Last updated on: 11/26/2008 | Author:

Is Pornography Prostitution?

PRO (yes)


Bruce A. Taylor, JD, Immigration Judge, said in a June 2001 interview with PBS’s FRONTLINE that:

“If somebody made a movie, an R-rated love scene, where they were sort of naked and pretending to have sex, that’s acting. But in the hardcore film, nobody’s acting. It’s prostitution.”

June 2001


Sheila Jeffreys, PhD, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Melbourne, in a Dec. 4, 2002 speech entitled “The International Political Economy of Pornography” at the 30 year celebration seminar of Finnish Council for Equality, stated:

“Pornography is a form of prostitution i.e. women are paid to have sexual practices carried out on and in their bodies. Even in those countries where brothel prostitution is illegal such as the US, prostitution is legal if it is for pornography. This legal form of prostitution has created a foundation for demand the decriminalisation of other forms of the prostitution industry. In my state of Victoria the porn industry was an important force in legalisation of brothels in 1984 and now the brothels advertise and sell their women at the Sexpos. It is important to understand that porn is prostitution and brothel prostitution is able to become more respectable as the industry develops its strength, and political influence.

Presently there is an international campaign to decriminalise the prostitution industry. Lobbyists financed by the international sex industry and AIDS money work in South Africa, UK, Eastern Europe to create a profitable and legal brothel prostitution industry. Pornography leads the way, softening up attitudes to the sexual exploitation of women, and building the profits and political clout of sex industrialists who sought to diversify their interests into all forms of prostitution.”

Dec. 2, 2004


Kathleen Barry, PhD, Professor Emerita of Human Development at Pennsylvania State University, wrote in the 1979 Female Sexual Slavery that:

“Pornography is a form of prostitution. Its producers and distributors can be defined as pimps as they are living off the earnings of prostitutes.”



Rebecca Whisnant, PhD, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Dayton, was quoted in the July-Aug. 2005 Off Our Backs article “A DiffERENT KiNd of FEMiNiSM: Feminists Resisting Pornography and Prostitution” as having said:

“One of the key points we wanted to get across in the book is that pornography is prostitution. This means that women in the pornography industry suffer much of the same damage as women in other forms of prostitution. It also means that pornography consumers (of either sex) are Johns, and are accountable for the harm their behavior causes and supports.”

July-Aug. 2005

CON (no)


In The People v. Harold Freeman (1988), the Supreme Court of California in a 7-0 decision written by Justice Marcus Kaufman, held that:

“Undeniably, one cannot lawfully hire another to commit murder, rape or robbery for the purpose of photographing the act. Murder, rape and robbery and aiding and abetting intercourse with a minor for that matter, are crimes independent of and totally apart from any payment for the right to photograph the conduct.

By contrast, the acts of alleged ‘prostitution’ in this case were not crimes independent of and apart from payment for the right to photograph the performance. The determination that pandering and prostitution occurred here was entirely dependent on the payment for the right to photograph. Indeed, under the People’s theory the payment was used to establish not only the ‘hiring’ but also elements of both the ‘pandering’ (procuring) and the ‘prostitution’ (i.e., lewd acts ‘for money’). When considered aside from the payment of the acting fees, itself fully lawful otherwise, the sexual acts depicted in the motion picture here were completely lawful. The sexual conduct was between consenting adults and occurred in a place not open to the public.”

1988 - People v. Freeman


Oliver Leaman, PhD, Professor of Philosophy and Zantker Professor of Judaic Studies at the University of Kentucky, responded on the Ask Philosophers website on Feb. 15, 2007 to the question “Why is it that prostitution… is illegal in most states while the production of pornographic movies… legal?”:

“I suppose there is generally a distinction between actually doing something and doing it in order to represent it ‘artistically’. Suppose for example that I set out to cheat passersby by operating a scam; then if I am caught I may be prosecuted and sent to prison. If I act in a movie in which I do exactly the same thing, I would not be charged since although I am being paid to represent something in itself illegal, the representation is not itself illegal.”

Feb. 15, 2007


Budd G. Goodman, JD, former New York County Supreme Court Justice, was quoted by Mark Fass in the Aug. 2, 2005 New York Law Journal article “Judge Sees No Link Between Prostitution, Paying for Sex to Make Films” as having written in People v. Paulino that:

“[P]rostitution is and has always been intuitively defined as a bilateral exchange between a prostitute and a client…

The defendant contends that the targeting of so-called ‘escort services’ for prosecution, while ignoring ‘Goliath corporations’ that ‘conspicuously reap huge profits from the distribution of adult films,’ violates [the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause] because both enterprises are similarly situated…

Because the definition of prostitution is generally confined to a bilateral exchange between only two parties, escort services and ‘Goliath’ corporations are not similarly situated.”

Aug. 2, 2005