For the Love of Porn

Let’s start here:

In Chris Pappas’s article “Sex Sells, but what else does to do?” he discusses the study of pornography in the American culture. He explains how porn represents a “vital and active mode through which pass carious strands of thought, research, and practice about gender, sex, sexuality, culture, organizations, and economics” (Pappas 320). Perhaps the question that first needs to be answered is what is porn? No one can agree on a single thing that makes something pornographic because most people never have a steady definition of what porn is exactly, but there is always the obscene material, sacred and profane scenes, along with erotic and vulgar language in the flux. If you ask Supreme Court Justice, Potter Stewart, he knows it when he sees it. Therefore many definitions focus on porn as sexually explicit material that is made to cause sexual arousal (321). This leads to the debate of what is considered property nudity and what is offensive, and because of this in 1973 the US Supreme Court set the frame for defining unprotected obscenity in Miller v. California. They came up with the “Miller Test” that had three conditions: the average person, contemporary community standards, and appeal to the prurient interest (321). The problem with this is of course the debate of what you would describe the average person as and how to determine what they decide as offensive in comparison to another person. Another tool that was used was the “SLAPS Test” meaning that the obscene work much in some way lack “S”erious “L”iterary, “A”rtistic, “P”olitical, or “S”cientific value (321). This provides problems because there is no concrete, consistent definition of what constitutes literature, art, and value.

Pornography can be framed as a social problem because of the obscene and unwanted behavior and because of this conservatives claim that porn contributes to moral decay and corruption. In contrast radial feminists say that porn is used to uphold the patriarchy, sexism, and the continued devaluing of women (321). A similar attempt to define what pornography is came from the second wave feminists and previous feminist that had worked on anti-sexual violence campaigns. They claimed, “that such cultural symbols taught and reinforced notions of male supremacy and gender/sexual inequality, and that taken together they created a “rape culture,” or a context wherein the sexual abuse of women was normalized and justified” (322). Other feminists tired to make a division between erotica (non-violent, egalitarian, loving form of sexually explicit material) and pornography (hate, violent, and exploitative). Then there were feminists like Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon who attempted to pass anti-pornography laws in multiple cities. These laws would establish porn as a civil rights issue and gave the women who participated in porn or women who were abused because of porn a way to challenge their abusers in the court setting (322). Dworkin and MacKinnon followed the logic that the cultural products caused unwanted behaviors and contributed to social ills. Around 1980, psychologists tried to show that men felt more animosity towards women after viewing porn; especially porn that was considered “violent” (323). But years later that information was thrown out, and in result anti-pornography feminist began to be criticized.

Besides the question of what is porn, the next important question is who buys/watches porn and who makes it. Anne McClintock sees the porn industry as a “giant, high profile, multi-billion dollar international business that draws on the most sophisticated electronic systems, vast personnel division, teams of technicians, secretaries, and market analyzers, fleets of transport vehicles and global distribution networks” (323). Pornography is one of the most influential, popular forms of pop culture. Annual profits range form one to ten billion dollars; this does not even count internet porn, which had given individuals easy access to sexually explicit material. Pornography has emerged as a mass industry and this shows how the beliefs and moral are changing. With that being said, according to the General Social Survey (GSS) the number of people who have watched porn had drastically increased and therefore, it is becoming more socially acceptable (324). Nevertheless, because of porn’s easy access to everyone, this is not precise way or source that can account for everyone who watches porn.

Along with the audience of porn growing, we also know that the number of women who watch porn has also increased. Because of this major changes in the content of porn has happened: the sex industry began to go away from the straight male domain and veer into the market for couples. With that pornography also expands to gay and lesbian couples as well; honestly, for any social or sexual category or sexual fetish there is porn that favors.

Check out this link for a very interesting, detailed porn survey:

In conclusion Chris Pappas dissected the history of contemporary pornography and many ways to define and regulate it based the context of feminists debates. However, with the more we now know about pornography, we can now more accurately analyze its heavy influence and significance to society. Pappas believes that with this new approach, porn should be taken seriously as a massive, organized, popular industry for the entertainment of pleasure.