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Feminist’s Respond on Pornography (3)

anti porn keyboardThe weaknesses of anti-pornography arguments

Anti-pornography feminisms argue that pornography causes violence against women. In my opinion this argument seems weak in some extent because in some cultures although they do not use pornography, violence against women also exists. In other words, banning pornography will not automatically stop the violence. Another reason is that some arguments from anti-pornography feminisms seem over- generalized and emotional. For example, most materials whether research or testimony, claim that pornography makes violence sexy using an emotional approach. The authors try to persuade the reader to believe that almost all pornography aspects are useless or bad. They conclude that pornography causes the viewers want to rape women, destroy the institution of marriage, and encourage prostitution (Russell 48-62).

It cannot be denied that there are bad effects to pornography. For example, there is testimony that pornography influences husbands to expect their wives to behave as though in a porn act, for example, after watching anal intercourse in pornography, a man wanted his wife to participate in anal sex. The women reported that it felt painful and she became numb and lost her own feeling(Wilhem 46-47). Russell confirms that after watching pornography a husband asked his wife to behave sexually as in a pornographic depiction (53). However, it cannot be concluded that all men who are consumers of pornography force their wives to behave sexually like as in pornographic depictions. Pornography does not seem to cause a problem for those who do not have other sexual problems; pornography may function as a as a stimulant (Kovel 160). One can conclude that the negative effect of pornography works in conjunction with personal problems rather than having the same effect on everyone who consumes it.

Another weak argument, discussed by Russell, is that pornography causes sexism and violence against women, plays a significant role in rape and sexual assault, and promotes sexism. Russell points out that violence against women can happen before, during and/or after the photographic or filming session (Russell 18). How to measure the extend of pornography as a deterministic factor to violence against women remains a problem, however. Russell’s theoretical model of pornography as a cause of rape points out that pornography is not the only cause of males’ proclivity to rape. She mentions that besides pornography, other factors that lead to males’ propensity to rape are male sex-role socialization, sexual abuse in childhood, peer pressure, and portrayal of women in mass media (127). It means that watching pornography does not automatically lead men to tend to rape other people.

The concept of one natural male’s sexualities is also frail. Russell quotes Hite “Why do I want to rape women? Because I am basically, as a male, a predator and all women look to men like prey (120). In my opinion there is a gendered bias in this quotation. It is not because he is as a male that he could not control his mind and his actions, but because the culture gives more permissiveness to males than females. Therefore, sexual behavior such as rape is not natural to male sexuality but is the result of one of the social constructs. My main point is that sexuality is a basic need for human existence. As far as there is no positive correlation between pornography and male domination and violence against women, pornography is not the sole problem.

One testimony on pornography and incest in Making Violence Sexy by Katherine Brady shows the complexity of the use of pornography in sexual violence. Brady quotes a testimony that says that a girl’s father used porn as a teaching tool to show her what he wanted her to do, to justify that the behavior was normal, to show that sex means men are active and women are passive, and to break down resistance. This example shows that pornography was used in combination with the powerful position of the father compared to the less powerful position of the daughter to overcome doubts and confirm male dominance. The daughter was manipulated to believe that women are nothing more than the objects for men’s sexual gratification.

Another weakness of the anti-pornography argument lies in their research particularly regarding their data. For example, Russell quotes some data from Briere and Malamuth research that 25 to 30 % men students in the US would rape a woman. If there were no punishment, 60 % sample from the total sample of 356 students would rape and force sex on women. Malamuth found that “male subjects indicated some likelihood that they would rape (women) if they could be assured of not being caught” (28). The study suggests that 50 to 60 % male students are sexually aroused by a rape depiction (121). The conclusion from this is that Pornography whether it is violent or not violent causes rape (Russell 150). The problem with this data is that these figures refer to attitude research not behavior research. I quote Sears et al. in Social Psychology that not all attitudes have positive correlation or consistence with behavior. Attitude and behavior consistency is always influenced by other factors such as values, economical interests, laws etc (Qibtiyah 15). This theory explains that although male respondents in these researches may say they could rape women in certain circumstances, they would not do it because there are laws or values that control their behavior. Again, for me, not all men are violent, even though most perpetrators violence towards women are men.

Sear‘s attitude theory also points out that the correlation between representation, fantasy and behavior is not always consistent. Viewers of pornography, although they may have fantasies after watching sexual images, they do not automatically behave sexually. Their behavior depends on other factors such as values, opportunities and so forth.

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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