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Malika Saada Saar Headshot

Porn, Santorum, and the Politics of the Left

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I am not a supporter, by any means, of Rick Santorum. He is a politician wedded to a politics of fear and divisiveness. His potential election as president would, I believe, endanger our nation's restored moral credibility.

At the same time, I am disappointed by the left's summary dismissal of Santorum's proposed idea to ban porn. No, I do not believe in the suspension of the first amendment, nor a return to a time of a punitive puritanical America. But I do think that the left has ceded the critique of what the porn industry has become to the conservative right, at the risk of denying porn's violent treatment of women and girls.

Unlike your grandfather's porn, today's porn -- especially with the advent of the Internet -- is available, shamelessly marketed, and exceedingly violent.

Mainstream porn is now hard-core and celebrates the debasement of the female body, where every orifice is violently penetrated, yet the women and girls never reject the men's sexual demands -- no matter how aggressive or injurious those demands are. Women and girls' bodies are to be used and abused. Rape of the female body is reframed as a legitimate act of desire and fantasy.

Most disturbing, is that this kind of porn is shaping young men's sexuality and notions of relationships with women and girls. For example, at Yale University, dozens of mostly freshmen at a fraternity started yelling at women "f-cking sluts" and "No means yes! Yes means anal!" Their language was taken directly out of porn -- from mainstream, popular porn flicks like "Hot Young Daughters: Naked" and "Sluts in Thongs Gone Wild."

While I don't support some mindless ban on porn, I am deeply disappointed that the left continues to exalt porn as some manifestation of sexual liberation, free speech, or women's empowerment -- without any thoughtful discussion of how so much of present day porn legitimizes violent treatment of women and girls. How can we claim that the Republicans are waging a war against women and not be more realistic about the war against women and girls' bodies that is being waged by the porn industry?