Hot Topic: Is Porn Rape?

I was recently asked to read a post on Womanist Musings titled, All Porn is Rape, All the Time.

In this article the author, Femonade, asserts that because actual consent can not be calculated and contractional because it is ever-changing and cannot be given prospectively, that the sexual encounters in porn are rape. “The constant renegotiation required in consensual sexual encounters simply doesn’t occur when deals are struck, and contracts are signed beforehand,” claims Femonade, “a woman’s mere voluntary presence does not equal her consent to anything except being there.” She goes on to say that the constant communication, verbal and nonverbal, a man has with his partner to ensure that consent has been given does not happen in porn simply because the woman is acting and her communications are “inauthentic.”

I can agree that the porn industry is inherently harmful and misogynistic but I disagree that it facilitates and perpetuates rape. I also find that the extremist nature of Femonades claim inevitably discounts the agency and autonomy of porn actresses. She victimizes these women and portrays them as helpless and mindless.

Femonade scoffs at the assumption that just because a woman has shown up to the set, she has given her consent, but I consider this valid. The whole point of a contract is to spell out what is expected of you. The signing of the contract is the first step of consent, the second is showing up, the third is completely the act. The actress knows what she is expected to do, has confirmed her knowledge and willingness to do it in return for whatever her compensation may be (getting paid), and has shown up at the job site to carry out the deal. This screams consent to me. I do believe that because she is acting, there is a sort of blurry line of consent for sex. She may not want to have sex and get pleasure out of the act, but she has agreed to have sex for whatever reason (money), and has therefore given her consent.

Femonade demonizes male porn stars and male consumers of porn in her post, and that is problematic for me. The men are there for the same reasons the women are there. The author is automatically assuming that every male in a porn, and every porn a male shoots is wanted and even enjoyed. Porn is a job, just as any job, and is done for money… hence the term “Porn Industry;” yes some people enjoy their job and some hate it, but at the end of the day workers are there to receive a pay check. Femonade is also perpetuating the stereotype that only women are raped. Porn as a collective industry dabbles in EVERYTHING. The mens consent is also constructed through contract. So are the sexual acts performed on him rape too? According to her logic, it is.

The author assumes that because she and her female friends don’t partake in the consumption of porn, all audiences of porn are male. This is another stereotype that discredits her assertions. She ultimately comes to the conclusion that men who watch porn, and therefore watching rape, are “indulging in rape-fantasies, and can become rapists if they bring these behaviors into the bedroom.” I find this even more far-fetched than her accusation that male porn actors are rapists and should be tried as such. Her sensationalism is highly problematic.  

I can agree with some of her statements for specific porn fetishes, like gang rape, that add to rape-mentalities. Those are scenes of rape, therefore perpetuating rape, and feeding rape-culture. The sex act being filmed as a rape scene however, isn’t rape until the woman says stop, or is unable to say stop (mouth gagged) and no one listens. The reason it isn’t rape initially, however,  is because it is an act and she has given consent to act in this particular scene.

I’d like to quote my best friend Amber Stapleton and an opinion of hers on Femonade’s article, “In her effort to vilify the porn industry as rapist she perpetually victimizes women in this industry and thus objectifies them. The author views these women as just voiceless victims; she doesn’t view them as fully actualized human beings with motives and needs that explains their participation, thus “consent” (keyword here), in the porn industry. She doesn’t explore these women as participants in this industry but as a problematic element she wants to diagnose. Her whole implicit paternalistic tone (ironic much?) of “I know whats really going on” better than the actual porn actresses who experience porn day-to-day both physically, mentally, and financially is irritating.”

Her opinion is shocking only because we do live in a patriarchal society that marginalizes women, and however superficially taboo the porn industry is, it is perceived as acceptable, even so that it is not illegal. Porn and prostitution are invariably linked in my opinion, and many people argue that prostitution is rape. All of the counter arguments I’ve used above to verify that porn is not rape, can be used to say that prostitution is not rape. I think we can all agree that there are problems with both industries and that systematic oppression keeps women cycling through them, but calling them rapists victimizes and dehumanizes the female participants, demonizes and condemns the male participants and viewers, and ultimately hurts the validity and vitality of the term “rape.”

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