Maggie Hays, creator of Against Pornography, answers the questions which might inevitably be asked regarding her website and the feminist anti-pornography movement:
Q: If you are anti-pornography, then it means that you are anti-sex, doesn't it?
A: Look, rejecting pornography's cruelty and misogyny does not mean being against sex! The pornographic sex is all about the disconnection from truly meaningful feelings and the objectification, humiliation and degradation of women. Sex can be much better than this narrow definition of sexuality as "domination/subordination". Sex can be about humanity, connection, tenderness, love and respect for the other. As feminist anti-pornography educator Gail Dines would say: "When we criticize McDonald’s for its unhealthy food, environmentally destructive business practices, and targeting of children through manipulative advertising, does anyone ask whether we are “anti-food”?". The same applies to pornography. If porn has narrowed your definition of sexuality, we feel sorry for you.
Q: But, is misogyny really inherent in pornography?
A: When pornographers and their defenders are accused of misogyny, they often refuse this label but, in fact, misogyny is blatant in the pornographic material and a proper analysis or a closer look shows that clearly: it is undeniable, no matter how much the industry's defenders try to deny it: PORNOGRAPHY = MISOGYNY. The misogyny of pornography is shown openly all over this website, so don't try to tell us pornography is not misogynistic! I am absolutely not saying that all pornography users are misogynists. I am saying that pornography reinforces misogyny in contemporary society, and encourages many men to normalize this type of hatred.
Q: You say pornography objectifies women, but doesn't the media also objectify women? And doesn't pornography objectify men too?
A: The pornographic imagery has invaded the media! That is one of the most prominent aspects of this "pornographized" or "pornified" culture. This phenomenon is also written about on this website. There are also other websites which analyse the harmful effects of the media on women and people in general, such as the Media Education Foundation's website or Mediawatch.com. But, here our primary focus is pornography because it is the media which hurts people the most, especially women. As for men being objectified by pornography, in reality, men are the sexual subjects in heterosexual pornography while women are the sexual objects (Robert Jensen, Getting Off; 2007). As Catharine MacKinnon puts it: "Man fucks women; subject verb object" (Toward a Feminist Theory of the State; 1989) is the grammar of pornography and male dominance!
Q: Hey, I've read on other websites that pornography is harmless, even beneficial. Wikipedia also says so. So why should I believe what's written on your website and not on theirs?
A: There are plenty of websites out there which defend pornography. Nobody forces you to believe what's on my website, just like nobody forces you to believe what's on the other websites. However, you should know that contrary to what the mainstream press says, radical feminists' anti-porn position is based on rigorous research -- not mere guesses-- and also it is important to point out that the feminist anti-pornography movement grew out of grassroots anti-violence groups (See Gail Dines et al., Pornography: the Production and Consumption of Inequality; 1998; Laura Lederer Ed., Take Back the Night; 1980). But, obviously, if you do not care about the suffering of others or at least the possibility that "maybe some people are harmed by pornography" and you only think about your own pleasure, then obviously you will believe what the pro-pornography websites say... As for Wikipedia, it is just another part of the mainstream media which defends the pornographers. It does not mean that every single article on Wikipedia is uninteresting (actually many articles are interesting), it means that wikipedia is a free content encyclopedia. "Free content" is defined as such on Wikipedia: "Free content", or "free information", is any kind of functional work, artwork, or other creative content having no significant legal restriction relative to people's freedom to use, redistribute and modify the content" which means that the entries in Wikipedia are inserted by contributors who could just be anybody... Many of the lies (such as the portraying of pornography as being a harmless fun, the misrepresentations of the US feminist anti-pornography activists, etc...) are perpetuated by Wikipedia. Wikipedia seems pretty much male-dominated to me as it glorifies pornography and I read a rumor somewhere which said that Wikipedia's co-founder is a pornographer.
Q: Feminists have no right to criticize pornography or even prostitution or stripping because porn actresses, hookers and strippers freely choose to be in the sex industry and, besides, all the porn stars and strippers (as well as some hookers) get paid a lot of money! So, why do you criticize the sex industry for?
A: Your belief that these women make a totally free choice to enter the sex industry has probably been shaped by the mainstream media. For instance, pornography perfomers interviewed on TV pseudo-documentaries typically say they do it because they love sex, because they feel good about their bodies, because it makes them feel powerful and liberated. No one can know for sure what any other person feels, but it's important to remember that these women are "on the job", an essential part of the industry's marketing scheme. The mainstream media also glamorizes stripping and "the call girl life". However, although there is no research that has been carried out exclusively on porn performers, us feminists, we know from research that have been carried out on interviewing prostitutes (many of whom had pornography made of them) and strippers that their choices to be in the industry are made under a variety of constraints. Some testimonies from women who used to be in pornography have also been helpful and are on this website in the section "Women in the sex industry". We know that child sexual abuse as well as economic deprivation and a lack of better opportunities are key factors for women who enter the sex industry. For instance, many young women who got raped or molested when they were children or teenagers are led to see their primary value as providing sexual pleasure for men. You should also think about the issues of global and national trafficking, fraudulent job advertising or kidnapping and seasoning, which definitely do not reflect the choices of those who are the victims of these organized crimes. And then, there's the media that glamorizes sex industry jobs, which inevitably makes some young naive girls believe the "porn and stripping must be empowering" ideology. Research has also shown that women in the sex industry, whether their choice to participate was meaningful or not, are harmed inside of the industry. You have to think about what some prostitution researchers would call the "protective denial", that means the fact that many prostituted women refuse to admit that they are victims (because it's too painful), they habitually dissociate to be able to cope with what they do. A lot of research has shown that many met the diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder. Finally, you should think about the issues of drug addiction, bodily harm, psychological harm and the risk for the prostituted women of catching a STD or HIV. As for the money, some research and testimonies have shown that most strippers, prostitutes and pornography perfomers do not make a lot of money. Although some do, the idea that all of them make a lot of money is another part of the pornographers' and the mainstream media's propaganda. As former stripper Taylor Lee says: "I am certain that we need to fight the system of prostitution and we need to do so without shaming the women used in the system. Chances are good that their lives have been difficult enough." (Not for Sale; 2004). Feminists who are against pornography know that women may choose to enter the business, although it is rarely a totally free choice, but those women don't decide the conditions under which they work. And they work in an industry whose clientele is overwhemingly male. We believe it's crucial to focus on the choices of the people in the system who have considerably more power -- the men who produce and consume the bulk of the material.
Q: But, isn't prostitution the world's oldest profession?
A: First, prostitution is not the oldest profession! Second, Pimping or slave trading, which is men selling women to other men has existed for as long as there has been an historical record, indeed (Not for Sale; 2004). Saying glibly the misogynistic lie that prostitution is the world's oldest profession is being used as one of the best strategies to conceal the extensive harms that prostituted women suffer on a daily basis as well as to legitimate men's sexual use of women for profit or pleasure and to mask the cruel reality of prostitution with the myth of "she chose it, she was the first in history to choose it", while, in fact, prostitution exists because there is a demand and many men want to buy the sexual degradation of women. There's enough research that has been done to prove that (Prostitution, Trafficking and Traumatic Stress, 2003). Also, studies have shown that prostitution harms women even if it's indoors or legalized or decriminalized (Prostitution Research and Education at prostitutionresearch.com). Prostitution exists because of patriarchy and male dominance. Thus, prostitution should not even be discussed outside of the perspective of, the understanding of patriarchy and male dominance! We do know that there are women like Annie Sprinkle who have made a lot of money by defending prostitution publicly, but that doesn't change the fact that a great deal of research shows that prostitution harms women and is about male supremacy!
Q: Look, pornography has existed since cavemen, when the first humans drew sexual activities on the walls of the caves... So, why making a big deal about this?
A: It is true that there have always been different types of sexual representations throughout history but to say that they have all been pornography is simplistic and diversionary. It is true that pornography can be traced back without difficulty as far as Ancient Greece in the west, but the word "pornography" also refers to the writing, etching, or drawing of women who, in fact, were kept in female sexual slavery in Ancient Greece (C. MacKinnon and A. Dworkin, in D. Russell Ed, Making Violence Sexy; 1993). "The influence of pornography on men who rule societies, and thus on the development of misogynist social institutions, can be traced back through feudalism, but it is only through relatively recent technology that the social environment has been glutted with pornography so that it hurts women openly, publicly, and with social legitimacy. This same pervasiveness and open availability have also made it possible to understand and document the effects of pornography, hence its place in the institutionalization of second class citizenship for women, for the first time in history." ("Memo on proposed ordinance on pornography, December 26, 1983"; In Harm's Way; 1997). There have been many sexual representations in art and literature in history but not all of them have been pornography. Besides, the contemporary pornography industry isn't a form of art but of exploitation. In a patriachal and capitalist society, the pornography industry is only interested in making a profit with images that exploit sexuality rather than explore it.
Q: Aren’t men just more visually oriented than women? Isn’t it natural for men to want and need pornography?
A: As the feminist anti-pornography movement says: "Are there biological differences between men and women? Obviously, yes. Might some of those differences result in different understandings and experiences of sex? Perhaps. But we really don’t know much about these questions, and sweeping statements about how men and women -- by nature -- are so different should be treated with skepticism. Men and women are socialized so differently that any claims about our "nature" are at best speculative. Why not focus instead on what we do know and can control, which is the world we choose to build? And beyond all that, there’s an obvious question: Even if men were "naturally" more inclined to seek out sexual imagery, why would such material "naturally" be so misogynistic?" We know that male chauvinists pigs like Howard Stern have helped legitimize pornography as a "boys will be boys" activity but it doesn't mean that it is true that pornography is natural for men. And besides, saying that pornography is a natural thing for men denies the facts that there are many men who have stopped using pornography and haven't died as well as there are some men who do not use pornography and have happy sex lives without it.
Q: Isn't pornography supposed to make us more sexually inventive or imaginative?
A: One of the most absurd claims made by pornographers and their supporters is that "pornography expands our imagination". In fact, the never-changing formula of the pornographic script shuts down rather than opens up people's sexual imagination. Pornography only gives people a vision of sexuality which is 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 way with what is routinely called (in the industry) the "cum shot" or "money shot", over and over again. If there is a change in pornography, it is the fact that it is increasingly more violent and more misogynistic. If you find this inventive, adventurous and imaginative, we feel sorry for you...
Q: Are you against pornography because you are religious?
A: No, I am not religious and my friends, the radical feminists who are against pornography are neither religious nor right wingers either! What you need to know is that feminists do not care about any religious morality, they focus on the issue of harms! If you are religious, I respect your choice. Please respect our choice of not being religious! A couple of religious sources are mentioned on this website only because the articles were relevant to the issue on the harms of pornography to women. It’s true though that feminists must be careful not to make alliances with reactionary political movements that want to restrict women’s rights and constrain the culture’s ability to move toward a healthier sexual culture. Also, it is interesting to point out that many Christians use porn: In a 2006 ChristiaNet poll survey, 50% of all Christian men and 20% of all Christian women said they were addicted to pornography (Marketwire.com). So, I think that this is one of the many proofs that wherever there are a serious lack of sex education or absurd religious moralities about sex, the sex industry thrives!
Q: Are you pro-censorship?
A: No, I am not pro-censorship. Shouting "censorship" has always been a tactic by pornographers and their defenders to shut up the feminist critique of pornography and turn people away from the harm issue. Plus, when feminists write articles about the harms of pornography, most of the mainsteam press refuses to publish them. So, who is being censored here? This website is not pro-censorship. We favor education on the harms in order to reduce porn consumption. There are many other ways to address this issue aside from censorship, such as educating communities about the detrimental effects of pornography, demonstrating, demanding public forums or discussions where we could talk about the harms of pornography, advocating a civil rights approach to those harms, or the display of warning labels (like on cigarette packs), etc... These are some of the many strategies which do not require censorship. We do not want censorship, WE OPPOSE CENSORSHIP!!!
Q: Why is feminism needed? Women are now socially seen as being equal to men, aren't they?
A: This world seriously needs feminism, real feminism! All around the world, women and girls are raped, prostituted, murdered, and/or -- in some countries -- denied some of their most important and basic social rights. Patriarchal religions are still well present in the society, try to impose their reactionary moralities and restrict women's sexual and reproductive rights. In the cases of pornography and prostitution, the oppression of women is even more dangerous because it is hidden from the public eye. Here, it happens on a sexual level, in intimate relationships, and pornography is central in enforcing that oppression. I know that because some basic societal notions of equality have been established, it can be difficult to understand that existing hierarchy of the male group on top and the female group at the bottom but it is here ! Sex is now used as an important method to oppress women (As Robin Morgan says "the personal is political") and pornography is imposing the vision of patriarchal sexuality. Pornography does not promote love and equality, it promotes the degradation of women. Because of the lack of meaningful sexual education, it is hard for women to understand that and, also, the mass media (which subtly protects the pornographers) bombards women with images of what they should be like, act like, dress like and look like, inflicting a pernicious ideology of "freedom and empowerment" on women. This culture trains women to be sexually available for the use, pleasure and, sometimes, abuse of men. The culture also promotes a strong vision of dominant masculinity. There is nothing chemically encoded in our genes that says this is how men and women should be like or act like, it has been socially and culturally constructed as "masculinity" and "femininity"... The word "femi-nazi", which was made popular by a right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh, represents one of the many attacks on feminism in mainstream culture. Despite the fact that everything has been done to demonize the word "feminist", you need to know that feminism is not a threat to men or the society. The myths about feminism have to stopped. Patriarchy is a system that has historically denigrated feminism. Fortunately, some men are pro-feminism. Radical feminism can help men and women have a better understanding of this world as well as help men recognize their humanity and empathy. It is not a threat to men. Unfortunately, the mainstream media wrongly portrays radical feminists and slanders them. If you read any of their work (for instance, see "Articles" and "Recommended Books" sections), you would see that they are not like the mainstream media portrays them.
Q: Why are you saying that pornography is racist?
A: Racial hatred is still so obviously present in the society if you seriously look and pornography is extremely racist. In pornography, African-Americans are portrayed as subhumans and having an animalistic sexuality, while Asian women are protrayed as extremely subservient with oriental man-pleasing skills, and Hispanic women are portrayed as being "hot-blooded Latinas". Feminists are fully aware of these racist stereotypes present in the "interracial" pornography. It is also worth noting that upscale pornography productions (feature) such as Vivid use mainly white women. Women of color are mostly seen in "gonzo" pornography, a more aggressive material; thus, women of color are relegated to the bottom. It clearly shows a racist ideology! Obviously, the racism -- just like the violence -- in pornography is made invisible because it has been sexualized.
Q: Aren't there also feminists out there who say they are pro-porn?
A: Turning women against women and feminists against feminists has for a long time been one of the pornographers' favorite nasty plans. The anti-porn feminists were here before the pro-porn "feminists". You cannot be a pro-porn feminist any more than you can be a pro-meat vegan! Feminism isn' t about promoting the availability of women's bodies for the use of men. Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings as much as men are. Does pornography portray women as being real, meaningful human beings with hopes and dreams? No, pornography hates and dehumanizes women! So-called feminists like Nina Hartley, Susie Bright, Nadine Strossen, Wendy McElroy, Carol Queen or any other of the "feminists" who are pro-pornography, are dangerous to women's equality, safety and dignity. These women are probably making a lot of money defending the porn industry! They are cruel and have to be held accountable for their part in perpetuating pornography's harm to women. Some of them also defend prostitution as a viable job for women (cf. COYOTE). These "feminists" call themselves "sex-positive" or "sex radicals". As Christine Stark says: "True sex radicalism would mean recognizing structures of inequality and oppression, working toward egalitarian relationships, and aligning with those (whether minorities or majorities) who do not have social or political power" (such as the victims of pornography and prostitution)... "Many of the "sex radicals" are white, privileged academics who have made their careers championing the exploitation of women by regurgitating age-old woman-blaming lies." (Not for Sale; 2004). Other women who defend pornography have become pornographers themselves (the overwhelming majority of pornographers are still men though) and are hurting many women by doing so. When some women defend pornography and prostitution, it means nothing other than an adhesion to the powerful oppressor... Real feminists are stronger than that: they rebel against the oppressor! The pro-porn "feminists" are also often unfairly magnified by the mainstream media and endlessly propped up by pornographers and industry defenders.
Q: Aren't there more women who are using pornography nowadays?
A: It is true that women's use of pornography has somewhat increased in the last ten years. Although, pornographers and the mass media would like us to believe that women like pornography as much as men do or that they would if they were less "prudish", the vast majority of porn consumers are still men and the industry knows it! Researcher Robert Jensen says that while interviewing pornography producers and sellers over the past decade, he has always asked what percentage of consumers were men. The lowest figure anyone has ever given him is 80 percent (Getting Off; 2007). At the 2006 Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas, producers and distributors Jensen interviewed at this convention all estimated their clientele was 80 to 90 percent men (Robert Jensen, Article Noxxxious fumes: As porn turns more mainstream, the images it produces are more degrading; February 9, 2006). Most pornography users are men. That is why pornography keeps reflecting the male supremacist "fantasy" of domination-subordination that is pervasive in the culture and that is why pornography is so relentlessly misogynistic.
Q: Is there not a way to make some woman-friendly porn? I actually heard that some feminist porn exists, doesn't it?
A: It is understandable that in a society with a mass-mediated culture which celebrates pornography, there would be interest in countering the misogynistic and racist images with healthier depictions of sexuality. And such idea appears to be understandable when so many people have been socially trained to consume images for their own sexuality (instead of having a sexuality of their own that does not rely on images). But you have to consider these facts: - Number 1: The most important thing at the moment is to communicate with others in order to go against the pornographized culture and change it. We have to talk honestly about the sex/gender crisis we face, along with the epidemic of violence against women and children. We have to Say No to Porn! - Number 2: the word "pornography" (derived from the Greek words "Porne" and "Graphos") originally means the "depictions of the lowest whores" (see my "Definition" section on this website) so pornography cannot be changed no matter how much some "feminists" are trying to change it. It will always be misogynistic and it will always be the representation of women as being "the lowest type of whores". As for the so-called feminist porn, it doesn't change from the domination-subordination dynamics of the heterosexual male-targeted pornography. Consider one title for instance: "O the Power of Submission" by Nina Hartley. "Feminist porn", "porn for women", or "porn for couples" are just cheap attempts by pornographers at marketing pornography to women and making more money. There is no doubt that there is a place for creative thoughts of a healthier sexuality in the culture's struggle for justice and equality between sexes. But, a healthy depiction of sexuality shouldn't be called "pornography"; maybe in a non-patriarchal society, it would be called "erotica" instead (see the bottom of the "Definition" section on this website for the difference between "pornography" and "erotica"). However, in a patriarchal and capitalist society, this "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" idea of wanting 'feminist erotica' as a so-called solution to the problem, is a pure waste of time. Misogynistic porn (which is the type of sexual material that most men want to see and masturbate to) isn't going to go away so easily, and women and children will continue to be harmed. There are so many more urgent things and so many more struggles to overcome before we are able to live in a non-patriarchal society and maybe think about such things as any "egalitarian forms of erotic arts"!!! Indeed, thinking about such things before the overthrow of the whole patriarchy itself happens, is nothing other than capitulation! And it is insane! Considering and confronting the harms of pornography and prostitution to women and children, and working toward the building of a new non-patriarchal world, are paramount causes!!! As Gail Dines pointed out at the 2007 feminist anti-porn conference, we live in an "image based culture" (i.e. any thing, to be valuable, has to be made into an image) and the answer to stopping porn culture is not more images. Personally, I feel A LOT MORE FREE without having images or so-called "art" control my life and/or sexuality!
Q: How about gay and lesbian pornography? Are feminists against those genres too?
A: Feminists are against all forms of pornography because, sadly, the vast majority of commercial gay male pornography mimics the domination/subordination dynamic of straight porn. So does much of the lesbian pornography. Those genres are also harmful and should be dealt with. Radical feminists are pro-gays and pro-lesbians just as much they are pro-heterosexuals and bisexuals, they are just against any form of pornography. Also, homophobia is sometimes expressed through dialogues in heterosexual pornography.
Q: Look, is there really a link that has been scientifically proven between pornography and rape?
A: Contrary to what their opponents say, feminists have never made the assertion that there was a clear "scientific proof" that pornography causes rape. Human behavior is far too complex to make such simplistic claims. Even Diana E. H. Russell, in her causal model "Pornography as a Cause of Rape", agrees that pornography alone does not cause rape; she explains the role of pornography in rape only in a case of "multiple causation". The question we should ask is not "Does pornography cause rape?" but "Is pornography ever a factor implicated in rape?" instead. Lucky for us, not all pornography users rape women. However, the empirical social science studies which have been carried out combined with the testimonies of women, children, rape crisis center workers, battered women's shelter workers and people working with sex offenders lead us to believe that there is indeed a link between pornography and sexual violence.
Q: You are complaining that pornography harms women, but doesn't it harm men too?
A: It is true that women and children are the ones who are harmed the most by pornography but, it indeed also harms the men who use it: It gives them a fake sense of control; It makes them addicted to it; it raises their sexual expectations of women; it impairs their ways of interacting with women; it often destroys their intimacy; and it disconnects them from real meaningful romantic relationships. Pornography's harms to its users is also explained on this website. From childhood on, many men are socialized and trained to a masculinity which encourages them to suppress their emotional reactions and feelings ("be a man" so the saying goes); then they often learn sex from pornography which reinforces a masculinity based on conquest and control. As professor Chyng Sun says: "Pornography encourages people to disregard others' pain for one's own pleasure." Men should save themselves by being human beings and have empathy for women, who are human beings too and who should have the same rights as men in this world. Men also have to recognize their humanity...
Also, while we consider that women (and sometimes children) are harmed in the making of pornography, it is important to consider that some male perfomers who are used in the gay pornography are also harmed in the making of it (See Christopher Kendall and Rus E. Funk, "Gay Male Pornography's "Actors": When "Fantasy" isn't", in Melissa Farley Ed., Prostitution, Trafficking, and Traumatic Stress; 2003).
Q: What about the First Amendment? Isn't pornography protected as "free speech"?
A: Three points: (1) All interpretations of the First Amendment allow people to seek justice, in the form of damages for the predictable effects of harmful speech. For example, libel law allows people to seek damages when false and defamatory claims are made about them, and no one claims it violates the First Amendment.
(2) If pornography is protected by the First Amendment, then so should be the speech of the victims of pornography and the speech of the radical feminists who want to educate people on the harms of pornography.
(3) Pornographers are no "heroes" of the First Amendment; they have bought it! With their money, they have silenced others in order to carry on their cruel business: for instances, when feminist authors against pornography want to get published in the mainstream press, they are turned down; the ACLU, who always protects the pornographers in court, takes money from them. In 1982, when child pornography was ruled illegal by the Supreme Court, the ACLU defended child pornography as freedom of speech during the whole litigation. More recently, in early 2007, when Charles Rust-Tierney, a prominent former member of the ACLU, was caught for possession of child pornography, most of the mainstream press remained silent on the case, in order to protect the ACLU's reputation. Everything has been done in the mainstream media to protect the pornographers and their defenders. It's not because there is a Hollywood scam such as "The People Vs. Larry Flynt" which has been made and that this film portrays the publisher of the misogynist and racist pornographic magazine Hustler as a "First Amendment hero" that it means pornographers are First Amendment heroes, they are not! They aren't even heroes! They are ruthless woman-hating and capitalist pimps! In a male-supremacist, capitalist society, the First Amendment protects only those who can excercise the rights it protects. Where are women's freedom of speech in all of this? This website isn't arguing whether pornography should be protected by the First Amendment or not. The facts that this website shows is how pornography keeps women and other people who have been harmed from excercising their rights to free speech.
Q: What is your opinion on the 1985 Attorney General's Commission?
A: The 1985 Attorney General's Commission on Pornography took extensive testimony from scores of survivors of all kinds of real abuse and investigated more seriously the effects of pornography than the 1970 President's Commission had done (See the two testimonies of researcher Edward Donnerstein in In Harm's Way: The Pornography Civil Rights hearings -- "The Minneapolis Hearings" and "Indiannapolis: Appendices" -- for a professional point of view on the 1970 President's Commission). The 1985 Attorney General' Commission was widely demonized right on purpose to protect the pornographers. It became later named "the Meese Commission" by a hostile press in order to discredit it by associating it with an almost universally despised man who did announce the inquiry's formation but did not originate it and did virtually nothing with its results (See Catharine MacKinnon, "The Roar on the Other Side of Silence", in InHarm's Way; 1997). No matter what you may think of the 1985 Attorney General's Commission on pornography, it was a great opportunity for women and children to speak of the harms of pornography. Although the Commission was unable to find a definition of pornography that did not duplicate the "obscenity" definition, some of the social science which was made on pornography and some of the victims' testimony are shown in the 1986 Final Report. Moreover, researcher Dr. Diana Russell explained and gave her insight about why some of the social science experts copped out and downplayed the significance of their own research at their testimony at the Commission and after that (See "The Experts cop out", in Diana Russell, Making Violence Sexy; 1993) . Also, saying that the 1986 Final Report of the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography holds some truth about the harms of this industry doesn't mean supporting any of the religious opinions against pornography that some of the members of this commission might have believed. Things should be clear about that: WE DO NOT CARE ABOUT ANY RELIGIOUS POSITION ON PORNOGRAPHY!
Q: So you agree with what the radical feminists Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon were saying about pornography?
A: Dworkin and MacKinnon have been demonized the most probably because precisely they were the ones who wrote the anti-pornography ordinance which (had it become a law) would have allowed any person harmed by pornography to sue for damage. Before starting reading the books of Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon, I was expecting them to be "extremists" as some of the critics I had read about them had said; but, as I read their works, I noticed that it was certainly not the case: MacKinnon and Dworkin were probably two of the most courageous feminists in history. They were not anti-sex. They always wanted the best for women: dignity, equality and freedom from abuse. I can't understand why some people call MacKinnon and Dworkin "anti-feminists"; both MacKinnon and Dworkin represent feminism at its highest, its core value. Also, many of the people who criticize Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin cannot even quote one paragraph of their work properly. Professor MacKinnon has for a long time known what pornography is all about, how much it harms women, and so had the late Andrea Dworkin; she had for a long time understood this whole dangerous plot against women (that is pornography). Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon have been slandered so many times in order to protect the pornography business precisely because they knew what the whole thing was all about. And also, admiring the literary and political works of Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon doesn't mean agreeing with every single thing they've said or written.
Q: But didn't Andrea Dworkin say that all intercourse was rape?
A: Andrea Dworkin's critics interpreted (and sometimes even falsely quoted) her book Intercourse as claiming that "All heterosexual intercourse is rape", or more generally that the anatomical features of sexual intercourse make it intrinsically harmful to women's equality. The fact is that she never said or wrote that and she rejected such interpretation of her book. In a 1995 interview by the British novelist Michael Moorcock for New Statesman & Society (London, England), when the interviewer asked her: "After Right-Wing Women and Ice and Fire you wrote Intercource. Another book which helped me clarify confusions about my own sexual relationships. You argue that attitudes to conventional sexual intercourse enshrine and perpetuate sexual inequality. Several reviewers accused you of saying that all intercourse was rape. I haven't found a hint of that anywhere in the book. Is that what you are saying?", Dworkin replied: "No, I wasn't saying that and I didn't say that, then or ever. There is a long section in Right-Wing Women on intercourse in marriage. My point was that as long as the law allows statutory exemption for a husband from rape charges, no married woman has legal protection from rape. I also argued, based on a reading of our laws, that marriage mandated intercourse--it was compulsory, part of the marriage contract. Under the circumstances, I said, it was impossible to view sexual intercourse in marriage as the free act of a free woman. I said that when we look at sexual liberation and the law, we need to look not only at which sexual acts are forbidden, but which are compelled. The whole issue of intercourse as this culture's penultimate expression of male dominance became more and more interesting to me. In Intercourse I decided to approach the subject as a social practice, material reality. This may be my history, but I think the social explanation of the "all sex is rape" slander is different and probably simple. Most men and a good number of women experience sexual pleasure in inequality. Since the paradigm for sex has been one of conquest, possession, and violation, I think many men believe they need an unfair advantage, which at its extreme would be called rape. I don't think they need it. I think both intercourse and sexual pleasure can and will survive equality. It's important to say, too, that the pornographers, especially Playboy, have published the "all sex is rape" slander repeatedly over the years, and it's been taken up by others like Time who, when challenged, cannot cite a source in my work."
(Source: nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/MoorcockInterview.html) Whether you agree or disagree with her views, Andrea Dworkin never said that all heterosexual (or homosexual) intercourse was rape, OK?!
Q: But didn't Andrea Dworkin hate men?
A: At her speech given at the Midwest Regional Conference of the National Organization for Changing Men in the fall of 1983 in St Paul (Minnesota), there was an audience of about 500 men, with scattered women. Dworkin told them: "I came here today because I don't believe that rape is inevitable or natural. If I did, I would have no reason to be here. If I did, my political practice would be different than it is. Have you ever wondered why we [women] are not just in armed combat against you [men]? It's not because there's a shortage of kitchen knives in this country. It is because we believe in your humanity, against all the evidence."
Does she sound like a man-hater to you? If you have any other question about Andrea Dworkin, you can check her
Q: If you don't like porn, you don't have to watch it, so where's the problem?
A: I wish it were that easy. Unfortunately, even if you don't like porn you still have to deal with with these things, for example, when you are a woman:
-- If you are a student, you have to deal with a male professor who compulsively uses pornography featuring "schoolgirls" at home;
-- At work, you have to put up with the porn images on your colleagues' computers or the porn magazines left (sometimes wide open) on the desk;
-- When you're driving, you can see porno stores, billboards for strip clubs, or porn movies being played on the screen at the back of the SUV next to you while you're stopped at the red light;
-- Sitting at a party in some friend's house, you have to put up with men showing the new porn pics they' ve got on their mobile phones to their pals sitting next to you;
-- Checking your e-mails, you find porn spams in your inbox;
-- Today, you cannot even look at a magazine's stand that does not have men's magazine covers with something like "Porn star sex, in your front room" written on them, or women's magazine covers with "X-rated confessions" written on them.
-- When you turn on the TV, sometimes you struggle to find a TV program in which women are not objectified: From music videos, to TV shows, to films, etc. it's everywhere!;
-- When you are single, you have to worry about the new man you are going to meet: if he will be good for you, or if it's gonna be someone who will be obsessed with porn and will want sex with you on the first date or just use you sexually for a little while and then tell you that he's not ready for a serious relationship;
-- When you have a boyfriend or husband who uses pornography, you have to put up with him asking you persistently that you completely shave your genitals, try anal sex, give him more oral sex than he gives you, or let him tie you up to the bed. You keep telling him "No, I won't do those things" but that doesn't matter, he keeps asking because he has learned from pornographic films and magazines that "No" might mean "yes" if he insists a bit harder and that if you try those things, you will like them" so he keeps harassing you!!!
-- If you have children, you have to hope that your son won't be attracted to porn when he grows up (and won't treat women badly) and that there will be a man (in the future) left for your daughter (when she grows up) who doesn't use porn so she won't be treated badly.
The effects of pornography don't stay in the private sphere!!! So, we have no choice but to raise the issue in the public sphere!
Q: OK, I've been reading through many sections of your website and I understand the harms of pornography but, what can I do?
A: The first thing you can do is to stop using pornography (if you are using it) or refuse to have it around you. You may want to consider refusing to date somebody who uses porn if you are single.
-- If you are a woman who is in a relationship, you may ask your partner to stop using porn; If he refuses, then you should try to find out if he prefers you or the pornography and if you are really willing to face the harms if they occur (such as him trying to pressure you into engaging in sex acts that you do not want to do, or him disconnecting from you intimately and being obsessed with pornographic images); You may tell him that you will choose to end the relationship if he doesn't stop using porn but it's up to you; you may also want to try to explain to him the harm issue and show him the anti-pornography websites and books. If your partner says he's stopping using pornography when you ask him to do so, you have to make sure he doesn't do it behind your back: For that, you could read some of the recommanded books listed on this website (See "Recommended Books" section) because many of them would explain to you the effects of pornography so you would be able to notice the possible kind of behavior he would have if he used porn behind your back.
-- If you are a man, this is an advice (take it or leave it): Stop using pornography. As Rebecca Whisnant says: "Throw it away and start dreaming your own dreams about sex, women, men, and joy. Don't let this vicious industry lead you around by your dick. Don't kid yourself saying "Well, I don't look at the really bad stuff. The woman doesn't look abused. Look, there she is having an orgasm" Take yourself, and her, more seriously than that." ("Confronting Pornography", in Not for Sale; 2004). Don't forget that the women in pornography, on the set as well as in interviews, are ACTING whatever the pornographers or the media want them to act. All the pornographers want is to make money: they do not care if a porn actress gets harmed on the set just as much as they do not care if a porn consumer is so addicted to pornography that he cannot be in true intimacy with his partner. As the pornography industry flourishes, users ask for increasingly rougher, more violent and more cruel material. If you use pornography, you are creating the demand for it and at the same time the incentive for pornographers to mistreat women even more. No matter how much they lie to you in order to protect their business, this is what is happening: The more you are using pornography, the more you are getting disconnected from your humanity and your capacity for empathy is dying... STOP USING PORNOGRAPHY!!! Stop letting it control you and map out your sex life. If your friends want to call you a wimp because you don't use pornography, well just tell them that you don't need those videos or magazines to be happy sexually. You know better than that...
-- Whether you are a man or woman, if you are ready to declare that you won't use pornography or (knowingly) have an intimate relationship with someone who does, you may TAKE THE NO-PORN PLEDGE.
What we all can do is refuse to capitulate to the pornography industry. We can speak out against the misogyny and racism in the images. We can ask critical questions about its effects on women and men, girls and boys. We can refuse to back down when pornography supporters call us prudes. We can demand changed behavior from men. And beyond that, we can begin to strategize about possible uses of public policy to address the harms of pornography without any recourse to censorship.
In the 1980's, a new legal strategy that identified pornography as a civil-rights issue for women was developed, leading to an ordinance that would put the power to hold pornographers accountable in the hands of women -- not police and prosecutors. Although the ordinance never became law, some aspects of that approach potentially could be adapted to the current cultural landscape. Any political project requires public education and organizing-helping people deepen their understanding, and then creating vehicles for change. At this point in the struggle, we have a lot of public education to do, in a culture in which pornography has become so normalized and mainstream. Questions about legislative and legal strategies are being discussed, as are direct-action strategies. This is a creative time in the movement for adapting past strategies and creating new ones as more and more people get together in groups to organize.
You may also want to read some of the anti-porn literature and create an anti-pornography website/blog like I did.
If you want to get involved into some anti-pornography activism, here is what you can do:
-- If you live in the U.S.: you can contact the Feminist Anti-pornography Movement at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and ask them for more information;
-- If you live in the U.K.: you can contact Object at email@example.com or Anti-Porn UK at firstname.lastname@example.org (if you live in England); the Scottish Women Against Pornography at email@example.com or the Scottish Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation at firstname.lastname@example.org (if you live in Scotland) and ask them for more information.