Pornographic materials have been around for centauries, the word pornography represents the sexual subordination, “[it] comes from the Greek word Graphos, meaning depiction, and Pornos, the lowest of female sexual slaves. Graphos suggests that the activity of presentation is a crucial part of the process” (Cole 22). Wherever there is a presentation of sexual subordination there is pornography. Subordination happens when someone is being made less than someone else. It contains connotations of inequality and oppression. Pornography reduces women to mere bodies that satisfy men’s sexual needs, in sex men are powerful and women wind up powerless. These sexual materials are not only dangerous and violent against women and our communities but it primarily benefits the capitalist society. This particular business is one of the fastest growing industries in North America, 2.5 billion dollars was the gross sale in 1980 from pornography in Canada (Downs 22).
Young women are being exploited in this industry since it is the quickest way to make money. This job has no prerequisites; all that is required is for one to be willing to take her cloths off anywhere and with anyone. There are so many different types of pornography being produced these days that one does not need to have a pretty face or a slender body to be recruited. Our society is so consumed with the idea that “more is better” that women are allowing men to consciously or unconsciously utilize them as mean to their ends. Capitalism has made us so one dimensional about money that some will go to any extent and shed any self-disipline to earn that extra dollar. “The power and wealth of the pornography industry, and its interconnections with “respectable” publishing, distribution and sales outlets, mean the power to censor those who do not participate, and seek to expose the harm they are doing” (Laurence 1). It seems that our society recognizes individuals’ sexuality, as a profound importance to their happiness, then to what extend should we tolerate pornography? Who is really at harm’s way here? Is it our children? Ourselves? Or the generations that follow?
Defining pornography has always been a challenging task, what makes it difficult to be defined is how our society makes the distinction between erotica and moral pragmatism. People have different views on what they consider to be pornographic and possibly harmful. This variation is according to their judgment about the role sexuality usually plays in human life, their sensitivity to the diversity of sexual expression and their approval of sexuality in literarily and artistic contexts. Some may define pornography as harmful only when it represents images that are demeaning, degrading, and violent to an individual or a group, usually women. Even within a group of people that find pornography harmful there is variations and controversy, since some people have a higher or lesser degree of what they categorize as harmful and objectionable when it comes to explicit materials. Some may believe that pornography mostly harms and effects people who make and experience it before it effects the society as a whole. Erotica and pornography can be very different but at the same time very confusing “both assume that sexuality can be separated from conception, and therefore can be used to carry a personal message” (Baird 90).
Pornography showcases subordination of women to men. Women are depicted as enjoying themselves in very unrealistic situations. There are so many images depicting women as getting raped or being violently hurt in which they might resist at first, but then they surrender with pleasure. Giving the impression that “no” really means, “yes” or “no” can become “yes” if there is enough persistence. This is very problematic because it portrays the women as a person who is not too sure about her own sexual preferences, she will agree to do anything as long as there is enough pressure on her. “Pornographers give the impression that women are insatiable, never able to get enough sex” (Cole 32). The message of violence, dominance and conquest seems to be the main themes for pornographers. Pornography represents inequality and creates pain and humiliation as a form of pleasure. This then leads to the idea that “we can only experience pleasure through the adoption of some degree of sadism or masochism” (Baird 91).
Females have always been told that our identities reside in our ability to make romantic partnerships, and males have always been told that they must prove their virility by sexual acts with females. But women are also told that we are not very sexual and that sexual activity is dangerous to us and soils us, meaning that it is generally in our best interest to stop those who whish to act purely sexual with us. The idea that “Good girls” are those who stay virgin and who only give themselves to one man has been hacked in our society. Society also has a way of telling males that loving relationships would control their virility and it is women rather than men who benefit from marriage. In other words we are taught that the needs of women are in direct conflicts with the needs of men, and therefore each encounter between us is a power struggle in which one must lose if the other is to succeed. The male wins if he gets sex without the responsibilities of a relationship or marriage, the female wins if she gets the relationship without having to sacrifice sex before marriage. Usually the female is never allowed to win permanently since when she has got what she wants (love/marriage) she can give in and allow her (husband/lover) to have sex with her. If the man wins, however, he gets the sex without ever giving in to love or marriage.
Women usually do not admit openly about the numbers of sexual partners they have had whereas for men, not only they openly admit to it, but they talk big about it as well, it is considered to be a high achievement for them. Our society has accepted the idea of men having as many partners as possible, in fact there are so many women who would think that there is something wrong with a man if he has had only a few sexual partners. This double standard has a conflict of its own, since women are taught to save themselves and men are taught to splurge when it comes to sexual activities. This then leads to the ultimate chase between men and women. For those men who cannot satisfy their sexual needs with the women around them they usually seem to turn to pornography.
The representation of women in pornography plus our social and cultural open mindedness towards men’s sexual behavior forms and creates a deadly image/environment for women. Men watch and see pornographic materials from a very young age, and when these images are full of violence against women in the name of “pleasure” they over time would unconsciously become immune to the seriousness of the act. “Women are depicted in pornography as commodities to be bought and sold, as so sexually submissive that they fall happily into the role of sexual servant” (Cole 33). This suggests that our society is not only allowing men to be more promiscuous but they can also humiliate and hurt any women as along it is done in the name of sexual pleasure. There are a lot of people who do not think that these women are getting hurt because they have consented, but what is not being realized is the fact that, one does not need to necessarily take a knife or a gun to someone else in order to hurt them, utilizing another human being as an object is hurtful and harmful enough. “Powerless is emphasized when mainstream pornographers sexually subordinate women by turning them into objects. Playboy crams photos of women between photos of good Scotch and fine cars, making it appear as if the women too are commodities and easily bought”(Cole 36). Pornography has very little to do with sex and everything to do with male power.
On the other side of the spectrum, are the people, including feminists that believe that pornography is not harmful at all. They believe that very little pornography actually depicts violent acts. The most common behavior featured in porn is ordinary heterosexual intercourse. Nudity, genital close-ups and oral sex are also widespread. Anal sex is far less common, but some magazines and films specialize in depicting it since some films and magazines attempt to have something for everyone. There is also lesbian and gay material designed to appeal to homosexual men and women. It has not been till recently that there is porn produced by or actually intended for gays and lesbians. Some argue that pornography has fewer images and descriptions of violence than in mainstream movies and television. Our media is extremely violent and their depictions of violence against women are often both sexualized and gender specific. If our society is concerned with the amount of violence represented against women, they should start with the local televisions before attacking pornography. Pornography is nothing but pure fantasy, it is produced mainly with the male audience in mind, and it is targeted mostly to their fantasies. Our environment would stay a safer place for women society allows men to fulfill their fantasies and live vicariously through porn movies. “Attractions of pornography is that it shows illicit acts that are safer, both legally and emotionally when kept in the realm of fantasy” (Diamond 48). There are also a huge number of heterosexual and homosexual women who watch and tend to enjoy pornographic materials. For these women it is not about living their fantasies but rather self-enjoinment. The accessibility of pornography allows some women to release sexual desires without going out and searching for a man, this makes the situation safer for women.
Production and distribution of pornography has more negative points than positive. It could be true that it allows people to have freedom of speech and they can live through their fantasies via their television and magazines but this goal is being achieved at a very high cost. Women are being humiliated, de-sexualized and are being defined in only sexual terms. Women are given individual identity based not on who they are, but on whom they have sexual relationships with. It seems that if our society keeps on accepting the de-sexualization of women, then we are promoting the objectification of women. The pornography industry is constantly publishing materials, which tends to promote derogatory beliefs about womankind. It depicts women not simply being ill treated, but as eager to be used and abused totally lacking in human dignity, as more or less worthless for any purpose other than casual sexual intercourse. Many pieces pf pornography depicts all female characters in negative ways. This is all being produced and mostly tolerated under freedom of speech. What makes this industry very ironic is the fact that the magazines, which are targeted towards women such as playgirl, do not have any degrading pictures of men. Almost all pictures of men are men doing “manly” things, building, fixing or demolishing something. There are no genitalia close-ups, no depictions of rape or violence in the act of sex. They are being shown as if they are doing their every day errands except, naked and are not in any shape or form being sexually objectified.
For women sexual fantasy involves not only participation in a set of actions, but there has to be certain emotional settings. Love magazines and mass-market romances are the other of forms of women’s pornography. They often contain explicit details of lovemaking but always in the framework of passion, “true love” and “tenderness”. There are pages after pages dedicated to what the heroine is wearing, what room she/he is in, the descriptions of the dynamic in the relationship and the feelings before, during and after intercourse are also always included. There are no such materials produced specifically with men in mind, what is produced instead is hard-core and or soft-core pornography. There is minimum emphasis put on what and how the characters are feeling, there are hardly any conversations between characters, there is no plot and the most important thing is capturing the perfect sex scene. “Pornographers are not at all interested in influencing behavior, or in conveying universal truths; their intention is to titillate. Pornography trades in stereotypes, shunning any careful or serious character development and because the stereotypes that titillate are derogatory ones, it supports the idea that all women fall into the same category” (Dworkin108).
In conclusion, the major theme of pornography seems to be about male power. Sexually explicit material seems to symbolize women’s exclusion from male society. This industry is growing so fast that one cannot possibly ignore its effect on society and its members. In the world of high speed Internet, cellular phones and many different little gadgets that can connect to the World Wide Web within seconds, it is not hard to find that from every ten sites one is pornographic. This brings up the notion of the strong demand that the public has for these materials, because if there were no demands there would be no production. There must be enough demands for these materials if they are being constantly produced. Our society has to become more conscious of what is being mass-produced whether it is by Hollywood or some cheap pornographic production. We might not be able to completely fix or control the emergence of rapist, wife beaters and child abusers in our society but we can definitely help it reduce by becoming proactive instead of reactive. It seems that we are waiting for the situation to get much worse before we start to think that maybe, complete censorship on some materials is not such a bad idea and it does not infringe on section 7 of the charter. We should not look into what pornography does not do but rather into what it does, since the damage it has on society far exceeds its advantages. It might not be such a bad idea to keep something so personal private.