29 September 2013

women bodies, part 3

As was the inspiration for my last post about modesty, I read an interesting article shared on Facebook: this one's about pornography.

I don't really know much about porn, but I have been seriously wondering: Why isn't there more feminist agitation to change or eliminate pornography? How does pornography help improve equality and opportunity for women? Maybe no one is arguing that it does, and maybe it would be silly to, but it does seem like there is a broad swath of women who think that pornography is a normal, healthy sexual outlet for men, and even boys. Beyond being pernicious for its highly addictive nature, I don't get why so many people think pornography is okay, because disrespect to women seems like a pretty foundational and fundamental component of the industry. Aren't women just generally hurt by pornography?

It is frustrating to me that so many women who claim to be forward-thinking, self-respecting, and independent seem perfectly happy to participate in a very phallo-centric worldview of the nature of sex. I'm not expecting the whole world to agree with my moral code, but it does seem shocking that so many obviously anti-woman values reflected in the media and especially pornography are considered perfectly acceptable.

I'm just confused: can someone tell me why there isn't much of an anti-porn feminist movement? Not to diminish some of the heartfelt and honest movements that exist to improve things for women, but it's strange to me that there is so much emotion and effort going into some issues, and yet there is not a large collective, organized movement to at least combat the way sex is portrayed in the ginormous porn industry. Pornography seems like a much more glaring and obvious feminist problem to me.  


Britney said...

There is the Beauty Redefined group who studied and write entirely about how women are portrayed in the media and how that is pernicious to women. I like them.

Amanda said...

This is an excellent question. I have no idea. Maybe it seems too established to attack. Or too hopeless.

Jean Little said...

This is a really interesting thought! I know of some anti-porn and anti-prostitution movements focused on the problem in other countries, but haven't heard much about it here. Here is a link to an anti-trafficking ad in Amsterdam: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2411812/Men-cheer-dancing-half-naked-women-Amsterdams-red-light-district-shocked-anti-trafficking-ad.html

I did do a search on the internet and found a few websites that referenced the existence of a feminist argument against porn (http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/fallacies/sample-arguments-with-fallacies/), but I don't really trust my google search results for stuff like that. I have some sort of "safety setting" on my computer and for whatever reason I can't get it to turn off so it blocks a large number of results whenever a search for anything racy. :)

Anyway, whenever I hear people talk about porn in the Church, they are talking about how much it damages the viewer, not the person being viewed. I think, at least among Church members and other groups who support women's modesty, there is still a widely accepted idea that modesty is designed to protect men from the temptation of women's bodies, which I don't think any feminist would agree with. I have a friend who is deeply committed to the idea of modesty, who said "if a woman is raped, it is at least partially her own fault for tempting the man. A woman who doesn't respect herself doesn't deserve respect." (I tried to convince her that she was wrong, but she just wanted to 'agree to disagree.')

I have heard some interesting statistics that talk about how many women who pose for porn have suffered abuse in the past. I definitely think that by eliminating many of the misogynistic attitudes that lead people to see and treat women as second-class citizens (or worse, as mere objects), fewer women would want to participate in porn. Probably, if these women knew that they could be successful (or at least make a decent living), respected, and happy without using their body in that way (which they may see the one aspect of humanity that gives women power over men), they wouldn't want to participate in porn. If it is true that primarily victimized women participate in porn, then I think various aspects of the feminist movement can help to eliminate the problem.

On the other hand, I also think that many feminists (not necessarily Mormon Feminists) also subscribe to other socially progressive ideas, particularly that most uses of sexuality aren't inherently moral or immoral. Obviously, I disagree with that premise, so I agree with you - feminists should be more openly anti-porn.

There are also different types of feminism. While some feminists want to emphasize the differences between men and women (physical, emotional, and otherwise), lamenting that feminine traits are so frequently undervalued in society, other feminists deny that any traits are inherently masculine or feminine. According to this school of thought, most characteristically male or female attributes are adopted over time and by exposure to cultural attitudes. I, personally, see value in both of these ideas; but I can see how either of them - if taken to an extreme - could create a space that would excuse, or even celebrate, porn.

This probably doesn't answer the question, but I do think it is an important thing to consider.

Jean Little said...

Hey Amanda, I saw this slideshow and thought you might be interested. Actually, the person who I really want to share it with is my friend who thinks that it is a woman's own fault if she gets raped, but I don't really know if I should approach the subject with her again. Do most Utah-raised Mormons believe that way? I sure hope not.