This entry by Rebecca Whisnant traces the impact of pornography on the feminist movement, from the second wave of the seventies to the modern “fuck-me feminism” (i.e. female submission to the demand for female bodies), and what we can do to get out of this capitalist trap.
For instance, the cultural and political force that presents itself to most mainstream Americans as an alternative — indeed, as the only alternative — to the porn culture is a religious, predominantly Christian, social conservatism. Now you and I know that’s no good, and part of the appeal of third-wave, pro-porn politics resides in its apparent rebellion against such conservatism. This leads me to my first suggestion about how to frame our critique of the porn culture: namely by showing that — contrary to popular belief — conservative and pornographic ideologies of sex and gender are very nearly synonymous, the surface differences between the two obscuring their fundamental unity. As radical feminists have long observed, male sexual ownership and control of women is a matter of fundamental agreement between the male-defined political right and the almost equally male-defined political left. The right typically supports the private male ownership of women one at a time, as wives and daughters, localized in the home and the “traditional family”; whereas the left too often defends men’s collective sexual ownership of women outside the home, in the “public domain,” including in pornography and prostitution. To reject both forms of male sexual ownership, as radical feminists do, is thus to commit the ultimate heresy.
Yet only such principled rejection can effectively challenge the sexual abuse and commodification of women and girls both inside and outside the “traditional family.” Until we find ways to communicate the linked dangers of both forms of male control, the fear of one form will continue to send women and girls directly into the lap of the other. The conservatives say to us, “Hey, ladies, don’t like what you see in the pornography? Ugly, isn’t it? You say you don’t want that to happen to you, or for men to think of you like that? Well, then, be good girls and keep your legs closed. Be abstinent until marriage, and then God says your husband has to honor and value you and protect you from other men. (You just have to obey him.)” Meanwhile, women and girls who recognize the patriarchal trap of “traditional family values” are urged to demonstrate their independence and rebellion against said values by buying a stripper pole and learning to lapdance. “What? You say that doesn’t seem like authentic female sexuality or sexual liberation to you? What are you, a right-wing anti-sex prude?”