Should Pornography Be Banned? Argumentative Essay Samples
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Mackinnon’s article on pornography is one lens to examine how "Sexual discrimination permeates our entire culture.” Pornography is an interesting medium to look at how gender and sexual intercourse pervade culture where women are more often than not displayed as an object. The government or any entity should not ban pornography. However, the inconvenient truth is that pornography lays bare the dominant discourse of men and their underlying attitudes about women.
What can we suggest? One suggestion is that silence is not an option. It is no longer appropriate to relegate pornography to the hidden room of the Internet or the back rooms of a magazine shop. Men who look at pornography “to get off” at the expense of a woman’s body are more than likely doing what they do is based on a society that says it is permissible to sexualize a woman’s body. However, does a woman have the same right to sexualize a man in the same way? Does pornography harm women? Yes, it does. Does this mean that pornography ought to be banned? No, it should not be banned for the following reasons. We live in a world where equality is not afforded to women on the same par as men. Women make less money on the dollar than men, and women’s work is not valued in the same way as men’s work is valued. Feminism is built on the notion that the idea that to work hard, to work according to merit, is based on a male dominated hegemony. Mackinnon makes the convincing claim that pornography is not fantasy but conforms to a real social reality. The way women are treated in a pornographic video, as submissive, and subject to men’s desire is partly because men see women as readily available for sex at any cost. Similar to attending a strip club, where women perform for money and men pay them to dance sexually is to see women as a commodity. However, to ban pornography may make matters worst.
How do we balance free speech with pornography that harms women? To balance an argument between the right to free speech and the harm that sexual images of women and the language men use to describe women it is necessary to think of pornography as a cultural object. First, it is important to discuss what constitutes pornography in the first place. Is pornography merely the visual display of a woman’s body? There are many examples of women's bodies being displayed outside the realm of pornography that people do not associate with women being harmed. For example, perfume advertisements, or swimsuit advertisements. Lena Dunham bares her body in many episodes of the HBO television show Girls, but no one calls her performance pornography. Alternatively, a copy of Hustler, or Playboy, is an obvious display of women's bodies for the pleasure of men. So, the question becomes do women have the same access to men's bodies. For the playing field to be truly equal it would be necessary to construct a world where men are as equally displayed for the satisfaction of women, as much as women's bodies are displayed for the satisfaction of men. Mackinnon makes the salient point that free speech, when it was penned by the framers of the Constitution, did not have women in mind. Nor did they have African Americans in mind, or children, or people who did not share the status of voting citizens. Feminism is the discourse that says that we need to address the status of women in a non-equal status. Having made these points, it is possible to return to the original question. Should pornography that graphically represents women as objects be banned? Again, the answer is no because the real issue is that the power play needs to be equal. Does the display of men's body in pornography, when it is displayed as object harm men? Yes, it does. For sexism, as Mackinnon rightly points out, harms masculinity as much as it harms femininity. Just because something is harmful does not mean we ban it. Alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, and too much consumption of McDonald's hamburgers harms the body. However, these things are not banned.
What needs to be banned is the kind of free speech that silences women. It is true that a pornographic image of woman servicing a man’s needs does not give adequate voice to the woman. She is silenced, she is used, and she is made to be a passive object in the active role of men who carry out arguments defending free speech. Certainly, women’s magazines that publish pornographic images of men do exist. However, it still does not address the issue of free speech in a man’s world. What is the body of a man displayed for pleasure mean in a world dominated by men? The images are circulated differently. Does a woman who engages in sexual activity for pornography receive equal wages? Is she treated with respect? Is she guaranteed payment for the performance she renders?
What should be banned is not pornography outright. The main reason is that the definition of pornography is too loose and general to be banned. We need to be able to produce sexual images, and it is not immoral to do so. Mackinnon argues that pornography in a certain context is wrong. When pornography squashes women's credibility — that needs to be questioned. In a world where men do not listen to women, men become more free to abuse women with impunity. The problem with pornography is that it perpetuates this protection of men, while threatening the well-being of women. What would pornography look like in an equal world? It would not be violent. It would be sexual. But it would not be oral sex performed by a woman on a man for the sake of the man’s pleasure. Equal opportunity pornography would be equal opportunity. It would look like sex designed for both men and women’s pleasure. Unfortunately, this kind of pornography is a fantasy and will not be realised until we can authentically confront violence perpetrated against women. Free speech has to be redefined.
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