Tuesday Review: Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality

Okay, I know the Tuesday Reviews are kind of sporadic, but I'm a busy woman. I do my best.

This week's review isn't exactly a recommendation, more of an exercise in stretching my brain and my opinions on porn. That's important to do, and books like Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality by Gail Dines, Robert Jensen, and Ann Russo are the background for dialogues about porn and sex work today.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit I read this book for a research project I'm doing for my Women's Studies honors thesis. I'll be examining "feminist" porn and the tactics it uses to address critiques like the ones brought up in Pornography. I'm starting by reading a whole slew of books written by anti-porn feminists so that I can be fluent in their criticisms of porn.

One of the things that was striking to me in reading this book was the way the authors framed their arguments in relation to sex-positive feminists who they called "sexual liberals." The first couple of chapters were devoted to naming and disputing "sexually liberal" criticisms of anti-pornography feminism. As the book went on it got a little more nuanced, but the first two chapters set the tone for the narratives about porn.

I'm probably not going to make myself popular with people on either side by saying this, but I have a huge problem with the divisiveness we see surrounding the issue of porn in feminism. It's a problem on both sides, and I think it's really unproductive.

I agree with the anti-porn feminists that a lot of porn does represent and reinforce the patriarchal gender roles of our society. Including a tendency towards violence against women.

I agree with the sex positive feminists that porn can be a very powerful tool for exploring and expressing female sexuality. I think that any consciously navigated choice to be sexual as a woman is an act of rebellion against the stupid virgin/whore complex.

Which, by the way, is hugely at play in the conflict between these groups. The anti-porners basically call the sex pos-ers whores for advocating for what they see as the always patriarchal representations of sex in porn. The sex pos-ers call the anti-porners prudes for criticizing sex and porn and fucked up power dynamics between men and women.

It's a bad show.

I'm having a real "Ack! I've been identifying solely with one side of this argument, but I think the other has solid points too!" kind of moment.

I still think that the sex positive movement has a more productive approach to porn: actually making porn and REconstructing gender roles in it by altering the circumstances of its production and consumption. However, I don't think they'd be much of anywhere without the efforts of the anti-porn movement to highlight the sexual inequalities that are prevalent everywhere.

I think that where the anti-porn movement reacts to a negative sexual situation in our country, the pro-sex movement acts to change it. That's why I'm writing about feminist porn; I want to see how they're doing.

After that long word vomit, back to the book. I did really like the last few chapters where the authors talked more about their personal interactions with porn and how it affected them emotionally. These three closing essays showed, finally, a much more complex view of how to deal with porn.

I think that in the end these three are somewhat open to dealing with sex positive types (or "sexual liberals" as they're called in the book). I hope that we can all find a common ground. We're all working towards the same thing anyway: equality between men and women.

Cross posted at Fourth Wave Feminism


On living, loving, learning, and fucking with the materials I've got at hand.

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