Anti-porn movement slammed

Constance Penley.
Constance Penley.
Despite many people's disbelief, the feminist pornography industry is thriving, a visiting American academic says.

Prof Constance Penley, of the University of California, Santa Barbara, spoke at the University of Otago yesterday as one of the keynote speakers at trans/forming feminisms, a conference hosted by Otago's media, film, and communication studies department.

Prof Penley spoke to about 70 people about her long career as an academic studying feminist pornography and battles with the anti-pornography movement.

''The feminist opponents of pornography cast porn as a monolithic industry and medium,'' she said.

''[They] accuse us of deceiving ourselves and others about the true nature of porn.''

Prof Penley said the fissure between anti-pornography feminists and proponents of feminist pornography first formed during ''the sex wars'' in the 1970s and 1980s.

The anti-pornography branch of feminism was formed out of a condemnation of women's portrayal in Hollywood films and advertising that somehow expanded to include porn, she said.

The anti-pornography movement, she said, shaking her fists, was ''one of the worst things ever to happen to feminism''.

Prof Penley said anti-pornography activists, throughout her career, had tried to have her fired and her course cancelled.

Nonetheless, Prof Penley said she and her teachings had survived intact and to some extent, the attacks on her work had simmered down.

''Nobody protests my course anymore.''

• A book Prof Penley co-edited, The Feminist Porn Book, was published in 2012 by The Feminist Press at the City University of New York.

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