Catharine MacKinnon

Catharine MacKinnon

Catharine MacKinnon, tough-minded lawyer, academic and feminist, believes pornography to be objectifying to women. In her own contribution to Feminism and Political Theory, entitled “Sexuality, Pornography and Method: Pleasure Under Patriarchy” MacKinnon emphasises that we live in a world of gender inequality. She suggests that a person’s gender is separate to a person’s sex. Gender, being man or woman, is socially constructed, whereas sex, being male or female, is biologically defined. As we live in a male controlled society men and women have clearly defined roles. MacKinnon believes a man is by definition the objectifyer (dominant) and a woman is by definition the objectified (submissive). Gender inequality plays a crucial role within the objectification of women, evident in pornography.

For MacKinnon pornography is one of the patriarchy processes in which this system of dominance and submission is maintained. Mackinnon defines pornography as the graphic sexually explicit subordination of women through pictures or words that also includes women dehumanized as sexual objects, things, or commodities; enjoying pain or humiliation or rape; being tied up, cut up, mutilated, bruised, or physically hurt; in postures of sexual submission or servility or display; reduced to body parts, penetrated by objects or animals, or presented in scenarios of degradation, injury, torture; shown as filthy or inferior; bleeding, bruised, or hurt in a context that makes these conditions sexual’.  MacKinnon then goes on to suggest women in pornography are being presented as enjoying how they are being used and violated by men. There go, this teaches pornography’s consumers’ that not only is it permissible to treat women in these ways but that women also enjoy it.

But what if they actually do enjoy it? After all the adult film stars do give consent in being used in this way. However, MacKinnon thinks even if women consent to being used as mere means for men’s sexual purposes, this is not sufficient to make such use permissible. Women in the pornographic industry only give consent is being used as objects simply out of lack of options available to them within our male-controlled society, The sex is not chosen for sex. Money is the medium of force and provides the cover of consent” (MacKinnon, 1993). So is money really the only reason why women become porn stars?  Is money the root of all this glamourized objectification?

MacKinnon also believes pornography should be censored and eliminated from society, believing it will benefit society. She believes pornography is harmful and encourages rape and men to treat women as objects. A few years ago there was a case where a group of young boys gang raped a girl. In court, when asked to justify their actions, they responded, “We watched a porn film where these men gang banged a girl so we thought she’d like it”. Such cases do make a strong point that maybe pornography should be taken out of society.

Overall, MacKinnon believes that pornography presents women as objects, teaching its consumers that women exist to be used by men. A woman becomes comparable to a cup, and as such she is valued only for how she looks and how she can be used.

"Sexuality, Pornography and Method: Pleasure Under Patriarchy" by Catharine MacKinnon

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