Melissa May's recent post on the social effects of porn got me thinking about the reasons why I think that porn is a negative force in society, and why, like May, I believe that we have an obligation to continue speaking up about it.
Personally, my main objection to pornography (and strip clubs, etc.) is that these institutions rely on and enforce the idea that there are two different kinds of women, for two different kinds of uses: the kind of woman at whom you gaze anonymously and throw dollar, and then, on the other hand, the kind of woman you respect, marry, and have children with. The fact that a man who looks at pornography might be disturbed to find a sister, a friend, or a daughter in the pages of the magazine highlights this idea: women I know = not okay to objectify; women I do not know = okay to objectify.
Pornography suggests that the use of some kinds of women is okay, because they are a different kind of person, and their dignity is somehow defined differently, whether it is because of their level of attractiveness, their personal choices (like choosing to pose nude in for a magazine), or a variety of other reasons. Espousing these kinds of ideas openly is not acceptable in US popular culture/society in general in terms of economic status, race, or even gender in itself, but somehow if we balk at the division between "women it's okay to objectify" and "women it's not okay to objectify" in the context of pornography, then we are being backward and repressive and ashamed and needlessly puritanical.
What gives? Why is it all right to debase one woman and not another? Who decides who gets classified one way instead of another? Why is this not a larger debate? What do you think?
(I frame this discussion in terms of women as the object of the gaze simply because that is the case so often, and because I am speaking from my own point of view as a woman. Other points of view interest me and I would be interested to hear about what it means when a man is an object, etc.)