• Julia Tattersall

Should Feminists Support The Porn Industry?

Updated: Jan 13


Over the last few decades, pornography has become much more widely accepted, with most developed societies no longer considering the industry as taboo. Although during the 1970s, second-wave feminists strongly opposed the idea of pornography, classifying it as the sexual objectification of women, nowadays, liberal feminists embrace the industry and often promote it as empowering, liberating and progressive. Yet, how in the space of only 50 years has the perception of pornography shifted so considerably? And is this a positive shift for the feminist agenda?


During the surge in technology, pornographic websites like PornHub helped normalise an industry that was previously not spoken about. By making the content more easily accessible, the porn industry was able to permeate our notions of sex and rebrand masturbation as a natural tendency, moving away from its former secretive and private connotation. Somewhere along the way, the world of porn began marketing itself as sexually liberating rather than sexually exploitative, with even today’s feminists being fooled by the industry’s lies. Lest we forget that pornography was created by men, for men. But how exactly is pornography oppressing women?


The negative impact of this industry on women is two-fold, as women are harmed in both the production and consumption of pornography.


Needless to say, women are physically harmed during the production of pornographic content as a result of sexual violence dominating mainstream porn. In this way, pornographers have successfully taken acts of dominance, cruelty and abuse and classified it not only as sex but also as entertainment. Evidently, women solely exist for satisfying a male’s sexual desires, and that both men and women find pleasure in the sexual degradation of the latter.


However, it is the widespread consumption of this content that has the gravest consequences. Indeed, the degrading perception of women in porn can play a significant role in intimate relationships, normalising violence and perhaps encouraging sexual assault. Yet, when online pornographic sites become the dominant form of sexual education, a female’s sex life is no longer the first thing to be affected by the industry. Rather, it teaches girls from a young age about their societal value, setting the expectation that women are inferior in all aspects of life. This notion is only furthered in today’s pop culture, with women commonly being referred to as bitches, whores and sluts by male music artists and the media. Another porn site, Only Fans, provides another example that confirms that female subordination runs deep within our society’s mores, as the women that choose to sell content on the app are then scorned upon by men for working in an industry that they themselves created!


Clearly, the pornographic industry does not align with the feminist agenda and its goal of achieving gender equality. It’s nearly impossible to consider the realities of porn and conclude that it advances the status of women.


Of course, there exists defenders of pornography – including some self-proclaimed feminists – that assert that participation in the industry is a choice, and that if women consent to sexual violence, or are paid for it, it can no longer be acknowledged as degrading. On these terms, men can continue to profit from the sexualised abuse and humiliation of women, transforming an industry built on female suffering into a supposed ethical enterprise. There are also naturally those women that ‘choose’ to work in this industry as a result of very limited outside options.


In summary, the deliberate conflation of pornography with sexual liberation allows those who use or profit from the industry to silence any dissenting voices. Feminists who support pornography have evidently bought into this lie, confusing sexual liberation with female liberation. Yes, women should have the choice to do as they wish with their bodies. However, it must be said that complete sexual freedom for men to dominate and abuse women under the guise of 'sex' can not be regarded as liberating for women.


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