Pornography Is Oppression!

an anti-consumerist, pro-feminist view


WARNING: This page contains descriptions of pornography/sexual violence.


Pornography is a product created through the exploitation of non-unionized labor within a multibillion dollar industry with ties to most major media corporations including News Corp., AOL Time Warner and Disney. Its effects are profoundly detrimental.

Despite the frequent assertion by unquestioning, unconfronting parroters of pornographers’ sales talk that pornography is fantasy, the truth is that it eradicates fantasy. The consumer/masturbator is not fantasizing but passively taking in the pornographic imagery. In the absence of any active cogitation, the pornography colonizes the consumer/masturbator’s imagination.

To aver that this colonization does not occur, or that pornographic media does not have profound effects upon the viewer would be absurd. A cursory examination of contemporary culture shows quite clearly that media affects thought and behaviour. If it did not, advertising wouldn’t work. Producers are even able to manufacture desire for things people never before felt that they needed (e.g. spinning hubcaps, triple penetration).

So, what is the content of pornography? What are these colonizing images and what thoughts, desires, attitudes and behaviours do they enforce/reinforce?

In its most seemingly innocuous form, pornography is pictures of nude women in postures of sexual access. This type of “softcore” pornography enforces the notion that women are sexually available to men by right of purchase – that they can be reduced to two-dimensional images, consumed and disposed of without a thought given to their humanity.

“Hardcore” pornographic images of unsimulated prostitution aggressively enforce the status quo by conditioning the consumer/masturbator to associate sexual pleasure with domination. Women in pornography are frequently slapped, choked, spit upon and have penises forced into their throats until they gag. These are real women; in order for these picturs to be made, these acts have to be performed upon people. In pornography, words used to refer to women are usually abusive. Not content to limit themselves to the traditional “cunt”, “bitch”, “slut” and “whore”, pornographers have recently introduced “meathole”, “cum dumpster” and many more terms of contempt.

There is no human misery that pornographers will not exploit. There is slavery themed pornography; there is Nazi themed pornography; there is pornography of anorexics and of maimed women. Much mainstream pornography is blatantly racist (e.g. the website Ghetto Gaggers, the video I Can’t Believe You Sucked a Negro, and the hateful cartoons that are a staple of Hustler magazine).

Pornography enforces misogynistic beauty standards, influencing women in and outside of the industry to submit to the surgical violence of breast implants and labiaplasty. Unnecessary cosmetic surgery sometimes results in death. Women appearing in pornography are almost always bereft of androgenic hair. Thus men are trained to see this as womens’ natural state and anything else as disgusting.

Despite efforts to characterize all those who voice opposition to pornography as prudes or members of the religious right, it is the pornography industry that thrives upon moral/sexual conservativism. Consider, for instance, the term “cum dumpster”. Why would a man equate his semen with garbage? Why would the object of any man’s sexual desire be a receptacle for garbage? The term shows the shame and disgust with which we are taught to regard sex and women (who are equated with sex). Pornographers eroticize that shame and disgust and capitalize upon it. “Filthy”, “dirty” and “nasty” are also favorite words of pornographers. Far from celebrating sex, pornography says that sex is disgusting. 

Although it is relentlessly marketed as sexual liberation, pornography is anything but. Pornography is oppression. To be really sexually liberated is to be free from a mandated sexuality that is based upon dominance, submission and consumption. 


The performers in pornography are consenting  adults acting of their own free will. They are paid for their work. It is their choice!

This is usually the first argument deployed by the pornography apologist, powerful because it invokes “choice”. In a consumer culture, “choice” is seen as paramount.

What must be considered here is what makes choice truly valuable. As meaningful work is not readily available to most people, the primary considerations when deciding to whom one shall sell one’s labor are often rate of pay and degree of indignity to be suffered. The fact that some people choose to appear in pornography is largely a testament to the failure, from a humanitarian perspective, of the wage system.

Some pornography (e.g. Crack Whore Confessions and Coeds Need Cash) focus upon the eroticized economic desperation of the women appearing therein. Her need and the consequent power of the pimp over her is supposed to be part of the kick.

A large number (often estimated at 60-90%) of women in the sex trade are victims of childhood sexual abuse. Former pornograhy performer Carol Smith in Not For Sale (ed. Stark and Whisnant):

When you suffer from childhood sexual abuse or were severely abused as a child, you usually repress those memories. You are unable to say, “I am doing this because I was abused as a child and this is all I know how to do. This is all I know how to feel.” … You either totally go a whole different direction and turn your life around and get as far away from that abuse as you can – or you re-live the experience, and a lot of these women are re-living what they know how to feel.

Some of the women in pornography are the victims of physical coercion and/or trafficking. They have no choice at all.

Certainly, there are women who were not abused and who are not economically disadvantaged beyond the fact that they are women in a male-supremacist culture. A few of them have chosen to work in pornography. Does their choice justify the existence of an industry that is, on the whole, abusive? Certainly not.

The consumers of pornography make the purely selfish choice to support rather than resist this industry. It is their choices, not those of the women in pornography, that should be vociferously attacked.

Pornography is just fantasy.

Fantasy is imaginative conceptualization; it happens in the head. Pornography happens in the material world and it happens to people.

Pornography is an outlet for men who aren’t having sex. Men need to blow off steam.

Even if we were to accept the validity of these bizarre electrical/hydraulic metaphors, pornography is not requisite to masturbation.

Pornography is an aspect of sexual liberation.

Why would anyone believe that people are more free by virtue of the fact that they are paying for something? Pornography is an industrial product and the purchase of a product never set anyone free. A truly sexually liberated society would be one in which people engaged only in sex that was mutually desired, enjoyed it without shame and never paid a cent for it. Anyone who believes that sitting in front of a screen masturbating to images of abject debasement is an exercise of freedom has a pathetic concept of freedom.

There’s no proof that pornography influences behaviour.

It would be silly to think that it didn’t. If television shows can influence fashion and advertisements can convince healthy women that they are overweight and impel men to buy “natural male enhancement” products, why would pornography not influence the way people behave toward one another sexually and otherwise? Why is it believed that pornography is the one kind of media that has no effect in society?

There’s exploitation in lots of other industries.

Exploitation in one place does not diminish or justify exploitation elsewhere. If we accept it to be true that appearing in pornography is no more degrading than working at McDonalds then we have an argument against fast food rather than for pornography. 

What about gay porn?

Most pornography is made for the heterosexual market by means of male dominance and reinforces male dominance over women. When other men are substituted for women due to the demand of a subset of consumers, exploitation is still present and dominance is still reinforced.

If you don’t like it, don’t watch it. There is no constitutional right not to be offended.

One can choose not to watch it, but will inevitably have to deal with it anyway as it has thoroughly permeated our culture. There are now pornographic and quasi-pornograhic images practically everywhere, being used to sell practically everything.













My argument, however, is about the harms of pornography, not anyone’s personal distaste. To characterize a feminist or humanist critique of pornography as a matter of someone being merely offended is either a failure of comprehension or a deliberate trivialization.

But pornography is where I go for new ideas. I learned all my sex moves from porn.

Then you are to be pitied. You have the same “moves” as all of the other men who recieved the same sexual indoctrination.

What about free speech? The First Amendment?

Pornography is free speech, but for whom? Not for the women who assume the dictated poses and utter the words of the pimps. Their mouths have been co-opted. Pornography is free speech only for the pornographers; and what do they say that is deemed so worth defending?

That women are whores, cum dumpsters and cock sockets.

In this world, people are imprisoned and killed for speaking out against murderous despots while over-entertained Westerners exalt the likes of Larry Flynt as fearless freedom fighters. Perhaps we should think a bit more carefully about what censorship really is.

I am not advocating the banning of pornography. That would be ineffectual in curbing demand and would probably result in even poorer “working” conditions for prostituted people. Nonetheless, I will point out that the First Amendment does not protect speech that also constitutes act. Libel and slander are not protected. A sign that reads “WHITES ONLY” is speech but, as it is an act of discrimination, not protected. Pornography is both discrimination and harm.

I like to think that the authors of the First Amendment, in including the free speech clause, had in mind such things as political dissent and not a man in a cowboy hat urinating down a teenager’s throat. Of course, they were slave owners, so who knows?

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