The Anti-Pornography Feminist Movement Essay, Research Paper
The Anti-Pornography Feminist Movement
?I don?t need statistics to tell me that there is a relationship between pornography
and real violence. My body remembers.? This chilling testimony from a female rape
victim to a grand jury in 1983 represents the evils that pornography represents in the
United States. There are strong correlations between sex crimes and pornography that
have divided feminists over whether free speech is worth the sheer magnitude of
sex-crime victims. Free speech is protected by the First Amendment and most people
have differing views on its meaning. One thing that cannot be ignored is the fact that
90% of sexual offenders have used pornography ?frequently.? I believe that the
anti-pornography movement is not only just, but essential. I would like to explore
various aspects of the anti-pornography movement including the history, players, rhetoric
and the impact. I believe that shedding light on the ways that pornography effects human
beings, we will feel differently about the ?freedom of speech.?
In the 1960?s and 1970?s, debates over pornography mirrored the
counter-culture?s battle with conservative values. The 1969 case Stanley v. Georgia,
?community standards? were challenged and the court upheld the civil rights for
consumers to possess pornography in their homes. However, the 1970?s brought about
the VCR and feminists began to redefine pornography to explore the impact of the porn
industry on women and their place in society. Though many feminists were frightened by
the prospect that they may be working hand in hand with conservatives to regulate this
practice, many women jumped to action when new surveys and statistics were revealed
about pornography and women. To most of these women, the immorality was not the
sexual content, but its violation of a woman?s dignity, a lie about who women are and
what they want.
Out of these theories, writers like Andrea Dworkin, Catherine MacKinnon and
Dr. Diana Russell founded and encouraged many anti-porn groups around the country.
Though movements against pornography had existed prior to feminist anti-pornography
groups, they were previously conservative or moral majority inspired. Then came groups
such as the Anti-Porn Feminists (APFEM) and the Women Against Violence in
Pornography in the Media (WAVPM). These groups had limited following because of
the feminist ideology of freedom of speech and expression. Due to this lack of
agreement on terms and standards, the supporters have never been centralized.
Supporters may be varied and polarized but most believe that there is a real problem and
there must be suitable action.
The reason that this movement exists are due to findings of surveys and studies as
well as testimony of women who have suffered from pornography at one time or another.
The studies are varied and numerous. To provide examples of these surveys I would like
to illustrate the findings of several of them.
The first finding comes from a 1983 study by Edward Donnerstein. He polled
male high-school and college students on 37 states and came to the following conclusion.
25% to 30% of male students who admit that there is some likelihood that they would
rape a woman if the could be assured of getting away with it, increases to 57% after
exposure to sexually violent images depicting women enjoying rape. This means that as
a result of one brief exposure to pornography, the number of males who are willing to
consider rape as a plausible act for them actually doubles.
On such brief exposure to pornography also increases male subjects? acceptance
of rape myths and interpersonal violence against women. This essentially means that
porn viewers have lower inhibitions than exist in the absence of pornography. They are
more likely to act out violent desires and fantasies including submissive and domination
sex. This evidence is overwhelmingly supported by a follow-up study from an
Larry Baron and Murray Straus undertook a 50-state correlation analysis in1984
about the rates of rape as they relate to pornographic magazines. The eight pornographic
magazines with the highest circulation are Playboy, Penthouse, Chic, Forum, Gallery,
Genesis, Oui and Hustler. A highly significant correlation was found between the
reported rape rates and the readership of pornographic materials. According to the
findings, a ratio of +64% was found in men who read pornographic material that those
who had little or no exposure. However, out of this survey came more shocking results.
The levels of rape were higher in regions that had few or no laws governing the sales and
distribution of pornographic material. This is evidence that legal intervention may be
directly related to rape in an area or city. Since 64% more men who read or watch
pornographic material would entertain rape then making pornography hard to come by
would certainly reduce the rate of rape.
In another study, Michelle Goldstein and Harold Kant found that incarcerated
rapists had been exposed to extremely hard-core pornography at an earlier age than males
presumed to be non-rapists. Nearly 30% of convicted sex offenders experienced
hard-core pornography before adolescence (11 years-old), while only 2% of non-rapists
were exposed to porn at such an early age. Another 34% of convicted sex offenders were
exposed to pornography before the age of 15, while non-rapists showed only 7% had
been exposed that early age. The most startling fact is that 90% of convicted sexual
assaulters, encompassing rape, forced sodomy, sexual attacks and other felonious sexual
acts, were frequent users of hard-core pornography. Unfortunately, another 4% had used
it sometimes and the remaining percentage refused to classify their usage. The rate of
non-rapist porn use was 12% used sometimes and 6% used pornography often. Due to
this study, we can draw the conclusion that a male exposed to pornography early and
frequently is much more likely to commit a sexual offense than a person seldom exposed
(Please refer to above information for statistical logistics.)
I would also like to cite a few testimonies of men and women who both
participated in pornography and were negatively affected by pornography. In one case, a
man who had participated in over 100 pornographic movies testified at the Commission
hearings in Los Angeles as follows: ?I, myself, have been on a couple of sets where the
young ladies have been forced to do even anal sex scenes with a guy which is rather large
and I have seen them crying in pain.? This is a forgotten angle of the anti-pornography
movement. Not only do women suffer sex crimes resulting from pornographic ideas, the
actual porn subjects are often raped without anyone knowing. There are many women
who are abused, manipulated and drugged for the sake of pornography. Though many
people would feel that this is freedom of expression, it is many times not done of free
will. According to the anti-pornography Commission hearing in Los Angeles, many films
have no script and the female actress is unaware that she is to be intimate by more than
one man at a time or sodomized. Anonymous testimony from the same hearing indicated
that the surprise factor is actually what makes these scenes more exciting for men
because of an insinuation of rape.
One of the most mind-blowing testimonies cane from researcher Edward
Donnerstein after his 1983 study. ?The relationship between particularly violent sexual
images in media and subsequent aggression…is much stronger statistically than the
relationship between smoking and lung cancer.?
In spite of these studies and testimonies, the movement has only gained
momentum in the past ten years as the ?date-rape epidemic? has spread through our
country. Though many people believe that the frequency of rape may be relatively
constant and that the epidemic is actually the number of women coming forward and
pursuing legal action. Many arguments of our desensitized culture have been blamed for
the rape epidemic and so it should. Not only hard-core pornography is detrimental. The
way that women are perceived in the media is equally disturbing. The anti-pornography
movement has gained strength by aligning themselves with other groups. Though the
feminists want to keep clear of the religious right and other conservative movements,
they have used their power and abilities to make some gains in their quest. For these
reasons, the anti-porn feminist position aligns itself with the move to censor pornography
by making its unwanted presence an actionable offense. In its extreme formulation, the
anti-porn feminist position would ban its production and prohibit its dissemination.
For these reasons, the anti-porn feminist group would be considered co-opted and
in the system. Since they have taken some allies on to further their cause, they have
certainly shared goals to achieve their end. They have also started to support legislation
to reduce pornography in many fashions.
The main area that I would like to focus on is the rhetorical strategies of the
movement. The anti-pornography movement uses petition of the establishment,
promulgation and polarization. I would now like to provide some examples of how the
movement uses these strategies and other ways that they use rhetoric to accomplish their
The anti-pornography petitions the state by supporting and supplying the
framework for legislation across the country. Though their solidification is shaky due to
the plethora of ways to deal with disrupting the pornography trade in America, they still
have many different ways to solve problems. The main way that they approach these
changes to legislation is through local government. It is far easier for these various
groups to alter the world community at a time than try to destroy the entire enchilada at
one time. The anti-porn movement has legislation that has passed in many cities and
counties that they use as framework. San Diego, New York and other large cities have
place extensive limitations on the production and marketing of pornographic materials.
The easiest way to explain these changes is by taking the First Amendment out of the
formula. Considering that the main disagreement over the allowance of pornography is
that it may set limitations on First Amendment Right, the anti-porn feminists have
decided that they would attack the uses instead of the theory. After all, this is a fight to
save dignity, safety and even lives for women in this country so any achievement is
considerable. They simply try to abolish pornography in areas where the people do not
want pornography in their yards. This is easy when it comes to a small vote by a council
or board. Most Americans are assumably in favor of First Amendment rights but that
doesn?t mean that they want pornography in their neighborhoods. This could be
considered grass-roots activity but I feel that it is far more significant than simply stated.
Another way that the anti-porn movement petitions the state is by employing
people such as Dr. Diana Russell. Though Dr. Russell does many important things for
the movement, she does one thing that has had a wide impact on the ideas of the state.
She is the nations top expert witness in court cases involving rape, sexual harassment and
rights of victims of rape and incest to have abortions. This may seem small in
comparison to the task that this movement deals with but it certainly is not. She has been
so effective in persuading juries and judges for years that many judges use what is
referred to the ?Russell Doctrine.? This document is a woman?s bill of rights when it
pertains to any of the aforementioned issues. She has changed the way that certain
jurisdictions view cases involving women as sexual victims.
The second way that the anti-pornography movement uses rhetoric to achieve
their goals is by promulgation. This is essentially the spreading of ideas. The main way
that they spread ideas is through their surveys and studies. Their findings have spread not
only ideas but terror to the decent people of this country. The fact that they state that
there is a more prevalent link between porn and rape than there is between smoking and
lung cancer has many people thinking more about this subject. Since the country has
been going through the ?date-rape epidemic,? people have been wondering why these
things are starting to happen more and more. The anti-porn movement has meet those
questions with answers. Since their counter movements have clung to the First
Amendment defense, it has been rather easy for the anti-porn movement?s ideas to be
accepted. This means that there are few or no studies or statistics to counter those that
the anti-porn movement has found.
The anti-pornography movement has also found a loop-hole that they believe that
they can use nationally. The linkage between pornography and sex crimes, if it could
become universally established, would fulfill J. S. Mills harm principle. This would
make the First Amendment argument null because the First Amendment does not allow
expression that directly relates to the harm of others. Though referred to as fighting
words, the J. S. Mills principle limits the protection that pornography would be granted
under the First Amendment. Unfortunately, as powerful as most of these statistics are,
the majority of feminists will not budge in their fights against conservative attempts to
help moral material in this country. Unfortunately, most of the feminists have lost track
of their purpose in my opinion. I feel that they are institutions created to protect various
aspects of women?s rights. I personally think that they are just wrong for ignoring the
fact that there are real victims that may or may not care about the way that interest groups
battle for their good. They only know the reality of what a sex crime has done to them.
These victims know that they have been robbed of their dignity and safety. This seems
much more important than mere policy.
Another way that the anti-pornography movement uses promulgation is by using a
statement entitled ?Facts and Myths Concerning Pornography.? The first myth is that
obscenity and pornography are protected in many countries as ?free speech.? The fact is
that hard-core pornography is and has never been protected by free statutes in the United
States. The Supreme Court has continually upheld the fact that legal protection does not
apply to pornography. The second myth is that pornography is a victimless crime. The
fact that 683,000 forcible rapes occur to woman over 18 in the United states and
estimates reveal that more than twice that number are casual and date rapes. Not only do
90% of rapists list porn as their main sexual interest, but 81% of serial murderers do as
well. The third myth is that if it is in a local store, it must be legal. The fact is that even
illegal materials are readily available when laws against them are not readily enforced. If
the citizens demand legal action, local officials will enforce them. The fifth and final
myth is that there is nothing that the public can do about it. The fact is that many cities
have eradicated hard-core pornography outlets from their communities by passing
effective anti-pornography laws. Dramatic drops in sex-crime levels has resulted. The
best part is that these efforts have been started by only a few individuals.
The third way that the anti-pornography movement uses rhetoric is by
polarization. They have split from the main stream feminist groups for the reasons that I
have discussed in the previous paragraph. The anti-pornography groups feel that their
rivals are perpetuating the most dramatic abuse of women. The anti-porn movement
feels strongly that their adversaries within feminism are attacking ?small rights and
gains? when the most basic human rights of safety and dignity are being withheld. One
opposite viewpoint is patroned by Betty Friedan who argues that what one woman may
view as sensual another may view as pornography. While Friedan does express concern
over some content of porn, she expresses greater concern over the anti-porn feminist
movement. She believes that to further censorship in the United States to suppress
pornography is extremely dangerous to women. She believes that the danger is due to the
fact that this movement aligns the liberal woman?s movement with the right wing of the
conservative agenda. Friedan believes that only the conservatives have anything to gain
from such an alliance. By examining the counterpoints on this issue, it is very easy to see
why polarization is widely used.
I would now like to focus on the movement ideology. I would like to take a
closer look at the ideology itself, the barriers faced and the prevalent ideology which is to
The ideology supported by the anti-pornography movement is complicated.
While they are a feminist group and would not want censorship to prevail, there is
undeniable evidence that pornography hurts women. The anti-porn movement focuses on
the way in which women are portrayed in this medium. They also focus on the way that
sex crimes are caused or promoted by the use of pornography. This makes for a varied
support system for the movement. While a great majority of this country does not use
pornography and would not suffer in its absence, it is still an issue of freedom which
must be addressed. The anti-pornography has one major complaint against the present
status of pornography in this country. This is that women are being hurt by the use of
pornography. While they do express concern over the actresses involved in the making
of the films, they express more concern that this sex and violence against women
perpetuates itself to everyday lives and effects innocent women.
The main ideology that the anti-porn movement seeks to advance is to seriously
limit the production and consumption of pornography. They feel that this is not an issue
of censorship and must be dealt with by legislation. The J. S. Mills principle is one
theory that legislators have used in their attempts to ban suggestive material in the past.
The anti-porn movement believes that this principle directly relates to their task because
it limits the First Amendment rights in the event that people are being abused as a result.
The greatest barriers that the anti-porn movement faces are those of their fellow
liberals. Main stream feminists and other liberal movements and groups feel that this is
putting a stumbling stone in the way of the freedoms that they have collectively fought
for. There has been much conversation between the groups but neither side is wavering
on their beliefs. The strange part is that for the first time in my recollection, the anti-porn
movement, a part of the feminist movement, has aligned itself with a conservative
viewpoint. The main barriers are internal in my opinion. I feel that the average person in
this country would not really care about the lack of pornography. If people knew the ills
surrounding the pornography industry most people would surely support legislation to
limit its use and abuse. However, liberal followers are not willing to cooperate with
other groups that usually have opposing view points. This reminds me of a story about
two feuding farmers that both die in a flood along with their families because they
refused to join forces and bank the rising river. Because even many members of the
anti-porn movement are hesitant about crossing the bridge to join the conservative right
on this issue, women are being harmed. I apologize for the injected idea in this section
but I feel that when viewed from afar, every situation becomes more reasonable and at
the same time irrational.
The questions on page 75 in the text book Contemporary Movements and
Ideologies by Roberta Garner bring up some very good points about the anti-pornography
movement. First, I believe that the anti-porn movement would define the good society as
one where there are equal rights for women in all situations. More importantly, I believe
that the movement would state that safety and dignity for all people would be a very
cement norm in the good society. The current existing societies, after all, are neither safe
nor fair for women. The new set of beliefs and practices would be much more
complicated. The anti-porn movement is a feminist movement and would thus contain
many of these beliefs. The difference would be that laws would exist that would
maintain the dignity of all people through better portrayal of women and homosexuals in
a variety of media. The result would be less sex crimes and rape within the good society.
The way that we can change our society to make it correspond to our vision of the good
society is to limit the production and consumption of pornography which furthers the
abuses that the movement is against.
The ideological critique of the state is not yet clear cut. This issue blurs the
traditional way in which we like to divide our politics; the right against the left.
However, the economic sphere would be impacted by the passage of anti-porn
legislation. There would be protest because, after all, this is a business to many. There
would be no hunger or famine associated with the passage of such legislation so it is
arguable that, in the grand scheme of things, there would be little impact. Politically,
things are vastly different. I stated before that there are altering ideas that are both
holding back and advancing the movement. While some of the movement is hesitant
about aligning themselves with the conservative right, some of the movement adores the
idea. They like the idea because of the conservative rights ability and numbers. I feel
that if they split the left on this issue then the legislation would pass easily. Culturally,
the anti-pornography movement would further us as a people. Since some of our largest
set backs in the area of equality are in seeing others as objects, this movement would
greatly limit that impulse. Social reproduction would be very hard to estimate what
impact this movement would have on the sphere of social reproduction. In some
manners, it may limit the sex lives of some people who use pornography to enrich their
sex lives. In another way, it may help to make sex more sexual instead of an act.
Hopefully, there would be a new appreciation for life both existent and future.
In my opinion this movement is very easy to support. The evidence is
overwhelming that pornography harms people. I use ?people? here because, as a male, I
feel that there are many ills suffered by my sex as well. Altering perceptions about
women is horribly but, to have your perceptions altered unconsciously is almost as bad.
Men who are unaware that what they do hurts people are dangerous. There is nothing
innocent about pornography. There is nothing free about pornography. Pornography
hurts people. The freedom of a certain few to perform these acts has placed many people
in a position of suffering. Though I have never really used pornography, I have had
brushes with it back in my fraternity days. I had friends that relished in the gruesome art
that always turned my stomach. I feel very bad for those friends that I had who honestly
believed that pornography was okay. I wish that I hadn?t written this paper. I stayed up
late at night and read the articles and then thought until the wee hours of the morning.
There I found something that I hadn?t seen before. I found a country that can turn a blind
eye and not intervene in spite of the statistics. I found people who were completely
unable to see the disgusting residue that pornography leaves all over this country every
day. I found anger. Anger towards the users of pornography because they just don?t
know any better. Anger directed at the feminists who will fight to the grave for equal pay
while their sisters are robbed of their dignity, safety and lives. How do we expect to have
anything equal if we can?t even recognize these simple things? A person places their
hand on a hot stove and gets burned; this we understand. An angry loaner is convinced
that women just want to be bent over and screwed then when he rapes some woman on
her way through a parking lot we act surprised. I feel that this movement is going to gain
rapid support as soon as some of these findings are more main stream. I also would
believe that as more of these findings are discovered and researched this country would
increase efforts to help its own citizens. I can?t forget the quote by researcher Edward
Donnerstein after his 1983 study. ?The relationship between particularly violent sexual
images in media and subsequent aggression…is much stronger statistically than the
relationship between smoking and lung cancer.?
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