It’s time for women to radically change our views about pornography.
By radically change our views, I mean views both as in watch more porn and views as in attitudes.
Statistics suggest that half of all women with access watch porn, but there’s still a veil of shame to it. Why? After all, most people, male or female, of all sexualities, are aroused by seeing pornographic content. To be stirred by pornography is a natural human instinct. Since the very beginnings of civilisation people have depicted sexuality in order to stimulate a mutual, if tense, sexual excitement using the latest “technologies”: paintings, sculptures, photographs, drama, arts, music, written and oral literature and so on. The Turin Erotic Papyrus of ancient Egypt (1292-1075 B.C.E.), for instance, feature women and men in rather elaborate sexual positions. Not to mention the Japan’s Shunga. In western culture, some of the earliest forms of pornography are found in prayer books of the 15th century, where in the page margins are drawings of heterosexual as well as homosexual sex.
But isn’t the feminist stance on porn that it’s misogynist?
To answer the question let us look back to 1972 when Deep Throat was released. Deep Throat was one of the first porn films to feature a plot, in this case one about a woman who can only orgasm by giving blow jobs since her clitoris is deep in her throat. (At least she had a clitoris).
At the time of its release it received critical acclaim, it was even reviewed in the New York Times, and Time Magazine called it the “Citizen Kane of porn”.
Deep Throat also marked the beginning of a commodified, mafia-run porn genre which we can call ‘anti-woman porn’. Anti-woman porn is the most common type of porn today. It is thoroughly misogynist, glamorises violence and reinforces the dominance of (above all) the white male.
Simultaneously, and consequently, Deep Throat also led to a feminist stance that was adversarial to porn. Feminists such as Gloria Steinem and Andrea Dworkin rightly opposed Deep Throat with its violence, the mimicry of rape and so on. Deep Throat’s lead, Linda Lovelace herself later joined Dworkin and Steinem to become an anti-porn advocate. She wrote books in which she denounced the porn industry and in her first book, Ordeal, she said, “When you see the movie Deep Throat, you are watching me being raped. It is a crime that movie is still showing; there was a gun to my head the entire time.”
She is right. Such movies as Deep Throat and the majority of the anti-woman porn industry should be legally questioned. It is deeply woman hating and often racist too. Yet while it is true that anti-woman porn is unfeminist, pornography in itself is hardly unfeminist.
And here’s my point. We need to be clear about the distinction between porn and the anti-woman porn. At its core, pornography is nothing other than moving images, photography, writing or other material that serves to cause sexual arousal.
Furthermore, when we separate between pornography and anti-woman pornography, we also have new grounds on which to campaign. Why, for instance, do hotel rooms include anti-woman porn is a much more pertinent question to ask than why does a hotel room have pornography at all. Similarly, asking why your son, father, husband etc. watches anti-woman porn may produce more telling answers than simply wondering why they watch pornography at all.
In choosing to be anti-porn, rather than anti- anti-woman porn, women are discarding centuries of erotic body politic that is not only male history. Rather than repudiate pornography itself, watch different genres than anti-woman porn. Oprah.com has some quality porn suggestions for women. Or try Dusk TV porn for women, or check out something like Adult mag or Odiseo.
Image is Donyale Luna, circa 1966, by Charlotte March.
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Hi! I’m Minna Salami. I’m a writer, blogger, columnist, lecturer and speaker and the founder of the feminist blog, MsAfropolitan, which connects feminism to contemporary culture from an Africa-centred perspective. I’ve been listed alongside Michelle Obama and Angelina Jolie as one of “twelve women changing the world” by ELLE and my work has been used as a resource and case study at universities around the world. Like what you just read? Sign up above to receive new posts directly in your inbox.