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August 6th, 2008

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09:11 am - “I’d slice her:” Feminism, Pornography, and Sex
my essay, minus biblio

“I’d slice her:” Feminism, Pornography, and Sex

            There is no argument: pornography is big business. Estimates of its profits range from seven to twelve billion annually for the US alone. Canadian profits hover around one billion. Worldwide, the profit is well over fifty billion. Adding other aspects of the ejaculation industry (“sex industry”; Seiya Morita in Stark and Whisnant, 2004), one can imagine the absolutely astronomical amounts (Dines, 2007; Lubben, 2008). There is argument: who is buying it? Men and boys, especially white and/or moneyed ones. People who are self-describe as “porn neutral” and “sex-positive” are always discussing the “facts” that women consume pornography; that there are women making it; that women are just as visual as men, so women should buy it;  that women are less visual than men, so they buy a softer, kinder porn with plot; ad nauseum.

It is true that girls and women consume pornography, but they get the reverse messages than boys and men watching the same product. Seeing pornography increases the likelihood of sexual abuse for women and girls, making it unlikely that many willingly consume it. Pornography is also implicated in the sexual abuse of boys, but boys are socialised to transform woman and child abuse into their and other men’s pleasure (e.g. Dworkin, 1981; Jeffreys, 1990; MacKinnon, 2002; Russell, 1994; Russell, 2006). The average age of first viewing pornography is eleven (Lubben, 2008); I was eight. I don’t remember the first image I saw, or my very first reaction, but I soon incorporated it into my sexuality. I had been masturbating since babyhood and added pornography—in which I include those toxic “romance” novels which train women in submission—as a forbidden, but oh-so-appealing adjunct. Much of the appeal came from the fact that my mother was opposed to it—an immature, common view of transgression which defines rebellion as doing something just to spite the rule maker. I do know it must have had unacknowledged effects; even now, I can remember some of the images and videos. One sticks in my memory in particular: a blonde, pornified (Paul, 2005), large breasted woman is on her hands and knees, head back, mouth open to admit a disjointed descending penis. When I was nine, I began self-harming, in junior high I struggled with disordered eating. Even when the conscious mind forgets, the subconscious and the body can’t (Herman, 1994; Strong, 1998). I used to believe in rape myths, the beauty myth (Jeffreys, 2005; Wolf, 1991), the myth of the vaginal orgasm—in spite of all my orgasms being clitoral—and assorted other porn-instilled phantasies/phallacies.


As Catharine A. MacKinnon (2002) explains, in “Pleasure Under Patriarchy,” which is an edited and revised version of her chapter “Sexuality” in Toward a Feminist Theory of the State (1989), pornography, by definition, practise, and product, is a not a smorgasbord of “individuality,” “sexuality of many stripes,” or “empowerment” but of absolute degradation,  sexual objectification, and abuse of women. She is a major theoriser of anti-pornography radical feminism, drawing on and collaborating primarily with Andrea Dworkin (eg her extensive inclusion of the latter’s analysis from Pornography: Men Possessing Women). I will admit my bias: I love Andrea Dworkin: her politics, writings, spirit, conviction, brilliance. MacKinnon draws also on Simone de Beauvoir’s (1989) woman as other; man as the original and arbiter of “knowledge” and “truth” to explain men’s objectification of women. Sandra Bartky (1990) is also useful in further illustrating MacKinnon’s theory in the ramifications to women in their self-policing. Patricia Hill Collins (1990) brings a specifically black feminist critique of pornography, rape, and sexual politics. Mazis (1993) is also illustrative of men’s motivations for confusing sex and rape, using pornography, etc. Moira Gatens (1996) could also be drawn in, in MacKinnon’s discussion of how sex/gender/sexuality cannot be analysed separately—indeed they very much interlock and create each other.

            To refute major arguments against her position: pornography is not a job like any other. That's similar reasoning to those who consider rape to be similar to a punch in the face. It is not “just sex,” unless sex is abusive by definition. It is not “natural,” unless complex learned behaviours are somehow natural. What job has pregnancy and STIs as an “occupational hazard”? What job has the vast majority of its employees sexually abused as children, with most entering before the age of 16? In what job are the vast majority of employees female or transwomen with almost all the customers and employers male? What job demands sexual availability in order to get paid?  How is rape, pimps, beatings, post-traumatic stress disorder, and dissociation “what sex is”? In what sex does up to 96% of the participants want to escape? What kind of sex describes itself as “non-stop terror for their tight little holes?” What kind of sex consists of “splitting her apart?” How is it natural to be defined by one’s sexual availability to touch, photographing, penetration of body orifices? How is having to fake sexual arousal and orgasm natural? (e.g. Dworkin, 1997; Farley, 2003; Farley, 2007; Jeffreys, 1997; Jeffreys, 2003; Kendall, 2004; Lords, 2004; Lubben, 2008; MacKinnon and Dworkin, 1998; Mazis, 1993; One Angry Girl, 2008; Stark and Whisnant, 2004). For jobs, the degree to which these yield a yes answer is the degree to which the job is sexualised or ghettoised as work for women, migrant labourers and other people of colour, such as stripping and the rape of women in farm work and sweatshops. For sex, it is yes is the degree to which sex is defined as a man using and abusing another to ejaculate. For naturalness, it is yes is the degree to which one thinks white, heterosexual, adult male supremacy is biologically, evolutionarily or divinely ordained.

A huge problem with getting people, especially consumers, to realise what is done to women in pornography is rape, sexual abuse, harassment, etc is the fact that that is what sex is under male supremacy, as MacKinnon explains. Anything that results in penile erection is sex. Rape is theorised as having nothing to do with sex, sex is divorced from power relations, and “sex” means whatever women are forced to do sexually by men. And this force and coercion is not recognised, even by the rapists, as such—it is “just sex” to them. (See also, e.g. all of Dworkin; Hite, 1981; Hite, 1994; Jackson, 1984; Jeffreys, 1990; Jeffreys, 1997.) This allows those who are critical of the ejaculation industry, sadopatriarchy (“bdsm”), intercourse, “double penetration,” and so forth to be regarded as anti-sex; these things are what sex is under patriarchy (eg Jeffreys, 1997). As MacKinnon explained in an earlier manifestation, Feminism Unmodified (1987, p. 6): “What is sex except that which is felt as sexual? When acts of dominance and submission, up to and including acts of violence, are experienced as sexually arousing, as sex itself, that is what they are…Violence is sex when it is practiced as sex.”

Many ex-pornography “stars” want the sex-as-violence materials that were made of them taken off the market, such as Shelley Lubben (2008), who now runs The Pink Cross to help women exit the ejaculation industry, Jersey Jaxin (2008), Sierra Sinn (2007; 2008), and Carol Smith (Stark and Whisnant, 2004). Notorious “porn star” Traci Lords’ films were outlawed, but only because she was fifteen to seventeen at the time they were made. The film in which she was eighteen is completely legal to buy and sell (Lords, 2004). Men have set up the ejaculation industry to allow them to deny the women in it any agency where it very much matters—in removing the products of their violation from the market. As MacKinnon repeatedly stated (e.g. 2005), Linda Marchiano couldn’t even get Deep Throat, the product of her battery, rape, and prostitution off the market. In fact, it is the highest grossing porn film ever. After all, if she is object to men’s subject, what does her actual will matter (Beauvoir, 1989), especially when they can phantasise her will as fulfilled in throat rape? Deep Throat portrayed Marchiano as having her clitoris in her throat, which MacKinnon (2002, p. 40) brilliantly explains as “a surely delusional structure [in men] deserving of serious psychological study.”

Other women in both amateur and industry pornography have their outright rape bought and sold. Men and boys have gang raped women and girls, filming themselves tying up, urinating on, penetrating with pool cues, burning with cigarettes, setting hair on fire, slicing with knives, among other horrifying acts, women who in some cases are clearly unconscious, often selling the rapes over DVD and internet. Serial killers make pornography of the women they torture and kill. Fathers take photos of their topless daughters. Husbands, johns, cops, teenage boys and others record the rape of wives, prostituted women, and friends, which does not to prove his violence, but her desire. Are victims less believed when their rapes are filmed? It seems so (eg. Caputi, 1987; Fielder, 2003; MacKinnon, 1993; MacKinnon and Dworkin, 1998; Paul, 2005).

Belladonna (2007), real name Michelle, is an industry “porn star.” The eighteen year old’s first two films were of her rapes. One was through a director lying to her about the expected scene, then pouncing the actual act—anal intercourse—on her when the camera was rolling. She “consented,” not knowing that she could refuse. The subsequent film clearly shows her in pain, and even features her being choked by the man raping her. She reports feeling “shattered” afterwards. In a second instance, another director, who also lied about the nature of the scene, pushed her into fellatio, vaginal intercourse, and anal intercourse, along with physical abuse such as a man forcing his hand in her mouth and pulling hard. Watching it, one is left wondering how he didn’t rip it open. She endured this being done to her by twelve men.

            The above is business as usual. Evidence for this comes from an unlikely source: Jenna Jameson, a woman who is constantly portrayed as a liberated, rich, successful woman of the porn industry. In her autobiography (2007), she states: “Most girls get their first experience in gonzo films - in which they’re…penetrated in every hole possible by some abusive asshole who thinks her name is Bitch. And these girls…go home afterward and pledge never to do it again because it was such a terrible experience.”

This attests to what MacKinnon speaks of: the women in pornography are not freely there, let alone have the much claimed control that the pornographers speak of. The latter point is also unwittingly admitted by the porn-connoisseur Violet Blue (2008), in an article on the so-called Feminist Porn Awards:  as a consumer and porn critic I can say with authority that women who don't really want to be in porn get out fast, quickly replaced by the next ambitious starlet in line…”

If they are utterly replacable, how are they the ones with the power? If most of them suffer from eating disorders, drug addiction, plastic surgeries, and so forth (eg Farley, 2003; Jameson, 2007; Jaxin, 2007; Jeffreys, 2005; Lubben, 2008), how are they the ones with the control? After all, their degree of success is the degree to which they sexually arouse men according to men’s standards. The women often engage in self-surveillance, monitoring their weight, tweezing and shaving body hair, using cosmetics, enduring plastic surgeries, trying to remember when and how to moan in faked pleasure, etc (Jeffreys, 2005). Here I would add to Bartky (1990), as MacKinnon (2002) explains: women not only fear male withdrawal of affection, sex, and so forth—women have a very real fear of male violence, which results from failing to meet men’s standards. No woman is ever good enough—no matter what she is, she should be something different.

Not only is lack of power a part of the reprsentation and reality of women in pornography; racism is too. Native women are grossly overrepresented in prostitution as a whole, in spite of the erasure of them in pornography. In fact, when they do appear they are usually labelled “mixed race” or Latina. However, inclusion can be far worse. Black, Asian, and Latina women are the most commonly represented races—represented as, to use film titles: Bang that Black Bitch White Boy, Filthy Asian Whores, Slant Eyed Sluts, Interracial Hole Stretchers 6 (Rogers On Demand, 2008). The last film also refers to the massive genre of black men “fucking” white women; the black men are depicted as essentially rapist, with even more ability than white men to destroy women with their “huge pricks” (e.g. Dines, 2006). Collins (1990) argues that the historical treatment of black women is the model for treatment of all women within pornography, which certainly holds credence. But Asian women and men are also uniquely configured in pornography—Asian women and men both are always portrayed as submissive to white men (Kendall, 2004; Kendall and Martino, 2006).

In pornography women are described as fucked, plowed, reamed, spread, destroyed, rammed, throat gagged, face fucked, pounded, gang banged, double penetrated, ripped apart by pornographers who call them sluts, skants, whores, cunts, bitches, ballbreakers, lesbos, masochists, nymphos, cum buckets, playthings, milfs, cocksuckers, cocksockets, daddy’s little girls, school girls, Thai whores, trannie hookers, sex slaves, man-meat loving slaves, teen jizz junkies. They are penetrated, by above all else penises, but also dildos, fists, feet, bottles, animals. The degree to which women are active is the degree to which they “love cock,” “slurp up man chowder,” or “take on any man who pays” (eg Craft, 2008; The Stag Shop, 2008; Rogers On Demand, 2008; YouPorn, 2008). Everything that men have considered women and anything that women try to claim as their own is turned into pornography. In short, in any way a woman can be hurt sexually, she is (MacKinnon, 2002).

            Considering that same women who now speak out against pornography, sadopatriarchy, etc are often the same ones who used to claim they loved it, and given what we know about trauma (Herman, 1994; MacKinnon, 1989; Strong, 1998), it should give all pause in believing that being used as an ejaculate receptacle is “those women’s” true fulfillment in life. Even pushing that aside, hierarchy is the air we breathe, constraint from true freedom and justice our water. If one is doing exactly what one’s oppressor does, for example gay male pornography that eroticizes gay bashing, child sexual abuse, battery, and rape, how does that change anything? How is self-hatred and/or hatred of others suddenly revolutionary when sexualized (e.g. Amananta, 2006; Farley, 2007; Kendall, 2004; Kendall and Martino, 2006; Jeffreys, 1990; Jeffreys, 1997; Jeffreys, 2003; Jones, 1994; Linden, et al., 1982; MacKinnon, 2002; Stoltenberg, 1989; Stoltenberg, 1994)?

People who do or who have consumed pornography—including myself—have the proliferation of misogyny, racism, and sexual abuse on their conscience. But Mackinnon (2005) was right to revise her opinion: pornography is supply driven, prostitution is demand driven.  An eleven year old has no means to dictate the industry; his sexuality is shaped by it. These are inextricably linked industries: pornography is a form of prostitution, part of a massive ejaculation industry. This industry is irredeemably misogynist, racist, classist, homophobic, and rapist. The sexuality it provides is one devoid of any consideration for others (Mazis, 1993), let alone a politics of sexual justice (Stoltenberg, 1989; 1994). To paraphrase Gail Dines (2007), while a male usually does not approach pornography hating women, he can certainly leave it one of the converted.

Current Music: jordis unga

(31 comments | Leave a comment)


Date:August 6th, 2008 03:16 pm (UTC)
Do you believe pornography should be censored? I do.
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Date:August 6th, 2008 03:48 pm (UTC)
I think the Dworkin-MacKinnon ordinance should become worldwide civil law. Because obscenity law does very little to stop pornographers, as can be very evidenced, esp in the US, but even in Canada--the crap that is legal under Butler.
Date:August 6th, 2008 03:18 pm (UTC)

Thanks so much

You are amazing, it so good to have written down. I do hope that you are ok, coz I know how porn is so destructive. I will more when I read it in more depth, yours with respect, Rebecca.
[User Picture]
Date:August 6th, 2008 03:50 pm (UTC)

Re: Thanks so much

Thanks :) I'm ok. I will be taking a much needed break from researching this tho. If you could let me know what you think of it, that'd be great :)
[User Picture]
Date:August 6th, 2008 03:28 pm (UTC)
thank you. ♥
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Date:August 6th, 2008 03:51 pm (UTC)
:) <3 that's as close to a heart as i know how to do, so there it is :P
[User Picture]
Date:August 6th, 2008 06:36 pm (UTC)
To make a little heart you would type & hearts ; only without any spaces in between

I want to thank you for writing this essay as well! ♥
[User Picture]
Date:August 6th, 2008 06:51 pm (UTC)
♥ oohhh, i see :) your welcome! it was my take home exam, so it got me a half-credit for uni ;)
From Rebecca - (Anonymous) - Expand
Date:August 6th, 2008 08:24 pm (UTC)

i friended you after reading some of your writing on delphyne's friendspage. it's a privilege just to be able to read the conversations you & others are creating here.

hello from ottawa too :)
[User Picture]
Date:August 8th, 2008 11:22 pm (UTC)
:) thanks.

i'm from waterloo. i've only been to ottawa for an environmental conference.
Date:August 21st, 2008 02:57 am (UTC)


This is a very compelling essay, Demonista. Very well-written! :)

Thanks a lot for sharing your story and for this brilliant analysis of pornography. You covered different areas on the subject. Very well-wrought work!

I don't believe that the women in porn 'enjoy' what they do, as the corporate pimps and porn apologists would have us believe. Pornstituted women are being so terribly abused and are suffering from severe PTSD. I have read all about it, just like you have.

How is self-hatred and/or hatred of others suddenly revolutionary when sexualized?

'Cause masculinity and male-over-female domination are so deeply entrenched in a pornified culture that fully condones misogynistic gender roles and male supremacy. :(

This allows those who are critical of the ejaculation industry, sadopatriarchy (“bdsm”), intercourse, “double penetration,” and so forth to be regarded as anti-sex; these things are what sex is under patriarchy.

Yeah, this is unfair, and it is a very narrow vision of sexuality. How about an egalitarian sexuality that would be about emotional connection to another person?
[User Picture]
Date:August 26th, 2008 08:24 pm (UTC)

Re: Excellent!

Thank you Mags! btw, do you mind my calling you that?


PTSD is a major factor. As is confusing fear response with arousal (eg both have increased breathing, heart rate, blood flow)

Yes, even when sex of the participants changes--eg "dominatrixes," gay men, lesbian bdsm--GENDER stays the same. Non-standard male-dom female sub relationships still leaves the essential system in place--domination, inequality, harm--where masculinity dominates femininity. Just look at how submissive men are called faggot, pussy, bitch, whore, etc. Men forced into crossdressing as submission is a prominent theme. When men are submitting/bottoms/etc, they lose status, therefore are feminised, allowing them to be treated as "fuckholes," "momma's boys," etc even to the point where their rape is eroticised, such as gay male porn that eroticises the gang rape of a young, feminine gay men by "straight" men. When women are doms/tops, they are still feminised--such as heels, tight latex suits, make up, etc--and usually paid--which shows most het male submission to be a crock of shit--they are paying women to do what they want when and how they want it. Many dom women complain that male partners don't submit, give up control, etc--the old saying "top from the bottom."

I don't think sex has to be an emotional connection like marriage, "i luv only u foreva!" or "our souls are one"--to me, sex has been about deep friendship, affection, "crushes"--but it does have to be essentially about recognising mutual sentience, humanity, wish for happiness, desires, etc.
Date:August 24th, 2008 09:41 am (UTC)
Here from the radical carnival of feminists.

Amazing essay. I will be bookmarking it to refer to in the future! It constantly infuriates me that people don't see how damaging porn has become.

I mean, it always was, but it just seems to have gotten so much more extreme and so much more removed from actual human sexual acts...it frightens me that *this* is where so many people get their sex education from. I first saw porn when I was 8 or 9 - an Escort magazine. I don't remember the pictures, but I remember the story - one woman, two men - and in the end the woman had to rub herself on ice cream because she hurt so much. Yeah, that really confused me when I was young and scared me.

One question though. What is the myth of the vaginal orgasm? I have never heard of that...
I ask because I experience vaginal orgasms.


[User Picture]
Date:August 26th, 2008 08:03 pm (UTC)
The fact that so many people first see it before they are even teenagers really throws the proporners' arguments for a loop--saying it's for adults does NOTHING to engage with the fact that the average ager to first see it is 11, and that boys, and increasingly girls, are growing up on a stream of porn.

The myth of the vaginal orgasm was first called out in the 60s, notably by Anne Koedt's "The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm." it's available online here: http://www.uic.edu/orgs/cwluherstory/CWLUArchive/vaginalmyth.html. Another major theorist/researcher/author/feminist is Shere Hite. Based in part on atleast 10 000 women writing into her, she concluded that vaginal orgasms were a myth. Those women who did usually orgasm during coitus--which is lass than 30% of women--did it through things like rubbing their clitoris on the man's pubic bone, having the penis only be partially in the vagina so the penis could be bent up to rub against the clitoris, or switching back and forth between vaginal and clitoral stimulation with the penis.
[User Picture]
Date:October 5th, 2008 12:07 pm (UTC)
This is a really brilliant piece of writing demonista. I am stunned.
[User Picture]
Date:October 5th, 2008 11:52 pm (UTC)
:D thank you so much dani! i really appreciate your comments
[User Picture]
Date:April 24th, 2012 02:20 am (UTC)
could I have your references list? A lot of this stuff would be really useful for me to research.

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