does pornography decrease rape? Other factors could be in play. Over the last 20 years:

  • pornography consumption increased due to the Internet
  • women’s power and status rose because of increased opportunity in our society
  • the rate of rape decreased according to Justice Department victimization surveys

Has rape decreased because of higher pornography consumption or because women’s power and status has broadly risen despite porn?

Civil Libertarian Feminists

Other feminists believe that pornography is offensive and even harmful, but they feel that protection of individual rights and freedoms is more important.

What should be done?

Should pornography be celebrated as “pro-sex” feminists believe? Should laws be imposed against pornography as many anti-porn feminists advocate, and as civil libertarians fear? Should those who are concerned about negative effects of pornography turn to dialogue and education rather than the law?

Where do you come down on the issue?

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych, women's psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State University. And I have blogged for Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos.

Posted on December 27, 2010, in feminism, gender, men, objectification, pornography, relationships, sex, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I think when we outlaw anything it increases the desire to have it.

    That being said, porn is an estimated $13 billion industry. While I do not think that it should be celebrated I also do not think that porn of the 2000’s is as objectifying a porn of say the 70’s. It is also a plus that more women in the industry are getting behind the camera and creating a woman’s version of porn.

    Men view sex differently than women. Porn just shows that difference on a mass level. The majority of porn is done with consenting adults. No matter the loose subject matter. On the other hand kiddie porn and snuff films deserve the attitude some have towards all porn. Some S&M gets way beyond what some people can watch comfortably, but again, done with consenting adults and fairly well paid adults

    As to the question of whether or not porn decreases rape. I would say of those that have overactive sex drives, yes it does. However, there are many out there that feed off what they view on the screen. It can lead to needing harder core porn on an increasing level. But that is the name of the game with anything and American’s as a whole, suffer from that notion in all aspects of life, not just sexually speaking.

    But, the question is how much of that need is driven by societies “distaste” of the subject. Some get off on knowing that if they watch porn they are now one of the sinners of this world. It is very titillating to sneak through a painted door with age warnings and walk into an expanse that is hidden from the world and is a playground of possibilities and beautiful girls and guys. Very heady stuff.

    Perhaps the better question is this…If we embraced sex in all its forms….would there be less rape in this country? If we started treated women as equal to man would there be less objectification of women as a whole? Both are very big “ifs” but I would sure like to try it.

    As to the law….when we can not or will not self govern….this is when the law steps in. If American truly wants to keep “big brother government” out of their lives…perhaps they had better start talking – and listening – and solving issues on their own. Signing something into law is a cop-out. The lazy way to address issues. Even if there becomes a law that forbids porn of any kind….what manpower will be there to enforce it? And in the bigger picture of things is porn worthy of law enforcement at the level of catching a murderer? Pick your poison.

  2. We live in a male dominated society, and throughout history, woman who are celebrated.they are valued as a care takers.as lovers. As creatures to try and put effort to gain their attention. That’s a great thing! Prostitution is the oldest profession. If it wasn’t for prostutes, the women who were sexually powerful, they wouldn’t have known what pleases a woman and what doesn’t. And that’s what encouraged to loosen their restrictions on females, and so that changed so much in sex with men and their wives. Women just need to take charge of their sexuality, and recgonize their bodies are amaz-ng, especially in this society. So if they by whatever reason, enjoys to have sex on camera, you cant critize them for doing so. Its erotica and expressional and sexy if its done in a positive aspect. But when it crosses the line, with anything in life, it has irs potential to be dangerous. But porn can be healthy. And normal. Fantasy. And nice done in small amounts. Fair.

  3. Thanks for your comments. Others commented on the original posting. To see them (and yours – which I’ve added), go to Readers Discuss: Porn, Pro and Con
    http://broadblogs.com/2010/09/01/readers-discuss-porn-pro-and-con/

  4. Karin Hjertstedt

    I am ambivalent concerning the porn issue but I am leaning towards con. As a feminist, I think it’s just blatant wrong to treat women as mere objects which the majority of the porn industry does, however, I’m also aware that porn can serve as help for sexually dysfunctional couple, men or women. In my opinion, the “regular” porn industry which is oh-so-common on the internet is just another catastrophe due to a patriarchal society. Dr Platts pointed out that the evidence is not conclusive whether pornography causes violence towards women but one thing that I without any evidence am certain about is, that it definitely increases stereotypes about certain things, such as ethnic backgrounds, lesbians and the fantasies about (too) young girls or older women.

  5. Being male, and not a feminist, I believe porn does not have a negative effect on sexual actions from other women. All it takes is confidence and realizing that women have the power to tempt men. In another blog, the porn star experience was talked about. Women should realize that standards of sex are what they make of it. Speaking from personal experience, I had a girl who I dated in which I found to be great in bed. She was very boring, only enjoyed one position most of the time. Rarely gave oral, but to me, was always amazing in bed. I found her amazing because once in a while, she would go out of the ordinary and do something erotic. Because of that, I always wanted more, but she wouldn’t give it to me everytime. She knew she was in a position of power by knowing how much I loved those moments when she did a little “extra” in bed. Because of that, I strongly believe women should have more confidence about themselves and how they view sex. Their bodies and body languages are very powerful!

  1. Pingback: An Interview with Professor and Blogger Georgia Platts | Yo Mama

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