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Feminist’s Respond on Pornography (2)

stop pornThe strengths of anti-pornography arguments

The strengths of anti-pornography feminists’ arguments are that pornography is a system for degrading women, objectifying women, perpetuating women subordination, and often ignores women’s rights. In the late 1970s, in the US, the anti-pornography movements started to campaign against misogynist, violent sexuality that victimizes and oppresses women such as rape, battering, and pornography, which they relate to male dominance, male-centered sex, and compulsory heterosexuality. But they did not focus on a real violence but on sexual images that sexual imagery influenced actual violence (Snitow et al 38).

Radical feminists distinguish pornography from erotica. While erotica includes the idea of love, positive choice, and person’s desire, pornography is not about mutual love, but about objectification, domination, sadism, and violence against women; in sum, erotica is about love and sexuality, whereas pornography is about sex-as-weapon (Steinem 439).

Anti-pornography feminisms argue that pornography is a system for degrading women and causing violence and discrimination against women (Russell 3). Russell’s definition of degradation in pornography is typical of anti-pornography feminism. “‘Degrading’ sexual behavior refers to sexual conduct that is humiliating, insulting, and/or disrespectful: […it includes] urinating or defecating on a woman, ejaculating in her face, treating her as sexually dirty or inferior, depicting her as slavishly following men’s orders and eager to engage in whatever sex acts men want, and/or calling her insulting names such as ‘bitch,’ ‘cunt,’ ‘nigger,’ ‘whore,’ while engaging in sex” (3).

In pornographic depiction such as in Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler also Naughty Neighbors, the camera mostly captures only the females’ bodies rather than males’ bodies. Even in heterosexual pornographic depiction, most women have more eye contact with readers than men. In reality, most consumers are men and the objects of pornography are women. Because most depictions in pornography products, whether in magazines, videos or the internet, are of women, pornography becomes associated with women.

Other strength of the anti-pornography argument is about the objectification of women. There is clear objectification of women in pornography, and a resulting subjectification of men. Objects lack autonomy and lack subjectivity (Beneke 176). Objectification of women in representation relates to the objectification of women in patriarchal culture (Kappeler50). Men as subjects are powerful and free to express their needs. In the process of representation there are two subjects, the author and the readers (assumed to be men), whereas the woman as object is twice objectified, in the scenario and in representation (Kappeler52). Most producers in pornography industries are dominated by male. As a result, women as object in pornography lack of autonomy and easy to be exploited by men as subjects.

Pornography encourages men to use women sexually without respecting their autonomy. The dynamic between gender, race, and class affects pornographic depiction. White women are depicted as ‘objects’, and black women are often depicted as animals in pornography (Collin 100). Collin says that as objects, white woman are powerless, have few choices and are easily exploited. Represented as ‘animal-like’ in pornography, black women can be sold, exploited, worked and consumed (101).

The third argument that is considered as strength of anti-pornography feminism is the concept of systemic sexual subordination via its explicit representation (Freccero 308). Women are represented as dehumanized sexual objects, things, or commodities (Dworkin xxxiii). Dworkin argues that in the patriarchal culture men have the sexual power over women, and that this resonates everywhere. Women do not have a freedom to express their sexual gratification. In pornography, men hold the power to force women to cause erection and fulfill sexual gratification (22).

The principle of sexual freedom is that people should have sexual freedom without imposition and restraint (Stoltenberg 60). Institutionally, sexual freedom should be free from religion, medical ideology and any outside intervention. Personally, people should be free from fear, guilt and shame. Furthermore, sexual freedom means being free from value judgment, responsibility, consequences, and other moral feeling. In reality, this version of sexual freedom means maintaining men’s superior status, power, and rights. It can be seen from an example of a Penthouse cartoon, such as I can’t fuck you or feel anything sexual unless I am possessing, humiliating, hurting you and have broken your will (Stoltenberg 63).

In pornography the depictions indicate male supremacy. The penis is a weapon. The women’s body is a target. Men are superior, and are sex machine. In contrast, women are slaves, subordinates, objects and sluts (Stoltenberg 64). Sexual freedom represented by pornography is the men’s freedom to act sexually and inequality. Although pro-sex feminists claim that pornography is a medium for women to express their sexuality, in reality most women still do not have sexual freedom, because they live in a patriarchal culture that give more privileges for men. The result of sexual freedom must be sexual justice.

To attempt sexual justice, the first civil rights anti-pornography ordinance was introduced in Minneapolis, US in the fall of 1983. This ordinance devised by Dworkin and MacKinnon were aimed at restricting pornography because it is a violation of women’s civil rights, subordinates women and is an instance of sex discrimination (Dworkin xxviii). This law would mention that “women could go to court to try to prove that she had been injured or victimized by having porn forced on her, by being coerced into a pornography performance, or because porn was used in some sexual assault on her” (Stoltenberg 68).

The dynamic between the individual rights and the general rights of the population was one of the main points in this law. The law used the idea that as an individual, a person has a right to express his or her ideas or needs, and so everyone including women is free to seek or use the court for reaching sexual justice. The law attempted to ensure that everyone is free from sexual assault, sexual violence and being forced into a pornography performance.

Furthermore, there is another right, based religious and other beliefs, saying that sex is a form of communication, an expression of affection and love, sacred, beautiful, dignified, pure, clean, tender and gentle. Sexual pleasure is an intimate gift offered to the beloved (Beneke 183). The expression of certain forms of sexual freedom are most often ignorant another person’s rights. The anti-pornography ordinance’s contribution is to make victims conscious of their civil rights and try to balance justice and freedom for each person (Stoltenberg 69,71). Respect for others’ rights, different values and cultures, is an important factor for mutual understanding and peaceful co-existence.

Alimatul Qibtiyah
Aktivis perempuan dan peneliti masalah gender. Ketua Lembaga Penelitian dan Pengembangan 'Aisyiyah (LPPA) Pimpinan Pusat Aisyiyah. Komisioner Komnas Perempuan. Anggota Majelis Tarjih dan Tajdid PP Muhammadiyah. Dosen Fakultas Dakwah dan Komunikasi (FDK) UIN Sunan Kalijaga.

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