A newish blogger – goingroogue666 (http://goingrogue666.wordpress.com) wrote what I thought was a really good piece on whether pornography exploits women. It is worth a read and his blog is worth checking out (see link above) but I thought I would give some thoughts as well.
Does pornography exploit women? That has been debated for years and there is no answer…. because it is the wrong question. Bear with me and read the whole post, as I think I will piss some of you off initially, but bring you around in the end. My basic premise is that all jobs can be exploitive, but societies can act in a way to protect those engaged and, therefore, prevent exploitation. So..
Any job can be exploitive (this is economic theorish so a little dry… but important. Capitalism and free enterprises is predicated on someone owning the means of production and engaging labour and materials to produce stuff at a profit. Whether you are running McDonalds, Walmart or Wicked Pictures, labour is a factor of production that you are trying to derive maximum profit from it. So labour, because owners are trying to derive as much profit for as little cost as possible, will be exploited unless labour resists. This is why unions were formed and governments decided to regulate labour practices – to prevent sweat shop and unfair/unsafe treatment of workers.
In Pornography. There are many women in porn who are not being exploited. They choose to sell their sexuality; they do so at a profit to themselves and in a way that allows them to maintain (or enhance) their self esteem and self respect. There are, however, also many women in porn are being exploited. They (i) have been coerced into performing; (ii) they choose to do porn out of desperations; and/or (ii) performing damages their self esteem or exploits already damaged self esteem.
As an aside, Jessica Drake had an interesting comment on her Playboy Radio show about pseudo-celebrities like Farrah Abraham who are making bad choices in doing porn as a way to extend their 15 minutes of fame, but not thinking of how it may affect their future beyond that 15 minutes – it was really brilliant and made me really respect Jessica Drake.
So, the real question is, why are some women still being exploited in porn. This is a really important question; women in other sectors of the economy are exploited far less than they were a generation ago. Why does the prone industry continue to exploit so many. I thin there are three causes:
1. Women’s rights organizations are not looking out for women in the porn industry. Love em or hate em, the women’s movement has made working life better for women. They have taken on the wage gap, harassment in the workplace, the glass ceiling and many other issues that are helping women achieve workplace parity with their male counterparts. Yet, more often than not, they snub their noses at sex workers — the women who , arguably, need them most.
2. Society continues to stigmatize sex and sex work. Until we grow up and accept that women (and men) have a right to sell their sexuality in the same way that they seek all of their other time and services, we will be incapable of a grown up conversation on fair and protective labour rights in the porn and sex work industry. We need to be able to have the same somber, boring, analytical conversations on sex work as we have on other industries.
3. Government needs to play a supportive, as opposed to a judging, role. Porn needs regulations and workplace standards that are built on the premise that this is a growth industry that is valued in the economy. The people who work in porn must be seen as valued members of society, with rights to the same services and protection as any other worker.
Pornography need not be exploitive. But if we continue to let it be seen as a dirty, embarrassing underground activity, it will continue to exploit some who participate.