There's no such thing as "ethical" porn

Campaigns Manager Caitlin Roper was recently invited to participate in an online debate for a French media outlet on the question, Is there such a thing as ethical porn?

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Caitlin's essay is reprinted in full below.


The pornography industry is built on men’s sexual violence, domination, cruelty, humiliation and degradation of women. Radical feminist theorists define pornography as the graphic form of women’s subordination and inequality.

It is impossible to transform an industry that relies on the objectification and commodification of women’s bodies and sexuality, which turns women into things for men’s use and abuse, into an ‘ethical’ or ‘feminist’ practice.

While so-called ‘ethical’ or ‘feminist’ porn is pitched as the solution to violent, misogynist mainstream porn, people don’t seem to be all that interested in watching it. ‘Ethical’ porn is statistically irrelevant. It comprises a tiny corner of the industry, and it’s not ethical porn keeping the nearly $200b industry flourishing.

The bar for what constitutes ‘ethical’ porn is incredibly low, and typically only refers to conditions of production, such as fair compensation and labour conditions, representations of diverse body types and sexualities, consent and authenticity. The actual content of ‘ethical’ porn is often indistinguishable from sexist and violent mainstream porn.

In Rebecca Whisnant’s critique of the work of Tristan Taormino, a so-called ‘feminist pornographer’, it was noted that depictions of violence against women, such as gagging, choking, slapping or misogynist name-calling were still prevalent. “Either it is ethical and honourable to ‘play with’ and promote the dynamics of humiliation and violence that terrorise, maim and kill women daily, or it is not,” concluded the report.

Torture porn website – where women are hogtied, hung upside down and caned, and subjected to ‘water bondage’ among other human rights abuses – is touted as another example of ‘ethical’ porn – even with a number of actresses having alleged abuse.

We must remember also that women are harmed not just in the production of porn, but in its consumption too. Eroticising and normalising men’s sexual violence against women has serious real-world complications for women, even if performers consent and are paid.

If we support women’s rights, if we believe in women’s humanity and object to men’s violence and abuse of girls, we cannot ignore the abuse of women that is pornography. It’s not enough to merely improve the conditions of this abuse – we must abolish it.

Read both sides of the debate and cast your vote here. 

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EP_5.jpegSee also:

What's the problem with porn? Collective Shout respond to common pro-porn arguments

Growing Up in Pornland: Girls Have Had It with Porn Conditioned Boys - ABC Religion and Ethics

A year ago a Federal inquiry recommended age verification to protect kids from porn. But the Government hasn’t responded - why not?

Porn stars speak out

Violence against women in pornography is not a fantasy - it’s reality

The Dark Reason Porn Stars Keep Dying

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  • Caitlin Roper
    published this page in News 2021-04-07 11:55:05 +1000

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