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Posted in: Feminism, Free Speech

Published on Dec 16, 2010 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for NewsRealBlog

Twenty Questions About Pornography

This Is A Test


Pornography has invaded the world's imagination. It is everywhere: On the Internet, in films, in movies, in rap music videos. Five-year-old girls dress and are taught to behave like pornography stars in order to win beauty contests. Ten- to twelve-year-old girls both dress and behave like the pornographic images that surround them—and they provide sexual services to young boys. Opera—high culture—has also been increasingly "sexed up." I have seen productions of "Carmen" and "Lulu" in which the lead diva was half-naked and in which she, too, sang the role as if she was a contemporary pornography star and prostitute.

No, I do not like any of this.

Yes, I take it all very seriously—as many Second Wave feminists and our Christian and conservative allies once did.

No, I do not think that hiding women beneath burqas is, therefore, any kind of solution. In fact, both pornography and prostitution are booming businesses in most Muslim countries.

Before we go any further, let's play twenty questions. I really want your answers.

1. Is pornography "work" or is it a violent crime?

2. Is pornography "free speech" in action or is it a violent, often murderous crime?

3. Is pornography really a "victimless" crime?

4. Are pimps, johns, traffickers, and landlords being victimized? If so, why are they not complaining?

5. Are the people, mainly men, who buy and watch pornography being victimized? If so, why are they not complaining? Is anyone forcing them to consume pornography?

6. Are the seductive, taunting, smiling, naked girls and women who are being paid "good" money–victims? If so, why don't they complain, leave, find some other job?

7. Isn't working in pornography a job just like any other job–like any other acting job?

8. Aren't pornography actors there of their own free will—for the easy money, the attention, the "stardom?"

9. Isn't our right to see and read whatever interests us essential to our fundamental liberty?

10. Doesn't the First Amendment guarantee us this right? If we criminalize one kind of "free speech," where will it end? Who will decide what information or images we are allowed to see? Won't state or religious censorship chill our rights, even our very thoughts?

11. On behalf of "free speech," and privacy rights, didn't Second Wave feminists avidly collaborate with pornographers to ensure that pornography remained a civil right?

12. Didn't Second Wave feminists launch the battle against violence against women, which included sexual harassment, rape, incest, domestic battering—as well as the most serious battle against pornography and prostitution? Weren't they vilified for collaborating with Christians and conservatives on the issue of pornography and prostitution?

13. How many women from wealthy and prominent families, or with advanced educations, "choose" to work in pornography or as prostitutes?

14. Did you know that, by definition, pornography is that which has to do with "prostitutes." "Porne" in Greek is a "prostitute." The so-called actresses in pornography are treated as if they are–and usually soon are–also "working" as prostitutes.

15. How different is being a prostitute from being a stripper, massage therapist, or a nurse?

16. How many prostituted girls and women are actually free to leave, walk out, give it all up?

17. Where might they go? Where might they call "home?" Who will help them get off drugs and alcohol, restore their ravaged health, support them as they deal with the sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS, with which johns have infected them?

18. Do you have any idea of what the average age of a pornography actress/prostitute is?

19. How long a shelf-life does a "working girl" (prostitute, pornography actress) actually have?

20. Why does pornography "turn" people on?

I lived through the great feminist Sex Wars. I was both a participant and an eye-witness, as well as a confidante to feminists who were on both sides of this War. But before I share memories and analysis, I really want to hear from you. Your answers will help me understand how to share a vast body of knowledge and history with you in the most productive way. Here's a hint to help you think through these questions.

Pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry, right up there with guns and drugs. It is enormously profitable but not to the "workers," most of whom are girls and women who have been sold by their parents, captured in war, kidnapped off the street, forced by their husbands, or who have been driven by poverty, racism, incest, and the most violent sexism into the arms of pimps, traffickers, landlords, advertisers, law enforcement officers, and johns.


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