by Biting Beaver and Dim
[Article posted on the Biting Beaver's blog, on December 08, 2005]
It has been pointed out as of late that rape existed long before pornography did. This is generally used as a blanket statement to exonerate porn from any ill effect. Obviously, there are several problems with this idea, though it seems like a strong enough thought on the surface.
Sure, rape has existed before pornography was invented, if we assume that cave paintings aren't pornography. (For those of you who use the defense that porn has been around in the form of cave paintings for that long I'd also like to point out that rape has been around that long as well so you're kinda shooting yourself in the foot with that defense) For the purposes of this discussion we're going to assume that porn, as we know it, has been around for about 30 years give or take.
For us to determine what role porn plays in rape, we first have to determine what rape is. Is rape sex? Is rape control? Is rape a hybrid between the two?
Rape is using sexuality as a weapon to punish or control another human being. For rape to occur at least one other thing must happen. The rapist needs to see his victim, not as a human being, but as a creature that is less than he is. He has to have lost his ability to empathize with her pain. He has to view his victim as little more than an object. Objects do not feel. Objects do not object to their treatment. Objects do not have a say in what they are, they just are.
Here's what I contend. Porn causes rape because porn is built on the same principals that rape is built on. Control, domination and objectification. Porn doesn't cause all rape, but all rapes share the same values that porn shares. Control, domination and objectification.
These things are present in each and every rapist. The core belief that a woman's desires are less important than a man's desires. That a man's desires have a right to be fulfilled by any means necessary. The core belief that women are simply a means to an end. An ideology that includes controlling people around him. These are all touted, with great reverence, in pornography.
In pornography, sex becomes violence. Slapping buttocks, calling women names, dehumanizing them, all are part and parcel of pornography. All of this does a fine job of conflating sex with violence and those are the VERY things that rapists have in common; conflating sex with violence.
Rape is a crime that perverts control with sex. It is a way to hurt women through their sex. To control women via their sex.
Porn perverts sex with control. It defines women by their sex, objectifying them in the process. Pornorgraphy is a medium through which pain and pleasure become almost inextricably linked.
Rapists are not born, they are made, and our society is making them. Porn is making them. It is making and creating rapists by instilling the very same notions of control, dominance, submission and sex that all rapists have.
No, porn doesn't cause all rapes. Nobody has suggested that. Although, the porn apologists have a hard time seeing that and they make an assumption that if rape has been around since before porn that porn cannot be causing rapes. What they're NOT looking at is that porn holds so many of the same ideologies that rapists hold that the two are intrinsically linked.
In porn we see a woman being fucked by a man. Her screams of 'pleasure' are eerily similar to a scream of pain. As he is fucking her he may be slapping her on the buttocks, he may be calling her 'Whore', 'Cunt' or 'Slut'.
In rape we see a woman being fucked by a man. Her screams are screams of pain, which are eerily similar to the screams of 'pleasure' from a porn star. As her rapist is fucking her he may be slapping her, he's probably calling her a 'Whore', a 'Cunt' or a 'Slut'.
In porn we see women, stripped, the focus is on their parts they are objects for consumption.
Rapists do not rape humans, they rape objects.
Porn creates rapists by hardening them to a woman's protests, by hardening men to women as HUMANS first and women second. The values taught in porn are identical to the values of the rapist.
There can be little doubt that porn causes men to view women through a callous lens. It allows them to disassociate from them entirely. In porn, women are presented as objects, nothing more, and the number one thing that a rapist has to possess is the ideology that women are objects.
There is no way around this. Sure, there are other mediums in which women are objectified, it happens all the time, but porn is the only media which displays sex, objectification and control all in ONE package. It is the ONLY medium in which pain and pleasure become inextricably linked. The ONLY medium in which women are so clearly dehumanized and degraded. And those people who refuse to see it, those people who claim that they CAN'T see it, the ones who say that there is nothing dehumanizing about being called names while engaged in sexual intercourse, are already dead to women.
If a person is unable to see how the acts in pornography degrade, dehumanize and objectify women then they are already useless to women. They are already on their way to meeting at least one of the criteria of a rapist, that criteria being decreased and/or no empathy towards women.
I say that the ideas and messages inherent in pornography, in ALL pornography, is a glorification of the rapist’s mentality. Pornography is not just a byproduct of a sick society; it is a documentary of a sick society, a reflection of a sick society, and an instruction manual for being a member of a sick society. Just like the Gladiatorial Games were a reflection of, a documentary of, and an instruction manual for the brutality of ancient Rome.
And if an Emperor in ancient Rome passed decrees and laws intended to make Rome a peaceful, less brutal place with peaceful people, but without changing or banning the Gladiators, it wouldn't do a damn bit of good. You'd have a Rome that preaches peace but whose people were still violent.
Apply that to pornography. Want a real-world example? Look at Sweden. Every politician has to claim to be a "feminist" to get elected, and they have scads of "feminist" laws on the books... but they still have rape, sexual violence, glass ceilings, and most of the other problems associated with mindsets. Not just any mindset, but mindsets that porn promotes.
A society can often be judged by its most popular form of entertainment. Pornography is a 56 billion dollar a year industry, which is more than the NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA combined. That's more than the yearly revenue of ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox combined. Pornography is unquestionably our most popular form of entertainment. It is a reflection and a reinforcement of what our society values.
Are the porn values the same values you'd want your children to learn in school? Porn values nothing more the degradation and dehumanization of half the population to make the other half feel secure in their dominance.
Pornography and rape are not related by some mystical "common cause" any more than bomb making and publishing the Anarchist's Cookbook are. They are simply reflections of each other, and pornography FEEDS rape. Rape FEEDS pornography. It's a vicious cycle that has to be broken somehow. But that's another post [on the Beaver's blog].
Pornography causes rape. The evidence shows it no matter how you try to twist it around. The "common cause" of pornography and rape could be said to be a society that exists on the domination and oppression of a female sex class, but then you have to take into account how both pornography and rape help create that society. It becomes a chicken-and-egg scenario, and as long as we keep chasing our tails trying to find out for certain which one is the REAL root cause before we try to fix any of it, it won't get fixed.
Pornography is a documentation of rape. It is not a symptom of a sick society; it is a propaganda reinforcing the values and methods of the sick society. Maybe it was a symptom at one time, but now it has become an equal part of the problem.
How can we work for equality for women while ignoring or promoting(!) an industry that feeds off of inequality at every level? How can we claim we want equality, respect, and justice for women when we traffic with an industry that shows, documents, promotes, and glorifies the exact opposite of those things? Is being called a "cunt" empowering? Respectful? Equal?
Is it possible for a white guy to call a black man a "n****r" (I tried, but I still couldn’t force myself to type that word out) and still not be racist? Is it possible to empower African Americans through black face and minstrel shows? Is it possible to work for the ACCEPTANCE and EQUALITY of African Americans while we still watch, support, and absorb the concepts displayed in minstrel shows?
Porn is a minstrel show, with women instead of African Americans (and there's a ton of racism in pornography as well, which we'll get to in another post). Minstrel shows didn't cause all racism, but will anyone say they didn't significantly contribute, in a causative manner, to a racist society?
Arguing about a "common cause" or "what came first" is ineffective and a distraction. Pornography is a cause of rape. Eliminate pornography, and we will eliminate a lot of rape. Sure, there are other problems to address, other things that condone, support, and contribute to a rape culture, but pornography strengthens ALL of them. Pornography is the mouthpiece of the Patriarchy, through which all if its values are disseminated.
Until we begin to deal with that mouthpiece, until we stop allowing men to use women’s vaginas, breasts, and anus’s to speak their own agenda, our rape rates will continue to climb. Until we figure out what to do with this megaphone called pornography, we will continue to see women suffer at the hands of it. And make no mistake about it, women ARE suffering.
Perhaps porn, as a medium, didn’t cause my rapes. Porn didn’t force my x husband to rape me. What it DID do was reinforce that his desires were appropriate. That sex and rape were interchangeable. That my pleasure and my pain were indistinguishable. It told him that I’d like it. It also gave him the boner he needed to do the job effectively. It was ammunition for him, showing him creative ways he could rape me. It Showed him that fisting was something that women liked. That I should like it.
Pornography was a reflection of a society that told him that these things are normal, acceptable and pleasurable. Until people stop being selfish and understand that there are other human beings, other lives outside of their own existence, we will never have freedom.
It doesn’t matter whether rape was around first or whether porn was around first. I think that everyone can agree that rape is a crime of power.
To that end, pornography is a medium of power.
Biting Beaver is a writer and a radical feminist activist, and she is also one of the pioneer radical feminist bloggers. She fuses personal testimony with incisive radical feminist analysis in a way that comes off very relatable. She is the creator of the brilliant Anti-Patriarchy website "Den of the Biting Beaver", at bitingbeaver.blogspot.com. Dim is her co-author.