The great porn debate

Last night, I was alerted to the existance of an article on pornography that appeared in yesterday’s Guardian. This morning I saw it mentioned by someone else I follow on Twitter. The two people who mentioned the article had opposing yet engaging views on it so I was curious as to where I would stand in the debate. As soon as I clicked on the link I saw that it was written by Julie Bindel (as Wikipedia says, you either love her or you hate her), and noticed that she mentions Andrea Dworkin in the first paragraph. As someone who has written about liking porn in the past, this was not shaping up to be something I would necessarily agree with.

The truth about the porn industry tells us about anti-pornography campaigner and author Gail Dines. She explains that the way that porn has changed in recent years is detrimental to young people’s relationships with their bodies, their sexuality and each other. I can see her point when she mentions that advances in modern technology mean that porn is now readily available to people at much younger ages than before, and the types of acts which are now commonplace in pornography will be giving young people a rather distorted view of what goes on in the adult world. As I do not know anyone who is currently a teenager or who has grown up with such easy access to hardcore action, I can’t begin to think of how this could be affecting people who have yet to reach the age of 20, but I am also well aware that an article by a reasonably radical feminist about a very radical feminist is not really going to include an alternative viewpoint for balance. Still, I stuck with it and could understand where Dines was coming from until I read this:

“To think that so many men hate women to the degree that they can get aroused by such vile images is quite profound. Pornography is the perfect propaganda piece for patriarchy. In nothing else is their hatred of us quite as clear.”

Seriously? Vile images? Isn’t that a bit subjective? No wonder many people assume that women who are anti-porn are also anti-sex if they’re making statements based on their personal opinions of the images. If you’re going to attack the porn industry, don’t do it because you don’t like what you see – do it because you believe it is having a negative effect on society. Apparently Dines believes that the best way to address the rise of internet pornography is to raise public awareness about its actual content, which sounds fair, but I still fail to believe that all pornography is bad. Not everyone watches extreme pornography. Not everyone who does watch extreme pornography thinks, “next time I get laid, I’m totally going to try doing that without asking first”. If young people really are that stupid, then perhaps that’s a problem worth addressing with education. As one commenter on Bindel’s piece says, this subject is far more complex than Dines’ little world of black and white.

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