CULTURE, SEX AND SEXUALITY

Feminism and Pornography

By Jen Thorpe

Most of you will have read about the arguments around pornography in feminist thought. The major debate has two sides and there has been very little developed on the middle ground. On one side the argument goes that pornography objectifies women and is thus oppressive; on the other side the argument goes that women are encouraged to be passive in sexual situations and pornography could encourage their sexual subjectivity.

My question when it comes to debates of pornography is always ‘how much power do you have to make new meaning?’ If new ‘feminist’ porn is an act of redefining women’s sexuality, and an attempt to reclaim a traditionally masculine space that consumes women, how do feminist pornographers intend to make new meaning? How do they plan to break free of the lenses through which their films will be made?

On the other hand, is there a point in denying women’s interest in becoming actresses in pornographic films, or appearing in pornographic magazines? If we argue that porn is wrong, surely we tell some women that their sexual desires are wrong, and so subject them to as much social regulation as those making patriarchal porn?

I’m undecided, but would love to know what you think?

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2 thoughts on “Feminism and Pornography”

  1. This is such an interesting question. It would be difficult to recreate porn. I would guess that the majority of the pornography viewing population are men, and they have been dictated to for years about what it sexually exciting and erotic according to directors, usually male ones.
    If women went out and made porn, the audience would not be as big, I think, because the majority of viewers already have preconceived ideas about what pornography is.
    On the other hand, the definition of pornography does not preclude any obscenity in the sexual acts – any obscenity in the porn of today is purely about how far the director wants to take the film. I think the whole point of pornography is to subvert female sexuality, so to be feminist, will feminist porn have to subvert male sexuality? And if so, how is that any better that what the industry has done already?

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  2. To my mind the point of pornography is to provide sexual pleasure or at least entice it. I agree that for far too long pornography has played to, represented and reinstated a preconceived system of domination and sexism. This can, and is, changing. I am not sure that there is actually anything wrong with selling one’s ability to have sex for profit or simple survival. Obviously there are issues around the it being the only option for a number of women but I think as feminists we need to come to an understanding that this exists and that simply saying “well we don’t think it’s right does nothing for anyone”.

    I’m not sure we can say what percentage of women watch porn, it is certainly something very rarely spoken about. On a personal level I know plenty of women, of varying sexualities, that enjoy porn. In recent years there has been huge growth in the queer porn industry and I find this encouraging. Porn is about watching people enjoy each other and feeling a sexual impulse towards it. I’m not sure it necessarily needs to be subverted but rather reclaimed. What we do always have to ask ourselves, when watching porn, are the ethical questions of how the pornography was made and do I agree with this group or organizations mandate? If not then you shouldn’t be watching it. This is easier said than done but something that feminists should strive for. Yes watching your favorite porno is going to require a little research but why not? We ask ourselves hard questions everyday about the way we treat and interact with people why not this?

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