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This was written as a short story (hence the use of the past tense), based on real life events. -M.H.

 

Among my brethren are many who dream with wet pleasure of the eight hundred pains and humiliations, but I am the other kind: I am a slave who dreams of escape after escape, I dream only of escaping, ascent, of a thousand possible ways to make a hole in the wall, of melting the bars, escape escape, of burning the whole prison down if necessary.

— Julian Beck, in The Life of the theatre; 1972.

To survive in a misogynist environment, a woman must learn how to protect innate female power from a society designed to destroy it. After she learns to recognize and avoid male violence in its many forms, a woman’s capacity for self-love blossoms, and her female power begins to thrive: creativity, vitality, and confidence emerge, along with a refusal to subordinate herself to male power.

— Kay Leigh Hagan, in Orchids in the Arctic. [emphasis mine]

She was born female and, like so many others, she was struggling to live within a misogynistic world that didn’t really care about her well-being, a world where the patriarchists would love to get off on her pain, a world where many rape victims were not believed.

She didn’t want to spend her nights waking up in cold sweat, with a terrible headache anymore. Dreams and sexual nightmares often reflected thoughts which were part of the conditioning she’d had as a woman, i.e. how she had been sexually trained to conform to patriarchy. Such a conformity, she didn’t want anymore because she resented it. She realized that the claws of patriarchy would love to seize her female power and rip it to shreds. This is why she was having those strange dreams and shivers.

Having patriarchal dreams (but not fantasies, no longer) about something didn’t necessarily mean that she wanted it to happen to her. She’d figured that sexual nightmares which at the same time appeared to be ‘just dreams’ actually meant the complete opposite of what she wanted. Women had been living the everyday reality of patriarchal sexual terrorism. Thus, she thought, “some of our dreams often mirror our deepest fear of, our deepest hatred for, our deepest disgust of the kind of sexuality that has been packaged to us as ‘freedom’.”

She’d become aware that patriarchy typically manipulated women’s sexual feelings. There were no real words to express a clearly negative response to sexual feelings about patriarchal sexuality. “How do we try to explain that there are sexual feelings that we simply do not like?,” she pondered. A male-dominated society loved to exercise control over language by, amongst other things, failing to provide words for her to express a negative reaction to some of the masochistic sexual feelings she had had as a woman and which had been patriarchally-constructed.

Female power, as she saw it, involved taking a stand against male violence against and exploitation of women in all forms they may take. When her self-esteem went up, she noticed that she had great abilities: being courageous, creative, alive, confident, etc. She loved being self-aware. She refused to surrender. She refused to choose subordination to male-supremacist power. That did not mean that she didn’t still sometimes struggle with conflicting sexual feelings, engendered by patriarchal conditioning to masochism – but she would no longer surrender to male-dominated sexuality.

Sadomasochism was often defined by radical feminists as being the eroticization of power and powerlessness. Pornographic scenarios were rife with the sexualization of domination and subordination: women being dominated, demeaned, degraded, raped, slapped, gang-banged, throat-raped, gagged, etc and they were being portrayed as either enjoying it or wanting this kind of subordinating treatment. She decided to resist masochism. She knew precisely why.

The female life-force is characterized as a negative one: we are defined as inherently masochistic. [. . .] Sexual masochism actualizes female negativity, just as sexual sadism actualizes male positivity. A woman’s erotic femininity is measured by the degree to which she needs to be hurt, needs to be possessed, needs to be abused, needs to submit, needs to be beaten, needs to be humiliated, needs to be degraded.

— Andrea Dworkin, in The Root Cause (note: Dworkin did such an interesting uncovering of what goes on in the male pornographic mind).

The masculine role in sadomasochism was portrayed as what was positive, what was ‘top’. In order to ‘prove’ his masculinity, the man who took on the masculine role needed to reify his so-called male positive energy, his domination, through his (ab)use of women. He could take an arrogant pride in his ‘masculinity’ even more so if he used a woman who apparently accepted the socially-constructed masochistic femininity which had been prescribed to her. Female masochism enabled men to reify the masculine gender role and norm called ‘manhood’. She would no longer allow any male (or any person who took on a masculine role) to abuse her, torture her or bruise her so that he could take pleasure in the lie of male superiority.

Masochism, for her, was now clearly very important to analyse instead of just thinking about getting off and ‘that’s it’. After she’d been raped by her first boyfriend and then had been involved in a destructive male-female relationship, she’d gone through masochism. With many other men she had been with after this relationship, quite a few times, she’d gone through masochism. There were some times when the sex had felt like rape, and it was true. Quite a few times, she had been coerced into sex by men and she’d also had to force herself to have sex with them: through pressure, through domestic violence (at one point), because she’d wanted to be loved or for the simple sake of “trying to save a relationship.”

And there were other times when the sex, she recalled, had been about masochism, about “just being fucked” and engaging in roleplay in which she had been the ‘submissive’ part. As a former submissive woman, she could tell that bondage and handcuffs, for instance, were very popular in BDSM culture – especially the act of tying a woman up to a bed.

Even back in the days when she’d just been thinking about getting off and ‘that’s it’, she’d kept hearing a little voice at the back of her mind trying to tell her that, somehow, something was not feeling quite right.

First, there had been the fact that she’d wanted to be loved by men, so much. She’d had such a longing for male approval that she’d only faintly noticed that she’d been paying the price of their pornographic imagination: they’d been wanting to turn her into a sex object. There had also been this kind of survival mechanism she’d had in her, this way of coping. She used to think that if sexuality was about being subordinated to men and she couldn’t be loved or appreciated by them if she was not willing to accept at least part of their view of what sex was supposed to be, then she might as well “just lie there and enjoy it.” Because, after all, she used to believe that things weren’t as bad as they seemed to be. Like so many other women, she’d used to completely mentally shut down from the reality of the pain she’d been going through. Masochism had been chosen partly due to the restricted options she’d had in a world filled with a sexuality based on gender roles and norms – and she’d had no words to express that before feminism.

Second, she’d been brought up in a patriarchal society that had eroticized and romanticized masochism. This had given her some sort of mixed feelings about sexual masochism. This had been, of course, difficult and hard to cope with.

She felt there had been some sort of a ‘split’ between good feelings and bad feelings she’d had about sadomasochism. However, she used to shut out what had made her feel uncomfortable about it from her conscious mind. She had refused to look at what was unpleasant about sadomasochism. The patriarchal indoctrination of a pornified culture had been trying to show her that, as a female, she was somehow “inherently masochistic.” Stories of women being dominated by men had always been presented to her in a good, glamorous way by mass-media & culture. The mainstream films, novels, women’s magazines and songs she used to collect had been rife with the portrayals of domination and subordination which patriarchy thrived on.

She’d gotten involved in sadomasochism predominantly because she’d simply had not been able to imagine anything beyond the male-dominated sexuality that had been packaged to her as appealing. This was therefore why, she understood, female sexual arousal to S&M was in fact culturally constructed. But she had suffered in masochism, no matter how many times she had been trying to deny it. Her past denial reminded her so much of how some battered women experienced Stockholm Syndrome and how they would defend their abusers over and over again. After all, she had apparently been getting off and she’d had *chosen* it. So, what could possibly have been wrong with that?

She’d heard that it was sometimes argued that it was the subordinated female who often approached the male who would dominate her in a sadomasochistic relationship. She knew it was not always the case. Many times boyfriends, husbands or acquaintances would try to initiate an S&M practise by bringing some pornography, a sex-toy catalog or some paraphernalia and would try to convince their partner to “try this” or “try that” with either insincere ‘sweet talk’ or subtle intimidation. And when it was women coming to men with the intention of being dominated, they had generally been fully trained to conform to a culture that constantly gave a false praise to all women who viewed themselves as passive and submissive “sex objects”. Both cases had happened to her: she’d had sadists approaching her, grooming her, and she’d come to men who would dominate her.

Because of patriarchal conditioning, her sexual submission to men used to seriously turn her on, at some point. Then she’d fallen into the sado-patriarchal trap of masochism. She now had absolutely no shame to admit this to herself. Because she was now fully aware that radical feminists understood her experience. She’d perceived herself as passive and submissive because of all the self-hate she’d internalized through rape, through domestic abuse, through the past emotional manipulation she’d had experienced at the hands of men. The wider patriarchal conditioning she’d had in a misogynistic world had also influenced the way she used to internalize her own self-hatred, self negation & subordination as a female.

Radical feminists knew well that the ‘Madonna/Whore’ dichotomy was a false dichotomy: while right-wing men wanted to keep the “good women” in marriage and in the privacy of the home to privately own them and (ab)use them, the left-wing men wanted the “bad women” to be collectively & publicly owned by them outside of marriage — but most forms of male ownership, abuse and exploitation happened behind closed doors though, where women were most at risk of male violence.

As she’d gone through female life under patriarchy, she’d often found herself stuck in the trap of the ‘Madonna/Whore’ dichotomy without being able to see what was beyond this patriarchal lie. “If only we all women could see,” she now realized, “what’s beyond dominant ideologies, we would be able to be ourselves: we are not ‘Madonnas’, we are not ‘whores’; we are female human beings. And we need a strong movement that will work toward the liberation of women from male oppression.”

Radical feminism had helped her see the patriarchal oppression and self-negation in the way she used to be aroused by sexual masochism. But, to her, there was a lie that masochism intrinsically entailed: that she would be somehow ‘fulfilled’ by this sort of sexuality.

She was sure that the sexual arousal itself (i.e. not combined with orgasm) had naturally led to body release of endorphins (natural painkiller). Based on her own experience, she reckoned, it was true that being in a state of sexual excitement could somehow make pain more tolerable, i.e. pain had somehow felt like a strong sensation though it’d never gone away. The presence of pain in the S&M sexuality she’d experienced had been very real. She now perfectly understood that any sort of harm inflicted on a person during sadomasochistic love-making was still harm, regardless of whether s/he’d consented to it or not.

Consent can be manipulated. She realized that fully informed consent (including a comprehensive prior knowledge of how power dynamics in heterosexual relationships operated within a patriarchal society) generally did not exist. “Therefore we, women, generally all consent to what this culture tells us about sexuality. And seldom do we question it ’cause we’ve been taught not to, for fear of sounding ‘prudish’; so we often comply to what our partners expect of us,” she thought to herself. She remembered. There had been pain. But she would deny it.

She’d been so manipulated by the male-supremacist seduction of this culture, the grooming she’d had to the way romantic love was portrayed, and her own deep internalization of patriarchally shaped desires, that she would psychologically deny the pain when being bitten, the pain of the scarves and cuffs digging into the flesh of her wrists and the pain of the strong penetrations. She had been told so many times that she would enjoy this type of treatment that she would desperately try to believe that she’d genuinely enjoyed it. This combined with the strong sensation she’d felt due to the endorphin rush, which could give her the impression that she’d really been getting off on being degraded.

But, in hindsight, she could see that women were routinely taught to please their man, to literally become the ‘ego-booster’ for vicious male pride of domination. Therefore, she figured, her sole enjoyment in sadomasochism had in fact been in wanting to please the men she used to love by accepting their views of what sex was supposed to be. But didn’t she have desires of her own? Didn’t she have the capacity of imagining a sexuality that would be completely hers? A sexuality in which she would be able to preserve all her bodily integrity and that would genuinely fulfill her?

Looking at the truth: any sexual feeling from experience, dream and fantasy about the sexual degradation of her body were making her feel uncomfortable and distressed in spite of arousal. Because, deep inside, she’d known that she was not ‘naturally’ masochistic; no woman ever was (even though she had not known masochism was a socially-constructed phenomenon at the time). 

 

Romantic love, in pornography as in life, is the mythic celebration of female negation. For a woman, love is defined as her willingness to submit to her own annihilation. As the saying goes, women are made for love–that is, submission. Love, or submission, must be both the substance and purpose of a woman’s life. For the female, the capacity to love is exactly synonymous with the capacity to sustain abuse and the appetite for it. For the woman, the proof of love is that she is willing to be destroyed by the one whom she loves, for his sake. For the woman, love is always self-sacrifice, the sacrifice of identity, will, and bodily integrity, in order to fulfill and redeem the masculinity of her lover. 

— Andrea Dworkin, in The Root Cause.

 

Her being aroused did not equate being sexually fulfilled. She was aware that sexual arousal and sexual fulfilment were two separate things. But patriarchy used to have her believe that just because she’d had sexual feelings when being in a submissive role (like when being tied up, for instance), then it must have necessarily meant that she’d gotten off on it. In a patriarchy, it had been very easy for her to confuse strong sexual excitement with actual absolute pleasure. Part of this was caused by male supremacy’s cultural control of women’s thought processes. Thought was expressed primarily as language, a language that had been invented by patriarchy. She’d sometimes been living through the lie that just because she’d felt ‘hot’ about something, then it had necessarily meant that it made her hot to the point of being fulfilled. But, as a woman, she had NOT become fulfilled going through sado-masochistic relationships; claiming otherwise had been one of the biggest rackets that she’d fallen for in a porno-sado-patriarchy.

The bottom line was: “pain and pleasure are NOT the same thing,” she reminded herself of how much she knew the fact “that women somehow genuinely enjoy pain is one of pornographic culture’s biggest lies.” She’d noticed that her body had felt the pain and that there had been no real orgasm, just a strong sensation of pleasure that was inherently anti-liberation. She remembered the inherently negative consequences of masochism: a sense of self-loathing had occurred just after the quick strong sensations from hierarchical sex were gone, and depression had usually ensued when the degradation had been experienced over and over again. Sometimes, she had even refused to see that she was depressed, She had refused to see how much she’d hated hetero-patriarchal control, because she’d so much wanted to be happy with her boyfriends from the past.

She opened her eyes. In a patriarchy, female self-negation and female diminution of be-ing (diminution of one’s full capacity for real female identity & bodily integrity) had become institutionalized. This had been going on for thousands and thousands of years: patriarchy was a system which had constantly subordinated women, forced them into submission through manipulation, outright coercion or male violence in its many forms, whether subtle or overt.

Radical feminism had helped her see the truth: no woman was ‘naturally’ masochistic, and she was no exception. Because masochism was not ‘natural’ (as the patriarchists would have her believe), any pleasure derived from it was therefore unnatural and in the end, she’d been able to see how S&M had made her feel seriously ill and demeaned afterward because she had known masochism was inherently unhealthy, somehow, in the back of her mind. But she’d kept silent about her inner feelings against sadomasochism for fear of being called “prudish” or “unenlightened” about sexuality. Radical feminism had given her both a voice for expressing her discomfort regarding S&M and a way of seeing the clear pornographic woman-hating it promoted.

Male-dominated culture had pretty much defined the parameters of how sexuality was meant to be expressed. She sighed, feeling sadness about all the women out there who had not yet found a way of expressing the gut feelings they had against male-dominated sexuality. Any dissent to patriarchal definitions of sex was perceived as heresy in this pornified culture. She had decided to break the chains of patriarchy which were trying to shackle her into masochism and steal her female power, her willingness for social change. She wished all her sisters would start breaking those chains too, within a societal prison in which the male grip was so tight upon the female thralls. She was pained to see how women were constantly under male power because of various things: patriarchal conditioning, pornified brainwashing, cultural institutions of (presumed) male superiority, wrongful portrayals of romantic love that eroticized sub/dom relationships, gender roles & norms, physical or emotional coercions, etc ad nauseam. The list went on. . .

So many women, including feminists, lowered their eyes from the vision of how to make women free and decided to get stuck into having more-powerful orgasms in any way that worked. The pursuit of the orgasm of oppression serves as a new “opium of the masses.” It diverts our energies from the struggles that are needed now against sexual violence and the global sex industry. Questioning how those orgasms feel, what they mean politically, whether they are achieved through the prostitution of women in pornography, is not easy, but it is also not impossible. A sexuality of equality suited to our pursuit of freedom has still to be forged and fought for if we are to release women from sexual subjection.

The ability of women to eroticize their own subordination and take “pleasure” from the degradation of themselves and other women to object status poses a serious obstacle. So long as women have a stake in the sexual system as it is — so long as they get their kicks that way — why will they want change?

— Sheila Jeffreys, in How Orgasm Politics Has Hijacked the Women’s Movement.

A major reason that she’d known to make masochism plausible is that women were typically taught to please men and to hate themselves, having been born and raised female into a male-dominated culture which had misogyny as its core ideology. Like so many other women, she had been taught to notice men and see their “great strength” while ignoring herself, ignoring the inherent female power that lied dormant within her as a capacity to redefine herself as a woman, now property of no man. In a patriarchal culture, female subservience (to men) and self-destruction were celebrated. Male sadists, with their pretense of aiming to please, actually got off on a woman who was (supposedly) enjoying the hatred of herself, of her own kind.

She did not have ‘fun’ finding radical feminism. Fun was not the word, eye-opening experience was. It had not been fun to realize that her romantic relationships had been mere re-enactment of the oppression of women. But by opening her mind to that little radical feminist sub-culture of heretics, that little community living at the margins of society, she’d been able to see the truth for what it really is: that she had not really been enjoying going through masochism, and she would rather know the truth than live in denial, protect the patriarchy or defend the men who’d gotten off on dominating her through these so-called ‘romantic’ sadomasochistic relationships. She now clearly understood that feminism was about the liberation of women as a class. The terms “sexual equality with men” had long ago been co-opted. She had no interest in the mere ‘freedom to fuck’; what sexually interested her was rather: the state of being completely free and preserving her whole bodily integrity as a human being with sexual feelings.

What she hadn’t realized in the past was how much masochism reified sadism. Subordination reified domination in the same way that femininity reified masculinity. All these constricting gender-defined roles kept humanity confined to the boundaries of male-supremacy. The few heretics who wanted to move beyond all these restrictive dichotomies knew well that they had to constantly, everyday, struggle within a culture which kept reinforcing those patriarchal role-plays.

But, as a woman, she’d noticed that she was able to resist masochism, to resist subordination and to resist femininity in the best ways she could. There used to be a time, not so long ago, when masochism had still been present in her fantasies. It seemed to be a big deal at first (as she’d had those thoughts when she was fully awake). But she’d then learned how to change her sexual fantasies. It hadn’t been easy at first. It’d taken a while to re-work them so that they would become pleasant things which were her own, things that weren’t products of male supremacy, or even of the “vanilla” male-supremacist definitions of sex. She’d had to re-work her sexual feelings until she sexually responded to those new sensuous imaginations she’d created in her mind. She’d learned how to think about something which was both totally non-exploitative and pleasant. It wasn’t exciting at the beginning (as she’d not been conditioned to those new sensations), but then it gradually became arousing and eventually turned into an utterly blissful feeling of female intimacy. She could feel her female lifeforce as her fantasies were now completely woman-centered and sexually fulfilling.

Getting herself off on something that was absolutely non-patriarchal had been a major step reached for her personal well-being. Everything was different. Her orgasms were now ten thousands times more emotionally rewarding and all the feelings of shame and worthlessness she’d experienced after the quick S&M pleasures of patriarchal sex in the past were now gone: No feeling of self-hate, shame or guilt was ever present after non-patriarchal orgasms, rather delightful feelings of sexual fulfilment and happiness. . .

She still struggled with some occasional sexual nightmares which were patriarchal in content and nature. But the fact that she still sometimes had such dreams did not ‘prove’ any misogynistic Freudian bullshit theory of so-called “penis envy”. She was aware it merely reflected the simple fact that she was still living in the society she had been forced to live in: a society that hated the female sex and wanted to see women degraded and self-destroyed. When she woke up, she was aware of how much she was glad these sorts of nightmares were over and how much they innately distressed her. No feminist was to blame for having sexual dreams and thoughts that were patriarchal because, to destroy all trace of dominance and submission, all social conditions that created dominance and submission would have to be eradicated.

But feminism, ultimately, had to be the movement for women’s liberation, not equality. The ‘equality’ word had long ago been co-opted by the patriarchists, unfortunately. She had no interest in having the equality to make choices to consent to the world that patriarchy had created. She saw absolutely no liberation goal in consenting to pornified rape culture. She refused to consent to masochism, to her self-negation, to her self-diminution because she had no desire to reify the patriarchal belief that said that being dominated was inevitable and enjoyable.

More importantly, She refused to consent to the eroticization of sexual slavery because she was now strongly aware that such consent destroyed female power: the energy it takes to dissent to the whole male-supremacist culture of sexual violence. Masochistic submission to the patriarchal power that controlled women and tried to “keep them in their place” was a form of internalized oppression by the oppressed and it would hamper her capacity to resist male violence in all its forms.

Consent to oppression, or the enactment of the very symbols of slavery, torture, rape, battery that constituted that oppression, would not liberate the oppressed. She did know that the feminist struggle against the complicity of women in patriarchy seemed like a mammoth task, especially considering the fact that most women had been primarily socialized into loving men and their culture before they loved themselves. But she wanted to be able to put her strength into the Women’s Liberationist struggle against the culture that tacitly condoned male violence against women. She would love to help break the chains of patriarchy which were trying to shackle women into masochism and steal all female power, their willingness for social change that would overthrow the very sado-patriarchal system that claimed that “rape victims were responsible for their rape” or that “battered women loved to be mistreated, otherwise they would leave”. To be liberated, we would have to get out of the immense social prison called patriarchy, she knew it. . .

Recommended Readings:

Against Sadomasochism: A Radical Feminist Analysis, edited by Robin Ruth Linden et al; Frog in the Well Press; 1982.

Unleashing Feminism: Critiquing Lesbian Sadomasochism in the Gay Nineties, edited by Irene Reti; HerBooks; 1993. [also refers to heterosexual S&M]

Sexual Politics, by Kate Millett, Doubleday; 1970.

Our Blood:Prophecies and Discourses on Sexual Politics, by Andrea Dworkin, Harper and Row;1976.

How Orgasm Politics Has Hijacked the Women’s Movement, by Sheila Jeffreys.

Consensual Sadomasochism: Charting the Issues, by Claudia Card.

Sadomasochism: Not About Condemnation ~ An Interview with Audre Lorde by Susan Leigh Star.

Sadomasochism and the Social Construction of Desire, by Karen Rian.
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“All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which in women is insatiable. . . Wherefore for the sake of fulfilling their lusts they consort with devils. . . it is sufficiently clear that it is no matter for wonder that there are more women than men found infected with the heresy of witchcraft. . . And blessed be the Highest Who has so far preserved the male sex from so great a crime. . .”

“. . . the natural reason is that she is more carnal than a man, as is clear from her many carnal abominations. And it should be noted that there was a defect in the formation of the first woman, since she was formed from a bent rib, that is, rib of the breast, which is bent as it were in a contrary direction to a man. And since through this defect she is an imperfect animal, she always deceives. . . “

“When a woman thinks alone, she thinks evil.”

— Three quotes from the Malleus Maleficarum (by Kramer & Sprenger), guide to the Inquisition’s Witch trials, witch-hunter’s manual, and Christian pornography.

 

“We now know most of what can be known about the witches: who they were, what they believed, what they did, the Church’s vision of them. We have seen the historical dimensions of a myth of feminine evil which resulted in the slaughter of nine million persons, nearly all women, over 300 years. The actual evidence of that slaughter, the remembrance of it, has been suppressed for centuries so that the myth of woman as the Original Criminal, the gaping, insatiable womb, could endure. . .”

— Andrea Dworkin, “The Herstory – Gynocide: The Witches,” in Woman Hating, p.149.

   
 
 

 

“While women who stepped out of line in early modern Europe were tortured and killed as witches, today such women are regarded as cunts or bitches, deserving what happens to them.”

— Jane Caputi and Diana Russell, “Femicide: Speaking the Unspeakable”, in Ms., 1 (3), p.34-37, 1990.

“We’re not disrespecting women, we’re disrespecting bitches.”

— Easy E of NWA, 1990.

“Why is it wrong to get rid of some fuckin’ cunts?”

 — Kenneth Bianchi, “Inside the mind of the ‘Hillside Strangler'” by Schwartz & Boyd, in Hustler (1981, August), p,36.

“Repeat the syllables
until the lesson is pumped through the heart:
Nicriven, accused of lasciviousness, burned 1569.
Barbara Gobel, described by her jailors
as “the fairest maid in Wurzburg,”
burned 1629, age nineteen.
Frau Peller, raped by Inquisition torturers
because her sister refused
the witch-judge Franz Buirman, 1631.
Maria Walburga Rung, tried at a secular court
in Manheim as a witch,
released as “merely a prostitute,”
accused again by the episcopal court
at Eichstadt, tortured into confession,
and then burned alive, 1723, age twenty-two.

What have they done to me?”

— Robin Morgan, “The Network of the Imaginary Mother,” in Lady of the Beasts: Poems.

Originally, the researchers’ goal in this study wasn’t to document the effects of pornography on sexual assailants. Their research was aimed at studying the sexual abuse of street prostitutes, both prior to and following entrance into prostitution.

In a comment (in which the offender mentioned some pornographic material) which was reported by one of the prostitutes who was a victim of rape, an assailant told the woman:

“I know all about you bitches, you’re no different; you’re like all of them. I seen it in all the movies. You love being beaten.” (He then began punching the victim violently.) I just seen it again in that flick. He beat the shit out of her while he raped her and she told him she loved it; you know you love it; tell me you love it.”

Another prostitute reported her rape to the researchers in this way:

“After I told him I’d turn him a free trick if only he’d calm down and stop hurting me, then he just really blew his mind. He started calling me all kinds of names, and then started screaming and shrieking like nothing I’d ever heard. He sounded like a wailing animal. Instead of just slapping me to keep me quiet, he really went crazy and began punching me all over. Then he told me he had seen whores just like me in [three pornographic films mentioned by name], and told me he knew how to do it to whores like me. He knew what whores like me wanted… After he finished raping me, he started beating me with his gun all over. Then he said, You were in that movie. You were in that movie. You know you wanted to die after you were raped. That’s what you want; you want me to kill you after this rape just like [specific pornographic film] did.’”

This particular woman suffered, in addition to forced vaginal penetration, forced anal penetration with a gun, excessive bodily injuries, including several broken bones; and a period of time in which the rapist held a loaded pistol to her vagina, threatening to shoot, insisting it was the way she had died in the film he had seen. He did not, in fact, shoot after all.

 
Misogyny is historical.

Misogyny is also contemporary.

I admit I have written posts which were very powerful and, even sometimes, yeah, optimistic, on this blog. This ain’t going to stop and I will keep writing such posts in the future.

But right now, I’m just feeling low…

We live in a world that doesn’t take violence against women seriously.

Most people say rape is bad but they do nothing to work toward a world where rape wouldn’t exist, let alone analyze or identify all the institutions, customs, behaviors, etc that make rape inevitable.

People would rather say that rape is “inevitable”, which is false. Rapists are not born, they are made. Most radical feminists have identified the things that make rape possible, which are notably socialization to masculine norms and behaviors, repression of empathy toward women, children, and/or some other males (in the few cases of men raping other men), pornography, pornified culture, patriarchal customs & institutions, etc.

Regarding prostitution, millions and millions of women and girls are being raped on a daily basis. And hardly anybody cares. Many people just do not want to hear the truth about the sex industry. Some feminists or women who genuinely care about other women are having that truth hidden from them, often by malestream media, sometimes by glamorized prostitution culture, etc.
 

I reject the term “sex work” as it is somehow too convenient for the men who (ab)use prostituted or prostituting women . I still acknowledge that there are some very unprivileged women in the sex trade who call themselves ’sex workers’ while feeling negative about prostitution though. And when they tell their painful stories while using the term ’sex work’, well I’m absolutely fine with that. Their stories matter as much as so many others’ who’ve been harmed in the sex trade. It is possible that their pimps or madams (and some of their johns) called it “sex work,” “a job” or “work” when they spoke to them, which makes sense why some prostituted women have internalized the term “sex work.” In contrast, however, there are some formerly prostituted women who loathe the term “sex work” because they feel that it attempts to conceal the great suffering they’ve experienced in the prostitution industry and that it also tries to make prostitution look “respectable” when it’s not, when it is in fact a violation of a woman’s body and rights. Anyway, I can fully understand both cases.

We live in a patriarchy. . . Patriarchy socializes us, fucks us over, violates us, restricts our freedom and our autonomy, etc. The list goes on. . .

That doesn’t change the fact that “sex work” is not a term I use, as it is patriarchal and it benefits men with their age-old anti-woman beliefs. Prostitution has been called the world’s oldest profession for ages and ages. And prostitution has not yet been recognized as an inherent form of sexual slavery and violence against women (for the vast majority of the women & girls in it) by most people. . .

As I said somewhere else, the term ‘prostituted women’ is accurate because most women who enter prostitution do so with choices that are NOT free. So, when we say ‘prostituted women,’ we also mean that women in the sex industry are being prostituted not only by the men who sell them or buy them, but that they are also being prostituted by the whole oppressive patriarchal system and all its restrictive forms of socializations. Patriarchy limits choices. And so does porno-iarchy!

As I said: Patriarchists (that includes the few women patriarchists too), do not ever try to control my language! The language was invented by the patriarchy, and I want to obey no edict or rule given by the male-supremacist system. I use terms I want to use, terms that recognize women & girls’ oppression under patriarchy, sometimes even new terms I invent if I want to.

For instance, when we, radical feminists, say ‘herstory’, we mean by that beautiful word: the history of women, pointing out that the history of women should matter as much as the history of men. But the history of men has always been more documented in patriarchy. That’s why accurate documentations of herstory would be so important in order to understand how much, as women, we have been hated for a very long time. The witch-hunt in early modern Europe is only one of the so many examples in the history of misogyny.

I have another definition for pornoiarchy. It is also a society that restricts sexual imagination, i.e. that constricts us as sexual beings, because it is a patriarchal society invaded and controlled by pornography. Because pornography tries to control sexuality; it maps out people’s sex lives with the same old scenario of male-over-female domination. To me, not being able to imagine an egalitarian sexuality (that wouldn’t rely on the objectification and the degradation of another human being) is myopia. I believe that sexual imagination can go beyond the boundaries of pornoiarchy.

To me, anybody who defends pornography, prostitution, Christianity, capitalism, and/or male-supremacist laws, customs or institutions, etc (while being fully aware -without necessarily admitting it- that these things are inherently misogynistic or oppressive) is a patriarchist.

Andrea Dworkin was absolutely amazing. I believe she was hated because she firmly stood against patriarchy and she was very vocal about resistance to patriarchy. And, in a patriarchal society, such a woman is hated, including by some (patriarchist) “feminists”.

Any radical feminist woman who speaks out eloquently against porniarchy becomes unfortunately #1 on the patriarchists’ shitlist.

Thus, because patriarchists have the power of naming (i.e. the power of language, which was invented by the patriarchy itself, the power of words, the power over communication and expression), they can hate and misrepresent radical feminists as much as they please. That is to say that every single word, every single argument, every single phrase, every single expression of feelings, etc that a radical feminist uses, says or writes can potentially be (deliberately, carelessly, or disingenuously) misunderstood, twisted around, quoted repeatedly out of context, and bent out of shape by the patriarchists. Because (you see?) the patriarchal status quo has to be protected by its cruel guardians.

As a result of only this simple fact (patriarchists having the power of words), the list of misrepresentations of radical feminism (& radical feminists in general) is endless. It is present in the malestream media, in the academia, on the Internet, etc.

It is as though this great amount of lies and distortions about radical feminism were this huge vortex of water, and we, radical feminists, were constantly being dragged down to drown underwater inside this whirling mass of suffocating misinterpretations of the words we say.

Patriarchists have to be powerful in the ongoing task of slandering us. They are trying to make sure that we will never be taken seriously and that the male-supremacist status quo is being bolstered.

Therefore, pro-pornography views are usually what’s popular out there, while radical feminist views are (usually) either totally hated or not even heard of. I witnessed all this in real life as a fact. During years and years, I had only heard pro-pornography views on the subject (especially from men and ex-boyfriends, and the mainstream media, etc) before discovering radical feminism by chance when I was online. I only found radical feminism by chance. I had never heard of radical feminism before May 2006. And before I decided to become a radical feminist, I’d quickly figured out how much radical feminism was hated, misrepresented and/or shunned from mainstream society. That didn’t stop me from becoming a rad fem, but that’s another story.

Note: While I say that pro-pornography views are usually what’s popular out there, I am talking about the culture of men. I believe that most women are anti-porn at heart, even amongst the few ones who use pornography. Most women want to stay away from pornography because it is too painful to look at. They usually use the terms “disgusting” or “filthy” but they in fact do notice that porn is degrading to women. As for the ones who use it, I believe that, when they can look at it with a clear mind, they obviously notice that it is not advancing freedom for women, or that it does not promote equality.

Before hearing about the feminist critique of pornography, I only had vaguely heard about feminism and never heard of radical feminism. But now, being a radical feminist and having heard and read about all the multiple misrepresentations of my type of feminism, I realize how much it hurts.

I’ve realized that radical feminism is the complete antithesis of patriarchy. Patriarchy is the very system of oppression and control we’re living in. Therefore, radical feminist politics are the solution to the overthrow of the male-supremacist system. What makes me mostly sad is that most women do not know all this.

Wouldn’t there be such a huge barrier imposed by malestream media in order to prevent mass-communication from rad fems to women, along with stereotypes & lies being widespread about radical feminism written in so many places on the Internet, women would know about radical feminism and they would know that it is not to be hated but understood clearly. Radical feminism is a call to freedom from all forms of oppression through the destruction of power structures.

A fellow blogger once said to me:

“I think a lot of women have some sort of coping mechanism that allows them to deny or ignore reality. I take it as a luxury, when I can.

But long-term, it becomes resistance to change and the women who work remain few and the task relentless.”

— Sophie, of 2 B Sophora.

This is true.

I believe that women don’t necessarily need to read radical feminist writings to see how much men and the culture of patriarchists hate us. They just have to seriously open their eyes to notice that fact. However, I do believe that radical feminist books help you identify all the different complex structures that cause all these atrocities perpetrated by men against us. It gives you words to be able to properly describe your experience of having been born female within a world that regards female humans as second-class citizens.

I also believe that women have this coping mechanism, as Sophie explained, to pretend that reality is not what it really is. I resorted to that kind of psychological dissociation when I was younger. I also admit that now I still have my ‘mind-split’ process taking place now and again to avoid falling into depression.

When I notice too much the increasing aggression against women as a class, the sexism that permeates society, the ever-increasing violence and misogyny within pornography, the fact that prostitution has still not been recognized as a violation of women and girls’ human rights and the numerous distortions and misrepresentations of radical feminism, I sometimes tend to mentally disconnect from all this pain. Because I’m just this little person and I can’t take all this. Consequently, like Sophie, I take it as a luxury, when I can.

Nevertheless I agree that, in the long term, the ‘mind-split’ becomes a resistance to change. Women have to speak out on male violence:

. . . one thing I will never, never be is silent. I’d RATHER be critical, judgemental and negative of male supremacy, and be perceived by other women and men as a harpy, an evil bitch, batshit crazy etc, etc… than be silent on the atrocities that men are committing against women every day. It sickens me too much not to speak out. It sickens me too much not to speak out loudly and angrily. Men’s violence is just too horrendous and sickening to ignore.

Allecto, in a comment to one of my posts.

Allecto’s words echo in my ears. When I listen to these words, it gives me strength. I feel like I don’t care about being criticized for speaking out on male violence and male supremacy; I want to keep screaming and shouting about how much the culture of patriarchists hates women; I want to keep screaming and shouting about how much men hurt women in a patriarchy.

In this society, men hurt, abuse, rape, beat up and, sometimes, murder women. Not all men abuse women, but many of them do. I’ve already explained that masculinity (i.e. social gender construct) is the root cause that underlies this system.

Male violence against women is not only widespread; it is often accepted as being “just life.” How do we explain that within a culture that has eroticized rape in the first place, i.e. that has made rape “sexy”? 😦

Nowadays, it is almost impossible for a woman to have a close friendship or relationship with a guy without him trying to force intercourse onto her, or trying to persuade her to “do this” or “do that”. Also, generally, a wife has to allow herself to “be fucked” by her husband as a ‘duty’.

I get a clear picture of the current situation here: Rape (as real feminists define it) is commonplace, tacitly considered “normal” in our patriarchal [pornified] culture.

As Ruth Anne Koenick, director of Rutgers’ Department of Sexual Assault Services and Crime Victim Assistance, said when she was interviewed by Robert Jensen:

People don’t come out of the womb wanting to be rapists nor believing that they are to blame when they are victims, but that’s where so many end up. What does that say about the culture’s belief systems?. . . One of my favorite people once said, “Rape is illegal, but the sexual ethic that underlies rape is woven into the fabric of our culture.”

During my life, I have been raped, coerced into sexual activity and domestically abused by some men who used pornography.

I remember the pain. I remember the lack of empathy I could see in their eyes. I remember how they would sometimes ignore me when I cried.

I remember them grabbing me, them slapping me, them bruising me, them tying me up to the bed and telling me I’d “enjoy it”.

When the pain became too intense I’d just mentally shut down, dissociate my mind from all this.

When I was living in domestic violence, I kept ignoring the bullying through dissociation, denial, by splitting my mind into parts, by pretending that the cruelty that I was subjected to was not there. . . I just had to. . . keep pretending this abuse I was sustaining wasn’t happening to me. . . I’d split my mind into parts. . . I’d numb the pain. . . I’d take the pain away. . . by splitting my mind into parts. . . I was perfectly able to ignore all the pain when I could. . . split my mind into parts. . . numb the pain. . . blank out all the sexual and domestic abuse I had suffered from men.

The pornography, I wanted to stay away from it. There was some kind of a sick feeling I was getting when seeing it, I could not quite describe what it exactly was at the time. But now I think that it had something to do with the fact that only taking glimpses at the raw woman-hatred that it was made me sick, which is why I tried to stay away from it in spite of boyfriends constantly trying to force the pornography – visually or sexually – onto me. Ignoring the pornography was another way of numbing pain.

In general, when something was too painful, too sexist, too demeaning, too hurtful, I would just mentally shut down from it by escaping to another corner of my mind.

It is an excellent coping mechanism. But it just doesn’t always work. And we, women have to speak out on male violence. We also have to speak out on victim-blaming; that is atrociously widespread in this patriarchy.

As Laurelin once wrote:

‘Victim mentality’ assumes that there is something about the victim that makes them a victim, something the victim does that invites victimisation, and that therefore the victim is responsible for their suffering. It asks the victim to take responsibility for the actions of their aggressor. And it is used because it easier to pile more blame upon the vulnerable than it is to stand up and point out that there is something wrong with the world in which the victim, the aggressor, and the speaker live.

— from Perpetrator mentality.

I wish all the victim-blaming which pervades society would stop. It is the aggressor’s fault when a woman is raped, abused or beaten up; it is, broaderly, patriarchy’s fault, not the victim’s. But how do we explain that within a culture that is contaminated by sick messages (rape ideologies) like these?= “Women don’t know their own minds; men know better what women really want and need sexually,” “A woman might not want it at first, but once she gets a taste of hot sex, she can’t get enough,” “Women are sexually manipulative,” “Getting her drunk is a way to get her in the mood,” or “All women are whores at heart and want to be fucked by any available man;” these are misogynistic messages that come straight from the mainstream contemporary pornography industry. Fact: we live in a rape culture.

I go to college five days a week and I have to put up with the fact that I’m studying in the same classroom as men of my age who probably use porn (just under half of the class is male; a little more than half is female). It makes me sick. When I hear guys laugh at sexist porn or rape jokes, it demoralizes me, but I’d rather remain quiet. Sometimes, these things still shock me too. Probably because I so much want them to stop; I want this pornified culture to stop. But then, after the ‘surprise’ effect is over (it usually lasts for 5 minutes at the most), I just feel terribly exhausted and distraught and I almost feel like shouting at them, “Fuck off with your porn! You woman-haters! You’re fucking abusing women, only by watching this.” Sometimes I swear I wish I could say that to them, but I don’t. . . because I know I’d get terribly slammed for that. I’d be hated, just for telling the truth. 😦

Thus, I’d rather work with women, or get the chance to talk to the women whenever I can. Because I know that, 90% of the time, women will listen to me (and sometimes will discuss the issue at length) when I say to them that pornography is degrading, woman-hating, violent, etc.

Finally, I would like to add that this is pointless women arguing with each other or hating each other in this world, because it distracts us from seeing who really is in power in this society, who is in a position of privilege, i.e. men in a patriarchy. I believe that when women fight or are being cruel to each other it can be called “harem politics” (as some writer once suggested – see quote below). Women who fight, who hurt each other, who are jealous of each other, etc will not unite against patriarchy.

I mean, of course, we all screw up sometimes. We all sometimes happen to, intentionally or unintentionally, hurt each others, e.g. Woman A hurts Woman B, then Woman C hurts Woman D, etc. and vice-versa, etc. Arguments we sometimes have among female survivors of male violence and among women as a class are patriarchy-related. Patriarchy intends to perpetually distract us from being angry at the male-supremacist system which maintains rape, pornography, prostitution, battery, etc as “inevitable facts of life.”

Patriarchy often disconnects women from each other. Woman-hating is historical. Male supremacy takes different forms: patriarchal religions, marriage, forced childbearing, prostitution, pornography, institutions that protect gender roles, etc. The list is big. I believe that women would have to identify all sites of oppression under patriarchy if they ever want to be able to overthrow the system.

Patriarchists are counting on our ignorance, our disconnection from each other, our refusal to see how much their society and culture hates us, our refusal to see all the harms men have been doing to us throughout history. Patriarchists are counting on all that. They “are betting that we cannot face the horror of their sexual system and survive,” as Dworkin wrote in Pornography: Men Possessing Women (p. 224). This is why, like many other women, I struggle everyday in this patriarchal culture. . .

“The genius of any slave system is found in the dynamics which isolate slaves from each other, obscure the reality of a common condition, and make united rebellion against the oppressor inconceivable. The power of the master is absolute and incontrovertible. His authority is protected by civil law, armed force, custom, and divine and/or biological sanction. Slaves characteristically internalize the oppressor’s view of them, and this internalized view congeals into a pathological self-hatred. Slaves typically learn to hate the qualities and behaviors which characterize their own group and to identify their own self-interest with the self-interest of their oppressor. The master’s position at the top is invulnerable; one aspires to become the master, or to become close to the master, or to be recognized by virtue of one’s good service to the master. Resentment, rage, and bitterness at one’s own powerlessness cannot be directed upward against him, so it is all directed against other slaves who are the living embodiment of one’s own degradation. Among women, this dynamic works itself out in what Phyllis Chesler has called “harem politics”. The first wife is tyrant over the second wife who is tyrant over the third wife, etc. The authority of the first wife, or any other woman in the harem who has prerogatives over other women, is a function of her powerlessness in relation to the master. The labor that she does as a fuck and as a breeder can be done by any other woman of her gender class. She, in common with all other women of her abused class, is instantly replaceable. This means that whatever acts of cruelty she commits against other women are done as the agent of the master. Her behavior inside the harem over and against other women is in the interest of the master, whose dominance is fixed by the hatred of women for each other. Inside the harem, removed from all access to real power, robbed of any possibility of self-determination, all women typically act out on other women their repressed rage against the master; and they also act out their internalized hatred of their own kind. Again, this effectively secures the master’s dominance, since women divided against each other will not unite against him.”
–- Andrea Dworkin, in Our Blood: Prophecies and Discourses on Sexual Politics, pp. 85-86.

ETA (10/30/08): I just added the sentence “Misogyny is also contemporary,” and I definitely should have done it before (see comments).

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Intro/Definitions

As I define those terms (dunno how other radical feminists define them):

‘Porno-iarchy’ or ‘pornoiarchy’: a patriarchal society invaded and controlled by pornography & the culture it has pornified, as well as a society upheld by men’s cruel needs for female sexual subordination. For proper definitions of what pornography really is (stated by different feminist writers), please click here.

‘Pornified Culture’: a culture which has been invaded by the mainstreaming of pornography.

‘Sex Poz’: my light-hearted abbreviation of “sex-positive”, a label which the pro-pornstitution ‘feminists’ often use to describe themselves, while deliberately attempting to conflate pornography with sex as if they were the same thing. See one of my comments at Rage Against the Man-chine for an expression of my opinion on this lack of distinction between porn and sex.

‘Pornstitution’ (Originally coined by Sam Berg): Pornography and prostitution, both the same part of the same misogynistic ‘sex’ industry. Also highlights the fact that the sex trade is a system of interconnected misogynistic forms of commodified sexual abuse.

‘Rad Fem’: just an abbreviation of Radical Feminist, that’s all, as I learned this shortening term (‘radfem’) from my private discussions within the Genderberg feminist anti-porn forums.

‘Malestream media’: Mainstream corporate media, largely controlled by white capitalist men in suits.

‘Herstory’: the history of women (as the term is sometimes used by radical feminists) , not the history of men (which has always been more popular and talked about in a patriarchy).

 

Why do I blame the porno-iarchy?

I blame the porno-iarchy for all the sexual violence done to the women in the ‘sex’ industry.

I blame the porno-iarchy for the lack of choices most women who enter prostitution have (when I say ‘prostitution’, that also includes pornography as a form of prostitution of course).

I blame the porno-iarchy for the sexual violence perpetrated against so many women and girls who are in prostitution.

I blame the porno-iarchy for all the misogyny, degradation, abuse, and racism that are inherent and blatant in the content of mainstream pornography.

I blame the porno-iarchy for all the harms caused by pornography to women and children (and sometimes to men) in this unjust male-supremacist society.

I blame the porno-iarchy for so many women and girls having to make themselves look “sexy” or “fuckable” to men in the goal to achieve a false sense of “empowerment” (been there myself when I used to go clubbing).

I blame the porno-iarchy for the fact that so many women and girls have to force themselves to have sex when they don’t necessarily want to in order to please their boyfriends and husbands.

I blame the porno-iarchy for the fact that so many women and girls are sexually coerced into sexual acts (coming from the ‘domination/subordination’ pornographic mind) they do not really want to practice.

I blame the porno-iarchy for all the rapes, the battery, the sexual and physical violence against (mostly) women and girls that happen in this culture.

I blame the porno-iarchy for blaming the victims of rape (saying that’s “her fault, she’s responsible for what happened because blah, blah, blah. . .”) and not the rapists.

I blame the porno-iarchy for sometimes not even believing rape victims (saying that “she probably consented or enjoyed it”).

I blame the porno-iarchy for the (usual) censoring and demonizing of radical feminists in the malestream media.

I blame the porno-iarchy for accusing us of “siding with religious zealots”.

I blame the porno-iarchy for not letting us rad fems educate enough people on the harms of pornography ’cause of the malestream media being tied to the pornography industry, ’cause pro-porners are endlessly trying to silence us and ’cause of ‘leftist’ liberal stubborn pornography-protecting mind (as Gail Dines & Robert Jensen say ‘Pornography is a Left Issue‘, not a right-wing one)

I blame the porno-iarchy for some women defending pornography and prostitution in the name of ‘feminism’.

I blame the porno-iarchy for the pro-pornstitution ‘feminists’ being unfairly magnified by malestream media.

I blame the porno-iarchy for slandering us, radical feminists, and totally misrepresenting our views or simply not understanding why we’re so angry at the pornstitution industry (because of the HARMS!!!).

I blame the porno-iarchy for many other things you might also wanna mention to me here, rad fem or anti-porn readers?

 

Acknowledging Harms and Lack of Choice

“She wants it; they all do” is the biggest lie coming from pornographic misogyny.

The vast majority of women in pornstitution do not want all this degradation and torture to happen to them, but they are subject to all this because of Lack of Choice, as I’ve also already explained here and there.

I just read another interesting article, ‘You’re consenting to being raped for money’, about a prostitute who tells us about how “the life” really is like and how prostitution is glamorized in pornified media partly because “[y]ounger women are being coerced into valuing themselves by what they look like and men’s definition of how a woman should be valued. . . Women are being told that their bodies should be accessible at all times to men. . . there is a conspiracy to turn women into readily accessible semen receptacles.” A truly male-supremacist pornified conspiracy indeed!

Although I do not much like the expression “sex work” (more on that soon enough), I believe that the ‘sex’ industry is largely male-controlled (even though there are quite a few women who are now sexploitation business entrepreneurs & who abuse other women) and I do not believe that “outlawing strip clubs & porn” would address the demand for pornstitution, I find the comment that this person left in the Traffick Jamming blog nevertheless very interesting:

 

The comment by Maggie Hays sums up my experience as a stripper in many ways. The only difference is my boss and the management were women and they were perfectly content to exploit us women just as any man would. I have known women who got into porn and prostitution and I know all about how sex work often leads to violence and S/M. Sex work is inherently violent as it demands the objectification of the person, and what is happening at Kink is merely the final result of a warped and morally bankrupt industry. That is why porn should be outlawed as should strip clubs. These are only legalised forms of prostitution. I saw so much abuse and violence at [sic] criminality at my club, it was insane. Prostitution was openly being conducted as was drug dealing. And we were all regularly physically and mentally abused by the patrons and the staff. I have been viciously attacked by pro-stripper apologists on stripperweb.com for my testimony, which shows how people on the pro-sex industry side have zero compassion for sex workers and don’t want the truth about the business to be disseminated on the internet.”

 Pamela, in case you read here, I can understand that this is so terrible the abuse you have both suffered and witnessed in “sex work”. I hear you, sister. The fact that these pro-porn women (whoever they were) had no consideration for your painful experience and unpleasant feelings regarding prostitution is absolutely horrifying. And I do hope that, wherever you are, you are alright and you’re gonna be alright.

The fact is that once a woman has entered the sex industry and she is harmed within it, there is no going back. The damage from past ill-treatment, the PTSD, the pain, the unsettling trauma, etc. are all there. And the pornstitution apologists would have us believe that she “chose it”, thus nothing can be said? Many (especially male) pro-prostitutionists would have us believe that once a prostituted woman has ‘chosen it’ and has been paid, the harms done to her body and mind can then all be dismissed or forgotten. What an anti-woman propaganda! 😦

Also, the ‘sex poz’ lobby would have us believe that prostitution is (for the most part) not abusive, that it is work, and that pornography is liberating or can be. . . What a rhetorical nonsense! Broken record, *yawn*. . . It is such a distressing shame that some women have been deluded into believing all this very nonsense and thus have been encouraged to defend pornstitution.

I do not believe in “sex work”, i.e. “prostitution as a good career option for women”. I believe that prostitution is an inherently harmful and misogynistic form of sexual abuse. This is why I do not call prostitution “sex work”. Prostitution is not the oldest profession, it is the world’s oldest lie.

While prostitution has existed for a very long time, slavery existed before prostitution, as feminist historian Gerda Lerner related in The Creation of Patriarchy. This is an important part of the herstory to know, just as important as knowing about the witch-hunt in early modern Europe, the mass-gynocide caused by patriarchal religion and its pornographic Malleus Maleficarum (See Dworkin’s chapter on the witches in her first book, Woman Hating, for a recap on what happened to women deemed witches during the Inquisition in early modern Europe).

And talking about herstory, prostitution and contemporary society, here is an excellent quote from Sherry Lee Short:

 

“. . . the arguments of pro-sex industry advocates and proponents have a common theme: the industry springs from a liberal mindset and frees women and men, sexually, politically, and spiritually. Part of this logic is that sexuality — particularly women’s sexuality — has been oppressed historically and that the sex industry offers women and men the liberating possibility of unbridled sexual expression. This logic ignores the fact that the use of women in prostitution as well as other forms of sexual commodification has existed for as least as long as there has been an historical record. Thus, if sexual commodification were freeing, then sexual oppression would be uncommon or, more likely, exist only as some curious historical fact. This logic also ignores the reality that the sex industry thrives where the political, social, and religious milieu is fundamentally conservative. It thrives where beliefs about women and children and their roles are the most traditional. . .”

— Sherry Lee Short in Not For Sale, Stark & Whisnant Eds., p.309.

In this patriarchy we’re living in, pro-pornstitution folks are just as reactionary as religious zealots. Both groups uphold patriarchy and perpetuate age-old woman-hating lies. They merely do it in different ways.

I do not believe in “sex work”, just like I do not believe in “feminist porn” (oxymoron). Prostitution and pornography are inherently misogynistic. If sex is about a process of discovery and connection between two people, then there can be no “cookbook”, no ‘recipe guide’ for non-patriarchal sexuality. And to not reiterate, I’ve already expressed my opinion on ‘feminist porn’ somewhere in this post here.

The idea that prostitution is “sex work” is the biggest fallacy of the pro-prostitution lobby. It has been & is being a direct cause for the ever-increasing trafficking and exploitation of women in prostitution.

We, radical feminists, generally refer to women in the sex industry as ‘prostituted women’ because (1) we acknowledge that they’ve had extremely limited choices under patriarchy & we empathize with them, (2) we realize that most of them are under the control of cruel pimps & brutal or hurtful johns, and (3) we want to emphasize the fact that most of the victims of the ‘sex’ industry are female.

More people should realize and admit that most women in prostitution are tremendously and awfully harmed within it.

There is such an incredible victim-blaming in this society and that spreads like sickness. Being a victim is not a character flaw. A rad fem friend once told me about this: Only in a society which regards women who have been abused as responsible for their own victimization, only in a culture that moans that the oppressed should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, can the word “victim” be seen as an insult.

Calling someone a victim is seen as much an insult as calling someone oppressed to some people, including in the academia. Also, the word “victim” also implies that there is a victimizer, which can be very disturbing to recognize for some women who want to feel empowered, such as the ‘sex poz’ feminists for instance.

Some women just do not want to face their oppressed status. And I’ve been there myself once, at some point in my life. I used to live in some sort of ‘denial’ ’cause I wanted to feel empowered and desirable to men a few years back. Because the reality of my inferior status to men would have been just too painful. . . to realize.

I believe that we, women, should all start understanding our inequality, we should all become aware of it in the hope of changing the world in which we live (a world ruled by the patriarchy and the porno-iarchy) and working toward genuine equality between the sexes.

As I said, I believe that discussions on prostitution should now be directed toward the johns, who always have 100% choice in this matter.

The legalization of prostitution does not work. Organized crimes and trafficking still occur in the Netherlands, where prostitution is mistakenly seen as “work”, as it has recently been reported here. There, in this article, a spokeswoman for Equality Now (an anti-trafficking organization) lately said that “[i]nstead of controlling prostitution, legalisation has led to a disastrous outbreak of increased exploitation of women in the sex trade, sex trafficking and other related crimes.”

On the other hand, the Swedish law, that prosecutes johns, pimps & traffickers and provides exit programs for prostitutes, has worked. As recently reported in the Herald Tribune:

 

“Swedish officials have vowed to step up the fight against prostitution, using a unique law that targets sex buyers instead of prostitutes. [. . .]
“Sweden is not a good place for (your) business,” Justice Minister Beatrice Ask said in a warning to those who buy sex or are involved in trafficking. “(There’s) a very big risk of getting caught, and getting caught big time.”
Sweden’s unusual prostitution law, which allows the sale of sex but prohibits the buying, faced ridicule when it was introduced nine years ago. However, other countries are now considering emulating the Swedish model, which officials say has reduced the demand for prostitutes and reshaped attitudes toward the sex trade. [. . .]
The plan boosts policing against sex buyers and expands rehabilitation centers for sex workers and trafficking victims. It also trains hospital workers and social services employees to deal with suspected cases of prostitution and trafficking.
Integration Minister Nyamko Sabuni noted that men are the primary buyers of sex.
“Prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes is a serious barrier for social equality and equality between the sexes,” she said.

 

The thing is to be able to understand the Swedish prostitution law and its success, more people must understand the harms intrinsic to prostitution itself. More people must understand that prostitution is not “work”, it is violence against women, as the failure of legalization and the success of the Swedish 1999 legislation have proven.

[ETA: No, by saying “lack of choice”, rad fems do not “deny women’s choices”. We do NOT see prostitutes as “people with no agency”. Clarification of that in this new post here, On Choices (part 2): Prostitution and the Agency of Johns.]

 

Pornography: Looking into the Reflection of Porno-iarchy.

Stop Porn Culture, a feminist anti-pornography movement, has recently launched a new website, on which people (especially women) who don’t know what pornography is really about (i.e. who still believe ‘this is just pictures of people having sex’) can watch the most recently updated slide show which presents a feminist critique of the contemporary mainstream pornography industry (*you must be 18 or over to watch this – Warning: may trigger*) and then they can witness the undeniable misogyny of the content of porn.

As the creators of this slideshow said in the script for it:

“This presentation provides a critical analysis of these sexist and racist images that are so harmful to children, women, and men; to our relationships; and to the culture at large. For many, this show is an introduction to a feminist understanding of the pornographic culture, and the slides may be hard to look at. We have included these harsh images not to shock but to help us understand porn culture so that we can organize against it.”

I have seen that slideshow, I have been trained to be able to present it at some point in the future, and I do know how well-made and eye-opening it is. After projections of it in large rooms, I would always notice how (usually) more than three quarters of the audiences were horrified by this appalling abuse of women that pornography is and how this slideshow would stir anyone (who has at least a remnant of humanity left within him/herself) into action.

Although I do not visit pro-porn blogs anymore, I lately got told by rad fems about how silencing these people are trying to be and how intolerant they really are.

As it has, a few days ago, been reported by A Birch Tree, there has been a misunderstanding of the law and the blogger also said:

“I suppose what really ruffles the finches’ feathers [referring to the name of the blog Tree of Finches] is that the pro-porn lobby seems to show so much concern for the “rights” of porn participators when it comes to using their images without proper documentation, but not when it comes to, say, their terrifyingly high rates of PTSD or the fact that 80% of them don’t even get the courtesy of a condom, much less how they tend to discount the stories of any woman who has been horribly abused by the porn industry. No no, their (arbitrarily applied) concern is over documentation. That’s obviously the important issue.”

In the slideshow script, it is written:

“. . . the women’s faces are not blurred and are often recognizable. We cannot know how these women would feel about having their images used in this presentation. We have made the difficult decision to show them, because the women’s facial expressions are crucial to understanding these images. We ask you to recognize with us the moral complexity of this decision, keeping in mind that these women are human beings with dignity. “

 

As a commenter at A Birch Tree’s said:

“I don’t think that the porn slideshows are intended primarily to change the minds of porn-users – though they do (if I remember the Stop Porn Culture slideshow rightly – it’s offline) present the images with a feminist critique, pointing out the aggression and hatred in the images. The slideshows are also a way for women & other activists who don’t use porn and have had little exposure to it to get an idea of the reality of porn. It’s all too easy to assume that porn is just images of people having sex. . .”

  The matter is in no doubt complex. If you don’t show pornography, then people can just say, “Pornography is just about people having sex,” and thus easily shrug off the issue. And if you do show pornography, then you can possibly trigger some rape or prostitution survivors in the audience. But then anybody can decide to stop watching the slideshow or get out of the room (if it’s a public presentation) anytime though.

Going back to the subject of the women in the images, I remember a line of the slideshow script that says “in some DP [double penetration] films, the woman is shown grimacing, or saying things like “that hurts” or “please make it stop”; her apparent pain is part of the appeal” while at the same time on the screen the slideshow is showing pornographic pictures of women suffering, their terrible facial expressions of pain.

Once we understand that these women are victims and not “actresses”, it becomes perfectly understandable while we would show that slideshow.

Ghastly and horrendous images of military torture or victims of war have for a long time been broadcast on television and have often been recognized as being the greatest incentive behind the mass demonstrations against war and military torture.

I doubt the thousands of victims who were shown on TV, suffering or drenched in blood, would all have given their consent to the filming and photos of their bodies being used by anti-war protesters. The children burned with napalm and the victims of Abu Graib couldn’t possibly have given consent to have their photos used by journalists and anti-war or anti-torture activists.

Saying that none of the images of pornographic torture, showing the women humiliated, suffering and having their bodies being injured, should be allowed to be used by feminist anti-pornography educators within the framework of the feminist critique of the pornstitution industry is just like saying that the free speech of anti-war activists should be suppressed.

To restrict the political use of images merely because the victimized subjects did not give permission could make whole categories of journalism impossible (and I don’t care if pro-porners later on deny all the facts that I’m writing here — as denying facts and slandering rad fems is all they do anyway).

We are neither the users who cruelly masturbate to this atrocious and widespread crime against women that is called pornography, nor are we the pornographers who capitalize on women’s pornographic ordeals.

We show the slideshow because we want to stir people into feminist actions against the pornography industry. We want to stop the demand for this gruesome abuse. We want to stop the abuse itself, by educating communities and working toward reducing (largely) male demand for female sexual slavery, torture, agony and suffering.

Something tells me that porn apologists, deep down, know that our feminist anti-pornography slideshow is a powerful educating tool against their anti-woman propaganda (although it is something else that they will inevitably deny as usual, of course). That is why they’re trying to silence us. Their protest against our slideshow is nothing else but another attempt to shut us up. And it will fail! 🙂

As Diana Russell, a long-time antiporn slideshow presenter wrote in her 1993 book Against Pornography: The Evidence of Harm:

“I have found that showing pornography is an effective and rapid consciousness-raiser about misogyny and male views of women. It helps to enhance women’s understanding of many males’ dangerous notions of what it is to be a man. It often also succeeds in arousing women viewers’ anger (and some men’s) at the contempt and hatred of women they see in the pictures and captions.”

Anti-porn feminist Diana Russell has been reproducing pornography in her showing of the evidence of harms for decades. There has been no legal challenge that I’m aware of.

As a formerly prostituted woman (that a friend of mine knew) once said:

“Please DO look at the photographs, which are not owned by the people depicted, but by the torturers. As long as the only people who see these and others like them are the torturers and torture and pornography consumers, women haters, abusers and traffickers win, because ordinary people will not see what pornography is really about.”

Showing the slideshow is one of the best way to make our point when we say that mainstream pornography is misogynistic. Contemporary pornography is a lot more about images and films than words, so restricting our critique to words would be inadequate.

One of the aims of the feminist anti-pornography slideshow is to encourage empathy for porn performers (whom porn consumers do not regard as human beings, but cruelly use them as “fuck-objects” instead). I remember how sad and angry I felt after I’d attended that slideshow’s screening. While the slideshow is onscreen, we witness these women’s suffering in it, which makes it known so it cannot be ignored.

If pornography is protected as “free speech”, then so should be any criticism of it while showing its images.

Seeing pornography is like looking into the reflection of porno-iarchy, taking a look into the mirror of male dominance. It is nauseating, distressing but sometimes it is necessary when we want to educate other people to combat the harms.

 

Porno-iarchy’s Influences: The Undeniable Links between Pornography, Sexual Coercion and Violence

The harms of pornography are undeniable.

Pornography increases the belief in rape myths. Examples of the rape myths that regular pornography users (and sometimes also people living in a rape culture) are more likely to believe are as follows:

[Rape Myths]

“Women are eager to accommodate seemingly any and every sexual request.”

“When a woman says ‘no,’ she means ‘yes’.”

“Women incite men to rape.”

“Women secretly fantasize about being raped.”

“Rape doesn’t happen very often.”

“False reporting of rape is common.”

“Women secretly enjoy being raped.”

“Women who are drunk are willing to engage in any kind of sexual activity.”

“Real rapes are only committed by strangers.”

“Women who are sexually assaulted ‘ask for it’ by the way they dress or act.”

“A woman who goes to the home or the apartment of a man on their first date implies that she is willing to have sex.”

“Any healthy woman can successfully resist a rapist if she really wants to.”

“Many women have an unconscious wish to be raped, and many then unconsciously set up a situation in which they are likely to be attacked.”

“If a girl engages in necking or petting and she lets things get out of hand, it is her own fault if her partner forces sex on her.”

“Being roughed up is sexually stimulating to many women.”

“Sometimes the only way a man can get a cold woman turned on is to use force.”

“Many times a woman will pretend she doesn’t want to have intercourse because she doesn’t want to seem loose, but she’s really hoping the man will force her.”

[End of Rape Myths]

There obviously are many more rape myths perpetuated by pornified culture out there that I haven’t mentioned above, but only reading those makes me understand why all my ex-(porn-using) boyfriends didn’t stop coercing me into sexual activities and carried on abusing me after I’d cried, shown my discomfort or said No. And worse still, I can understand why my story is so similar to many other women & girls’ stories.

Women’s oppression is now been kept away from public eye and pushed into the private sphere, where women are most at risk of male violence. No wonder why few rapes end up in convictions. Sexual coercion has become “sexy” in this culture, and women & girls are being trained to submit to men, in just the same way I had been trained to submit to men. During all those years, I’d been consciously ignorant of pornography’s harms while however subconsciously I knew about those harms because I’d experienced them.

Another woman wrote to me on my blog:

“I always feel bad about myself. I can not remember everything but I know I was molested by some relatives who used pornography to show me what to do. I have been sexually harassed, stalked, peeped, raped, hit, grabbed, shaken, name called by many men. I do not have one woman friend who has not had similar experiences. I am 32 years old. What am I supposed to do? I am considered abnormal because i hate pornography. I have been told I need therapy because of my views about men and porn. I am scared too death of what is happening to women. I have no support group in the area where I live for this sort of thing. There must be a better way. I appreciate this site and other sites like it because I do not feel so alone when I read these stories.”

What am I supposed to do?

Fight the lies (*) of porn culture. I hear you, anonymous sister! Don’t feel bad about yourself, you haven’t done anything wrong. I’m so sorry all these terrible things happened to you. (((Big Hugs))) I’m a victim/survivor too. Please join us if you like. The people who tell you you’re abnormal are wrong. You are perfectly normal because you hate pornography, and the folks who tell you the opposite are the ones who need therapy, or more exactly a good anti-porn ‘therapy’. Truth is that this whole fucking pornified culture & society needs a good anti-porn ‘therapy’. Although, I would definitely replace the word ‘therapy’ with ‘education’, radical feminist educational material such as books for instance. Those books educated me about the world I’m living in more than any other books I’d ever read.

The very male-supremacist system that engenders and maintains porno-iarchy has to be smashed out of existence.

No doubt we have a long way to go and a lot of work to do but we mustn’t give up, no matter how many times pro-porners slander us, call us liars, or try to silence us with their empty slurs.

We must carry on because WE KNOW about the undeniable harms that pornography causes. And nobody, no one, can take that knowledge away from us. WE KNOW.

Unfortunately, more people still have to know about us and our feminist anti-pornstitution struggle.

Meanwhile, pornography keeps harming women and children.

Women and girls are being coerced into all sorts of patriarchal sex they do not want.

Women and girls are being raped by men who use pornography.

Young girls, sometimes aged twelve, are being socialized to objectify themselves.

Young boys, as they grow up, learn how to use pornography and objectify women and girls.

Rape jokes and misogynistic jokes keep being told and laughed about.

Pornography keeps sustaining a rape culture.

Men keep using pornography as if it were “just sex” while being blind to the sheer misogyny, racism, and violence against women or, worse (in some cases), while being excited even more by those things that pornography inherently entails.

Men keep coercing their wives & girlfriends into watching pornography and into re-enacting the sexualized humiliations and degradations that are in it.

Pornography keeps influencing men’s minds and actions.

All this and more, ad nauseam. The harms carry on and on.

All this has to stop.

Pornography’s intrinsic harms and sex-based discrimination have to be acknowledged by everyone who calls her/himself a feminist or a pro-feminist, at least.

And the harms of pornography and prostitution will eventually have to be recognized by society at large.

We, radical feminists, will keep speaking out on those harms that the ‘sex’ industry generates and perpetuates.

Surrender, I will not.

Surrender, we will not.

 

(*) Heart has recently created a website “Fight the Lies,” intended to debunk the slanderous myths about radical feminists, BTW.

 

“Women must be the only group, and sex the only means, in which a form of oppression is openly defended, not to mention sold as pleasure and even accepted by some of the oppressed, as a means of their liberation.”
— Catharine A. MacKinnon, in Pornography: Driving the Demand in International Sex Trafficking, Captive Daughters Ed., p.32.

“Sexual capitalism, which has found a way to commoditize nearly every imaginable act of sexual subordination, has even found a way to repackage and recycle some of its victims. As a result, a small number of women who have had lifetimes of abuse and learned their sexuality in the sex industry serving men are now able, often with backing from male sex industrialists, to promote themselves as sex educators in the lesbian and feminist communities. [. . .]
“[Some] formerly prostituted women who promote the sex of prostitution — but now get paid to lecture and publish — provide a message that even some feminists have found more palatable than all the visions and ideas we have shared about how to transform sex, how to love each other in passionate equality as the basis for a future in which women could really be free. [. . .]

“As feminist research. . . shows, women are aware of the threat of men’s violence and change their lives in response to that fear even though they may not have experienced serious assault. Against this everyday reality of ordinary women’s lives, the notion that an orgasm “under any circumstances” could vanquish that fear and remembered vulnerability is perhaps pseudofeminism’s cruelest hoax.”

— Sheila Jeffreys, in How Orgasm Politics Has Hijacked the Women’s Movement. [Emphases Mine]

“For the sake of argument, let’s assume that some women who perform in pornography make completely free choices to participate, as women in the industry often assert that they do, with absolutely no constraints or limitations on them. That could be the case, though it doesn’t alter the unavoidable conclusion that some number of women in the industry — likely a majority, and quite possibly a significant majority — choose under conditions that make choice much more complex (histories of sexual abuse, economic hardship, perceived and/or actual lack of opportunities, within a culture that glamorizes the sex industry).
“In most cases, the consumer has no reliable way to judge which women are participating in the industry as a result of a meaningfully free choice. When a consumer plays a DVD at home, he has no information that could help him make such a judgment. Therefore, he likely is using a woman whose choice to perform was not meaningfully free.
“But what if he had that information about the nature of the conditions, objective and subjective, under which the women made that choice? Even that is not so simple. So long as the industry is profitable and a large number of women are needed to make such films, it is certain that some number of those women will be choosing under conditions that render the concept of “free choice” virtually meaningless. When a man buys or rents a DVD, he is creating the demand for pornography that will lead to some number of women being used — that is, being hurt in some fashion, psychologically and/or physically — no matter what he knows or thinks he knows about a specific woman.”

— Robert Jensen, in Men and Pornography.

“The word pornography, derived from the ancient Greek porné and graphos, means ‘writing about whores’. Porné means ‘whore’, specifically and exclusively the lowest class of whore, which in ancient Greece was the brothel slut available to all male citizens. The porné was the cheapest (in the literal sense), least regarded, least protected of all women, including slaves. She was, simply and clearly and absolutely, a sexual slave. Graphos means ‘writing, etching, or drawing.’
“The word pornography. . . means the graphic depiction of women as vile whores. [. . .]

“Contemporary photography strictly and literally conforms to the word’s root meaning. . . With the technologically advanced methods of graphic depiction, real women are required for the depiction as such to exist. [. . .]
“In a time of widespread economic impoverishment, it is growing: more and more male consumers are eager to spend more and more money on pornography-on depictions of women as vile whores. Pornography is now carried by cable television; it is now being marketed for home use in video machines. The technology itself demands the creation of more and more porneia to meet the market opened up by the technology. Real women are tied up, stretched, hanged, fucked, gang-banged, whipped, beaten and begging for more. In the photographs and films, real women are used as porneia and real women are depicted as porneia. To profit, the pimps must supply the porneia as the technology widens the market for the visual consumption of women being brutalized and loving it. One picture is worth a thousand words.”

— Andrea Dworkin, in Pornography: Men Possessing Women, pp. 199-202.

“I [feel] deeply wounded by women who named themselves “feminists”, then say how harmless the sex trade is. I am sick of being reasonable about this.
“I say here that you cannot be a feminist and support the sex trade.

“I have said this in many ways and many times. I know that you choose not to hear. But again I say, do not call yourself a feminist and suppport the sex trade. [. . .]

“When you promote the sex trade, you are discounting a whole section of women and girls. You are placing them as sub-humans.

“For, by backing the sex trade, you [are] saying that the performers, lap-dancers, prostituted women and girls, escorts and all the other women and girls in the sex trade do not feel pain. That [they] do not have a life outside of their role in the sex trade. [. . .]

“And I do not believe in feminist porn. I thought feminist politics could go beyond the sexuality of degradation. . .”

— Rebecca Mott, former prostitute, in I Have Had Enough.

[edited to add: 07/28/2008= a while after the wonderful Biting Beaver wrote those words, Buggle reminds us of them. Truth has to be told and re-told. Thank you, sister!]

ETA: I thought about the term “PORNO-IARCHY” because it blends the two words Pornography and Patriarchy. It fuses the two, that’s how I invented it. Patriarchy invented the language. Patriarchy also sometimes controls the language (i.e. “patriarchists have the power of naming”, as I read about that before). So, I say that every radical feminists can invent their own anti-patriarchal language and words as they please. I believe it is fruitful to invent new anti-patriarchy words.

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See this? Yeah, that’s a broken record. I chose this image for this post because I sincerely believe that all the pro-porners, pro-prostitutionists, pro-sexploitation folks, pro-hate speech & pro-“sex work” activists (or whatever you rad fems wanna call them) sound like a fucking broken record with all their “same old shit” reactionary arguments that do nothing whatsoever to help women as a class, arguments that, on the contrary, bolster the patriarchal anti-woman status quo. Thus, I have decided to write a a list of the porn apologists’ bullshit arguments.

I know these are all parts of the same broken record we hear every day; I know that some people (especially some men) are so stupid and stubborn in defending such a widespread violation of women’s bodies in order to maintain their own selfish sexual pleasure, I know all this. I also know that the pro-pornstitution folks are not only folks we meet online. The pro-porners we meet online are so easy to avoid or dismiss when we want to ignore them (thank fuck for that) while the pro-porners we meet offline are most often our co-workers, classmates, friends, even sometimes partners and so on. These offline people who defend porn aren’t so easy to avoid and, more or less often, we find ourselves in a conversation on pornography with them at some point.

It usually happens like this: They suddenly bring up pornography or prostitution for whatever reason, as part of a “joke” that we don’t find funny at all (but rather sad — as we do know that there’s a terrible sexual slavery going on out there and people keep on denying it) or simply because they’ve been influenced by pornified pop culture. Then we feel like we cannot tolerate these pro-porn arguments any longer so we start informing them on what we know about the sexual slavery industry. But, unfortunately, we’re feeling so upset that we just stop talking. There is just so much to say and we don’t know where to start. And, on top of that, there they go! Talking the same old reactionary bullshit arguments we’ve heard ten thousand times again and again, sounding like the same old broken record. . . And we start losing our confidence. . . so we stop talking.

Therefore I prepared this handy “Porn Apologists’ Bullshit Arguments List and How to Respond to Them with Confidence” collection in order to help myself and other rad fems to challenge those apologies confidently IRL. I constructed it as a dialog:

Porn Apologist: Women freely choose to sell their bodies in pornography and in prostitution. How can you criticize the women’s consent to be in porn?
Rad Fem: Contrary to myths, radical feminists have never criticized women’s involvement in the pornography industry as performers. Instead, we focus on the difficulties within which they make their choice to participate. Documentaries and articles on pornography in the mainstream media (which generally pick a very small number of performers out of the so much larger number of porn performers out there) typically show pornography performers as “happy women who have made a totally free choice”. However, the reality of the circumstances within which the vast majority of those women entered the porn industry are very much different from this whole mainstream media glamorization crap. A lot of thorough research on prostitution (based on interviewing hundreds and hundreds of prostituting women) has shown that child sexual or physical abuse or neglect, poverty, economic hardship, past experience of battery or rape, trafficking, socialization to the sexist and racist pornified culture, etc. are key factors for women who enter the ‘sex’ industry. Feminists do not condemn the women who are in the industry, but we empathize with them. We understand that they are terribly exploited and harmed in this industry. As one woman who used to prostitute said that, while she was in prostitution, she would have yelled from the roof-tops how wonderful being a prostitute was, but that, while now she’s still healing from her prostitution experience, she has “found that the worse thing of exiting prostitution is seeing the real reasons [she] became a prostitute. Seeing it could of never been a choice. It was just a way to self-destruct.”[sic]

Porn Apologist: Women in porn make a lot of money anyway.
Rad Fem: Some research and testimonies have suggested that most strippers, prostitutes and pornography performers do not make a lot of money. Although some do, the idea that all of them make a lot of money is another part of the pornographers’ and the mainstream media’s propaganda. Most female porn performers do not get rich, particularly due to their brief “shelf lives” — male consumers often want to see new women being exploited — so even if pornstituted females initially command a high rate per scene or per movie, their market value as “fresh meat” declines rapidly. Thus, even if there are a few really famous porn “actresses”, the vast majority of the women in pornography leave that business feeling exploited, pained and ashamed by this terrible experience or after being considered “overexposed” by the consumers and producers. So, the pornography industry keeps using and discarding female bodies after having used those human beings as if they were pieces of meat. There have been words coming from people who have been involved in the industry to testify of this brutal reality. Besides, even if these women get paid for performing in porn, does it mean that it should excuse the extensive physical, psychological and emotional harms done to them? So, once a woman has been paid, the torture committed against her body is expiated, huh? Well, that’s an incredibly cruel and unfair way of reasoning! No amount of money whatsoever should excuse any harm done to a woman’s body.

Porn Apologist: Pornography is not prostitution.
Rad Fem: The fact is that pornography IS prostitution, plus a camera.

Porn Apologist: Look, prostitution is the world’s oldest profession. It should be legalized and regulated. That would make it safer.
Rad Fem: Prostitution is NOT the oldest profession, pimping is! Countries where prostitution has been legalized have become Number One destinations for traffickers. There is no evidence that legalization in any way benefits women in prostitution — indeed it simply legalizes the harm caused to women. Prostitution is inherently a form of violence against women and a violation of women’s human rights and dignity as persons. The belief that prostitution is “sex work” is being a direct cause for the widespread international and domestic trafficking of women and children for prostitution. The Netherlands (where prostitution is regarded as “just a job like another”) remains one of the primary destinations for victims of human trafficking (as again recently reported in the article “Home Office goes to Amsterdam for prostitution ideas” in politics.co.uk) and half the window brothels over there have been closed since 2006 because of an exponential rise in organized crime and money laundering and also the trafficking of women and children. Legalization is, in effect, a failed experiment.

Porn Apologist: Sexuality is good. Why are you anti-sex?
Rad Fem: Being against pornography and prostitution does not equate being against sex, FFS. Sexuality is just a part of being human and may involve a lot of strong feelings of affection and connection to another person when a sense of genuine care is involved. But pornography is stripped of any empathy and it fuses sexual desire with the degradation and abuse of women. Being against pornography does not mean being against sex, it simply means having recognized that there is a sexual world of imagination based on equality & respect and that goes beyond sexuality as simple “domination/subordination”.

Porn Apologist: Only conservative right wingers criticize porn. Are you a religious zealot?
Rad Fem: Radical feminists have, for a long time, opposed Christianity by recognizing it as patriarchal religion. Mary Daly, for example, is a prominent radical feminist writer of the feminist critique of Christianity. Radical feminists usually see Christianity as patriarchal and oppressive to women. So, no, I’m certainly not religious and I’m very much of an atheist. Perpetuating the myth that radical feminists “are siding with religious zealots” just because we oppose pornography has always been one of the favorite pro-porn tactics of the so-called “sex poz” lobby.

Porn Apologist: If there weren’t any porn, there’d be more rape.
Rad Fem: Do we ever suggest that the availability of loads of films showing children being beaten up would reduce child physical abuse? Of course not, because we know it’s not the case. So why would it be different with pornography? Few rapes get reported to the police and correlational studies only based on reported rapes have limits. While a few studies have shown a decrease in reported rapes, many other correlational studies, as shown here, have shown dramatic increases in sexual violence with the availability of pornography. Pornography has no “catharthic” effect whatsoever. Also, this “catharthic effect” porn apologist excuse quite sounds like a threat: “We need pornography or we will rape more!” Blah-the-fucking-blah. . .

Porn Apologist: Pornography has no effect whatsoever. It’s only a fantasy.
Rad Fem: So why do corporations spend billions of dollars each year on mass-mediated advertising if not precisely because they know ads have effects on people? Why would it be different with pornography? Pornography HAS effects, negative ones! Besides, as I said before, “an industry which relies on the suffering of half the population in order to keep catering to its ever-expanding demand is not fantasy!” Fantasy is in the head. Pornography is mediated and mass-marketed. I feel a lot more free not having my fantasies being controlled by pornography. . . Freud argued that the sexual abuse that his female patients had been experiencing in childhood (and had been telling him about) was just a fantasy. Freud knew that child sexual abuse was pervasive in his time, but he kept on denying it as “fantasy” (Source: Testimony of Jeffrey Masson, author of The Assault on Truth, in “The Los Angeles Hearing, Los Angeles County Commission for Women, April 22, 1985”; in Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin Eds., In Harm’s way: The pornography Civil Rights Hearings; 1997.)

Porn Apologist: Where is the harm in porn?
Rad Fem: The first people who are harmed are the prostituted women constantly used, abused and discarded by the industry. Then, the harms extend to the women outside of the industry. The easiest way of making violence invisible is by sexualizing it, making it appear as “just sex” to the viewer. Pornography makes rape, sexism and racism sexy. It makes force look like a thrilling sexual experience to men. Pornography desensitizes its users to female degradation, it makes them believe that women enjoy all sorts of pain and humiliation. Pornography increases the belief in rape myths. Pornography is pure woman-hating propaganda! Many women are coerced by their boyfriends and husbands into sexual acts they do not want because of those men’s pornography use. Pornography also increases the violence perpetrated against prostituted women. As reported by former prostitute J.W. in Massachusetts, for instance, she “considered the men who were into pornography to be the most dangerous and potentially violent since that is what aroused them”.

Porn Apologist: Advocating censorship is not a good thing. Pornography is free speech.
Rad Fem: Who’s talking about censorship here? You, not me. I’m talking of harms. Pro-porners often use the inaccurate word “censorship” to stigmatize any feminist work against pornography and to try to shut us up. Censorship or banning would never address the demand for pornography. Educating people on the harms and asking for an end to men’s demand for an industry that is predicated upon and produces sex-based exploitation and widespread aggression has nothing in common with censorship. Pornography is not free speech, it is hatred of women. The only freedom in pornography is the one for men to abuse women. In a male-supremacist, capitalist society, the First Amendment protects only those who can exercise the rights it protects. Where is women’s freedom of speech in all of this? Pornography keeps women and other people who have been harmed from exercising their rights to free speech.

Porn Apologist: Feminists are often man-haters. That’s why they criticize porn.
Rad Fem: In a patriarchal society where misogyny is the norm, whenever you point out to the fact of male violence against women you’re accused of being a “man-hater”, while whenever a man says a misogynist comment or laughs at misogynist jokes he’s never accused of being a “woman-hater”. Feminists aren’t man-haters and they criticize porn because it is harmful and it is strongly linked to violence against women. Isn’t it natural for men to watch porn? Pornography expresses sexual freedom and all men use porn.
Rad Fem: If it is natural for men to use porn, then how come some men have given up on their porn consumption and haven’t died? Not all men use porn. And pornography is not freedom; it is a mechanical, mindless, plasticized, inhuman, cruel and disconnected form of sexual imagery made by big corporations who only want to make big bucks. Besides, if pornography was so “natural” for men, why would it be so relentlessly misogynistic? Men have usually been socialized so differently from women that we can hardly claim anything about their nature. From an early age, males are typically trained to repress their feelings of sensitivity, care and empathy. It doesn’t have to be that way but gender roles both uphold and are maintained by male supremacist social order. And pornography typically reinforces gender, i.e. what it means to be “masculine” and what it means to be “feminine”.

Porn Apologist:

Porn Apologist: But, I don’t look at the bad and extreme stuff. Misogyny is not really inherent in pornography. And pornography is neither violent nor racist.
Rad Fem: Violence is pervasive in pornography; it is normalized because it is made to look like “just sex”. Any proper and clear-headed study of the content of the best-selling porn titles will reveal that violence and contempt for women are pervasive in mainstream pornography, as a comprehensive 2007 media research based on top-selling porn titles listed in Adult Video news (results of the research are revealed in this video here) has proven. As for the racism, pornography typically portrays black women as subhuman, dirty, primitive “ebony hoes”, black men as savage, animalistic beasts, Asian women as slavishly obedient, and Hispanic women as “hot-blooded Latinas”. If you don’t recognize these stereotypes as horrifyingly racist, then I’m afraid I can’t help you. . .

Porn Apologist: Look, women are objectified everywhere, even in the media. How is pornography different? I simply cannot imagine a world without the objectification of the female body.
Rad Fem: While mainstream media has clearly been invaded by soft-core objectifying pornography and that’s certainly not a good thing, hard-core mainstream pornography is worse. Women are not human beings in pornography, just things. . . Dare imagine a world that would not rely on the objectification of women, dare ask for justice and real sexual freedom within a new world where women would have the right to their own bodies without having to force themselves to have sex with men, where we would have true intimacy and mutuality, and where our lives wouldn’t be invaded and controlled by pornography.

Porn Apologist: Women look at porn too.
Rad Fem: While women’s use of porn has somehow increased since the Internet, the VAST majority of pornography users are men and the industry knows it (but they’re not gonna tell you). Porn producers, when interviewed at the Las Vegas porn convention, said most of the consumers of their materials are men. That is why porn is so endlessly misogynistic and degrading.

Porn Apologist: Hey, do you know that there’s also feminist porn available out there, that is to say porn for women?
Rad Fem: Women-made porn is a smokescreen to protect the largely (mostly) male-run, male-led pornography industry. It is only a small portion of the industry. The solution to ending the harms of pornography is not to create “feminist porn”. As I said before, “[m]isogynistic porn (which is the type of sexual material that most men want to see and masturbate to) isn’t going to go away so easily, and women and children will continue to be harmed. There are so many more urgent things and so many more struggles to overcome before we are able to live in a non-patriarchal society and maybe think about such things as any “egalitarian forms of erotic arts”!!! Indeed, thinking about such things before the overthrow of the whole patriarchy itself happens, is nothing other than capitulation! And it is insane! Considering and confronting the harms of pornography and prostitution to women and children, and working toward the building of a new non-patriarchal world, are paramount causes!!! As Gail Dines pointed out at the 2007 feminist anti-porn conference, we live in an “image based culture” (i.e. any thing, to be valuable, has to be made into an image) and the answer to stopping porn culture is not more images. Personally, I feel A LOT MORE FREE without having images or so-called “art” control my life and/or sexuality!”

Porn Apologist: If you don’t like porn, just don’t watch it.
Rad Fem: If this could only be that easy! Women have to interact with men who use pornography every day without knowing about the harms. I walk in the street and see soft-core porn on billboards. I cannot watch T.V. without stumbling upon a show or a film within which a joke on pornography is being laughed about. I cannot go to a party without seeing a bunch of guys laughing at the porn pics on their phones they’re showing to each others. The list goes on. . . Pornography is everywhere. What you’re saying sounds so much like saying “If you don’t like the president, then forget he is the president!” or “If you don’t like pollution, then forget it also comes from cars”.

Porn Apologist: Porn was the only sex education I had. I can’t give it up.
Rad Fem: Then you have been sexually “educated” by what is the mainstream sex miseducation for men, a form of media within which women are stripped of their own humanity and portrayed as sexual objects, as things to be penetrated. How original! Wouldn’t you be more free without having the corporate pimps mapping out your sex life? Besides, even if you’re not causing harm to women you know, by not giving up on pornography, you believe that there are acceptable losses, “necessary victims” in order to satisfy your self-centered orgasm to the sexuality of cruelty, the sexuality of disconnection from truly meaningful feelings toward another human being. By creating the demand for pornography, you generate, maintain or condone the harms it causes as well as submit to the self-objectification it creates when it controls you, shapes your sexual thoughts into a twisted manner and when you become addicted to it. So, why not giving up and have your own dreams for yourself? Why not accepting that your sex (mis)education did not involve sexual justice and equality between sexes?. . .

That’s it for now, readers. In case some of you want to add any porn apologist bullshit arguments (that I forgot to mention) to the list, please do so in the comments. Or, simply give your feedback, rad fems & pro-radfems, if you want to. . .

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[Edited to add (05/01/2008): I was just trying to mean “a withdrawal from reality into fantasy” by using the word ‘schizophrenia’, basically, BTW. I didn’t mean using that word in any kind of offensive way, but I can understand why some people would get upset by it. I think I was somehow searching for a word that would describe, metaphorically speaking, the way I felt about patriarchy and its social influences on people and so that was the word I came up with. However, I now understand that using the word ‘schizophrenia’, even in a metaphorical context, may still seem offensive to some people but I’m leaving this post as it is so that the following comment thread (containing reactions to my usage of that word) makes sense.]

It is something we’re living in. Something that is ever-omnipresent. We live and we breathe in it.

There is not one single hour, not one single minute, not one single second, without it existing.

It is what this world is ruled by. It is also what underlies the oppressive system that is called capitalism, among so many other systems of oppression. It is what is at the root of all systems of oppression as a matter of fact, whether political, economic, social, sexual, emotional, psychological, etc.

Yet, it is not visible to most people living on this earth. And that is the most painful part: it not being acknowledged as (still) existing by most people.

I used to to be amongst that majority of people. I used to be ignorant of its existence. I used to believe that we were somehow “post-feminism”, that women were now equal to men. . .

. . .until that day. That day I “woke up” and noticed it. The oppression of women and girls. I saw it raw, undisguised, inhuman and also searing, distressing, upsetting, heart-breaking.

It had been there all along. I just hadn’t noticed it. The oppression of women, the unfair system keeping them as a class in a position of inferiority to men, had been there all along. I just hadn’t noticed it before because it had been hidden, somehow away from public view and pushed more toward the private sphere in people’s lives.

In this patriarchal world, I walk around the streets, places, my workplace, my home or my college and I see all those people not knowing that patriarchy (still) exists.

Sometimes I find myself fidgeting, worrying, walking back and forth, wondering “When will people (especially women) will ever see it is there?”. On the other hand, I absolutely don’t blame them. I used to be in the same position as them, i.e. not knowing it is there.

Most of the time, the only moment I get peace in mind is when I sleep so I don’t have to think about it then, as it’s haunting me.

It’s haunting me like remembering the voices of ex-boyfriends who abused me.

There is something I remember Gail Dines saying at the end of one of her speeches when I was at the Wheelock College anti-pornography conference in March 2007. It was:

“We are very, very close to losing it all. There is a point at which it is very hard to pull back on. What’s going on in environmental destruction is very similar to cultural destruction. There is a point where it is over. People are too robotic. They have lost what it means to be human and they are thoroughly colonized by the corporate pimps. This has to stop. We have to fight back. It is not in my nature to play dead. I will fight to the last breathing word. And you will have to join in, because unless we do something, there is nobody else who is going to do it.”

I’ll say, it is not in my nature to play dead either. I am here and I will speak and carry on speaking.

Let me talk about that private sphere in people’s lives.

In it, most men are watching a certain kind of images to which they masturbate. And those images are mainstream, popular in male culture.

In those images, women are portrayed as being worthless “fuck-objects” who are being degraded, humiliated, roughly penetrated in every possible way, choked, bruised, slapped, handled callously, hurt, ejaculated upon, etc (the list goes on) while they are also being portrayed as either saying they enjoy all these things being done to them or eagerly seeking all this kind of insensitive and debasing treatment.

The day I noticed those images in a way I had never noticed them before, I saw the oppression of women raw, undisguised, inhuman and also searing, distressing, upsetting, heart-breaking.

Those images, among other things, made me notice how much I was living in patriarchy.

Similarly, the day I paid attention to the fact that my abusive ex-boyfriends had often been using those images and I connected the dots, I saw how the ways I have been oppressed had been enforced by patriarchy.

Patriarchy is a totalitarian and reactionary oppressive system. It colonizes us as women. It trains us to “please men”, to be “sexy” by fitting male-defined “feminine” roles and appearances.

Patriarchy is not inevitable. The root cause of patriarchy is gender socialization, i.e. what it means to be “masculine” and what it means to be “feminine” and how we are trained to “fit” those constraining and constricting roles.

Patriarchy is also what engineered these environmental and cultural destructions that Gail Dines mentioned.

Patriarchy is what makes people become too robotic, what makes people lose what it means to be human.

Patriarchy is the state of schizophrenia. Now, by “schizophrenia”, I mean to speak in the figurative sense, NOT the literal one.

“Schizophrenia”, metaphorically speaking, to me, means a withdrawal from reality into “fantasy”, a refusal to engage with reality.

I have chosen to be wide awake. I have chosen to refuse living into the “this-isn’t-happening-we’re-post-feminism-women-are-now-equal-to-men” fantasy realm that patriarchy wants to keep us asleep into.

But because patriarchy is the state of schizophrenia, the few people who are fully awake are (metaphorically speaking) accused of being “schizophrenic” as they notice this oppressive system.

What I mean by that is that most people on this earth who cannot see the truth, i.e. that we live in patriarchy, accuse radical feminists and pro-radfems of “talking nonsense” or “not knowing”, etc (the list goes on).

I have chosen to face reality and firmly hold onto my humanity, even though most people say that the reality I see is somehow “not reality”.

I can see patriarchy. It is deeply entrenched within our society. Sometimes, I wish I were able to alert all women and girls out there that we are living in this male-supremacist system.

I wish I could tell them all about the risks we take within patriarchy, how much we have been so perniciously trained, socialized, brainwashed by this male-supremacist system and that we are very close to losing it all.

Unfortunately, radical feminism gets little or no malestream media attention, unless to be misrepresented, vilified and lied about by liberals and members of other political wings.

As a rad fem friend of mine said, I don’t believe it is because radical feminism is somehow “wrong” or “evil” or anything like that (as detractors would have us believe).

It is rather because radical feminism is so revolutionary and progressive that it is threatening not only to the patriarchal status quo but also to every single other political faction that calls itself revolutionary or progressive while expecting to preserve the same basic unfair hierarchies.

In this world we’re living in, I walk around the streets, places, my workplace, my home or my college and I KNOW that patriarchy still exists and is ever-omnipresent, dangerous, ominous.

I can see the oppression of women raw, undisguised, inhuman and also searing, distressing, upsetting, heart-breaking.

I can see that women are not perceived as human beings by many men.

I see women being objectified by many men and this inhuman objectification being perceived as commonplace in this soon-to-become completely robotic society.

As I’m firmly holding onto my humanity in this patriarchy we’re living in, I can see so many forms of abuse happening and all the proofs that those horrible things are happening.

Because I am wide awake and have chosen to face reality, it is painful.

But I am glad I know about the fact that we still live in patriarchy as it makes me able to speak out about that fact and all the harms and oppressions that patriarchy caused, causes and will cause.

It is not in my nature to play dead and I will not withdraw from reality into fantasy.

Like other radical feminists, I seek the abolition of patriarchy.

The oppression of women now occurs in their personal lives and I believe that the personal is political.

The unbearable patriarchal system has to be stopped before it’s too late. We have to stand up, speak out and fight back.

Postscript: Dunno when I will write “Patriarchy (part 2)” but I will someday. . .

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Rmott62 wrote another wonderful piece on prostitution. I was very moved by it. This is one of the best posts she’s ever written. She’s such an amazingly courageous writer and a good friend of mine. The post is called Not for sale. Please check it out.

BTW, I just made another new comment (2nd one) on Rebecca’s blog today in response to her “Not for sale” post.

Kudos to you, Rebecca.

“The ugly side of prostitution cannot be heard too much, for that might undermine the easy option of viewing prostitution as a “free choice”.”
— Rmott62, former prostituted woman, in her “Not for sale” post.

“When sex is work, rape is theft. Every time someone calls prostitution “sex work” they affirm for misogynists what misogynists already believe, that a man raping a woman is more akin to a man shoplifting than a man inflicting torture.”
— Sam Berg.

Edited to add (04/07/2008 – April 7th):
as I see it= “Prostitution is not a career choice. . . prostitution needs to be seen for what it is: violence against women.”
— Mary Zelinka, assistant executive director of a Center Against Rape and Domestic Violence in Oregon.

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“Women freely choose to sell their bodies in pornography and in prostitution” is one of the main disputes that pornstitution defenders put forward as an attempt to silence any feminist critique of misogynistic industries. Wallowing in their muddy myopia, pro-porners and pro-”sex work” people argue that “women in the sex industry (especially the porn industry) are fully consenting adults and, besides, for the most part, they make a lot of money” and then they smugly hope that their “Women freely choose, so don’t criticize the sex industry” argument will obviate any fair criticism of the multi-billion dollar sexual exploitation business. In other words, this “choice” argument is one of the most common excuses that pro-pornstitution folks use as a conversation-stopper.
Radical feminists have never denounced prostituting women and pornography performers for their choices. Instead, we compassionately acknowledge that many of those women’s choices are made under a variety of constraints. We believe that any discussion regarding prostituting women’s choices should take into consideration the different conditions under which they choose.
As Robert Jensen wrote in his recent book Getting Off: “A meaningful discussion of choice can’t be restricted to the single moment when a woman decides to perform in a specific pornographic film but must include all the existing background conditions that affect not only the objective choices she faces but her subjective assessment of those choices.” The same applies to prostitution: one woman doesn’t suddenly wake up one morning and say “Oh, I’ve just decided today that I’m going to sell my body for sex among a wide range of opportunities to make money”, this is absurd! Prostituting women’s life stories are much more complex than this.
Debunking the “sex industry isn’t a monolith” lie
Before I raise awareness on prostituting women’s complicated choices and lack of choices, I believe it is important to mention how pornstitution’s defenders deliberately and frequently obfuscate the links between pornography, stripping, prostitution and any other forms of commodification of women’s and girls’ bodies with their “the sex industry isn’t a monolith” lie, namely pro-pornstitution folks claim that “the sex industry isn’t something merely uniform and massive; there are lots of opportunities, aspects and types.”
However, this view of the sex industry is very limited and male-centered. It all boils down to the consumerist vision of johns/porn users and the heartless capitalism of pimps/pornographers. This view of the sex industry serves to obscure the reality of a business that is one of the world’s major cases of trafficking (other main traffickings being in guns and drugs): sex trafficking, i.e. the global sexual exploitation of women and girls and their suffering inside of the sex industry.
A man can choose to take unfair advantage of the brutal and popular commodification of women and girls’ bodies in various ways: he can choose to be a strip-club patron, a pornography user, a john, etc. or he can choose to be a strip-club owner/manager, a porn producer/director, a pimp, etc.
On the other hand, a woman or girl entering the sex industry will very likely start as an exotic dancer or a prostitute,etc. then become a porn ‘actress’ or ‘nude model’, etc., or vice versa. To prostituted women, the ‘sex’ industry is something uniform and massive in this constant way: they are being (ab)used and controlled by men. The only different thing is that there are various ways within which they are being (ab)used and controlled by men.
To most prostituting women: prostitution feels like “paid rape”; pornography is prostitution plus a camera; trafficking is being transported from one place to another (domestically or internationally); stripping is a particular way of being prostituted and having one’s body being used (i.e. strip bars’ customers are often led to the impression that they have bought “the right to touch, grab, slap or otherwise violate, degrade, or devalue the woman stripping”, as former stripper Taylor Lee explained).
As a matter of fact, prostitution businesses are interconnected. The Truth is that prostitution is a global industry of sexual exploitation in which sex is traded for money, clothing, food, drugs, shelter, or favors. Prostitution (or “the sex industry”, term used as an euphemism) includes strip bars, lap-dancing clubs, massage parlors, brothels, saunas, adult and child pornography, street walking, live sex shows, phone sex, prostitution rings, Internet pornography, escort services, peep shows, ritual abuse, and mail order bride services.
Therefore, this “the sex industry isn’t a monolith or something being merely uniform and massive, blah, blah, blah” view promulgated by pro-pornstitution people is a male-centered and misogynistic myth because, in the end, it all boils down to this: the exploitation and abuse of prostituted women and girls will have various forms (in order to cater to different kinds of male needs to use female human beings as merely objects to degrade) but it still will be the exploitation and abuse of prostituted women and girls, and an ongoing suffering to them.
You’re right on this one point, pro-pornstitution folks: “the sex industry isn’t a monolith”; it is a mega-monolith of interconnected forms of sexual exploitations, abuses, and ongoing suffering of prostituted women and girls!

Corporate media propaganda

Given the mass-pornified media propaganda pervasive throughout this culture, it is no wonder that many people believe that “women freely choose to sell their bodies in pornography and in prostitution”. The malestream media typically portrays and elevates misleading images such as of “the happy hooker”, “the glamorous life of the stripper”, or “the empowering job of the porn star”. HBO and other major TV/cable channels are filled with deluding glamorizations like these in order to gloss over the dark side of the porn industry and other forms of sexual exploitation of prostituting women. Corporate media only shows the few “Jenna Jamesons” of the world, the few prostitutes/’porn actresses’ who “made it to the top”, while ignoring the overwhelming majority of women who appear in video and Internet pornography.

For instance, the problem with a typical HBO-type (or other TV channels) documentaries which glamorize the porn industry is this: the sample size (usually around 30) of porn performers interviewed is both too small and unrepresentative of the overwhelming majority of porn ‘actresses’ for these pro-porn TV programs to be accurate portrayals of what life is like for the women in the porn industry.

Of the millions of women who are pornographized worldwide, the (usual) thirty that HBO (or another TV channel) picks are the ones who are near the top of the business, who have some degree of name recognition and some kind of “fame” among porn consumers. It is likely that their tales differ to an extent from those whose names we will never know, who don’t get the “glamorous” Vivid contract, and who work in some disgusting grimy basement for a miserable amount of money.

Those on screen probably also have to protect themselves — if they say defamatory things about the pimps that prostitute them out for mass consumption, they’re likely to lose their position to someone who is a lot more compliant. Glamorized pornified documentaries such as these should normally be deserving of our contempt and little else. As a friend of mine once told me, “why does anyone believe mega corporations with billions of dollars invested into pornified media will provide a fair analysis of pornified media?” Unfortunately, too many people fall for the lies perpetuated by pornified media.

In a recent article which was published in the in Hartford Courant, Gail Dines wrote that mainstream culture “is accepting, even promoting, the media-generated sugar-coated image of the porn industry as glamorous, fun and cool. This image has been made popular by Howard Stern, documentaries on E! Entertainment and celebrity magazines such as People. The Vivid Girls are the elite of the porn industry, women who earn a decent, if short-lived livelihood, and are somewhat protected from the much larger world of more violent and body-punishing hard-core movies called “gonzo” by the industry. The (mainly white) Vivid Girls are the respectable face of the porn industry; their job is to make porn look like a wholesome route to stardom; they act as a recruitment tool for a mass production sweatshop industry that needs to keep replenishing its supply of female bodies.”

Dines also wrote that “Those women who do go into porn are mostly women from underprivileged backgrounds who, facing a life of minimum wage labor, see porn as a way out of anonymous economic drudgery. And why not? The only image they ever get of porn is one that highlights the lucky few who actually make real money and get to mix with a few B list celebrities. What they don’t get to see are the thousands and thousands of women who start in porn and end up, within a short time, working the brothels of Nevada for a pittance, or having to deal with substance abuse and sexually transmitted diseases.”

Different stories

While I was having a conversation with Janice G. Raymond (the co-executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – CATW International) at a conference last year, she said to me “There are some women who choose to prostitute but there aren’t many”. I believe it is possible that there are a few women out there who do freely choose to enter the industry, are fully aware of what’s involved and/or make a lot of money. Still, I do not believe it is honest people focusing all their attention on those few somewhat privileged women while ignoring the vast majority of prostituted women who never got the chance to choose a better life, who are being controlled and mistreated by pimps, and who are used and abused by johns.

Stories of “happy hookers” or “women who love doing porn” are magnified by malestream media and are elevated in patriarchy. These “happy pornstitution stories” are exalted by pornographers and their defenders. All this done with the purpose to conceal or obscure the real life stories of those who undergo a vile and excruciating form of slavery: the sexual slavery that is prostitution.

What kind of a world is this, in which many women have to go through the pain of being penetrated vaginally, orally and anally by five to ten men a day in exchange for money (which for the most part goes to their pimps) and then all of this gets defended as “sex work”? What kind of a world is this, in which the very same acts which are done to these women, whose bodies are being sold, are filmed or photographed and then all of this gets defended as “sexual freedom” or “free speech”?

There is no doubt that pro-porners, cruelly reveling in their pornographic ‘fantasies’ and being deaf to the cries of millions of suffering women and girls, would rather not hear stories like:

Sarah Wynter’s:

“I was thirteen when I was forced into prostitution and pornography. . . I was drugged, raped, gang-raped, imprisoned, beaten, sold from one pimp to another, photographed by pimps, photographed by tricks; I was used in pornography and they used pornography on me; “[t]hey knew a child’s face when they looked into it. It was clear that I was not acting of my own free will. I was always covered with welts and bruises. . . It was even clearer that I was sexually inexperienced. I literally didn’t know what to do. So they showed me pornography to teach me about sex and then they would ignore my tears as they positioned my body like the women in the pictures and used me.”;

Rebecca Mott’s:

“My entrance into prostitution overlapped with stepdad’s sexual abuse of me. For me, it was a logical move, after all I was already having sex and getting gifts. I knew I was nothing more than some holes for men to use. So when I stayed up late and went to clubs, I was attracted to sleaze. I wanted to be the “bad girl” because being good never stopped the pain. . . From aged 12, I had started drinking. It deadened my pain. It made me not care how I was treated. I drank because then I forgot for a while. It was also a slow way to killing myself. It was within this head-space that I entered into paid sex. I was aged 14 when I first had sex for money. I thought I knew what I was doing but I had no idea. . . I was having sex too much. I had sex, but I had no love or affection. I had decided I was just an object for men to fuck. I had lost who I was. Now, I had hit on a form of self-harm that fitted me. I find it so hard to see that time, for I was so scared and abandoned. I see that time, and all I think is that I was recreating the images I had seen in hard-core porn. For, as I was being raped over and over again by these men, I had learned to act as if I was enjoying it… I was so dead inside, that after many acts of violence, I would “act normal” afterward. I could not allow myself to think about what had happened, because then I would lose my mind.”;

J.W.’s:

“[O]ver a period of eight years… I worked as a prostitute, dancer and nude model… As a prostitute I worked in massage parlours, peep shows, private apartments, street corners, bars and for escort services… At the age of seventeen I began dancing in topless and bottomless bars. I was working for a pimp and was under a lot of pressure from him and the club owners to make a lot of money. In these bars they had pornographic videos playing constantly which contained graphic scenes of various sexual acts. The women in the videos were usually naked and the men were often clothed except for their penis. . . I had never seen pornographic movies before. I soon found out that in order to make tips I had to lay on the dance floor, spread my legs and expose my genitals to the customers, just like in the videos. . . A lot of my work consisted of acting out particular scenes for the customer [john] which caused him to become aroused. . . Some of the most violent pornography that I saw was in the houses of customers that I saw through escort services… I considered the men who were into pornography to be the most dangerous and potentially violent since that is what aroused them. . . At least fifty percent of the men that I saw professionally were into fantasies and pornography such as I have described. They were men from all over the world and all types of professions. Every prostitute I know has had similar experiences. Often we keep it to ourselves because it is very painful to remember. I have been scarred for life both mentally and physically. I have violent nightmares on a regular basis which replay my worst experiences of sexual violence over and over. I have difficulty relating to people in normal social situations. I cannot make love with someone without having flashbacks of being a prostitute. I have very little self confidence…”;

Jersey Jaxin’s:

“I’m just tired of the industry. The way that they treat us as though we’re just pieces of meat. That we don’t have a mind and our body is everybody’s and we have no soul… [In the porn industry] Guys [are] punching you in the face. You have semen… Twenty or thirty guys all over your face, in your eyes. You get ripped. Your insides can come out of you. It’s never ending. You’re viewed as an object not as a human with a spirit. People don’t care. People do drugs because they can’t deal with the way they’re being treated… You are a number. You’re bruised. You have black eyes. You’re ripped. You’re torn. You have your insides coming out of you. It’s not pretty and foofoo on set. You get hurt… You have to numb yourself to go on set. The more you work, the more you have to numb yourself. The more you become addicted, the more your personal life is nothing but drugs… Your whole life becomes nothing but porn… We’re ripped, we’re tired, we’re sored, we’re bleeding, we’re cut up, we have dried semen all over our faces from numerous guys and we can’t wash it off because they want to take pictures. You have this stuff all over you and they’re telling you, ‘Hold it!’… It’s all about the money. They’ve forgotten who they are and they don’t care who they’re hurting.”;

Suki Falconberg’s:

“[Melissa] Farley presented a panel on prostitution shortly after her book [Prostitution and Trafficking in Nevada: Making the Connections] came out, and a number of former prostitutes spoke. One said that Las Vegas is greatly lacking in services to help prostituted women, girls, and children. (The city has a thriving business based on the sale of young girls, ages 13-17.) She said that local charities would not help the prostituted. Once they discover you worked as one, they throw you out. . . At the panel, one prostitute came up with a startling fact: that very few women, girls, or children actually make it out of prostitution, and, of the few who do, life expectancy is short. Most are dead two or three years later. From insanity, suicide, disease?. Her remarks made me stop breathing for a few seconds. I now realize that I was incredibly lucky to actually survive the three-year stint I spent in prostitution and that the odds of my being alive now are amazing. When I was in it, I saw no way out. Esteem so low and a body and mind and emotions so battered that I could not see past the next hour or so. I felt as if I was in a ten-foot pit and could not see the rim. I smiled all the time, as if everything was okay. But I simply assumed I would die in prostitution. I gave up. What life is there after being raped thousands of times by men you don´t know? There is none. I have no courage, no self-worth―all these must come from inside and there is only empty cold space inside me. I am afraid to leave the house. I am terrified of everything. I am not a rape/prostitution survivor. I didn´t survive. I have no ´support network´ since I have never spoken to another prostitute. I am always afraid I will see the same sadness in her eyes that I see in my own. The only way I know what other prostitutes think is through people like Melissa Farley, who has talked to so many all over the world. With surprise, I found many similarities―whether it´s Bangkok or Bombay or London or Las Vegas, the raped body feels the same. Through Farley´s interviews, I have also found ones who are ´true´ survivors. Hope and peace and safety they have found. That´s not me. No hope, no peace, and certainly no safety―since I am terrified to go outside the door. This is a big deal for me since you can´t do much of anything else if you can´t cross the threshold, into the outside world. I pretty much live in spite of this. The beautiful things in the world–I know they are there–but I can´t reach them for comfort. I am still ten feet down, in that pit. I love sparrows. So small and cute and sweet and fragile, yet also so cheeky and spirited. I wish I could appreciate the beauty of a sparrow again.”; or

Carol Smith’s:

“What I saw were women just like myself who were desperate, addicted to drugs, homeless, and I’m sure probably at least 80 percent of them suffered from sexual abuse as children. I saw them re-living their childhood experiences by getting into that industry. They were looking for attention, pleasing men, and being abused. And that’s all they know. They think it’s great. They think it’s wonderful. I could’ve looked you in the eye ten years ago and told you that I loved being in pornography, was proud of what I was doing and that I was having a great time. But now I can tell you that it’s so far from the truth. I was very convincing. I could convince you. I mean, I could walk up to a porn star today and she could tell me the same story and I can remember being in that place.”

Pro-pronstitution folks would rather not hear such stories; they’d rather avoid such stories; they’d rather not care about such stories; they’d rather try to silence these women’s stories. I do not believe it is fair. There are many stories like these and probably many more that we do not even know about. These accounts are the true stories of the daily lives of many women an girls who are/have been in the sex(-slave) trade and these bought and sold female human beings don’t want to hear about “sex work”!

The problem is that, for most people, it is very hard to understand why women who are in prostitution or pornography would not enjoy their ‘job’, because people only see a few of them on TV pseudo-documentaries which glamorize the sex industry and the women they see typically say they do it because “they love the sex and they feel good about their bodies”. People usually fall for mainstream media propaganda and conclude that prostituting women are “having a great time” because “they say that they are having a great time”.

Unfortunately, most people do not understand Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the mental process of dissociation. Of the 854 prostituted respondents interviewed by researchers, 68% met the criteria for PTSD. Women in prostitution whose tricks or pimps had made pornography of them had significantly more severe symptoms of PTSD than did prostituted women who did not have pornography made of them. While it is hard to tell how another person feels, we do know that prostituted and pornographized women often have their mind splitting into different parts of the self in order to be able to cope with what they do.

Dissociative disorders are common in prostituted women. Seeing a prostituting woman on a screen smiling and saying that “she loves her job” does not necessarily mean that she is happy . She might believe that she is happy while being shielded in a form of protective denial with the purpose to protect herself from the painful reality she lives in: the ongoing abuse which occurs in the sex trade.

In a study of the strip bar industry, strippers reported a dissociation to abuse: “It takes a willingness to do it…anybody can do it.” “It takes somebody who can shut themselves off and be really fake.” In her book Prostitution, Trafficking, and Traumatic Stress (2003), Melissa Farley, clinical psychologist and researcher (whose research on prostitution has been used by state governments, as well as by advocates and organizations providing services to prostituted and trafficked women) wrote: “In order to survive the brutal commodification of their sexuality in prostitution, women dissociate, and appear to accept the view of themselves as sexual commodities.”

Choices

In a study of 854 prostituting (mostly female) human beings from nine countries (Canada, Colombia, Germany, Mexico, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, USA, and Zambia), 57% reported having been raped in prostitution; 73% reported having experienced physical assault in prostitution; 49% had pornography made of them; 75% were currently or formerly homeless; and 89% stated that they wanted to escape prostitution immediately. Summarizing different study findings, research carried out on prostitutes (some of whom had pornography made of them) and clinical literature on different types of prostitution, it is estimated that between 65% and 95% of women in prostitution were sexually assaulted as children. This Farley et al. nine-country study is the most comprehensive research on prostitution which the world has known to date!

In Germany, where prostitution is legal, out of the estimated 400,000 Germany’s “sex workers” only 100 joined a union. That’s .00025% of German prostitutes. According to the Nevada Coalition Against Sex Trafficking, 81% of women in the Nevada legal brothel prostitution urgently want to escape it. This makes even clearer that women don’t want to be prostitutes!

In spite of all this, “sex work” advocates carry on their propaganda by upholding the anti-woman status quo. “Prostitution is the world’s oldest profession”, they frequently say; this misogynistic saying should be translated as “Women as whores: that’s what women are for, have always been for, and will always be for: being men’s whores”. It is also worth pointing out that the pornstitution industry and pornified corporate media glorify the few women who defend them as an attempt to conceal the obvious misogyny of the ‘sex’ industry (i.e. trying to show something like this: “See, if some women defend it; it can’t be misogynistic”).

Many of the pro-pornstitution women are, without any doubt, financed by the ‘sex’ industry itself! So, pro-pornstitution women more often get to be heard than us (rad fems) in this atrocious patriarchy. Radical feminists know that the overwhelming majority of people who defend pornography and prostitution are in fact men, though. Pro- pornstitution women are merely a sideshow (a pro-porn tactic to create diversion).

The few somewhat privileged women who genuinely want to stay in prostitution (probably due to the deeply entrenched institutionalized female masochism enforced by patriarchy) are elevated in male-supremacist culture. They are magnified by pornified media, highly praised by “sex work” advocates and pro-porners; they are given megaphones, book deals, spaces on major websites, etc.

Some of those few women who “make it to the top” in the pornstitution industry become pimps (i.e. Madams) themselves and (ab)use the other women they sell, instead of channeling their internalized anger (from past abuse) in the right direction: toward the industry itself and the johns/porn users who abused them. The “sex work” advocates inhumanly refuse to hear the stories of the vast majority of prostituting women or prostitution survivors and attempt to silence them.

A few months ago, some “sex work” advocates violently attempted to disrupt a play entitled My Real Name, which used the real life stories of survivors of prostitution. My Real Name was about, by, and for survivors of prostitution and sex trafficking, and was a racially and ethnically diverse production. Maxine Doogan, a “sex work” advocate who wrote a propaganda piece called “Anti-prostitution group commits violence on sex worker”, is a convicted madam from Washington state. She encourages prostituting women to oppose anti-prostitution feminists and sex industry survivors. Maxine Doogan was one of the women who orchestrated the racist and classist ruckus that occurred when the play My Real Name was being performed in Berkeley.

Some “sex work” advocates, such as Yasmin Nair in Clamor Magazine, have even gone so far as saying that women who are from poor countries and who are trafficked into the U.S. for prostitution, are lying about being pimped, enslaved, raped, beaten and sold into the American sex industry. Those “sex work” advocates have claimed that trafficked women are “problably migrating for ‘sex work'” instead. Victims of sex trafficking have been recognized by Amnesty International, Equality Now, the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, the Polaris Project and hundreds of other international organizations. This sort of “sex work” advocates’ propaganda indeed erases rapes and promotes racism.

There are many agencies that specialize in recruiting young women to the porn industry with the promise of making big money and becoming a star. Indeed, the money is an attraction for mostly young, working-class women who face limited choices in a harsh economy. Given those economic realities and the glamorization of pornography, it’s not surprising that some young women will see this as a viable career option. Undeniably, the whole culture promotes the “porn star” job as a glamorous job. In TV shows, the image of the “porn star” is shown as “liberating” and “empowering” for women.

Some young girls unfortunately, turning 18, fall for the pernicious ideologies that the media industries (whose owners, managers, producers and broadcasters are predominantly men) want them to believe. Brainwashing pornified pimp culture obviously trains women and girls to view the porn industry as glamorous. However, those young women and girls who enter the porn industry after having had a harmful pornified media training, are often not aware of the conditions in which they will “work”. They’ve only seen the glamorized side of porn and hope they can become the next Jenna Jameson. They aren’t aware of the ongoing sexual violence that goes on in porn.

The average age of entry into prostitution is 13-14 years old (Sources: M.H. Silbert and A.M. Pines, 1982, “Victimization of street prostitutes”, Victimology: An International Journal, 1982; and D. Kelly Weisberg, Children of the Night: A Study of Adolescent Prostitution, 1985). Many women in pornography are only 18, and are easily used and discarded by the industry. Most pornography performers have a very brief “shelf life”, they find themselves being overexposed so, even if they initially command a high rate per scene or per movie, their market value as “fresh meat” declines rapidly. Some ex-porn ‘actresses’ and people who knew pornography performers, are also known to have revealed that most women in porn are indeed survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

When we expose the facts, “sex work” advocates argue that we are “portraying women in the sex industry as victims” and that we are “denying their autonomy”. All this is untrue and “sex work” advocates fail (do not want) to understand our analysis of circumstances within which some women have much more limited choices than others in patriarchal capitalist society. “Sex work” advocates simply do not want to face the fact that denying major study results on prostitution along with real life stories of prostitution survivors is a deplorable repudiation of one’s empathy.

Some “sex work” advocates claim that the exploitation of prostituting women arises from the social stigma associated with prostitution. There is a great body of evidence that prostituted women are still being horribly discriminated against in countries where prostitution is legal. The issue of stigmatization of prostituted women and girls simply cannot be separated from their ongoing reality of economic exploitation and sexual and physical violence.

The ‘sex’ industry has done a great job in focusing the debate on “women’s choices”, while the focus of any discussion on the subject should be on the consumers who CHOOSE to use pornography, and, in the case of prostitution, on the johns who CHOOSE to buy women for sex.

“In the past we had a women’s movement which understood that the choice to be beaten by one man for economic survival was not a real choice, despite the appearance of consent a marriage contract might provide. Yet now we are supposed to believe, in the name of ‘feminism’, that the choice to be fucked by hundreds of men for economic survival must be affirmed as a real choice, and if the woman signs a model release then there is no coercion there”.
— Catharine A. MacKinnon.

ETA: For a follow-up to this post see this post here: On Choices (part 2): Prostitution and the Agency of Johns

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