Womens Support Project

Pornography

"Adult entertainment" / Lap Dancing | Prostitution | Pornography |

The Women’s Support Project sees pornography as a form of commercial sexual exploitation and part of the spectrum of gender based violence. Pornography directly affects those women involved and also acts as a form of sexist, racist, and economic oppression.  The Project supports striving towards a culture wherein people are sexually healthy and free of exploitation, coercion and violence. Pornography is separate from our sexuality and we do not view it as a form of sexual expression or as sexually liberating. The pornography industry has pushed its way into our lives, distorting our conceptions of sex and sexuality.

Our mainstream culture is becoming increasingly pornographic whilst at the same time denouncing other forms of violence against women.  This is set against the backdrop of the pornography industry producing more hardcore material that is both overtly cruel toward women and yet more widely accepted than ever.

The dominant culture tries to justify pornography – saying that those of us in opposition are somehow at fault, prudes, anti-sex, not “getting the message” or just “not with it”.  This minimising of opposition serve to act as a silencing tactic and can deter people from becoming activists.

What is pornography?

There is much debate as to the actual definition of pornography and what distinctions can or should be made between erotica, sexually explicit materials, and sexually exploitative materials. For further information see antipornographyactivist.blogspot.com/2007/07/pornography-and-erotica-defined.html

The sex industry has attacked anti-pornography work as censorship and concerns over this and other aspects have divided feminist discussion. Diana Russell noted “that lack of consensus did not prove to be an obstacle in making pictorial child pornography illegal. This makes it clear that the apparent difficulty of defining pornography is a strategy employed by its apologists in their efforts to derail their opponents by making their work appear futile.”  nopornnorthampton.org/2007/01/25/free-book-download-diana-russell-against-pornography-explicit.aspx

The Oxford Dictionary of English defines pornography as any “printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate sexual excitement.”  However this definition fails to take account of the fact that not all pornography includes graphic images of a sexual nature.  On the other hand some materials that were never intended to stimulate sexual excitement may be used as pornography, for example child sexual abusers may masturbate to benign pictures of children as well as to pornographic pictures.

In her book, Pornography:  Men Possessing Women, Andrea Dworkin cites the original Greek meaning as the truest definition of pornography, “the graphic depiction of vile whores, or in our language, sluts, cows (as in: sexual cattle, sexual chattel), cunts.”

Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon defined pornography as:
“The sexually explicit subordination of women, graphically depicted, whether in pictures or in words, that also includes one or more of the following:

  • Women are presented as sexual objects who enjoy pain or humiliation; or
  • Women are presented as sexual objects who experience sexual pleasure in being raped;
  • Women are presented as sexual objects tied up or cut up or mutilated or bruised or physically hurt, or as dismembered or truncated or fragmented or severed into body parts;
  • Women are presented being penetrated by objects or animals; or
  • Women are presented in scenarios of degradation, injury, abasement, torture, shown as filthy or inferior, bleeding, bruised, or hurt in a context that makes these conditions sexual;
  • Women are presented as sexual objects for domination, conquest, violation, exploitation, possession, or use, or through postures or positions of servility, or submission or display.”

Legislation & Licensing

Section 42 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010, which came into force in 28th March 2011, introduced a new offence criminalising the possession of extreme pornographic material. 

The Act criminalises the possession of obscene, pornographic images that explicitly and realistically depict:

-       an act which takes or threatens a person`s life

-       an act which results or is likely to result in a person`s severe injury

-       rape or other non-consensual penetrative sexual activity

-       bestiality or necrophilia.

The maximum penalty for possession of such materials is three years imprisonment.

Under section 51 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982, it is already illegal to publish, sell or distribute or to possess with a view to selling or distributing the materials listed above.  The 2010 Act increasing the maximum penalty for distribution of extreme pornographic materials from three to five years.

For further information please click here (link to Women’s Support Project and Rape Crisis Scotland briefing paper)

What are the impacts of pornography?

There is increasing concern about the impact of pornography on our culture.  Parents and young people, teachers, sexual health services, and organisations working against violence against women are amongst those who have raised concerns. Pornography use is now commonly cited as a contributory factor in US divorces.  Two-thirds of the 350 divorce lawyers who attended an American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers conference in 2003 said the Internet played a significant role in divorces in the past year, with excessive interest in online porn contributing to more than half of such cases. www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,993158-2,00.html

Support services and those involved in counselling couples also report an increase in the numbers who say that pornography use is having a negative impact on their relationship. An increase in people problemitising their own and/or their partners pornography use has also been noted in sexual health support services.

Whilst there may be limited research to evidence direct causal links between viewing pornography and committing sexual violence, there is strong evidence to suggest that pornography affects users attitudes towards sexual violence and increases aggression towards women. The End Violence Against Women campaign has argued that porn provides ‘a conducive context’ for violence against women. 

Pornography initiates, perpetuates and reinforces negatives messages about women’s sexuality –

  • women are always sexually available, to anyone who wants to have sex with them, anytime, anywhere..
  • women can be persuaded, coerced or forced into having sex
  • women don’t know their own minds – that “no” really can mean “yes”
  • women are just a sum of body parts, of orifices to be penetrated
  • women enjoy rough aggressive sex
  • women orgasm freely and easily through any kind of sex, especially penetration
  • women are really only valued for their "sex appeal" and undermines healthy sexual relationships

Pornography reinforces negative stereotypes about men and masculinity and makes assumptions about their sexuality and desires.  It assumes that all men use pornography and that its use is somehow linked with being a “real man”, and with a rite of passage in the transition from boyhood to manhood.  There is little space for men to step outside of this limited view of masculinity, to discuss how they really feel and what impact it is having on their sexuality, their need for intimacy and their relationships.

Susan Easton in The Problem of Pornography: Regulation and the Right to Free Speech, gives an overview of pornography as an applied ethical issue and suggests five ways in which the notion of the harm of pornography can be expanded.

  • Imitative harms: Pornography is harmful because it models crimes such as rape that are then imitated by people committing crimes (613)
  • Harms in the production process.  Those involved in the production of pornography may be subjected to bodily harm or coercion (613)
  • Harms to the credibility of sex offence victims.  If the presentation of violence and sexual abuse are portrayed as normal sex then it is more difficult for victims of sex crimes to come forward and be treated with fairness (614)
  • Harms to community morality.  If pornography offends the moral standards of a community then the community can regulate pornography to defend its moral character (614)
  • Environmental harms.  Pornography, like pollution, poisons the environment in which we live and therefore can be subject to restrictions, like zoning regulations, to mitigate against its harmful effects (614)

Women involved in the production of pornography suffer direct adverse affects, The most common voices heard in the media tend to be ‘porn stars’ who speak on behalf of the sex industry and who support pornography and defend their choice to be involved. The sex industry is a hugely rich industry which can afford to fund both individuals and organisations to speak out in support of ‘sex work’.

Survivors of the industry do speak out and their voices and experiences clearly highlight that it is not just a form of entertainment involving harmless images of people having sex. (check out www.shelleylubben.com) Their experiences tell of force, coercion, lack of choices and abuse at the hands of men who are involved in the production of increasingly hard-core, violent and degrading materials for purchase or download.

What can I do about it?

Here are just a few ideas:

  • Raise awareness of the harm of pornography – speak to friends and relatives, write to newspapers, join a discussion group
  • Listen to Noam Chomsky on pornography - repeat his points to anyone who will listen!
  • Speak out against the sexism and racism found in pornography
  • Become a member of the Scottish Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation -Become a SCASE fan on Facebook
    Follow SCASE on Twitter
    Watch out for articles - or contribute articles - to the blog
    Share and read articles on comercial sexual exploitation on Delicious
  • Ask critical questions about pornography’s effects on women and men, girls and boys
  • Demand changed behaviour from men.  You can choose to have a partner who does not use pornography.
  • Protest businesses that support the proliferation of pornography.  You can refuse to use a local newsagent if they sell porn.  Raise the issue of ‘lads mags’ with your local supermarket.  Object to your newspaper or magazine priniting advertising sex phone lines and women for sale. 
  • Refuse to stay at hotels that supply porn channels ( and tell them this is the reason why you won`t stay there).
  • Find out about anti-porn training and events (link to WSP training & events section)
  • Raise your concerns about pornography with the Violence Against Women Partnership or forum in your area.  Information on how to contact the appropriate forum should be available from your local Council.
  • Write to local and national elected representatives to raise concerns about the impact of pornography and the need for strengthened legislation against production and distribution.

Further information & support

For further information on helpful resources please see: WSP resource list  - Commercial Sexual Explotation

For information on support services in the Greater Glasgow area, please go to our on-line support directory.

The following websites provide helpful information on pornography and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation.

stoppornculture.org/
An excellent website with research links, resources and advice on using anti
pornography resources

www.againstpornography.org
Includes excellent list of links to other anti-pornography sites.

www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/
A selection of Andrea Dworkin’s writing. 

www.cwasu.org/
Training, consultancy and research from a feminist perspective.

www.ecpat.org.uk
Website of End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and the Trafficking of
Children for Sexual Purposes

www.shelleylubben.com
Site developed by a woman who was involve din stripping, prostitution and pornography. Highlights the harm experienced by women in the so-called ‘adult entertainment’ industry

www.antipornographyactivist.blogspot.com/
Anti-pornography activist blog

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