Readers debate:

Is the RCP wrong about porn?

August 17, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


Editors’ note: We received a thoughtful letter from a reader who is “profoundly disturbed and in opposition to the RCP’s positions on pornography,” and asked a team of other readers of Revolution to write a response. We think this is an important discussion and debate, and encourage readers to continue to write on this and other controversial questions. Both the letter and response follow.


This is intended to be a friendly communication, although it may not be regarded as such.

I have supported the Party in many ways over the years, and have great respect for Bob Avakian and the dozens of RCP members and supporters I have met and in some instances worked with on projects of common interest over the years.

I think that no other organization in the U.S., and few internationally, has so consistently tried to put the needs of the world’s people and the international proletarian revolution first.

The Party is doing great and significant work right now in helping to lead the unfolding mass struggle around police brutality and murder and also around the attacks on the right to abortion and birth control.

Bob Avakian’s new synthesis gave great renewed hope to many in the U.S. and around the world that perhaps the mistakes of the past would not be repeated in terms of the correct handling of contradictions among the people and in terms of upholding artistic freedoms. The change in the Party’s position on homosexuality over a decade was also refreshing.

With all that said, I have to say that I am profoundly disturbed and in opposition to the RCP’s positions on pornography and sex workers. I think the depiction of pornography in the paper has been one-sided, focusing only on the most extreme and misogynist, which does not reflect what most of it is. Additionally, by placing opposition to pornography front and center as a focus, you are seeming to make this a dividing line, and, while you say you aren’t supporting laws to suppress artistic freedom, objectively siding with right wing and reactionary forces that do wish to impose censorship and repression. I think it flows from a continuing puritanism.

I watch and enjoy pornography, as millions of people in the country do, including many women. I also have friends and acquaintances, including some very progressive and even in a few cases, revolutionary minded people, who are or have been involved in the pornography industry or as sex workers.

Our differences about pornography and sex work are contradictions among the people, not between the people and the enemy. By raising it as a major focus of your work, you are driving away many good people now, and will drive away many more over time, many of whom will not engage with the Party at all if you make these issues a dividing line. I think you are just flat out wrong on these questions. I have, after much thought, decided to send this message to you, as it would be the height of irresponsible liberalism to disagree this strongly and not raise these differences.

Dixi et salvavi animam meam.

A supporter, in general



The letter we are responding to raises strong disagreement with the RCP’s position on pornography. We think the letter writer’s position is wrong, and we will dig into why. It is of great importance that those who want a better world dig into this, and sort it through on a correct basis so that we don’t wind up fighting for a world that is about “getting in” on a system of inequality and brutality, but are able to clearly see—and fight for—a far more radical solution.

But first, we have to talk about the methodology for figuring out what is right and wrong. We cannot base our discussion on what “millions of people” do—as anyone involved in trying to make radical change in the world knows, millions of people CAN be wrong. Think millions of people who supported the invasion of Iraq based on lies from the government, or the invasion decades earlier of Vietnam. Think millions of people who are racists. Think millions of people who at one point believed the Earth is flat. While knowing what people think about something is important, and is part of understanding the world as it actually is and as it can be transformed, adding up how many people believe something doesn’t get us to whether it is true or not. The movement for revolution in fact often has to go against the tide of what people think, against the spontaneity of the “way things are,” or we will never get out of the nightmare that is capitalism-imperialism.

We are going to focus on three points in response, although before getting directly to them we’ll have to step back to put them in context. (1) Is it true that the “most extreme and misogynist porn” does not reflect what the majority of porn is? (2) Is porn—whether the most viciously violent or not—harmful? (3) Are we just being puritanical?

Worldwide, there is a war on women, a war that in all its aspects is increasingly violent. Through rape and murder, through attacks on rights such as the right to abortion, through ideological and psychological shaming and degradation, through objectification as “things” that are tools for men, the goal of this war is strengthening the enforced subjugation of women to men.

Two central elements in this war on women are the onslaught of attacks on the right to abortion and women’s right to control their own bodies, and the enormous growth of the porn “industry,” with a particular feature of a huge increase in violent porn, porn where brutal assaults both physical and verbal are depicted. Here, we are focusing on the second part of this, but for more about the first, watch “STOP THE ASSAULT ON ABORTION RIGHTS! BREAK ALL THE CHAINS THAT ENSLAVE WOMEN! A Talk by Sunsara Taylor.”

Over the last 40-50 years there has been an enormous increase in the marketing of all kinds of porn. A marked feature of this is the huge increase in the percentage of porn which involves aggressive and violent acts against the people involved, mostly women. In 2014 “abuse porn” websites averaged over 60 million combined hits per month. (Hot Girls Wanted, based on research by the Kinsey Institute) What is “abuse porn”? Porn where women are violently raped, by one or more men, by chaining and shackling them often for days while they are assaulted by multiple men or by mechanical dildos, beaten and battered. Or look at the subcategory of abuse porn—facial abuse—violent blow jobs, often with objects jammed down her throat, aimed at making the woman vomit. According to, more than 88 percent of the “top-rated” porn scenes contain aggressive acts, and “94% of the time that is directed towards a woman.” “Teen” is the number one search term in Internet pornography, depicting women too young to legally be able to consent to sex (Hot Girls Wanted).

Sunsara Taylor has written several times about going with a group of young women to a porn shop in Times Square—one picked at random. She described the wall of brutal films displayed as soon as they stepped into the shop. She then described looking for several of these women who had disappeared from the shop, finding them outside sobbing. “Women choking on their tears, sobs. Bodies and souls shaken. This is the trauma of entering a war zone. Confronting a wall of violence.”

The documentary Hot Girls Wanted follows several women who are recruited through Craig’s List by a “manager/pimp” as they go through their first porn shoots as “virgins being violated.” The film documents that while women may start out in “sexy” photo shoots, they don’t last long in the business unless they participate in scenes that are increasingly violent and aggressive against them. One of the women makes the comment, after she went through the filming of such a scene, about the men buying this stuff: “They’re watching it on a computer and not going out and doing it to an actual girl.” Just think about the world we live in where a statement like this makes any sense at all—a world where it is the man’s “right” to do this, and it is “better” that it is provided to him by video.

In fact, the idea that providing such material on film means it won’t be done to an actual woman is simply wrong. Porn fuels rape. Rape is normalized, dominance of and brutality towards women are normalized—and in some cases, at least the inhibitions against rape are undermined by porn.

Let us not forget that alongside this rise in pornography is the increase in sexual trafficking of women and children around the world, some of that for the porn industry.

Is it, as you say, true that torture porn does not reflect the majority of porn? The reality is that the trend has been for this type of porn to more and more be promoted and dominate, and statistics show “torture porn” has the most number of views on the Internet. This alone should be reason enough for anyone who hates the degradation of women in society to join in opposing the pornography industry.

End Pornography and Patriarchy, The Enslavement and Degradation of Women

Download PDF | Read the Call to End Pornography and Patriarchy

As the Call to End Pornography and Patriarchy says: “This is NOT society becoming more comfortable with sex. This is society becoming saturated with the sexualized degradation of women. If you can’t imagine sex without porn, you’re fucked.”

So what is going on here? Why the big increase in pornography, especially violent pornography, over the last 40-50 years? On one level this is the way capitalism works—making a commodity out of everything, including women. It takes the woman, or even just the body part of the woman, and turns it into a “thing” that can be bought and sold. When someone purchases this “thing,” the actual social relations contained in the price, of why the women are in the video, who is benefiting from this, and how it affects the rest of society, are hidden, just as the tears of the women burned in Bangladeshi garment factories are hidden in the price of a piece of clothing sold cheaply at Walmart.

But on another level, in 2012 Sunsara Taylor noted that this rise in violent pornography and the sexual enslavement of women flows out “of the way this system has unleashed revenge (often through whipping men up to be the enforcers of this revenge) against women for daring to challenge thousands of years of tradition’s chains. There is a near-direct relationship between the advances women have made in public, political, and professional life and the dramatic increase in strip clubs as the new bastion of unchallenged male chauvinism. Or, as veteran porn producer Bill Margold put it, ‘I’d like to really show what I believe the men want to see: violence against women... The most violent we can get is the cum shot in the face. Men get off behind that because they get even with the women they can’t have.’ And, the tremendous growth in the global trade in women’s flesh cannot be separated from the quasi-official reliance on brothels as a ‘perk’ to male soldiers in the U.S. military, or—even more profoundly—from the whole oppressive and exploitative world order which the U.S. military is the key enforcer of.” (From “Out of Denial and Into the Streets—International Women’s Day 2012“)

What if porn is not of the most extreme, violent type? What if it is the kind of porn you and your friends watch? You still have to look at the actual social relations that go into it, what it actually depicts. Pornography is by definition writing or images about people (mostly women) who are bought and sold. Hidden in the price of the porn (which has the appearance of an equal exchange of value) are the lessons girls learn from very young that their role is to be the “virgin” or the “whore” in society, that they must spend a good portion of their lives making their bodies attractive for men, that they are responsible to meet whatever sexual desires a man has, that if they are not “attractive” by standards that are impossible to meet there is something wrong with them. Hidden is the self-hatred, expressed in behaviors like cutting and eating disorders, that women have learned because they don’t meet these standards. Hidden are the choices they make because they live in a world where they are seen as incapable of leading, or being intellectual, or becoming artists, or where the money they get is far more than most jobs available to women when they can get them. Hidden is the act of “buying” the woman, where the woman is reduced to being an object for the sexual stimulation of those looking at the photo, the video, the story. Hidden is the reality of the torture and abuse women are often subject to when making porn movies.

Do you know anyone else—any person or organization—that has managed to bring forth an actual PLAN for a radically different society, in all its dimensions, and a CONSTITUTION to codify all this? — A different world IS possible — Check out and order online the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal).

While you can look anywhere in society and find women being degraded and assaulted, there is no other industry which so clearly ties that degradation to the sexual arousal of males. As Gail Dines wrote in response to the massacre of female students by Elliot Rodger at the University of California, Santa Barbara, “Name one other cultural institution that prides itself on torturing women as its raison d’être. Porn is now the major form of sex education in the western world, and it produces an ideology that makes women seem disposable ‘sluts’ who are undeserving of dignity, bodily integrity, or the slightest shred of empathy.”

This hatred for women saturates and shapes the landscape all of us walk through every day. Step back and think about the effect of all this on young women and how it constrains how they see who they are, what is possible for them to do with their lives, and what their goals should be. Think of what it means that women are looked at not as full human beings with ideas and imagination, but as bodies that exist to be consumed, to be raped—even reduced to pieces of their bodies that are used to advertise to sell other products. Think of women filled with self-hatred for not meeting some standard of what they had heard some body part is supposed to look like, cutting themselves and developing eating disorders. Think of women who can only imagine relations with others where their role is to “be desirable.” And think of the women murdered, tortured, beaten to ensure they remain submissive.

And then think of what it would be like for a young woman to grow up in a world where how she looks does not determine her “value,” or where the question of what her “value” is never even gets asked.

Likewise, think of what it means that the primary form of sex education for young boys is pornography. Young boys are trained to look at the women around them as objects the boys “have a right to,” as “lesser” and “inferior.” That their sexuality gets expressed in dominating women. Think of how it might be different if the objectification of women was not part of the training of “how to be a man.”

If films of assaults on any other group in society were being distributed, bought and sold for the “pleasure” of those outside the group, there would be an outcry. Bob Avakian has talked about the way in earlier years it was popular to create and sell postcards of the lynchings of Black people in the South. And that there is no difference between selling postcards of the hangings of Black people and selling videos of the degradation and abuse of women. Yet the videos depicting the violence against women are part of the “norm” of society, viewed tens of millions of times each month.

* * * * *

On the Position on Homosexuality in the New Draft Programme,” adopted by the RCP in 2001 on same-sex relations includes this:

People engage in sex in many different ways and for many different reasons. One of the main reasons is, of course, that sex (at least when it is freely engaged in) feels good!

That’s not puritanical.


by Bob Avakian, Chairman, Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Summer 2015

Read more

The call to “End Pornography and Patriarchy: the Enslavement and Degradation of Women!” is not about being puritanical—it is about creating a world where the stage is not set by the oppression and degradation of women, where love between people is not framed by that oppression, where women are full human beings, able to participate on all levels of society.

The oppression of women didn’t begin with capitalism—it arose with class society. But it cannot be ended under capitalism. Bob Avakian put it succinctly:

Marx and Engels said in the Communist Manifesto that the communist revolution represents a radical rupture with traditional property relations and with traditional ideas. And the one is not possible without the other. They are mutually reinforcing, one way or the other.

If you have a society in which the fundamental role of women is to be breeders of children, how can you have a society in which there is equality between men and women? You cannot. And if you don’t attack and uproot the traditions, the morals and so on, that reinforce that role, how can you transform the relations between men and women and abolish the deep-seated inequalities that are bound up with the whole division of society into oppressors and oppressed, exploiters and exploited? You cannot.

From the “Three Alternative Worlds” supplement in BAsics

We desperately need a revolution that will end the entire system of oppression and exploitation, and as part of that, the oppression of women. For the first time in the history of class society, that is possible. And, with the new synthesis that Bob Avakian has developed (and is still working on!), we have a much clearer vision of how the struggle to make that revolution can happen and to do it in a way that does actually result in the first giant steps towards the emancipation of humanity.

With the revolutionary seizure of power it will immediately be possible to end much of what objectifies and oppresses women. Imagine walking through a city and not seeing advertising that features women’s body parts selling products. And imagine women not having to constantly look in fear at night (or even in day). Imagine relations between partners that are not based in and on property relations.

We know that within the new socialist society there will continue to be a struggle for the complete emancipation of women—struggle over ways of thinking that reflect the old oppressive division of labor, struggle over how society is organized so as to give full expression to the role of women, struggle over artistic expressions, and more. These traditional ways of thinking and living have been in existence for thousands of years, and will take struggle to fully rupture. Continuing this struggle will be a critical part of the struggle to get to a fully communist society.

Pornography, both in its most violent forms and in its objectification of women, will not be funded. A society whose goal is the emancipation of all people, including women, could not continue to fund something which degrades and terrorizes women. How will it be decided whether something falls in that category or not? Listen to Bob Avakian’s answer to the question asked of him several years back: “When we seize power how does the decision making process work? How do we decide at different times that we should give funds to this or that and a number of things at one time? For instance, people who disagree or some masses, they don’t consider pornography to be pornography, they consider it to be eroticism. So, how will the decision making go? What gets on TV and what will be on the air voicing disagreement?”


In March 2012, issuing a call for a force of people who would join the battle to “End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women,” Sunsara Taylor said:

Why am I angry? Because everywhere you look, in every corner of the globe, from the highest offices of power to the most intimate spheres of people’s private lives, from the corporate boardrooms to the wretched sweatshop floors, from the sleekly promoted multi-billion-dollar porn industry to the bloody and ravaged bodies littering the world’s many war zones, women’s bodies are being broken, women’s dreams are being snuffed out, women’s rights are being revoked, and women’s futures are being foreclosed.

The question is, why are YOU not fucking angry about all of this? Your letter references the “most extreme and misogynist” pornography but says nothing at all about what should be done about it. Why are you trying to hold onto “some” porn while standing aside from the social, moral, and even physical effects of that brutality? Why aren’t you finding this intolerable? Don’t make your peace, accept this degradation as just “the way things are.” If you do that, then you are just accepting this world with its assaults on and oppression of women.

As Sunsara Taylor said in responding to “frequently encountered bullshit” at the NYC Porn Film Festival:

If you really think your desire to get off on depictions of women—or others—being brutalized and degraded is more important than the right of women everywhere to not be terrorized and humiliated through these depictions and the violent degradation they reinforce, you are seriously mistaken. Simply put: you are not more important than half of humanity.

And if our challenge to you makes you uncomfortable, what do you do with that discomfort? Do you tell us to tone it down? To be more “reasonable”?

Or do you also come to think it is intolerable not to be filled with anger?


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