PREVALENT PRO-PORNOGRAPHY ARGUMENTS AND THIS AUTHOR’S REBUTTALS:
The performers in pornography are consenting adults acting of their own free will. They are paid for their work. It is their choice!
This is usually the first argument deployed by the pornography apologist, powerful because it invokes “choice”. In a consumer culture, “choice” is seen as paramount.
What must be considered here is what makes choice truly valuable. As meaningful work is not readily available to most people, the primary considerations when deciding to whom one shall sell one’s labor are often rate of pay and degree of indignity to be suffered. The fact that some people choose to appear in pornography is largely a testament to the failure, from a humanitarian perspective, of the wage system.
Some pornography (e.g. Crack Whore Confessions and Coeds Need Cash) focus upon the eroticized economic desperation of the women appearing therein. Her need and the consequent power of the pimp over her is supposed to be part of the kick.
A large number (often estimated at 60-90%) of women in the sex trade are victims of childhood sexual abuse. Former pornograhy performer Carol Smith in Not For Sale (ed. Stark and Whisnant):
When you suffer from childhood sexual abuse or were severely abused as a child, you usually repress those memories. You are unable to say, “I am doing this because I was abused as a child and this is all I know how to do. This is all I know how to feel.” … You either totally go a whole different direction and turn your life around and get as far away from that abuse as you can – or you re-live the experience, and a lot of these women are re-living what they know how to feel.
Some of the women in pornography are the victims of physical coercion and/or trafficking. They have no choice at all.
Certainly, there are women who were not abused and who are not economically disadvantaged beyond the fact that they are women in a male-supremacist culture. A few of them have chosen to work in pornography. Does their choice justify the existence of an industry that is, on the whole, abusive? Certainly not.
The consumers of pornography make the purely selfish choice to support rather than resist this industry. It is their choices, not those of the women in pornography, that should be vociferously attacked.