My Beef with Anti-Porn Feminism

I do understand where the anti-porn feminists are coming from.  They want to cut down on violence, oppression, and degradation of women.  Okay, great.  Completely with you.  What’s the problem?  Well, degradation is subjective.  Violence can be consensual.  And though I may not want to watch 90% of the mainstream porn that’s out there, I believe strongly in freedom of expression.  If a woman wants to be involved in the sex industry, more power to her.  Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Focus on the real problems.  Target coercion and non-consent, for example.  Target non-consensual “recruitment” of women, whether through trafficking or other means.  Increase regulation of the porn industry, but don’t regulate ideas.  If porn is de-stigmatised, we can focus on getting the industry to pay its models well, making sure some tricky financial stuff isn’t going on to cheat the models, and making sure women in the sex industry have health insurance and other benefits.  Though it’s hard to decide where I stand on this in terms of consent, I might also be okay with targeting unsafe sex in the porn industry.  The problem is that when you target the content of pornography, or all of pornography, rather than the negative effects, you don’t achieve your goal.  If porn was illegal, it would just go underground.  The sex trade flourishes whether legal or not, but if we focus on protection and benefits for sex workers, at least we’re keeping women safe.
  2. Don’t use anti-porn activism as an excuse to regulate sex.  By this, I mean that too often feminists get into the business of regulating desire.  Proposed legislation that targets “degrading” forms of pornography tells women that their sexual desires are not okay.  Targeting S&M and other consensual practices is just as bad as targeting gay or lesbian sexuality.  If everyone is consenting, who are feminists to decide what is and isn’t degrading?  
  3. Focus on sex-positive culture.  And on a related note, this may seem completely antithetical to anti-porn advocacy, but I’m not sure that it is.  Let’s focus on eliminating the stigmas that surround sexuality, especially female sexuality.  Let’s make the message that it is okay to desire what you desire, and that it is not okay for others to force you into sexual situations in any way.  This could achieve two things.  One is that people won’t enter the porn industry because it’s the only way to indulge in their desires.  Another is that it will de-stigmatise sex work and female sexual expression, so that women in the sex industry don’t feel like underground, unprotected individuals who don’t deserve fair pay and decent working conditions.  It also could lead to more porn created by women, for women.  

About Avory

Avory Faucette is a queer feminist activist, writer, and public speaker. Zie graduated from the University of Iowa with a JD in 2009, focusing on international human rights and gender/sexuality issues in the law. Hir current work focuses on queer identity, policy, and marginalized identities under the queer umbrella. As a genderqueer person, zie comments frequently on non-binary identity, transgender and genderqueer issues, and media coverage of these populations. Zie also speaks at colleges, universities, and events on transgender and queer issues and conducts trainings on related topics.

Posted on August 3, 2008, in feminism, sex and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around my thoughts on pr0n, so I could post them, and …I think you just articulated them for me. I’m not sure how you got into my head, but I appreciate your taking good care of the place. My thoughts seem to make more sense here than when I write them out myself, so danke once again. 😉

  2. i wholeheartedly agree with you, i dont get anti-porn feminists.

  3. I’m curious, are there currently active and influential anti-porn feminists? I know about the historical context but not much about any current debates.

  4. I completely agree. I’ve written a number of posts about this on my own blog.

    Anti-porn feminism is still alive and well, but I think a more rational approach (as outlined here) is gaining ground in feminist thought.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: