Tuesday, 8 July 2008

The Porn Apologist Bullshit Arguments List and How to Respond with Confidence

See this? Yeah, that's a broken record. I chose this image for this post because I sincerely believe that all the pro-porners, pro-prostitutionists, pro-sexploitation folks, pro-hate speech & pro-"sex work" activists (or whatever you rad fems wanna call them) sound like a fucking broken record with all their "same old shit" reactionary arguments that do nothing whatsoever to help women as a class, arguments that, on the contrary, bolster the patriarchal anti-woman status quo. Thus, I have decided to write a a list of the porn apologists' bullshit arguments.

I know these are all parts of the same broken record we hear every day; I know that some people (especially some men) are so stupid and stubborn in defending such a widespread violation of women's bodies in order to maintain their own selfish sexual pleasure, I know all this. I also know that the pro-pornstitution folks are not only folks we meet online. The pro-porners we meet online are so easy to avoid or dismiss when we want to ignore them (thank fuck for that) while the pro-porners we meet offline are most often our co-workers, classmates, friends, even sometimes partners and so on. These offline people who defend porn aren't so easy to avoid and, more or less often, we find ourselves in a conversation on pornography with them at some point.

It usually happens like this: They suddenly bring up pornography or prostitution for whatever reason, as part of a "joke" that we don't find funny at all (but rather sad -- as we do know that there's a terrible sexual slavery going on out there and people keep on denying it) or simply because they've been influenced by pornified pop culture. Then we feel like we cannot tolerate these pro-porn arguments any longer so we start informing them on what we know about the sexual slavery industry. But, unfortunately, we're feeling so upset that we just stop talking. There is just so much to say and we don't know where to start. And, on top of that, there they go! Talking the same old reactionary bullshit arguments we've heard ten thousand times again and again, sounding like the same old broken record. . . And we start losing our confidence. . . so we stop talking.

Therefore I prepared this handy "Porn Apologists' Bullshit Arguments List and How to Respond to Them with Confidence" collection in order to help myself and other rad fems to challenge those apologies confidently IRL. I constructed it as a dialog:


Porn Apologist: Women freely choose to sell their bodies in pornography and in prostitution. How can you criticize the women's consent to be in porn?
Rad Fem: Contrary to myths, radical feminists have never criticized women's involvement in the pornography industry as performers. Instead, we focus on the difficulties within which they make their choice to participate. Documentaries and articles on pornography in the mainstream media (which generally pick a very small number of performers out of the so much larger number of porn performers out there) typically show pornography performers as "happy women who have made a totally free choice". However, the reality of the circumstances within which the vast majority of those women entered the porn industry are very much different from this whole mainstream media glamorization crap. A lot of thorough research on prostitution (based on interviewing hundreds and hundreds of prostituting women) has shown that child sexual or physical abuse or neglect, poverty, economic hardship, past experience of battery or rape, trafficking, socialization to the sexist and racist pornified culture, etc. are key factors for women who enter the 'sex' industry. Feminists do not condemn the women who are in the industry, but we empathize with them. We understand that they are terribly exploited and harmed in this industry. As one woman who used to prostitute said that, while she was in prostitution, she would have yelled from the roof-tops how wonderful being a prostitute was, but that, while now she's still healing from her prostitution experience, she has "found that the worse thing of exiting prostitution is seeing the real reasons [she] became a prostitute. Seeing it could of never been a choice. It was just a way to self-destruct."[sic]

Porn Apologist: Women in porn make a lot of money anyway.
Rad Fem: Some research and testimonies have suggested that most strippers, prostitutes and pornography performers do not make a lot of money. Although some do, the idea that all of them make a lot of money is another part of the pornographers' and the mainstream media's propaganda. Most female porn performers do not get rich, particularly due to their brief "shelf lives" -- male consumers often want to see new women being exploited -- so even if pornstituted females initially command a high rate per scene or per movie, their market value as "fresh meat" declines rapidly. Thus, even if there are a few really famous porn "actresses", the vast majority of the women in pornography leave that business feeling exploited, pained and ashamed by this terrible experience or after being considered "overexposed" by the consumers and producers. So, the pornography industry keeps using and discarding female bodies after having used those human beings as if they were pieces of meat. There have been words coming from people who have been involved in the industry to testify of this brutal reality. Besides, even if these women get paid for performing in porn, does it mean that it should excuse the extensive physical, psychological and emotional harms done to them? So, once a woman has been paid, the torture committed against her body is expiated, huh? Well, that's an incredibly cruel and unfair way of reasoning! No amount of money whatsoever should excuse any harm done to a woman's body.

Porn Apologist: Pornography is not prostitution.
Rad Fem: The fact is that pornography IS prostitution, plus a camera.

Porn Apologist: Look, prostitution is the world's oldest profession. It should be legalized and regulated. That would make it safer.
Rad Fem: Prostitution is NOT the oldest profession, pimping is! Countries where prostitution has been legalized have become Number One destinations for traffickers. There is no evidence that legalization in any way benefits women in prostitution -- indeed it simply legalizes the harm caused to women. Prostitution is inherently a form of violence against women and a violation of women's human rights and dignity as persons. The belief that prostitution is "sex work" is being a direct cause for the widespread international and domestic trafficking of women and children for prostitution. The Netherlands (where prostitution is regarded as "just a job like another") remains one of the primary destinations for victims of human trafficking (as again recently reported in the article "Home Office goes to Amsterdam for prostitution ideas" in politics.co.uk) and half the window brothels over there have been closed since 2006 because of an exponential rise in organized crime and money laundering and also the trafficking of women and children. Legalization is, in effect, a failed experiment.

Porn Apologist: Sexuality is good. Why are you anti-sex?
Rad Fem: Being against pornography and prostitution does not equate being against sex, FFS. Sexuality is just a part of being human and may involve a lot of strong feelings of affection and connection to another person when a sense of genuine care is involved. But pornography is stripped of any empathy and it fuses sexual desire with the degradation and abuse of women. Being against pornography does not mean being against sex, it simply means having recognized that there is a sexual world of imagination based on equality & respect and that goes beyond sexuality as simple "domination/subordination".

Porn Apologist: Only conservative right wingers criticize porn. Are you a religious zealot?
Rad Fem: Radical feminists have, for a long time, opposed Christianity by recognizing it as patriarchal religion. Mary Daly, for example, is a prominent radical feminist writer of the feminist critique of Christianity. Radical feminists usually see Christianity as patriarchal and oppressive to women. So, no, I'm certainly not religious and I'm very much of an atheist. Perpetuating the myth that radical feminists "are siding with religious zealots" just because we oppose pornography has always been one of the favorite pro-porn tactics of the so-called "sex poz" lobby.

Porn Apologist: If there weren't any porn, there'd be more rape.
Rad Fem: Do we ever suggest that the availability of loads of films showing children being beaten up would reduce child physical abuse? Of course not, because we know it's not the case. So why would it be different with pornography? Few rapes get reported to the police and correlational studies only based on reported rapes have limits. While a few studies have shown a decrease in reported rapes, many other correlational studies, as shown here, have shown dramatic increases in sexual violence with the availability of pornography. Pornography has no "catharthic" effect whatsoever. Also, this "catharthic effect" porn apologist excuse quite sounds like a threat: "We need pornography or we will rape more!" Blah-the-fucking-blah. . .

Porn Apologist: Pornography has no effect whatsoever. It's only a fantasy.
Rad Fem: So why do corporations spend billions of dollars each year on mass-mediated advertising if not precisely because they know ads have effects on people? Why would it be different with pornography? Pornography HAS effects, negative ones! Besides, as I said before, "an industry which relies on the suffering of half the population in order to keep catering to its ever-expanding demand is not fantasy!" Fantasy is in the head. Pornography is mediated and mass-marketed. I feel a lot more free not having my fantasies being controlled by pornography. . . Freud argued that the sexual abuse that his female patients had been experiencing in childhood (and had been telling him about) was just a fantasy. Freud knew that child sexual abuse was pervasive in his time, but he kept on denying it as "fantasy" (Source: Testimony of Jeffrey Masson, author of The Assault on Truth, in "The Los Angeles Hearing, Los Angeles County Commission for Women, April 22, 1985"; in Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin Eds., In Harm's way: The pornography Civil Rights Hearings; 1997.)

Porn Apologist: Where is the harm in porn?
Rad Fem: The first people who are harmed are the prostituted women constantly used, abused and discarded by the industry. Then, the harms extend to the women outside of the industry. The easiest way of making violence invisible is by sexualizing it, making it appear as "just sex" to the viewer. Pornography makes rape, sexism and racism sexy. It makes force look like a thrilling sexual experience to men. Pornography desensitizes its users to female degradation, it makes them believe that women enjoy all sorts of pain and humiliation. Pornography increases the belief in rape myths. Pornography is pure woman-hating propaganda! Many women are coerced by their boyfriends and husbands into sexual acts they do not want because of those men's pornography use. Pornography also increases the violence perpetrated against prostituted women. As reported by former prostitute J.W. in Massachusetts, for instance, she "considered the men who were into pornography to be the most dangerous and potentially violent since that is what aroused them".

Porn Apologist: Advocating censorship is not a good thing. Pornography is free speech.
Rad Fem: Who's talking about censorship here? You, not me. I'm talking of harms. Pro-porners often use the inaccurate word "censorship" to stigmatize any feminist work against pornography and to try to shut us up. Censorship or banning would never address the demand for pornography. Educating people on the harms and asking for an end to men's demand for an industry that is predicated upon and produces sex-based exploitation and widespread aggression has nothing in common with censorship. Pornography is not free speech, it is hatred of women. The only freedom in pornography is the one for men to abuse women. In a male-supremacist, capitalist society, the First Amendment protects only those who can exercise the rights it protects. Where is women's freedom of speech in all of this? Pornography keeps women and other people who have been harmed from exercising their rights to free speech.

Porn Apologist: Feminists are often man-haters. That's why they criticize porn.
Rad Fem: In a patriarchal society where misogyny is the norm, whenever you point out to the fact of male violence against women you're accused of being a "man-hater", while whenever a man says a misogynist comment or laughs at misogynist jokes he's never accused of being a "woman-hater". Feminists aren't man-haters and they criticize porn because it is harmful and it is strongly linked to violence against women.

Porn Apologist:
Isn't it natural for men to watch porn? Pornography expresses sexual freedom and all men use porn.

Rad Fem: If it is natural for men to use porn, then how come some men have given up on their porn consumption and haven't died? Not all men use porn. And pornography is not freedom; it is a mechanical, mindless, plasticized, inhuman, cruel and disconnected form of sexual imagery made by big corporations who only want to make big bucks. Besides, if pornography was so "natural" for men, why would it be so relentlessly misogynistic? Men have usually been socialized so differently from women that we can hardly claim anything about their nature. From an early age, males are typically trained to repress their feelings of sensitivity, care and empathy. It doesn't have to be that way but gender roles both uphold and are maintained by male supremacist social order. And pornography typically reinforces gender, i.e. what it means to be "masculine" and what it means to be "feminine".

Porn Apologist: But, I don't look at the bad and extreme stuff. Misogyny is not really inherent in pornography. And pornography is neither violent nor racist.
Rad Fem: Violence is pervasive in pornography; it is normalized because it is made to look like "just sex". Any proper and clear-headed study of the content of the best-selling porn titles will reveal that violence and contempt for women are pervasive in mainstream pornography, as a comprehensive 2007 media research based on top-selling porn titles listed in Adult Video news (results of the research are revealed in this video here) has proven. As for the racism, pornography typically portrays black women as subhuman, dirty, primitive "ebony hoes", black men as savage, animalistic beasts, Asian women as slavishly obedient, and Hispanic women as "hot-blooded Latinas". If you don't recognize these stereotypes as horrifyingly racist, then I'm afraid I can't help you. . .

Porn Apologist: Look, women are objectified everywhere, even in the media. How is pornography different? I simply cannot imagine a world without the objectification of the female body.
Rad Fem: While mainstream media has clearly been invaded by soft-core objectifying pornography and that's certainly not a good thing, hard-core mainstream pornography is worse. Women are not human beings in pornography, just things. . . Dare imagine a world that would not rely on the objectification of women, dare ask for justice and real sexual freedom within a new world where women would have the right to their own bodies without having to force themselves to have sex with men, where we would have true intimacy and mutuality, and where our lives wouldn't be invaded and controlled by pornography.

Porn Apologist: Women look at porn too.
Rad Fem: While women's use of porn has somehow increased since the Internet, the VAST majority of pornography users are men and the industry knows it (but they're not gonna tell you). Porn producers, when interviewed at the Las Vegas porn convention, said most of the consumers of their materials are men. That is why porn is so endlessly misogynistic and degrading.

Porn Apologist: Hey, do you know that there's also feminist porn available out there, that is to say porn for women?
Rad Fem: Women-made porn is a smokescreen to protect the largely (mostly) male-run, male-led pornography industry. It is only a small portion of the industry. The solution to ending the harms of pornography is not to create "feminist porn". As I said before, "[m]isogynistic porn (which is the type of sexual material that most men want to see and masturbate to) isn't going to go away so easily, and women and children will continue to be harmed. There are so many more urgent things and so many more struggles to overcome before we are able to live in a non-patriarchal society and maybe think about such things as any "egalitarian forms of erotic arts"!!! Indeed, thinking about such things before the overthrow of the whole patriarchy itself happens, is nothing other than capitulation! And it is insane! Considering and confronting the harms of pornography and prostitution to women and children, and working toward the building of a new non-patriarchal world, are paramount causes!!! As Gail Dines pointed out at the 2007 feminist anti-porn conference, we live in an "image based culture" (i.e. any thing, to be valuable, has to be made into an image) and the answer to stopping porn culture is not more images. Personally, I feel A LOT MORE FREE without having images or so-called "art" control my life and/or sexuality!"

Porn Apologist: If you don't like porn, just don't watch it.
Rad Fem: If this could only be that easy! Women have to interact with men who use pornography every day without knowing about the harms. I walk in the street and see soft-core porn on billboards. I cannot watch T.V. without stumbling upon a show or a film within which a joke on pornography is being laughed about. I cannot go to a party without seeing a bunch of guys laughing at the porn pics on their phones they're showing to each others. The list goes on. . . Pornography is everywhere. What you're saying sounds so much like saying "If you don't like the president, then forget he is the president!" or "If you don't like pollution, then forget it also comes from cars".

Porn Apologist: Porn was the only sex education I had. I can't give it up.
Rad Fem: Then you have been sexually "educated" by what is the mainstream sex miseducation for men, a form of media within which women are stripped of their own humanity and portrayed as sexual objects, as things to be penetrated. How original! Wouldn't you be more free without having the corporate pimps mapping out your sex life? Besides, even if you're not causing harm to women you know, by not giving up on pornography, you believe that there are acceptable losses, "necessary victims" in order to satisfy your self-centered orgasm to the sexuality of cruelty, the sexuality of disconnection from truly meaningful feelings toward another human being. By creating the demand for pornography, you generate, maintain or condone the harms it causes as well as submit to the self-objectification it creates when it controls you, shapes your sexual thoughts into a twisted manner and when you become addicted to it. So, why not giving up and have your own dreams for yourself? Why not accepting that your sex (mis)education did not involve sexual justice and equality between sexes?. . .


That's it for now, readers. In case some of you want to add any porn apologist bullshit arguments (that I forgot to mention) to the list, please do so in the comments. Or, simply give your feedback, rad fems & pro-radfems, if you want to. . .


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21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Maggie,

This is a very informative blog and I appreciate your efforts. :)

I think you should add the ever-popular 'all men are paying for sex anyway' line to your list.

There are men (and women) out there who seem to consider dating as a form of de-facto prostitution.

Apparently, taking a woman out to Pizza Hut or even marrying them is equivalent to 'paying for pussy'.

J

Debi Crow said...

"My idea of love comes from a childhood glimpse of pornography." That's a line from "Life Becoming a Landslide" by Manic Street Preachers that I always get in my head whenever I hear the last argument you mention here.

This post is great - Maggie's back with all guns blazing!

delphyne said...

This is excellent, Maggie. Thank you. It's very comprehensive.

I think I'm just going to be cutting and pasting from now on!

Nine Deuce said...

Fuck yeah! This post is awesome, and I needed it after today's news.

J. Goff said...

I am a man. I am also NOT a consumer of porn. I never look at it beyond anything I am forced to by dealing with my friends. I am not a person who is pro-porn. HOWEVER:

Women-made porn is a smokescreen to protect the male-run, male-led pornography industry

Is an asinine statement. "Male-run. male-led pornography" IS NOT the entire industry, and acting like the fact that misogynistic porn exists is not an argument against the porn that is not such. Granted, I have absolutely no personal adherence to any of the industry, and many people who are in the industry have told me I'm an asshole because I think the male-dominated bullshit is completely anti-woman and basically evil.

BUT, it seems that a lot of the people who write against the entirety of the industry are basically ignorant of the truth of what goes on, namely that it is not all Male-Owned, Male-Operated, etc.

Just saying as a person who actually read the writings of people who are neither outside of the industry, nor have an axe to grind to keep assholes buying their personal product.

Maggie Hays said...

J. Goff, Post Edited: the pornography industry is LARGELY Male-Owned & Male-Operated. I know that for a fact and saying that "Women-made porn is a smokescreen to protect the LARGELY male-run, male-led pornography industry" is NOT an asinine statement.

it seems that a lot of the people who write against the entirety of the industry are basically ignorant of the truth

I disagree with that and, please don't think you can patronize me on my blog (like you have done it before to other rad fem bloggers).

laurelin said...

J.Goff's a *man*? There's a fucking shocker. Your patronising and abusive tone towards women gives you away, sweetheart.

If you were honest in wanting to contribute to the argument, you would not refer to Maggie's comment as 'assinine' or to any of us (among whom, need I remind you, there are survivors of sexual violence and of the sex 'industry') as 'ignorant'.

Clearly, Maggie, you should have written 'only 98% of the sex industry is male dominated'. *rolls eyes*

And Jack my dear- I have not forgotten what a prick you were to Witchy and to Delphyne. Nor shall I. I hope you change.

Maggie Hays said...

Thanks Laurelin. :)

delphyne said...

Jack Goff, you make your own pornography of your girlfriend to masturbate to so your outrage at Maggie is more than a little amusing. I can post a link to the Pandagon thread where you claim the difference between you and Hugh Hefner is that you don't airbrush your wank pics, snigger.

I mean hey, if you've stopped doing it in the meantime and destroyed your stash then good for you, but I reckon you need to pick up that bullying tone and stroll on.

delphyne said...

Goddamn, Jack Goff "I am not a porn consumer" - yet here you are admitting to being exactly that and not only that you're a producer too:

"JackGoff
October 7, 2006 at 7:38 pm
I look at pornography involoving my girlfriend."

You're a snivelling little misogynistic hypocrite. Go away.

http://pandagon.blogsome.com/2006/10/05/well-the-worm-can-was-just-sitting-there-next-to-the-can-opener/#comment-210927

Nine Deuce said...

Why is it that dudes, even when they claim to agree with you, have to pick at something you've said and use belittling and insulting terms like "asinine" and "ignorant"? I've been having the worst time trying to explain to the men who comment on my site that such terms are not a part of civil discourse. What, do they think because a word has more than 2 syllables it's fancy enough to slip by?

But why would I expect a guy who does what delphyne has said this guy does to treat women with respect. Jack Goff? Jagoff? Tell me he meant to do that.

J. Goff said...

Jack Goff, you make your own pornography of your girlfriend to masturbate to so your outrage at Maggie is more than a little amusing. I can post a link to the Pandagon thread where you claim the difference between you and Hugh Hefner is that you don't airbrush your wank pics, snigger.

I no longer have these pictures. I'm sorry for calling Maggie's comment asinine, as my disagreement with her does not mean that her argument is asinine or ignorant. As for arguing with transphobes on the internet, laurelin, I am not sorry, and I will never change my stance against transphobia.

sparklematrix said...

"As for arguing with transphobes on the internet, laurelin, I am not sorry, and I will never change my stance against transphobia."

This is about transphobia? Or is it a a bait and switch?

J. Goff said...

Tell me he meant to do that.

My name is John Goff. I didn't mean to do anything. My now ex-girlfriend has a large amount pictures of me, so I'm guessing she's a misogynistic pornographer too.

Maggie Hays said...

Oh, gosh, this all so much derailed from my original post!

What about my post? Has it got forgotten in the comment thread at some point? If anybody antiporn ever reads it again and wants to add another "bullshit argument" (I forgot) to the list sometime, please do...

Thank you so much Rad Fems for responding to Mr Goff and defending me.

J.Goff, just saying it's good you apologized in the end...

Nothing else to say. I'm pretty tired.

delphyne said...

Yeah, you never really got the hang of that male supremacy thing did you Goff? You're great at attacking radical feminists though.

laurelin said...

Yeah, I'm so transphobic, Jack. Let me see what did I actually say? I believe it was something along the lines of 'female-born-persons sometimes need their own space to discuss their own lives', and that I also supported transwomen only spaces on the same basis. How dreadful, how absolutely teeming with hatred! Calling me names really helped the cause of transpeople, I'm sure. My comment- on a subject about which your imput is inappropriate and worthless (you're not a female-born person, you don't get to say what resources female-born persons need), did not justify your apalling behaviour, which was misogynistic, vile and deliberately intended to trigger us.

You say I'm full of hatred, while you have a history of patronising and abusing radical feminist women.

Maggie Hays said...

Mr Goff,

I'm afraid I had to delete your last two comments as they did not really respect my comment & contact message policy rules both on this blog and on my main "Against Pornography" website.

But you've had your say for a little while and as your 1st comment was so weird I thought it needed addressing.

Thanks for recognizing, at least, that you've been a jerk to me.

You know, men don't have to be jerks to women. I don't believe male bad attitudes as "natural" or "biological", but socially trained.

While many detractors in mainstream media often call us "man-haters", we do not believe masculinity or gender as being biological but as being social constructs, i.e. separate from the biological sex. I know this may sound difficult to understand for readers who might come across this page and who might not know anything about gender or women studies but...

Anyway, if there's ever any next commenter on this thread, please, at least, try a little to stay on topic with my original post, as I have the feeling that my "Porn Apologist Bullshit Arguments List and How to Respond with Confidence" got lost in this comment thread at some point. So, if there is ever any other comments, please at least try a little to remain on topic, or at least talk about something I'd mentioned in my original post. A little bit of understanding, folks, at least. :)

stormcloud said...

Your post is a mighty handy list Maggie, as delphyne said, mighty tempting to bookmark it for cutty/pastey :)

This is about transphobia? Or is it a a bait and switch?

Good ol' Sparks! Yes, the bait and switch seems to happen a lot, hence this thread got derailed, by the comments of one male.

laurelin said...

Sorry I helped to derail the thread, Maggie- I shouldn't have lost my temper. I've never been much good at 'turn the other cheek', lol!

another bullshit argument i've seen pornsick men use is the suggestion that if radfems argue that porn is dangerous that means we are letting rapists off the hook. I've actually recently seen one of those morons argue that if implicate porn in violence against women, it somehow becomes a get-out-clause for rapists.

Note to anti-radfems: Radical feminists do not accept 'the porn made me do it' as an excuse. In the radical feminist court the rapist gets convicted, AND the pornographer too who provides the script, exploits women and contributes to misogyny and the sexualisation of violence. It's not a simple cause/ effect model and your attempt to characterise it as such is disingenuous and cowardly to say the least.

Commit violence against women? You're guilty. Provide the script for woman-hatred and thereby abuse women's civil rights? You're guilty.

I don't think I can type any slower than this.

The problem is, as Kassandra knew, you can only persuade people of what they are prepared to accept. :(

Maggie Hays said...

Yeah, very interesting!

Thanks, Laurelin. :)