We’ve all probably heard the “pornography is detrimental to society” speech. From parents, mass-media, or school counselors it seems everyone is warning children and teens to stay away from pornography because of how it portrays women in society. Words like “degrading” and “objectifying” are almost always a part of such discussions. First of all, it should be clear I am not arguing that pornography is good for women, in fact this is a valid issue that must be addressed. But the fact of the matter is that not all pornography is demeaning to women. Pornography is a major social taboo; it is not uncommon for people to feel “porn-guilt” or shameful feelings from watching pornography. After all, the idea that even watching sex or nudity in video or in picture form is a sign of being sexist and disrespectful is hammered into our heads from a young age. But what if I told you the answer to gender inequality may be in watching more pornography?
Some anti-pornography groups, such as the CPC, describe all pornography as harmful to society.
Pornography is “propaganda against women” and “damaging to them as individuals as well as to women as a group.” – The Campaign Against Pornography
They argue for the removal of all suggestive images of females, whether in stores or online, as it is damaging to females in society. It is not difficult to understand why this group is rather unpopular among men, 68 percent of whom watch pornography and who are 543% more likely to watch it than females. They do raise valid points, but by feeding this industry are all 68% of men who watch porn shameful contributors to the misogynistic society we currently live in?
The answer is no, and the reason “porn-shamers” such as the CPC are wrong is because they are categorizing all pornography as one massive, anti-women, misogynist genre. They are only addressing the specific pornography where women are taking on the submissive role, and not clearly giving consent to their male partner. This, however, is not the case. The reason “porn-shamers” out there are incorrect is because they assume all pornography to be the same. So yes, some of those 68 percent of men who watch porn are contributing to the anti-women, sexist society we live in where.
The CPC gives an example of a pornographic scene in which there are two lesbians in a bed with a man to make their case. This is clearly a sexist scene; the women are performing for the man’s pleasure and he is taking the dominant role by having the appearance that he selected these specific women to do this and he is giving orders to them. Agreed, this is probably what most porn looks like and it is obviously not helpful to women and our society. In fact, pornography such as this contributes to a heightened amount of deviant sexual practices such as rape when it is exposed to children 14 years of age or younger.
It is quite apparent how scenes such as these can impact society with current studies and social learning theories explaining the psychology behind the negative impact they can have. Not all pornography is as degrading and horribly objectifying as this, however. There is a spectrum of pornography. And believe it or not, there exists pornography where videos of naked women can actually be beneficial to society and contribute to a more feminist world.
Such genres are labeled “feminist porn.” Feminist porn varies greatly from the genres of which the CPC speaks. From a camera angle altered in order to focus on female consent instead of male pleasure, to dialogue differences which clearly show that the women are agreeing to the sexual actions and even taking charge by being more dominant, feminist porn is a safe and socially progressive genre.
“The goal of feminist pornography is to empower its performers through ethical work practices (fair pay, consent) and its viewers through depictions of sexuality that differ from the norm”- Tristan Taormino
Pornography, when produced in a safe and feminist manner can actually benefit women in society. The social learning theory and mirroring does not just have to apply to sexist pornography where the woman is clearly depicted as being submissive or humiliated. When watching feminist pornography people will mirror the actions they see and incorporate them into society. For instance, viewers can understand that sex is not okay unless given clear consent from the woman, something that feminist pornography seeks to do and in doing so combat the sexual stereotypes which currently exist. Furthermore, female friendly pornography defies the stereotype that women are used for the pleasure of men. This genre is instead about the egalitarianism that exists in sex and how both the woman and the man are able to enjoy the experience while neither one needs to play a dominant role or the domination goes back and forth.
The answer to creating a more sexually equal society is not to ban all pornography. With this high percentage of people watching it, pornography is not going way. We can however, make sure people watch socially progressive genres. In fact, perhaps if everyone began watching, society would be more equal than ever.