“You want to ban pornography!”

A very common reply to people who oppose pornography, whether men or women, is that the person is trying to oppress them by banning pornography. Usually this is accompanied by invocations of free speech. I have already debunked that particular brand of nonsense, so I will not repeat it here.

Now, I won’t deny that banning pornography would be helpful. I don’t think banning all pornography, or even most pornography, is a viable possibility. But simply making illegal the production of pornographic videos would do much in opposing this destructive and anti-social “industry.” If there are no downsides, anything that reduces the number of rapes and sexual assaults in the world is a good thing. Making the pornographic “industry” illegal would only have one major downside, and that’s on the economy: this “industry” has inserted itself into the capitalist framework, and attacking it would affect other industries as well. I don’t think economics has primary over ethics, however. An economy that is predicated on spreading violence (like military spending, luxury goods which depend on violence abroad, or pornography) needs to be attacked and converted, not sustained.

Another common reply is that banning pornography (or any other form of “sex work”) would deprive some women of income. First of all, I deny the justice of an economic system where people’s income depends on accepting shitty jobs. We should have an economic system that serves everyone’s interests equally, not just the interests of a small inbred business and political elite. And the Nordic Model, when applied in its totality, does include economic support for those women who want to leave prostitution (I don’t see why the same couldn’t be done for pornography).

Also, there’s no way banning pornography would drive incomes down because there would be replacements. Men are not going to stop wanting to exploit women simply because pornography is illegal.

This leads me to my main point: pornography is not the root problem, men wanting to exploit women is the root problem. Banning pornography will not affect men’s entitlement to women’s sexuality. So again, while I do want to emphasize that banning pornography would be a good thing, and having less pornography on the Internet would lower the chance of any man feeling entitled to women’s sexuality, it is not the solution. Men feel entitled to women’s sexuality because they are indoctrinated to believe that women exist to serve men’s needs, that men need to exploit women in order to be real men, that women are passive gatekeepers of sex and need incentives (e.g. money) to have sex with men.

I think one analogy in particular can be made with pornography. In Madison Square Garden, on Christmas 1899, approximately 10,000 poor and homeless people ate a feast which was attended by an audience of rich citizens, who attended for the thrill of watching these people eat a full meal. Today, we would decry such an event as exploitative and a sign of the growing inequality in the United States… things which we could say nowadays about the rise of hardcore pornography. The main difference is that the Christmas dinner was mostly about class superiority, while pornography is mostly about woman-hatred and racism.

Our main objective, I think, should be to make watching pornography as shameful as being a spectator at such an event. Actually, many men do feel shame when they start delving into hardcore pornography. But as they become addicted to it, they quickly lose that sense of shame. Without the addictive property of orgasms, it is unlikely that hardcore pornography would have ever taken off. And as we know, pornsick men have no shame whatsoever. Nothing, not even the realization that they could be watching a rape at any time, will stop them: some men even seek out pornography that depicts actual rapes (through the authentic portrayal of real pain).

So how can this shame be instilled? When I look at hardcore pornography, what I see is a woman being treated as little more than a fleshlight, an accessory to a penis. It goes far beyond objectification and into total dehumanization. I think it would take a great deal of hatred for women to even consider watching pornography that dehumanizes women in that way. If any myth needs to be destroyed, it’s the myth that there are “bad women” who enjoy being abused and treated like a collection of holes. Publicizing the testimony of ex-pornography actresses might be a good step in that direction, although I am not sure how much it would help. Ultimately the problem is one that needs to be addressed in the socialization of our children, but that must necessarily include the mass media, and people have little control over that.

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