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
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.
Pornography harms female performers and models
The production of pornography entails physical, psychological, and/or economic coercion of the women who perform and model in it - even when the women are being presented as enjoying themselves. In addition, much of what is shown in pornography is abusive by its very nature, and is becoming increasingly violent and dehumanising. Women who perform in pornography are brutalised in the process.
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.
Pornography is a cause of rape and other forms of violence against women - "Pornography is the theory, and rape is the practice." Anti-pornography feminists charge that pornography eroticizes the domination, humiliation, and coercion of women, and reinforces sexual and cultural attitudes that are complicit in rape and sexual harassment.
Pornography gives a distorted view of men and women's bodies, as well as the actual sexual act, often showing the performers with synthetic implants or exaggerated expressions of pleasure. Pornography has a detrimental effect on self-esteem, particularly amongst women.
Sex-positive feminists view many radical feminist views on sexuality, including views on pornography, as being equally oppressive as those of patriarchal religions and ideologies, and argue that anti-pornography feminist discourse ignores and trivializes women's sexual agency.
Pornography can liberate women from traditional representations
The idea that pornography is violence against women' can be seen as code for the neo-Victorian idea that men want sex and women endure it. Pornography challenges the ideas that women do not enjoy sex, or only enjoy 'vanilla' sex or sex in relationships. In addition, pornography sometimes shows women in sexually dominant roles and presents women with a greater variety of body types than are typical of mainstream entertainment and fashion. Anti-pornography feminists are also critiqued as intolerant of sexual difference and is characterized as often indiscriminately supporting state censorship policy and are accused of complicity with conservative sexual politics and Christian Right groups.
Pornography should be permitted on free expression grounds.
Whatever ones views on pornography, censorship is not the answer. The attempt to fix social problems through censorship, diverts attention from the substantive causes of social ills and offer a cosmetic, dangerous 'quick fix.' Critique of censorship has become especially prevalent in China, where pornography is strictly prohibited, and the ownership or sale of pornographic materials can mean life in prison. Feminists like Li Yinhe openly oppose the censorship of pornography and advocate for its decriminalization. Looking to many western countries as an example, Yinhe emphasizes the importance of freedom of expression and cites the 35th article of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China in declaring the right to pornography as a form of free speech.