Does Porn Really Objectify Women?

"Porn objectifies women." You've heard this phrase before. It's constantly used as a reason to destroy pornography, or to censor it. Here's my view.

I've never liked the phrase "porn objectifies women" because it just doesn't really work. There's so many things wrong with this idea. Just an attempt to put this in point form (and I suspect a bad attempt):

a. Advertising, film, and particularly music video, objectifies women too... why are we picking on porn?

b. What exactly do we mean by "objectifying"? Do we mean stripping away the humanity of women, or do we mean temporarily looking at women from just one angle? If we mean the latter, then everybody does this to everyone else all the time. We objectify the sales assistant as just the person who processes our credit card. We don't care about who they are... we just want them to do what we need them to do and then leave us alone.

c. If men DO objectify women in porn by reducing them to a cunt, as Dworkin says... it does not necessarily mean that men do it all the time. This comes back to the fatal flaw of the anti-porn feminists: they make gross generalisations about how men think, without actually bothering to find out if it's actually true.

d. This sentence ignores what mainstream porn is all about, which is narcissistic sexual fantasy. It's about men thinking purely about themselves without having to worry about morality or reality. In this situation, of course there's going to be some "objectifying" going on. If you're focused on simply satisfying desire, the focus is on the genitals, and the orgasm.

e. What kind of "porn" are we talking about here? Because not all porn is "porn". The "porn objectifies women" argument talks about "porn" as this scary, amorphous mass of material that's all the same; it classifies all sexually explicit material as bad, male oriented, corporatised, fake, and demeaning to women. Porn comes in many different varieties, and it's a tactic of those who seek to repress it to speak in generalisations about porn. Porn for women certainly doesn't do this... indeed, one could argue that porn for women objectifies men. Is this OK or not OK?

It's interesting that Women's Studies courses keep sticking to the official Andrea Dworkin line on porn about "objectification", even though other younger feminists have put forward alternate legitimate views e.g. The New Victorians by Rene Denfield.

OK... having said that, I will say that a lot of mainstream pornography disrespects women, and disrespects sex (I see this as different to the "objectifying" thing)

Mainstream porn often treats women as 2nd class citizens, it happily maintains the madonna/whore dichotomy, and it also depicts a skewed version of female sexuality and female sexual response. It gives primacy to the male orgasm and the male method of obtaining orgasms. And far too many mainstream porn sites, particularly "reality" sites are out to humiliate or degrade women, to laugh at them after they have been tricked into sex. Mainstream porn depicts sex as dirty, and it often sees it as a power relationship (someone has to be "the bitch").

The reason this is a problem is because the majority of porn seems to be like this. It's not balanced.

It's also a problem because this kind of disrespectful porn is presented as something that all men like. But the thing is that porn is created by replicating traditions from decades ago, and it's created without any real consumer research. It's simply: we make it, they buy it, that must mean they want more. No-one actually asks. No one stops to consider if men buy this kind of porn because that's all there is (or that's all they can find).

The big concern about porn is of course that men will adapt their sexuality to be like porn, and that they will start to think that the disrespectful world of porn is normal. I have no idea whether this happens or not, but I do suspect it does have an influence on people. If it does, I think there are a lot of guys out there that have to "unlearn" what porn has taught them once they get into a relationship, and they most likely come to realise that porn isn't sex education. If this is the case, then it will definitely help to have porn that is more realistic, more intimate, and less disrespectful.

I see my role as a pornographer as one of helping to create a better balance, a more diverse viewpoint within sexually explicit material, through my various sites.

When a great balance within porn happens, anti-porn conservatives will lose one of their weapons against the industry, the pseudo-defence of women. They won't give up, of course, but it will be significantly harder for them to campaign against the sex industry when their arguments revert back to the anti-sex ideology which lies at the heart of their thinking.

- Grandma Scrotum, 23rd January 2004
What Porn Is Available for Women?

For The Girls - a women's magazine with porn added. Lots of naked men and couples photos and movies, but also articles, stories and columns written in house. All the content is chosen because it will appeal to women, and the writing has a strong pro-sex, pro-woman slant. Plenty of humor as well.

Pure Cunnilingus - this site offers photos and movies of men giving cunnilingus to women. Also has fiction, sex tips, and access to a number of other women's sites. - thoroughly touchy-feely, this site offers a gentle, sensual introduction into the world of porn for women. Lots of articles and advice, and tastefully shot photographs.

Masturbating Men - 1000s of photos of guys getting naked and jerking off, made just for women. Access to heaps of other sites

Female Fantasies - this site offers pictorial representations of common female fantasies, as well as erotic fiction and articles.

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