would be a working definition of pornography. I don't have any bad connotations that it is something dirty or anything like that.
Pornography and Violence.
Absolutely no connection. The surveys
that have been done show that if you see
enough pornography, long enough, it becomes boring to you. It doesn't create
any antisocial behavior, so the way women are portrayed in it, although it might
not be exactly the way some women
would like to see women portrayed,
doesn't excite men to go out and commit
rape. Rapes are acts of violence, not acts
of a sexual nature.
I'm talking about adults. Showing violence or sexually oriented material to
children is not something that I would
recommend. I think by the time an adult
is old enough to see a motion picture
with violence or a sexually explicit scene,
he should be able to handle it. If a person's not stable enough to handle it, then
he has other problems and the movie isn't
going to have a major effect on him.
What I'm saying is that there might be
one tenth of one percent that might see
The Godfather and go out and shoot
somebody, or see an X-rated movie and
rape somebody. But those types of people
are not normal, and that's not the people
that are going to motion pictures today
or buying Playboy magazine or Hustler or
whatever. You can't restrict society to
protect it from everything because if you
do that, virtually nothing would be legal.
Some guy might have seen The Texas
Chain Saw Massacre and gone out and
killed somebody and decapitated them,
but you can't just outlaw all movies on
violence because one person might do the
extreme. The same goes for sexually explicit movies.
JUNE ARNOLD, Novelist and founder
of Daughters, Inc., a feminist press.
Pornography and Violence.
I definitely think there's a connection. In
fact, I think that's the central point. The
problem of pornography for feminists is
how pornography affects all women, not
just the ones who submit to the movie or
stage show for salary.
I think there are two primary effects.
The first one is that women in early adolescence learn to see their sexuality as
something to be exhibited and cut off the
possibility of integrating their sexuality
into a total human life—in order to use
sexual energy for love, adventure and
They learn to see their body as an object and either detach themselves from it
as something that's ugly or dangerous, or
capitalize on it to manipulate what they
want. I think adolescent males learn to
view women as objects in the same way
and cut themselves off from their sexuality.
So the first major point is that pornography encourages women to see themselves as objects. I think there should be
a law right this minute that porn establishments can't advertise in public with
pictures of naked women and signs saying
"totally nude girls." They're on public
streets and I really feel deeply insulted as
a woman every time I pass one.
The second point is that porn's main
function is to stimulate the viewer. As the
viewer becomes jaded, porn ups the ante.
We've seen that violence plus sex is twice
as stimulating. We know from reading
Laurel Holliday's The Violent Sex that
males experience violence sexually. While
we're passing laws that tavern owners can
be held responsible if a customer leaves
his place drunk and kills someone driving
home, we might consider a law that holds
porn establishments responsible if a man
leaves a movie or bar and commits rape
on the way home.
The women who've been working on
the social effects of pornography have
amply demonstrated that rape and sexual
mutilation and murder increase as porn
becomes more widespread and more
violent. The problem is that the liberals
who are afraid of the infringement upon
the freedom of speech are frightened of
laws against porn. Liberals are now
beginning to focus on the violence that
results from the fact that a class of people
are objects to be used.
What is Pornography ?
I think what we should do is redefine
pornography. I looked at a dictionary
definition, and my dictionary says it's
that which is obscene or offends modesty. With a general definition like that,
every case is going to the Supreme Court
because nobody knows what that means.
But what if we redefine it to mean "that
sexual material which can be shown to
lead to direct violence against a segment
of the community."
In the same way that we're insisting
that rape is not a sexual act but a crime
of assault, this definition would take the
obscenity laws out of the totally nebulous area of sexual morality. We still
wouldn't solve the problem of the woman
growing up to see herself as an object, but
we would at least solve the second problem. I suppose that the second problem is
the more immediate problem—the increasing rape and mutilation of women.
GAIL PADGETT, Representative of the
Houston Rape Crisis Coalition.
What is Pornography ?
Usually I think of pornography as any
kind of graphic display that is degrading
to women. Obviously that leaves a lot of
room for subjectivity. I usually think of it
as involving nudity or near nudity, but
not always. I'm thinking particularly of
advertisments. For instance, women's
clothes. I've seen some really masochistic
displays of women modelling raincoats,
with an umbrella pointed at one model's
stomach or head, suggesting violence. The
raincoats are worn with nothing underneath so you have the idea of exhibitionism. The women are glaring at each other
in a threatening way.
Even though that doesn't involve nudity, I think of it as pornography because
it's using the woman's body to merchandise the clothes, and it's degrading to the
women because it's violent.
So many people, particularly women,
don't know anything about pornography.
They think of it as the Playboy centerfold, the frontal view of an unclothed
woman. They find that somewhat objectionable because they object to public
nudity. But this kind of thing doesn't include the violence or degradation that we
protest as so terribly destructive—violence
against women in the media, the use of
chains and whips, women who are bound.
Susan Brownmiller is leading tours of
New York City's red light districts, not
only to confront the people who frequent
the shops, but also to let women know
just how damaging and dangerous this
stuff is, how much of it involves children,
how much involves animals, and how
much of it is not just distasteful but clearly violent.
The Rape Crisis Coalition wants to begin these tours here so that we can educate ourselves. A lot of people join the
Rape Crisis Coalition because they want
to help the survivors of rape attacks.
They're coming to us for varied reasons
with the idea of doing good and they're
not usually feeling anger at what caused
the rape or understanding the dynamics
Many of them, expecially the men,
have defended pornography saying that it
has no connection with rape and sexual
abuse. Again, they're not focusing on the
violent pornography or kiddie porn, but
the Playboy centerfold. We have the Bellaire Newsstand right here where they sell
plastic vaginas in the back room. I think
it would be a good consciousness-raising
technique to see how much hostility a
group of us—particularly if we're all
women—arouse in the customers and pro
prietors of these shops by simply going in
and looking at some of the stuff.
Pornography and Violence.
There is obviously a connection between
pornography and any kind of pictorial
display of women being abused and dominated by men, particularly sexually. One
large city found that 72 percent of the
rapists and sex offenders apprehended
had pornography in their possession.
In Houston, our police have so little
money that data collection is a joke, so I
have no idea what kind of statistics might
be generated locally.
Proponents of First Amendment rights
say all you have to do is look at the Scandinavian countries, where porn is legal
and freely available, to see that sex crimes
have decreased. What actually happened
is that immediately after the legalization,
sex crimes did decrease, but since then
sexual crimes against women have been
following the same spiralling pattern of
increase we've seen all over the world,
particularly here in the United States.
One thing that I see as really damaging
about pornography is that both pornography and prostitution give men the idea
that they have a right to women's bodies;
that they have a right to buy pictures of
women involved in sexual activities; that
they have a right to buy a prostitute.
Anything that can be bought can be
stolen. More and more often we're seeing
men raping women and living out their
sexual fantasies as they do with paid-for
prostitutes. It doesn't take a very active
imagination to realize that they're picking
these ideas up from pornography.
The stories we hear from the survivors
who call us at the Rape Hotline are right
out of the porn magazines: women tied
up in fetal positions with dogs set upon
them to rape them anally or vaginally;
women raped by two men at once, one
vaginally and one anally; and one woman
who was raped vaginally simultaneously
by two men.
Many of the rapists spend hours with
the victim, having sex with her in dozens
of different ways, pushing, pulling, and
tearing her body into different positions,
and constantly asking her how she likes
it . . . They are acting out masochistic, violent fantasies on rape victims, often
using mirrors in the victim's bedroom to
make her watch what they're doing to
her, or to watch themselves. They need so
much visual feedback, that you can see
these crimes coming from the pages of
For so long, we've been saying that
rape is not an act of sex but violence.
What we've done is educate a lot of women to the notion that there's a big difference between being raped and making
love. What we've obscured, however, is
the fact that for the rapist this is sex, and
it's very violent sex.
Many times the rapist's sexual impulse
is turned on by violence and by forcing a
woman to do something against her will.
That's exactly what pornography is all
about—having the woman tied up unable
to move, her body contorted into positions that are not pleasant or stimulating
to her sexually.
Any woman looking at those pictures