Back in the 1970s and 80s, second-wave feminists clearly identified pornography as the objectification and sexual subordination of women, rallying against pimps and pornographers. Only decades later, liberal feminists promote porn as progressive, liberating and a woman’s choice.
What is notably absent, however, is any meaningful analysis of the impacts of pornography on women as a whole and how women are harmed in both the production and consumption of pornography – like what it means for women collectively in terms of intimate relationships, opportunities for women and achieving gender equality, when the dominant form of sexual education portrays us as a mere set of holes for men to use?
Defenders of pornography assert that women choose to participate in the filmed sexual abuse that is pornography, and therefore, if women consent to sexual violence, or are paid for it, it can no longer be acknowledged as sexual violence. On these terms, men can continue to profit from or find sexual excitement in the sexualised abuse and humiliation of women without having to feel icky about it.
The deliberate conflation of pornography with sexual liberation allows those who use or profit from pornography to silence dissenting voices.
In any other medium, violent, sexist and racist content that is typical of mainstream pornography would warrant outrage, but in pornography, such content gets a free pass because any examination or analysis of sexual practices is equated with repression. Women who do speak about the realities of pornography are openly mocked and derided by liberal feminists who are unwittingly doing the work of pornographers for them.