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Feb 03 2006

Art vs Porn: For Some Reason, The Debate Rages On


Winner of the National Mook Award

In yesterday’s discussion on, among other things, pornography, reader Christopher poses a few questions the answers to which are right up my patriarchy-blaming alley. Rather than hide their brilliance in the murky subumbra of the comments section (and because everybody loves a post about porn), I unveil my remarks here. I would like to take credit for them, but, as another smartypants commenter pointed out, “the ideas on this blog are nothing new.”

“Are all scenes of sex degrading?” inquires Christopher. “What about stories or drawings that don’t involve real humans? What makes something porn as opposed to art?”

The official Twisty position on porn is that in a patriarchy all commodified sexual imagery (photographic, verbal, cartoony, et al) is exploitative, which condition relies entirely on patriarchy’s having previously commodified women generally. In other words, if this were a society in which women’s humanity were not a matter of debate, where we were not viewed in terms of our position on the fuckbag continuum (i.e. “too young to fuck,” “too fat to fuck,” “too pregnant to fuck,” “just right to fuck”), pornography could not exist.

That’s right. This is my radical hypothesis: where women are not the sex class, women’s sexploitation cannot take place.

Though they delude themselves that their titillation does not depend on the humiliation of subordinate beings, men vehemently and almost universally disagree with the aforementioned hypothesis. That’s because they are empirically aware that prurience and dominance are central to the male experience, and cannot imagine a world without it. They insist that patriarchy can never be abolished to the extent I advocate. Their identities are so closely linked to the sexploitation of an underclass that they believe the overthrow of patriarchy is tantamount to their own castration. They say, “you’re crazy, Twisty, if you think we can part with the Male Gaze. It is hardwired straight to the male tentpitchular lobe.” They cannot conceive of having a class-neutral reaction — a reaction that doesn’t revolve around some sense of porkational entitlement — to a picture of a naked woman. What would happen to “desire” if men were no longer consumed with judging the women around them in terms of our degree of conformity to the fuckbag ideal? The human race would die out!

Of course, all that would really happen is that women would be human beings. The titillating, supposedly-transgressive-yet-doggedly-mainstream drama of the male domination fetish would vanish. “Raunch,” like other fads, such as trepanning, virgin sacrifice, and strirrup pants, would exist only in the quaint oblivion of yore. Actual human sex would be conducted in a manner consistent with preserving the dignity of all parties involved. Pictures of human sex would have an impact similar to images of an amoeba dividing in half.

Sexy-men and the bitches they dominate say, “Twisty, you humorless old prude, where’s the fun in that?”

Poor sexy-men with their pussy-shredding Viagra! Poor bitches in their Japanese fetish shoes! Enlightenment is fun. Try to live your lives on a level that does not emulate “Jackass,” why dontcha?

Christopher wants to know why all forms of narrative representation — drama, fiction, art — aren’t “exploitative of the human condition,” since most such narratives “attempt to arouse our emotions by allowing us to vicariously view the experiences of others. Why, in the abstract, sex should be more objectionable than violence, or death, or anything else is something I have yet to grasp.”

For one thing, there is not a designated “violence” class or a “death” class, but there is a sex class, and images that seek to normalize its oppression are themselves oppressive. Furthermore, in our wonderful world pornography, which is violence, and sex, which is women, are now synonymous. Thus the experience of pornography is neither narrative nor vicarious; it is desirable specifically because it provokes a primal physical reponse independent of cognition or intellectual analysis. This universal availability of this response is dependent on the aforementioned violent oppression of the sex class.

When in doubt as to whether the work in front of you is porn or art, I suggest this simple test: does the “emotion” you experience when you consume these representations elevate your humanity? Or does it reduce you to a miserable, drooling voyeur?

Or consider this scenario: a contingent of tasteful, evolved aliens arrives from the planet Obstreperon. Because life (and patriarchy-blaming scenarios) imitates science fiction, their mission is to weed out the riffraff from this corner of the galaxy. They’ve heard complaints that Earth is a big, fat, greedy sex shop, dragging property values down in Sector 3, embarrassing the neighbors and scaring their kids. See that big alien with the giant head who looks suspiciously like me? Her brain-ray is poised to annihilate our species unless we can convince her that we have something of philosophical value to contribute to the cosmos. You are elected to save the planet, and you have just one chance to prove that we are not a civilization of priapic redneck morons. Do you show this charming, good-looking alien your copy of A Room Of One’s Own, or do you whip out How To Become An Alpha Male: The Lazy Man’s Way To Easy Sex and Romance With 20 or More Women A Month?

[thanks Kelley Bell for the repulsive alpha male link]

104 comments

  1. Dim Undercellar

    YAY! Thank you, Twisty!

  2. Finn

    >When in doubt as to whether the work in front of you is porn or art, I suggest this simple test: does the “emotion” you experience when you consume these representations elevate your humanity? Or does it reduce you to a miserable, drooling voyeur?

  3. Steph

    Wow, I’m glad you pulled that out of the comments. Well said.

    And now I have the word porkational to add to my vocabularly.

  4. Liz

    the murky subumbra of the comments section

    the male tentpitchular lobe

    “Raunch,” like other fads, such as trepanning, virgin sacrifice, and strirrup pants, would exist only in the quaint oblivion of yore.

    This kind of writing is exactly why I keep a defibrillator handy when I read my morning Twisty. Taking to my divan with the smelling salts was no longer adequate.

  5. anne

    Twisty, you rock. I have no other words aside from – thank you.

  6. Ms Kate

    Yikes, Twisty. You done gone all Socratic on us!

  7. Kelley

    Twisty rules!!! All hail Twisty, Undisputed Ruler of the patriarchy-blamers!!!!

  8. tiffany

    I must say, Twisty, while i normaly agree with you, I think that you have gone a bit far there. Yes there is a sex class, and yes some women are (unfortunatly) exploited, but you can not blame all porn on this. There are men in porn for straight women and men in porn for homosexuals, some of those men too, are (also unfortunitly) expoited, but not /all/ men and women in the pornogrophy are. Many choose to be in it. Maybe the problem is not abolishing it, but regulating it and not making those who choose to be in it pariahs.

  9. laughingmuse

    Rawk.

    That was elegantly said, and right the fuck on.

  10. jozet

    I have only just met your mind…and yet, I think I am in love.

    Glad to have found you.

  11. Twisty

    O Tiffany, let us not be so literal. All porn is modeled after het porn, and functions under the same dominance/submission paradigm. Without the sex class, which includes bottoms of all stripes, there can be no porn.

    I hope to preclude one of those “but some women ‘choose’ to be pornographed” discussions with this remark: a member of an oppressed class does not have agency sufficient to allow true choice.

  12. Penny

    Righteous.

    And “National Mook Award” is funny.

  13. Cass

    A very good essay by Robert Jensen (who’s been a large part of my education on this).

    http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~rjensen/freelance/pornography&cruelty.com

    It sounds like a cliche to say that porn “objectifies” women, but I sometimes wonder if most if not all forms of violence can be boiled down to an attempt to turn a subject into an object. The model works with rape and domestic violence, at least, and murder and warfare (turning a living human into a corpse, per Simone Weill) would seem the ultimate expressions of this.

    Its also good to remind people every once in a while that enlightenment fun, light feels better than darkness and love pays more dividends than control.

  14. bvbgb

    I wonder what you mean by “all porn is modeled after het porn, and functions under the same dominance/submission paradigm.” If the sex class is the foundation of the dominance/submission paradigm, what is its counterpart is, for example, gay male porn? I can see how the top/bottom binary would serve a similar purpose, but I think that increasingly, a significant portion of gay porn does away with such a distinction. What kind of titillating mechanism operates then? As a gay man, I’d like you to tell me that my desire is not based on the “humiliation of subordinate beings”…

  15. Cass

    O.K., try this:

    http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~rjensen/freelance/pornography&cruelty.htm

  16. tisha

    I’ve been subjected to porn at random moments during my life and I can only say this: The day I see a sex film showing a woman REALLY getting off – - – I mean, really having an orgasm, not faking it – - – then perhaps, perhaps, we’ll be getting somewhere.

    I ain’t seen sech an animal yet. Not that I’m looking. Because a film like that would be boring to men.

  17. Sylvanite

    Aagh! My previous comment seems to have disappeared into the ether. This is why I don’t really post much of substance here. Stupid work network.

    Anyways, I noted that John Alexander’s other work of genius is How to Be Her Best Lover Ever. Surely this is not really compatible with being an “alpha male?”

  18. Finn

    I goofed up my comment earlier…

    Twisty sez:

    “When in doubt as to whether the work in front of you is porn or art, I suggest this simple test: does the “emotion” you experience when you consume these representations elevate your humanity? Or does it reduce you to a miserable, drooling voyeur?”

    I meant to sez:

    I think you’ll have a hard time finding many hetero men who can clearly make this distinction. And, since everyone else lives in the shadow of said hetero men, we’d have to assume that everyone else shapes their response to art either to match or to rebel from that model.

    Generally speaking, I’d say the gay male would tend to exaggerate the response, while women might emulate it to gain favor or rebel against it and blame the patriarchy.

    You’re the art history major, so I’m sure you’ll do a better job coming up with borderline pieces, but for some reason, Lautrec’s sketches of “hookers backstage” leap to mind.

    -finn

  19. Ms Kate

    I hope to preclude one of those “but some women ‘choose’ to be pornographed” discussions with this remark: a member of an oppressed class does not have agency sufficient to allow true choice.

    So, my question to you, my wise instructor, is:

    At what point does the attitude that “women lack agency” spill over into the patronizing attitude that “women lack capacity” to make choices? At what point are we moving from protective feminists to class and education patriarchs?

    I think this frangible line between understanding the limits of choices and declaring that certain people must be protected or have their choices restricted by wiser heads is another boundary we must explore.

  20. Twisty

    bvbgb in #14: “As a gay man, I’d like you to tell me that my desire is not based on the “humiliation of subordinate beings”…”

    Gay culture, alas, does not exist in a vacuum, as much as we’d like it to. Like all subcultures, it is a wholly-owned subsidiary of patriarchy,and like most subcultures, it also desires to be assimiliated (some call it “accepted”) by patriarchy. Somebody’s always gotta be “the girl” in every relationship. Even in lesbian ones.

    Please note that when I address these broad issues with sweeping strokes, I do not imply that every individual dude–for instance, you personally– gets off on humiliating his partner. I allude, rather, to the tendency of inimate relationships overall to mimic the dynamic deemed standard by the dominant culture. Gay marriage, for example, boggles my mind. Marriage, with its historical roots in the ownership of another, less sovereign human being, is the foundation of patriarchy. A more thoroughgoing acceptance of oppressive mores I cannot conceive of, yet everyone wants to get married more than anything. Where do you suppose that’s coming from?

  21. Steph

    I don’t know if I agree women lack agency to make choices either, but I would say that the idea of relational autonomy applies: sure women have choices, but from a menu of options that are not of our choosing.

    So being in porn is a choice, but in patriarchy it’s just one of so many choices on the sex-class/domination menu.

  22. Sarah

    Twisty that was so well-written I don’t even know where to begin. Reading you is truly a privilege. Please keep up the awesome work!
    Cass, Robert Jensen is just plain wonderful – we need to study him and find out how he got that way….and apply it to all of our future sons.

  23. Twisty

    Obviously, Ms Kate, my argument is not that women don’t have the intellectual chops to direct their own lives. I’m sayin only that patriarchy severely limits the choices available to us. It puts the squeeze on economically and culturally and socially. Liberate us from oppression, from a culture in which rape is considered normal, and presto! Agency is restored.

    In that perfect world, maybe some women would still decide that taking it up ass for a living beats being an astronaut or a photojournalist or a novelist. I’m pretty glad I have the resources that allow me to avoid that up-the-ass line of work, personally, since I definitely don’t have the temperament for it.

  24. Les

    Um, I like porn. Specifically, I like lesbian porn made for lesbians. I’ve seen women actually, really getting off in said movies. They’re hot. I dig them. I also like /On Our Backs/ the Lesbian porn mag. People I knew from my undergrad days have been in it (that one girl in Mary Morse Hall who was so hot was the centerfold one month. yow!).

    Also, I got gay married. I didn’t do if for the person ownership, I did it for the tax benefits, property rights, etc. Then I got gay divorced and let me tell you that having a legal frame work makes a contentious horrible divorce a lot easier. If you’re going to have battling lawyers, it helps if they can cite precedent and case law.

  25. Sam

    does the “emotion” you experience when you consume these representations elevate your humanity? Or does it reduce you to a miserable, drooling voyeur?

    This was said by Robert Jensen but it was in informal conversation so I can’t quote exactly just paraphrase, “Art expands the mind’s horizons and opens us to new possibilities and points of view while pornography colonizes the mind and stifles creativity.”

    Jensen just wrote a new article this week for anyone who’s interested, The Paradox of Pornography

  26. Tony Patti

    One of your most brilliant essays. Isn’t it wonderful how inspiring responding to someone’s questions can inspire one to attempt to explain ever-more clearly principles that are very close to your heart?

    I remember debating this very point with you such a long time ago, and look how long it took for me to truly understand the feminist perspective. I think, with time, many others who wrestle with this concept will come around, too.

    I believe it’s extremely important to get this idea fully understood: The sex class, the male privilege that enjoys it, especially when using pornorgraphy to achive orgasmic release, and the objectification of others. Only once this has been understood can the discussion move on to the thornier issue of how on earth will I ever enjoy sex/masturbate unless I utilize the assumption of male privilege, dehumanize the objects of my desire, or satisfy my gaze with transgressive scenes of hyper-sexuality?

    At first, I tended to simply reject the idea that porn (or dominant submissive sex play, for that matter) was bad because I knew I needed it to get off, and that led me to believe that all the other attendant evils weren’t ‘so bad as all that’. Now I know that mixing the two ideas is the problem, and I can see it coming out in all the comments that imply what I used to say: I can’t hope to enjoy sex under a patriarchy if this is true, therefore it can’t be true!

    I have my ideas as to what non-patriarchal sex might be like, but this is your blog, not mine. I do have to say that it couldn’t possibly be as needy and greedy as it seems to be these days.

  27. tisha

    Les, I didn’t know there was porn made FOR lesbians, just fake-lesbian porn for the male gaze.

    Fancy that, I’ve been living under a rock.

  28. BadBeliever

    Twisty,

    I beg you to comment on making fun of godbags via “shocking and mocking
    cartoon images of their prophets/profits!” It’s not nice to degrade godbags across religions (just THEIR women).

    at first, refusing to be edited by their government…

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060129/wl_nm/religion_libya_denmark_dc

    (on Feb 1st)

    then, after being edited by other people’s government…

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060130/wl_nm/religion_denmark_cartoons_dc

    (Feb 2nd)

  29. morgan

    Yeah, I’ve never seen lesbian porn either or even heard of it. I think it is probably just what tisha said, an illusion, something made for men, cause really the whole industry ain’t run or subsisting on the money donations of women. Like any business they cater to their audience.

  30. Mandos

    Pictures of human sex would have an impact similar to images of an amoeba dividing in half.

    This is the part I have the most difficulty believing. It’s of the same status as saying that “pictures of food wouldn’t make me hungry.” If so, I invite you to stop posting food photos to your web site. Because the food you post does, in fact, make me hungry!

  31. tisha

    Can someone tell me what a “mook” is? Another word to add to my patriarchy-blaming vocabluary?

  32. Ed

    While I disagree with many things on this site, overjoyed cannot possibly state the feeling I have when a feminist says that pornography degrades women. I can’t count how many women and men claiming to promote female rights and dignity have said pornography is OK. Quick to defend Roe and slow to stop porn which is a deep seeded cause for the lack of respect women have in this country. Porn does reduce all involved to objects, stripping the love, respect and overal emotional satisfaction from the sexual act. If I may go one step further though, this is another reason why people should be married before they have sex. Sex should be a complete self giving of one another in love and not an objectification of either party. Not waiting (and contraception I might add) only increases the objectification mentality as it uses sex as an end in and of itself. Premarital sex only appears to say in a relationship “my orgasm is more important than you and your love”. Anyway, I was happy to read that and I thank you for allowing me to post this on your site.

  33. LMYC

    I’d disagree on one thing here (although there’s lots of food for thought in this post): I’d disagree that there is no “violence” class in this country.

    Ask a black male.

    they are the “violence” class like women are the “sex” class. Just like a naked image of tits means “sex” (despite the fact that fully half of the population would consider a naked MALE part to mean “sex”), a stoic-looking black male face staring into a TV screen means “crime.”

    Both are narrow and wrong and evil. Why the fuck should violence and crime — participated in gleefully by all ethnicities — be regarded as the sole domain of ONE? Why should sex, which is done by BOTH genders (or I should say all or most genders) be represented by what happens to get only one of them off?

    That’s my main beef with porn — that’s it’s narrow. Right now our view of porn is like a world where you get to eat nothing but hamburgers. Some people like them well enough, but others just don’t and can never manage to get up a whole lot of enthusiasm for it.
    “What? Are you anti-eating?” is the question lobbed at them. No, they aren’t. But in a world where tandoori chicken doesn’t even EXIST, it’s hard to argue that you like to stuff your gob just fine, but you don’t like the menu.

  34. Perinteger

    Twisty,

    I’ve seen you make several references to a sex class in the month or so I’ve been following your blog. I’ve been trying to piece together your definition of a sex class, but I’m afraid the picture I’m coming up with seems incomplete. This hasn’t been a problem to date – I expect the contextual clues will eventually clarify the matter for me, but understanding your most recent assertion really does depend on first understanding your definition of a sex class. Could you spell out what you mean by a the term “sex class”? What, in your view, characterizes a sex class?

  35. Penny

    Re: mook:

    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=mook

  36. Sharoni

    Many women lack agency because they lack education to know that they could actually HAVE a choice. Why do women “choose” to be in porn? Why would anyone choose to objectify themselves in front of thousands, if not millions of unknown strangers? What would they get out of that but payment for the original objectification. Surely they don’t hang about porn shops, waiting to see if anyone buys the mags/films/videos/whatever they might happen to appear in and see if said anyone drools over them in particular? They are uneducated in the choices available to them, and so they lack agency to make the choice not to be objectified.

  37. morgan

    “But in a world where tandoori chicken doesn’t even EXIST, it’s hard to argue that you like to stuff your gob just fine, but you don’t like the menu.”

    A-Fucking-Men

  38. LCGillies

    Shulamith Firestone, writing in 1970 (Dialectic of Sex):
    —–
    The first women are fleeing the massacre, and sharing and tottering, are beginning to find each other. Their first move is a careful joint observation, to resensitise a fractured consciousness. This is painful: no matter how many levels of consciousness one reaches, the problem always goes deeper. It is everywhere. The division yin and yang pervades all culture, history, economics, nature itself; modern Western versions of sex discrimination are only the most recent layer. To so heighten one’s sensitivity to sexism presents problems far worse than the black militant’s new awareness of racism: feminists have to question, not just all of Western culture, but the organisation of culture itself, and further, even the very organisation of nature. Many women give up in despair: if that’s how deep it goes they don’t want to know. Others continue strengthening and enlarging the movement, their painful sensitivity to female oppression existing for a purpose: eventually to eliminate it.
    —–
    Somewhere else she wrote that feminist success will mean the disappearance of sexual difference.

  39. Ed

    “Marriage, with its historical roots in the ownership of another, less sovereign human being, is the foundation of patriarchy. A more thoroughgoing acceptance of oppressive mores I cannot conceive of, yet everyone wants to get married more than anything.”

    Forgive me, I didn’t want to, if you chose to display my other comment, take up any more space on the board with a similar one, but I felt this needed to be said regarding your comment above.

    Of course great abuses of marriage have occured. These are deplorable, but the idea of marriage and the correctly practiced application thereof are the solution to the problem of objectifying women. Foster respect, friendship, love. Then, after vowing to be devoted to one another introduce sex. The physical part will get better as the couple adapts to each other but the friendship aspect and respect take time to truly bloom and only with those can anyone hope to have a truly self giving relationship. Sex will only hamper the devolopment of those crucial components by introducing an act designed for complete self giving. Only with a sincere vow “for better or worse” can anyone give their whole self. It is in that giving that oppression of women will end, not in its destruction.

  40. Mandos

    But in a world where tandoori chicken doesn’t even EXIST, it’s hard to argue that you like to stuff your gob just fine, but you don’t like the menu.

    But it seems to me that Twisty is not just saying that the menu is too narrow, she’s wondering why there is a menu in the first place. And so, why is there a menu? It’s a wonderful question.

    To so heighten one’s sensitivity to sexism presents problems far worse than the black militant’s new awareness of racism: feminists have to question, not just all of Western culture, but the organisation of culture itself, and further, even the very organisation of nature.

    I agree completely. So. The organization of nature. What is it? What are you going to do about it? What does it mean to question it?

  41. LCGillies

    It means we are not controlled by nature—we embody it but we can transcend it. In fact, that is what being human is. Following on from Twisty’s test question about art vs. pornography, you might say, “porn is sex for animals”.

  42. LMYC

    … everyone wants to get married more than anything. Where do you suppose that’s comingm from?

    From a desire to put a partner on my health insurance. From a desire to make her my executrix and know that it’s going to fucking STICK. From a desire to leave my house and my property to someone who matters to me in the event that I croak, and know that the government isn’t going to do what was done to that guy in Texas who is now being charged back fucking rent to live on a ranch that, by all rights, he should now OWN.

    Come on — at its bare bones, marriage is about property, insurance, and housing. With that one two-syllable word, I could cover all that stuff. Who gets my 401K, who gets my pension, my SS benefits, who I can insure, who I leave my fucking stuff to. Don’t call me a fucking patriarchl brainwashed twit because that stuff matters to me. It matters to everyone else — health care doesn’t come free. You know that quite well by now, I’d wager.

    FUCK romance. Marriage is about who gets my shit when I die and whether we get the health care we need in the event we need it instead of being shunted to a “hurry up and die already” hospice for the indigent.

  43. LMYC

    Forgot — there’s also the issue of kids, for the reproductively inclined among us. Now, I can’t fathom why the hell anyone’d want to shove one of those little bologna loaves out, but for those who do, in the event they die, that one short word “marriage” can ensure that their WIFE OR HUSBAND raises the child afterwords, like in any other fucking family, instead of having the kid taken away by Mommy’s mommy and daddy, who will proceed to explain to the unlucky little sprog at great length until it turns 18 and moves out that Mommy and her “roommate” were actual evil reprobates who didn’t love them.

    Again — not in a relationship, NO desire to have any humans glimpsing sunlight for the first time from out MY cunt. But damn it, it’s preposterous to act like that shit doesn’t count. Sure, you can run around filling out half a billion hole-filled forms to try to plug up the leaks before you croak or one of you gets sick, but with ONE STINKING STUPID LITTLE CEREMONY, you can get it all.

    Goddamned right we need marriage equality. And it ain’t about hearts and flowers.

  44. Liz

    Shulamith Firestone, writing in 1970 (Dialectic of Sex)

    Whoa, deja vu, serious flashback! I was there back in 1970. Does anybody still read Shulamith Firestone? Kate Millett? Ti-Grace Atkinson? Or did they shoot themselves in the feet when they declared that love was central to women’s oppression, in that it served to persuade the oppressed to accept her own oppression.

  45. Twisty

    You know, LMYC, after I wrote about that about the violence/death class, I started thinking maybe I had my head up my butt. I’m pretty sure that anyone who is destitute is a member of one or both. For instance, if you get cancer and you got no health insurance and no money, sayonara! You’re in the death class. Et cetera.

    What I don’t get about the gay marriage movement is that, instead of doing what I would do, which is get all militant about changing laws so that domestic arrangements aren’t required to mirror heterosexual marriages in order to benefit from health insurance and pension stuff, the movement seems to be about strengthening the patriarchal paradigm. Which is why I also don’t understand why the godbags are against homos gettin’ married. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

  46. Twisty

    Ed, you old romantic you. The solution to the problem of women’s oppression is not, alas, marriage. It is the abolition of gender. Nice try, though.

  47. Lorenzo

    Liz,

    Yeah. While I disagree with the particulars of how Firestone developed a historical materialist understanding of gender, I found her work fascinating and it has formed the foundation upon which I’ve been developing my own historical materialist understanding of gender.

    Anyway, onto the issue of porn.

    Look, I think the problem should actually be pretty easy to understand (though it took me a while to get it);

    Porn is the use of women’s bodies to satisfy male desires, including the patriarchal desire to see women’s sexuality as consisting primarily or entirely of the desire to satisfy male sexual desires. Porn has nothing to do with women’s sexuality, and the personal feelings of the women performing in it are irrelevant to the wider social context because the use of women’s bodies in porn necessarily includes the women pretending that they like it, regardless of their personal views.

    I don’t think I could make it any clearer; Porn is about the active desires of the male audience being satisfied using the bodies of women (objectification) and the message that women’s sexuality consists entirely or primarily of satisfying male sexual desires (constructed as the sex class).

    Women are the sex class because women’s sexuality is socially constructed as performance.

  48. Dim Undercellar

    Oh, god, porn.

    We have so much anti-porn data swimming around on our blog that I keep forgetting that there are people out there who don’t know how hideously it affects women.

    If I had gotten my lazy ass up to finish our archive project, I’d have it all at my fingertips to hand you. As it is, I only have this list of studies that quantify the real-world damage porn causes to everyone who has to live in a society with people who consume it.

    one angry girl has a great page dealing with porn myths that pretty muchs shoots down every pro-porn argument I’ve ever heard, and her Anti-Porn Resource Center is fabulous.

  49. Dim Undercellar

    Is “porn” one of the words your spam filter chokes on, I wonder?

  50. LMYC

    I think that, ideally, the best thing to do would be to have NO “marriage” at all as such. There would be some sort of civil household contract — basically, civil unions for everyone instead of marriages.

    And you could do it however you wanted — siblings who make a household together, a parent and child who live together, two (or more) memmbers of either sex who just agree to make a household or some sort.

    Sign this contract, you’ve got a “civil union” in the eyes of the state. If you want to go to church and wear a white dress that costs three grand, then that’s your decision. But the state will certify your inheritance, insurance, and other property and child-rearing arrangement legally with a civil union.

    THAT is what a truly civilized culture will do.

    For now, I want marriage. We want to drain the swamp, but we have to kill a few gators before we do it. We need a short-term and a long-term solution.
    And we must be hanging in difference queer circles, cuz the ONLY discussions I ever hear are the “over a thousand rights” discussions about precisely what I’m bringing up — who to leave your shit to and how to get people insured and make sure someone you love raises your kids after you croak. Any mention of “romance” or any of that crap is NEVER part of the marriage campaigners’ schpiel where I am. I’ve literally only ever heard it used to discredit them.

  51. LMYC

    Actually, regards porn, I think one of the best descriptions of it I ever read was by, oddly enough, Naomi Wolf.

    She said that the woman in the magazine wasn’t a woman but a two-dimensional woman-shaped blank. That the fantasy was not that she might come ot life, but that she never would.

    The ultimate male fantasy — 100% certified, human-free pussy. On tap, whenever you want, without the tedium and annoyance of having to deal with a single living soul.

  52. Chris Clarke

    What I don’t get about the gay marriage movement is that, instead of doing what I would do, which is get all militant about changing laws so that domestic arrangements aren’t required to mirror heterosexual marriages in order to benefit from health insurance and pension stuff, the movement seems to be about strengthening the patriarchal paradigm.

    Well, the food at Woolworth’s lunch counter sucked, and buying it meant bolstering the finances of a racist company, but I don’t think it was a bad idea to insist that everyone have an equal chance to get sick on Woolworth’s stale tuna melts.

  53. Twisty

    Well, now, see, here’s Chris being all realistic when he knows full well that this is a feminist fantasy blog. And not only that, he’s purposely giving me a nervous breakdown with that gratuitous allusion to stale food.

  54. Miliana

    Talk about shock and awe. Shocked by the brilliance, and awed by the cogent and worthy discourse found within the comments.

    Twisty, I’ve been reading and lurking for a long time, and while I’d love to leave a pithy, appropriate comment on this (or any one of a huge number of posts during my lurkdom) I am, sadly for me, quite outclassed.

    My patriarchy-blaming skills are improving just reading your work, for which you have my thanks.

  55. Burrow

    Hooray!!!

    Good post

    (and yes, i still read Firestone, et al.)

  56. antelope

    I’m afraid to do a search on this, but I remember seeing an article saying that one of the most effective anti-porn-addiction programs was to have guys who couldn’t stop looking at the stuff contort their OWN bodies into some of the poses most commonly seen in porn. A lot of them weren’t flexible enough to manage it, but they had to try for some sort of approximation & then hold it for a minute or two.

    Apparently, these guys felt the need to believe that a woman was feeling comfortable, happy & sexy when she had her picture taken, and finding out that was completely impossible made it difficult for them to enjoy the pictures anymore. This totally supports what Lorenzo was saying about the male need to pretend that women get off by satisfying male desire, but it seems to me it contradicts the idea that men who use porn are getting off on even a subconscious awareness that people are being oppressed & objectified for their benefit.

    On the other hand, I often think that we need to invent some new category of sub-sub-subconsciousness to explain a great deal of male behavior, or maybe anti-consciousness.

  57. Chris Clarke

    Well, now, see, here’s Chris being all realistic when he knows full well that this is a feminist fantasy blog. And not only that, he’s purposely giving me a nervous breakdown with that gratuitous allusion to stale food.

    Hey, feel free to edit my comment so that it includes a mesquite grill. And a unicorn.

  58. JoVE

    You said it. I particularly like your little art or porn test. Simple but effective.

  59. Ed Anger

    Is anyone here even slightly disconcerted to have landed on the same side of an issue as the godbags, even if the reasons *are* different?

  60. Becker

    Hey! I finally get a chance to share my unicorn recipes!

  61. Violet Socks

    Perinteger: Could you spell out what you mean by a the term “sex class”? What, in your view, characterizes a sex class?

    If I may? Perinteger, perhaps an illustration will help:

    When MTV started, all the videos featured fully-dressed male rock stars being fawned over by nameless lingerie-clad, high-heeled female sexbots. Then the Pointer Sisters did a video, and at first I expected a kind of reverse thing where the Sisters would be fawned over by gorgeous nameless men. Instead, the video featured the Pointer Sisters — the stars! in their own video! — tarted up as lingerie-clad, high-heeled sexbots, lolling about exactly like the nameless sexbots in the male stars’ videos. Get it?

  62. Becker

    Say, Violet, given that women are relegated to the sex class, could it then be said that men are of the power class? If so, might this explain why strong women and submissive men are denigrated, as sort of class traitors?

  63. Ed

    Well Twisty, I am inclined to respectfully disagree. Men and women are different in more than a physical sense. While I believe, and rightly so, that women and men are equal in dignity and standing (or for the sake of argument should be)I think that to meld women and men into one gender would cause the loss of something truly precious. Both genders have something different and beautiful to share with the world that are uniquley theirs. Spiritualy, mentally, and physically men and women complete and change one another. It is in this encounter, and through love, that the two genders transform individuals and society allowing us to transcend our own failings to achieve self-giving love.

  64. Nancy

    sWell Twisty, I am inclined to respectfully disagree. Men and women are different in more than a physical sense. While I believe, and rightly so, that women and men are equal in dignity and standing (or for the sake of argument should be)I think that to meld women and men into one gender would cause the loss of something truly precious. Both genders have something different and beautiful to share with the world that are uniquley theirs. Spiritualy, mentally, and physically men and women complete and change one another. It is in this encounter, and through love, that the two genders transform individuals and society allowing us to transcend our own failings to achieve self-giving love..

    Gag… ackk… ackkk…. ralph!

    (And I’m hetero.)

    If men and women are so incredibly different, then there’s no need to fear that “women and men (will meld) into one gender.”

    The fact that you think such a thing is possible means that you think they are pretty similar.

    And I wonder where your beautiful man-woman completion leaves GLBT and inter-sexed people.

  65. Carpenter

    This porn discussion is very interesting. So I would like to ask peoples opinions of a scenario involving porn

    I am a straight female. I enjoy looking at dick. There are not many outlets for a girl like me, even erotica for women by women. For example sweet action magazine runs under the motto ‘porn for girls’ I dont know what porn for girls is supposed to be but the magazine features tons of annoying hipster gender stereotyping articles and adds and is run by the staggeringly assholish american apparel exec. I have found that most erotic writing by women for women is full of sexist patriarchy supporting cliches, men easily physically overpowering women, women who are virgins/never achieved orgasms before meeting the man of thier dreams, general submissivness etc.

    So recently I purchased a volume of Tom of Finland comics. These are by a gay male artist featuring very burly men banging the hell out of each other. There aren’t exclusive tops and bottoms and there are no women aside from some rare exceptions.
    Tom one wrote that his characters are happy to be having sex, and generally I think the images are pretty hot and fun. Since I do not find female exploitation sexy at all, and since straight porn is full of it I had to look elsewhere tofind erotic images that workes for me, ie pictures of hot guy on guy action with no fied sub/dom roles. Does my desire to look at dick support the patriarchy?Does it do this in spite of my quest to avoidimages that subjugate/objectify women? If so is it becuase gay erotica doesn’t at all escape the male gaze? Or is the desire to lookat dick at all fundementally patriarchal?

  66. Christopher

    So, here’s a question I have about gay marriage, and I guess gay porn for that matter.

    How are the membership in the different classes determined in gay relationships?

    I mean, in the heterosexual world the woman is the sex class, and she’s put into that class by virtue of biological gender. But with gay relationships, they can’t just make the woman the subordinate class. ASo how is the subordinate class determined, and how important is this difference?

    On another subject, I’m not so sure about the analogy between pictures of food and pictures of sex, if only because in most of the research I’ve heard of, men are more likely to be aroused by porn then women, which suggests that depictions of sex are less inherently arousing then we might think. Of course, it’s also possible that this is because of the fact that porn is simply not made to arouse women.

    This also gets at what I was trying to say earlier, which is that definitions tend to make discussions of porn hard to understand for the uninitiated. Twisty, your definition of porn is such that a thing is porn because it is vile. If it isn’t vile, it’s art. This means that a statement like “porn is bad” is a tautology.

    Meanwhile, the vast majority of people have been sociallized to think of porn as, essentially, morally neutral depictions of sex.

    So… uh… I forgot what I was going to say. Something about varying perceptions of the moral qualities associated with word make communication difficult.

  67. Carpenter

    I should maybe make anther quick point about ToF comic, they feature dudes in uniform. Aparently old Tom was into leather, there a lot of bootlicking but everyone does it to everyone so its hard to pick out the subs. One other thing these comics tend to do is parody the whole he whohas the power is never pentrated routine; that is watch as the burly lumberjack begs to bent over a log. It’s hard for me to pull outa clean view on power relation from these things, they have plots like hot cops pull over well indowed hippie biker, but they also come off as farcical.

    Anyway I wanted to say that before I got slammed about ToF and power fetishes becuase it would be very easy to dismiss my attraction to them asan attraction to uniforms/powerplay insteadof to hot guys with big penises.

  68. Ed

    Well, it is a pleasant change actually to be so mushy that someone gags. Normally I get that I am too cold. Anyway…

    Men and women are similar in that we are both human and thus have essential human qualities (we can love, reason, ect..). There is something that both genders have though that the other does not and both are needed to promote and foster love which in turn will achieve the desired outcome of equality in dignity for both sexes. Let me say that countless people have reminded me how homosexuals cannot deny who they are because it is detremental to their person. I am making the same argument for men and women. I am not saying that a complete melding can ever happen, but rather that the application of such an idea will lead to more problems and, I believe, further mistreatment of women. Also, yes, homosexual couples don’t have the benefit of a male-female marriage. I will agree that they can love each other, but sex as an end in and of itself is morally reprehensible. It is akin to vomitoriums. One can enjoy eating but there is a reason for it that can’t be neglected. It is the same with sex. If people keep trying to accomplish this goal of abolishing gender than things will only get worse. Foster solid families and things will improve. This can’t happen in society at large when sex is trivialized as only for pleasure/recreation in the way it is now. Again I am glad the problem is seen by the owner of this blog, but this truly is the solution. I can only hope, since it has been apparent that this solution isn’t accepted, that when things get worse you may again consider these words.

  69. Nancy

    Ah, Ed. I see. You’re a crazy man. Never mind then.

  70. Kat

    Twisty, you make me think, and I think I’m in love, but this argument confuses me. If you haven’t elsewhere, would you mind defining the term porn? Are you just talking about pictures where women are stuck in humiliating and bizarre poses, fuck films, etc? Or are you including tasteful pictures of the female form, written erotica without submission, and the like? I’m not implying that these latter should be considered “art” but would you consider them a reinforcement of the sex class? If I look at a simple picture of a nude man or woman and become aroused, (I am afterall human) does this alone (I sure I’ve been molded by the patriarchy, but..) mean I am a well-fashioned tool of the male patriarchy? If I am unaroused, and a tasteful picture (where everyone is happy) or a word helps, should I consider this reinforcement of male dominance?

  71. Twisty

    Kat, for a definition of porn I refer you to the porn test in the original post.

    While I am hesitant to pronounce on individual situations, I would be very surprised indeed if you turned out not to have been utterly and completely assimilated by patriarchy. I have never met anyone who isn’t. Myself included.

    I also believe that in a patriarchy–which, as I have repeatedly pointed out, relegates all females to sex class status–no graphic representation of a human woman can be said to be devoid of sexbot connotations.

    My hypothesis–unproven as yet, for I lack funding–is that we are conditioned to be aroused by graphic representations of humans in sexy poses, and that this conditioning is operant, and part of patriarchal bogosity. My conjecture is that there is nothing inherently arousing about a photograph. Pictures aren’t actual people, they are, objectively, pixels, and you can’t fuck a pixel. There’s something Gestalty going on, and in the Twistyarchy, this would be fixed. Somehow.

  72. Lorenzo

    Kat,

    Well, I can’t speak for Twisty (nor would I want to when she speaks for herself so well!) but I would define ‘porn’ as limited to pictures and film created primarily for the purpose of using women’s bodies to gratify men’s sexual desires. This eliminates art, and it also excludes written erotica as it does not use real women’s bodies. Written erotica can be critiqued as well, but not in precisely the same way as the sex-work industries (porn, stripping and prostitution), in my view.

  73. ehj2

    The distinction between “art” and “pornography” is a simple one.

    Art stops you, completes something in you, fulfills you. It doesn’t make you want something. It doesn’t make you want to “do” anything.

    Pornography makes you want. It makes you feel incomplete unless you have the object portrayed or rendered or suggested.

    All advertising is pornography. Subtle pornography will include elements of art to confuse, mislead, and distract you until your heart and your pocket have been picked. The way you know you’ve been had is if the art is used in the employ of eliciting desire. The music may be art, some of the scenes may be art, the authentic smile of a real woman is always art … but the role of all advertising is to generate desire and demand … and it is all pornography.

    Ultimately, capitalism corrupts because it is built on an inherently dark impulse — not to fulfill the heart’s desires, but to invent and inflame them again and again — to make one feel like “less” unless one “has.”

    Nothing is more “innately” art than the feminine form … and nothing is more abused by the patriarchy in the goals of competition and capitalism than the subjection of beauty to objectification for the goals of greed and predation.

    The portrayal of the feminine as submissive and “available” is to proffer the suggestion of “easy” completion and satiation. This false promise works again and again because no real hunger can ever be satisfied this way. The impulse is deep and for most people unconscious.

    The reason this conversation is so hard to have in America is because pornography drives out art and as a consequence authentic art can be very hard to find. But I will repeat myself: the authentic smile of a real woman is always art; this is why the Mona Lisa has enchanted the wise members of civilization for centuries. And those smiles, attentively looked for and nurtured, can be found all around us.

    Religious pornography works the same way as marketing pornography and offers the same false promise of easy completion — in this case not a new car or lipstick (involving a theft from your pocketbook), but “believe” and “accept” and you will be saved (employing a theft of your mind often accompanied by a theft from your pocketbook). What a lie. Self-awareness, consciousness, and enlightenment come at a far higher price than the simple recitation of an empty mantra in a bucket of cold water.

    /e

  74. Chris Clarke

    Not to quibble with you, /e my friend, but according to your definition this is porn. Because it instills longing in me much more than it makes me feel more complete.

    For that matter, so is this.

  75. Hissy Cat

    The distinction between “art” and “pornography” is a simple one.

    Oh, of course it is! I mean, all those critics and thinkers debating this question for ages were just dim not to see it!

    Art stops you, completes something in you, fulfills you. It doesn’t make you want something. It doesn’t make you want to “do” anything.

    Thanks for the sum-up of Joyce’s theory of aesthetics. I’ve always rather liked it myself. It does have its problems, though. It excludes the possibility of political art, for instance; you’ll have an awful hard time squaring it with Brecht.

    Nothing is more “innately” art than the feminine form

    Now you’re just being silly.

  76. Liz

    the authentic smile of a real woman is always art

    Oh please. How about this authentic gag? Try hanging my “feminine form” in your “innate art” museum, and your “self awareness” is likely to wind up looking like a Jackson Pollock splattered on that wall over there.

  77. ehj2

    hissy cat,

    joyce has provided us a modern recapitulation of a Buddhist doctrine already more than 20 centuries old when joyce wrote of it. and the wisdom almost certainly precedes even Buddhist mythology. but you certainly know that it is a fallacy of logic to cite authorities to credential an assertion. a point is either accepted by one’s audience on its merit, or it isn’t.

    and you must certainly be aware that politics without consciousness (and education helps but as your own example demonstrates offers no panacea) is reduced to marketing … advertising … control of the message … and what dominates america now is no more than political pornography. noise has driven out substance. by adding to it, you simply make my point for me.

    i shouldn’t have to debate “nothing is more innately art than the feminine form” because the expression itself is a obvious tautology. it’s truth is the very reason for this site. no corporatist attempts to sell anything without adding the feminine form in some way to what is sold. just as water is the universal solvent, the feminine is the universal art. that’s the whole point of confronting the patriarchy. it’s wrong to degrade women and it’s immoral to “sell” beauty.

    liz,

    you speak here from the masculine side of yourself … which listens (and hears) with an ear to fix, to judge, to discriminate, to deprecate, to improve. not to accept what is there with a friendly spirit (and argue against if necessary), but to actively objectify and condemn. the voice you use purposively reflects the very patriarchy you villify. in fighting what you despise with the tools of your enemy, you have become your enemy. where are your feelings, where is your heart?

    an authentic smile in a person of substance (especially in repose) expresses (to the psyche) completeness. stillness. nothing more is needed. nothing must be done.

    when you find stillness and joy without desire, you will know the truth of it and will find no implied insult in my simple words.

    respectfully,

    ///

  78. Christopher

    So, ehj2, by your definition this very blog is pornography.

  79. ehj2

    christopher,

    yes. just as virtually everything in the water is wet, virtually every message in a patriarchal world is tainted with pornography.

    if patriarchy was easy to overcome with logic and reason, women would have been equal long ago … and women themselves would not still be falling for political pornography and voting for the continuation of a corporatist patriarchy that even now works to strip them of fundamental human rights.

    but when you spend you whole life underwater, it is very difficult to feel wet, or even to comprehend what it might be like to be “not wet.” when you spend your whole life in a culture that debases feminine beauty to sex … and cunningly moves the whole conversation about humanity to what is essentially a distraction, it might even feel normal to watch naked women dance to sell a football game or a glass of beer.

    welcome to the real battle … not a war of definitions and logic or competing messages … but a war for consciousness.

    /e

  80. Kat

    ehj2 writes to liz

    “you speak here from the masculine side of yourself … which listens (and hears) with an ear to fix, to judge, to discriminate, to deprecate, to improve. not to accept what is there with a friendly spirit (and argue against if necessary), but to actively objectify and condemn. the voice you use purposively reflects the very patriarchy you villify. in fighting what you despise with the tools of your enemy, you have become your enemy. where are your feelings, where is your heart? ”

    the patriarchy actively sells the message that women can’t or shouldn’t fix, judge or improve — so, Liz should be a good girl and act with her heart? The patriarchal enemy would have us all smiling and accepting, all the time. What’s more is that we’re sold this dichotomy, that women are the peacemakers, men are the warriors (not unlike: women are good scholars, boys are naturally better at sports and making paper airplanes). In my opinion, a woman who uses a powerful voice isn’t reflecting the patriarchy, because she’s using a tool the patriarchy would rather she didn’t have.

  81. Violet Socks

    Becker: Yes! (days later)

  82. cinder

    Is it any more offensive for a women to be exploited by the simulacrum of sex than for her to be exploited by accepting her place in producing capital? (Banal office work, labouring, creating entertainment to distract people from thier disappointment in contemporary life…)Is a sexual commodity somehow more offensive than any other type of commodity?

    The issue at hand is the totality of existence in a capitalist society. Everything is commodified and every one is exploited. There are many forms oppression takes, each with thier own particular stench. So to rail against pornography as if it were any worse than being forced to scrub toilets on graveyards at McDicks day in and day out or to be held in a detainment centre and force to pack pork in a factory when you try to immigrate (because you’re from a brown country and thus aren’t particularily valued in the first world) is ridiculous. Oppressions cannot be separated from the broader context.

    The issue is that no matter what we truly desire in our own lives it is subsumed by the pressures and requirements of maintaining an industrial capitalist infastructure and thus nearly every single bit of human creativity and passion has been distorted and co-opted.

    Capitalism has banalized and distorted sex, transformed it into such an abstracted form that it no longer exists. Sex has become simulacrum and mainstream pornography is simply the most telling example of this phenomenon.

    The issue is not that pornography is bad and that it portrays women in an unrealistic and offensive manner, but that the entirety of our creative energy has been co-opted and sold back to us. That everything, absolutely everything has become pornography. The authentic has been dissolved and replaced with the image and no one can even tell the difference any more.

  83. Twisty

    What’s with all the harsh? ehj2′s commentary is within the bounds of patriarchy-blaming decency. One needn’t agree with the “female form is art” dealio to note that she is on our side.

  84. Twisty

    Nice broad strokes, Cinder. That’s some first-class blaming. You are correct; pornography cannot exist outside the warm and fetid nutrients in the capitalist petrie dish.

    I disagree, however, that there is no qualitative difference between taking it up the ass for a living and a sucky job at “McDick’s.”

  85. Liz

    One needn’t agree with the “female form is art” dealio to note that she is on our side.

    Is “e. houston johns, II” a she?

    an authentic smile in a person of substance

    Wait, so now it’s the smile of a person that’s art, not just the smile of a woman? That would ease my gag reflex considerably.

    And Kat, thank you. Well said. Warriors R Us.

  86. Christopher

    Frankly, I’m rather lukewarm about “authentic” experience as opposed to “the image”.

    ehj2, I don’t quite follow you, or perhaps I think your definition of pornography has limited utility in this particular discussion.

    Basically, under your definition, there can’t be a war for minds or souls because all attempts to convince someone to alter their behavior are pornographic. Attempting to change anything becomes an essentially pornographic act.

    And while I admit there’s a certain poetic attractiveness to such a viewpoint, it doesn’t help me understand pornography better in the context of this particular discussion.

    I mean, it’s obvious that post in Twisty’s blog and an issue of Penthouse are different in very important ways, and those ways are specifically important to the kind of discussion I started.

    On a somewhat off-topic note, one of the things that fascinates me is the ways in which the Karmic religions overlap with the Mesoamerican religions. One of the things that’s interesting to me is that Mesoamerican thought did divide the world into complimentary dualities, but that the attributes of these dualities seem to differ.

    One of the persistant god-archetypes that appears in Mesoamerica is the old couple. These are a pair of gods, male and female, who serve as creators and diviners. The Aztecs saw them as dual aspects of the same ultimate divine power,

    What’s interesting to me is that in every story I can think of that includes them, the woman uses magic both to divine fates and to do some vital act of creation, while the man does nothing. His existence is almost unneeded. This is, if I recall, true for both the ancient couples in the Popul Vuh, for the first humans Oxomoco and Cipactonal, and even for the Aztec supreme deity.

    In all the versions of the story I’ve heard, while the femal aspect of the supreme god gives birth to the gods, there is no mention of the male aspect first impregnating her.

    To me, all this would seem to argue for the female as active and the male as passive.

  87. ehj2

    First, I’ll apologize for sounding pedantic and didactic … and simply say I’ve spent too many years reading and writing this way to be as amusing and ironic as many of you here. I consider this a lack, and envy you your lighter, humorous touch.

    That said …

    Mother and matter are cognates in most languages, pointing us to a psychological truth. Mother is the universe. Ask a child. And we were all children once, and most remain so psychologically (at least part of the time). The Mother is food, warmth, shelter, protection, love … the universe.

    In poetry we call woman … the sun, moon, and stars.

    The psyche isn’t stupid and doesn’t make these connections so easily without reason. Our adult egos may successfully repress in the unconscious just how much power once resided in our Mothers, but deep inside we never forget and remain susceptible to any symbols that invoke the unconscious images.

    Just as a ring is iconic of eternity (because it has no beginning and no end point), to the psyche, a woman is iconic of the universe, because she represents all of matter. There are very few images that do not offer food, warmth, shelter, comfort, love … that are not seen unconsciously as coming from nature, matter, mother.

    Psychologically, all art invokes the feminine.

    While we may resent the fact that this distinction is held by women alone, and may be used by some to invite a different treatment for women … we can’t achieve anything significant or lasting if we ignore the reality we actually live in.

    Men fear (and we hate what we fear) and need (and we hate fearing we cannot have or may easily lose what we need) women and women’s love. If we can’t have and control what we need, we repress our actual need and pretend it’s something smaller. It’s easy to turn a woman into a sex object because then if I lose her love, I can pretend I only lost a sex object. Men fear women’s power because men perceive women to already have too much. We can’t achieve improvement in equality if we ignore the reality we actually live in … which includes men’s fear and feeds their need to diminish and control and objectify women.

    Let’s not get lost here and believe this is only a man’s problem. Both women and men objectify women and support the patriarchy. Pictures of women not only sell men’s magazines and products, they sell women’s magazines and products.

    Women sell. Women are objects and objects are sold. Women are the sex class because only women are sexbots … even to women.

    Are old white men the “success class?”

    ~~~

    Pornography (as such) is neither good nor bad. How one relates to it (consciously or unconsciously) is crucial.

    If you are reading here at this site, I suspect you are already wiser than most, and have a taste for “intellectual porn.” Twisty is adept at seeing very deeply around the cultural metaphors that blind and bind us, and unmatched in her creative ability to make such wisdom not only accessible but ironic, amusing, poignant, and sometimes painfully beautiful.

    The porn here is not the “reasoning” or the “wisdom” on this site. That could by dry reading. The porn here is the ancillary creativity, the irony, the amusement that makes us come back again and again for more.

    Some of us look at the car ad, not because we need another car, but because we like the cute girl in it. Some of us read here not because we want to be wiser, but because we like to be entertained by a perspicacious and expansive intellect.

    We’re hungry to feel smarter, part of an ingroup, part of a tribe, part of a special community.

    There’s no question in my mind that Twisty is very conscious of this … and this site is an consummate example of sucessfully using a tool of the patriarchy (porn) to help defeat the patriarchy.

    But make no mistake. In the Buddhist mythology, consciousness of what invokes desire is paramount in stilling the horses of anxiety within. Cycles of endless desire must eventually be broken, outgrown, abandoned. Twisty’s goal is that we become wise enough that we can do this without her. A Master fails if at least one pupil does not go past the Master.

    ~~~

    Answer: I’m a boy struggling to find a way to live in authentic support of the feminine, in myself, and in the world.

    ~~~

    I hope I didn’t say that Liz “should” do anything. I warned that using the tools of one’s enemy opens one to the potential of becoming one’s enemy — which in the end leaves one despising oneself. Any serious biography of a warrior (who actually saw war) makes this point far better than I can. Those who deal in violence and death are left with ashes and a sense of self-betrayal. So don’t go there with eyes closed.

    While I acknowledge your pain and frustration, I certainly believe that very few conversations are improved by threats of violence or expressions of “Warriors R Us.”

    The time of warriors needs to end. The planet is too fragile for much more of this.

    ~~~

    Respectfully, inelegantly,

    /e

  88. MindSpin

    I would second Twisty’s defense of ehj2. I’m nonplussed by cynicism that disregards a reverence the worth of women evidenced in ehj2′s comments. At one level I can understand a response of, “I don’t want to be seen as art – that’s objectification, too,” but then I have to return to ehj2′s definition of art as that which fulfills, that which makes us more whole. When one begins with that definition, there is always grace and restoration in an authentic smile, whether that smile emanates from a child, a man, or a woman. I’m not put off by the notion of a woman’s form as art, either, but maybe that’s because I see art in so many places and stop to take pictures of winter trees by the side of the road. The ladybug crawling on the leaf, the clouds scudding across the sky, these are all nature’s art to me.

    Chris Clarke’s exchange with ehj2 regarding the function of art and the definition of porn makes me think harder. What I’m coming up with is no sort of definition, but a sense of the function of each. Ejh2 looks at the question through a lens of spiritual experience informed by Buddism. Ejh2′s is a journey I have not yet taken, though I respect it entirely, so I’m picking up a different, more familiar lens to see what I can see.

    For me, porn always sells short what ought to be beautiful and true, makes a commodity of some aspect of existence that diminishes our experience of it. Porn impoverishes our spirits and our possible human communion and renders us less capable of receiving life’s greatest gifts or knowing its deepest truths. (Cynicism can do the same. So can political propoganda – the list goes on and on.) Art, on the other hand, leads us into richer, nuanced perception – it tenders gifts of knowing (whether beautiful or terrible or something in between), it opens us to receiving some dimension or another of truth, it enlarges our spirits, our selves. It makes us more keenly alive.

    My sense of the function of porn vs. art is useless for sorting artifacts into stacks – this is porn, this is not, because it has to do with how we respond, with how we experience an image or a film or a text. But it does tell me why the images Chris Clarke linked to are art and not porn for me, and how an image of a nude woman can be one or another or even, contradictorily, both at once. But then I care less about the business of sorting for the sake of neat stacks than I do about what responses we have to what the world throws at us and how those artifacts and our responses to them enhance or diminish our lives.

  89. ehj2

    dear chris clarke,

    count me as one who won’t ever disagree with you. while i’ve worked on the issue of legitimate longing for decades, i won’t pretend that i’m at an end of this journey.

    i’m just a student here.

    however, there is a notion in Christian mythology that “good works” do not do the work. this is parallel to a notion brilliantly expressed in Sufi poetry that “it is the longing that does the work” …

    and we’re talking about the work to achieve enlightenment.

    the photos you linked to evoke a second kind of longing/desire that we must address in this conversation. there’s a desire to possess and control. and there’s a desire and longing to be related to and be part of.

    to long for harmony and wholeness in the world … and to work for it … and relatedness to it … is a longing for stillness and completeness. at bottom it is a longing for love, the word we use for perfect and complete relatedness and connection. to be at a place of repose. and we can move toward that in any moment.

    to long for a thing with the desire to possess it is very different. and i know you know and live the difference. you don’t walk in the desert with a desire to own it. you walk there to be of it, in it, one with it. you love. that’s the difference.

    let me try this via another tack. psychologically, we can only give away what we already own. thus, there is a Buddhist notion that knowledge is learning something every day, while wisdom is in giving up something every day.

    this is recapitulated in every spiritual (not religious) mythology. to hoard treasure is to have nothing. to give away everything is to have everything.

    to desire nothing is to already have everything.

    awkwardly and lovingly,

    /e

  90. Ron Sullivan

    My problem with ehj2′s stuff in this thread starts with the word “the.” “The” “feminine form.” Whose form is that? Feminine? What’s feminine? Is the hair on my tits feminine? How far did you have to abstract from any actual inconvenient individual to get to what’s “feminine”? Hell, that’s even further from actuality than “female.” Here’s a marker for porn — or maybe just for meretricious advertising, of which porn is a subset: it’s about abstractions, rubberstamp reflex-jerking, the sort of reductio ad conventium that makes those stupid mudflap “girl” silhouettes seem to communicate or even arouse something. And let’s see where the distinction lies between “Uh-huh, uh, duh, TITS!, Must WANT!” and “‘The’ mother is the”… Whatever fount of universal luhv and art we’re talking about. Yeah, no shit, babies think Mom’s the whole world. Before you can make art you’d better be at least wise enough to notice that she’s another person, particular, separate, and whole without you.

    Oh, that world, too, for whose “harmony” one evidently needs to work. What? How would you or anyone know if the “world” had reached “harmony”? Ask the plant the grubs ate from the inside, ask the grub the bird fed its chick, ask the bird in the fox’s jaws, ask the fox the bear killed, ask the decaying bear the ravens are quarrelling over? (I have my own preferences here — mostly that they all not be paved over — but which of those are harmonious?)

    This abstraction is the step before those lectures about how analysis and aggression are “masculine,” and how “some of us” read here “not because we want to be wiser…” etc. to “in-group.” (Damn this browser, I can’t cut-n-paste.) Limit that pronoun to the first-person singular, please, unless you have evidence it’s true in its particulars for more than you. And then show a bit better why that’s “porn.”

    I’m interested in this, and impatient, partly because I find that ehj2′s grafs starting with how men fear and need “women’s” love and women participate in the patriarchy are spot-on — right up to the “old white men” part. Old rich white men, maybe. Go listen to Utah Phillips’ song “All Used Up.” Lots of old white men in the kleenex class, just like old white — and other — women. Diminishing others in self-defense is a recognizable human behavior. Of course, it’s not an excuse or a reason to continue or to let anyone get away with it , but we all know that.

    We can talk about porn till our fingers fall off, but it’s just a talk-aboutable subset of patriarchy. It reinforces the patriarchy we have but it’s easy enough to imagine a patriarchy without it. Pace Crazy Ed up there, it’s a symptom, not a cause, which is why officially forbidding it is as useless as Prohibition. The question here is power, however unharmonious and ungentle that may seem.

  91. Twisty

    O Ron. Right, as always.

  92. cinder

    I should clarify that I did not intend to suggest a total split between image and authentic. It is most certainly possible to record images that do not degrade into simulacrum. I was attempting (however poorly) to describe a very broad and very ubiquitous context that is unique to contemporary society. When I speak of image as simulacrum I mean to refer to images that do not represent the visceral and authentic experiences of real people.

    The fake orgasms, barbie proportioned bodies, contrived story lines… these are the qualities of a form of representation that has descended into falsity and managed to subsume reality into it. We now exist in an epoch in which people form themselves in the image of the media, rather than the media representing human activity.

    Having said that I am all for pornographic imagery, in theory anyhow. It has the potential to be a thrilling and authentic medium. Not that it manages to explore that potential in most cases, just that the potential exists. The problem with porn is that it is a commodity and anything that is a commodity is separated fro human experience. It can no longer portray visceral qualities, it can only mock them due to the parameters imposed on experimentation and expression by the demands of the market.

  93. ehj2

    Ron, I don’t think we’re that far apart in what we’re writing. You’ve repeated a number of my points so that I easily recognize them, but with a slightly different inflection.

    The tendency toward discrimination and abstraction and diminishment (it’s just xxx), is inherently dehumanizing and inherent in pornography and certainly a symptom of the patriarchy. We agree — it’s not a cause and abolishing it wouldn’t change the power structure. That’s why I called it “essentially a distraction” because it moves the conversation from the salient issue of “humanness” and “unique individual valued personality” exactly as you describe.

    The tendency toward relationship, deep recognition of “other” as unique and human, is crucial to any kind of advancement … in an individual, in the country, across the planet.

    I agree with your comments on harmony and should have phrased that better … perhaps if I had used the word “sustainable” somewhere I would have been on firmer ground. Anyway, protection and “rational” stewardship of the environment is bedrock for me and I’m a member of the Leadership Circle of NRDC, and have worked with or for the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife.

    I know a number of people who read here for the reasons I expressed, but I don’t feel a need to reveal them. In the interest of harmony I will accept your proposed modification — I read here for the reasons I expressed.

    And the conversation is about porn … and if you don’t agree with the concept of “intellectual porn,” then you probably don’t accept such concepts as “food porn” and “cat porn.” I don’t think our conversation suffers too much with this distinction, but I’ll suggest that in imposing this distinction, you are making sexual porn in some sense a special case of abstracting and dehumanizing, and I think you are better served to treat the class of behavior in its entirety as a distraction. The issue is humanity.

    Sorry for any frustration. Words and time and space are inadequate for the conversation we would really like to have.

    As we used to say in my misspent youth (somewhere in the ’60′s and often with a large glass of fruity wine in our hands), “Peace.”

    /e

  94. ehj2

    dear mindspin, [comment #88]

    you’re absolutely right. context is significant. a photograph of people in a bar is very different for an alcoholic than the average viewer.

    and to make this personal (thanks ron for the reminder to do so), I remember reading the national geographic in my teens with a very different impulse than i do now. those unposed photos of naked breasts were “quite beyond” interesting.

    thank you for the gracefulness of your words. and thank you particularly for the reminder of the word “reverence.” how can we have a world, or a wilderness, or even a conversation … without it.

    reverently,

    /e

  95. Ron Sullivan

    And the conversation is about porn … and if you don’t agree with the concept of “intellectual porn,” then you probably don’t accept such concepts as “food porn” and “cat porn.”

    Au contraire, I use terms like “food porn” and “garden porn” right out there in public and get paid for it. I use them half-jestingly and don’t say “food erotica” (obvious jokes aside) mostly because it’s clumsy, but also because it’s less instantly recognizable. I just don’t get what’s “intellectual porn” about Twisty’s site or the convo here unless one conflates all delight into porn.

    I could spin this into “I’m here to be in with the In Crowd” vs. “I’m here because I like the company” as a metaphor for actual sex vs. porn (“I want to fuck you because you’re officially Hawt” vs. I want to fuck with you because that curve in your neck right above your collarbone/that crinkle in the corners of your eyes/the way you handle your cat/I dunno,maybe it’s pheromone makes me hot”) but I’m not in so spinnish a mood.

    But Twisty, now you’re making me blush. I finally really no-I-mean-it quit a certain job today, won 40 bucks on the Steelers in the bar pool while eating kahlua pig and got another personal compliment from Twisty, all in one day. Damn, I could get to feeling good if I don’t watch out.

  96. ehj2

    Ron,

    It’s clear you agree that Twisty’s titillating intelligence and sexy brilliance make us drool … and like many of us you “would so make out with her.” Are you really going to maintain the pretense that you can’t sense the relationship of intelligence used this way … to porn?

    Stop thinking porn is good or bad. It is attractive, and we are crazy if we don’t use the tools we have to be attractive.

    But do you want to be attracted to everything? Think mimicry in the nature you speak of so elequently … the flowers and insects that shape themselves as their prey or pollinators by sexual means. And think about how the power structures use porn to manipulate the masses.

    Just recognize you’re making a value judgment if you decide “intelligence porn” is somehow better than “skin porn” or … the forms which, in my line of business, result in perhaps even more dispair … “war porn” and jingoism (“jingo porn”).

    Of course Twisty is sexy because intelligence (used a sexy way) is sexy. Mine isn’t. Can you not see the difference?

    Twisty wears clothes for comfort … but judging from the related magazines and the money in the “rag” industry, many women invest a lot of time and money in sexy clothes … or “clothing porn.”

    In the simplest terms, porn is adding a sheen of sexual desire to what was there … to attract you in ways you otherwise wouldn’t have been.

    And it is surprising and painful to me how easy it is to make a gun or a war or even massive death (oooh, “a rain of withering fire from the night sky melted them into the sand”), sexy … with the right frame.

    I strongly believe that helping people to be conscious of porn — generically and in its many forms — is the beginning of confronting it in any of its forms. And what’s immediately important is making conscious the way the power structures inflame fear and insecurity to make “homeland security porn” and manipulate the people.

    In this culture porn is ubiquitous because it is used now to sell everything … even knowledge and wisdom.

    The sad thing is we may now no longer even be able to see wisdom unless it is clothed in sex.

    And because to many people a wilderness is not sexy … the oceans are not sexy … liberal and progressive values are not sexy … much will go.

    /e

  97. Perinteger

    Violet Socks,

    I appreciate the attempt at a clarification. I’m afraid I’d already gathered that it referred to double standards when it came to sexual objectification. I’ve noticed the term brought up several times in reference to the BDSM scene (not to start another BDSM discussion, of course) and the expectations that women in either role wear the same outfits while the men seem to labor under no expectations of dress.

    I get the impression, however, that the idea that a group is a sex class if they’re expected to regularly (or constantly) flaunt the sexual side of their nature doesn’t cover the concept of a sex class completely.

    For instance, in this post Twisty asserts:

    “where women are not the sex class, women’s sexploitation cannot take place.”

    Since the above statement doesn’t ring as true to me when you say:

    “where women are expected to always flaunt their sexuality, women’s sexploitation cannot take place”

    I tend to think there’s got to be more to the definition. Am I incorrect?

  98. Perinteger

    As an addendum to my above post, I think a slight rewording is in order. You’d think I’d have learned to reread my posts a little better before hitting “send”, but it’s early yet. I think saying “flaunt their sexuality” has undesirable connotations. Please read that phrase as “flaunt an exaggerated stereotype of their sexuality”. Likewise, I’d prefer to have said “conform to a particular cliche of their sexual nature” instead of “flaunt the sexual side of their nature”

    Perinteger

    Where’s my preview button? I miss my preview button!

  99. Twisty

    Hey Perinteger,

    Women, I think you’ll agree, are considered a class separate from men, no? The reason for this is that we are thought of first and foremost and almost exclusively in terms of our degree of sexual availability–whether with a hotsytotsy sexbot response or complete lack of interest– to males. All women, not just the sexy ones, are members of the sex class. Membership is not voluntary. You got a pussy? You’re in. I, for example, am a member, even though I am a bald lesbian cancer patient. When I was sitting at dinner in a restaurant the other night and a creepy dude was checking me out from the bar, he was assessing me in terms of the degree to which I conform to his sexbot ideal, and conveying the message that I was an object for his consumption, and that I shouldn’t be altogether surprised if he were to follow me to my car and rape me.

    The sex class is kept in thrall by the threat of rape.

  100. ae

    I’ve come too late to the discussion to throw my $.02 in now, but, Twisty, it must be said: You had me at “fuckbag continuum,” but I’m yours forever because of “tentpitchular lobe.”

    P.S. Might I note for the record that Lulu.com is a self-publishing site, which I am noting not to denigrate Lulu, who are fine folk (in my own backyard) providing a fine service, but to note that Mr. Flaccid, the author of said authoritative account, probably had few options to publish his master work and had to spring for it himself. Heh.

  101. Ron Sullivan

    Stop thinking porn is good or bad.

    It is extremely unwise to tell me to stop thinking, no matter what you end the sentence with. It’s pretty clear you have no notion wnat I’m thinking, and I don’t think it’s because I’m being unclear.

    It is attractive

    Porn is “attractive,” therefore anything attractive is porn? What are you saying here?

    and we are crazy if we don’t use the tools we have to be attractive.

    What you mean, “we”?

    It’s clear you agree that Twisty’s titillating intelligence and sexy brilliance make us drool

    What it makes me do is post. But granting part
    of your conceit –

    … and like many of us you “would so make out with her.”

    That’d have to wait till the braces come off, ceteris paribus. Among other things. Damn this actual concrete reality anyway.

    Are you really going to maintain the pretense that you can’t sense the relationship of intelligence used this way … to porn?

    I believe the crux of our difference might be in the word “used.” Do you think Twisty’s running a dating service for herself here?

    And watch that “pretense” shit, boy.

    But do you want to be attracted to everything?

    Um — what does that have do do with anything anyone else here has said, me in particular?

    Think mimicry in the nature you speak of so elequently … the flowers and insects that shape themselves as their prey or pollinators by sexual means. And think about how the power structures use porn to manipulate the masses.

    That’s actually a fairly nifty conceit, and if you don’t watch out I’ll steal it. I’ll elaborate that the inculcation of stereotyped responses makes that ever so much easier for the “power structures.” And that’s the point of what I’m calling “porn” — a stereotyped response to a stereotyped abstraction of a stimulus, substituted for the actual, less predictable, maybe even nuanced, and I’d bet more viscderal response to an actual inconvenient person.

    Just recognize you’re making a value judgment if you decide “intelligence porn” is somehow better than “skin porn” or … the forms which, in my line of business, result in perhaps even more dispair … “war porn” and jingoism (”jingo porn”).

    i make value judgments for a living, and in my spare time too. I have no problem with making value judgments. Here’s one for free: Telling people what they think, particularly when you haven’t managed to connect their numbered dots, is bad form.

    Here’s another: The serial comma is an agent of clarity.

    Of course Twisty is sexy because intelligence (used a sexy way) is sexy. Mine isn’t. Can you not see the difference?

    Your what “isn’t”? If I’m parsing that sentence correctly, you seem to be saying that Twisty is “using” her intelliigence in some mysterious way (and you’re discounting the ability of the rest of us to make actual discenrtment of what we like) that you are somehow unwilling to, or are declining to. You seem to be discounting the possibility of s dare-I-say-it holistic response to a genuinely good thing. No, person. That seems a bit reductionistic, at least by implication.

    In the simplest terms, porn is adding a sheen of sexual desire to what was there … to attract you in ways you otherwise wouldn’t have been.

    That’s rather an idiosyncratic definition of “porn,” acxtually.

    And it is surprising and painful to me how easy it is to make a gun or a war or even massive death (oooh, “a rain of withering fire from the night sky melted them into the sand”), sexy … with the right frame.

    Nothing new. Mussolini’s son wasn’t even being original about those beautiful red flowers. “The glory of battle” is an old old idea. “Framing”? Maybe. Maybe it’s the fond remembrance of an endorphin or adrenaline rush.

    I strongly believe that helping people to be conscious of porn — generically and in its many forms — is the beginning of confronting it in any of its forms. And what’s immediately important is making conscious the way the power structures inflame fear and insecurity to make “homeland security porn” and manipulate the people.

    How about being conscious of manipulation? Porn is a subset of that. Not good to see that particular Commie under every bed, though. You could end up running around squawking, “Everything is porn! It’s all porn!”

    The sad thing is we may now no longer even be able to see wisdom unless it is clothed in sex.

    Meditate on this: There is no such thing as wisdom. Think you can live without it?

    And because to many people a wilderness is not sexy … the oceans are not sexy … liberal and progressive values are not sexy … much will go.

    That’s almost true, but I’d suggest it has less to do with porn than with circular reasoning, numbness, and running in circles. Porn is a byproduct.

  102. Perinteger

    Twisty said:
    Women, I think you’ll agree, are considered a class separate from men, no?

    I don’t view women as being in a separate class, but the rest of the world rarely takes it’s cues from me. Enough people treat women as being in a seperate class that I have trouble seeing how any woman could manage to avoid experiencing such treatment at some point in their lives.

    Thanks for the explanation, Twisty. I wanted to spend a little time assimilating your description and I’m glad I did, as I found myself on another train of thought. I was initially somewhat bothered by the idea that a whole class of people can be defined exclusively by the perspective of one social subset (men, in this case). While considering it, however, I found myself thinking about the way that many teenaged girls and younger women evaluate one another based on each others percieved sexual availability (mainly to men) as well. I know it’s no earth shattering revelation, but I’m a little surprised that I’d missed the possibility that one group’s view could become a measuring stick that many other groups use on one another. Once you make that conceptual jump, it becomes obvious how the assumptions of one group can ripple through other groups and become a defining feature of society as a whole.

  103. ehj2

    Dear Ron “No Wisdom” Sullivan,

    I almost missed your last little diatribe [the QuickTime object and my security seemed intractable]. You are a master of the imagined slight. There were moments when I actually thought you wanted to stab me with your little plastic fork of obstreperous banter.

    I’m particularly impressed by the cleverness of your brilliant ploy in declaring you have no wisdom. Admittedly, I was confused for a moment. But then I realized … this cunning stealth strategy ensures that in future conversations, you have nowhere to go but up.

    You’re so cute when you’re mad. Can I pat you on the head?

    For a person with my background, it would be easier to take you more seriously if you weren’t so over the top.

    I had some time to visit your own site. It’s wonderful and I encourage others to visit. Sorry about the braces. I wore braces as a teenager and at times the pain was excruciating. I hope that wearing them is a task of short duration for you. You’re a consummate writer and I look forward to seeing more of your serious work.

    Well, back to my own little task of upholding the U.S. Constitution, hating America, speaking truth to power, protecting the environment, fighting the patriarchy, and, more to the point these days … trying to keep this country from starting another war it can’t win.

    Regards,

    /e

    p.s. While my background is engineering and psychology, one of my current lines of business is drafting validated infrastructure requirements for systems in support of smashed places (very smashed). Briefly, this means I often work with very knowledgeable people from very different disciplines. Even though I’m smarter than some, it’s rarely a mistake for me to assume that others are also professionals attempting to solve a shared strategic problem. Just saying.

  104. Lara

    ehj2′s arrogance was going to come through at one point. And there it is. I just sensed it right away with his very first post here. His more-liberal-than-thou attitude. Just another arrogant male trying to tell women how to be “real feminists.” Blech.
    Don’t know why I felt compelled to comment on that as his last post was at least 2 years old…

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