When I hear members of the religious right and other moral panic merchants speak about the evil of pronography, I’m always dubious as to their motives. Are they genuine in their concern for the degradation of women? I really doubt it. When a conservative says that they have the ‘utmost respect for women’ they are lying. Conservatives dislike women, and dislike feminism even more. On one hand they bleat about the ‘evil’ of pron, yet their very ideology demands adherence to strict gender roles that cast the woman in the demeaning role of the servant with the man as the master: a power sharing arrangement that closely resembles that of a man and his dog. Conservative misogyny demands a post of its own, but this is about something else.
I wanted to distance myself from these conservatives as my stance on pronography is also one of opposition (though not outlawing) but for entirely different reasons.
I’ve been conducting research which is largely anecdotal at this stage, however an alarming trend has emerged. I have spoken with (via email) 31 women who have at one stage in their lives been involved in producing pornographic imagery. Of these, 15 (65%)report that at one stage during their formative years, they had been sexually assaulted – usually by a relative or someone known to them.
This is consistent with comments by prominent anti-pron Feminist, the late Andrea Dworkin who says –
The women in pornography are most often victims of child sexual abuse. Some studies show that 65 to 75 percent of the current population of women in prostitution and pornography (overlapping experiences for the same pool of
women) have been abused as children, usually in the home. People who work with women who are in pornography and prostitution to provide social services or counseling, some of whom have been in pornography or prostitution themselves, believe the percentage is much, much higher. Children run away from home, from the sexual abuse, to cities where they are picked up by pimps, raped, beaten, drugged, and forced into prostitution or pornography.
Many women are forced into pornography as children by fathers who sexually abuse them; pornography is made of them as part of the sexual abuse they experience as
children. Many women are forced into pornography by husbands, many of whom are violent (battery of married women being the most commonly committed violent
crime in the country). Many women are photographed by lovers and find the photographs published as pornography in revenge or retaliation. Aspiring actresses and models are photographed nude, almost a trade practice, and find
the photographs published against their will and without their knowledge in pornography.
McElroy’s book, XXX (1995), conducted a survey of sex workers that was designed to establish the overall level of happiness of respondents during childhood. Though the survey didn’t specifically ask about whether sexual assault had occurred, 25% still volunteered that they had been sexually assaulted at some point.
Additionally, McElroy has an entire chapter devoted to interviews conducted with members of the ‘porn industry’. McElroy, sums up the chapter with a quote from another anti-porn Feminist, Catharine MacKinnon –
Empirically, all pornography is made under conditions of inequality based on sex, overwhelmingly by poor, desperate, homeless, pimped women who were sexually abused as children.
Children who have been sexually abused often develop a complex series maladaptions, including inappropriate sexalisation. Finkelhor and Browne’s ground breaking article, had this to say (PDF)
Traumatic sexualization refers to a process in which a child’s sexuality(including both sexual feelings and sexual attitudes) is shaped in a developmentally inappropriate and inter-personally dysfunctional fashion as a result of sexual abuse. This can happen in a variety of ways in the course of the abuse. Traumatic sexualization can occur when a child is repeatedly regarded by an offender for sexual behavior that is inappropriate to his or her level of development. It occurs through the exchange of affection, attention, privileges, and gifts for sexual behavior, so that a child learns to use sexual behavior as a strategy for manipulating others to satisfy a variety of developmentally
My position could best be described as follows – I’m not at all offended by the concept of sexually explicit imagery. I am however offended by the thought that an overwhelming majority of porn ‘actresses’, have probably been sexually abused as children. This may have led to the traumatic sexualisation phenomenon mentioned above, and an eventual move to porn or prostitution. Viewed in this light, I’m of the opinion that their involvement is actually a continuation of the original abuse. If this is the case, is it accurate to describe consumers of pron as being complicit?
As a postscript to my original post on this subject, I’ve read some disturbing research conducted by Australian Academic, Dr Michael Flood. (PDF)
There is little doubt that pornography is an increasingly significant influence among boys and young men. And that internet porn, as well as other media and technologies and other social trends, are facilitating and feeding into sexual violence and abuse by boys and young men.