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Pornography and Gender Inequality - Essay Example

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Perhaps one of the more perplexing aspects of discussing pornography is that its definition is an issue in itself. Yet in the analysis of the issue, we find it necessary to define the word and its symbolic functions. The way pornography is used in the common language is far from similar to the way it is defined in the dictionary or in legal terms…
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Pornography and Gender Inequality
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Pornography and Gender Inequality

The issue is so complex that even one of the Supreme Court Justices, Justice Potter Steward , was not sure on what pornography actually accounted for as evidenced in his statement "I don't know what porn is, but I'll know it when I see it" in the case Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964). Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary is no help either for it only offers a general definition of pornography as a picture or writing showing or talking about sexual behavior that is intended to cause sexual excitement. With this definition, anything that describes sexual intercourse, even in the context of love, becomes pornography.
Our discussion would involve deconstructing pornography, particularly those in videos, as a mirror of the pervading gender inequalities that exist in our society. The view that we would analyze is that pornography is being used as an instrument to further strengthen the patriarchal system we have now in place. For the sake of this discussion, we will use the definition of the 1986 Attorney General Commission on Pornography. It defined pornography as material that is "predominantly sexually explicit and intended primarily for the purpose of sexual arousal." Hard-core pornography "is sexually explicit in the extreme, and devoid of any other apparent content or purpose."

3.0 The Booming Industry
Before proceeding to deconstruct the gender inequalities present in video pornography, we first provide an overview of the industry. There are many mediums for which pornography is being commercially distributed. This includes sexually explicit books, magazines, movies and Internet sites, with a distinction commonly made between soft-core (nudity with limited sexual activity that does not include penetration) and hard-core (graphic images of actual, not simulated, sexual activity including penetration).

The pornography industry is a very lucrative business, probably because there is such a big desire for it in the entire world. Pornography in the post-World War II era has changed from an underground business with extensive ties to organized crime, to a flourishing industry that operates more openly and includes many small producers and several corporations with substantial assets. In 2002, more than 11,000 new hard-core video/DVD titles were released (Adult Video News, 2002) and annual sales are estimated at $10 billion or higher (Lane, 2000, p. xiv).

4.0 Deconstructing Gender Inequality
4.1 Content and Social Implications
An examination and analysis of the content of contemporary pornography suggests that there are basic themes in pornography: (1) All women at all times want sex from all men; (2) women enjoy all the sexual acts that men perform or demand, and; (3) any woman who does not at first realize this can be easily turned with a little force, though force is rarely necessary because most of the women in pornography are the imagined "nymphomaniacs" about whom many men fantasize.

It is in this analysis that we observe that contemporary pornography will make use of any relationship of domination and subordination - a power differential between people that can be sexualized and exploited. Although there are cases which ... Read More
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