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LGBTQ Policy Journal

Topic / Gender, Race and Identity

Girl-on-Girl Action: How the Anti-Pornography Movement Ignores the Unique Violence Queer Women Experience as a Result of “Lesbian Porn”

Author: Annamarie Forestiere*

 

A variety of studies, statistical analyses, and testimonies have linked pornography with violence against women. These have shown everything from increased rates of sexual aggression in men after viewing violent pornography in controlled laboratory experiments to the prevalence of pornography as an inspiration and motivation for domestic violence and sexual abuse of women. The anti-pornography movement, championed by anti-pornography feminists, posits that pornography should be prohibited because of its connection to violence. Many such anti-pornography scholars treat all pornography as equally harmful and all women as equally at risk of harm. This approach, however, fails to consider that queer women are more likely to be victims of pornography-linked violence due to the prevalence of “lesbian porn”—a type of heterosexual pornography that fetishizes queer women for the sexual satisfaction of heterosexual male viewers. In doing so, the anti-pornography movement leaves queer women vulnerable to the harmful effects of “lesbian porn.” This article functions as a plea for anti-pornography scholars to approach their work in an intersectional manner that would account for the unique vulnerability of queer women due to “lesbian porn.” To do so, this article first analyzes the various sources of evidentiary support that link pornography with violence against women. It then discusses how “lesbian porn” is different and leads to violence against queer women. Finally, this article asks mainstream anti-pornography scholars to be more intersectional for queer women and for all women.

 

Introduction

The merits of pornography in American society are highly contested among academics and laypeople alike. Many individuals defend pornography for several reasons, which are often based on the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech.[1] Other people, especially anti-pornography feminists, believe that pornography harms women by perpetuating sexist stereotypes and glorifying sexual violence against them.[2]

The anti-pornography movement was started by prominent feminist activists like Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, who hoped to prohibit the creation and consumption of pornography.[3] Anti-pornography scholars are primarily concerned with ending all pornography because of the physical and societal harms it has on all women, so a great deal of the anti-pornography movement’s scholarship argues against pornography as a whole.[4],[5] This approach, while admirable in its broad scope, often fails to acknowledge that different types of pornography have disproportionate impacts on different groups of women.[i] Specifically, the work of anti-pornography scholars does not focus nearly enough on the harms of “lesbian porn”—a type of pornography that caters primarily to heterosexual male viewers at the expense of queer women.[6] This article is a discussion of how “lesbian porn” creates and perpetuates stereotypes about queer women that lead to violence against them in both public and private spaces. Further, this article seeks to encourage the mainstream anti-pornography movement to consider the increasing vulnerability of queer women because of “lesbian porn” and advocate on behalf of queer women specifically.

This article will begin with a few key definitions. Following these introductory materials, Section I of this article will lay out the current state of anti-pornography research and scholarship that links pornography with violence against women. Section II discusses “lesbian porn” in particular and analyzes how this type of pornography leads to unique acts of violence being committed against queer women. Section III then functions as a plea to anti-pornography scholars, asking them to be more intersectional in their studies and put more effort into advocating against “lesbian porn” specifically because of how it harms queer women.

This article is not intended to be an argument against pornography. There are many theories as to whether pornography should be prohibited, but rather than directly engaging in this ongoing debate, this article instead seeks to examine and build on evidence linking pornography with violence against women.[ii] This article is intended to be an exploration of the current state of anti-pornography scholarship, an analysis of how these anti-pornography arguments apply differently and often more strongly to “lesbian porn,” and a plea for the inclusion of “lesbian porn” in mainstream anti-pornography discussions.

 

Definitions

It is important to define two terms that are used frequently throughout this article, the first of which is “lesbian porn.” The quotation marks are intended to distinguish “lesbian porn” from queer pornography, which is made by and for queer people.[7] “Lesbian porn” instead caters to the sexual desires of heterosexual male viewers.[8] Thus, “lesbian porn” is generally not an accurate representation of sexual relationships between queer women.[9] Instead, “lesbian porn” fetishizes the sexualities of queer women, a practice that appeals to heterosexual male viewers but greatly harms queer women.[10] This will be discussed in greater detail later in the article.

The second term that deserves a definition is the word queer, which is used throughout the article to discuss queer women, queer people, and the queer community. Although historically the word queer was derogatory, the LGBTQ+ community has recently reclaimed it and now uses it as an umbrella word that refers to any person who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.[11] The phrase queer women is intended to be an inclusive way of referring to women who are part of the LGBTQ+ community; it includes any person who identifies as a woman and who is sexually and/or romantically interested in women, both exclusively and non-exclusively.

 

Section I: The Link Between Pornography and Violence Against Women

Linking Pornography and Violence

Modern pornography eroticizes sexual violence against women for the sexual benefit of male viewers.[12] It often features women being violated in unimaginable ways, including being raped and tortured.[13] Some anti-pornography scholars believe that violent pornography appeals to men because it embraces “the notion that men have the inherent right of sexual access to women.”[14] Others theorize that the appeal of violent pornography is based on the fact that society’s definitions of masculinity and manliness are “rooted in a dominant conception of masculinity: sex as control, conquest, domination, and the acquisition of pleasure by the taking of women.”[15] Regardless of the reason, it is clear that by presenting sex and violence in such a way, pornography contributes to a culture of misogyny where sexual violence against women is normalized and eroticized.[16]

The link between pornography and violence against women has been the subject of many studies in the last 40 years.[17] The bigger picture painted by these studies is highly debated among scholars, largely because causation is extremely difficult to conclusively measure.[18],[19] This is especially true when it comes to determining if pornography causes violence because there are so many different types of pornography with varying levels of violence.[20] For example, some studies indicate that pornographic videos that are not violent do not cause male viewers to react as violently as violent videos do.[21] Not only that, but researchers are forced to look almost solely at controlled laboratory tests that only account for short-term causation and do not account for how causation can develop over long periods of time.[22] Even so, several of these studies clearly reveal a link between pornography and violence against women.[23] In one such study, men who viewed pornography were more likely to be aggressive toward women using a simulated electric shock than men who did not view violent pornography.[24] In another study, the number of men who indicated that they would rape a woman if they knew they would not get caught rose after the men were exposed to aggressive pornography.[25]

Evidence from scientific studies is not the only form of evidence supporting a link between pornography and violence against women. A variety of statistical analyses indicate that pornography plays a key role in domestic violence, with male partners using pornography to pressure women to imitate the sexual acts depicted in pornography.[iii] Beyond statistical evidence, there are countless accounts of pornography being used in cases of sexual assault. One woman who was sexually assaulted as a child reports that her father used pornography as part of his assaults, and dozens of other women have reported similar experiences.[26],[27] Ted Bundy, the prolific serial killer, indicated that pornography influenced the way he killed women.[28] Similarly, a man who kidnapped a 14-year-old girl based his sexual assault of her on his favorite violent pornography, using the victim’s breasts to put out cigarettes and inserting a knife in her vagina.[29] Elizabeth Spahn refers to this as “monkey-see, monkey-do,” meaning that men who view violent pornography are inspired to duplicate what they see.[30] Pornography also motivates men to commit violent sexual assaults of women and film the assault, thus creating their own pornography to be watched and shared.[31]

Based on these studies, statistics, and testimonies, many scholars have concluded that there are certain types of pornography, particularly violent pornography, that cause increases in violence by men against women.[32] This view has been accepted by some national governments[iv] and was adopted by the 1986 United States Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography.[33] It has also been the primary basis for the anti-pornography movement.[34]

 

Harms Beyond Violence

The anti-pornography movement is also concerned with how pornography harms women in ways beyond the immediate acts of violence it causes. Anti-pornography advocates argue that the way pornography depicts women contributes to a variety of harmful social stigmas.[35] These stigmas change how all women are viewed and treated by society in general and by men specifically.[36] Advocates argue that the stigmas stem from common themes in pornography, including depicting women as subordinate to men, as sexual objects that exist for the pleasure of men, and as enjoying sexual violence and rape.[37],[38],[39]

Sex as depicted by pornography largely features men dominating women through verbal commands or through physically controlling the bodies and actions of women.[40] This is blatant sexism because it depicts women as serving the sexual desires of men rather than as sexually autonomous beings.[41] Since pornography conditions male viewers to believe what they see and subsequently imitate what they see in pornography, this prevalent sexism is not likely to remain confined to pornography.[42] Rather, anti-pornography scholars argue that pornography changes the way male viewers of pornography perceive women and “reinforce[es] men’s views about sexual stereotypes.”[43] In other words, pornography teaches men that they are superior to women, which in turn leads to inequality between men and women in society and maintains the patriarchal political position of men as superior at the expense of all women.[44],[45]

Pornography does more than teach men that they are superior to women; it teaches them that women are sexual objects that exist only for use by men.[46] This view is championed by anti-pornography feminists MacKinnon and Dworkin, who believe that pornography reduces women to sexual objects who are meant to be degraded and tortured by men.[47] Other anti-pornography scholars agree. Robert Jensen describes pornography as “training in objectification” for men, teaching them to view women not as human beings but as “three holes and two hands.” [48],[49] By reducing women to sexual objects that exist solely for men, pornography that caters to male viewers “turns women into objects for men to consume.”[50] Not only does this objectification and dehumanization lead to an increase in sexual violence against women, it also harms women overall by preventing them from being viewed as anything but sexual objects by men, who have the dominant position in patriarchal societies.[51],[52] Pornography thus has a broader impact on all women because it furthers their unequal treatment: “because men have power over women in political, economic and social hierarchies, how men see women is how women are.”[53]

In pornography, women are not just depicted as subordinate sexual objects—they are also depicted as enjoying all sexual violence that is committed against them.[54] Dworkin writes that women in pornography are physically and sexually abused repeatedly “until [they] discover that [they] like it and at that point [they] ask for more.”[55] Such violence against women in pornography perpetuates rape myths, which are notions that women enjoy being raped, that they are the ones who pursue and encourage rape, and that rape is the most inevitable form of sexual interaction between men and women.[56],[57],[58] In other words, “when rape is normalized as sex in pornography, women are more likely to be raped.”[59] Pornography “makes rape inviting” and thus serves to perpetuate rape culture—a culture in which women live in fear of being sexually assaulted and define their lives according to this fear—and, because pornography teaches men that rape is natural, men deny the existence of such a culture.[60],[61]

These are several of the most common arguments put forth by the anti-pornography movement that go beyond concerns of immediate acts of violence and instead focus on broader societal harms against all women. Pornography’s depiction of women as inferior to men reinforces sexism throughout society. Pornography’s portrayal of women as “three holes and two hands” rather than human beings prevents women from fully participating in a society that is dominated by men who are conditioned to believe that women are nothing more than sexual objects.[62] Finally, pornography’s representation that women enjoy being raped perpetuates the very rape myths that serve as the backbone of rape culture in America.

 

Section II: The Unique Harms of “Lesbian Porn”

What Is “Lesbian Porn”?

“Lesbian porn” is an incredibly popular type of pornography; the word lesbian has been the most commonly searched term on Pornhub, the world’s largest free pornography website, for the last five years.[63] “Lesbian porn” is defined as heterosexual pornography that features two or more women engaging in sexual intimacy with one another for the benefit of male viewers.[64]

It is important to distinguish “lesbian porn” from queer pornography. Queer pornography is pornography created by members of the queer community for members of the queer community.[65] Queer porn is often regarded very highly in the queer community as a safe space for queer people to participate in and view accurate representations of the types of sexual interactions that occur between queer persons.[66] Queer porn is often produced by members of the queer community, and it promotes ideas of respect and celebration of all body types and forms of sexual intimacy between people.[67]

In contrast, “lesbian porn” is based in misogyny and violence, just like most heterosexual pornography.[68] While queer pornography is meant to be a safe space for queer people to explore their sexualities, “lesbian porn” is designed to fulfill the fantasies of heterosexual men.[69] It features women who may or may not actually be queer committing sexual acts that are often inaccurate representations of how queer women engage in sexual intimacy.[70] Instead, these acts replicate components of heterosexual sex in order to bring the heterosexual male viewer into the sex, often through the use of dildos, which are not as commonly used in the queer women community as “lesbian porn” would have viewers believe.[71] This sends a message to the male viewers that, contrary to what many queer women feel, queer women actually want to have sex with men.[72] Thus, “lesbian porn” “fetishizes [queer] women and reduces them to things that are only wanted for consumption by [men].”[73] “Lesbian porn” takes sexual intimacy between queer women, which should be respected as being for queer women alone, and turns it into “a cheap sex show for men.”[74]

 

“Lesbian Porn” and Violence Against Queer Women

“Lesbian porn” does more than fetishize queer women; it also promotes violence against them in the form of domestic abuse, hate crimes, and corrective rape.[75],[76],[77] “Lesbian porn,” like most pornography that is geared toward a heterosexual male audience, often features scenes of extreme violence against women.[78] This violence is sometimes perpetrated by one “lesbian” woman against another but often is perpetrated by a male actor against a female actor who is purporting to be a queer woman.[79]

Why is violence by men against queer women such a popular fantasy of heterosexual male pornography viewers? Queer theorists like Susan Hawthorne believe that violence against queer women is popular in “lesbian porn” because the sexuality of queer women is utterly detached from the male existence and makes men irrelevant to women in a way that patriarchal conceptions of masculinity vehemently reject.[80] By committing violent sexual acts against “lesbians” in “lesbian porn,” heterosexual male viewers are bringing the sexuality of queer women back under their control and into traditional dominant-male, submissive-female heterosexual interactions.[81] “Lesbian porn” also allows heterosexual men to punish “lesbians” for daring to have a sexuality that excludes men; this fantasy is thrilling for male viewers but violative of queer women.[82] In these ways, “lesbian porn” denies the very existence of female sexualities that do not revolve around men and violently forces women into heterosexuality so as to reinstate traditional gender roles where men are dominant.[83]

The harmful impacts that “lesbian porn” has on queer women are staggering. In a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, researchers found that rates of domestic violence are significantly higher for queer women than for heterosexual women.[84] More than 85 percent of bisexual women and more than 67 percent of lesbian women victims report that the violence occurred at the hands of men.[85] These findings align with the studies previously mentioned in this article, which found that many women who are victims of domestic abuse were victimized by their male partners who expected the women to reenact pornography.[86] Since heterosexual men are using pornography in domestic abuse of their partners, and “lesbian porn” is the most commonly viewed category of pornography, one can presume that men who are in domestic relationships with queer women demand that these women perform sexual acts that are showcased in “lesbian porn.”[87],[88]

“Lesbian porn” may also play a role in hate crimes motivated by bias against queer women.[89] From 2014 to 2017, the Federal Bureau of Investigation recorded that between 1,200 and 1,300 queer people were victims of hate crimes each year.[90] Of these victims, anywhere from 12 to 14 percent were victims of “anti-lesbian bias.”[91] It’s almost certain that the number of hate crimes queer women actually experience is much higher, given that the rate of underreporting of hate crimes is high for the queer community.[92] Also, given the small size of the queer community as compared to other minority populations, this rate of hate crimes means that queer women have a higher likelihood of being victims of hate crimes than many other minorities.[93] Hate crimes against queer women are usually committed against the woman herself, often in the form of rape and other violent sexual abuse similar to how queer women are portrayed in “lesbian porn.”[94],[95] Sometimes, these hate crimes against queer women occur because of a refusal to engage in sexual conduct for the benefit of male onlookers. In a recent event, two queer women were physically assaulted after they refused to kiss on a public bus for the sexual pleasure of a group of young men.[96] The young men demanded that the women kiss so that they could watch; they also described sexual positions to the women while repeatedly calling them lesbians.[97] Although there has been no research on the connection between pornography and hate crimes against queer women, the presence of a strong sexual component to the hate crimes, combined with the desire for male perpetrators to watch queer women engage in physical intimacy for the perpetrator’s sexual enjoyment, suggests that research in this area would be worthwhile.

Research has been conducted on how “lesbian porn” leads to corrective rape of queer women.[98] Like other forms of heterosexual pornography, which represent women as enjoying rape and sexual violence that is being committed against them, the rape of “lesbian” women in “lesbian porn” leads to the rape and sexual abuse of queer women in other spaces in society.[99],[100] However, unlike rapes and sexual violence against heterosexual women, rapes of queer women that are based on “lesbian porn” are often corrective in nature.[101] Corrective rape is the rape of a queer woman by a heterosexual male who is seeking to “fix” her by raping her until she becomes straight or seeking to punish her because she has “violate[d] gender and sexual norms.”[102] In this way, the rapist often believes that he is “helping” the queer woman “by showing her what a real man can do for her, how what she needs is a ‘good fuck, from real men,’” in a way that echoes how queer women are often represented in “lesbian porn.”[103],[104] The rapist may also believe that queer women secretly enjoy sex with men or have an unknown longing for violent sex with a man, which the rapist can show them by raping them.[105] This ideology is prevalent in “lesbian porn,” which often showcases heterosexual men portraying the rape and sexual violation of “lesbian” women, which the “lesbian” women often enjoy.[106] “Lesbian porn” teaches heterosexual men to view queer women as conquests, as needing to be fixed, or as secretly desiring sex with men, which leads to corrective rape.[107],[108]

“Lesbian porn” is not like queer porn, which is created to advance the interests of queer women in the queer community. “Lesbian porn” is created to advance the interests of heterosexual men, interests that include committing acts of sexual violence against queer women. Thus, “lesbian porn” furthers patriarchal notions of women as sexual objects existing solely for sexual domination by men, which causes immense harm to queer women. The harms that queer women face as a result of “lesbian porn” are similar to the harms faced by heterosexual women as a result of pornography, but in many ways queer women have it far worse. Because of the messages “lesbian porn” sends to heterosexual male viewers, queer women suffer from increased rates of domestic violence, live with a fear of hate crimes, and are raped by men seeking to correct and punish them for their sexuality.

 

Section III: Intersectionality, Anti-Pornography, and “Lesbian Porn”

Substantial research has been done on the harms of “lesbian porn” by queer theorists and queer feminists.[109] Yet in the mainstream anti-pornography movement, pioneered by MacKinnon and Dworkin, the harms of pornography are often treated as homogenous.[110],[111] Anti-pornography scholarship tends to consider women as a uniform body of individuals who are all at equal levels of risk because of pornography.[112] Rarely do discussions about the harms of pornography acknowledge that certain groups of women are more likely to experience violence as a result of pornography.[113] When they do acknowledge that violence caused by pornography varies between groups of women, these acknowledgments are often brief.[114] More in-depth analysis of the disparate impact of pornography on different groups of women often focuses on the relationship between pornography and violence against women who are racial minorities.[115] Mainstream anti-pornography scholarship usually does not acknowledge that queer women are more affected by “lesbian porn” than heterosexual women are by all pornography.[116]

The lack of acknowledgement of queer women in the anti-pornography movement harms queer women. This lack of attention to queer women’s issues signals that the violence queer women face because of “lesbian porn” is equal to the violence all women suffer because of pornography. Research shows that this is fundamentally untrue, as “lesbian porn” harms queer women in ways that heterosexual women will never be harmed by pornography.[117] By leaving discussions about the harms of “lesbian porn” solely to queer scholars in queer spaces, the anti-pornography movement sends a signal to queer women that their concerns are not as pressing as the concerns of heterosexual women. Treating all women as equivalent in anti-pornography spaces shows that heterosexual women are thought of as the default, which perpetuates the idea that queer women are “other” and that their problems are not deserving of a place in feminist spaces.[118] Instead, lack of acknowledgment reinforces the idea that the problems of queer people are best resolved in queer spaces, and the problems of women are best resolved in feminist spaces. The two are believed to be mutually exclusive, as if a person can be a member of one group or the other but not both.

An intersectional approach would help anti-pornography scholars recognize the fallacy of this mutual-exclusivity view of queer women. Intersectionality recognizes that within each person there are multiple identities that overlap and connect with one another, which in turn leads to experiences unique to people who share those identities.[119] Applying intersectionality to queer women means understanding that being a queer woman involves at least these two separate identities—both queer and woman—and that these identities cannot be treated as separate. Queer women have experiences that only other queer women can understand.

Queer women are in danger because “lesbian porn” fetishizes these dual aspects of their identity.[120] Given their increased vulnerability, the anti-pornography movement should pay special attention to queer women, especially since the anti-pornography movement is grounded in feminism and seeks to better the lives of all women. However, the majority of anti-pornography scholarship talks about harms against women as if all these harms are equal.[121] The failure of anti-pornography scholars to view the impacts of pornography on women through an intersectional lens, and to advocate on behalf of queer women specifically, removes queer women from a space that could protect them from the harms of “lesbian porn.” This lack of intersectionality in anti-pornography spaces harms queer women not just because they are at an increased risk of violence but because leaving them out of anti-pornography discussions signals that their sexual orientation somehow makes them less woman and therefore less welcome. Instead, they should be welcomed in anti-pornography spaces for all of who they are: queer women.

 

Conclusion

Many of the anti-pornography movement’s concerns are based on vast amounts of research indicating that pornography is linked with increased rates of violence against women. Anti-pornography scholars believe that this violence is not just physical but also societal, and thus they advocate that pornography harms all women. However, in purporting to advocate for the welfare of all women, a large portion of anti-pornography scholarship presents women as a homogenous group rather than as a segment of the population containing many smaller segments with unique identities that interact with pornography in different ways.

In particular, the anti-pornography movement does not often advocate for queer women, who suffer higher rates of violence and more extreme violence as a result of “lesbian porn,” a type of pornography that fetishizes queer women for the sexual benefit of heterosexual male viewers. The harms “lesbian porn” has on queer women are primarily studied by queer scholars, not mainstream anti-pornography scholars. The research conducted by these scholars indicates that queer women suffer due to the way that “lesbian porn” portrays “lesbian” women for heterosexual male audiences. Yet these harms are barely acknowledged by many anti-pornography advocates, who at most briefly acknowledge that pornography affects women differently based on factors like race, religion, sexual orientation, and disability status. Instead, the harms of “lesbian porn” are studied by queer scholars, away from the mainstream anti-pornography movement.

Anti-pornography scholars have failed to bring queer women under the umbrella of a movement that claims to advocate for the rights and safety of all women. Instead, they leave the problems of queer women to be addressed in queer spaces. An intersectional approach to anti-pornography would be better not just for queer women but for all women because all women are more than just their gender. Such an approach would allow scholars to acknowledge how everyone has a variety of different identities that are intertwined with one another, which interact differently by nearly all societal forces including pornography. This intersectional approach to anti-pornography would make the anti-pornography movement better at advocating for all women of all intersecting identities, especially queer women.

 

Author Biography

Annamarie Forestiere is a second-year law student at Harvard Law School and a self-proclaimed social justice warrior. She is particularly passionate about advocating on behalf of minority groups like the LGBTQ+ community. Her interests have led her to pursue a career in legal academia, where she hopes to research the lack of political power possessed by minority groups, especially queer women, and discover ways to increase their political influence and their participation in government/public policy spaces. To reach this goal, she has taken classes in LGBTQ+ litigation strategy, administrative law, congressional lawmaking procedures, and international human rights law. She is also a member of Harvard Law School Lambda and has been selected to represent Harvard Law School in this year’s Williams Institute Moot Court Competition, the only moot court competition in the country dedicated exclusively to LGBTQ+ policy and legal issues.

 

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

 

References

* JD 2021, Harvard Law School. I would like to thank everyone who provided me with support and encouragement while writing this article, including Zachary Agudelo, Aaron Silberman, Abigail Benvie, Sophia Rosman, Charlie Rice, Shareef Alwarasneh, Jonathan Sussler, and my family.

[i] These vulnerable groups are typically women who are racial and ethnic minorities, women with disabilities, and pregnant women, who often are featured in niche pornography. Anti-pornography feminists like Dworkin have paid some attention to the unique harms of niche pornography on these groups of women, particularly women of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, but the work of anti-pornography feminists mostly discusses women as if they were a homogenous group. See Dworkin, supra note 3. For additional information, see infra Section III.

[ii] One such argument is the free speech argument, which concludes that regardless of whether pornography is harmful, pornography is protected by the First Amendment as an exercise of the pornographers’ constitutionally protected right to free speech. See David O’Malley, “Pornography and Violence to Women: Telling the Difference,” UCL Journal of Law and Jurisprudence 175, 183 (2002), supra note 2; Elizabeth Spahn, “On Sex and Violence,” New England Law Review 629, 638(1984), supra note 2. Another argument in favor of pornography is that anti-pornography feminists and others who oppose pornography are just morally repulsed by pornography and that the moral preferences of a few groups of people should not lead society to sacrifice what has proven to be a highly profitable industry (Tom Gerety, “Pornography and Violence, University of Pittsburgh Law Review 40, 627, 642(1979)). There are also some individuals who argue that pornography plays a key role in reducing violence against women by acting as a safe outlet for the violent sexual urges of men. In this way, it is argued, eliminating pornography will lead to an increase in violence against women by men who no longer have that outlet for their violent sexual urges (Irene Nemes, “The Relationship Between Pornography and Sex Crimes,” The Journal of Psychiatry and Law 20, 459(1992): 462-63). Finally, there are some who believe that prohibiting pornography would violate the rights of women to engage in sexual activity of their choosing and that, by banning pornography, society would be engaging in protectionist activity that has historically harmed women (Spahn, supra note 2 at 643–646). This article intentionally does not discuss the validity of any of these arguments.

[iii] In one study of more than 100 women staying in an Ontario battered women’s shelter, 25 percent of them indicated that they had been forced by their male partners to perform sexual acts that their partners had seen in pornography (Christopher N. Kendall, “Gay Male Pornography and Sexual Violence: A Sex Equality Perspective on Gay Male Rape and Partner Abuse,” McGill Law Journal 49 (2004): 878,887 n. 25). In another study of more 900 women in California, 10 percent reported the same (Michelle Evans, “Pornography and Australia’s Sex Discrimination Legislation: A Call for a More Effective Approach to the Regulation of Sexual Inequality,” University of Notre Dame Australia Law Review 8, 81: 94–95, supra note 4 at 84, n. 5.)

[iv] In 1992, the Supreme Court of Canada decided the case R. v. Butler, which banned pornographic materials due to a concern for the harms pornography has on women. For further information on how Canada treats pornography, see Susan R. Taylor, “Gay and Lesbian Pornography and the Obscenity Laws in Canada,” Dalhousie Journal of Legal Studies 8, 94(1999).

[1] See, e.g., David O’Malley, “Pornography and Violence to Women: Telling the Difference,” UCL Journal of Law and Jurisprudence 175, no. 183 (2002); Elizabeth Spahn, “On Sex and Violence,” New England Law Review 20 (1984): 629, 638.

[2] See, e.g., Andrea Dworkin, “Pornography is a Civil Rights Issue for Women,” University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform 21, nos.1-2 (1987): 55; Catharine A. MacKinnon, “Reflections on Sex Equality Under Law,” Yale Law Journal 100(1991).

[3] See Dworkin, “Pornography,” supra note 3; MacKinnon, “Reflections,” supra note 3. See also Michelle Evans, “Pornography and Australia’s Sex Discrimination Legislation: A Call for a More Effective Approach to the Regulation of Sexual Inequality,” University of Notre Dame Australia Law Review 8, no. 81: 94–95.  

[4] See Dworkin, “Pornography,” supra note 3; MacKinnon, “Reflections,” supra note 3; Evans, “Pornography,” supra note 4. See also Kathleen S. Bean, “A Radical Feminist View of Pornography,” Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues 1, no. 19 (1987); Dana A. Fraytak, “The Influence of Pornography on Rape and Violence against Women: A Social Science Approach,” Buffalo Women’s Law Journal 9, no. 263 (2000).

[5] See Dworkin, “Pornography,” supra note 3; MacKinnon, “Reflections,” supra note 3; Evans, “Pornography,” supra note 4; Bean, “Radical Feminist View,” supra note 5; Fraytak, “Influence of Pornography,” supra note 5. For additional information, see infra Section III.

[6] See Barbara DeGenevieve, “Ssspread.com: The Hot Bods of Queer Porn,” in C’Lick Me: A Netporn Studies Reader 233, ed. Katrien Jacobs et. al. (Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures, 2007); Julie Levin Russo, “‘The Real Thing’: Reframing Queer Pornography for Virtual Spaces,” in C’Lick Me: A Netporn Studies Reader 239, ed. Katrien Jacobs et. al. (Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures, 2007). For additional information, see infra Section II.

[7] DeGenevieve, “Ssspread.com,” supra note 8 at 234; Russo, “‘The Real Thing,’” supra note 8 at 240.

[8] See Sarah Doan-Minh, “Corrective Rape: An Extreme Manifestation of Discrimination and the State’s Complicity in Sexual Violence,” Hastings Women’s Law Journal 30, no. 1 (2019); Sheila Jeffreys, The Lesbian Heresy (North Melbourne: Spinifex Press, 1993), 24–46; Carlin Meyer, “Sex, Sin, and Women’s Liberation: Against Porn-Suppression,” Texas Law Review 72, no. 1097 (1994): note 151.

[9] Jeffreys, The Lesbian Heresy, supra note 11 at 29–30.

[10] Doan-Minh, “Corrective Rape,” supra note 11 at 171.

[11] Chan Tov McNamarah, “Sexuality on Trial: Expanding Pena-Rodriguez to Combat Juror Queerphobia,” Dukeminier Awards Journal of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law Review 17, no. 1 (2019): 393, 395 n. 11

[12] Susan Hawthorne, “Ancient Hatred and Its Contemporary Manifestation: The Torture of Lesbians,” Journal of Hate Studies 4, no. 33 (2005): 42–43.

[13] Dworkin, “Pornography,” supra note 3 at 55–57.

[14] Hawthorne, “Ancient Hatred,” supra note 15 at 40.

[15] Robert Jensen, Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity (Boston: South End Press, 2007), 98.

[16] Jensen, Getting Off, 48.

[17] Irene Nemes, “The Relationship Between Pornography and Sex Crimes,” The Journal of Psychiatry and Law 20, no. 459 (1992): supra note 9.

[18] O’Malley, “Pornography,” supra note 2 at 178.

[19] Fraytak, “Influence of Pornography,” supra note 5 at 275; Nemes, “The Relationship,” supra note 9 at 461–462.

[20] Nemes, “The Relationship,” supra note 9 at 465–472.

[21] Nemes, “The Relationship,” supra note 9 at 465–472.

[22] Nemes, “The Relationship,” 462.

[23] Nemes, “The Relationship,” 475–477.

[24] Nemes, “The Relationship,” 465, 467.

[25] MacKinnon, “Reflections,” supra note 3 at 1302.

[26] Evans, “Pornography,” supra note 29 at 86 n. 9.

[27] Evans, “Pornography,” 85 n. 8, 102 n. 98.

[28] Fraytak, “Influence of Pornography,” supra note 5 at 282.

[29] Fraytak, “Influence of Pornography,” 271–272.

[30] Spahn, “On Sex and Violence,” supra note 2 at 635.

[31] Dworkin, “Pornography,” supra note 3 at 57. Dworkin also discusses other troubling statistics about pornography and sexual violence toward women, including increased rates of throat rape based on pornography, increased use of pornography in forcing women into prostitution, and increased rates of pornography in the battery of women.

[32] See, e.g., Dworkin, “Pornography,” supra note 3 at 56; Evans, “Pornography,” supra note 4 at 84–85; Fraytak, “Influence of Pornography,” supra note 5 at 265; MacKinnon, “Reflections,” supra note 3 at 1303; Nemes, “The Relationship,” supra note 9 at 475; Spahn, “On Sex and Violence,” supra note 2 at 637.

[33] Nemes, “The Relationship,” supra note 9 at 463–465. This decision came after a review of the 1970 Presidential Commission on Pornography, which concluded that there was no link between pornography and violence. The 1986 report found a causal relationship between certain types of pornography and violence against women. For more on the report, including critiques of the methodology used in the studies it relied on, see also Fraytak, “Influence of Pornography,” supra note 5 at 264.

[34] See, e.g., Dworkin, “Pornography,” supra note 3; Rae Langton, “Pornography: A Liberal’s Unfinished Business,” Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence 12, no. 109 (1999); MacKinnon, “Reflections,” supra note 3.

[35] See Dworkin, “Pornography,” supra note 3 at 60; Langton, “Pornography,” supra note 39 at 109, 114, 119; MacKinnon, “Reflections,” supra note 3 at 1304.

[36] Jensen, Getting Off, supra note 18 at 48–50.

[37] Langton, “Pornography,” supra note 39 at 109.

[38] Jensen, Getting Off, supra note 18 at 64.

[39] Dworkin, “Pornography,” supra note 3 at 55.

[40] Jensen, Getting Off, supra note 18 at 61-64.

[41] Joan Kennedy Taylor, “Does Sexual Speech Harm Women? The Split Within Feminism,” Stanford Law and Policy Review 5 (1994): 49–61.

[42] Spahn, “On Sex and Violence,” supra note 2 at 635.

[43] Nemes, “The Relationship,” supra note 9 at 470.

[44] Langton, “Pornography,” supra note 39 at 112–120.

[45] Sheila Jeffreys, “Consent and the Politics of Sexuality,” Current Issues in Criminal Justice 5 (1993): 173–174.

[46] Jensen, Getting Off, supra note 18 at 64.

[47] Bean, “Radical Feminist View.”

[48] Jensen, Getting Off, supra note 18 at 113.

[49] Jensen, Getting Off, 64.

[50] Jeffreys, “Consent,” supra note 11 at 54.

[51] Nemes, “The Relationship,” supra note 9 at 476.

[52] Jeffreys, “Consent,” supra note 50 at 174.

[53] Bean, “Radical Feminist View,” supra note 52 at 21.

[54] Dworkin, “Pornography, supra note 3 at 55.

[55] Dworkin, “Pornography, supra note 3 at 55.

[56] Nemes, “The Relationship,” supra note 9 at 468–469.

[57] MacKinnon, “Reflections,” supra note 3 at 1304.

[58] MacKinnon, “Reflections,” at 1305.

[59] Christopher N. Kendall, “Gay Male Pornography and Sexual Violence: A Sex Equality Perspective on Gay Male Rape and Partner Abuse,” McGill Law Journal 49 (2004), supra note 29 at 886.

[60] Jensen, Getting Off, supra note 18 at 48.

[61] Jensen, Getting Off, 48–50.

[62] Jensen, Getting Off, 64.

[63] See “Pornhub’s 2015 Year in Review,” Pornhub Insights, 6 January 2016, https://www.pornhub.com/insights/pornhub-2015-year-in-review; “Pornhub’s 2016 Year in Review,” Pornhub Insights, 4 January 2017, https://www.pornhub.com/insights/2016-year-in-review; “2017 Year in Review,” Pornhub Insights, 9 January 2018, https://www.pornhub.com/insights/2017-year-in-review; “2018 Year in Review,” Pornhub Insights, 11 December 2018, https://www.pornhub.com/insights/2018-year-in-review; “The 2019 Year in Review,” Pornhub Insights, 11 December 2019, https://www.pornhub.com/insights/2019-year-in-review.

[64] Doan-Minh, “Corrective Rape,” supra note 11 at 171.

[65] DeGenevieve, “Ssspread.com,” supra note 8 at 234.

[66] Russo, “‘The Real Thing,’” supra note 8 at 240.

[67] DeGenevieve, “Ssspread.com,” supra note 8 at 233–235.

[68] DeGenevieve, “Ssspread.com,” supra note 8 at 235.

[69] Doan-Minh, “Corrective Rape,” supra note 11 at 171.

[70] Doan-Minh, “Corrective Rape,” supra note 11 at 171; Russo, supra note 11 at 239.

[71] Jeffreys, “Consent,” supra note 11 at 29.

[72] Hawthorne, “Ancient Hatred,” supra note 15 at 39. For further information on the prevalence of this mindset outside of academic circles, simply Google phrases like “men seduce lesbian.” In addition to retrieving links to hundreds of thousands of “lesbian porn” clips, your search results will likely return articles like “How to Seduce a Lesbian as a Straight Man” (Return of Kings, 20 January 2020), which describe detailed steps for “going where no man has gone before” and seducing queer women who “claim to be man-hating.” Just be careful what you click on; many of the results are just as questionable as they sound.

[73] Doan-Minh, “Corrective Rape,” supra note 11 at 171.

[74] Jeffreys, “Consent,” supra note 11 at 38.

[75] Taylor N.T. Brown and Jody L. Herman, Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Abuse Among LGBT People: A Review of Existing Research (Los Angeles: Williams Institute, 2015), 7–11.

[76] Michelle A. Marzullo and Alyn J. Libman, Hate Crimes and Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People, Human Rights Campaign Foundation (2019).

[77] Doan-Minh, “Corrective Rape,” supra note 11.

[78] Hawthorne, “Ancient Hatred,” supra note 15 at 35, 42–43. For further support for this claim, do as Hawthorne suggests and type “lesbian plus torture” into a search engine; your search will return a myriad of violent pornographic videos.

[79] Doan-Minh, “Corrective Rape,” supra note 11 at 171. For more information about violent lesbian pornography, type “lesbian rape” or “lesbian torture” into any search engine; the first search results you will get are likely to be violent “lesbian porn.”

[80] Hawthorne, “Ancient Hatred,” supra note 15 at 47–49.

[81] Hawthorne, “Ancient Hatred,” 42.

[82] Hawthorne, “Ancient Hatred,” 48.

[83] Hawthorne, “Ancient Hatred,” 47.

[84] Brown and Herman, Intimate Partner Violence, supra note 80. Note that this report only contains information for women who identify as lesbian and bisexual and does not include all queer women.

[85] Brown and Herman, Intimate Partner Violence, 11.

[86] See Evans, “Pornography,” supra note 4 at 84 n. 5.; Kendall, “Gay Male Pornography,” supra note 29 at 887 n. 25.

[87] See Evans, “Pornography,” supra note 4 at 84 n. 5.; Kendall, “Gay Male Pornography,” supra note 29 at 887 n. 25.

[88] See endnote 63 for data regarding how frequently “lesbian” was searched on the world’s largest free pornography website over the last five years.

[89] “Hate Crimes,” The Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed 20 January 2020, https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/civil-rights/hate-crimes.

[90] “2014 Hate Crime Statistics: Victims,” The Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed 20 January 2020, https://ucr.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/hate-crime/2014/topic-pages/victims_final; “2015 Hate Crime Statistics: Victims,” The Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed 20 January 2020, https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2015/topic-pages/victims_final; “2016 Hate Crime Statistics: Victims,” The Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed 20 January 2020, https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2016/topic-pages/victims; “2017 Hate Crime Statistics: Victims,” The Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed 20 January 2020, https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2017/topic-pages/victims.

[91] “2014 Hate Crime Statistics,” “2015 Hate Crime Statistics,” “2016 Hate Crime Statistics,” “2017 Hate Crime Statistics.”

[92] Martin S. Zwerling, “Legislating against Hate in New York: Bias Crimes and the Lesbian and Gay Community,” Touro Law Review 11 (1995): 529, 536–537. Common reasons for underreporting in the queer community include a desire not to be “outed” to the public, fear of retaliation by the perpetrator or the victim’s family, and a belief that the police will be prejudiced against them because of their sexual orientation.

[93] Mark Potok, Anti-Gay Hate Crimes: Doing the Math, Southern Poverty Law Center, 27 February 2011.

[94] Marzullo and Libman, Hate Crimes, supra note 81 at 8–9.

[95] Marzullo and Libman, Hate Crimes, 8–10.

[96] Poppy Noor and Mattha Busby, “Teenagers held over homophobic attack on two women on London bus,” The Guardian, 7 June 2019), https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/jun/07/two-women-left-bloodied-in-homophobic-attack-on-london-bus.

[97] Noor and Busby, “Teenagers.”

[98] Doan-Minh, “Corrective Rape,” supra note 11 at 171.

[99] Dworkin, “Pornography,” supra note 3 at 55.

[100] Doan-Minh, “Corrective Rape,” supra note 11 at 171; Jeffreys, “Consent,” supra note 11 at 106, 131.

[101] Doan-Minh, “Corrective Rape,” supra note 11 at 171.

[102] Doan-Minh, “Corrective Rape,” supra note 11 at 171.

[103] Doan-Minh, “Corrective Rape,” supra note 11 at 171.

[104] Jeffreys, “Consent,” supra note 11 at 131. For additional examples of pornography that eroticizes the rape of queer women, head to PornHub or any other pornography website and search “lesbian rape” or something similar. The results will speak for themselves.

[105] Hawthorne, “Ancient Hatred,” supra note 15 at 39.

[106] Jeffreys, “Consent,” supra note 11 at 131. For more information about how “lesbian porn” often consists of straight men raping “lesbian” women, see footnotes 83–84 and 109.

[107] Doan-Minh, “Corrective Rape,” supra note 3 at 171; Hawthorne, “Ancient Hatred,” supra note 15 at 30, 42-43. See also “How to Seduce a Lesbian as a Straight Man,” supra footnote 77, and similar websites that are designed to teach heterosexual men how to “seduce lesbians.”

[108] Doan-Minh, “Corrective Rape,” supra note 11 at 179.

[109] See, e.g., Doan-Minh, “Corrective Rape,” supra note 11; Hawthorne, “Ancient Hatred,” supra note 15; Jeffreys, “Consent,” supra note 11.

[110] Bean, “Radical Feminist View,” supra note 5 at 19.

[111] See, e.g., Dworkin, “Pornography,” supra note 3; Evans, “Pornography,” supra note 4; Fraytak, “Influence of Pornography,” supra note 5; Jensen, Getting Off, supra note 18.

[112] See, e.g., Langton, “Pornography,” supra note 39; MacKinnon, “Reflections,” supra note 3; Spahn, “On Sex and Violence,” supra note 2; Taylor, “Sexual Speech,” supra note 46.

[113] See, e.g., Dworkin, “Pornography,” supra note 3; Jensen, Getting Off, supra note 18; MacKinnon, “Reflections,” supra note 3.

[114] See, e.g., Dworkin, “Pornography,” supra note 3 at 55; Catharine MacKinnon, “Pornography as Defamation and Discrimination,” Boston University Law Review 71, no. 33 (1991): 793, 802.

[115] See Dworkin, “Pornography,” supra note 3 at 56; Jensen, Getting Off, supra note 18 at 65–68.

[116] MacKinnon, “Reflections,” supra note 119.

[117] See Doan-Minh, “Corrective Rape,” supra note 11.

[118] Hawthorne, “Ancient Hatred,” supra note 15 at 47.

[119] For an in-depth discussion on intersectionality, see Kimberle Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color,” Stanford Law Review 43, no. 6 (191): 1241.

[120] Doan-Minh, “Corrective Rape,” supra note 11 at 171.

[121] See, e.g., Dworkin, “Pornography,” supra note 3; Jensen, Getting Off, supra note 18; MacKinnon, “Consent,” supra note 3.