November 14, 2013

Cosmo Girls: How to Save the World through Porn?

Cosmopolitan Magazine has a history of promoting porn to their readers in an effort to appear edgy and current. In an article titled “The Cosmo Girl’s Guide to Pornography” (notice a magazine for grown woman refers to them as girls), the author invites us to “Read on to up your badass babe quotient by an unbelievable degree.” Is that truly the goal? To be seen, supposedly by men, as a “badass babe”? Why not intelligent, capable, compassionate, or any other quality that doesn’t require bare abs and black leather?

This is not a feminist magazine. Its goal is to mold women into submissive sex kittens while calling the process “empowering.” So it is laughable that they would feature a “feminist pornographer,” Tristan Taormino, who comes off as feminist compared to Cosmo. Almost.

The article, “So, What Is Feminist Porn? Find Out From a Woman Who Makes It,” focuses on a perspective not often seen in typical porn. Now, it is admirable to try to fix a broken system from the inside, but Taormino doesn’t seem to realize that even if the system is “perfect,” pornography still exploits women. We may take issue with the same problems within mainstream pornography, such as lack of consent and a focus on male superiority. However, creating more porn is not the way to do it.

As a feminist anti-pornography activist, Gail Dines has said, “Anyone willing to feed off women’s bodies and use them as raw materials to make a profit has no right to call themselves feminists.” It’s clear that whether or not there is a plot or a focus on the female experience during sex, it is still sexual exploitation.

Taormino tries to defend the porn industry’s standard of care for their employees, saying:

As with any other industry, women have choices, control, and agency in their work, and some have more and others have less, depending on lots of different factors. The notion that all women who work in porn are exploited and degraded is a stereotype, one that is often propagated by people who refuse to listen to sex workers talk about their own experiences and instead make assumptions about them.

A good rule to follow is, if you have questions about something, go to the source. Here at Morality in Media, we speak often with performers who share stories of exploitation and trafficking. It is a fallacy that women in the porn industry have choices and that those decisions are respected by the cast and crew. Hopefully Taormino is more respectful of her performers’ wishes, but that is not the rule.

Overall, Taormino likens feminist porn to the organic, fair trade movement, hoping that consumers, who already need instant gratification, will be as willing to pause and research where their porn comes from. But this seems a pipe dream since most porn users want kink, not respectful viewing of women—which would still be sexually exploitative. If they sought that, they wouldn’t take pleasure in the abuse and degradation of women at all.

Contact the editors and executives of Cosmopolitan voicing your opinion on removing pornographic materials from their magazine!

Further Reading