Life in America: The Reagan Years, A Webography

Anti-Pornography Feminism: A Very Short Introduction

Radical feminist opponents of pornography—such as Andrea Dworkin, Catharine MacKinnon, Robin Morgan, Diana Russell, Alice Schwarzer, and Robert Jensen—argue that pornography is harmful to women, and constitutes strong causality or facilitation of violence against women.

Anti-pornography feminists, notably Catherine MacKinnon, charge that the production of pornography entails physical, psychological, and/or economic coercion of the women who perform and model in it. This is said to be true even when the women are being presented as enjoying themselves.  It is also argued that much of what is shown in pornography is abusive by its very nature. Gail Dines holds that pornography, exemplified by gonzo pornography, is becoming increasingly violent and that women who perform in pornography are brutalized in the process of its production.

Anti-pornography feminists point to the testimony of well known participants in pornography, such as Traci Lords and Linda Boreman, and argue that most female performers are coerced into pornography, either by somebody else, or by an unfortunate set of circumstances. The feminist anti-pornography movement was galvanized by the publication of Ordeal, in which Linda Boreman (who under the name of "Linda Lovelace" had starred in Deep Throat) stated that she had been beaten, raped, and pimped by her husband Chuck Traynor, and that Traynor had forced her at gunpoint to make scenes in Deep Throat, as well as forcing her, by use of both physical violence against Boreman as well as emotional abuse and outright threats of violence, to make other pornographic films. Dworkin, MacKinnon, and Women Against Pornography issued public statements of support for Boreman, and worked with her in public appearances and speeches.

Anti-pornography feminists hold the view that pornography contributes to sexism, arguing that in pornographic performances, the actresses are reduced to mere receptacles—objects—for sexual use and abuse by men. They argue that the narrative is usually formed around men's pleasure as the only goal of sexual activity, and that the women are shown in a subordinate role. Some opponents believe pornographic films tend to show women as being extremely passive, or that the acts which are performed on the women are typically abusive and solely for the pleasure of their sex partner. On-face ejaculation and anal rape are increasingly popular among men, following trends in porn. MacKinnon and Dworkin defined pornography as "the graphic sexually explicit subordination of women through pictures or words.”

Anti-pornography feminists say that consumption of pornography is a cause of rape and other forms of violence against women. Robin Morgan summarizes this idea with her often-quoted statement, "Pornography is the theory, and rape is the practice."

Anti-pornography feminists charge that pornography eroticizes the domination, humiliation, and coercion of women, and reinforces sexual and cultural attitudes that are complicit in rape and sexual harassment. MacKinnon argued that pornography leads to an increase in sexual violence against women through fostering rape myths. Such rape myths include the belief that women really want to be raped and that they mean yes when they say no. Additionally, according to MacKinnon, pornography desensitizes viewers to violence against women, and this leads to a progressive need to see more violence in order to become sexually aroused, an effect she claims is well-documented.

German radical feminist Alice Schwarzer is one proponent of this point of view, in particular in the feminist magazine Emma. Many opponents of pornography believe that pornography gives a distorted view of men and women's bodies, as well as the actual sexual act, often showing the performers with synthetic implants or exaggerated expressions of pleasure.

Gail Dines said, "'[p]ornography is the perfect propaganda piece for patriarchy. In nothing else is their hatred of us quite as clear.'"

Beginning in the late 1970s, anti-pornography radical feminists formed organizations such as Women Against Pornography, Women Against Violence in Pornography and Media, Women Against Violence Against Women, Feminists Fighting Pornography, and like groups that provided educational events, including slide-shows, speeches, guided tours of the sex shops in areas like New York's Times Square and San Francisco's Tenderloin District, petitioning, and publishing newsletters, in order to raise awareness of the content of pornography and the sexual subculture in pornography shops and live sex shows.

Similar groups also emerged in the United Kingdom, including legislatively focused groups such as Campaign Against Pornography and Campaign Against Pornography and Censorship, as well as groups associated with Revolutionary Feminism such as Women Against Violence Against Women and its direct action offshoot Angry Women.

Some anti-pornography feminists, such as Nikki Craft, Ann Simonton, and Melissa Farley, have advocated and carried out civil disobedience and direct action against pornography and been arrested for public nudity. They campaign against corporations through destruction of single copies of magazines that contained violent pornography that they argue condones and legitimizes rape as sexual entertainment. They advocate rejecting the representations of sexual objectification as exemplified in publications like Hustler and Penthouse.

Source:  "Feminist Views on Pornography."  Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.  4 Dec. 2010.  Web.  5 Jan. 2011.

Web Resources about Anti-Pornography Feminism

"Feminism and Pornography: Building Sensitive Research and Analytic Approaches"

Score:  17

Summary: This article stresses the importance of continuing research on pornography and conducting it in “sensitive and responsive ways.”  This article outlines the strengths and weaknesses of anti-pornography feminism, but highly encourages the evaluation of both standpoints. This article specifically focuses on literature about pornography and other means of sexual expression that are considered controversial. Also highlighted in this article are the psychosocial effects of pornography and the repression that follows. The biggest strength of this article is that it encourages research and evaluative thought on the pornography debate.

Evaluation: Purcell is in the Department of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, therefore making her a credible source of information for this article. She also has included a compete biography and cites frequently throughout the article. The only area lacking in this article is that has not been updated in the last year, but two years ago, so its information is still considered current. This article is a good resource for unbiased, original thought on both sides of the feminism and pornography debate.

"Antipornography Civil Rights Ordinance"

Score:  16

Summary: This Wikipedia article focuses on the different aspects of the Anti-Pornography Civil Rights Ordinance that allowed women harmed by pornography the ability to seek damages through a lawsuit in civil court. The article is separated into different sections pertaining to the Ordinance, including the history, the Butler decision in Canada, the definition of pornography, Causes for Action, and a section recommending further reading. This article explains one of the many ways anti-pornography feminists have taken action in their mission. This site is a great resource to not only receive information on the Anti-Pornography Civil Rights Ordinance, but it also includes links to other sites on related topics, such as radical feminism, Anti-Pornography Movement, and Andrea Dworkin, among others.

Evaluation: Though the author is not specifically listed, there is a contact link provided at the bottom of the article. This article also includes a detailed bibliography and offers further reading. The information may be considered current because it has been updated within the last year, therefore all of the sources are also considered current.

The Subtle Dangers of Pornography

Score:  16

Summary: Sponsored by Focus on the Family and the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families, this article highlights the five symptoms and subsequent dangers linked to pornography. Though this article does not directly address feminism, the dangers outlined are ones feminists frequently utilize to support their position. An important point made in the article is that frequent exposure to pornography leads to decreased satisfaction with one’s partner, one’s partner’s sexuality, with one’s partner’s sexual curiosity, a decrease in the value of faithfulness, and an increase in the emphasis of sex without attachment. In continuance, this article also emphasizes that pornography condones irresponsible sex and makes it appear to have no negative consequences.

Evaluation: Though the specific author of this article is unnamed, the source of most of  the author’s information is psychologist Gary R. Brooks, Ph.D. Because the author has based the entire article on Brooks’  and other psychologists’ information, it may be seen as credible.  This article was last updated in 2009, so it may be considered current and a contact link is provided. Citations are frequently used and an About Us link is also included to provide information about the sponsoring organization. Through citing experts and providing resources for further information, this article may be considered an excellent credible and easy-to-use source.

Women Against Pornography @ Wikipedia

Score:  16

Summary: This site provides information on a particular anti-pornography feminist group, Women Against Pornography. Upon reading information about this group, one can really get a sense of what the anti-pornography feminist perspective really means. Within this site, the article is separated into several different links, making browsing easy and efficient. The different topics discussed concerning Women Against Pornography include: the Formation, Membership and Support, the March on Times Square, the Later History, Campaigns, Opposition and Controversy, Similar Groups, a bibliography, and references. Within the Campaigns section, there are also links for slideshows, Times Square tours, and demonstrations, among many others. Through the use of factual information, videos, and pictures, this site gives an excellent representation of anti-pornography feminism in action.

Evaluation: This site lacks the author being listed, but is compensated for by providing a contact link. This source is credible because it provided an extensive bibliography and listed many references. The information in the article may be considered current because it was updated as recently as February 22nd, 2011.  The information is clearly cited and creates a clear view on not just anti-pornography feminism in theory, but as a genuine movement.

"The Truth about the Porn Industry"

Score: 15

Summary: Sponsored by Guardian News and Media Limited, this article references Gail Dines, a renowned anti-pornography activist. Dines’ perspective is discussed more in detail; her perspective is best summarized when she says, “the prevalence of porn means that men are becoming more desensitized to it, and are therefore seeking out ever harsher, more violent and degrading images. Even the porn industry is shocked by how much violence the fans want.” The article continues on to describe that anti-porn campaigns must be much the same as anti-smoking campaigns have been in the past.

Evaluation: Though not much is known about the author, Julie Bindel, except that she is a journalist, she frequently references Gail Dines, a well-known expert on the topic of anti-porn feminism; she is the world’s leading activist. The article was written less than a year ago, so the information may be considered current. The author continually cites her sources and her purpose seems to be mostly to support scholarly research by conveying information on this topic. There were quite a few pop-up menus on the web page, but all of the information seems to be well researched, so the web site may still be considered credible and useful on the topic of anti-pornography feminism.

Feminist Perspectives on Sex Markets

Score: 15

Summary: Sponsored by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, this site features primary and secondary sources on the topic of anti-pornography feminism. The article is separated by an outline of links that make accessing the different sections entitled: Pornography, Prostitution, and New Directions. The article also makes accessible a Bibliography, other Internet sources, and related entries as links to make the different sections easy to browse. This article is helpful because not only does it outline the core anti-pornography views, past and present, but it also includes the ways in which the movement is looking toward the future.

Evaluation: Even though one of the primary purposes of this website is to gain donations for the SEP, it specifically provides the reader with information to help understand anti-pornography feminism.  While this website is very useful for gaining a more extensive knowledge of anti-pornography feminism, it fails to mention very much about its opposition, or those that favor pornography. The specific credentials of the author is not stated on the website, but if researched, it is shown that the author has written four other articles on feminism; this website is also maintained by Stanford University, therefore increasing its credibility.

The Pornography Wars:  Exploring Two Distinct Feminist Identities

Score: 14

Summary: Sponsored by The Boston College Magazine, Hudson illustrates the way that anti-pornography feminists focus on the harmful effects of pornography on three levels: production, the product, and the consumers of the product. With a bit of a critical tone, Hudson evaluates both feminist perspectives on pornography. Hudson also highlights that anti-pornography feminists believe that “despite progress in women’s rights, inequalities will exist as long as the sexual subordination of women does.” Overall, this article is a useful resource in evaluating not just anti-pornography feminism, but also sex-positive feminism.

Evaluation: Credentials are missing and contact information is incomplete, however, I credit this to the article being published in a college magazine, where including such information is unnecessary. A detailed bibliography is included and the article sponsored by The Boston College Magazine. This article was also created more than three years ago (2006), however, the information seems to match up with current information. All around, this article seems to fit the intent of supporting scholarly thought and research in comparison to personal benefit, and therefore is credible and useful for research.

Stop Porn Culture!

Score: 14

Summary: Stop Porn Culture! is an extremely active organization in promoting anti- pornography feminism. Stop Porn Culture! is “dedicated to challenging the pornography industry and increasingly pornographic pop culture…” This organization is founded on feminist views in ending the sexual exploitation of women through pornography. This site provides an extensive history of the anti-pornography movement and is surprisingly, relatively unbiased. This site also includes links to Events, Local Chapters, Slideshows, and Resources. I found this site extremely helpful in getting an overview of an anti-pornography feminist organization in action.

Evaluation: Though the author’s credentials are missing, her contact information is provided. Also, the information has not been updated in the last year, but two years ago, so it is still relatively current information. This site offers reliable factual information with very little bias, which was surprising for an organization supporting a specific view. All around, I found this source to be useful in researching the history and also current happenings of the anti-pornography feminist movement.

Pornography, Feminist Debates On

Score: 14

Summary: This article highlights Gail Dines’ book, Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality. The topics discussed in this article are the three stances within the pornography debate: the anti-pornography feminists, the anti-censorship feminists who are critical of pornography, yet reject the legal approach the anti-pornography feminists take, and the pro-pornography feminists. Further in the article, the Anti-Pornography Ordinance is discussed, and also the contemporary debates concerning pornography. Questions posed by both sides of the debate include: “Are women in porn and prostitutes just sex workers?”; and “Are they workers just like in any other business?” Another section highlighted in this article is the issue of child pornography; both sides agree child pornography is exploitation of children, yet while pro-pornography feminists draw distinct lines between adult and child porn, anti-pornography feminists find connections.

Evaluation: This article directly cites Gail Dines’ book, Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality and though the unnamed author may or may not be an expert, Gail Dines may be considered one. Gail Dines received her Ph.D from the University of Salford, Uk and has been teaching Sociology and Women’s Studies at Wheelock College in the United States since 1986; Dines is a credible source because of her extensive experience.  An extensive bibliography, and countless citations are included which also contribute to the credibility of this source.

"Feminists Against the First Amendment"

Score: 12

Summary: As a product of The Atlantic, this article includes information on the a feminist perspective of pornography as sex discrimination, thereby failing to be protected by the first amendment. The article also produces details about the Anti-Pornography Civil Rights Ordinance, also known as the Dworkin- Mackinnon Law. This article also includes information on the repeal of the Dworkin-Mackinnon Law, and the journey of anti-pornography feminism out of legislation and onto college campuses. Finally, this article recognizes that pornography is degrading to women yet it does not support the use of legislation to regulate it, because it would “open the door to censorship.”

Evaluation: While this article was written more than three years ago, it has been maintained all the way through 2011.  This article is still valuable, however, because it was written in 1992, therefore illustrating the views of the debate soon after the prime of the argument in the 1980’s. This article may be seen as illustrating the after effects of the influence of both sides of the pornography and feminism debate.

Content created by Carrie Swartz.