Men’s place in feminism is contentious. Some believe that feminism is a title that only women should be able to claim. Others believe the opposite. However, men’s ability to claim the title is constantly challenged by their own behavior: specifically the cooptation of feminism. Men routinely use feminism as an excuse to justify their own misogynistic behaviors.
One of the more pernicious cooptation of feminism is men’s support of pornography. While some strands of feminism see porn as a method of taking control of one’s body and find it empowering, men misunderstand (willfully) that the object of empowerment is to take back the body as something that belongs to the woman. Instead, they use ‘consent’ as a method to justify all kinds of violent and degrading porn. Even if consent wasn’t an idea fraught with complications, men are socialized to view violence against women as normal if a little brutish. Consumption of porn continues to lead men to view women negatively and as objects.
This cooptation is dangerous especially as women in pornography and prostitution are economically coerced into those jobs. Men’s support for porn continues a cycle of violence on women’s bodies. While for some women it may be empowering, for men, porn continues to be about sexual aggression against women. Their consumption is not empowering to women.
I think this cooptation stems from men’s socialization. Men are socialized to see women’s bodies as available to them at all times. They conflate reclaiming bodily integrity as being permanently sexually available. So some feminist men generally ape the words of sex-positivity and pretend to be about women’s equality (rather than liberation) but use feminism to justify their own sexualization of women. They generally only support those feminists whose words they can twist to justify the way they see women. This allows them to change none of their behavior and resist questioning any of their own privileges.
Feminism isn’t about equality; it is about liberation. Men cannot expect to be able to claim the title feminist without first understanding that many of their behaviors and ideas are poisonous.