All posts edited by Madeline Ricchiuto.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Feminism and Pornography: Can the two be reconciled? - An open discussion

Today, I attended a discussion/seminar on Human Rights at Durham Law school in the UK. The seminar started off being about discourse surrounding abortion and specifically how Human Rights discourse can help or affects such things.

This has been a major feature in recent political and theoretical discussions due to the tragedy that occurred in Ireland recently (if you aren't sure what I'm talking about click here). The discussion was of course very interesting, but the topic of conversation slowly evolved from an issue of abortion to that of pornography, prostitution, and the like. It came about when discussion started revolving around the idea of autonomy. However an interesting question was posed, one that I know is controversial among feminists and I have seen and heard arguments from both sides of the issue.

The question is this: Is it possible for a woman to become empowered or liberated through a medium such as pornography or prostitution?

This question is obviously not a simple one, but I think it is one that would be great for a discussion and I would love to hear what people think on it. I definitely encourage discussions on it (hopefully in the comments below!) but stress to be respectful and patient with everyone as this is not an easy question or topic to discuss.

To start with, I think it is important set out what certain terms mean; most importantly what it means to be empowered/liberated. What context is this to be taken in? Is it possible for their to be individual empowerment/liberation while perpetuating a victimization of other's with similar characteristics?


  1. You raise a lot of pertinent foundational questions which are constantly overlooked: semantically, what grounds are we working on when it comes to the language used to describe these issues? It stands to reason that "empowerment" could stand some disambiguation. I try to avoid these kinds of terms because they tend to imply power transfer from one demographic to another, subsequently alluding to one group deigning it acceptable to bestow legitimacy/acceptance upon another--very hegemonic.

    That was a very long, convoluted way of saying: Keep up the good work. I like that you're working from the ground up. Ambitious, and necessary.

    1. What terms would you use instead? I don't necessarily agree that using the term "empowerment" alludes to an acceptability or legitimately given power. I think empowerment is something that can be taken whether or not some group deigns its acceptable etc. Maybe the term liberation is more acceptable? It seems to not necessarily convey the same message you seem to get from empowerment.

      Whatever terms we are using, is there a way to reconcile the ideals of feminism and prostitution/pornography as industries? Is it possible to dismantle the masters house with his own tools in this case or does using a system that historically and currently promotes patriarchy only lead to furthering that patriarchy?

      Thanks for the support though!