“The Perfect Threesome? Porn, Patriarchy and Capitalism” by Jennifer Ketcham

"When she claims that pornography is a good economic solution for women, she minimizes the systemic inequality that women still face -- minimizing issues like the 31.8 percent of single mothers that live in poverty -- downplaying the need for a social safety net while reinforcing the fundamentally capitalist principle of picking yourself up by your bootstraps."

Photography and Design by Demi Cambridge via Getty Images

Photography and Design by Demi Cambridge via Getty Images

Huffington Post writer Jennifer Ketcham deconstructs porn, patriarchy and capitalism in her recent article focusing on an piece published by a Duke University student. To read the article in it’s entirety, please see the original post here.

“The Perfect Threesome? Porn, Patriarchy and Capitalism” by Jennifer Ketcham

My opposition to the Duke freshman’s argument isn’t based on a moral judgment of female sexuality, and I wouldn’t deny that women’s empowerment is a threat to patriarchy. But her logic is inherently faulty: By participating in porn, she’s perpetuating a patriarchal capitalist narrative by oversimplifying the process of women’s empowerment. Basically, her actions as a sex worker actually feed in to and preserve systemic inequality within capitalist structures.

Capitalism requires cheap labor so that profit remains high. Historically, capitalism also depends on women as a disposable labor force; ask Rosie the Riveter in post-war America and men who wanted “their” jobs back. Capitalist societies assert that inequality is the force driving self-betterment, an argument I’m sure Milton Friedman would get behind. Capitalism demands educated citizens; a demand that creates conflict if you are poor and lack means to higher education. Capitalist principles explain the decline in cities like Detroit, where good jobs are off-shored to Mexico, and then India, and then China, demolishing the American Dream one neighborhood at a time. All of these demands are made in the name of the consumer.

So back to the freshman’s claim about female sexuality (i.e. participation in pornography) threatening patriarchy. My issue resides in the cultural narrative of women as a disposable labor force: the Duke freshman’s participation in pornography sustains this narrative. Let’s review capitalism again, but using pornography’s principles.

• Pornography demands a cheap labor force to turn maximum profit. Her rate for anal is two hundred dollars more than you want to pay? Hire another girl for cheaper.

• Pornography demands a disposable labor force to continue turning maximum profit. Don’t like this girl? As a consumer, you click to the next one. She contracted AIDS after participating in an adult film? As a director, you hire another girl without AIDS.

• Economic inequality (or, according the freshman, Duke’s incredible tuition) has long been a motivator for selling sex, and this inequality is a capitalist force that the adult industry exploits.

• Economic security requires an education, which is often offered as a reason women end up in porn.

The claim that selling sex can help a woman climb out of poverty, on a micro level, is a viable argument. Yet, why put forth selling one’s body as a solution to high-tuition, instead of advocating for lowered education costs? When she claims that pornography is a good economic solution for women, she minimizes the systemic inequality that women still face — minimizing issues like the 31.8 percent of single mothers that live in poverty — downplaying the need for a social safety net while reinforcing the fundamentally capitalist principle of picking yourself up by your bootstraps.

Consequently, her argument that selling sex is a way of disrupting patriarchy, and thus patriarchal capitalism, falls short for me. Just like the price tag on her education, patriarchal capitalism and free market principles determine the price tag on her body. It’s patriarchal capitalism that will determine she is “shot out” and should retire. And after she’s retired from selling sex, she will have to re-enter a patriarchal capitalist society, “ashamed” or not of her economic choices.

This article originally appeared on The Huffington Post on February 27th, 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jennifer-ketcham/post_6976_b_4860552.html