Originally published on April 07, 2006
I’ve wanted to do something like this for a long while. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the time to find my numbers and such until just now. Originally this idea was intended to run for a week, each day a different installment until, on Friday we completed the idea. However, I feel like undertaking this task today.
I want to discuss the ‘tiers of harm’ associated with pornography. At every level of pornography, from the making, to the distribution to the watching and to every single woman in society there is harm.
It makes sense to start at the beginning, and the beginning in this case is making pornography. Now, for the purposes of this series of articles I want everyone to understand that when I’m referring to pornography or the sex industry or prostitution I am using the terms almost interchangeably. The difference between pornography and prostitution is really just a ghost line that is put in place by those who wish to separate themselves from ‘those other people’. In this instance the ‘other people’ are the ones who buy prostitutes. Societally speaking pornography is more accepted than buying a prostitute, therefore people have a much easier time aligning themselves with this ‘very different’ (to use their words) aspect of the sex industry.
I also want to note that you will see me using scare quotes through this article when referring to women who ‘get something out of it’. This is not a post debating whether or not they are actually getting something out of prostituting themselves which is why the scare quotes are there. The assumption is that prostitutes and porn stars are ‘getting something out of it’ and I will leave that alone for another day. Ok, on with the show.
First we must understand that the two are indistinguishable in a practical sense. Pornography is prostitution, but the fact that not just one man is using the prostitute puts it into a different category in the law.
It stands to reason that in a society where women are to be available to all men all the time that prostitution would fall into an altogether different category than pornography. The line drawn between the two is truly a false dichotomy, the real reason that lay at the heart of the legalization and, in fact, mainstreaming of one, whilst the other is a more ‘seedy’ underside is not too hard to understand.
In porn the woman is available for ALL men, all the time. Every man who sees her can ‘fuck’ her, even if only through the male who is present in the movie. She is truly the whore, the free hooker, the slut that every man can do with what they will (either in the actual making of or in the viewing of).
Prostitutes on the other hand are only fucking a small percentage of men; therefore, since they are not offering their object status to each and every single man who desires it, it is a far more taboo idea.
Of course, at its base, porn and prostitution are the same thing. In both of them a woman exchanges sex for money but in one of them it is filmed, in the other, it’s a private interaction in which it has been argued the prostitute is getting ‘something out of it’. With this false idea of the prostitutes ‘getting something out of it’ the degradation is not complete enough for society’s liking. Without the benefit of allowing every man the ability to use her, she has not been punished enough for ‘getting something out of it’.
In other words, pornography allows the entire male population to use and degrade her sexually and that works off any ‘benefit’ she may get from the act. In this case money. A woman who derives any benefit from selling her sex is a maligned creature indeed. With the porn star we can take away any and all ‘benefit’ that she is perceived to have received by making her fodder for every man to degrade. That’s a tradeoff that the Patriarchy will make.
One woman gets paid a few hundred bucks to be an object of degradation, humiliation and objectification for millions of men. Her image is forever sealed, her degradation posed and captured at it’s finest to be stored in the annuls of time. At any moment, 1 year, 5 years or 30 years later she can be recalled by any man who wants to degrade her without ramification. All for a few hundred bucks. Of course it’s a great deal for the Patriarchy. They get a collection of women, thousands of unnamed stories and faces that are frozen in the very act of degradation that man gets so much pleasure from. Exposed and captured at their most vulnerable they represent the culmination of Patriarchal power, a thing to be seized by each and every member of society and jerked off too gleefully as proof of male power and domination.
The porn star is maligned because she is perceived to have gotten some ‘benefit’ from having sold herself. Women hate her because men seem to love her, Men hate her because she displays a lack of character so complete (to the men) that they are incapable of feeling anything but revulsion at her, after they use her to orgasm to. It’s true. The porn star is maligned because she has become what society has trained her to be. She is maligned by the men who display and overwhelming disgust of her when they are done using her. That disgust is often rooted in the very acts that they desire but are disgusted by. The very acts that they would never do or allow to be done to them builds a disgust of the very women that will do it. It’s a case of projection at it’s finest but that’s also not what this is about. Suffice it to say that society hates the porn star, but she is also mainstream and acceptable precisely because of her degradation and the fact that millions of men all over the world can, at any time now or in the future, use her and reinforce her status as a dehumanized thing.
The very thing that makes her hated and maligned is also the very thing that makes what she does acceptable. Why? Because she has taken her punishment for being such a despicable creature, she is allowed to exist BECAUSE she takes her punishment, that punishment being that she is forever a nameless, faceless object to uphold the tenets of male domination.
The prostitute however, has no such tradeoff. She is not being degraded enough according to the patriarchy. Millions of men cannot fuck one prostitute. The entire society of males cannot degrade one prostitute, it’s not feasible. Unlike the porn star, her audience is only a relatively small group of men who are in physical proximity to the individual woman. Her punishment for merely having female genitalia and then, ‘getting something out of it’ (presumably money) is too much of an affront to the patriarchal construct. She is selling herself in private to only one man, or a series of singular men and the belief is that she’s ‘getting something out of it’ therefore, she has not been punished enough.
Under this system a woman not only cannot be perceived as ‘getting something out of it’ but she must be punished for anything she does get out of it no matter how small. The system dictates that she must be available without reservation, without any thought to herself at all times. If and when a woman is perceived as having ‘gotten something out of it’ she is reviled and degraded all the more.
The prostitute flies in the face of patriarchal norms in that way. She is a woman who is perceived as ‘getting something out of it’, taboo at best, hated at worst. The reality of whether she actually does ‘get something out of it’ is up for debate but the perception is still there.
It is because of this reality that prostitution has more of a stigma attached to it than pornography. Both women are prostitutes, one of them can be said to ‘suffer’ more than the other if only because every man has access to their degradation for an unknown number of years whereas with the prostitute only a small percentage of men have been allowed to degrade that particular woman and for most of them the only memory and ‘proof’ that they have is in their memories. There is also the matter of her not being ‘available’ for an infinite number of years. Eventually the prostitute will get old, die or otherwise be unable to be degraded. Also, there is no ‘proof’ that she was degraded enough in prostitution, therefore the societal taboo is harsher.
Lawmakers have decided that prostitution is illegal in many places. Based, unknown to them I suspect, upon the model I just discussed. With porn men can degrade her ‘safely’, from a distance, any man, at any time. With prostitutes you must ‘pay’ to degrade them, therefore, in the mind of male privilege, the prostitute comes out ahead, or at least even. The truth of that statement can again be debated, but this is what the men believe when they go to prostitutes.
This could perhaps, (I haven’t thought about it too much yet) even be the reason that prostitutes are far more likely to be raped than anyone else. Their degradation is not complete enough, selling their bodies by some men can be too easily construed as her ‘getting something out of it’ (money). The retaliation is rape and degradation that defies the accepted limits of degradation afforded to porn stars.
The porn star is paid once and then subject to abuse by anyone at any time. She is the creature who appears to love the abuse and degradation that the patriarchy is so adept at providing. Therefore, HER abuse is legal precisely BECAUSE of that.
A woman who gets anything out of sex is a maligned creature indeed, even if the perception of her is wrong, even if she is being harmed by the sex it doesn’t matter. If the perception is that she is getting something out of it then she is hated. The slut is hated for precisely this reason, as is the prostitute, as is the woman who just knows what she wants in bed. ANY sort of perceived ‘benefit’ is reason enough for men to revile her. The ‘benefit’ could be enjoyment of the sex act, or her saying “No” to him. It can be money, power, anything she does that lends to a perception of benefit.
A man who ‘nags’ his partner into sex probably stopped giving a shit about the actual orgasm involved after the 3rd “No”. It becomes a battle of wills that the man must win. Why? Because she is perceived as having gotten a ‘benefit’ from her sex, in this case, the ‘benefit’ of being able to say “No”.
The prostitute is similarly hated because her ‘benefit’ is money. She got money but didn’t get degraded enough to ‘pay’ for that money.
The porn star, on the other hand, is understood to have been suitably degraded, it can be clear that she has gotten the short end of the stick on this one. Her image and likeness and even her rape (Deep Throat) are proof enough that she is degraded enough to be allowed to ‘benefit’ from the measly few hundreds of dollars she received. Even after the woman is dead and in the ground her likeness, her essence and her body is still open to male degradation.
Porn and prostitution are the same thing. The only difference is that the porn star makes no bones about privacy, indeed, she is captured in the very act of ‘allowing’ herself to be degraded so that millions of men can, in turn, get off on that degradation. The prostitute has the audacity to require it to be only one man, not millions, and her degradation is not complete enough for societies liking.
This is the reason that one is legal and one isn’t. It has nothing to do with Freedom of Speech and everything to do with the levels of degradation that men perceive them having taken.
So, to start off this series I wanted to tell everyone exactly why I will use the two interchangeably. They are the same thing in every aspect. One is legal, one is heralded as being ‘helpful to relationships’ and ‘harmless fantasy’. But don’t be fooled, the sex industry is just that an industry. Some women have paid enough and the Patriarchy is willing to strike a deal with them while others haven’t paid enough and are therefore more maligned and more ‘taboo’ than the other.
And this, my friends, is my intro to porn week which will resume on Monday (unless I crank out the next post over the weekend).
Thanks to Dee for contributing this series of posts