Talk Back: FAQ and a Q&A

How can we criticize pornography when the women who perform choose to be involved?

StopPornCulture does not condemn women who perform in the industry; we support all women and recognize the cultural context in which they make choices. We recognize that many women are under a variety of constraints such as economic hardship and a perceived lack of options. Research also suggests that a disproportionate percentage of the women who perform in the sex industry were sexually abused as children, which often leads women to see their primary value as providing sexual pleasure for men. We are critical of the industry that exploits these women, not the women themselves.

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Why make such a big deal about this? Hasn’t there always been pornography?

No doubt humans have always tried to make sense of the mystery of sexuality, and that has included art; pictures, music, stories, poetry. Pornography has always existed, but the difference is in the quantity of pornography that is easily accessible and also in the increased violence and degradation that is shown.
It is also important to remember that the goal of the contemporary pornography industry isn’t to expand and promote sexuality, but in financial profit. In a patriarchal, capitalist society, producing images that exploit sexuality rather than enhance it is very profitable.

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Aren’t the people who object to pornography really just afraid of sex?

Feminists who have committed their lives to the anti-pornography movement have been among the most articulate spokespeople for a progressive view of sexuality. These are the people who have done the most to help society move toward a more healthy view of sexuality. To accuse them of being “anti-sex” is an attempt to distract attention from pornography’s sexist and racist images of sex that are fundamentally unhealthy for individuals and our culture.

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Aren’t more and more women buying and using pornography these days, almost as much as men?

Yes, it’s clear that women’s use of pornography has increased somewhat in the past decade. But while the pornography industry would like us to believe that women like pornography as much as men, the vast majority of porn consumers are men. That’s why pornography continues to reflect the male sexual imagination that is dominant in the culture, and why it is so relentlessly sexist and racist.

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Aren’t men just more visually oriented than women? Isn’t it natural for men to want and need pornography?

Are there biological differences between men and women? Yes. Might some of those differences result in different understandings and experiences of sex? Perhaps. Men and women are socialized so differently that any claims about our “nature” are at best speculative. Therefore, any sweeping statements about how men and women, by nature, are so different should be treated with skepticism. Even if men were “naturally” more inclined to seek out sexually imagery, why would such material “naturally” be so violent and degrading?

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Doesn’t watching pornography make people more sexually inventive and adventurous, less hung-up about their sexuality? Doesn’t pornography expand our imaginations?

Pornography offers people a vision of sexuality rooted in men’s domination of women and women’s acceptance of their own degradation. It offers the same progression of sexual acts, ending in the same sexual act – ejaculation onto a woman’s body or face, over and over again. There is nothing new or imaginative about these images.

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The woman-hating is so blatant—why do men like these kinds of things?

The feminist movement has never claimed that this sexuality of cruelty and contempt is the way men are naturally, with no hope of change. Instead, we focus on the way men are socialized into a concept of masculinity that is based on conquest and control, which can lead to relationships with women based on domination and denigration. The short-term reward of pornography, the sexual excitement and orgasm, doesn’t provide the deeper meaning that almost all human beings need and seek in relationships.

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My husband/boyfriend uses pornography, and at times he’s asked me to watch with him. It’s hard enough just to tell him I won’t do that. How am I supposed to confront him about his own pornography use?

Countless women have struggled with this reality, and different women will make different choices about what to demand of their partners. But the bottom line is that women have a fundamental right to have our feelings heard and respected. Whatever our ultimate decision about how to respond to the men in our lives, we can’t let anyone dismiss our feelings or analysis as prudish or uptight. Our Voices Matter is a great website for women to get support.

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Aren’t feminists going to end up aiding right-wing zealots if they critique pornography?

To speak the truth about the exploitation and abuse of women is not to support any political movement that wants to restrict women’s rights and constrain the culture’s ability to move toward a healthier sexual culture. To speak the truth about pornography is to name a system of oppression that causes harm to women and to our society.

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Don’t feminists focus on the worst kind of pornography, the most brutal images? Isn’t most pornography just StopPornCulture people having sex?

StopPornCulture focuses on the “mainstream” of the pornography industry. A tour through any pornography shop or Internet sites will demonstrate that. If anything, we have avoided the worst of what’s available.

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No one makes anyone watch pornography, right? Can’t people who don’t like it just avoid it?

Years ago, pornography was something hidden away under the mattress and only viewed in private. However, contemporary pornography no longer stays in the private sector. Raunchy, sexually explicit, sexist and often racist themes and images pervade our daily lives. So much so, that it has become normalized. Mainstream media outlets such as network and cable TV; the internet; fashion, beauty, fitness and sports magazines; music videos and video games are saturated with sexualized images.
On a daily basis, women who walk down the street, go to work, go to school, contract with professionals, visit the doctor’s office or just go about their day, have to contend with men who live in a society where pornography is consumed almost compulsively, so we have no choice but to raise the issue in the public sphere.

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No one has ever proved a direct link between pornography and sexual violence. So, there’s no reason to make a big deal out of this, right?

While it’s true that “scientific proof” establishing a direct connection between pornography use and rape doesn’t exist, research has made it clear that the use of pornography is a factor in shaping the attitude and behaviors in some men who use it and that it is a factor in some men’s sexual aggression. Scholars may differ about the specific nature of pornography’s effects, but no one can argue pornography’s articulation of the myths about rape, nor doubt the influence mass media has on behavior. That’s why businesses worldwide spend more than $400 billion a year on advertising, many with sexualized images and messages.

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Can there be feminist pornography?

Yes. No doubt there is a place in the creative arts in the culture’s struggle for gender justice and a healthy sexuality. And, it’s not surprising that there would be interest in countering sexist and racist images with healthier depictions of sexuality. The rush to imagine “good” pornography can be a way to avoid contemplating the nature of the actual pornography we live with. Perhaps a more constructive first step would be to talk honestly about the sex/gender crisis we face.

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I see the problems with pornography – but what can I do about it?

Here are just a few ideas:

  • Refuse to give in and accept the pornography industry and their portrayals of women, children and people of color.
  • Speak out against the sexism and racism found in the images.
  • Use blogs, books, poetry, websites, songs, social gatherings to bring awareness to the harm of pornography.
  • Ask critical questions about pornography’s effects on women and men, girls and boys.
  • Refuse to back down when pornography supporters call us prudes.
  • Demand changed behavior from the men in your life.
  • Strategize about possible uses of public policy to address the harms of pornography.
  • Organize a community against “gentleman’s” clubs and bookstores.
  • Protest businesses that support the proliferation of pornography.

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