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Friday, September 3, 2010

XXX: A Woman's Right to Pornography (1995)

From http://tmh.floonet.net/tmhframe.html: The following Preface is from XXX: A Woman's Right to Pornography, published in 1995 in hardback and 1997 in paperback from St. Martin's Press, 175 fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10010. 212 674-5151.

Available and Reviewed at Laissez Faire Books and Amazon Books. Or contact author on availability Wendy McElroy.


XXX: A WOMAN'S RIGHT TO PORNOGRAPHY
PREFACE

Pornography benefits women, both personally and politically.

After reading this, anti-pornography (or radical) feminists will consider me a heretic -- fit only for burning. Or, to put it in more politically correct terms, I will be viewed as a woman who is so psychologically damaged by patriarchy that I have fallen in love with my own oppression. As such, my arguments will be dismissed.

In other words, if I enjoy pornography, it is not because I am a unique human being with different preferences. It is because I am psychologically ill.

Anti-pornography feminists try to silence any real discussion of pornography. Catharine MacKinnon, for example, flatly refuses to debate women on this subject. Feminists who disagree are treated as traitors. Their bottom line is: individual women must not be allowed to question the sexual interests of women as a class.

Liberal feminists often argue against censorship rather than for pornography. Many of them view censorship as being far too dangerous a solution to the 'problem' of graphic sex. They believe censorship could and would be used to stifle the voices of women. Nadine Strossen's book Defending Pornography eloquently argues this point. In response, radical feminists consider their liberal counterparts to be the 'dupes of men', or 'co-conspirators in gender oppression'.

Yet many liberal feminists accept the basic anti-porn assumptions of radical feminism. For example, they generally accept the idea that pornography degrades women. This agreement does not seem to create common ground, however.

Why? Because anti-porn feminists will not tolerate any attempt to apply freedom of speech to pornography. In her book Only Words, MacKinnon goes so far as to deny that pornography consists of words and images, both which would be protected by the First Amendment. She considers pornography -- in and of itself -- to be an act of sexual violence.

For years, anti-porn feminists affectively silenced dissent on pornography. Here and there, a renegade like Sallie Tisdale became so fed up with being ashamed of her own sexual responses that she would admit to enjoying adult films. When Tisdale explained, in Harpers's, how pornography enriched her life, her admission caused a sensation. Tisdale's latest book -- which bears the same title as her pioneering article Talk Dirty to Me -- continues her celebration of sex.

It is heartening to see feminists now standing up to defend pornography...as harmless, as pleasurable, as fun. Some of these women have worked in the porn industry for decades. Candida Royalle, for example, has risen through the ranks of that industry to become one of its most powerful producers.

But, as invaluable as their voices are, something is missing from their defense of pornography. In fact, four things are missing:

1. a realistic picture of how the pornography industry works;

2. a full scale attack on the fundamental assumptions of anti-porn feminists; and,

3. a forum from which the women who work in the day-to- day business of pornography can air their views.

4. a sense of how pornography benefits women and is essential to the health of feminism.

This book fills the gap.

It argues from the perspective of a much neglected tradition within the movement: individualist feminism. Since the 19th century, this rich tradition has argued for women's rights on the basis of self-ownership: that is, it is a woman's body, it is a woman's right. Individualist feminism consistently applies this principle to all issues affecting women, including sexual ones. While radical feminists argue that women all have the same collective interest, and only one sexually proper choice, individu- alist feminists celebrate the diverse sexuality of individual women.

This book provides pornography with an ideology. It gives back to women what anti-porn feminism has taken away: the right to pursue their own sexuality without shame or apology, without guilt or censure.

Chapter One introduces the reader to the real world of pornography. Most of the accusations leveled at this industry are empirical. For example, the claim that women are coerced into performing in front of the camera. Since the only way to check out an empirical claim is to do research in the real world, I investigated the porn industry 'up close'. I talked directly to the men and women who are the industry.

In doing so, I adopted the strategy of dealing specifically with hardcore porn -- the XXX variety. I reasoned that, if the women who made bondage videos were not mistreated, then the women involved in softcore productions were not likely to be victims of violence either.

Chapter Two asks: 'what is pornography?' How can pornography be defined? And, without such a definition, how can we pass laws -- or even judgments -- regarding this issue?

Chapter Three presents an historical perspective on pornography, which is divided into two sections. The first section provides insight into how anti-pornography legislation in the 19th century damaged the woman's rights movement, especially in the area of birth control. The second section examines the rise and fall of modern feminism. It argues that radical feminism is destroying the principle 'a woman's body, a woman's choice', as well as killing the joy in women's sexuality.

Chapter Four assaults the ideology of anti-porn feminism. It strips away the rhetoric of rage and reveals their attack for what it is: not a quest for truth for justice, but an attempt to impose an ideology I call 'sexual correctness'.

Chapter Five provides an overview of both the anti-censorship and the pro-pornography arguments presented by liberal feminists.

Chapter Six is an all-out defense of pornography. It argues from a individualist feminist perspective and provides the intellectual underpinning for the book's opening statement: Pornography benefits women, both personally and politically.

Chapter Seven introduces some of the women who work in pornography: actresses, publishers, political activists and producers. In their own words, they paint a picture of what the industry is like, and how they feel about the stigma attached to their work. This chapter provides something anti-porn feminists are attempting to suppress: a forum for the voices of women in pornography.

Chapter Eight is entitled 'Whither Pornography?' It gives a sense of how the porn industry could be changed to provide greater respect and protection for the women who work in it. As well, for those readers who want to pursue pornography -- on a personal or political level -- I have provided a brief indication of where to write or phone for more information.

Appendix One reports on a survey I conducted of sex workers. It presents a real-world profile,rather than a caricature, of these women. Addendum Two consists of a copy of the survey. Addendum Three is a report on a COYOTE meeting. COYOTE is the only national sex workers' advocacy group, with a membership of women in the business.

Pornography requires a tolerant society and ours is running short on tolerance. It does not matter whether the intolerance comes from the right or the left, from the moral majority or the politically correct. Both are a death knell for pornography.

The majority of people are not fully committed to either the right or the left. Neither are they fully committed to either censorship or absolute freedom of speech. People are too caught up in the daily struggle for survival to pour a lot of energy into ideology.

If intolerance is growing, it is not because most people share radical feminism's ideological objection to graphic sexual expression. It is because something about pornography frightens them. Anti-porn feminists feed on their fear.

The message of this book is: there's nothing to be afraid of. Pornography is part of a healthy free flow of information about sex. This is information our society badly needs. It is a freedom that women need.

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