What Is Pornography?
“Pornography” was first used as a collective term referring to sexually-oriented publications. Over time, however, the use of this word has taken on a more specific meaning referring specifically to sexually degrading and objectifying materials. In contemporary society, “pornography” is most often used to refer to sexually enhanced or pornographic magazines and films. This narrow usage provides little insight into pornography. The debate over what pornography is has become particularly polarized between those who support free expression and those who wish to control the distribution of materials considered pornographic.
Those who support free speech and oppose censorship claim that pornography is material that portrays or displays fetishes or subjects in a degraded or erotic manner. They claim that the only thing pornography does is cause sexual excitement. This includes materials that portray masturbation or encourage sexual activity. While it may be true that some people who consume such materials may engage in self-pleasure, what is pornography is a reification of the sexual act. In other words, pornography often presents people as fully nude and engaged in sexual activity while holding their heads up.
The second major distinction regarding pornography is the subjective view of the viewer. Most pornography, even the most explicit varieties, does not cause sexual pleasure to the observers. Some claim that viewing pornography does not affect the viewers themselves. Still, those who feel that materials’ portrayal of sexual pleasure damages them have responded by demanding that states enact legislation that protects their right to view materials deemed to be obscene. However, there is little support for a legal definition of pornography that requires the observer to suffer or seek discomfort to have a legal right to view it.
For the government to define pornography, there must be a reasonable basis for doing so. For instance, the definition of pornography would require that certain types of movies, such as a series of erotic films, contribute to the material’s development or appeal, which is what is considered pornographic under existing laws. The movies could not be considered pornographic if they merely featured characters engaging in sexual activity, even if that sexual activity takes place in the films themselves.
The third major distinction between pornography and what is not is whether the material tends to develop particularistic or deviant sexual interests. In other words, a film may be deemed obscene if it promotes or suggests sexual activities in a context that goes beyond the private, personal realm of the viewer. There are many common examples of this sexually explicit film. There are films with nude bodies filmed during various sexual acts, scenes involving only one person performing masturbation, or explicit scenes showing adults performing sexually with children. Any scene that tends to promote, or appears to promote, sexual activities in a non-consenting individual creates a legally binding definition of what is pornography.
In addition to the three distinctions that I have outlined above. For instance, some people argue that there is a legal restriction on pornography, which prohibits material that tends to be sexually explicit and offers no other redeemable value. This definition of pornography has been repeatedly raised by conservative and progressive thinkers alike. According to most feminist definitions, the fourth definition is that pornography is a system of eroticism that allows men to experience sexual power and control through objects of their sexual control.
One of the primary reasons that pornography has become such a controversial issue in recent years is that many mainstream and progressive communities have accused traditionalists and fundamentalists of attacking women. While the accusations are valid, the accusation is also false. The charges of censorship, political correctness, and sexual harassment are a re-hash of the same arguments against pornography decades ago when they were first brought up in the public debate. Many people who oppose the feminist definition of pornography point out the hypocrisy of liberal supporters of pornography, pointing out that these same groups frequently support laws restricting freedom of speech and free assembly for sexual minorities. This is hardly surprising, considering that the feminist definition of pornography is often used in conjunction with the right of free expression, both of which are under attack by defenders of traditional gender roles and social norms.
Finally, the third and most common argument against pornography is that pornography, like other types of sexual behavior, is dangerous to society. The connection between pornography and sexual assault is frequently made in feminist theories, but the link between pornography and sexual abuse is often stronger. Commonly, the argument goes something like this: Since sexual images are not regulated by law, it becomes increasingly clear that people will expose themselves to violence or harm if they cannot stop watching internet pornography. While there may be truth to this criticism, it is also true that technological advancements have resulted in the widespread availability of pornographic images on the internet. This reality does not undermine the ability of people to express themselves in creative ways; rather, it increases their ability to participate constructively in meaningful interaction with others.