An open letter to pornography

Dear Pornography,

We need to talk. It’s not you, and it’s not me. It is, in fact, them*. Similarly to the way nudity has been ruined by its brazenly fascist packaging in the media, as described a couple of weeks ago, in theory: you’re alright, Porn. You are not ‘wrong’. (Can I call you Porn?)

But, industry professionals and misogynist consumers, with the complicity of those willing to ignore the misogyny in favour of sexual relief, have capitalized on society’s more ‘edgy’ attitudes towards sex (you know, sexual violence, degradation and humiliation, unsettling power complexes, all that stuff) to the point where even the idea of you is now conflated with misogyny. If we are to have an adult conversation about this (get it?!) without you feeling offended, missing the point and writing me off, then you need to understand that I am by no means anti-porn, anti-sex, or pro-censorship; I am just very concerned about you. Everything I am about to say is in your best interest. (But more importantly, in the best interests of actual human beings, for many of whom your displays of violent sexual power imbalance become a horrific reality.)

Ultimately, like most manifestations of imbalance, this is clearly a result of hegemonic power and the lasting effects of it. It is bigger than just your industry, than the media, than representation itself. The abuse you display in continually violating and shaming women in your language, actions and yes, even in your camera angles (yours are films like any other; their hyperreality can, and will, be deconstructed in the most clinically nerdy of ways) is a crystallisation of a culture which continues to be racist and sexist and ableist….etc. As much as people like to think that we’re past prejudice, these –isms continue to manifest in the most subtle of ways. And, of course, in the most blatant (but those that like to think discrimination is over tend to ignore blatant discrimination. Ignorance is bliss, and you’re welcome to your denial you blissful fucks, until Karma blatantly discriminates against you. And when that day comes, those aware of it will be waiting to slowly defend you, like the world-weary, justice-seeking gophers that we’ll become.) 

I digress, Porn. It’s because I’m angry. And that’s the problem! You’re frighteningly, systematically and violently angry, and it’s time to face the fact that sex + violence = not meant to be. It’s weird, Porn, you’re being creepy and you’re scaring the kids. And I know that you learnt it from the rest of our warped society and the buck doesn’t stop with you, but if you took a stand imagine how many people would take notice….(“I’m serious, I can’t find anything with hatefuck in the title, bro…I’ll settle for anal or a facial….wait, WHAT?!)

It’s very easy to misinterpret certain questions and problems, like: can you be feminist? In theory, of course you can. Anything which has been used to oppress women could, in some way, be subverted for feminist purposes; that is, making women’s lives better. Though currently, with the trends of hardcore pornography to show strangling/physically restraining/striking/intimidating/verbally degrading/humiliating, and generally exploiting women, their bodies and their sexuality, you cannot be considered feminist, even if women consume your videos as well as men. If this is the vast majority of what’s available, then the ‘choice’ is between either the video in which the “Teen Blonde Whore” gets slapped around and verbally abused (or worse), or the video in which the woman is only merely visually fetishised and objectified.

And, wait, before you argue that women are involved and therefore complicit to falsely shift blame, don’t begin to pretend it’s that black and white; this is perhaps where it gets most complex, but also so simply reflects the contradictions of living as a woman in a patriarchal ideology. Though some women are forced into performing certain sexual acts, and most who aren’t forced are paid, this doesn’t make these acts less misogynistic. The choices female porn actors (and remembering that they are actors is very important) make are choices confined by the brutal industry that already exists. There are numerous forms of physical and psychological coercion, and a huge financial incentive to tolerate degradation and harm to oneself; such are the familiar wonders of capitalism.

So who is to ‘blame’? It’s not you, and it’s certainly not men. I suppose it’s pornographers. However, these people aren’t faceless; pornographers are people too, y’know. People who also grew up in an unequal, misogynist, capitalist, exploitative society, and were unfortunately taught to internalize certain values and ignore others, allowing them to justify their regrettable actions. We’ve got a lot of work to do, if we want you to exist as a truly pleasurable, positive force, Porn. We’ve got attitudes to change, representation to equalize, regulation to instate, discrimination to quell, and fantastic adult films to write (or even re-write…best adapted screenplay Oscar, here we come). We can’t do it alone, we’re going to need a bunch of pro-sex pacifist liberal and radicals to make it happen…. So it’s a shame I’m British and you’re (largely) Los Angelean.


*you know, them. People who cause, support, perpetuate all kinds of discrimination, violence, injustice, exploitation….I admit I don’t actually know who that is.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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