Porn and Feminism

On the ethics of (watching, doing, commercialising, etc.) pornography/adult entertainment, we commonly find six major positions:

Three positions on porn itself:

  1. Neutral: There is nothing morally wrong with porn itself, but nothing good about it either. Pornography is a semantic category and, as such, it has no moral significance.
  2. Positive: Porn itself is morally good. Porn is art (Maes 2011) and art is good. Porn is, at least for the consumer, (safe, consensual, satisfying) sex and (safe, consensual, satisfying) sex is good.
  3. Negative: Porn itself is evil. It contributes to the subjugation of women. It debases sex.

Positions on porn de facto, i.e., as it actually happens nowadays:

  1. Negative: Porn de facto is evil, but it need not be. It contributes to the subjugation of women, but it could not; as a matter of fact, it could be liberating to women. It debases sex, but it could not; as a matter of fact, it could ennoble our sexuality.
  2. Positive: Porn de facto is good, but there is risk of it turning bad. Porn is safe, consensual, satisfying sex and safe, consensual, satisfying sex is good, but we must keep working on keeping it safe, consensual and satisfying.
  3. Neutral: Porn, both in itself and de facto, is neither good nor bad. It is too heterogenous to say something substantial about its moral character.

Feminist pornographers take pornography to be not substantially different from any other industry, in particular not different at all from any other cultural industry like radio or TV. As such, they think that what feminism must be concerned with regarding pornography is the same stuff it is already concerned regarding similar industries: that their workers are not exploited, that there is no glass ceiling that relegates women and other minorities into undervalued role within the industry, and finally that their cultural products do not contribute to the marginalisation and discrimination of minorities by, for example, making their experiences and perspectives invisible or by erotizing their abuse, but instead reflects the actual diversity of our erotic practices. In Tristan Taormino’s words:

“Feminist pornographers are committed to gender equality and social justice. Feminist porn is ethically produced porn, which means that performers are paid a fair wage and they are treated with care and respect; their consent, safety, and well-being are critical, and what they bring to the production is valued. Feminist porn explores ideas about desire, beauty, pleasure, and power through alternative representations, aesthetics, and filmmaking styles. Feminist porn seeks to empower the performers who make it and the people who watch it.” (Taormino 2013)

Just as feminist pornography production aims at fairness and diversity, as consumers, all that feminist porn requires of us is to prefer and support feminist porn.

Feminist pornography is the feminist stance from the inside so to speak. However, there are also things that feminism can and does from outside pornography to prevent and to countenance the undesirable effects of non-feminist pornography through activism, legislation, and other actions. 

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