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Porn: A Feminist's Query

 I admit, I am a self-professed feminist, and I watch porn. This has caused me some dilemma. Whenever I have heard pornography discussed among feminists it focused on how bad it was for women. I had always thought that as long as it was the women’s choice, and they wanted to do this, then it was okay for me to watch. I mean, after all, there are the Adult Video News (AVN) awards which is full of women that “choose” to be there. There are also TV shows that glamorize the sex industry and focus on testimonials from women who star in the industry. I thought this meant that women enjoy making porn, and so it is okay for me to watch it, right?

 Since I started my journey as a feminist in 2007 I have watched several documentaries including Dreamworlds 3, Very Young Girls, Killing Us Softly 3, and America the Beautiful. After watching these films I had a new lens to view porn through, and what I saw was disturbing. I started realizing how much violence was taking place in the mainstream porn I was watching. Not only that, but the messages that were being sent by the scenarios playing out in porn. To further understand this split among feminists I watched two documentaries Inside Deep Throat, and the Price of Pleasure. The movie Deep Throat was a “Top Pick for 2010” in the Vanguard’s Health and Sex Guide last spring term. This just seemed wrong and appalling to me, considering that Linda Lovelace, the star of the film, testified in front of congress in 1986 that, “When you see the movie Deep Throat, you are watching me being raped.” When Deep Throat was released in 1972 there were no VCR’s or DVD players, so people had to go to the theater to see the movie. It was really the first time that porn was brought to mainstream popular culture. Since then it has not stopped.

 Porn has gone from being taboo in our culture to a norm. Porn stars appear in music videos, movies, and advertisements. The only body type we see in the media, is one that statistically no more than five percent of the American population has (Killing Us Softly 3). This body type is genetic; it is not possible to diet to this weight and stay healthy. Women are bombarded with advertisements that tell them otherwise. Ads featuring women are retouched using computers; these images are edited to be so flawless that oftentimes features of the original models, such as their eyes, are replaced with another woman’s eyes. All to create this ideal image of beauty that women are expected to live up to. If women who appear in these ads are not good enough, how can the average woman even hope to achieve the standard of beauty that we are taught we so desperately need to achieve? What does this do to men when all they see are images of perfect women that don’t even exist?

 When I watch porn now I find that I am limited, it’s not so much that I don’t like porn, but the way women are portrayed in the porn. Pro-pornography feminists argue that pornography has benefited women’s liberation sexually, but I think that women’s portrayal in porn is for men’s pleasure. The roles women play are ones of subservience, and the typical scene climaxes in the “money shot” where a man is ejaculating on a woman - usually her breasts. I think women should be allowed to have sex when they want without being labeled, but I question whether pornography is helping this cause or hindering it. AVN reported that in 2005 revenue from the porn industry was $12 billion dollars - this is a 160-fold increase from 1985 when the revenue was $75 million (Sun, 2008). I mean let’s be realistic - it wasn’t women buying pornography that caused this increase; it was the exploitation and objectification of women.

 Porn is a huge part of our popular culture, even the iPhone has apps specifically to watch porn. This mainstreaming of porn has an effect on our relationships too. A partner will sometimes ask for their lover to perform certain sexual acts, or positions, in an attempt to reenact what they have seen in porn. I don’t necessarily think this is bad when partners watch together and are both interested in trying something new, but unfortunately this is not always what happens. I wonder sometimes how much longer I will watch porn. I have narrowed down a lot of what I will watch, and sometimes I have to stop a video because I don’t agree with the messages they are sending in the story line playing out, or sometimes it is too violent. I don’t appreciate watching a woman be choked during sex, or when she is being forcibly gagged by a penis. Whether or not you agree, I believe pornography is a form of violence against women; that being said I don’t believe it has to be. Erotica is another form of pornography that views itself as more artistic. I think porn can be empowering for women, I just don’t think there is very much of it available, or being produced.

Written by Mary Smith


References

 Inside Deep Throat, Very Young Girls, & American the Beautiful are available to rent through Netflix.

Killing Us Softly 3, Killing Us Softly 4, & Dreamworlds 3 are available to borrow at the Women’s Resource Center.

The Price of Pleasure: Pornography, Sexuality, and Relationships is available to borrow through the Summit Library Loan system provided by the PSU Library http://portlandstate.worldcat.org/title/price-of-pleasure-pornography-sexuality-relationships/oclc/250669273&referer=brief_results

Sun, C., Bridges, A., Wosnitzer, R., Scharrer, E., & Liberman, R. (2008). A COMPARISON OF MALE AND FEMALE DIRECTORS IN POPULAR PORNOGRAPHY: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WOMEN ARE AT THE HELM?. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 32(3), 312-325. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.2008.00439.x.