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Jun 19 2005

Patriarchy-Blaming Q & A

Butt_plastic
Plastic butt: because it’s funny

From time to time, anxious readers, believing me to be off my nut, write in with concerned questions about my mental health and/or my IQ. Here is a composite of some of the more popular themes:

Q: Why do you want to ban porn? Are you some kind of humorless right-wing whackjob fundamentalist Sunday school teacher? Who died and made you king of what women ought to do with their sexuality? Shouldn’t your name really be Prissy McPruderson? Et cetera.

A: I don’t want to ban porn. Banning stuff is stupid, but if it weren’t, what I would advocate banning is stupidity. Because stupidity is the primordial ooze from which all rotten stuff emanates.

I want people to get this clue: that pornography can only exist under the auspices of oppression. I want them to realize that getting off on oppression makes them the jackasses of the cosmos. I want them to consider that if the structure of our society were not founded on a misogynist, fuck-anything-that-moves paradigm, pictures of naked chicks would just be pictures of naked chicks and no big whoop, but that the way things stand, pictures of naked chicks are in fact the fetishization, if that’s the word I want, of degraded humanity.

I want people to gaze out upon the horizon of enlightenment and grasp this simple fact: that when they blow jizz on that thing, they are nothing but fucking barbarians.

Try this simple experiment:

First, liberate women from male supremacy. Next, take all the naked pictures of chicks you want. Notice anything? That’s right, it’s not porn anymore, because the women pictured are fully human. Liberate women, and porn disappears.

Which undoubtedly would suck all the fun out of naked chicks for certain mouth breathers.

33 comments

2 pings

  1. TeenageCatgirl

    Excellent post, excellent blog.

  2. Tony Patti

    Would liberating women eradicate arousal? If arousal were no more, would sex and reproduction exist?

    It’s a complicated subject. The generalization that men are only aroused by oppression is pretty simplistic. Yet so much of the sexuality thrown in our faces every day is oppressive that it’s easy to buy into simple problems, and simple solutions.

    The mystery of male arousal must be about more than simple oppression.

  3. Twisty

    Dude, I didn’t say “arousal can only exist under the auspices of oppression,” I said “pornography can only exist under the auspices of oppression.” Dig this:

    THE TWO ARE NOT THE SAME.

    And neither one is “complicated” or “mysterious.” That’s just a lot of bullshit men use to excuse their jackassness.

  4. yami

    You’ve got a lot riding on your unstated definition of “pornography” here. How would the pictures of hot naked chicks in a feminist end-state utopia differ from the pictures of naked chicks we have today, other than in the minds of the beholders? Would men ever jack off while looking at pictures of naked chicks, and if so, why wouldn’t those pictures count as porn?

  5. Crys T

    Great post! I’m so glad I know about this blog: reading things I can actually endorse wholeheartedly makes me feel like less of a freak.

    “‘pornography can only exist under the auspices of oppression.’ Dig this:

    THE TWO ARE NOT THE SAME.”

    Excellent point, Twisty. And I think Tony’s confusion of the two really does reflect a generalised attitude: that porn just is a representation of sex–or even to some, that porn IS sex. This is similar to what’s come up on another blog regarding rape, and it’s the idea that many people, sadly including lots of women, honestly do believe that women’s sexuality really *is* exactly what male fantasy *wants* it to be. Only if you feel this way can you honestly believe that what you see in most porn has any relation at all to real-life sexual behaviour. Though, scarily, as porn becomes more and more mainstream, I think that more and more people are buying into the idea that “this is what sex looks like” and are behaving accordingly. At least when they are young and inexperienced.

    And it very much disturbs me that there are men who actually do seem to feel that taking away the exploitative, demeaning aspects of how we view sex will kill their arousal. That’s beyond horrifying.

    It also begs the question of why *I*–or any other woman–should accept dehumanisation just because that’s what a guy needs to get off?

  6. TeenageCatgirl

    The ‘mystery’ of male arousal?! *snort*

    I agree with Twisty and Crys T wholeheartedly. Porn isn’t the depiction of sex, it’s the depiction of someone being used as a sexual object. The females involved are not actively expressing their own sexuality, they are passive pieces of meat with convenient orifices which men use.
    The desire for sex is the desire to engage in sexual activity with another, who is equally as engaged as you.
    Porn just encourages the desire to use others as a masturbation aid.

  7. Twisty

    Yami, you have hit upon my point precisely. The power of pornography lies not in the images themselves, but in the human reaction to’em. Were it possible to upgrade the status of women to that of the fully human, the reaction to the sort of image currently regarded as porn would not and could not be the same.

    The difficulty, of course, is in selling the radical notion that women are actual humans.

    My hypothesis is that porn doesn’t degrade women; women, as a class, are already degraded. Porn is just the documentation. Un-degrade the women, and porn is just stupid pictures.

  8. river

    What about porn of just two people having sex? Not the corporate-type porn, just two people having sex who then both agree to post it on the internet.

  9. Twisty

    River, are you suggesting that amateur porn is not porn? Or possibly that amateur porn is somehow more benign than professional porn? I would be interested to hear arguments supporting either of these notions.

  10. Tony Patti

    Would images exist of women displaying themselves to provoke arousal? Is it simply that we would expect women to cease to desire to arouse men?

    Would that be sexual without being oppressive?

    If all heterosexual sex is rape, then amateur porn is just as oppressive as any other kind of porn.

    Or if anything that is visual that leads to male arousal is porn, then the goal would be to shut down male arousal completely. Men could then be managed for procreative purposes using drugs and carefully-constructed cages that they could not see out of.

    A truly liberated woman, free from all vestiges of male oppression, would be happy to live in a world where men are finally cleansed of any sexual thought, since being able to determine the oppressiveness of a sexual thought present in the male mind is so uncertain.

  11. Steve Pick

    The question I always have when this discussion comes around is this: What about gay male porn? Isn’t the assumption applicable that gay men are fully human? Don’t guys enjoy the fantasy – or, hell, the visual stimulation of watching people have sex without necessarily wanting to be there, too – and then, once they’re done, go back to believing those men to be human?

    Now, there’s plenty to dislike in porn, and there’s plenty to dislike about the oppression of women. I simply don’t believe that even under a world wherein all men and all women are able to be viewed as fully human at all times, there wouldn’t be a strong desire among some – probably many – to see sexual behavior and exhibition.

  12. Twisty

    As long as the male reaction to images of women-as-sexbots has at its root a sense of gender-based entitlement, those images will be porn. When applying my hypothesis, the sex imagery itself–if it could exist in a sort of gender-neutral vacuum–is secondary to the nature of the response it generates.

    I can’t pretend to know what goes on in a gay dude’s mind when he’s thumbing through an issue of “Hot Teen Butts,” but I postulate that images of men, gay or straight, are not processed in the same way as images of women on accounta the difference in class status between the two groups.

  13. Steve Pick

    Your postulation is interesting, Twisty, and probably accurate in a large number of cases. But, as you’ve said, that oppression of women happens first, thus leading to this interpretation of female sexual imagery. Now, from a bisexual male point of view, I can tell you that processing images at least strikes me as working the same way all the time.

  14. Twisty

    Allow me to clarify: when I say that the images aren’t processed the same way, I don’t mean that they follow different neural pathways or anything like that. I mean what I pretty much always mean whenever I imagine myself to be striking a blow for the cause: that within a patriarchal paradigm, where women are subject to men, women are less than men. Therefore a picture of a naked woman has a sharply different meaning than does a picture of a naked feller.

    It’s super-way-difficult for me to believe, given that in our society women are defined in every imaginable respect in terms of men, that it’s even possible to avoid such distinctions. I mean, the good old patriarchy’s pretty deeply ingrained, you know, and we’re talking about a non-cerebral sexoid response.

  15. Crys T

    “Would images exist of women displaying themselves to provoke arousal? Is it simply that we would expect women to cease to desire to arouse men?”

    Yeah, God forbid we should expect men to, y’know, *change their OWN behaviour* and learn to be aroused by something other than women-as-lumps-of-meat “displaying” themselves to “provoke” arousal. God forbid that men should ever learn to become aroused by something so appalling as (oh, it’s so horrific I can barely bring myself to type the words!!!) personal interaction with a being they actually see as human.

    Oh lord, no, no, no, no, and NO again! This cannot be allowed to pass, surely.

    “A truly liberated woman, free from all vestiges of male oppression, would be happy to live in a world where men are finally cleansed of any sexual thought”

    See, it really is true: a lot of these guys DO equate porn with sex. You say that the former is bad and they automatically extrapolate that to mean you are anti the latter.

    And re Steve’s bringing up of gay porn: you know, it really does get a bit tiring when this happens–because it happens in every single discussion on porn. And every time it has to be pointed out that the dynamics between 2 gay men are NOT the same as those between a man and a woman. And can I also add–because surely someone is going to bring up the existence of lesbian porn any moment–that the dynamics between 2 women are not the same, either.

    But also, for the record, having seen quite a bit of both gay and lesbian porn, I would have to add that both have learned an awful lot of bad lessons from mainstream het porn regarding objectification and dehumanisation. My personal theory is this is because our whole society has become mentalised into thinking that sex is only truly “sexy” when it’s based on the dehumanisation of at least one person involved. Even if you don’t buy into that one 100%, I’m betting there is a residual trace of it at least.

  16. Ron Sullivan

    How would the pictures of hot naked chicks in a feminist end-state utopia differ from the pictures of naked chicks we have today…

    Gee, wouldn’t it be interesting to make the experiment?

  17. Anonymous

    I worried over defending the mention of gay porn quite a bit until I realized that while it is worth bringing up it ultimately doesn’t matter. The power structure in porn, in any performance, is not between man/woman, man/man, woman/woman, asian girl/octopus, but viewer and viewed. The viewer always has the power, watching a movie (or flipping through photographs) submitted for the viewer’s approval. And no matter the porn, the intended viewer is expected to be male, and the performers, no matter their gender, are subservient to the viewer. (see also: rock music)

    It should also be considered that, almost by definition, actors in any genre movie give up their humanity in service to the genre. Caricature is the norm across the board, and while I concede that women in porn are less than fully rounded (ahem) men in porn are no better fleshed out (ahem). Both sexes only exist for the benefit of the booty, and no matter the performance dynamics–even the dude getting it up the butt with a strap-on–both sexes serve male fantasy.

    As long as the predominant audience is male. Or rather, as long as it is patriarchal. An equally male and female audience of patriarchal persuasion is no different than a gang of frat boys. It seems to me, then, that the problem is not in getting mouthbreathers to stop watching porn, but to get enlightened folks to begin.

    Sysiphian tasks either way, yo.

    Becker

  18. homossouri

    I’m willing to concede that all “porn” which assumes a hetero male gaze is exploitive to some degree. But no one’s offered a convincing argument yet that gay or lesbian porn (made for a lesbian audience)is necessarily a reflection of the hetereopatriachal hegemony. I actually believe that to dismiss gay and lesbian “porn” in this manner is to mistakenly view authentic expressions of homosexual desire as something less than utterly revolutionary in the long term.

    One can find such expression distasteful or boring, I suppose, but that’s a different issue.

  19. Tony Patti

    “See, it really is true: a lot of these guys DO equate porn with sex. You say that the former is bad and they automatically extrapolate that to mean you are anti the latter.”

    The oppression of porn results in the sexual arousal of men. How are men to reconcile arousal and vision?

    Can sexual images of women that arouse men exist, free of any vestige of oppression? When I ask questions like this, serious questions, I don’t think it is simply to be mocked for equating porn with sex. One cannot pretend that the effect of porn under the patriarchy is not male arousal.

    It’s interesting that when I try to discuss male arousal Chrys equates male arousal with sex.

    To question the nature of male arousal is not to equate sex with porn, but to simply point out the essential problem of porn. And one aspect of male arousal that is equated with oppression.

    I believe that male arousal can be stimulated by methods other than monkey-see monkey-do idiocies; but the power of porn to corrupt and uphold the male perogative, even in people who are otherwise attempting to throw off oppression and the desire to oppress, is a knotty problem.

  20. yami

    Though I agree that much porn produced today (perhaps you’d extend this “much” to an “all”) is designed to arouse by way of degradation and objectification, setting this up as porn’s defining feature turns your argument from an interesting one into a tautology. Moreover, it goes against the common understanding of the word “pornography” that posits sexual arousal, in either the consumer’s response or producer’s intent, as the core feature of porn. Because the inherent-to-patriarchy link that you’re positing between imagery, arousal, and objecthood is the thing that people are most likely to disagree about, this confusion makes it hard to articulate the real points of contention.

    Also: my gay male friends definitely cast their club-scene experiences in terms of mutual objectification among equals. Their descriptions of feeling like pieces of meat certainly jive with my own experiences of gender-based objectification, but without the constant undercurrent of threats and inescapability. Based on what I’ve seen at gay bars, I’m beginning to think that feminist end-state utopia won’t eliminate sexual objectification, but will merely make it possible to choose where, how, and if we are objectified, at the possible cost of a lack of flexibility w.r.t. our participation in the casual sex/dating scene. I’d take that over the current situation, for sure.

  21. Crys T

    “The oppression of porn results in the sexual arousal of men. How are men to reconcile arousal and vision?”

    Tony, even though later in your post you refute this, you are still going on as if porn were the ONLY way in which men can ever experience sexual arousal. That may be true for some….but fuck it, if it is then THEY have a freaking problem. And even if it were true that porn were the absolute only way for any man on the planet to become aroused, that still doesn’t justify it. Your rights end where mine begin, and my right to be seen and treated as human far, far, far outweighs your right to get your rocks off.

    If you agree that there are in fact other ways for men to become aroused, then explore them rather than mooning on about porn.

    “Can sexual images of women that arouse men exist, free of any vestige of oppression?”

    Hypothetically, I suppose yes. But not in our culture as it exists now. The problem here is that you are not questioning why men feel they “need” or “deserve” to have images of other human beings designed explicitly to arouse them. And, btw, no one disputes that porn arouses men. What we are angry about is the insistence that, because of this, men somehow “need” porn and, worst of all, that this all somehow justifies the exploitation of women. As if getting a hard-on were the most important thing in life, more important than my right to my own humanity.

    The solution is quite simple: teach yourself to get off in ways that don’t require the dehumanisation and degradation of another human being. That isn’t impossible.

    “It’s interesting that when I try to discuss male arousal Chrys equates male arousal with sex.”

    No, not at all. You were the one who was talking as if porn were the one and only gateway to male arousal. And, forgive me if this seems dense, but I don’t imagine much sex involving males will take place if those males are not to some degree aroused. If, however, there are in fact other avenues to male arousal, well, then even debating the worth of a medium that depends on the exploitation of others is pretty damned indefensible, isn’t it? (and it would be indefensible even if there *were* no other ways for men to get horny, anyway…this is what you’re not seeing, that it doesn’t matter who’s getting however hot off this stuff, the mere fact that it’s causing real human misery is MORE IMPORTANT)

    “To question the nature of male arousal is not to equate sex with porn, but to simply point out the essential problem of porn.”

    And I have pointed out that the solution, though maybe not so easy to actually do, is easy enough to figure out. Teach yourself to get turned on in different ways. Most importantly, if you have sons, teach them different messages about sex and women than the ones you grew up on. Make them see women as people, not braindead fuck toys. You are operating on the assumption that there is something inherent in porn that will automatically result in male arousal, and this is simply not true. There are actually real, live straight men who don’t find porn arousing in the least. No, really: I’ve actually met some. And if you yourself came from a culture where sex was regarded as something requiring mutual respect, rather than a power-and-degradation game, you would find porn curious at best, repulsive at worst.

  22. Twisty

    Yami, I’m not saying that all porn is designed purposefully to arouse by way of degradation. I’m saying that no matter what it purports to do, or even what its viewers want it to do, porn cannot escape this untoward result. Why? The prevailing misogynist paradigm governing human interaction as a whole also governs porn. You are right, though; my whole argument hinges on this idea, and if you don’t accept it, we officially disagree.

    Homossouri makes the sanguine suggestion that gay and lesbian porn is not necessarily “a reflection of the heteropatriarchal hegemony” (an exquisite phrase). As a lesbo chick, I would certainly like to believe that, but I’m afraid experience forces me to subscribe to the view that the aforementioned hegemony–which is so overwhelmingly muscular it’s practically an entity in its own right–precludes the development of any “authentic” gay culture.

    While Tony’s argument–that male arousal is inescapably tied to oppression–is disturbing on multiple levels, Chrys T and I particularly despair of the “this is how it is, like it or lump it” subtext. Because if Tony is right, either an enlightened society such as the one to which Becker alludes (hi Becker!) will find it has very little use for the male species, or, more probably, there can be no enlightened society at all. Neither of these futures, I think we can agree, holds much allure.

    But man, have I ever got male arousal fatigue. I mean, you know what? I could care less about male arousal! I’m tired of having it shoved in my face, and I’m tired of having to be responsible for it, and I’m really tired of having to explain how feminism proposes to take care of it. It’s times like these when I enjoy shouting from the rooftops “male arousal can go take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut!”

  23. Crys T

    ” I’m really tired of having to explain how feminism proposes to take care of it”

    This is the bit that chaps my hide the most: that men expect feminism & feminists to be responsible for MEN’S behaviour. That they don’t see it’s up to THEM to work out new ways of approaching sex that don’t involve treating the other person(s) involved like pieces of shit.

  24. AndiF

    This is the bit that chaps my hide the most: that men expect feminism & feminists to be responsible for MEN’S behaviour. That they don’t see it’s up to THEM to work out new ways of approaching sex that don’t involve treating the other person(s) involved like pieces of shit.

    My modest proposal is to take all the men who think that fucking is something that men do to women and leave them in the desert for 40 years. I’ve read that this technique is a less invasive way than flooding to start over.

  25. Mark Early

    The reason it is percieved to be the female/feminists responsibility is due to the fact that male behavior will not change. The male has had it too good for far too long to just give up his position of expected entitlement. He is acting on several generations of ingrained taught behavior of how a male is expected to act. He does not see anything wrong with what he is doing. It helps to know what you are up against. The male who does treat females as equals other than just potential fuck partners is pretty rare.

  26. Tony Patti

    Nice comments, esp. Chrys T, even though I think she reads my words a little harshly, that’s what happens sometimes. What made me laugh the most was male arousal fatigue.

    Somebody should start a male arousal fatigue blog. God knows I’m sick of it, too.

    I’m drawn to look at all beautiful things, especially people, by many reasons, and I know that desire and the lust to oppress are not the most important. Most of my desires are driven by love.

    It’s really hard for a man to think of himself as participating in oppression but there it is. Instead of arguing or denying it, he should be glancing down between his legs and noticing how quickly the idea makes his dick shrink! Chortle snort wheeze honk chough!

  27. yami

    I’m sorry I misconstrued your definition, then. And doubtless there are rolling donut fetishists already, they just need some personal jetpacks to enable their fantasies.

  28. Crys T

    “I’m drawn to look at all beautiful things, especially people, by many reasons”

    We all are. I’m not unsympathetic to that. But I do believe that what is consider “beautiful” is also in large part socially constructed. And that it can differ even depending on what part of society you come from. For example, *I* peraonally do honestly and truly NOT find most of the women held up as “beautiful sex symbols” to be beautiful. I recognise, due to their body/facial types, that they will be amongst those considered beautiful, but most of them are not beautiful to me.

    On the other hand, the women I look at and find truly beautiful may or may not be considered that way by society at large….and they are rarely seen as sexually attractive by more than a minority.

    People are forever being dumbstruck by my insistence that if I could in fact change my looks, I’d much rather have Joan Jett’s body than, say, Nicole Kidman’s or Pamela Anderson Lee’s or whatever woman they’re currently ogling.

    Also, another thing I’ve noticed is that many men will find a woman beautiful or attractive until she expresses an opinion they find threatening. Then she’a suddenly an ugly dog.

    The main point is that I believe men are taught to find not only a very narrow range of women, but subservience in those women beautiful. I think that men who say they look at porn because they think women’s bodies are beautiful are actually finding that the pandering to their sense of entitlement is what’s beautiful.

  29. WookieMonster

    I’ve discovered over the years that “attractive” usually means good with makeup (or maybe willing to over apply makeup?). There are a great many “hot” women who would be butt ugly if you washed the pancake off.

  30. bah

    The problem with pornography is that it RUINS good sex for both women and men.

    By the time a man is with a woman regulary enough to begin exploring really good sex, his head is full of porn images and his responses are trained to respond to those images.

    Porn makes men see sex as an event where the woman will naturally be subservient and will perform certain acts.

    Men and women never get a chance to get in touch with what they really feel or to explore new things that are organic to their own expression of their own feelings. Instead, they just repeat the actions they see on the porn video and then wonder why it feels emtpy.

    There’s no love or compassion or humor or tenderness in porn. But great sex between partners contains all of those things.

    I don’t want to ban porn. I want us to reject it as an infantile and incredibly incomplete portrayl of something that can be very spiritual and profound.

  31. kitchenlogician

    I’ve just read Yami’s post and think it’s right on the money. Though much hetero porn is degrading, degradation is not the salient characterstic of porn (particularly gay porn.) Porn is by definition that which is designed to be sexually arousing. If arousal isn’t your cup of tea, then sure, all porn -would- strike you as baffling and degrading from the gitgo. But if you’re positing that ANY narrative constructed primarily with the viewer’s/reader’s potential arousal in mind is patently degrading, the underpinnings of the argument don’t seem to hold up under scrutiny.

  32. Twisty

    Kitchenlogician,

    I am definitely not saying that degradation is inherent in arousal. I’m saying that degradation is inherent in patriarchy. Even when the subject matter of a pornographic image is not degradation per se, porn exists to sublimate the male boner, which it does at the expense of women’s personhood. If our society were not based on the oppression of a sex class (i.e. women), arousal would not have this untoward consequence.

    Arousal is benign; porn is fucking mind control.

  33. Impulse

    “My hypothesis is that porn doesn’t degrade women; women, as a class, are already degraded. Porn is just the documentation. Un-degrade the women, and porn is just stupid pictures.”

    You’re once again committing yourself to the notion that images in themselves have no arousal value if there is no oppression. Do images have an inherent ability to arouse?

  1. Sour Duck's Link Blog

    I Blame the Patriarchy, Patriarchy-Blaming Q&A

    A great essay regarding porn from I Blame the Patriarchy.

  2. Quote of the Day « Anti-Porn Feminists

    [...] Twisty Faster, I Blame the Patriarchy [...]

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