Should users of pornography be ashamed? Pornography is the visual representation of the objectification of women and of violence against women. People who get orgasms from pornography are getting orgasms from the exploitation of other human beings. Anyone should be ashamed of reaping the benefits of someone else’s exploitation. Should Westerners be ashamed they’re getting cheap clothes and electronics from actual slave labor? Yes, of course. I would say you are a very dull and insensitive, or a very hateful, person if you didn’t feel some guilt about it.
To a lot of people who believe themselves to be “modern,” guilt and shame are considered passé, impediments that need to be eliminated. They associate any positive attitude towards guilt or shame as a religious thing, a pre-modern thing, an irrational attitude. So when feminists say that users of pornography should be ashamed, and that the ideal world is a world where no one watches pornography because they are too ashamed to get off on women getting abused, they already know how to interpret that: in fact, it dovetails nicely with their smearing of feminists as right-wingers (as nonsensical as that is).
This article quotes a so-called “educator” as saying:
“The idea that we should all feel ashamed of ourselves, that we’re all damaged losers is really preposterous… So, a simple equation might be the more you believe sex is bad or shameful or immoral, the more you believe that watching porn is harmful and that sex addiction is possible.”
There is a subtle equivocation going on here: if you think users of pornography should be ashamed, and are all losers, you must therefore first believe that sex is immoral. This is a “simple equation,” and like all simplistic theories about a complex phenomenon, it’s also wrong. There are sex-negative people who believe that sexuality should not be exempt from criticism, there are people who abstain from sex (whether they are asexual, or for religious reasons), and there are people (antinatalists) who believe that procreation is immoral, but I do not know of anyone who believes that “sex is immoral.” That seems to me like a huge straw man against feminists, in the same way that bigots say that Andrea Dworkin preached that all sex is rape (she didn’t). So she’s basically equating people who are against pornography with people who are (imaginary) extremists and therefore unreasonable.
Neither the conservatives who oppose pornography because they are against female sexuality (and have deluded themselves into believing that pornography is a representation of female sexuality) and who support the objectification of women only as long as it’s done within marriage, or the radical feminists who oppose pornography because they are in favor of female sexuality and against all objectification of women, are against sex. Conservatives do not oppose sex because they use sex as a tool against women, and radical feminists do not oppose sex because sex itself is not the problem, the objectification and the fact that pornography solely serves, and molds, male sexual desire is the problem.
I am sex-negative, but I do not believe that sex is inherently bad, shameful, or immoral. What I do believe is that all expressions of sex need to be analyzed critically, and that includes representations of sex like pornography. I do believe that using pornography is shameful and immoral. But to equate this with a hatred of sex is like saying that I oppose advertisements on television because I hate people recommending things to each other. Clearly the problem with advertisements and other “sponsored content” is not that it recommends things to us, but in how it does this and in how it infiltrates all areas of our lives.
The parallel is fairly obvious, I think: the main problem with pornography is not that it represents sex, but in how it does it and how it infiltrates our lives. If someone seriously tried to argue that advertisements should not be analyzed critically, and that watching advertisements is “healthy,” it would just be very strange. And yet when people say the same thing about pornography they are hailed as experts. It all depends, I suppose, on who is pretending to determine expertise in that case. I happen to have the weird opinion that anyone who makes bizarre statements without evidence should not be called an expert on the subject, but what do I know? I’m no expert.
If it’s healthy to use pornography, then why be ashamed of it? Sure, but what’s healthy about it? Pornography is not good for your sexual health or your mental health. It gives users unrealistic ideas about the female body, it makes men want to perform unsatisfying or hurtful acts on women’s bodies, and it changes men’s attitudes towards women in a very negative way. Pornography created a generation of men who believe that women owe them sex like they’ve seen in pornography, and that women actually like that sort of sex, that women love to be degraded and treated like sexual objects. This is not healthy by any meaning of the word.
To teach that pornography is shameful has nothing to do with “teaching people that sex is shameful.” To equate the two means to equate pornography with sex which, as I’ve said many times before, is the same as equating McDonalds with food. Pornography and McDonalds are a degraded, artificial, capitalistic parody of sex and food. We should not more defend pornography for selling us shitty representations of sex than we should defend McDonalds for selling shitty food. We should no less be ashamed of the existence of the pornographic industry than we should be ashamed of the existence of McDonalds.