The strengths of pro-sex arguments
Most pro-sex feminisms’ arguments are based on the criticism of the anti-pornography point of view that pornography is an important direct cause of violence against women and that it supports misogynist ideology indirectly (Patton 379). Anti-pornography feminisms see patriarchy, violence and discrimination against women as hatred. In their eyes, men hurt women because they hate them. Pro-sex feminisms argue that most pornography is not inherently violent, and that explicitly violent pornography is not ubiquitous, as some have alleged (Small 76). Willis suggests that sexual violence is not promoted solely by pornography but that it is caused by men’s hostility toward women. She writes, “It is men’s hostility toward women – combined with their power to express that hostility and for the most part get away with it – that causes sexual violence” (462). In any case, pornography is mainly words or images; it is not actions. Compared with other products of representation, pornography is less violence than box-office and late night TV thrillers (McClintock’s 114).
Pro-sex feminisms do not distinguish between pornography and erotica. They say that pornography is part of sexual freedom and forms a part of sexuality. Sexuality is a social construction (Kimmel 3), and therefore, there will be different interpretations among the viewers. Pornography is considered possibly harmful, but varies from person to person, place to place, time to time. What some find degrading, others may find erotic. For example, in certain cultures all women should cover all their bodies outside the home, so this community has never seen women wearing ‘sexy’ clothing. Consequently, the meanings involved when men gaze a sexily dressed woman may be different here. On other hand, the presence of images of naked women by itself does not necessarily create sexual arousal. Sexuality is built upon the images, values, and prescriptions in the world around us. Pornography is considered to be a concept directly related to sexuality. “Pornography is about men’s relationship with sexuality, with women and with each other” (Kimmel 13)
Pornography should not be seen mainly as a cause or an act of violence and discrimination against women. It is usually a representation perhaps except for those being filmed. One has to separate representation and fantasy from behavior to analyze pornography, its nature, and its consequences properly; images are not the same as what they depict. Moreover, treating pornography as an act would have numerous perverse consequences for women. McClintock asserts that “Porn is the theatrical performance of sexual risk, ritually staging pleasure and danger under remote control” (125).
Censorship does not solve the problems of violence according to pro-sex feminisms because although pornography is banned in some communities violence still exists. Anti-pornography feminists and conservative religious groups argue that censorship is necessary to eliminate the violence depicted on pornography. However, anti-censorship groups argue that censorship threatens our freedom to express unpopular ideas, to create subversive images and to make radical culture (Small 72). Furthermore, Small asserts that pornography is not the central problem of violence, because violence in pornographic depiction is only on the fringe. He criticizes the anti-pornography argument that violence lies in pornography by saying that violence in pornographic depiction is caused by the violent society. So, “if the roots of violence lie outside pornography, pruning its branches with censorship is a diversion from more vital work” (77).
The solution that Willis offers to the problem of violence is not to do away with pornography but to better understand its’ effects. She concludes, “In a society that elevates male violence as a virtue, the task of dismantling such over-determined male behaviors as rape and other more subtle forms of sexual contempt for women will surely require a multiple strategy, including but hardly limited to a better understanding of how pornography functions in the minds of all its users” (460-461).
Another argument that supports the pro-sex position is the idea that not all pornography is bad. “There are many varieties of porn, some pernicious, some more or less benign” (Willis 462). They argue that pornography benefits women, both personally and politically. Personally, pornography provides sexual information, gives an alternative view of the world’s sexual possibilities and provides sex education for the curious and sex validation for the isolated. Pornography also provides a different form of information that can be found in textbooks or discussions because it gives a sense of “how it feels.” For women it can provide sexual information and enjoy fantasies similar to real-world sex since for women sometimes a sexual life is still taboo and unthinkable in their real lives. Pornography can also break stereotypes about female sexuality and offer instruction and inspiration for women’s sexual pleasure on their own as well as with men (McElroy 5).
Politically, pornography is advantageous for women in many ways, for example, for sexual freedom. Hustler publisher Larry Flynt asserts that pornography in Hustler magazine is not merely naked women but it is political movement to attack political power, religion institutions, and class privileges (Kipnis 124). Historically, feminism and pornography have been attacked on the basis of hegemonic norms that are usually conservative. Minority groups such as homosexuals who are usually discriminated against by the dominant culture of heterosexuality also receive benefits from pornography as sex instruction, because there are some special porn products for young/old, gay, or disabled, people. Gay pornography contradicts what is always denied – that gay sexualities exist, that gay men are sexual beings, and that men may be objects of male desire (McElroy 5).
Pro-sex feminists argue that pornography can be used for sexual information and safe sex education by promoting condom during sexual intercourse, which is a crucial way to cut down infectious diseases such as HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases (Patton 276-378). Lastly, pornography can serve as a sexual therapy, both for those who have no sexual partner and for couples Men more often use pornography to solve their sexual problems (Segal 65). Pornography has no negative effects for those without sexual problems because it can be used for a stimulant of sexual arousal (Kovel 160).