When it comes to various pillars of the feminist ideology, I’d like to think I have pretty  well thought-out stances on just about everything.  I have a stance on abortion, contraception, equal pay, rape culture, you name it.  I’ve done my research and attempted to see things from an alternative point of view before coming to my own conclusions.  However, there is one area where, I am almost embarrassed to admit, I don’t honestly know what to think.

When I first started this blog, I searched for other like minded blogs here on WordPress to begin some networking and to get some ideas.  One of the first I came across is a blog by RMott, an exited prostitute who bravely faces her demons and writes about them in order to educate the public on the perils of the sex industry.  I believe that prostitution is ultimately  bad.  I believe that the myth of the “happy hooker” is, in fact, a widespread myth, perpetuated by movies such as Pretty Woman, and that the “world’s oldest profession” and the idea that prostitutes are re-claiming female sexuality is just a facade to hide the gritty underworld of human trafficking and abuse.  I do not like the idea of another person being for sale, to be purchased by a consumer.  However, RMott brought up something I had never actually thought about – pornography, in her opinion, falls under the category of prostitution.

I suppose in the strictest definition, someone getting paid to have sex is a prostitute, so I suppose in the black-and-white sense a porn worker (I’m not sure what their proper job title is) would technically  be a prostitute.  If I believe that prostitution is bad, then should I by extension believe that pornography is bad?  Honestly…I don’t know.

I think part of the reason that I am so conflicted is that I have “used” porn before – watched it, consumed it, if you will.  Almost everyone I know in my own circle of friends has done so.  For years, since I became sexually active, I never thought it was harmful.  I thought the act of watching porn is merely a means of sexual expression.  In fact, at the risk of sounding really creepy to my readers, my friends and I used to have “porn and beer nights” where we would drink and watch porn (no, there was no orgy or masturbation, just us giggling and getting merrily buzzed).  Then I started reading RMott, and she drew parallels I had never considered before.  Before I thought that being okay with porn meant that you were sexually progressive and accepting.  Was I duped?

My readers may have noticed that I had a poll going for awhile, asking if they thought pornography was harmful.  The majority was of the school of thought that porn is not bad and that the workers are doing so at their own choice.  Of the whopping 22 votes, 13 (59%) felt this way.  Two votes went to thinking that pornography is tasteless but not inherently harmful (9%) and two votes felt that pornography is harmful and that its workers are victimes (9%).  Four votes (18%) were unsure and one person (5%) claimed “other,” which doesn’t much help.

I started doing some research and most of what I found was actually against porn.  Anti-Porn Feminists, a group that fights against pornography as they see it as a facet of prostitution and the sex industry, claims that pornography harms women by exploiting them and perpetuating false stereotypes of sex, beauty, and power, that it stunts true sexuality by making the viewer jaded, and the like.   They also point out that women porn workers don’t typically make decent money in the industry unless they are promoted from actress to producer, and the women who do the acting make very little money and usually want out.  I also found this on the webpage of Fight the New Drug:

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This group, which focuses less on the women in the industry and rather the affects on the viewer, highlights a lot of common takeaways from porn, such as addiction, aggressive sexual behavior and abuse, unrealistic expectations and depression, infidelity, and the like.  I believe that both of these groups have done their homework, and bring up very valid points – points that leave me very conflicted.  It is hard to think that you may have contributed to such a harmful industry by having consumed it in the past.  

I did some more research, trying to find parallels between human trafficking and porn. I found this article, which explains that a lot of women and girls are trafficked into porn, forced to watch it, and are dressed to look over eighteen.  Their “enjoyment” of their work is all acting and intimidation, and some of them are drugged.  Evidently, sometimes women are forced to do sexual acts they do not want, work with people they do not want to work with, and are forced to work against their will.  Does this count as sexual coercion and rape?  It certainly sounds like it.

Also, this is the reaction from fans of a porn star after she requested that they refrain from re-posting her pictures and thusly infringing her copyright.  Doesn’t seem as if they think she deserves any respect because of what she chooses to do.

Am I still conflicted?  Truthfully, yes, I am.  Because, what about the possibility that the myths can be true?

What if a woman or a man who enjoys having sex feels liberated enough to do so is able to earn money doing so?  What if porn workers have agents, are not forced into sex acts they are not comfortable with?  What if porn producers require background checks, drug and STD screening?  What if legal recourse for underage workers is strictly enforced and standards are kept?  Is that really so bad?

As for the effects of porn, I understand it can be addicting.  I understand that it can be harmful to couples.  However, I also know personally a couple who, after having a long and hard struggle with their sex lives, were actually helped by watching porn and exploring together.  I also would think that things like exercise, food, and even chapstick can all be addicting if left unchecked.  Furthermore, I discovered this – a reality tv show in which people actually compete to be America’s Next Porn Star (warning, this video and the subsequent videos are risque, so proceed with caution): America’s Next Celebrity Porn Star.

A lot of this can be found in the Third Wave of Feminism conundrum – are women truly re-claiming sexuality and power by embracing sex and the like, or are they unknowingly bucking to their own objectification and making the situation worse?  A new thread on Reddit in which women and men post revealing pictures of themselves begs that very question.  Is it exploitation if the woman exploits herself?

What my counter arguments ultimately boil down to is this – there is nothing quite as damaging as sexual repression.  Say my fears are unfounded – does avoiding something like porn only go to fuel puritanical thought?  Then I read heart-wrenching interviews with exited porn workings like this woman and I’m torn again.

Is pornography harmful, to the viewers and the actors?  Are porn workers victims?  Is porn just a branch of prostitution?  Does shunning porn only lead to more sexual repression?  Is the corrupted industry the problem, or is the entire idea a problem?

I don’t know, you tell me.

 

“I am only a shadow now, far back behind the glib shiny surface of this photograph. A shadow of a shadow, as dead mothers become. You can see it in her eyes: I am not there.”

-Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale