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< Back to question How do feminists view pornography Show more Show less

Feminist views on pornography range from condemnation of all of it as a form of violence against women, to an embracing of some forms as a medium of feminist expression. This debate reflects larger concerns surrounding feminist views on sexuality, and is closely related to those on prostitution, on BDSM, and other issues. Pornography has been one of the most divisive issues in feminism, particularly in anglophone (English-speaking) countries. This deep division was exemplified in the feminist sex wars of the 1980s, which pitted anti-pornography activists against sex-positive ones.

Pornography harms women Show more Show less

Feminist opponents of pornography argue that pornography is harmful to women, and constitutes strong causality or facilitation of violence against women. Anti-pornography feminists have tried to have pornography banned in many countries.
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Pornography perpetuates sexism and the subjugation of women

Pornography is an industrial product that shapes how we think about gender, sexuality, relationships, intimacy, sexual violence and gender equality — for the worse. Pornography is "the perfect propaganda piece for patriarchy". On the one hand, pornography's degrading representations of women embed those attitudes at both a sexual and social level in their male audience. On the other, the exposure of teenage girls to pornographic images affects their sense of sexual identity, with the result that women are "held captive" by images that lie about them. Femininity is reduced to the hypersexualized, young, thin, toned, hairless, and, in many cases, surgically enhanced woman with a come-hither look on her face.
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The Argument

The relationship between pornography and attitudes towards women has been widely debated. A feminist perspective on pornography is that it encourages sexist and sexually objectifying attitudes and beliefs towards women, particularly among viewers of hardcore and violent pornography. Hardcore pornography often subjects women to violent and degrading acts. Cawston believes that the viewers of such porn agree with the attitudes and actions expressed in the pornographic material, in virtue of having a ‘taste’ for that kind of material. Consequently, viewers of hardcore pornography may be more likely to express sexist attitudes and behaviour and degrade women.[1] Gert Martin Hald, Theis Lange, and Neil Malamuth carried out a study on heterosexual attitudes to pornography. The experts exposed their subjects, Danish adults aged 18-30, to hardcore pornography to assess how the exposure affected sexist attitudes. The results suggest that increased consumption of pornography in males was associated with showing hostility towards women and holding negative prejudices and stereotypes.[2] That said, pornography encourages sexism and the subjugation of women.

Counter arguments

Opposers to the feminist approach have argued that the act of viewing pornography does not wholly contribute to sexist behaviour, but rather the very personality of the users concerned. If the viewers have pre-existing sexist beliefs upon coming into contact with pornographic material, we are misled to believe that the material causes and encourages sexism. However, pornography solely triggers and magnifies their already-existing beliefs.[3] While there may be evidence linking pornography with sexism and misogyny, there is also recent evidence that suggests a relationship between pornography and attitudes and behaviour based on gender equality.[4] A study carried out by Kohut, Baer, and Watts supports that pornography users do not hold negative sexist attitudes towards women. The authors reported a significant level of positive attitudes towards gender equality for those who had viewed pornography within the last year.[5]


Rejecting the premises



This page was last edited on Sunday, 6 Sep 2020 at 23:42 UTC

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