Chyng Sun: Rejecting Porn’s Hatred of Women Does Not Mean Embracing Government Repression of “Obscenity”

Dr. Chyng Feng Sun teaches media studies at New York University. Dr. Sun received her Ph.D. in communication at U Mass-Amherst, specializing in media literacy. In this article for CounterPunch, she argues that the misogyny of porn deserves much criticism, but that government repression of “obscenity” is not the answer…

It is typical that liberal-minded people, when facing censorship, would rush to defend pornographers’ right to produce whatever they want, even if the products objectify, humiliate and violate women. But shouldn’t we ponder what we are defending and what kind of value system supports that defense?

One of the most popular booths at the expo was for the BangBus, which consistently drew large crowds of almost entirely male fans. What’s the BangBus concept? One of the producers explained that the videos show men in a large van, picking up what appear to be women on the streets, talking them into having sex, and then degrading them in some way dropping them off in desolate places, not giving them money promised, or throwing their belongings out the door…

There are few boundaries that haven’t been pushed, as pornographers race to the shocking, ridiculous and humiliating, connecting visceral reactions to sexual pleasure. As an Asian woman, I found the racist stereotypes used in certain genres of pornography particularly oppressive.

Pornography encourages people to disregard others’ pain for one’s own pleasure. Many people I interviewed acknowledged that, based on their own experience and knowledge of the human body, certain sex acts they’ve watched in films likely would have been painful for the female performers. However, they argued that since the performers were paid, it was not the viewers’ concern, and they acknowledged that they get aroused watching it. That mentality helps create a world in which a producer can brag about having originated a popular video series that shows women gagging during forceful oral sex.

Although pornography is often rationalized as a celebration of women’s sexuality and liberation, some gonzo pornographers were direct about their anger and contempt (or their imagined customers’) for women. When asked why he used certain brutal sex acts in his films, one producer replied that when a man gets angry at his wife, he can imagine she is the one being violated.

…[T]he essential message is the same: All women want sex all the time, in whatever fashion men want them.

Most of the women and men I interviewed first watched pornography in their early teens or even younger. In other words, pornography is sex education. In an already male-dominant society with epidemic levels of sexual and intimate violence, pornographic messages help further solidify and normalize male supremacy in the bedrooms and elsewhere…

In my interviews, it was painful to hear how both teenage boys and girls feel pressured to have lots of sex, often emotionally detached, at a younger and younger age; and how so many young women feel obligated to please men sexually because they believed that it was their role as a woman…

We should be afraid of government forces interested in repressing sexual expression. But we also should be afraid of the influence of misogynist pornography. These two fears are not mutually exclusive and can co-exist. Our fear of the former shouldn’t stop us from critiquing the latter.

See also:

Now on Sale at (explicit language)

Use Em’ Abuse Em’ and Lose Em’ #9

Ride along as we pick up ordinary young women f***’em senseless and dump’em! It’s all good clean fun!

A Review of Pornified: How Pornography Is Damaging Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families
Many of Paul’s interview subjects said porn use made them more judgmental of their real-life sex partners. One thrice-divorced 34-year-old subject, who had been watching porn since age 10, said that he would break up with any woman who wouldn’t give him the kind of pleasure he saw men getting in porn films. If the woman takes too long to reach orgasm, or doesn’t enjoy swallowing semen, she’s history. (pp.92-93) Other young men said they wanted their girlfriends to be “slutty” and submissive. (p.94)

Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture
Raunch culture is particularly cruel to teen girls, who feel pressure to perform before they can even understand their own desires. The girls Levy interviewed, mainly students at elite high schools, seemed perpetually distracted by the competition to “dress the skankiest” and rack up the greatest number of conquests, in order to gain status in their female peer group. (p.152) Sex and beauty were about power, not pleasure. In fact, some sexually active girls repressed feelings of arousal in order to avoid vulnerability.

Young New Yorkers Talk about Porn’s Effect on their Relationships (explicit language)
Over beers recently, a 26-year-old businessman friend shocked me by casually remarking, “Dude, all of my friends are so obsessed with Internet porn that they can’t sleep with their girlfriends unless they act like porn stars.” A 20-year-old college student who bartends at a popular Soho lounge describes how an I-porn-filled adolescence shaped his perceptions of sex. “Looking at Internet porn was pretty much my sex education,” he says. “I mean, in school, it was just, ‘Here’s a gigantic wooden dildo, and now we’re putting a condom on it,’ whereas on the Internet, you had it all. I remember the first time I had sex, my first thought as it was happening was, Oh, this is pornography. It was a kind of out-of-body experience. I was really uncomfortable with sex for a while…”

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