Feminist Women CriticismPornography Causes Violence Against Women
While researching pornography, and I have come across sources that deal with my sub-topic, Feminist Views on Pornography. There are many women who are against pornography and disagree with it, but they don’t have the intention of speaking out and making a difference towards such activities. But of course there are many other women who speak out on what they believe should be done towards pornography, and the class that women are categorized in by men. And for this preliminary report, I am going to be informing you on facts that I have come across by my readings through the different books I have on such an issue-pornography as the cause to violence.
“Politically, contemporary feminist agree that sexuality is of the utmost importance, and indeed, sexual demands have been present since the beginning of the current uprising” (Echols; Coote and Campbell). Even the best- known slogan of the movement, “The personal is political,” is often thought to refer primarily to bringing sexuality, the most secret, hidden, and “personal” aspect of life, out into the open and exposing it as a major domain for the development and exercise of domination” (Leonore Tiefer pg. 114).
Many feminist argue that sexuality is important, because of the norms regarding “proper” and “normal” sexual behavior. “Women’s sexual freedom and women’s sexual victimization have both been more closely analyzed and more visible in recent years than ever before.” For a while there was a thrilling sense of new possibilities. But in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, the pendulum within feminist writings swung away from an emphasis on the power of the self-definition to an emphasis on the immensity of sexual violence against women by rape, harassment, incest, and battery. Commercial pornography, once celebrated as a source of fantasy and female experimentation began to be seen by some feminists as the representation, and then even the cause, of sexual oppression against women. Despite the fact that many feminist continue to support explicit sexual imagery as offering more positive opportunity than harm for women (Ellis et al., 1988; Russ, 1985; Burstyn, 1985; Valverde, 1989), the public usually hears only the voices of feminists fighting pornography. The length of time female sexual freedom and pleasure were the main topic was brief as compared with the emphasis on victimization, danger, and repression. Some feminists emphasize the need for greater prostitutes’ rights and less stigmatization, whereas others militate for further action against “sex worker”. (Leonore Tiefer pg. 116)
“Negative feminist interest in pornography arose in conjunction with the feminist analysis of rape in the 1970s. The initial blast may have been Robin Morgan’s article, “Theory and Practice: Pornography and Rape.” Mogan wrote: “The act of rape is merely the expression of the standard, ‘healthy’ even encouraged male fantasy in patriarchal culture, that of aggressive sex. And the articulation of that fantasy into a billion-dollar industry is pornography….Pornography is sexist propaganda-no more, no less. Pornography is the theory: rape is the practice” (pp. 137, 139) Many feminists who agreed with her “initial formulation” of the connection between pornography and sexual violence against women, however, they do not support her in these details.
Much of the credit towards the connection between rape and pornography goes towards the best-seller, Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape, by Susan Brownmiller’s. This book contains chapters of the history and culture of rape. In the final chapter, “Women fight back,” “Brownmiller discussed many of the goals raised by feminists in the struggle: eliminating testimony in rape trials about the victim’s past sexual life, getting across the idea that it is rape trials about the victim’s past sexual life, getting across the idea that it is rape unless women “consent” to sexual intercourse, getting rid of the red herring of false accusation, getting legislation passed to ban martial rape, gathering better statistics, mandating more expeditious and sensitive court proceedings, convincing police departments to hire more women police officers and so on.” (Leonore Tiefer pg.118) In this book about women, Brownmiller argued that a “new approach to the law and to law enforcement could take us only part of the way:” (Leonore Tiefer pg. 118)
“The idealogy of rape is aided more than a system of lenient laws that serve to protect offenders…The theory of aggressive male domination over women as a natural right is so deeply imbedded in our cultural value system that all recent attempts to expose it-in movies, television commercials or even in children’s textbooks-have barely managed to scratch the surface. As I see it, the problem is not that polarized role playing (man as doer; woman as bystander) and exaggerated portrayals of the female body as passive sex object are simply “demeaning” to women’s dignity and self-conception, or that such portrayals fail to provide positive role models for young girls, but that cultural sexism is a conscious form of female degradation designed to boost the male ego by offering “proof” of his native superiority (and of female inferiority) everywhere he looks….The case against pornography is central to the fight against rape…Once we accept as basic truth that rape is not a crime of irrational, impulsive, uncontrollable lust, but is a deliberate, hostile, violent act of degradation and possession on the part of a would-be conqueror, designed to intimidate and inspire fear, we must look toward those elements in our culture that promote and propagandize these attitudes, which offer men, and in particular, impressionable, adolescent males, who form the potential raping population, the idealogy and psychologic encouragement to commit their acts of aggression without awareness, for the most part, that they have committed a punishable crime, let alone a moral wrong.” (Brownmiller, 1975, pp. 389-391, emphasis in original) Brownmiller also argued that when women feel a discomfort when viewing pornography comes from “feeling degraded and humiliated, feelings that men need women to have to bolster their own masculine self-esteem.” An interesting idea that Brownmiller raised also having to do with issue of pornography and violence was, “that the same liberals who recognized the propagandistic power of Hitler’s Nazi machines, or who saw through the anti black messages of the shuffling servants in Hollywood productions, defended pornography as a valid extension of freedom of speech and denied that it was powerful anti-female propaganda.”(Susan Brownmiller, 1975) This particular book really set the opportunity for controversy and campaigning against pornography.
You may be wondering what these feminists did besides writing about the effects of pornography in books and articles. Well, these feminists also developed protest groups, rallies, and marches. “In the late 1970s, numerous grassroots feminist groups resisting violence against women emerged, building on the growth of anti rape work earlier in the decade. These included Women Against Pornography (WAP), Women Against Violence Women, Feminists Fighting Pornography, and the Women’s Alliance Against Pornography.
Large “Take Back the Night” marches, which were (and still are) held annually across the country to protest rape and violence and promote women’s safety, provided an opportunity for raising consciousness, arousing anger, and enlisting feminists who would be willing to leaflet, picket, develop slide shows and lectures, and even commit acts of violence against property. Beginning in the early 1980s, the focus of the marches shifted from being against sexual violence (rape, sexual abuse of children, and incest) to first including protests against pornography and prostitution and then to being almost entirely pornography.
The National Organization for Women (NOW) got involved in the effort to raise consciousness about pornography and define the terms of debate. In 1984, as a result of intensive lobbying by members of WAP, NOW passed a resolution stating, “Pornography is a factor in creating and maintaining sex as a basis for discrimination, and that pornography, as distinct from erotica, is a systematic practice of exploitation and subordination based on sex which differentially harms women and children through dehumanization, sexual exploitation, forced sex, forced prostitution, physical injury, and social and sexual terrorism presented as entertainment.” In some ways, 1984 represented the high- water mark for the feminists anti pornography movement. But I shall review one more development before looking at the change in the tide.” (Leonore Tiefer, pg. 119-120) The protesting and rallying etc., did of course lead to court and the legislation.
I really got plenty of information on the issue of pornography and violence through many of my readings. To conclude what I have learned and have understood, I will leave you with a quote from a book titled, Sexual Harassment of Working Women, by Catherine MacKinnon, who is a feminist. She wrote a book, which is one of many writings, about the abuse a women receives in the reality of America. She wrote:
“The defining theme in each of those issues is male pursuit of control over women’s sexuality….Rape, incest, sexual harassment, pornography and prostitution are not primarily abuses of physical force, violence, authority or economics. They are abuses of sex….Sexuality is the linchpin of gender equality…..Without a change in the very norms of sexuality, the liberation of women’s is a meaningless goal….Sexual objectification is the primary process of the subjection of women.”(MacKinnon, 1982, pg. 532-541)
Feminist Women CriticismPornography Causes Violence Against Women