Ah, the controversial topic of the ages!
The global adult industry is a £30 billion network of hundreds of thousands of men and women sharing hundreds of millions of pictures, texts, sounds and videos. It has received endorsement from feminists and politicians, and a prominent porn director even requested the US government for a $5 billion bail-out during the 2008 recession!
Despite all these impressive facts, many people around the world are still doing their very best to ban all “obscenity”. Public opinion is very divided on the matter, with many saying that is hurts no-one, and many others saying it is a clear indication of just how degraded the human race has become.
But just where did porn start? Depictions of sexual activity have been present in time immemorial – with China and India having some of the oldest statues and drawings portraying sexual acts. Yet porn as we know it didn’t turn into the money-making machine until the mid-1900s, when people began to see the value of commercializing sexual acts.
From then on, it boomed into an uncontrollable market of tens and genres and subgenres that had little or no regulations on them. So we come to today, when so much of the adult material is centred on depicting woman as sexual objects with very little desire for their own sexual gratification – it is almost exclusively about the men. Despite earnings being much higher for female actresses, many feminists feel that it is the gender as a whole that has to pay the difference.
This is because the adult industry has now become a mainstream market for the dignity of most women. Very, very unrealistic expectations and concepts have been formed around the world about the roles of women in sex and life due to their portrayals in pornography. Defenders of women’s rights the world over have criticized the industry’s almost purposeful drive towards degrading women and displaying them as mere sexual objects.
They claim that the adult industry objectifies women, encourages sexual violence and is disrespectful even to its own female employees. Ties have been drawn between the adult industry and the trafficking of women & children, illegal immigration and a vast underground network of human rights’ breaches. The recent STD scandals that have gripped the industry have been taken as a sign that its position as formal employment is becoming untenable and that its social effects have been devastating enough. It must be shut down now in order to protect the futures of women and children forever.
It is undeniable that much of the adult material that is produced today is a sheer insult to women. Too many producers use their employees disgustingly, abuse their rights and are even involved in the trafficking of under-age girls. Famous producer Rob Black is quoted as calling women “animals” repeatedly and with no hint of remorse or regret. It is clear that there are many people who are simply out to treat women as second-class citizens and to reduce their role in life.
On the other hand, there is a new school of feminists who consider themselves “sex-positive feminists”. They are of the opinion that sexual material also depicts the exploration of a woman’s sensuality, her femininity and the depths of a woman’s physical and mental fantasies. They believe that no legal shackles should be placed on it; that the industry should be free to grow and express itself in ways that will be beneficial to women all over the world in their quest to discover themselves.
This stance bears a lot of credit when it comes to the breaking down of cultural barriers – many societies are becoming more open to the idea of women having sexual desires and how these directly influence their physical and psychological health. Women can now learn so much more about the act of coitus without having to fear the wrath of their families or society. So where should one stand?
The problem is that the vast majority of pornography is not designed to do that. The vast majority of the adult industry is still a big deterrent to the position of women as the equally receptive, sensitive and complex beings that they are. Women have very little control over the sort of things that people are being exposed to, and how it affects them in turn. The problem with legal legislation is that it is uncompromising and finite. If the law is going to deal with the adult industry, it is going to extinguish it completely, and there is a fear from sex-positive feminists that this could lead to a return to the days when women were not allowed to freely express their sexuality. Surely, that is a step in the wrong direction.
As a woman in the 21st century, with rights and the freedom to express yourself in any way you wish to do, why would you go back to the days when your sexuality is limited? That would be a killer blow to the hard work done by feminists for so many centuries.
But the exploitation of women on television, the internet and magazines cannot continue for much longer. It is driving a wedge between the ideal world we are seeking and the one we’re going to end up with.
Something needs to be done for the privacy and self-respect of women, and women need to champion it themselves.