'Pornography', from 'Pornography: Men Possessing Women', 1988
by Andrea Dworkin
The word pornography, derived from the ancient Greek porné and graphos, means 'writing about whores'. Porné means 'whore', specifically and exclusively the lowest class of whore, which in ancient Greece was the brothel slut available to all male citizens. The porné was the cheapest (in the literal sense), least regarded, least protected of all women, including slaves. She was, simply and clearly and absolutely, a sexual slave.
The word pornography does not mean 'writing about sex' or 'depictions of the erotic' or 'depictions of sexual acts' or depictions of nude bodies' or 'sexual representations' or any such euphemism. It means the graphic depiction of women as vile whores. In ancient Greece, not all prostitutes were considered vile: only the porneia.
Contemporary photography strictly and literally conforms to the word's root meaning: the graphic depiction of vile whores, or in our language, sluts, cows (as in: sexual cattle, sexual chattel), cunts. This word has not changed its meaning and the genre is not misnamed. The only change in the meaning of the word is with respect to its second part, graphos: now there are cameras-there is still photography, film, video. The methods of graphic depiction have increased in number and in kind: the content is the same; the status of the women depicted is the same; the sexuality of the women depicted is the same. With the technologically advanced methods of graphic depiction, real women are required for the depiction as such to exist.
The word pornography does not have any other meaning than the one cited here, the graphic depiction of the lowest whores. Whores exist to serve men sexually. Whores exist only within a framework of male sexual domination. Indeed, outside that framework the notion of whores would be absurd and the usage of women as whores would be impossible. The word whore is incomprehensible unless one is immersed in the lexicon of male domination. Men have created the group, the type, the concept, the epithet, the insult, the industry, the trade, the commodity, the reality of woman as whore. Woman as whore only exists within the objective and real system of male sexual domination. The pornography itself is objective and real and central to the male sexual system. The valuation of women's sexuality in pornography is objective and real because women are so regarded and so valued. The force depicted in pornography is objective and real because force is so used against women. The debasing of women depicted in pornography and intrinsic to it is objective and real in that women are so debased. The uses of women depicted in pornography are objective and real because women are so used. The women used in pornography are used in pornography. The definition of women articulated systematically and consistently in pornography is objective and real in that real women exist within and must live with constant reference to the boundaries of this definition. The fact that pornography is widely believed to be 'sexual representations' or 'depictions of sex' emphasizes only that the valuation of women as low whores is widespread and that the sexuality is reduced to one essential: 'cunt... our essence, our offense'.(1) The idea that pornography is 'dirty' originates in the conviction that the sexuality of women is dirty and actually portrayed in pornography; that women's bodies (especially women's genitals) are dirty: instead pornography embodies and exploits this idea; pornography sells and promotes it.
In the United States, the pornography industry is larger than the record and film industries combined. In a time of widespread economic impoverishment, it is growing: more and more male consumers are eager to spend more and more money on pornography-on depictions of women as vile whores. Pornography is now carried by cable television; it is now being marketed for home use in video machines. The technology itself demands the creation of more and more porneia to meet the market opened up by the technology. Real women are tied up, stretched, hanged, fucked, gang-banged, whipped, beaten and begging for more. In the photographs and films, real women are used as porneia and real women are depicted as porneia. To profit, the pimps must supply the porneia as the technology widens the market for the visual consumption of women being brutalized and loving it. One picture is worth a thousand words. The number of pictures required to meet the demands of the marketplace determines the number of porneia required to meet the demands of graphic depiction. The numbers grow as the technology and its accessibility grow. The technology by its very nature encourages more and more passive acquiescence to the graphic depictions. Passivity makes the already credulous consumer more credulous. He comes to the pornography a believer; he goes away from it a missionary. The technology itself legitimizes the uses of women conveyed by it.
In the male system, women are sex; sex is the whore. The whore is porné, the lowest whore, the whore who belongs to all male citizens: the slut, the cunt. Buying her is buying pornography. Having her is having pornography. Seeing her is seeing pornography. Seeing her in sex is seeing the whore in sex. Using her is using pornography. Wanting her means wanting pornography. Being her means being pornography.
Reproduced with gracious thanks to the Andrea Dworkin estate and to Perigree Books and The Women's Press.