It’s devastating enough that prostitution is not a subject that many in society care about. Even among social justice groups, the topic doesn’t come up nearly enough, and when it is brought up, many will attempt to frame it in brighter light. They even claim that it’s empowering.
The same seems to be true with pornography. In fact, even people I have discussed this with that agree that prostitution is actually sexual slavery, don’t take the same stance on porn. I thought the similarities between the two would be completely barefaced. There are many things about the two that are widely unknown by the general public.
But these are things that we can talk to people and educate them about. The drug addictions, the coercion… What deeply disturbs me the most, however, is if you understand what consent is, there is no possible way you could still support prostitution or pornography. So is it that there is an extreme lack of understanding of consent?
I really like the way that Catherine Mackinnon points out that oppressors will not typically come out and say things like “I am pro inequality” or I am “pro slavery” but rather they define inequality in such a way that they can still have whatever it is that they want to keep, without it falling under the definition of inequality.
So let’s talk for a moment about the arguments that are so commonly heard in support of prostitution. We hear that it’s is,
1. A universal practice, and therefore natural in some way.
2. The oldest profession
3. Consensual- Consent comes from the act of accepting payment
4. Stigmatized because it is illegal, and should be recognized as legitimate work
5. A form of sexual empowerment
So, looking at these arguments, it is clear to see that the majority of them are actually the same thing we hear about pornography as well. However, if I were to make a list for the arguments I’ve heard in support of pornography, they would probably be this,
1. Is universal
2. Is consensual by acceptance of payment
3. They are well paid and well treated
4. Stigmatized because of the way society views sexuality
5. A form of sexual empowerment
While I agree that prostitution and pornography seem to be almost universal, I would not conclude that it is good, natural, or safe.
Let’s first tackle what it actually means to consent to sex. This should be a no brainier but I’ll go ahead and say it anyway. Consent is an enthusiastic yes, without influence of drugs or alcohol, and absent of coercion, persuasion, or threat.
Some argue that the threat of poverty, and need of payment alone are included under coercion or threat. I would agree. Many would agree that these are the primary reasons that women find themselves involved in pornography, or find themselves being prostituted. Though many would argue, I also want to put forward the idea that nobody chooses to be impoverished. There are systems in place that keep people in power over others and poverty is devastating for anybody experiencing it. And if you are desperate for money or food, you will act desperately.
Handling poverty is much easier when you’re high or drunk, this isn’t a fact anybody should be disputing, given the fact that we have all had a glass or two to handle the pain we feel, and many women in the sex industry use drugs to handle the trauma of having sex they don’t want, as a means of being able to disassociate.
This is simply what happens when a women is forced to sell her body and humanity, wether it be by force, manipulation, or economic circumstances. Not to mention, pimps use drugs in prostitution in order to keep the women docile, unbelievable, and easily manipulated. Just listen to any survivor’s story, they’ll tell you. Where does this fall under consent?
Let’s look at some statistics. Sex-crimes.laws.com shows the following astonishing statistic, among many other statistics, this is the one that really stood out the most.
92% of women say that they would leave prostitution but can’t, due to lack of money or food.
iamatreasure.com/about-us/statistics shows us statistics for the sex industry as a whole, and with pornography taken into account, the number of women who would like to escape but can’t, is still at a horrendous 89%.
Again, this is sex they do not want. If you wanted to have sex, there would be no need for payment. How does this fall under consent?
Statistics taken from iamatreasure.com also show that 66%-90% of women in the sex industry were sexually abused as children. This shows the deep rooted misogynistic culture that this industry is able to thrive on.
This shows a repeated re-traumatization of these women. In fact, statistics taken from the same site show that women suffer post traumatic stress disorder in the sex industry, at the same rate as veterans who have faced combat (69%).
Imagine signing a contract as a pornography actress, you don’t meet the man you are being payed to have sex with, as it would be the same in prostitution, and you decide you do not want to have sex with this man but are now obligated to do so for fear of losing your contract and possibly having the threat of a lawsuit for breaking said contract, just like a prostituted person would face threats of a different nature- the sex is unbearable. It’s torture to you, and he does things to you that you never consented to. To cope with the trauma, maybe next time you go, you’re high on drugs because you already know the torture you are about to endure- as the way it is in prostitution. Again, this is sexual trauma. This is coercion.
Though prostitution is widely regarded as being more dangerous, as you must take into account the safety that these men feel to torture these women, is significantly more when operating underground. This isn’t to say that women in pornography do not face a horrendous amount of torture, coercion, and sexual trauma, as I hope I have been able to demonstrate to you. The similarities of the experiences of women in the sex industry as whole, should be completely obvious.
How does this fall under consent? How does this fall under empowerment? How does this fall under freedom of choice?
And if it were not rooted in the oppression of women, then why are the buyers mainly men? Why are the viewers of porn mostly men? (2 in 3). Why do women take up the large majority of the prostituted?
I’m honestly tired of even having these debates, because as I have said over and over again, it should be completely barefaced, the sexual slavery in both prostitution and pornography. The way that the patriarchal industries are able to operate, should be obvious. Both are heavily rooted in misogyny and perpetuate misogyny.
I assert that pornography itself is nothing but violent, patriarchal propaganda. The manipulation that occurs within a man while he is sexually pleasing himself is one that cannot be argued. It is this deep brain washing that is needed for the patriarchy to strive, for men to retain dominance. And the beliefs that men form about women while watching porn are the beliefs that allow other misogynistic systems, such as prostitution to exist. The same brainwashing of men makes any argument against this sexual slavery, easy to dismiss.
Pornography acts as both a cause and an effect. And until this institution is taken down, there will be no hope for the liberation of women. When talking of social conditioning, we must take into account the conditioning that comes with pornography.
Let’s not be blind to the dangers that face these women, or the effect it has on women in society as a whole. Let’s not leave women in the sex industry out of the discussion.