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Apr 28 2007

Reader actually asks spinster aunt’s opinion

Today’s reader email is a dream come true. Blamer M (not her real name) actually asks for my views on porn! I may be a hungry gal in a taco-filled world, but come lunchtime or high water, I’m never too busy to bloviate on porn. My response follows. It’s nothing I haven’t spouted off a hundred times before, but as longtime readers are painfully aware, I Blame the Patriarchy is like a Tex-Mex menu: the same 4 cheap ingredients disguised as 6,793 different dishes. Which of them achieve the distinction of culinary triumphs remains a matter of individual taste.

By the way, M raises some other issues, too; readers are encouraged to enlarge on whatever of these themes falls within their personal grey areas of blaming expertise.

In the last few months I’ve become addicted to your blog. Even within the feminist blogosphere (or whatever it’s called), I find that you are the only person who cuts through all of the bullshit. I’ve been feeling very distrustful of feminists lately, because of my crazy experiences at the BUST lounge. I thought they were feminists — they say they are — but they yell at me constantly because I think porn is bad for women. I’m done posting there, because it’s just pointless. Many of them defend BDSM as “my choice!!! Whatever makes me happy!!! How dare you criticize me, you vanilla prude!!!” Many of them talk about the feminist/alternative porn that they watch.

I’m wondering what your take is on this “feminist porn?” i haven’t seen much, as I don’t like porn, but I’m wondering what you think of it? Is this truly resistance? Is it really that different? They seem to think that creating an alternative will somehow stop the mainstream degrading porn. Or something.

If you are ever bored — you can check out the thread on the BUST lounge — it’s under “The F Word” and it’s called (get ready to puke) “Porn: Is it cock-blocking feminism?” Seriously, that is the title. Anyways — I’m pretty much hated by the people in that thread. I’m not posting over there anymore, but I still just feel so ANGRY about it. I’m wondering if you can do your magical thing and explain this shit to me in the wonderful way you do.

Is it that they are too scared to admit the truth? I know it’s painful to see the truth, so maybe that’s it. Or, are they just so brainwashed by mainstream pornification that they truly believe this stuff? These are people who think that posing nude “can be empowering!” And that there is nothing wrong with sex work as long as “it’s the woman’s choice, and she’s happy about it.”

Is this just 3rd wave feminism? Is this the sex-positive crowd? Is this the backlash to radical feminism?

Also — one of my online buddies and I have been talking a lot about weight and body and attractiveness and all that crap. We’ve both noticed that even though, in our minds, we know that we don’t care what “men” think of us- but in our guts, we truly believe that men MUST find us attractive. We both have this big fear of being found unacceptable — even though we know it’s BS. I’ve been thinking though — is it that we don’t want to give up the sort of privilege that we get from being found attractive? I feel like it’s actually dangerous to go too far away from the ideal. Or to even admit that you don’t care about the ideal anymore. I don’t know if this makes any sense, but I’m a confused 30 year old, and I need help!

Signed, M

Well, M, the Twistolutionary manifesto argues that anything called “porn,” whether or not it is explicitly violent or BDSM-y or designed to titillate ‘feminists’ vs. sweaty, beer-gutted pervs, exists only to enthrobulate the fetishization of culturally-generated (and, frankly, comically hokey) constructs. It is readily apparent to the visitor from the planet Obstreperon that these constructs include arbitrary standards of physical sexihotness, arch-backed-heavy-eyelidded-ooo-baby body language, penetration worship, dominance and submission, corny fashion accessories, “the art of seduction” et al — and that they have, at their root, everything to do with a paradigm of dominance and nothing to do with actual sex between individuals with equivalent personal sovereignty.

So what’s the big whoop, the empowerful young feminist asks?

Well, in addition to pornography’s negative philosophic value, which anyone possessing even a sliver of sapience can see is reason enough to give it the old stink-eye [1], our world order is predicated on binary sex roles, one of which is privileged and dominant, the other of which is oppressed and submissive. In such a society, where a woman is a member of the oppressed sex class, her performance of sex in a film which is then consumed by paying customers to satisfy their prurience, this is not even remotely a politically neutral act. Porn — gay, straight, bi, live-action, animated, or ‘feminist’ — is the graphic representation of the oppression of the sex class. Until the sex class is liberated from male oppression, porn can be nothing else, no matter how many fun feminists claim it empowerfuls them.

Or, if you prefer, in order for porn to be politically neutral, it can’t be porn.

Merely announcing on the BUST boards that one’s participation in porn, whether as a consumer or as a prostituted woman, is voluntary does not make it so. This is because the women doing the announcing are, and have been since birth, deprived of such privilege as is necessary for them to freely make that choice.

When you’re already oppressed, it is, in fact, impossible to volunteer for oppression. A woman is a member of the sex class whether she “chooses” it or not. This pre-existing condition forms the backdrop to any fun feminist’s conclusion that her compliance with the patriarchal sexbot mandate is voluntary. She may believe otherwise, but her belief does not alter the fact that patriarchy — a social order predicated on an oppression to which she is already subject — is real and in effect and entirely beyond any unrestricted control she may wish to exert and only too glad to welcome her as a team player and sign her up for the rewards program.

The fun feminist confuses “empowerment” with the decision to acquiesce. This is understandable; it’s the one actual choice she has in this game: surrender, or stand and fight. She doesn’t have to be Candida Royalle to recognize that if she chooses the latter all she’ll get for her trouble is ridicule, hostility, suspicion, and the threat of bodily harm.

Whereas the rewards for surrender to male porn culture are not inconsiderable: social acceptance, male approval, little psuedo-privileges that accrue according to the degree of one’s conformity, and of course the enormous relief at not having to fight it anymore. The if-you-can’t-beatem-joinem gambit has enjoyed millennia of popularity for good reason. It gives the appearance of the shortest and easiest route to life’s rich pageant. Too bad that, once they get there, chicks are only eligible for the women’s auxiliary.

______________________
1. Porn’s negative philosophic value, in addition to its general assault on T & B (Truth and Beauty) spans the whole of women’s oppression, from Maybelline to rape culture.

237 comments

8 pings

  1. Lara

    Damn….well said. I don’t think you could have hit the nail on the head more….
    I totally know how M feels about the difficulty of avoiding this feeling: the feeling of wanting to be accepted and loved, especially by men. It is so so tough to not fall into that trap because, as you explained, Twisty, that it gives temporary “benefits” or psuedo-privileges. Bah!
    Great response!

  2. TP

    Greatest post on porn EVER!

    Perhaps you repeat yourself. Yet you hone, you chisel, you expound and get ever closer to a breezy, witty and witheringly realistic explanation of the same thing so many other women have only explained in difficult-to-follow academicese.

    When these concepts are easier to understand they become nearly impossible to rebut. Because the fundamentals are so inescapably profound and so horribly irrefutable.

  3. LMYC

    Everyone remembers that experiment done by that one elementary school teacher where she convinced blue-eyed kids that brown-eyed kids were less intelligent and worthy.

    What everyone doesn’t remember is that she added a step to it — the brown-eyed kids had to wear a collar, a mildly annoying one that got in their way, but not so much that they couldn’t move. Enough that it impacted their movement and that they had to be very conscious of standing out.

    I imagine that, had the experiment lasted years … lifetimes … those brown-eyed kids would have hit on the “empowering” idea of decorating their collars with paint and glitter and saying “I CHOSE TO WEAR IT! I DID I DID I DID!”

    “I WEAR IT BECAUSE IT’S HIP AND COOL AND TRENDY!”

    “I’M WEARING IT IRONICALLY BUT YOU’RE TOO SQUARE TO SEE IT!”

    Blue-eyed kids would have held the collars in contempt while secretly wondering what sort of kinky stuff they could engage in by wearing them.

    And we’d get brown-eyed denial-addicts talking about how they wear their collar without the slightest influence from the outside world, moreover they love to go to the local craft store and buy glitter and stickers to decorate it, and in fact they feel bad for the blue-eyed people who don’t get to do it cuz it’s like such a totally fun bonding experience!

    Cardboard collars. Cardboard collars.

    You can do it to anything.

    The one thing you can’t do is wear the collar as a neutral act.

  4. Shira

    When you’re already oppressed, it is, in fact, impossible to volunteer for oppression.

    Wow. Thank you so much for this. You have such an incredible ability to distill all the outrage into such perfect, succinct statements like this.

    I’m sure by now you could walk into any town in this country and be fed, but if you’re ever in Berkeley, all the tacos you can eat, my treat.

  5. Cass

    If only you had posted this a couple of days ago. Someone asked MY opinion on porn, and it would’ve saved a lot of effort just to write down this link for her.

  6. thebewilderness

    It occurs to me that one of the reasons womenandchildren are lumped together in the patriarchy is the condition of being oppressed. You could say that children consent to oppression, given that their choice is submit or die. Pedophiles argue that three year olds consent. A judge recently determined that a ten year old consented to sex with her rapist. When the options are to suffer this abuse or suffer that abuse, the limitations of choice deny the existance of choice.
    The only cookies the patriarchy hands out are made of fecal matter. If you eat them you won’t starve, you won’t thrive, and you’ll always feel hungry.

  7. LMYC

    And that whole “but she consented” thing is such a total red herring anyhow.

    Someone with mental illness could come up to me tomorrow, literally ask me to light them on fire, and say, “But I’ll ENJOY it so it’s okay!”

    Fine. But I wouldn’t. I would take no pleasure whatsoever in lighting a person on fire, so even if you would like it, I’m still not going to do it. I’m not mindlessly compelled to do whatever someone else wants.

    So, I don’t CARE. Even if we have tunneled into BizarroWorld somehow where a ten year old can give consent to sex and enjoy it, that doesn’t change the fact that the other person’s brain is also broken in that they would enjoy FUCKING a ten year old. It doesn’t change the brokenness in the brain of the perpetrator. Nothing changes that. That desire to screw a child is there, and that’s the problem.

    Just because someone comes up to you and says, “Kill me,” does that mean you do it? If that person said, “Eat my shit because I’ll like it,” do you do it? No. Why? Because it’s fucking disgusting. So why are you suddenly compelled to just do whatever someone else tells you because they said they’d like it?

    Hey, Mr. Kid-Rapist, I would REALLY get turned on by you giving me all your money and then jumping off a bridge. I totally give my consent to that!

    What? Suddenly you can resist the temptation to give me what I want? No shit.

  8. LMYC

    Another way to put it:

    I don’t CARE if this particular dog won’t bite you back. You are still a sick fuck if you want to kick it.

  9. Mandolin

    The comments to this post are stellar. LMYC, you are admirably on fire.

    My question about porn remains: Can we leave the frame sufficiently to imagine what non-patriarchal visual material intended to be arousing would look like?

    (Also, my itching question about the blog is WTF is with the popularity percentage? It vexes me. This post has “2% popularity?” I mean, is that really telling me 98% of people *who visit this blog* are asshats who are rating this post negatively on a scale I can’t even see? Or is it calculated in some other way?)

  10. Rozasharn

    LMYC, that is a really excellently clear statement of the ‘consent’ red herring. Thank you. I’m bookmarking this thread.

    TheBewilderness, that ‘consent or die’ point is very important. Thank you for making it.

    Mandolin, I don’t know exactly how the ‘popularity’ ratings work, but the newest post always has low popularity because very few people have found it yet. If you check back on this one over the next few days its popularity should go up.

  11. Jodie

    Mandolin, I’m not so sure that anyone *needs* arousing visual material, other than the company of the person one is currently lusting after.

    One does not need to be in a permanent state of arousal, which is what our current society appears to be aiming for. I think it dilutes sexual desire so that it is more difficult to become aroused and takes more and more effort. Thus this extreme stuff that people do, like asphyxiation.

  12. Twisty

    Re: the “popularity” percentage: the number means this post is 2% as popular as my most-viewed-ever post, which is has been accessed, according to the popularity-bot, something like 50,000 times to date. I installed the thing as part of a plot I was hatching to compile data to test a crackpot hypothesis that readers prefer posts about shoes. So far, though, it looks like readers prefer posts where I make the most belligerently obnoxious remarks.

    A post where I asked readers for parenting advice was pretty popular, too, though. I don’t know what it all means.

  13. Twisty

    Mandolin said: “My question about porn remains: Can we leave the frame sufficiently to imagine what non-patriarchal visual material intended to be arousing would look like?”

    I suspect the old standbys might suffice: sunsets, moonlight, that sort of thing.

    This is an excellent example of the insidious degree to which pornsickness has been normalized by domination culture. A world without porn, however desirable, is nevertheless unimaginable.

  14. Kristina

    I like shoes!

    You know, I have read something similar several times on this blog already, but today, I finally had the Ding! moment. I get it. I finally get it. Stick an onion on my head and point me to the tacos. Thanks for your willingness to repeat yourself, Twisty.

  15. Xtina

    I’ve read a hundred things on feminism and porn, and I do believe this is the first one that’s hit my “OH! I get it!” button.  So, thank you for coming back to this.  :)

  16. Tigs

    WootWoot! Twisty, you’re on fire!

    Anecdote about people not getting it in regards to sex, consent, and oppression:
    I am required to sit in on an undergraduate lecture as part of my graduate training (woofwoof). Grad students are discouraged from participation as it is an undergraduate space. As the professor tries desperately to provoke a lecture hall full of bored nineteen year olds who genuinely don’t care about Hume/Locke/Rousseau, he asks: “What’s wrong with incest?”

    The first ten answers were biological (ex. incest makes genetic freaks), the next ten were ‘because it’s gross,’ and after about 40 minutes, a few skirted, but never actually got to the response that there is something inherently oppressive about a relationship between family members and that oppressive power hierarchy makes it impossible to consent to the relationship.

    These people were thinking hard. These people are not unintelligent. The issue is, I think, that people just don’t get that oppression isn’t a totally cool way to have a relationship. Power hierarchy is so ingrained in their young minds, that there is no language to question it, even when their guts (the because it’s gross response) tell them otherwise.

    Patriarchy is so insidious that it moves beneath the level of language and becomes ‘natural.’ Instead, the corrupting patriarchal subtext produces an understanding that since there is an erotic response to pornography that also must be natural. Concluding: because it’s natural, there must be nothing wrong with it. Thus, you are wrong and unnatural if you question the domination of women as a legitimate sexual turn-on.

  17. Sean

    Whatever happened to Dworkin’s take on porn as an affront to civil rights? I keep looking for a way to make marriage (ie. letting someone else own a part, if not all, of you) the same type of affront. But then I look at all of the other inequalities in the world, most notably racial and economic, and realize that porn, and marriage along with it, will always be around as long as these other inequalities are, too, since they provide a way to pull one’s self “out” (at least higher up) of the mire of shit that the inequalities (the patriarchy) set-up in the first place. I still don’t understand marrying for love, but I can understand marrying for economic gain. The same thing with porn–who does it because they love to? No way around it, it’s degrading. But it pays. How can anyone blame the victim/participant for trying to make headway in a status-driven society? You can’t. But you can blame the people and the structure, blame the patriarchy, that creates such a society in the first place. Porn is terrible, but getting rid of it without getting rid of a system that makes sex labor appealing and without replacing it with an economically, racially, and sexually egalitarian labor structure, will likely hurt the very people feminism would like to help, while the higher-ups in power will just move on to some new exploitative scheme.

  18. Medbh

    Twisty, I got bupkis on the link to your most popular post. A technical glitch, I hope?
    What is said post?

  19. J

    “Can we leave the frame sufficiently to imagine what non-patriarchal visual material intended to be arousing would look like?”

    Twisty’s response notwithstanding, before you can really speculate the possibility of porn in a post-patriarchal world you already have to question what makes porn possible in this present, patriarchal world.

    You might say because it’s arousing. To that most of us would ask why is it arousing, though more accurately what that even means. What it means for porn to be generally arousing is that there is something generally arousing about the object of porn, typically though not always the female (body). This is to say, that there is something generally true about women, in this case their status as sexual object.

    I think the question you’re meaning to ask is: will people in the post-patriarchal world still take pictures of naked people (while having sex)? Personally, I don’t see why it would be impossible, but by that token I don’t see what makes it possible either. If they do, I can say with as much certainty as I feel I’m allowed that how it is done and what it means for it to be done will be literally unthinkable from our current, patriarchy-conditioned consciousness.

  20. LMYC

    I think the whole “is there such a thing as nonoppressive visually sexually arousing material” is sort of … um, no. Not really. There isn’t.

    There really isn’t any other material surrounding the satisfaction of a body appetite that the viewing of which is considered to be a satisfying thing to do on its own. If I’m hungry, and I watch people eating, it doesn’t give me any less hunger. If I need to take a dump and I watch people shitting, it doesn’t change my state.

    If I WANT to have sex, why is it the case that watching other people doing it is then called an entire satisfying activity on its own?

    I would venture that it’s because sex, alone among those example body appetites, requires another person for its expression. (Please don’t sing the Betty Dodson song at me here; the equating of something that requires the presence of another human to that which requires solipsistic solitude is a whole `nother indicator of fuckedupedness, to me. The presence of another human changes things, yo. Fucking != jacking off, k?)

    The reason it’s satisfying on its own is that it allows one to pretend to engage in a behavior that requires another person’s presence, without acknowledging the other person.

    The special spice of porn is that it justifies ignoring another person’s humanity, or at least avoiding acknowledging it. Since no other appetite is sated by watching someone else sate theirs, I would say that this whole “ignoring another person’s humanity” is the kernel of satisfaction. It’s not just the unpleasant thing that must be done to get to the chewy candy center of porn, it IS the chewy candy center.

    You are satisfying a body appetite without the tedious, annoying other person’s presence. You have turned another human into a three-dimensional, person-shaped blank. That’s inherently oppressive.

    It’s not even that porn is arousing that’s the issue. I mean, if I’m hungry, looking at good food or smelling it will make me hungrier.

    But I will not count that as its own satisfing experience that will fill my stomach. If you can be starving, smell a good meal, and walk off without eating anything and still feel happy, there’s something miswired in your brain.

    But porn creates, requires for its existence, an audience of people for whom the false sating of that appetite is better than the real thing. Say what you want about Naomi Wolf (and while I think she can be a bit spacey and sometimes not deep enough in her analysis, I fail to see the whole contempt that’s heaped on her for the unpardonable crime of being white and educated, how DARE she), but she hit the nail right on the head in that article she wrote about how porn seems to make men less lusty in the real world.

    Why simply engage in a fun but fairly mundane activity with your real, live human girlfriend who has stubble under her armpits when you can watch a four-titted space alien get penetrated by an insect-headed monster at lightspeed? Hey, why not?

    Um … because the first activity might actually enable you to uh … connect with a live human?

    Not only is that not a draw for the real thing, it’s apparently repulsive to porn consumers. The opportunity to connect with a human for that audience is instead viewed as the “icky, terrifying risk that you might have to talk to someone real.”

    So yes. So sorry. Porn requires oppression. Sating a two-person body appetite without contacting another human, in a healthy world, would not be considered an up-side to anything.

  21. J

    “If they do, I can say with as much certainty as I feel I’m allowed that how it is done and what it means for it to be done will be literally unthinkable from our current, patriarchy-conditioned consciousness.”

    So, in other words, it is not up to any of us to think of how we can “save porn,” because you cannot presently have any reason to do so that is not already corrupted by its patriarchal condition. Until you can articulate an idea of porn that has nothing to do with the patriarchal conditions and categories that presently make it possible, there is nothing to speak of saving.

  22. Mandos

    I suspect the old standbys might suffice: sunsets, moonlight, that sort of thing.

    Why these?

  23. Twisty

    Medbh:”Twisty, I got bupkis on the link to your most popular post. A technical glitch, I hope?”

    Fixed.

  24. TP

    Porn in a post-patriarchal world? Someone you love who loves you back, in person. Any representations of this one thing that creates genuine human arousal is going to be an imperfect copy, having no soul, no tactile sensation, no reciprocation and of no use.

    The idea of looking at other people aroused by each other is only arousing to us because we have been taught to believe it is arousing. Men teach themselves, over and over, hypnotizing their instincts into submission, by masturbating.

    LMYC has provided us with the woman’s reference to masturbating: The refusal to do it with someone else. Men tend to look at masturbation as sex they have with themselves because women refuse to do it with them.

    In that distinction lies a passel of pathologies that contribute daily to the global oppression of women.

  25. LMYC

    Someone you love who loves you back, in person.

    Nail hammer BANG.

  26. LMYC

    Men tend to look at masturbation as sex they have with themselves because women refuse to do it with them.

    There’s also the definition that men regard masturbating as sex they get to have without having to put up with a woman. Not her cunt, the woman herself.

  27. lawbitch

    How can women be empowered by porn when the patriarchy doesn’t even give women the right to have it? Checking out in my supermaket, the Cosmos have been covered up because the covers have headlines about sex tips. About six inches over, the male magazines, with boobs a busting on the front cover, are conspicuously displayed. This is a mild example but the message is clear–women who enjoy sex are sluts.

    Those women merely watching porn? Probably permissible only in deference to her male partner. Those women who are performing sexual acts on camera must be super-sluts. Anyone of these porn-loving women teaching their daughters to aspire to porn star? Can’t imagine it.

    I’m in an especially bad mood because I just checked out my state’s bar convention line up. It’s Dude Fest 2007 (the obligatory diversity speaker for that section does not count). I feel relegated to the women’s auxillary, and I did not VOLUNTEER for it!!! (Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.)

  28. Feminist Avatar

    I think TP has got it here ‘someone who loves you back in person’. I was reading a comments section on another blog on what would make porn accessible to women and this was the point made over and over again- women wanted porn where the characters had an emotional and intellectual connection to each other and sex developed out of that- for this reason some women found shows like Grey’s Anatomy as more ‘arousing’ than mainstream porn.

    Now I completely agree with Twisty that porn can never be made unoppressive in a patriarchal society, and for that matter Grey’s Anatomy is not much better, but I still found this discussion interesting.

  29. J

    TP,
    I don’t know if having physical contact with another person or not really is the defining element of if it’s masturbation or sex. The most obvious cross over is having sex with a prostitute. Is that not wholly mastubatory? Does the john love his prostitute any more than he loves his hand when he jerks off. More to the point, does he think about his hand (as his hand) when he uses it to jerk off any more than he thinks about the whore (as a human being) when he has sex with her?

    If you can accept that much, then it is not that much more of a leap to consider otherwise “normal” sexual relations in the same way. I can’t personally speak to it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if, being interpellated by the same patriarchy as men, women often experience sex/masturbation in the same way. So, just because you’re doing it with someone else doesn’t mean you’re there any more than you are when you’re getting yourself off.

  30. Miller

    Yes! “Feminist porn” uses the same ploy “gangsta rappers” do in presenting themselves as icons of black empowerment, rather than the damn minstrel show it is.
    Patriarchy apologists constantly use projection or doublespeak, such as claiming one is anti-sex for criticizing the porn message, which is truly anti-sex in its moral condemnations of sexual females (Hence, the necessary female degradation, torture, and destruction) and, thus, heterosexual sex itself, which is extreme not only b/c sex is natural but necessary for the survival of the species. Hell, if males are so offended by hetero sex that they “need” to degrade females mentally or physically to gain pleasure, why not just have sex w/ other men? Oh right, b/c then they’d be “faggots!” The dogma of patriarchy believes all sex is bad, as evident by the words used to describe it: fuck, nasty, dirty, etc.
    Any activity females partake in becomes a source of vitriolic contempt, w/ sex proving to be the most explosive (Note how all female sex acts are slurs). Even if a sex video showed a loving couple in which the female was actually lavished w/ worship, society would still associate her w/ demonized stereotypes of inherent female immorality (Look at that slut!). Our morally hysteria toward females, and thus sex, reminds me of a friend (who happens to be black) and how she swore she would never eat watermellons in front of whites due to racist stereotypes. There’s nothing remotely wrong w/ eating watermellons but people would see her and think blackface.
    Male supremacists (of either gender) have done the same thing w/ sex, in which our deep-seated misogyny is reflected in the desperate need to portray sex as inherently vile and for femaleness to be punished to sanctify such evil. As a young Catholic, I used to carry holy water to protect me from demons (Parents: outrageously devout). If you had to regularly engage w/ demons intimately out of biological urging wouldn’t you become more elaborate and fervid in your denunciations of the evil in your midst? Porn preaches such moral salvation (Misogyny is a religion. Religious zealots of any stripe tend to be the most disturbing in their sexual practices, as the root of any authoritarianism is “morality”.). Only intense shame could cause the masses to seek out vulgarity, slurs, and/or porn as a sexual “security blanket.”

  31. grumpybears

    LMYC says: If I’m hungry, and I watch people eating, it doesn’t give me any less hunger. If I need to take a dump and I watch people shitting, it doesn’t change my state.

    (It seems you all know how to make italics. I do not.)

    How about this: I am not hungry, and this makes me uncomfortable for various reasons. Watching people eat makes me hungry. Therefore, since many people don’t like to be watched while eating, I will view photography of people who don’t mind being filmed eating, and this will help my state and also rekindle my realtionship with food.

    If I am constipated, and watching people shit in a similar fashion will help me out, should I watch them?

    Is there just something wrong with the people and/or films that ‘help’ me? Is there something wrong with me for wanting that?

    I am posing a hypothetical question out of curiousity, not attempting a defense of porn.

  32. LMYC

    Avatar, that’s the whole driving force behind fanfiction — WHY are these two people fucking? The answer for mainstream porn is usually, “Who cares?”

  33. J

    “How about this: I am not hungry, and this makes me uncomfortable for various reasons. Watching people eat makes me hungry. Therefore, since many people don’t like to be watched while eating, I will view photography of people who don’t mind being filmed eating, and this will help my state and also rekindle my realtionship with food.”

    This is the nonsensical part that you have to explain very carefully. What I want to know is, first of all, does looking at that picture or video of food make you any less hungry; and if yes, why do you eat at all when you could save probably in upwards of a million dollars in a life-time by deferring to your fancy, french photographic flip-book of satisfaction. However, if looking at a picture or video of some food doesn’t make you any less hungry, then what could you possibly mean by saying it helps you (assumably, with your hunger)?

    Such is the case with porn, which you make by implying that it helps you with your sexual frustration, when there is nothing conveniently or conventially sexual about a picture or a video.

  34. Miller

    Brainwashing is incredible. According to the porn-loving “feminists” North Koreans totally “choose” to consider their dictator a God, whom they worship w/ an unrivaled frenzy to the point they are blissfully unaware how enslaved they truly. Dear Leader-mania swept China during the Chinese Revolution. Again, choice not a result of systemic cultural manipulation and oppression to condition the masses for enslavement. I mean, it’s not like the patriarchy threatens you w/ slurs, rape, torture or death if you speak out or anything. God no! That only happens to “bad” females. What I hate most about these bigot sidekicks is that their active encouragement of (violent) bigotry not only endangers them (though they’ll never admit it and if something does happen they’ll only blame themselves like “good” slaves do) but takes us all out w/ them. Complicitness in the dogma of female non-humanity and evil authorizes any male to punish any one of us as he sees fit, which universally results in a rabid state or righteous violence. They preach “Freedom!” while inciting hate that ensures the rest of us have none.

  35. Feminist Avatar

    Can the two people be fucking because they live in a patriarchal society where the act of sex is a manifestation of male possession and aggression towards women or is that not sexy?

  36. Jezebella

    I wonder, really, why anybody would want or need “arousing” visual material? I mean I Just Don’t Get It. Why save porn? Why imagine that there will be a “better” version of it post-revolution?

    I’ve often blamed the love of porn on sheer lack of imagination on the part of the pornsick. Is it too much trouble to close your eyes and imagine whatever it is that will help you get yourself off? REALLY? I don’t want porn, or erotica, or visually stimulating photos/films/paintings/literature. Never did. There are those who will think I’m a prude, vanilla, asexual, etc., and I resent being considered deficient because I don’t want that stuff.

    Sex is really one of my favorite things about having a body, and I hate for it to be commodified and perverted by porn culture.

  37. LMYC

    grumpybears, you’re reasoning from a really weird position. Saying, “If I’m constipated and watching people shit helps me out … ” is like saying, “If 1 1=3 … ” because well … watching other people shit generally doesn’t help anyone who is constipated.

    It’s like saying, “Yeah, but if we lived in a universe where the king of teh United Stated had red hair … ”

    Study basic reasoning. F->T is T.

  38. pisaqauri

    “Why save porn? Why imagine that there will be a “better” version of it post-revolution?”–Thank you Jezebella.

    And since I believe porn is as much a capitalist by-product as it is a sexual deviance I will put into buisness terms why keeping my sexuality free of all this titillation is preferred:
    My sexuality is vertically integrated. I dont have to go outsourcing every damn point of arousal off-shore, pay cheap for the labor and thus sell my self short when it comes to homeland/domestic relationships. R&D, and Manufacturing are done in the same place, thus I can monitor and understand the effects and know what I am giving when the second party enters the equation. At that point the second party does not also become subject to the defects that could have possibly occured had I developed the sexuality through external means. I know what I am giving, and the second party also knows what they are getting.
    This is really the most possible way for consensual sex to take place–for people to better understand their own sexuality and thus better represent it for consideration by party #2.
    I pray for this day.

  39. roamaround

    I got some Ding! moments out of this post too. I have been wanting to ask how gay male porn fits into the equation, i.e. if men objectify each other then doesn’t that suggest that it is part of their sexual psyche and not only about objectifying women? Now I get that it is part of the sexual brainwashing of patriarchy to understand sex as a dominant/submissive activity. Ding!

    I don’t have a problem with there being no porn post-patriarchy. I do struggle with the concept that admiring physical beauty is inherently oppressive. Not that anyone said that exactly, but I wonder about it.

  40. Metal Prophet

    I don’t believe that pseudoscience that says “oh, men are just more visual.” Men have imaginations that work perfectly well. I think what unfortunately gets off a lot of men about porn is watching women being put “in their place.” And then there’s the whole notion of porn drift. After a while, lesbian orgies aren’t enough for your porn fan, so he has to move on to more and more out there stuff. But the common denominator is that its always a woman being used to turn him on in some sort of way, whether she is having sex with a man, another woman, or she’s crushing small animals while wearing high heels.

    I think that non-sexist erotic material is possible in a post-patriarchal world, but I don’t think anyone would be making porn in a post-patriarchal world.

  41. Twisty

    I would just like to take this opportunity to publicly acknowledge my appreciation of the blaming commentariat. The responses to this post — and really, to all the posts lately — represent some world-class blaming. BDL, LMYC, pisqauri,j, Miller — you guys are especially on fire. Yasoo! But I think BDL ought to have some kind of special recognition for the Blamer Brigade riff. Goddamn.

  42. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    “in order for porn to be politically neutral, it can’t be porn.”

    It’s a wrap!

  43. rootbeer

    “Men tend to look at masturbation as sex they have with themselves because women refuse to do it with them.”

    does this hold true for women as well?

    ok, then. as a man who masturbates, who consumes – but never pays for, not that it makes a difference – pornography, and who has a long-term and very sexually active relationship with a woman i love, may i point out that this thread is sorely lacking the benefit some first hand insight.

    may i also say that twisty’s analysis of the situation re: porn and the patriarchy rings entirely true for me.

    men being what they are, the mere image of a woman in a sexualized context or of a man and a woman having at it, is arousing.

    a mucha print is arousing.

    the sears catalogue is arousing.

    you see where i’m going? it’s usually not difficult to get a man interested in sex. the point is, sometimes a man needs a sexual release. except for those men who can’t, or won’t, entertain the prospect of a healthy relationship with a woman, it’s not a substitute for sex – i hear women do it too!

    sexual imagery helps with that. however, it is nearly impossible to find “adult material” on the internet that is not deeply and blantently degrading to women – if you accept that it is, in the first place, possible to create egalitarian porn. many (most?) men love it, and that scares the shit out of me. have i ever seen erotica online that was not degrading to women in some way? no, i don’t think so.

    and of course, the women drawn into the business are often drug additcs, ready to aquiesce to the program of degradation for the promise of a hit. they are literally slaves.

    see, it’s possible to know all that, and still be aroused by the sight of sex on screen. just like it’s possible to enjoy that new pair of shoes, knowing they were made with toxic materials by a 10-year-old on a 12-hour shift.

    the reliance on imagery isn’t absolute, though. the most powefully arousing material i’ve ever come *ahem* across was a book of erotica written by women, for women.

    sex between partners is about the relationship, about giving and receiving. it’s about love. it may even be about power and dominance, but those change hands often enough in the course of an encounter that it may be hard to tell. most men can distinguish between a temporary itch that needs scratching – yes, in the absence of porn, we still jack off – and a relationship with a real, live woman.

  44. Twisty

    Dear god, rootbeer. I must insist that you reconsider your attitude toward the shift key. Not to mention your misconception that a discussion on a radical feminist blog is quite the right place for male insights on jerking off.

  45. thebewilderness

    rootbeer said: see, it’s possible to know all that, and still be aroused by the sight of sex on screen. just like it’s possible to enjoy that new pair of shoes, knowing they were made with toxic materials by a 10-year-old on a 12-hour shift.

    I don’t understand why men keep coming her and telling us what we already know. That their gratification is a higher priority to them than the life and health of a child or the degradation of a woman.
    We know that, rootbeer. We blame the patriarchy for conditioning you to it.
    Are you suggesting that you lack empathy to such a dramatic degree that you make no effort whatsoever to overcome the conditioning? You’re claiming this is reasonable in spite of the men right here on this here blog telling you it is not?

  46. scoobs

    Ever notice how few cultural references there are to female masturbation, as compared to male masturbation?

  47. kate

    In a post patriarchy world, the word “pornography” with its almost purient alliteration would seem stupid.

    I have nothing else to add as so many said it so well, especially LMYC and your breakdown of consent and the denial of oppression.

    I am alive here today for all who wish to know, to tell you that on a daily basis, refusing to be porntastic to amuse the males will not put you in physical jeopardy. That is a lie propounded by those in power. I am in more danger wearing a skirt and heels walking down the street than I am in my jeans, chore coat and doc martens.

    That is at least I am safer from direct attack as the signals of my complicity and thus the approval of my suffering attack are minimized. No one wants to attack the ugly bitch in the doc martens, they want the pretty chic in the mini skirt. Not only do I offer no status for conquest, I also offer no built-in absolution from guilt.

    Thus also, when I apply for a job, ask for directions or ask for a size 8 in that type, I am ignored until I push for recognition (thus earning women like me the title of pushy bitch). As a woman, the extent to which I signal my complicity to my oppression as a sexual object relegates the extent to which I am visible at all.

    As woman, if I refuse to signal submission, I cease to exist. That I think is what many women fear.

  48. LMYC

    I don’t believe that pseudoscience that says “oh, men are just more visual.”

    Metal Prophet, neither do I. Based on what?

    Predominance of color terms.

    Seriously — one of the more interesting linguistic things (that wasn’t stained with Whorf-Sapire nonsense) that I recall learning was that societies accumulate color terms in a fairly predictable order. Not all societies have all terms for color, and the first ones they generally get are “light” and “dark.” “White” and “black.”

    Then, unsurprisingly, “red.”

    Then “green” and/or “blue.”

    Then you proceed from there.

    What this means is that NO society has a term for “brown” or “purple” but no term for “red” or “blue.” They come in order, and they multiply as the society becomes more “complex” where complexity is measured in terms of technological whatsises and how hard you have to work for a living, distinct professions, that sort of thing. How “visually oriented” a society has to be, in other words, not because it’s innate, but because there are visual distinctions that need to be made. Not because they can suddenly tell “blue” from “green,” but because there is a reason to draw the distinction.

    Which sex has the more complex color terms?

    Which sex knows the difference between mauve and fawn?

    Which sex knows the different between “turquoise” and “light blue?”

    One guess.

    And I’ll also hazard the guess that that’s the sex that’s more visually oriented, as much as that term means anything.

    Funny that.

    Personally, I think most men are only “visually oriented” because none of their other senses seem to work as well. They don’t bother listening to other voices — certainly not female ones. And as Joanna Russ once stated, they might as well be anaesthetized between chin and crotch.

  49. rootbeer

    the bewilderness, my point about the shoes is in reference to an earlier commenter’s post about liking new shoes.

    we all indulge in things that cannot exist withoug creating harm in the world. i’d like to avoid it at all costs and, where i’m unconcious of the harm i cause, to be notified at once.

    also, i accept that i have been conditioned by both the patriarchy and my genetic make-up. i also accept the fact that everything i say on this site – if i have not already been banned – will be taken with something more than a grain of salt, and that everything i say, even in agreement with the principles espoused by the proprietor thereof, will be seen to be, in some way, a defence of the patriarchy.

    fair enough.

  50. Catherine Martell

    Really, this blog – and its comments – give me more “ding!” moments than anything else on the internet. I have been convinced of the evilitude of porn for many a moon, but the way you lot put things just makes me leap out of my chair and jump up and down pointing at the screen, shouting “Yes! Exactly! That’s exactly what I’ve been trying to say for years!” High-fives all round.

    Further to TP & LMYC’s exchange:

    Men tend to look at masturbation as sex they have with themselves because women refuse to do it with them.

    There’s also the definition that men regard masturbating as sex they get to have without having to put up with a woman. Not her cunt, the woman herself.

    An old dude once told me that he thought that, when men paid prostitutes, they weren’t paying them to have sex. They were paying them to go away afterwards.

    As far as my radicalisation went, that was something of an ephiphanic moment. His analysis was a huge oversimplification, of course: but the fact that it defined women as an irritant, and put them exactly on a level with other disposable sex commodities like a condom or a tissue – to be used once and discarded – was like if I’d been sleeping soundly in a warm bed and someone chucked a bucket of iced water over me.

  51. rootbeer

    i don’t have any erudite insight into why people think men are more visual, except that there exists a multi-billion-dollar industry to supply men with pictures naked babes. the market has spoken – not that it’s my custom to listen, but there might be something to that.

    but, the visual instinct doesn’t apply during the actual act, because when you’re with your lover doing what comes natural, you’re too close to see anything anyway. that, and your eyes are often closed… and the lights off.

  52. "Blamer M"

    Hey all! Wow! I never thought that Twisty would respond, much less post it up! Very exciting.

    I just have to say, I love you all. Seriously. I’ve been feeling so crazy for so long, and I finally feel like I can breathe. The comments are just amazing. And Twisty-well, I knew she would write something amazing that just put it all together. My brain has been spinning around with thoughts, but I try to write something and it’s just “duhh.”

    Wow.

  53. rootbeer

    catherine, as one who has known many men who avail themselves of the services of prostitutes – i am not among them – your friend’s analysis is basically spot on. all the ones i’ve known have actually been sociopaths: completely unable to sense or sympathize with the feelings of another human being.

    also, they’ve all had serious power issues. one has gone so far as to move back to korea where, so he says, the women aren’t “uppity.” i think he means, “empowered.”*

    * i acknowlege that empowerment is a relative measure.

  54. "Blamer M"

    Holy crap, rootbeer that is the saddest thing ever-you need porn because you have sex in the dark with your eyes closed? Try opening your eyes and turning the lights on-it’s fun. This can’t be a serious post, can it?

  55. rootbeer

    sure it can. you just have to read it with your eyes open.

  56. thebewilderness

    rootbeer: may i point out that this thread is sorely lacking the benefit some first hand insight.

    Each of us is fully equipped with first hand insight, thank you very much. You are being presumptuous and rude when you dismiss all of the collective experience of the people in the discussion as “lacking in first hand insight” and then proceed to set us straight. Your opinion has no more or less weight than anyone elses. It is perhaps the patriarchial conditioning that causes you to speak as though it did.

  57. rootbeer

    right, but you realize that if you had read (with your eyes open) the entire sentence, you’d see that i’d stated my membership in a segment of the population to which i presume – shame on me – that you do not belong.

    if i was not interested in perspectives other than my own, i would not read this weblog every day, nor would i have read your comment.

  58. LMYC

    I do struggle with the concept that admiring physical beauty is inherently oppressive. Not that anyone said that exactly, but I wonder about it.

    I’ve never needed an excuse to address something, but I can definitely speak directly to this one.

    I fall within that slice of humanity that is considered “beautiful.” It is not something I did, it’s not an achievement, it is most emphatically not something that deserved admiration. On any plane.

    It’s a birth defect in reverse. That is quite literally it. If you can justify regarding someone with contempt for being ugly by nature, then perhaps you can “admire” physical beauty. But “admiring” it is like “admiring” someone as a brilliant financial genius for winning the lottery. Beauty is a fucking genetic crapshoot, and mine came at the expense of my cardiac and orthopedic health, thanks to an odd genetic disability that created sharper facial features, sharp cheekbones, height, thinness … and fucked up heart valves. Had I not had this disability, I probably would not be called “beautiful,” or might at most be “pretty.”

    Intersting how something that makes me hotly pursued as a reproductive sex partner by males also means that I am much more likely to die from pregnancy AND pass on the same defect to the next generation. That tells you everything you need to know about ev-psych and male standards for sexula partners.

    It would be nice to find someone (women for me) who could acknowledge what I look like without ending up hanging a ton of baggage off of it, but it’s not going to happen. “Admiring” a human body cannot be disengaged from “admiring” the human living in it — or hating that human, or resenting that human, or any of a dozen emotional reactions that have nothing to do with leg length, waist size, hair texture, eye color and size, or skin condition.

    It’s even that way with animals — just about every single animal that has some beauty-related “admirable” quality is so far down on the endangered species list that they might as well be extinct already. “Admiring” beauty is in every case you can name, dangerous.

    And usually, “beauty” is just another word for “relative scarcity” anyhow. Where most people are dark, blondes are prized. In northern countries, black hair is almost irresistible. Most Americans are “overweight” by some possibly bullshit standard, so thinness is prized. Dark hair is more common here in a genetically mixed country, so blonde hair is prized (and labelled prized since money is made by selling hair bleach).

    The second you start to talk about beauty, you walk into a labyrinth of patriarchal manipulation that you’ll never trace your way out of.

    Beauty is a big pain in the ass. It’s useless. It tells you nothing about a person’s fitness for parenting, which is often the excuse used for admiring it. Etc. etc. etc.

  59. LMYC

    the market has spoken – not that it’s my custom to listen, but there might be something to that.

    OMFG, we got ourselves a libertarian. Honey, if you think that “the market” is some sort of automatic machine that generates perfectly untainted truth with no influence from arbitrary forcdes, you’re crazy. Or very, very young. Or stupid. Or all three.

    Go back to “The Fountainhead,” it’s more your speed.

  60. rootbeer

    “It would be nice to find someone (women for me) who could acknowledge what I look like without ending up hanging a ton of baggage off of it, but it’s not going to happen.”

    does this mean that women place as much importance on physical beauty as men do?

  61. rootbeer

    i read the fountainhead, but it left me wanting. i think libertarians are kooks.

    i don’t think the market generates anything. i do know that greed compels some people to serve a possibly unhealthy demand by producing goods to satisfy it. pictures of babes for example. i do also know that if women had a similar hunger for pictures of naked dudes – or babes, or whatever – those same greedy people would be scrambling to get it onto the shelves.

    i mean, sometimes ideology and reality really do intersect. at those points, it’s silly to deny it.

  62. Metal Prophet

    “i read the fountainhead, but it left me wanting. i think libertarians are kooks.”

    This, I suppose, is the first step to recovery.

  63. rootbeer

    recorvery is what i come here for.

  64. TP

    Catherine Martell, I am so glad you called me out, because I admire your writing unreservedly. And I am always flattered when someone as cool and passionate as LMYC takes my thought and improves it so much.

    One clarification for my definition of porn in a post-patriarchal society: It can’t be reproduced, which means it would not exist, since pornography is the graphic representation of women of loose morals, by ancient greek definition. That’s some highly patriarchal shit. Our language is hard-coded to degrade women.

    I can see rootbeer struggling, in a kind of hard to understand way, with the arousal he feels when looking at graphic representations of women. I say, keep thinking, rootbeer, and keep reading this blog.

    I hate to sound like a whiny little brat soaking in my own piss pool of privilege, but it took me years and years to really accept the hard cold fact that my response – arousal – to pornography was due to decades – a lifetime – of conditioning. I flailed through every possible denial I could invent or steal to try to avoid the horrible realization that I had willingly given myself over to this pornsickness.

    But the women in this forum have provided more examples and testimony than I could ever possibly ignore that have convinced me that the truth is the truth, and that I can at least try to rise above it.

    I don’t expect the women in this forum to hold back a thing when they call me or any other man out for being smug or assuming privilege or just not getting it. It’s essential that they do. But I hope I can give a small shout of encouragement to a man that he can figure this all out and come to terms with his own responses by listening here.

  65. rootbeer

    i’m not struggling with my response to visual cues. as long as i’m a man and i can see, i will respond to the sight of a beautiful – by my standard – woman.

    anyone who claims to be uninterested in the sight of an attractive man or woman is, i think, not being entirely honest.

  66. octopod

    LMYC: I don’t admire a person for being beautiful because I know they don’t have the choice. I do, though, take issue with your statement that admiration of a person’s beauty can’t be separated from your assessment of them as a person. In my personal experience, at least, this is not true.
    I’m also not convinced that pornography that rests on good literary style — that is, pornography that would allow the reader/viewer/consumer to connect with the characters and sympathise with them as they fall in love/have sex — will necessarily be obsolete after the revolution.

    rootbeer: if you don’t think women place as much importance on physical appearance as men do, you sure haven’t been listening to the right kind of locker-room talk. They’re just more often willing to ignore it, because fewer men make an effort to be sexually attractive, but the women still feel the need for sex and companionship and whatnot.

  67. lawbitch

    Sex in the dark? Get a more confident partner and turn on those lights!

    Even when I don’t even try to live up to pornilicious standards, I get checked out by dudes. I can’t even go into the grocery store in regular jeans without getting the dudely lear. I don’t consider this attention a compliment.

    When I get older and lose my fuckability, I’ll be more invisible. I don’t know how that’ll make me feel, but I know that I’ll feel somewhat liberated by my new found anonymity.

    DISCLAIMER for misspellings: I wish that there was a spell checker feature here. Please excuse any poor spelling!

  68. Jezebella

    You have just, conveniently, changed the terms of the argument. There is absolutely an enormous difference between admiring a “beautiful” person and consuming pornography.

    Can you not see that? Pornography is not about beauty. Re-read Twisty’s post and this thread, with that thought in mind, if you don’t understand that statement.

    If all you wanted was to admire beautiful women, they would not have to be naked, submissive, fuckable, and being fucked for you to admire them.

    This is a lie you are telling yourself: “I am aroused by porn because I enjoy beauty.” It is a BIG FAT LIE and I suggest you disabuse yourself of it.

  69. rootbeer

    oh, the lights stay on in the kitchen… and in the bathroom… and in the tool shed…

    when a rendezvous takes place in a tent in the subarctic (as one is wont to do from time to time) and the midnight sun ain’t obliging, well, you take what you can get.

    octopod, i do believe that women can be stimulated visually, but not in a way that causes them to buy massive quantities of porn. besides, the prevailing opinion among commenters here seems to imply – despite some glaring self-contradictions – that enlightened womenfolk will not be subject to, nor will they apply judgements of a physical nature. well, sure. whatever.

  70. roamaround

    LMYC, thanks for your take on beauty. I didn’t mean “admiring” in that beauty is an accomplishment, but more admiration in an aesthetic sense. Male and female, some people’s eyes (lips, skin) are just stunning, and some bodies exude youth, strength and health in a way that I can’t help but notice and appreciate.

    I’m sure you’re right that beauty is all tangled up in a labyrinth of patriarchal manipulation and poisoned by pornography and capitalist marketing. It’s also really unfair and a crap shoot (but so are a lot of things—I wish I could sing, but I can’t.) Anything so damaging and divisive to women is worth giving up, but it’s a struggle for me to get my head around it.

  71. Mandos

    I don’t have a problem with there being no porn post-patriarchy. I do struggle with the concept that admiring physical beauty is inherently oppressive. Not that anyone said that exactly, but I wonder about it.

    I was told here a few weeks ago that in the future, we will be ethereal brain clouds eternally contemplating the allness or whatever. Hence, there will be no such concept as physical beauty.

  72. Indy

    I was reading some blog or message board or godknows what a while back, and came across a complaint by a porn store clerk, saying that every once in a while, people would come in and ask where the femminist porn was. Eyerolling ensues because, well, there is no such cataglory. There is just a gradiation between hyper mysogenistic, twisted shit, and movies of people behaving in a sexual fashon.

    //understanding that some people here consider them one and the same//

    I like porn, because the memory of my 700mile absent ex girlfriend just gets really, really depressing after a while.

  73. LMYC

    I do, though, take issue with your statement that admiration of a person’s beauty can’t be separated from your assessment of them as a person. In my personal experience, at least, this is not true.

    Octo, I generally find that this is one of those things that is “true in theory,” in other words — not true. In my experience, people want to believe it’s possible, but … it’s not. Saying that people can separate their reaction to a person’s exterior and their reaction to that person is like saying that you can wear a thong as a politically neutral act. It’s just not doable, as much as people want to think it is.

  74. rootbeer

    jezebella, if you’re referring to my comments, i hadn’t intended to conflate the appreciation of beauty with the consumption of pornography.

    but several commenters here do seem to think – not without grounds – that adjudication on the grounds of physical beauty is oppression, and that when men appreciate beauty they are really measuring fuckability. if that’s the case, it’s a short leap from there to the commercialization of this phenomenon, don’t you think?

    also, if you read my comment carefully, you will see that the meat of my point is that virtually any image can be sexualized. is any depiction of a woman – beautiful by the patriarchy’s standards or otherwise – pornography? what if i told you any depiction could be arousing? now is it pornography? if venus williams shows up in sports illustrated, is she there for tittilation, or because she’s a spectacular athlete? does it depend on how men react to the images?

    also, don’t accuse someone of lying when the evidence that contradicts you is printed on the very same page as the accusation.

  75. lucizoe

    Bringing this back around to Twisty’s post and M’s letter *waves at M* I’ve been giving invisibility a try. I’m 25 years old, live in NYC, have annoyingly big breasts and a damn cute face. Lately I’ve been stomping about town in wide-legged long pants, my steel-toed work-boots, baggy shirts, hair cut as short as I could get it without using clippers, and my usual no-make-up state.

    Wow. It’s like I fade into the background everywhere I go. I’ve been stomped on, whacked with some dude’s umbrella (really fucking hard, in my bad knee), and cut in line by a few women who are better at obeying the laws of femininity than I ever was. Maybe it’s just been a weird couple of months, but this weekend when I wasn’t wearing my work clothes, I was deferred to, offered help in shops, and decidedly NOT ignored the way I am during the week.

    It’s a really interesting experiment. I can understand why some women would dig the benefits the feminine drag gets them, but personally, I’m not finding it worth it. The other “benefit” of the invisibility is that I’m more free to notice how certain men react to women and, um, ICK. I want to slap some of these assholes I see ogling little girls on the train.

  76. spiritrock

    “They seem to think that creating an alternative will somehow stop the mainstream degrading porn. Or something. … Is it that they are too scared to admit the truth? I know it’s painful to see the truth, so maybe that’s it. Or, are they just so brainwashed by mainstream pornification that they truly believe this stuff?”

    Perhaps they are equating free, voluntary access to a market with liberation from an oppression which may have created the market in the first place. Also, as per Rootbeer, even if men are more visually stimulated than women (Twisty’s prior post about ogling hinted that this is not true), one can still blame the patriarchy for perpetuating and rewarding it.

  77. J

    BDL, LMYC, pisqauri,j, Miller — you guys are especially on fire.

    Thanks, I think – there is someone in here who uses the lower-case “j” as their screen-name. I’m thinking of writing under what’s become elsewhere my usual screen-name: “pdxstudent.”

    I got a bit too big for my britchs a month or whatever ago, and took to doing in the comment-commons what should, by and large, be done in my head. So, I’ve taken to lurking while I re-ordered what it even means (or what it should or shouldn’t mean to comment, as a man, in a feminist blog) for me to “be here.” I’m still doing that, I guess, but becoming less of a lurker.

  78. KMTberry

    LMYC: your comment about porn’s appeal bieng tied to the fact that there is no actual woman-irritant involved is SO INCISIVE!

    You are so BRAINS!

    This whole THREAD is afire! WOW!

  79. Meg

    I read this post about half an hour before stumbling across this week’s New York Times Magazine porn-and-patriarchy affirming piece about a pornography web business. The gist of the article (which is called “A Disciplined Business”) is “porn’s mainstream, and those who don’t welcome porn-producing businesses in their neighborhoods are so out-dated prudish feminists.”

    My rage was controllable during my reading of it only because I knew that there was an island of sanity to return to here at IBTP, and in fact this very post…

    With something like this in the Sunday news magazine, I sort of wonder, what are we doing? That is, we who claim to care for liberating women from their position as the sex class? That porn should be so taken for granted…. it just seems like nothing’s being effectively changed despite all the alleged waves of feminism or what have you, despite years of solid blaming. Shouldn’t we be, I don’t know, strategizing or something? I’m not sure I know what that would even look like – but it seems like somehow we need to be doing more than just posting on blogs… (Not to downplay the importance of this blog. Like I said, it helps keep one sane. But still, isn’t there something we all should be doing other than trawling the internet?)

  80. Praxis

    I’m going to try and add my .02 cents as concisely as possible:

    Porn is one of the primary social institutions by which the social construction of women’s sexuality as submission to male dominance and objectification by men is made hegemonic.

    The issue of the consent of women performing in porn is furthermore wholly irrelevant because invisible to the men consuming porn because those women are being paid to act out a socially constructed role.

  81. Praxis

    Okay, I couldn’t just leave it at that. I’d add that this is best evidenced by the exaggeration in Porn of precisely the aspects relating to the social construction of women as the sex class: submission by women, dominance by men; all the visual markers of acquiescence to this social role i.e. make-up, breast-implants; obsessive focus on sex acts socially constructed–in large part by porn itself–as degrading to women and demonstrating their enjoyment of being submissive to men’s gratification; etc. In this way porn clearly differentiates itself from the oft troted out hypothetical of the value neutral graphic representation of sex (ignoring, for the moment, the impossibility of such value neutrality within the social context of Patriarchy).

  82. kate

    Thank you lucizoe, now I’m not alone in my refusal to play dress up for the patriarchy on a daily basis.

    LYMC: I do not and never did possess the traits you have, but when I was younger I was quite fit and had the soft innocent brooke sheilds type of face, so a got a lot of attention, yet never saw myself as ‘attractive’ or those other more endearing terms used on me. I always did and still do, thought that such references were always clearly, “I see you as someone I can dominate and take as a prize.” It is was not comforting to be stared at, or approached, or followed by strangers or even acquaintances.

    In fact, I think any woman can attest to that as most women will always possess some physical features that a man connects to his manhood.

    Rootbeer: “that adjudication on the grounds of physical beauty is oppression, and that when men appreciate beauty they are really measuring fuckability. if that’s the case, it’s a short leap from there to the commercialization of this phenomenon, don’t you think?”

    So you agree then that pornography is basically the commercialization of women’s oppression as demanded by men who get most aroused by images of women as sexual tools.

    But then, you go and undo the sale to yourself: “you will see that the meat of my point is that virtually any image can be sexualized. is any depiction of a woman – beautiful by the patriarchy’s standards or otherwise – pornography?”

    Yes, we see that the meat of most of your points is that you are struggling to rationalize your response to porn as a natural response and not the result of long term social conditioning. Shoes and fishes of the sea can indeed be sexualized when ‘sexualized’ means fetishized. Our consumer/consumption oriented social system has come to equate fetish with love or some pure act of human connection which it is not.

    Porn fetishizes (sp?) the domination of women, the denial of which in order to facilitate participation is absolutely necessary. Once porn is seen as the fetish of domination that it is, that involves and destroys countless lives and debases our humanity, then it no longer will have a need to serve.

  83. kate

    Wait a minute, I meant to preface my last sentence as ‘in a just society’, cause it ain’t happenin’ here, I GAW-RAN-TEE!

  84. CuriouserAndCuriouser

    it just seems like nothing’s being effectively changed despite all the alleged waves of feminism or what have you, despite years of solid blaming. Shouldn’t we be, I don’t know, strategizing or something?

    I have that same feeling of wanting to do something useful, to use my rage as a force for change somehow. But action can seem frightening, as witness all the recent news stories reminding us how near the surface the violence that enforces patriarchal rule is. Whether it’s the stalker who finally goes amok, or verbal abuse of a blogger that terrifies and intimidates her or even simply exhausts her into hanging it up, the energy it takes just to tread water and not lose ground is overwhelming. The ongoing assault is merciless, relentless, from all sides, every day, everywhere we go. I don’t know about you, but just having energy to get through the day feels like a major victory much of the time, much less putting on my armor and wading into the fray.

    And I try, in my small ways, to stand up to ‘them’ – not deferring, not averting my gaze, not stepping aside. Insisting on being heard, not permitting interruptions, staring down some a*hole eyeballing me until he finally looks away, and eventually walks away as I continue to eyeball him back. But it’s exhausting. Some days it’s easier just to hole up in my hermitage.

  85. Marcy

    Great post on porn, Twisty.

    I’ve hated porn for as long as I can remember. I’m not quite as articulate as you, so when I was dating a fella who was into porn and going to strip clubs, all I could do was be in a rage for days and then dump him. I couldn’t articulate what the problem was. Although, in retrospect, I think it was that I couldn’t articulate the problem well enough for him to admit anything was wrong with the practice. He had the typical arguments you’d expect from a guy who was into porn and wanted to justify it.

    What I especially hate is the violence, the degradation, the conflation of sex and violence. If you ever look at the shit that’s on the internet, the women are always mentioned to be filthy, dirty whores. I guess that’s to make it easier to do mean and cruel things to them. There is a genre of porn I came across known as ass-to-mouth. I had no idea such things existed. I’m sure everyone knows what I’m referring to, but just in case, it involves a woman sucking a guy’s dick after it’s been up her (or another woman’s) ass. Now, this had me in a state for days. I assumed that doing some activity that could potentially put a woman at risk for infection would be a sign of misogyny. But just in case it was some kinky fetish that had nothing to do with hating women, I tried looking for GAY ass-to-mouth porn. Interesting. Considering that male homosexuals are known to engage in anal sex, I did not find one instance of subsequent dick sucking afterwards. All searches for gay ass-to-mouth porn came back with only hetero results. So, I was convinced it was specifically designed to denigrate women. It is so disgusting. I wish I had never known about it. It saddens me to think that there are women who are forced to do that. I don’t buy this whole consenting bullshit. No one consents to sticking something in their mouth that was once up someone’s ass. Nobody.

    I really wish I were a lesbian sometimes. It’s really hard to be a feminist and hetero. I just recently stopped shaving, and I’m sure that’s gonna make me even less attractive to men. But fuck ‘em. Who cares. Shaving is a purely advertising-driven thing anyway. I’m sick of capitalist pigs getting rich from making me feel inadequate. I’m a human female, dammit, and we have hair all over our bodies. I just went out today with shorts on and hairy legs, and I fucking loved it! The patriarchy can kiss my ass.

  86. Loorol

    One of the reasons I love this blog so much is because it equips me.

    I come here because I have begun to understand what I face by the simple act of existing in a misogynistic culture. I come here because I am already fierce and intelligent, but I want my arguments to be honed enough to make an impact quickly and deeply.

    I am tired of searching for words, and I am more than ready to see the tables turned so that the misogyny cheerleaders are the ones left stumbling and groping for a new argument when the debate gets hot.

    The posts and the ensuing comments give me tools to better cope with and confront the things I deal with and watch others dealing with on a daily basis. I often keep mulling over a phrase or concept I find here that makes sense to me. I try to see how it would hold up in an argument, and I try to predict the counter-arguments. This blaming is serious business, yo?

    LMYC: I dug your comparison of voyeristic eating/shitting with porn consumption. I want to get your thoughts (or any other blamers’!) on one bit of it, though, because after I sat with it a while the parallel felt slightly askew. Specifically, yeah, it’s ridiculous to look at pictures of people eating when what you want to do is satiate your own hunger. At best, it sounds disturbingly dysfunctional. However, what about when you aren’t hungry, but you peruse foodie articles or you go hunting for recipes with lavish picture spreads just because you really, really like food? You like thinking about what you might cook next time, or you want to learn about cuisine in different regions, or whatever–the point is just that it is a fulfilling activity in and of itself. On one level, applying this argument to porn is disturbingly revealing because it brings into focus the probability that (as many of us argue repeatedly) people WILL ACT OUT the degrading and horrific scenes in porn. I get that. I think where I lose the certainty of how I would use your argument in an actual conversation would be when people backpedal to talk about what is perceived as nonviolent porn–the Playboy demographic, which is more about infantilization of women and hot chicks getting nekkid so they can be ogled, from what I understand.

    Other than the fact that such porn objectifies women, making it easier for the rest of the garbage to exist, and the fact that consuming such porn helps the porn industry thrive, is there an argument against it that would have more punch to someone who is only passingly familiar with feminist theory?

    Lard, I love this place.

  87. Loosely Twisted

    I am seeing a possibility, but I haven’t the fancy words like so many of you here. So bare with me please.

    When ever I agreed to view porn with my SO, (they are long gone now) but when I did, the reason I never liked it was because the women/men are always portrayed as shallow, nothing but litteral pictures. Predictable, easy dismissed. (the whole Idea I guess)

    While it did sometimes arouse me, it did nothing for my brain and consequentially I never orgasmed from watching.

    But Twisty brings up that there wouldn’t be porn in the Post-patriarchy and I agree, however, I pose a question.

    If, say, we obtain our long sought goal of egliatarian society, wouldn’t that also stand to say that Nudity and Taboo would cease to exist as well?

    That should we enjoy admiring natural beauty, the art of said era would include males and the dominant culture?

    When we view porn, it’s male bodies that are the least seen, least viewed. (Unless your viewing gay porn, and even then, only the “female” side of the equation is “centered” within the viewing area)

    Would it be changed, to view all of the participants. Showing bodies that range in size, color, texture. Would it show a more open state?

    I imagine that it would also mean something with in the given text as well. Not porn per’se’ but Nudity that is now taboo that would have occured naturally in the course of a story.

    Example Robin Hood (Kevin Costner version) Which would include both of them having sex, as an example because of the now changed views of the society?

    dawg, I can’t describe what I am just touching with a slight understanding. I can see it, I can even taste it but the words elude me. I am going to think more on this and try again when I wake up.

  88. RadFemHedonist

    “Ever notice how few cultural references there are to female masturbation, as compared to male masturbation?”

    Multiple times, It’s one of many appalling double standards.

    “I don’t have a problem with there being no porn post-patriarchy. I do struggle with the concept that admiring physical beauty is inherently oppressive. Not that anyone said that exactly, but I wonder about it.”

    I think it is inherently oppressive, I never pay any attention to how people look.

    “I don’t buy this whole consenting bullshit. No one consents to sticking something in their mouth that was once up someone’s ass. Nobody.”

    or more specifically not without a friggin’ cleaning of the ass inserted bodypart/thing inbetween the two. I was horrified when I heard about this about… sometime this year, it is a blatant example of attempting to degrade women, an incredibly hate filled act.

  89. Feminist Avatar

    I agree that under the patriarchal system that standards of beauty that are intrisically laden with power are inherently wrong and problematic.

    But, I think that declarations that deny the existence of or the non-importance of the human body and its aesthetics are equally problematic. My body is part of me in all its lumpy, imperfect and absolute gorgousness. It shapes my experiences of the world and how I am treated, and of course this is not unproblematic, but I don’t want it taken away from me. In a post-patriarchal world, my value shall not lie in my body but it will still be part of me and my experiences and interactions with the world. I don’t know if I want that denied- in much the same way that Twisty, rightly, has a problem hiding her masectomy scars.

    I think to deny the body and its aesthetics is to reduce us as human beings by denying an intrinsic part of our experience.

    On a different, but related issue, I think Twisty raises an interesting point about the power that women gain from their beauty. It gives those women a form of power that must be very enticing, the ability to influence men. Yet, it occurs to me that any power that has to be exercised through another person is no power at all.

  90. RadFemHedonist

    I think the body is important, the thing which gives pleasure and allows interaction with the world, but that doesn’t mean I care how it looks.

  91. Lily Underwood

    DING! indeed. Thank you, Twisty.

    Lawbitch: The sad truth is women do become more invisible as their “fuckability” declines. The patriarchy seems to hate old (and presumably because of that ugly) women even more than they hate young ones.

    rootbeer: I agree with Twisty. You need to find the shift key. I wish you luck in your search for enlightenment, but I suspect you’re not quite as open to expansion as your words suggest. Keep trying, dude.

  92. Mar Iguana

    “But then I look at all of the other inequalities in the world, most notably racial and economic, and realize that porn, and marriage along with it, will always be around as long as these other inequalities are…” Sean

    You have it backwards. Racial and economic inequalities are the direct result of sexism; the root, as in radical, oppression from which all others spring.

  93. Sunday School Dropout

    This is beautiful. You should have more “Ask Twisty”s, they’re excellent for forwarding to friends and associates who are curious blamers-in-the-making and need some articulate answers. Perfect.

  94. Sunday School Dropout

    To some of the comments about consent– If a woman asks for an abortion and the doctor thinks it’s gross and wrong, you’re using the same line of thought.

  95. J

    “If, say, we obtain our long sought goal of egliatarian society, wouldn’t that also stand to say that Nudity and Taboo would cease to exist as well?”

    It doesn’t sound impossible. However, if I may hazard a guess at the connection you’re fostering between porn and Nudity/Taboo, you have to understand that in a very important sense that porn doesn’t have anything to do with nudity or taboo. Nudity is a minor condition that gives rise to porn, and in a certain way doesn’t constitute it the way that submission and gender do. If porn was problematic just as an affront to our prude sensibilities, we wouldn’ be having this conversation about it. Porn, however, is not simply about nudity, but the meaning of certain people being nude (and fucking).

  96. LMYC

    If a woman asks for an abortion and the doctor thinks it’s gross and wrong, you’re using the same line of thought.

    A doctor is a profession; when you become one and work at a given hospital, you make an explicit agreement to perform the job. If you can’t do that, then you find aother line of work. And given that abortion is a public health service, you make sure that that woman has access to others who would perform it.

    “Being a woman” is not a line of work, nor is “being ten years old.”

  97. Mar Iguana

    …”egalitarian porn…” rootbeer

    Oxymoron. From Webster’s (sorry, I don’t know how to do italics):

    por-no’-graphy [Gk pornographos, adj., writing about prostitutes, fr. porne (prostitute) graphein (to write) akin to Gk pernanai (to sell) poros (journey) more at FARE, CARVE] (ca. 1864)

    Apparently circa 1864, men were alarmed by the first stirrings of feminism therefore decideded they needed to coin a fancy word to describe patriarchy’s division of women who are good (asexual) and women who are bad (available for sexual degradation). And, carve?! Good grief and yikes.

    “Porn” is Greek for prostitute. Take it from there.

  98. LMYC

    I always did and still do, thought that such references were always clearly, “I see you as someone I can dominate and take as a prize.” It is was not comforting to be stared at, or approached, or followed by strangers or even acquaintances.

    kate, 10% agreement. The ability of a beautiful woman to attract male attention is “power” only if the ability of a steak in a shark tank to attract attention is “power.”

  99. Natalia

    Loorol said:

    I think where I lose the certainty of how I would use your argument in an actual conversation would be when people backpedal to talk about what is perceived as nonviolent porn–the Playboy demographic, which is more about infantilization of women and hot chicks getting nekkid so they can be ogled, from what I understand.

    I think the problem with so many discussions of porn is that they focus on the content rather than the form of porn. Yes, the content is degrading, but the form reveals that porn as a genre couldn’t possibly be anything else. “Objectification” is such a widely used term now that we have forgotten what it means.

    The form of porn is such that, at any given time, a man can access, for money or for free, an image of a patriarchally hott woman who really looks like she wants to have sex with him — no matter who he is, what he is like, what time of night it is — without, in short, the intervention of reality.

    The pornographic image is the eternally sexually available — and eager — woman. Consent is not an issue because the woman is an object, in this case an image. Prostitutes and strippers are similarly women reduced to objecthood, and it’s this very objectification that’s the appeal of porn. As so many blamers have observed, porn eliminates the possibility that, due to consideration for some other person’s needs, desires, or legal rights (the “it’s better than rape!” argument), a man might actually have to forego having an orgasm right now. The immobilized, aestheticized, sexualized, and yes, objectified female body is the basis for porn, and simultaneously the basis for the patriarchal beauty mandate, to which many women are forced to acquiesce for survival. Which means that to aspire to the scraps of success that are available to women in patriarchy is to aspire to become an aesthetic object, and to aspire to such beauty is to aspire to the condition of a corpse.

    In short, Loorol, “nonviolent porn” is still, by its very form, violent toward women. IBTP.

  100. Laura

    When “admiring” “beauty,” it’s important to think about whether you’re really just admiring how well a woman conforms to the beauty standards you have been conditioned to appreciate.

  101. LMYC

    … nothing’s being effectively changed despite all the alleged waves of feminism or what have you, despite years of solid blaming. Shouldn’t we be, I don’t know, strategizing or something?

    Meg,I say we build a rocket to our own planet. I really see nothing changing ever. Ever. Cynical — no, I pronounce that word “accurate.”

    Men. Will. Never. Change.

  102. Jezebella

    Loorol, you’re describing what I call “food porn.” I also refer to HGTV as “house porn”. I had to get rid of those channels because I spent my weekends glued to the TV, dreaming of fancy kitchenware and designer sofas, instead of living my life.

    You’ve got me thinking: What’s the common denominator between food, house, and sexual porn? Consumption. Purchase and use. The difference, of course, is that fresh mozzarella and handmade designer rugs aren’t human, but the commodification of the female body implies that it’s as consumable, as available for purchase, as a good meal or a nice chandelier.

    Meg, I too ran across the Sunday NY Times article on the fresh young face of BDSM pornography only minutes after leaving this thread. I couldn’t even really *read* it, just skimmed, finding nauseating quotes right and left. Perhaps the most egregiously offensive were the protesters who declined to absolutely condemn porn – “It’s not that we’re opposed to PORN,” they’d say, they just don’t want it in their neighborhood. Isn’t San Francisco supposed to be progressive, PC, enlightened? Apparently not. I hate that people don’t want to say out loud that they’re opposed to porn.

    rootbeer, yes, my comment was directed at you. I’m not going to bother replying to your arguments because you’re boring, not because you won the point.

  103. LMYC

    And kate, that 10% should of course be a 100%. My 0 key is a bit sticky. *makes duh face*

  104. Twisty

    rootbeer is excused from the discussion. His failure to grasp that I require commmenters to (a) not rationalize male privilege and (b) to use capitalization like a grown-up, reveals that he is an ass.

  105. Margarita

    “You are satisfying a body appetite without the tedious, annoying other person’s presence. You have turned another human into a three-dimensional, person-shaped blank. That’s inherently oppressive.”

    LMYC, thank you so much. I’m new to Twisty and, being fairly young, have only recently begun to think of feminism and patriarchy. When i read this post i was confused, but trying to understand what Twisty was telling me that i couldn’t seem to absorb – even though i felt that what she had written was true, i couldn’t see how it applied to me – it didn’t change my perspective. My previous views on pornography have been: “oh well, it’s not for me…maybe i’ll try it some day…if everyone involved is consenting i don’t see what the problem is etc etc.”

    The lines that i have quoted from you were the ones that made the little switch in my head go click. i think i can understand what is oppressive about pornography, it’s like i have finally seen a little bit of the invisible patriarchy and how it directly affects me. Like when people ignore me if i happen to be standing with a man of my acquaintance and address him instead. And the way that there are only clothes available in shops that “showcase” my breasts, apparantly making it ok for men to talk to them, yet i’m not allowed to walk around topless, so i have been taught to be ashamed of my body except for the bits i’m expected to show for male pleasure. Everything that has been telling me to shut up, take up less space, control myself because the basic, inferior nature of women is to be hysterical and we wouldn’t want that, would we? No indeed, how embarrassing. Basically all the ways in which i have been painting my cardboard collar with glitter for quite some time. I could go on, but i’m sure you’ve heard it all before.

    And thank you Twisty, if you read this, because reading your blog in these recent weeks has started to pull together all the little threads of “something ain’t right here” that have been blowing around loose-ended in my mind for quite some time.

  106. ruxandra

    while i wholeheartedly agree with twisty’s perfectly elaborated thesis and analysis that

    Until the sex class is liberated from male oppression, porn can be nothing else…

    can one not replace “porn” with “life” there, or basically anything for women, and still be correct? so then, in the long and short term, what do we do? to me it just doesn’t follow that because the vast majority of porn, like everything else around us, fits patriarchal guideliness and furthers patriarchy, porn and the patriarchy have to be indistinguishable. and the thing is: there’s a major difference between articulating this point, as a feminist, and “‘fun feminists’ claiming porn ‘empowerfuls’ them.” i know for sure i’m no “fun feminist” and i agree with, say, catharine mackinnon as often as not. there aren’t these two enemy camps, and the “pornstitution=oppression” concept (whether it’s “porn=oppression .” or “porn=oppression until…”) shouldn’t be as esoteric as all that.

    my problem is with the line of argument mentioned in this quote by priscilla alexander:

    “Because of the stigma that keeps many women from freely exploring, experiencing, and naming their own sexuality lest they be called whore, many critics isolate prostitution from other situations in which women are objectified or their labor exploited, and assume both that any problems associated with prostitution are unique and that the existence of prostitution is the root cause of patriarchal and capitalist objectification, economic exploitation, and violence against all women.”

    - so a stance not just categorically against pornstitution as exploitation, but categorically against those who participate in any of it, too. it’s too simplistic and incapacitating, and it singles out sex-related aspects of the patriarchy when the main reason why they should be singled out (i think) is that the patriarchy likes it that way. [i confess i really don't understand why we shouldn't be able to envision any post-/non- patriarchal depictions of sex other than porn as we know it, and any uses for them other than reinforcement of patriarchal power and disfunction; and i'm someone who belives and lives by the rule that "if everything desired's objectified, then eroticism needs to be redefined," as one of my favorite bands puts it.] anyway, insofar as it defeats its own purpose by ultimately applying patriarchy-sanctioned values and robbing people of agency (i’m not saying “empowerfulness”, just agency), to me it’s not a useful stance. just like the strictly “fun feminist” one. speaking of which, one more quote (from mimi nguyen):

    “Anti-porn arguments bore me. Such accounts get in bed with right-wingers, infantilize women, condescend to sex workers, refuse to critically consider porn as a social practice, and prescribe what gets to count as “healthy” sexuality (usually vanilla, reproductive heteronormativity). Yawn. / But sometimes, it’s true, as a critical theorist, pro-sex politics also bore me. They sometimes (not always, sometimes) feel limited, especially when what counts as politics is just about fucking. And because I’m a cranky girl, I worry about the very real potential for flattening all those uneven social relations and their histories into a spread-around lack of mind-blowing sex. … If we meaningfully consider sex and sexuality –especially in its regulation and criminalization—in a dialectic with ideologies of race, gender, nation, capitalism, and material relations, the rhetorical hard-sell of personalized liberation falls flat. / […]To paraphrase critical theorist Lauren Berlant, the real fear in America is not that we –queers, feminists, and others of our kind – will have sex in our bedrooms, but that we will have politics in public.”

  107. lawbitch

    Feminist Avatar’s comment about exercising power by proxy is great. I envision women, wearing tall shoes that cripple their feet, gathering crumbs under the table at the banquet that is known at the patriarchy. Hey, I bet that scene appears in some porn flick!

  108. Feminist Avatar

    Lawbitch: great image!

    Ruxandra: I think part of the point is there can be no healthy sexuality under the patriarchal system. My own pet theory is that patriarchy is rooted in the cultural distinctions made between the male and female body, where the male is active and agressive, the women passive and weak. Violence and power are embedded within the male sexed body (hence the naturalisation of male aggression and rape) and the act of sex becomes an act of agression and possession against women. Patriarchy is embedded within the sexed body and so is ever present in all the interactions between the sexes regardless of what they are.

    This is not to say there is no room for female agency or that they cannot resist or maneouvre within the patriarchal system, but it does mean that they cannot escape it until this construction of gender is destroyed. So yeah women can ‘choose’ to be porn stars or prostitutes, but 1) they are not really exercising a real choice and 2) as sex is the central manifestation of the patriarchal system in operation then protesting porn is a good place to start the revolution.

    Now I know that it is possible for women and men to have great sex together, but this usually happens when couples work damn hard to make sure they are equal within their relationship.

    I also wonder whether the reason that society works so hard to masculinise lesbians and feminise gay men is because it is so important to the patriarchy that there are two genders having sex and thus that sex remains an act of power. So it doesn’t matter if its two women having sex because with male attributes and female genitalia there is still a male and a female in the bedroom even if they happen to be embedded in the one person. (I would like, of course, to acknowledge that this is a stereotype that I reject!)

  109. Luckynkl

    You have it backwards. Racial and economic inequalities are the direct result of sexism; the root, as in radical, oppression from which all others spring.

    Nail. Hammer. Bang. Eradicate sexism and the rest just fall like a stack of dominoes. Race, class and hierarchies in general cannot exist without the control of reproduction. Unable to reproduce themselves, men must control those who do. Women. Women must be bred to keep the bloodlines pure and the differences alive and produce the needed heirs for the continuation of the hierarchies. No different than how men breed the pure bloodlines of dogs to produce chilhuahuas, german shepherds and golden retrievers. If dogs were left to their own devices and autonomy, they’d all just be mutts. No breed could exist and value placed upon it. It’s called animal husbandry. Hmmm. Husband. Does that word start to ring a bell?

  110. Luckynkl

    Oops. Forgot to credit you, Mar Iguana, for nailing it with that astute quote.

  111. Felt Tip Pen

    Rootbeer: “…virtually any image can be sexualized.”

    But any image of a woman (Or any woman for that matter) IS sexualized in this, our patriarchy. By virtue of having a woman’s body you are seen in a sexual way regardless of anything else. Sometimes you are deemed “unfuckable” and sometimes you are deemed “fuckable” but in our society woman=sex so it is absolutely no surprise that you find pretty much any image of a woman somehow sexual. That is merely symptom of the problem, and something we deal with every damn day.

    Your way of being defensive is really obnoxious. Almost every comment is something like “I like porn–but I’m not one of THOSE guys. I don’t even pay for it.” There’s also the lovely “If you read what I meant and not what I wrote (you silly woman) then you would understand that I’m right. Also I have lots of sex in various places woohoo.”

    I know he’s been banned but damnit I needed to say it!

  112. LMYC

    Now I know that it is possible for women and men to have great sex together, but this usually happens when couples work damn hard to make sure they are equal within their relationship.

    Which usually doesn’t happen. They don’t want to THINK. That’s the beauty of being a member of the powerful majority. You get to luxuriate in your own ignorance, and consider the idea of learning something that might propel you out of it to be a totally unfair and unacceptable burden.

    If you don’t want to stay in ignorance, you get to defer the job of prying your ass out of it to the powerless ones — showing up in their spaces and demanding that they SHOW YOU HOW TO BE HUMAN WAH WAH WAH! Which is, with VERY few exceptions, what we find even here where they are warned not to pull that crap.

    They either sit in their own shit, or immediately demand that someone else clean it off. The one thing they don’t do is get off their lazy asses and scrape the shit off themselves.

  113. ruxandra

    @ feminist avatar: i agree 100% – but i’d like to say i wasn’t arguing that women are able to choose anything free of patriarchy (quite the opposite). my point was more about whether acknowledging and working with the porn-as-oppression point is the exclusive domain of anyone (in reference to conversations among feminists around the pornstitution issue, which was the motivation for this post). and i guess i’m not so sure in what ways protesting porn is the best place to start the revolution, and how we’d go about it when many people who would be part of the revolution have different ideas about not only porn but sex/sexuality. i wonder. especially if the body and sex are at the root of it all but we can’t envision post-patriarchal interactions that have to do with them, then how do we know what the revolution is? but, yes, i completely feel that it needs to include the breaking down of both the sex & gender binary and the patriarchal power hierarchy, or the “world order … predicated on binary sex roles, one of which is privileged and dominant, the other of which is oppressed and submissive” as twisty put it.

    -
    it’t nothing new, but: i don’t think race or class based oppression is the result of sex based oppression any more than sex based oppression is the result of race or class based oppression. they’re interlocked, not separate and rank-able, and they need to be addressed together (lest we forget how addressing only one “issue” – on the assumption that the rest will take care of itself or can be taken care of later – is precisely oppression and has failed miserably in the past.).

  114. LMYC

    KMTberry, I don’t think it’s actually mine. I think I first ran into the idea from Naomi Wolf, who even used the “two-dimensional woman-shaped blank” metaphor. I think her exact words were something like: “The porn fantasy isn’t that the babe will come to life and walk off the page. The fantasy is that she never will.”

  115. thebewilderness

    loorol,
    I think a food analogy to porn would be rather like those reality show contests to see how many worms or bugs people are willing to eat for a prize, for the entertainment of those who watch them suffer.

    I think that Twisty is providing a public education service. The first step to revolution is understanding the depth and breadth of the oppression. Developing the language to describe the oppression and formulating an argument against it.
    Whatever we are doing individually to resist oppression will have an effect when enough of us are doing it. Indeed, I think we are riding the intertoobz on yet another feminist wave.

  116. Feminist Avatar

    Ruandra: I get your point, but I also think that difference has often been the stopping point of the feminist movement and maybe we need to think of a way that we can still have a revolution but not subjugate people in other ways. Part of the problem with living in a patriarchy, however, is that it is very difficult to see outside the box.

  117. brklyngrl

    lucizoe and kate: Me too! And after a careful multi-year analysis I can report firsthand that this is in fact a double bind. Dress up, patriarchy style, and people disrespect your person-hood and treat you like an object. Don’t dress up and people disrespect your person-hood and don’t bother to treat you like an object. As with so many things patriarchy-related, it’s all about choosing your favorite flavor of oppression. There is no secret trap door out. An aside (to the aside): I find that New York is much worse than other places. Why? Wall Street? the fashion industry? general approval of hierarchy? Just me?

    Twisty, I’m bookmarking this one!

  118. Sean

    “You have it backwards. Racial and economic inequalities are the direct result of sexism; the root, as in radical, oppression from which all others spring.” Mar Iguana

    Of course you’re right, Mar Iguana. I just meant that economic and racial factors are tools of the patriarchy that prevent the destruction of ideas like porn and marriage. I think that large-scale economic and gender inequalities are inextricably intwined; they’re opposite sides of the same coin, the patriarchy. Economics provide the “facts” of oppression, genderization provides the symbolism. I think racial inequality springs from these two, in that, from a certain point of few, less “economically developed” nations are feminized (or brutally masculinized, or usually both at the same time; at least, all are different from standard rape-culture masculinity), and that association is mixed with physical traits of the general populace of the nation. I can’t imagine a sex/gender-free society that wasn’t class-free, and a class-free society that wasn’t sex/gender-free. But as Luckynkl points out, the basis is reproduction, and I’d add, the biology of the sex act that affects the psychology of the male to presume power. That’s why when people say something is “natural,” especially the MRAs, it makes me want to slap them.

    As to the “beauty” issue, I’d have to agree with a number of people that admiration of beauty, in the sense that every physical body is not beautiful (which it has to be; otherwise, the term would have no reason to exist), is inherently oppressive.

  119. lucizoe

    brklyngrl – I live in Brooklyn too!

    Anyway, yes, New York seems much worse to me, too, although my life experience is limited (meaning long-term living situation) to New England as it is. I would venture the idea that it’s worse mostly because of the sheer amount of money in this town. There are so many ways for women to spend their money, especially those with excess cash, that the market for it (and pressure) increases. Maybe it’s because the models live here too? The extreme end of the spectrum means the rest of us are expected to work even harder to try and measure up? I dunno.

    I don’t like it and I do my best not to feel like crap about not even trying to measure up, in the face of the relentless pressure to feel less-than for just not caring.

  120. Mar Iguana

    ruxandra: “it’t nothing new, but: i don’t think race or class based oppression is the result of sex based oppression any more than sex based oppression is the result of race or class based oppression. they’re interlocked, not separate and rank-able, and they need to be addressed together (lest we forget how addressing only one “issue” – on the assumption that the rest will take care of itself or can be taken care of later – is precisely oppression and has failed miserably in the past.).”

    Your thinking is mistaken in addition to old then. Do I beleive when sexism no longer exists the clouds will part, rainbows appear and birdies go tweet tweet tweet? You bet.

    Free women and everybody and everything else will be just fine. Sexism has never been addressed as the primary issue of those holding or usurping power (you know who) so how to know if it would fail miserably? At this perilous point in human history, I say let’s go for broke and make sexism our primary imperative.

  121. TP

    As so many blamers have observed, porn eliminates the possibility that, due to consideration for some other person’s needs, desires, or legal rights (the “it’s better than rape!” argument), a man might actually have to forego having an orgasm right now.

    Even worse. The man doesn’t have to forego having the orgasm, it just makes it a little more difficult! That’s the only real inconvenience to banning porn for men – they’d have to think up oppressive thoughts on their own. And yet the way they act when you talk about banning it, you’d think we were talking about cutting off their balls. The anti-anti-porn backlash is astonishingly vehement.

    I love all you commentators, but the women who note that they have found words to put to the inchoate emotional responses they have felt all their lives affect me deeply. My heart bursts with emotion at times.

    And then we have rootbeers coming in with their passive-aggressive rhetorical questions that are actually arguments, insults, and biases disguised as debate. My rule of thumb is that whenever I see a man asking five or six questions in a single post I can be sure that he is stating opinions disguised as questions. It’s a classic passive-aggressive trick and I call it bullshit.

    ruxandra, thy name is rootbeer. And the fact that you chose to disguise yourself under another name shows just how deep your misogyny runs.

  122. J

    “Part of the problem with living in a patriarchy, however, is that it is very difficult to see outside the box.”

    At the same time, the problem with seeing outside of the box is that the box is patriarchy. Seeing “outside” of it functions the same to affirm it as seeing blithely “within” it. Seeing that there is no box, whether one one would be on the outside or inside of it, is really revolutionary.

  123. ruxandra

    Oops, i forgot to force myself to use caps.

    @Feminist Avatar: Yeah, but hasn’t difference been the stopping point of feminist movement mostly in that it hasn’t been taken into account carefully enough? And because of complacency about thinking outside the box? (which box, and who, and why? and, especially, to get from the box to where?)

    @Sean: I can imagine a virtually class-free society that was most definitely not short on gender oppression (among other serious problems); i lived in one. I also don’t agree that racial inequality simply springs from economics and gender symbolism; othering is a tactic of oppression that works across human (and even non-human) subgroups. As you say, these things are inextricably entwined – but I don’t think we can or should find an oppression that trumps all others, to expect to eradicate one and have the others automatically fall away. I will say that to my mind our best place to start is to change the value placed by society on various traits and roles – what we support as “privileged and dominant” and what we look down upon as “oppressed and submissive” (because I think this is where the box gets us every time).

  124. ruxandra

    TP, what?? Dear god.

  125. ruxandra

    and see – this is exactly what i mean! if the patriarchy rewards only women who comply but on the other hand the anti-patriarchy discussion is such that the anti-porn/good guy/ally men’s hearts bursts only for women who affect them deeply by being “just so” and anyone who strikes them differently – or asks the wrong questions – must be evil, and in fact male… well… what the hell is the difference and how will this bring about positive radical change, again? (sorry, i know i used both ellipses and all lowercase. i’ll stop anyway.) tp, i thank you for descovering the misogyny in my depths. next, i suggest actually reading what i said and/or processing it.

  126. LouisaMayAlcott

    Rux,

    Just go blow your rootbeer out your shorts, eh?

    TP, you are *way* quick off the mark. A lot faster than me!

    I had just thought that Rux was a really, really dumb woman.

    It’s been so long since some obnoxious pr!ck came in here pretending to be a woman.

    I guess we can just never relax, eh?

    LMA

  127. Sean

    “I can imagine a virtually class-free society that was most definitely not short on gender oppression”

    Virtually class-free is not class-free. And can everyone stop talking about the flippin’ “box.” This isn’t the local college Matrix class.

  128. Sean

    No, this is the respected university Matrix class.

    Sorry for falling into class adjectival denigration.

  129. Inverarity

    Ya know, if you’ve been banned for being an ass, coming back under another pseudonym just makes you more of an ass.

    You are not here to learn or even participate, ruxandra/rootbeer, you’re here to educate them ignaramus wimmins what don’t unnerstand menfolk. That’s why you’re getting flamed, not because you’re a bold, inquisitive soul who dares to ask questions.

  130. Indy

    ruxandra: dunno what society you’re refering to, but in the 10cent guide to american sociology, it’s kind of written in stone that shit allways runs downhill: race>class>gender. Sure, the issues are intertwined, but the theme remains.

  131. thebewilderness

    ruxandra,
    I think I understand what you are trying to say.
    My advice to you is to reread the FAQ, and spend some time lurking. You seem to be trying to find a way to negotiate with the patriarchy. It is not possible. Thousands of years of history informs us that it is not possible.

  132. ruxandra

    wow. this has been hilarious. and interesting.

    i’m not anyone else on this thread, and i am not male. i don’t need to reread the faq; i’m not trying to negotiate with the patriarchy (what i wrote is there and i stand by it and there isn’t anything in it that’s not anti-patriarchy – what’s so unclear?). i’ve commented here in the past (interestingly, i disagreed with tp on another occasion, long ago).

    happy blaming, or as the case may be flaming.

  133. Metal Prophet

    ” nothing’s being effectively changed despite all the alleged waves of feminism or what have you, despite years of solid blaming. Shouldn’t we be, I don’t know, strategizing or something?

    Meg,I say we build a rocket to our own planet. I really see nothing changing ever. Ever. Cynical — no, I pronounce that word “accurate.”

    Men. Will. Never. Change.”

    What’s the point of feminism, then? I mean, right wing women have essentially reached the same conclusion, though obviously they’ve chosen to act on it in a totally different way. They’ve concluded that men won’t change and can’t be changed, so they accept and encourage the current patriarchal system. And there have been changes, certainly. There wasn’t even a term for sexual harassment, thirty-odd years ago. Now it’s included in handbooks for pretty much all employers. Sure, men didn’t jump up and out of the goodness of their hearts say “well, it’s time we did something about this problem.” But you did have Catherine MacKinnon basically stand up, name the problem of sexual harassment, and work to create a system where it could be remedied.

    I’m also sort of reminded of a darkly comical novel by an African-American author called The White Boy Shuffle, which reaches a similar conclusion about racism, rather than sexism. The author says something to the effect of “we’ve tried asking nicely for our rights, we’ve tried begging for our rights, we’ve tried learning trades and skills for our rights, we’ve tried demanding our rights, and we’ve tried violence to get our rights and none of that has worked, so we’re asking white America to drop that nuke on us, so we can commit mass suicide. We’ll call it the Emancipation Detonation.”

  134. LMYC

    They’ve concluded that men won’t change and can’t be changed, so they accept and encourage the current patriarchal system.

    Cancer will never go away either, but we fight it, study how to keep it from killing us, and try to live healthy lives despite it. *shrug*

  135. lawbitch

    Ignoring the latest troll-ass, and getting back to the discussion at hand, Lara opened this thread with a post about wanting acceptance and love from men. I had an eye-opening experience while guiding my seventh grade son as he navigates the treacherous waters of middle school.

    My son is going so well academically, but it’s been a tough year socially. I talked to other parents in our neighborhood, and I was alarmed to hear about the social culture. In this upper-middle class school (think Plano), the seventh grade girls all believe that they *must* have a boyfriend or be a social loser. Is this the message that we send girls? Who are these girls’ role models? Not every girl is lucky enough to Twisty aunthood.

    I have sons, so perhaps I’m missing something here. Any thoughts?

  136. Mandos

    You’ve got me thinking: What’s the common denominator between food, house, and sexual porn? Consumption. Purchase and use. The difference, of course, is that fresh mozzarella and handmade designer rugs aren’t human, but the commodification of the female body implies that it’s as consumable, as available for purchase, as a good meal or a nice chandelier.

    See, this quote is illustrative of an interesting underlying assumption in this thread that ties into the whole fantasies discussion that has been going on elsewhere on this bog.

    So, we look at food and we enjoy the sight of food and even obtain some form of vicarious gratification by food and by seeing people eating food or cooking food—hence the popularity of cooking shows. Same for homebuilding and decorating, at least for some people. But: we are somehow supposed to assume that the world is going to be different when it comes to getting enjoyment out of the image of humans.

    Almost all the justifications for this emerge from “Well we shouldn’t because it’s all, all bad” argument. Kind of presupposes the solution here: the whole point is that some people believe that it’s bad and the sight of humans should be different from all the other sights in the world. That’s not an answer. Rarely ever is there given a good argument for why the sight of humans intended to gratify would ever be different from the sight of luxury food, except that it is—using various effectively synonymous words, “dehumanizing”, “objectifying” and so on—bad.

    Now, of course, some images involve the hurting of other people. And perhaps encourage it. Sure, fine. There you have an argument. But if violent and injurious imagery is the problem, whence all these arguments that seem to claim (to me) that all images are harmful and unlike the sight of food, and that in a just world we wouldn’t have any of them. (But would still have gratifying images of food, sunsets, and so on.)

  137. luxdancer

    Because chocolate doesn’t require consent to be consumed.

  138. Inverarity

    Cancer will never go away either, but we fight it, study how to keep it from killing us, and try to live healthy lives despite it. *shrug*

    We study cancer in the hopes that someday we will eliminate it, and it’s a given that the eradication of cancer would be a positive thing. This may or may not happen someday, but I don’t think anybody goes into oncology taking it as a given that cancer will never, ever be cured.

    I don’t think most feminists have given up on the possibility of an end to sexism. Accepted that it will not happen in their lifetimes, maybe, but if you really believe that it’s just an inherent characteristic of humanity (or rather, males), isn’t that the same biological determinism that the much-loathed evolutionary psychologists espouse?

  139. Mandos

    Because chocolate doesn’t require consent to be consumed.

    1. Huge amounts of radical feminist effort go into determining the inadequacy of the concept of consent in this kind of discussion.

    2. I already basically said that you have a case against images that depict violent acts—including, obviously, things that involve denial of consent.

  140. Violet

    “Empowerment”, as it applies to “feminism” these days is little more than a marketing strategy aimed at women to convince them that fulfillment can be best achieved by “subverting” male privilege, which more often than not, means embracing it. With a wave of your Hitachi Magic Wand, a studded thong and dog collar instantly become rousing symbols of emancipation, and with the right spin, a surgically reattached hymen the pinnacle of “empowerability”. (Still, who am I to argue against a labia saving device?) With women convinced that “empowerment” is best achieved by accepting, indeed, delighting in traditional gender stereotypes. a man needn’t use force or even coercion to transform his partner into a home entertainment phenomenon. The Corporate Media/Industrial/Entertainment Complex has already laid the groundwork for him. Best of all, he needn’t fear reprisal from feminists (or his own conscience for that matter) when his little X-Box needs an upgrade to Gonzo.

  141. TP

    If I could even understand what ruxandra was saying, I might have noticed that he disagreed with me in some other thread, but I don’t remember him.

    You don’t have to be a mind reader in this forum to notice who is a man and who is not. Anyone here can tell I am a man because I tend to aggressively assert things. You can sense there is a male tone of voice, and IBTP.

    Smug, superior pronouncements from a standpoint of unassailable privilege like “this has been hilarious” are always a dead giveaway of an abundance of male pride.

  142. luxdancer

    Mandos:

    1. Huge amounts of radical feminist effort go into determining the inadequacy of the concept of consent in this kind of discussion.

    2. I already basically said that you have a case against images that depict violent acts—including, obviously, things that involve denial of consent.

    Ooookay. I’ve seen you around here alot, so I assume you’ve heard this all before. Between point 1 and point 2, I think you already have your answer. The concept of consent is inadequate when it is given within the power framework of the patriarchy, therefore when pornography is made (and consumed), it is an act performed under inadequate consent – coercive sex, rape.
    You can, of course, debate the premises.
    What I’m saying is that even if the acts portrayed are not *directly* violent or degrading or dehumanizing, there is inadequate consent in its making. Unlike eating chocolate (unless you`re a strict Jainist, because plants have souls too).
    I realize that you might be talking about that post-patriarchy utopia, but we`re so tangled up in the patriarchy, there`s little chance that ideas about desire and arousal aren`t thoroughly mired in it. What I don`t understand is why anyone thinks porn is needed at all.

    luxdancer (rank: Novice Blamer)

  143. thebewilderness

    Mandos, Mandos, Mandos,
    Perhaps when you look at food you learn nothing. Perhaps you are so absorbed with imagining the feel of the food in your mouth, the explosion of flavor, that no information enters your brain. While it won’t improve your cooking skills, it won’t do you any harm, either.
    Perhaps when you do the same thing with people, you are doing yourself and them a disservice.

  144. Jezebella

    “whence all these arguments that seem to claim (to me) that all images are harmful and unlike the sight of food, and that in a just world we wouldn’t have any of them.”

    That is exactly what I believe. All pornography is harmful, whether the participants “consent” or not. In a just world, no one would consent to degrading commodification of her (or his) body and sexuality.

  145. pisaqauri

    “What I don`t understand is why anyone thinks porn is needed at all.”

    I too, Lux, would like more information on this.

    Any takers?

  146. Mandos

    Perhaps when you do the same thing with people, you are doing yourself and them a disservice.

    This just presupposes the problem again. (AKA begging the question IIRC).

  147. Mandos

    What I’m saying is that even if the acts portrayed are not *directly* violent or degrading or dehumanizing, there is inadequate consent in its making. Unlike eating chocolate (unless you`re a strict Jainist, because plants have souls too).
    I realize that you might be talking about that post-patriarchy utopia, but we`re so tangled up in the patriarchy, there`s little chance that ideas about desire and arousal aren`t thoroughly mired in it.

    You got it right. I am asking: is there some inherent, ineffable quality of consuming—I use the term deliberately—images of people that makes it different from food images, or images of people eating food, or making food, in all possible universes?

    What I don`t understand is why anyone thinks porn is needed at all.

    “Needed at all”-type questions are rarely illuminating, because almost nothing is “needed at all”. I have no idea, assuming that this is some kind of fundamental philosphical question. I’m not sure it matters.

  148. thebewilderness

    Mandos,
    This particular needed at all question is pertinent to the discussion. Food is needed. Water, needed. Porn, not needed.

    When you objectify or dehumanize people it has a negative affect on your relationships with people. That is what we were talking about in the earlier thread and now we are talking about it again because you want to pretend that it isn’t so. Or maybe you want to be argued into it if we can just come up with a good enough argument. Maybe you just don’t want to believe it.

    Please forgive my mangling a paraphrase, and I don’t remember who said it so no cite. A mind that’s changed against its will is of the same mind still.

  149. Praxis

    Mandos,

    Almost all the justifications for this emerge from “Well we shouldn’t because it’s all, all bad” argument. Kind of presupposes the solution here: the whole point is that some people believe that it’s bad and the sight of humans should be different from all the other sights in the world. That’s not an answer. Rarely ever is there given a good argument for why the sight of humans intended to gratify would ever be different from the sight of luxury food, except that it is—using various effectively synonymous words, “dehumanizing”, “objectifying” and so on—bad.

    Describing those images of women as objectifying is an argument, one with its roots in existentialist philosophy; that it is inherently wrong to treat human beings as merely a means to one’s ends, that is instrumentally, because it is through the pursuit of one’s own ends that their humanity is realized. This is the sense in which objectification is dehumanizing, strictly speaking.

    This in itself contains the answer to your question on the difference between chocolate and women; one is in fact actually an object, the other is socially constructed as one.

  150. ruxandra

    Smug, superior pronouncements from a standpoint of unassailable privilege like “this has been hilarious” are always a dead giveaway of an abundance of male pride.

    really? do tell me more about the ways in which i don’t fit your definition of “female.” so who should i blame for my gender reassignment based on your failure to understand what i said in the first place and the further aggression i exhibit by being amused that you outed me as a man when you found your heart wasn’t affected deeply by my words? i suppose the fact that you blame the patriarchy for your attitude means i have to bypass you entirely: ok, but please have the decency to stop and use the right pronoun.

  151. ruxandra

    Since I’m actually commenting again, I’ll use capitalization.
    Mandos, I think the basic problem with your question is what that first “images of people” actually means (in “is there some inherent, ineffable quality of consuming … images of people”). Because what it stands for in the context of porn (popular culture, society) as we know them is at the root of this issue and is different not only from food images but also from “images of people eating food, or making food” (see, that’s also images of people, only they’re not synonymous with objectification because patriarchal culture isn’t predicated on othered images of food or eating as a locus of oppression as is the case with female bodies – though there’s lots to be said about oppression based on images of animal bodies as food, which is tied to images of female bodies as sexual commodities, see Carol Adams and others). So while your question may be legitimate theoretically, especially the “in all possible universes” part – you can’t ignore that what’s implied by “images of people” there in the first place is “images of female bodies as commodities in the sense understood from a patriarchal point of view” and that’s why the only possible answer is that this won’t be politically neutral until we redefine everything. Which is what many have already said, in different ways.

    The song I quoted from before, by the way, is this (“Refusing To Be A Man”, Propagandhi):

    I’m not going to try to tell you that i’m different from all the rest. I’ve been subject to the same de-structure of desire and I’ve felt the same effects; I’m a hetero-sexist tragedy. And potential rapists all are we. But don’t tell me this is natural. This is nurturing. And there’s a difference between sexism and sexuality. I had different desires prior to my role-remodelling. And at six years of age you don’t challenge their claims. You become the same (or withdraw from the game and hang your head in shame). I think that’s exactly what i did. I tried to sever the connections between me and them. I fought against their further attempts to convince a kid that birthright can bestow the power to yield the subordination of women and do you know what patricentricity means? I found out just a couple of days ago. It means male values uber alles and hey! whaddaya know… Sex has been distorted and vilified. I’m scared of my attraction to body types. If everything desired is objectified then eroticism needs to be redefined. And i refuse to be a “man.” … A battle hymn to celebrate the fact that we don’t have to become or remain what we’ve come to hate.

  152. Alison Cummins

    My problems with just saying that “porn degrades women and therefore is bad” is… so what is the consequence of that for the rest of us?

    Does it mean we try to ban it? We know where that gets us: the Comstock laws. So no, we don’t try to ban it. In a very practical sense, that will hurt us more than it helps us.

    Does it mean that we refuse to talk to or listen to women who engage in sex work? That we define them as deluded *before* we listen to them, eliminating them as a class of people whose words don’t count? I can’t accept that either. That would mean, for instance, refusing to support union-type groups that try to work with the police to reduce assaults on street workers.

    Yes, absolutely, women make “choices” to engage in sex work in the context of an oppressive patriarchy and class system that reduces their other choices.

    Similarly, entire small towns make “choices” to work in abbatoirs that are physically dangerous and psychically brutalising because that’s the only game in town. How is that different?

    No choice is perfect; some are clearly bad for people; but the way to help people empower themselves to improve their conditions is to let them talk and organise, not to tell them that they shouldn’t exist, or that by their choices (which we have agreed are not choices at all) they have forfeited the right to speak and be heard.

    Sexuality is complex and difficult. I have done some of my best thinking confronted by complex and difficult work, some of it porn.

  153. delphyne

    Alison, we take the civil rights approach to the harms of pornography and allow people who have been damaged by pornography to sue its producers and distributors, an approach pioneered by Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon:

    http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/OrdinanceModelExcerpt.html

    While you are doing your best thinking real women are being hurt.

  154. therealUK

    Let’s try a little experiment with AlisonCummins’ speel:

    My problems with just saying that “slavery degrades Africans and therefore is bad” is… so what is the consequence of that for the rest of us?

    Does it mean we try to ban it? We know where that gets us: the Comstock laws [ err .. abolition, votes, recognition of humanity ? ]. So no, we don’t try to ban it. In a very practical sense, that will hurt us more than it helps us …

    Racist and capitalistic exploitaton is complex and difficult. I have done some of my best thinking confronted by complex and difficult work, some of it slavery.

  155. ruxandra

    delphyne, I think and hope that by “real women” you mean just flesh and blood women. But so did Alison, and a civil rights approach is exactly what she talked about too, that’s the whole point and there’s isn’t a contradiction unless “real women” means something else – if it did, who/what are fake women (other than me by some estimations here)?

  156. Tigs

    Can I ask a question of more advanced blamers about the dividing line of consent?
    Given the structure of patriarchy, no woman is able to consent to her role in pornography. That pornography exists, automatically destroys any ability to consent to engaging in the production of pornography.
    (Is that an okay way to say where we’ve gotten so far?)
    So, where does this end? Are we able to consent to relationships with men in real life? All of my relationships with men exist under the miasma of patriarchal oppression, can I consent to any relationship? And if so, how?
    And how do we distinguish between consent/not-consent that is somehow ‘okay’ (a regular relationship with a man, who is not individually abusive, violent, or repressive) and other kinds of relationships such as the rapist-victim relationship.
    Of course, I’m not trying to question a woman’s consenting to her own rape, rather I want to understand how a woman can consent to anything. I don’t understand the theoretical progression that separates these.
    Is this a place where patriarchal forms of theory just don’t work? Rather is it a matter of consciousness and shared experience?
    Help, please!

  157. ruxandra

    therealUK, but if you define porn as literally and absolutely slavery, then you’re also saying slavery is no worse than any and all types of exploitation – or for example that human traffic and all types of prostitution are perfectly equivalent. Or that any sexual interaction is literally rape under the patriarchy. Etc. That’s an ok point to make rhetorically, but how about in real life, for people and their real rights and actions?

  158. delphyne

    “delphyne, I think and hope that by “real women” you mean just flesh and blood women. But so did Alison, and a civil rights approach is exactly what she talked about too, that’s the whole point and there’s isn’t a contradiction unless “real women” means something else – if it did, who/what are fake women (other than me by some estimations here)?”

    Alison is the one setting up the false dichotomy between women who appear in porn and the rest of us. The Dworkin/MacKinnon Ordinance was created partly I believe with Linda Lovelace in mind, a woman whose filmed rape men still masturbate to today. Despite the fact that Linda Lovelace was forced into performing in porn, she had no legal redress to pursue the men who had caused her rape and then profited from it. Women who have been harmed appearing in porn would likely be top of the list of legal complainants against pornographers. Those are the women who are at the forefront of my mind when I talk about the harms pornography does to women whilst not forgetting the indirect harm it does to other women.

    Alison didn’t talk about a civil rights approach, she talked about unionisation which is something completely different.

  159. vee

    I’m always late to the comment party but I want to say this anyway. In cinema studies, we call the choices film makers make within the constraints of censors and all that “bounded alternatives.” I’ve started to use this phrase when I’m thinking about (or blaming) the patriarchy too and it fits in with this post perfectly: sure porn actors and strippers choose their profession and I choose to conform to certaint elements of the femininity paradigm but we’re all choosing from within set limits, or bounded alternatives. It’s such a perfect phrase.

  160. ruxandra

    I don’t think what Alison said is setting up a dichotomy at all. How? Anyway, this discussion is the type that M came from, presumably, and I don’t mean to rehash it here, I’m sorry. My initial point, which I meant as a constructive comment (ok, I’m naive but I thought of this as a feminist haven) precisely for such discussions that will happen among feminists, was that there doesn’t need to be this dichotomy of the two camps: the fun feminists who feel porn is empowering vs. the others, feminists who know porn is oppression. Sure, there are fun feminists. There are even anti-feminists. But one can view porn as oppression and be anti-”porn” and work to end it as oppression, and still not equate porn and slavery completely in order not to set up that dichotomy that suggests there are real and then fake (wrong, deluded) women/feminists, which can end up with people like me who are anti-porn for all intents and purposes being a priori deemed a “fun feminist” or if lucky enough even an anti-anti-porn man, and so on.

  161. Gwen

    anything called “porn,” whether or not it is explicitly violent or BDSM-y or designed to titillate ‘feminists’ vs. sweaty, beer-gutted pervs, exists only to enthrobulate the fetishization of culturally-generated (and, frankly, comically hokey) constructs. … that they have, at their root, everything to do with a paradigm of dominance and nothing to do with actual sex between individuals with equivalent personal sovereignty.

    So … okay. I take that to mean that “porn” is defined not (only?) by its level of “explicitness” – how naked people are or how obvious what they’re doing is – but by the particular set of behaviours it presents as a paradigm. That is, physical sexihotness, arch-backed-heavy-eyelidded-ooo-baby body language, penetration worship, dominance and submission, corny fashion accessories, “the art of seduction” et al. So the definition should also capture those novels, Hollywood movies, TV shows, paintings, songs that embody those values [I'm not trying to minimise the ickiness of the the mainstream porn industry - it is different from all the others, obviously, because it also involves the exploitation and degradation of real people, real human suffering. But from the point of view of 'things which embody and fetishize the paradigm of dominance', all the other stuff is also "porn", and I guess the stuff that doesn't present itself so explicitly as unreal and fantasy is more dangerous from that point of view.] My question is whether, in a patriachy, all novels, movies, paintings, songs do – have to – embody these values or if it’s possible to have some that don’t, or don’t fully. And if it is, shouldn’t it be possible to have depictions of sex which also don’t – which are about actual sex between individuals with equivalent personal sovereignty, and which can be enjoyed as erotic or romantic or whatever? Or are the concepts of “erotic” and “romantic” so entirely tainted by patriachal values that it’s impossible to express/enjoy them in a not-supporting-the-patriachy way?

  162. delphyne

    “in order not to set up that dichotomy that suggests there are real and then fake (wrong, deluded) women/feminists, which can end up with people like me who are anti-porn for all intents and purposes being a priori deemed a “fun feminist” or if lucky enough even an anti-anti-porn man, and so on.”

    Nobody has done this. Please stop making up arguments in order that you can refute them.

    I was comparing real women being harmed in real life to Alison’s need to do her best thinking. Real women (that’s all women in case you are still struggling to understand the concept) are more important than Alison’s “best thoughts”.

    Anyhow, someone’s already called troll on you, so I’m going to leave you to it.

  163. Feminist Avatar

    Tigs you ask a great question and I don’t think I am equipped to answer it, but I am coming to the conclusion that we can’t really consent to ANYTHING under the patriarchy.

    I would also like to say that you can be anti-porn and still support women who work in the sex industries, in the sense that I would support legislation that offered protection to women in these industries, ensured their rights within those industries etc. I certainly don’t think women in those industries are any more deluded than the rest of us. In many senses mainstream femininity is a lot more destructive in undermining equality as our identities as women are so bound up in it that it is very difficult to distinguish the good from the bad; what we must reject, what we should reject, what is our own choice and what is not.

    I like Vee’s concept of bounded alternatives in thinking about this issue.

    I would also like to think about under what conditions we can consent and can we acknowledge our lack of consent but still retain agency?

  164. ruxandra

    Nobody has done this.

    But they clearly have – and mind-numbingly quickly and misguidedly. And if you hadn’t before, now you are calling me a troll. I’m not a troll, and I’m not a man, and I’m not anti-anti-porn. I said I thought and hoped you didn’t mean more by “real women” – but the thing is your answer suggests that you did/do; Alison had talked about real women who in real life have to make tough choices and need all the possible support – which in my interpretation at least can be suing producers and distributors or unionizing or passing legislation to minimize exploitation or working to stop trafficking rings or helping women get out of sex work etc. etc. – but you are reducing her entire argument to “best thoughts” which don’t involve real women, somehow. Even if it’s a misunderstanding, which I still hope it is actually, this is precisely my point about that dichotomy. Other than that, I completely agree with what Feminist Avatar just said, and I’ll leave it at that.

  165. Natalia

    Gwen,

    So the definition should also capture those novels, Hollywood movies, TV shows, paintings, songs that embody those values [I’m not trying to minimise the ickiness of the the mainstream porn industry - it is different from all the others, obviously, because it also involves the exploitation and degradation of real people, real human suffering. But from the point of view of ‘things which embody and fetishize the paradigm of dominance’, all the other stuff is also “porn”, and I guess the stuff that doesn’t present itself so explicitly as unreal and fantasy is more dangerous from that point of view.]

    Yup, it’s everywhere, both pornography and media continuous with pornography. See also: Mid-century doctor drama gives spinster aunt the willies.

    I have to say, I think heterosexual romantic love is pretty thoroughly founded on a paradigm of dominance and submission. Think of the “innocuous” paradigm of romantic love, Disney princesses. Did you know that in the Disney Snow White, the prince goes up and kisses Snow White while she is lying in state in a glass coffin-cum-curio cabinet? So it’s not porn in a traditional sense, but it seems clear to me that a woman’s life or death should in no way depend on whether a dude has smooched her. Or her corpse.). IBTP.

  166. lawbitch

    Natalia, you’ve enlightened me. Since I have sons, I’m a bit removed from the whole Disney Princess thing, but it’s *very* popular with the girls now (and relentlessly marketed). The whole desparate-to-have-a-boyfriend by seventh grade makes more sense in this context.

    Glad to see Violet doing her part to bitch slap our consumerism society. Keep up the good fight.

  167. Laser Potato

    In case you forgot…pornographers lie, women die!
    http://bitingbeaver.blogspot.com/2005/11/apathy-and-empathy.html
    http://bitingbeaver.blogspot.com/2005/10/acceptable-losses-and-whats-your.html

  168. Catherine Martell

    The holes Alison Cummins’s argument have already had trucks driven through them most satisfyingly by therealUK and delphyne (woo yay to you both), but I’d just like to add, re:

    My problems with just saying that “porn degrades women and therefore is bad” is… so what is the consequence of that for the rest of us?

    “The rest of us”? I am a woman. I don’t see how there’s “women” and “the rest of us”. Unless you’re a chap who refuses to see women (in porn or otherwise) as human beings equivalent to yourself, and we’re right back to men = people, women = Other.

    I consider myself to be in solidarity with the victims of porn, and I was under the impression that most radical feminists felt the same way. If one of us has been commenting, “Women in porn are wicked sluts and we should ignore their rights!”, I must have missed it.

  169. Alison Cummins

    The realUK:

    “Does it mean we try to ban it? We know where that gets us: the Comstock laws [ err .. abolition, votes, recognition of humanity ? ].”

    It’s not clear to me that you know what the Comstock laws were. They were laws that prevented the distribution of obscene material by the US post office from 1873 to 1936. The Comstock law was used to prevent Margaret Sanger from educating women about birth control because Margaret Sanger was not the person who got to define obscenity. Comstock was. Not good. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comstock_law

    “Racist and capitalistic exploitaton is complex and difficult. I have done some of my best thinking confronted by complex and difficult work, some of it slavery.”

    Personally, I have never had the experience of doing some of my best thinking when confronted with slavery, but if someone had I am certain I would be interested in knowing what they came up with. I expect it would widen my understanding and better prepare me to act appropriately.

    This would be especially so if I were listening to what a slave was saying about the choices she made in her life. I would not discount a slave’s account of herself as automatically deluded on the grounds that she had to rationalise her slavery to herself. I would listen.

    Racism *is* complex, as evidenced by the discussion here where some assert that racism causes sexism and others assert that sexism causes racism.

    Capitalistic exploitation *is* in fact complex and difficult. Trade unions and worker protection legislation spring up in reaction to exploitation, often to the betterment of all. And what starts as exploitation can set systems in place that of which people later become in better control. The exploitation itself is clearly not a good thing; what is less clear is whether is is a necessary step in a process that is ultimately beneficial, and if so how this phase can be kept to a minimum, and if not how it can be avoided. I am not taking sides on any of these possibilities — I don’t know enough — but they are arguable. (I am not saying that capitalism is the only way to improve a situation, just that in some instances it does.)

    tigs: see “Compulsory Heterosexuality” by Adrienne Rich. No woman can freely consent to a relationship with any man.

    delphyne: “Alison is the one setting up the false dichotomy between women who appear in porn and the rest of us.” ???! No, absolutely not. I am saying that women who appear in porn or who do sex work have as much right to be heard as those of us who do not. That any feminist analysis of porn must include *both* the revulsion against it experienced by many women and the observable fact that other women find it to be an acceptable or even desirable choice. That a feminist analysis of porn must not result in an attempt to silence women who are sex workers. So… what *should* it result in? What imperative to act *are* we working towards?

    Women who have worked in the sex trade include LindaLee Tracey as well as Linda Lovelace. We cannot say that Linda Lovelace’s voice is authentic but LindaLee Tracey’s is not. We need to be able to account for both.

    “My problems with just saying that ‘porn degrades women and therefore is bad’ is… so what is the consequence of that for the rest of us?

    ‘The rest of us’? I am a woman. I don’t see how there’s ‘women’ and ‘the rest of us’. ”

    Touchée. That phrase was useless and misleading. Delete it. My question remains, even if we all agree that porn is essentially oppressive, *what is it we want to do about it?*

  170. delphyne

    It wasn’t you who was setting up the false dichotomy Alison, it was ruxandra, twisting what I had said in order to make a pointless point. Apologies for misrepresenting you.

    “Women who have worked in the sex trade include LindaLee Tracey as well as Linda Lovelace. We cannot say that Linda Lovelace’s voice is authentic but LindaLee Tracey’s is not. We need to be able to account for both.”

    I’m not really seeing where you are going with this. If people who had been damaged by porn were able to sue, Linda Lovelace would have been able to take the Deep Throat pornographers to court. If LindaLee Tracey hasn’t been damaged by porn then obviously she doesn’t need legal redress.

    Just because many McDonalds customers have never been given third degree burns by their overheated coffee, doesn’t mean that those who have shouldn’t be able to sue McDonalds.

  171. Mistral

    Trade unions and worker protection legislation spring up in reaction to exploitation, often to the betterment of all.

    But is this really true?

    I am assuming that you are writing from a US perspective, and apologise if this is in accurate.

    From my perspective – as a UK trade union member – the unions are heavily male-dominated and culturally biased towards the masculinist culture of heavy industry.

    Where they have promoted superficially feminist agendas, they seem to have done so under pressure from the mainstream membership’s fear of losing terms and conditions. A prime example of this is equal pay. The UK unions agitated for the Equal Pay Act not because of any great ideological support of women as workers but more because they feared that women workers would undercut male “breadwinners”.

    Once the legislation was enacted the unions started cutting deals with management to keep certain high-paying manufacturing jobs for the boys, while women did the scut work, thereby depriving women of comparators to take cases under the Act. They also negotiated superb ‘performance’ bonuses for men’s jobs across the public sector, which have functioned as attendance bonuses and have essentially meant that women have subsidised public sector delivery by the sweat of their brow in the formal labour market as well as in the home.

    The labour movement in the UK has started publishing articles in its journals and publications describing the organisation of so-called sexworkers as a movement beyond the bourgeois feministing that criticises prostitution, towards something truly socialist. One can only presume that this is to ensure that the union membership continue to exercise their privileged access to women’s bodies in the way they always have.

    I’ve always been curious about the way that the organising model can be applied to prostitution. With whom, for instance, is a collective bargaining agreement supposed to be struck? The pimps who beat, rape and exploit the most vulnerable women? Or the johns who abuse them?

  172. luxdancer

    You got it right. I am asking: is there some inherent, ineffable quality of consuming—I use the term deliberately—images of people that makes it different from food images, or images of people eating food, or making food, in all possible universes?

    Yes. Images of people makes it different from pictures of food. Include people and it becomes an issue of consent. Even picures of people eating food – re: feederism (sexualised force/coercive feeding).

    “Needed at all”-type questions are rarely illuminating, because almost nothing is “needed at all”. I have no idea, assuming that this is some kind of fundamental philosphical question. I’m not sure it matters.

    Air, water, basic nutrition, protection from exposure. The rest are wants – and just ‘cuz you want something doesn’t mean it’s moral or ethical to get/have it.

  173. finnsmotel

    Only half way through the comments, but, some favorite Freudian slips so far, include, but are not limited to:

    “My sexuality is vertically integrated.”

    “this thread is sorely lacking the benefit some first hand insight.”

  174. TP

    finnsmotel, my friend, your second quote: “this thread is sorely lacking the benefit some first hand insight.” was probably not a Freudian slip. It was posted by a little troll named rootbeer, who has come here to show these women how dreadfully wrong they are about their oppression, if only they would just learn from his endless series of passive aggressive rhetorical questions.

  175. Kristina

    You got it right. I am asking: is there some inherent, ineffable quality of consuming—I use the term deliberately—images of people that makes it different from food images, or images of people eating food, or making food, in all possible universes?

    It is impossible for me to answer that question. I am not a person in our modern society- I am a woman. But I promise you: should the patriarchy decide to dissolve itself; my natural life changes cease to be “conditions” that require “treatment;” my ability and willingness (or lack thereof) to procreate cease to be part of the public discourse and regulated by the government; my facade cease to be regulated under powerful social pressures; I will contact you ASAP.

  176. Tigs

    Alison Cummins – Perhaps I didn’t express myself well enough- I am asking about the line of consent– and if we are not able to consent then what the hell do we do?
    I accept that in the orthodox radical feminist conception (although I contest the viability of a non-oxymoronic orthodox feminism) a woman cannot have a consensual relationship with a man. However, where does that end?

    Given heteronormativity as a function of patriarchy, in a relationship with a woman, that woman who is more able to ‘pass,’ as a heterosexual will have more power. I have no problem with agreeing that a lesbian relationship will have less strongly defined power hierarchy based on sex, but to say that there aren’t hierarchies in every relationship seems a bit dreamy to me.

    You yourself are injecting a race and class critique here (one which I generally share), thus: given the inherent power hierarchies involved in these superstructures am I unable to have a consensual relationship with anyone who isn’t white, middle-class, educated, and female. Or if we take the next step anyone who isn’t blond, blue-eyed, 5’3, and sort of overweight? Are we able to have any kind of consensual relationship given that we live in a society completely bounded by hierarchy? And if not, what is the use of the category of consent?

    I sort of do think (thanks Feminist Avatar) that perhaps we cannot consent to anything under patriarchy. But I do think there’s a difference in the extent to which I give consent when I engage in an eyes-open critical relationship based on shared experience and dreams with another human being than when I get dragged into the bushes and raped, or more on topic, choose to perform in a pornographic film

    I think bounded alternatives is a good way to look at this. But I still am not clear on the theoretical path this takes. Just because it’s problematic doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be good theory about this. I also suspect that the topic of consent is highly bound up with the issue of agency.

  177. Amananta

    Ruxandra – much porn is “literally and absolutely slavery”. You mention trafficking – many of the women and children used in porn have been trafficked for exactly that reason. Many of the remaining women “choose” to be in porn because they have no better way of making enough money to make ends meet – something many porn supporters inexplicably try to make into a selling point. I fail to see how the patriarchal, capitalist set-up which ensures many women will be impoverished and then sets up this as one of their only options to feed and house themselves, is a selling point. I am troubled by your dismissal of this as “rhetoric” – it is a harsh reality for millions of women.

    In general I am frustrated by the hyper-focus of this idea of “choice” for women and porn or prostitution. It is a red herring meant to distract from the millions of women and children who do not consent to pornography in the slightest – who make up, arguably, the majority of women in the “business”.

  178. finnsmotel

    I’ve read a litte more than half the comments, so please excuse if someone already made this point.

    I come back, time and again, to what seems like a logical series.

    Can patriarchy exist without a culture of dominance and submission (CODS?)?

    No.

    Can a culture of dominance and submission exist without patriarchy?

    Yes.

    If these answers are true, then, eliminating patriarchy doesn’t really solve the greater human problem of equity and agency for all. It seems reasonable to suppose that a post-patriarchal world could still include all the same evils perpetrated by patriarchy with a different oppressor/oppressed equation, based on some other measurable difference. (Maybe it would be ear size? Ferengi/Star Trek reference; sorry ;-)

    Indeed, the post-patriarchal world could (and we do appear to be heading this way, IMO) include powerful women and men, perpetrating atrocities against the weaker classes with less emphasis on gender distinction and more emphasis on some other distinction(s).

    With that in mind, I would have to say that the answer to the earlier question: could there be pornography in a post-patriarchal world? is NO. Sexual material is predicated on some sort of power differential that is based on a gender distiction (or the various variations on the theme). Take away the gender distinction and preference to one gender and the images are no longer relevant. (For proof, look at some of the oldest porn and see if you actually get wood, boys. I doubt you do. Unless you LIKE the idea of fucking grandma.)

    For material to be successful in a pornographic way, it has to fetishize something gender-based within the current cultural paradigm. If the cultural paradigm shifts to a non-gender distinction, there may still be fetish, but, it will have a non-sexual distinction.

    So, if our beloved dream of a post-patriarchal world still includes a culture of dominance and submission, there will still be a fetish industry for materials that supplant, compliment, support, or otherwise reinforce one’s position within the heirarchy. Juggs magazine might go away, but, Forbes and Guns N Ammo will be around much longer.

    -finn

  179. V.

    Allison said:I am saying that women who appear in porn or who do sex work have as much right to be heard as those of us who do not. That any feminist analysis of porn must include *both* the revulsion against it experienced by many women and the observable fact that other women find it to be an acceptable or even desirable choice. That a feminist analysis of porn must not result in an attempt to silence women who are sex workers. So… what *should* it result in? What imperative to act *are* we working towards?

    The answer to this is not nearly as complex as Allison is trying to argue.

    One can listen with compassion to those who are abused and denying their abuse without accepting their arguments as evidence of rationality.

    When I was in a secretely abusive marriage, there were plenty of people who knew things were bad and supported my attempts to mitigate the abuse–They respected my ‘agency,’ as it were. They listened to all my arguments.

    But what I could have really used was someone to tell me that I wasn’t thinking rationally, and to offer me some real help in getting out.

    And no-one is trying to ‘silence’ sex workers.

    We are trying to help women.

  180. ruxandra

    Amanata, I’m actually with you all the way. I didn’t get a chance to go into any detail – I do not mean to use that redherring (I haven’t focused on choice, myself) and to dismiss or distract in any way, to any degree, from the issues, such as trafficking. I happen to know a lot about trafficking and efforts to address it in different parts of the world. In fact that’s one perspective I am coming from and the point I tried to make on this topic was actually that while we can say that all porn, or the trappings of femininity even, are the equivalent of “slavery” under the patriarchy, this can diminish the seriousness of slavery/trafficking as a concrete issue, that must be solved in ways which have a complex relationship with other anti-pornstitution work (as an example: the fact that the Swedish prostitution system could be called a moderate success if it weren’t for trafficking which has actually increased in/through Sweden, while other/local prostitution has decreased).

  181. finnsmotel

    “the greater human problem of equity and agency for all”

    I regret the word “greater” in the above phrase.

    “Broader” is probably more accurate. The problems of patriarcy are great enough all by themselves. But, a broader look at humanity was what I was attempting to describe.

  182. thebewilderness

    The idea that we as a society cannot ban a thing that we deem to be harmful because it will cause more harm is bullshit.
    When society bans a thing that collective society has judged harmful it has declared to all members of that society that the behavior is harmful and there will be negative consequences for violating the ban. We ban murder. Do you suppose having a ban on murder causes more harm than not having a ban would. The authoritarian asshattery on the SCOTUS just banned a perfectly reasonable medical proceedure for the first time ever.
    The slippery slope argument is a useful tool to remind us that “constant vigilance is the price of liberty”, but it is not an if this, then that must happen, argument.

    My apologies for the astonishing number of typos in nearly all of my comments on this thread.

  183. finnsmotel

    “is there some inherent, ineffable quality of consuming—I use the term deliberately—images of people that makes it different from food images, or images of people eating food, or making food, in all possible universes?”

    And then, there’s the rare instance where these things cross over, like, say, Cake Fucker magazine. ;-)

    I have to wonder if you’re just baiting us, here. Seems like the obvious distinction is that cakes and pies, though they can, indeed be viewed, fucked, and viewed while fucking, cannot be oppressed, since they’re not sentient beings.

    Pornography is damaging, not just to those coerced into its making. It’s damaging to the cause of equality for all within the culture as it purports a fetishized mythology as mainstream behavior. It’s a hijacking of the cultural narrative for fun and profit.

    Now, if you don’t believe that equality for all within a culture is inherently good, maybe we’ve got something to argue about.

  184. zofia

    When reading the sex worker defenders I am reminded of Uncle Tom. The same caricature of happily submissive servants, smiling and obeying the master apply. How can sex work be “wrong” argues proponents , if those engaged in such work are contented and continue to be eager to serve? And like, Tom, despite being model slaves, sex workers are abused and cursed and yet never lift a hand to the master and instead show sad devotion that furthers the enslavement of all women by reinforcing the perception that women actually enjoy being sexually used and abused and that we are nothing more than groveling servants that will gratefully accept whatever master’s handing out. And like slavery, this will not be rectified by unionizing or negotiating with the master for better working conditions… it requires full emancipation. Defenders seem quick to try and portray prostitution as a benevolent institution (as did the supporters of slavery) that somehow benefits women. But it is far from benevolent as it offers nothing but ersatz freedoms offered in the place of full liberation. I can listen to Uncle Tom’s point of view and accept that he really believes that things he says about his enslavement, but that does not make him right. Like Tom, some may not have want to leave the house but that’s too bad because as long as that status quo is in place, I am a slave and my daughter is a slave and I will continue to fight for the eradication of this system so that just maybe her daughter or daughter’s daughter will not be.

  185. zofia

    Yikes, sorry for the typos. I just kept thinking no ellipses, no ellipses.

  186. Bird

    Zofia, thank you. You’ve just given me a lovely, simple way to explain this whole thing to the people I know who think that sex work is a free woman’s choice

  187. Edith

    HOW is it, I wonder, that I’m able to have my regularly scheduled bi-annual nervous breakdown during the week a post like this happens? Today I eat a taco in honor of Twisty.

  188. LMYC

    I think many sex workers are in a combination of denial that what they’re doing SUCKS ROCKS (many people in shitty workplaces have done the same sort of denial), plus they resent what they see as pity.

    And there sure are a lot of hamhanded people out there who are insulting in their pity, re: “Let me help you, you poor fallen woman, frmo my position of high moral rectitide.” That’ll annoy the shit out of ANYONE, sex workers included. “Don’t you fucking talk down to ME” is what a lot of that “I chose to be a whore” stuff translates to, I think.

    It’s a combination of denial and a bone-deep resentment of peopel who may interact with them as if they are bringing trousers and bibles to the natives.

  189. thebewilderness

    I think the good new and the bad news is that because we are so adaptable, we are easily conditioned. The patriarchy does a bang up job of conditioning us, from the moment we are born, to believe that the condition as well as the conditioning is “natural”. I have watched the mainstreaming of porn form the first lad mags when people only read them for the articles, to the sexualization of children in mainstream media for the titilation of the male gaze.
    Every feminist wave has suffered a major pushback. Roe v Wade claimed we were people. Mainstreaming corporate porn teaches that we are not.

  190. Sam

    ruxandra, trafficking of women and children has increased all over the world the past few years as I’m sure you know. It is to Sweden’s credit that the trafficking increases seen in Sweden are far less than the increases seen in neighboring Finland and Norway.

  191. Onymous

    Is Objectification Inherently Opressive?

    It’s been pointed out (paying hookers to leave, Naomi quotes, etc…) that the appeal of porn isn’t the opression it’s the objectification. Which is as a side effect why we can ‘consume’ porn the same way we can pictures of food.

    So it seems to me the question of can porn not be oppressive (in a post patriarchal society, as long as in equality exists objectification adds to it) really is the question: “Can the objectification necessary for porn to ‘work’ ever not be oppressive.”

    Of course the question at the top “Is Objectification Inherently Opressive” is a really freaking broad question that goes beyond porn.

  192. V.

    Onymous, you appear to have misinterpreted the some of the most forceful arguments against pornography.

    You say:

    “The appeal of porn isn’t the oppression, but the objectification.”

    Not so, I fear.

    The appeal of porn, particularly as contemporary prnography becomes more violent and degrading, and this becomes the new normal–the appeal of porn is the victimization of women.

  193. msxochitl

    zofia: “When reading the sex worker defenders I am reminded of Uncle Tom.”

    Yes, but please keep in mind that the women you are describing–prostitutes who defend prostitution–make up a teeny tiny percentage of women prostitutes. The vast majority of prostitutes (I can’t find the stats right now, but I remember it was at least 90%) say they are doing it because they have no other options and they want out.

    Just as Clarence Thomas and Condoleeza Rice do not represent the views of the vast majority of African Americans, the views prostitution defenders do not reflect the views of the majority of prostitutes.

  194. J

    Onymous,

    Quite simply, you are off your rocker if you think that objectification means anything other than oppression. Objectification (of otherwise subjects) is the attempt via ideology to control and dominate whatever is in question. Objectification is a process whereby we make a distinction between us and them, such that them are not really respectable and valuable like us, which is to our advantage as we consider the moral implications of being in a position of control with regards to them. Porn is inherently, practically by definition, the sexualization, which is to say the sexual objectification, of its subject, quite almost-always women.

  195. Indy

    So, last week some time I was hanging out in this bar with some folks, and one of my friends struck up a conversation with this guy who said that he’d been the asst. manager of one of the local porn stores for the last six or seven years. He was there with his girlfriend.
    Anyhow, we started asking a lot of of sociological type questions, like how busy was the place, who was there general clientele, etc.
    He talked some about the ownership- some guy named Pendergras(sp) who owns 15 or 20 porn stores areound the southeast.
    Pendergras, and a sizeable number of his store managers, are all gay. He said that the guy would roll in once a year or so with his current boytoy. They sold plenty of gay porn, but this guys major business was in straight porn, naturally.

    A really weird and kinda ugly thought: it must be really easy to objectify someone who you have no real need or desire to interact with anyway.

    He went on to discribe it as an obvious vice, akin to selling booze or crack, and just as lucrative.

  196. Barbara Morgan

    J said something about a, “post-patriarchal world.” LMAO. That is, without a doubt, the most precious statement I have ever seen anyone make. Doesn’t the marginalized status of feminism and the explosion of young women embracing their own oppression tell you anything? Patriarchy is here FOR ETERNITY. The good news is our having lived in an era where one can genuinely name the monster and point it out to others.

    To wish that 1/2 the human race would wake up to our truths, when recent history has proved that truly unlikely, is a form of wishful thinking and denial. For those of us who see the patriarchy at every turn; sizing up the battlefield, designing our best defensive and offensive strategies and marching on is simply the only way! You can win once in a while if you comprehend this simple fact. Yes, it’s not easy. But, life is not fair, not for virtually anyone. The reason the male sex has us so whipped is that they are not afraid to champion their own points of view. When it comes to taking an authoritative stand, many of us still hint around for permission and crumble at the slightest loss of male validation. Women would have to become extremely, almost radically brave as a whole, and I just don’t see that happening. (We have met the enemy and they are us.)

    Let the hail and brimstone begin. . . .

  197. msxochitl

    This is the statistic I was referring to:

    “When prostituted women are asked if they want to leave prostitution, consistently around 90% say they want out immediately but the decision is out of their hands and in the hands of their pimps, their husbands, their landlords, their addictions, their children’s bellies. A recent study of street prostitutes in Toronto found that about 90% wanted to leave but could not, and a 5-country study found 92% wanted out of prostitution.” (From: http://www.genderberg.com/phpNuke/modules.php?name=FAQ&myfaq=yes&id_cat=2&categories=Prostitution FAQ#19)

    I suppose the statistics aren’t too surprising, but they help give some perspective, especially when you consider the disproportional amount of attention the media gives to those prostitutes who say what the patriarchy likes to hear.

  198. Catherine Martell

    Alison Cummins:

    … a feminist analysis of porn must not result in an attempt to silence women who are sex workers. So… what *should* it result in? What imperative to act *are* we working towards?… My question remains, even if we all agree that porn is essentially oppressive, *what is it we want to do about it?*

    God, but this question annoys me. Sorry, Alison, I know you’re trying to engage constructively on this. But why, please, is it our job, as radical feminists, to provide some compromisey recommendations for how the Happy Hooker can slot herself in comfortably with anti-porn philosophy without challenging her essential empowerfullated “choice” to prostitute herself?

    To continue the slavery analogy: if I have already stated that I find slavery disgusting and exploitative and I want it ended, is it then reasonable to ask me “Well, but in the meantime, what shall we do about it?” I’ve already made clear what I want done about it. I want it stopped. I don’t see why I should now have to come up with limp sticking-plaster solutions to make slavery apologists feel more comfortable.

    The anti-porn/prostitution position that many of us here seem to hold is actually pretty straightforward. Porn/prostitution is objectification and oppression; the women (and children, and some of the men) involved are victims of it. If the Happy Hooker exists at all, she would appear to be a rare phenomenon. In addition to msxochitl’s stark statistic that around 90% of prostitutes wish to leave the industry, you have to factor in further stats, such as that 96% of teenage prostitutes (75% of all prostitutes) were sexually abused as children, and that 95% of all prostitutes have drug or alcohol addictions.

    You’re talking about the “choice” made by some sex workers, let’s say the 10% who apparently do not with to leave the industry immediately. If you were abused as a child and now have a drug problem, like the overwhelming majority of that 10% probably does, do you think your “choice” is in any way free and meaningful?

    The overwhelming majority of prostitutes are deeply damaged people who are desperate to leave the industry. Of the tiny number that remain, who aren’t under the thumb of a pimp or other force keeping them in the industry, really enjoy their work, didn’t get raped by their dads, and live happy, straight-edge lives, of course they’re entitled to be all super-positive about their fabulous careers. Bearing in mind the horrific truth of the rest of the sex industry, though, I’d probably consider a woman who talked constantly about how marvellous and liberating her sex work was to be something of an Auntie Tom. I think radical feminists could be forgiven for arguing that ending the appalling exploitation of the 99.5% or so prostitutes who are enslaved, oppressed and miserable, is a little more important than making a tiny number of Happy Hookers feel all warm and fuzzy about their lifestyle choices.

    As Twisty has pointed out in the past: yes, women are entitled to make choices, but it doesn’t follow that every choice every woman makes is a good choice. I don’t think I’m in with much chance of “silencing women who are sex workers” and love every minute of it; they seem to occupy a disproportionate amount of media space already. Funnily enough, for every massive book/film deal or heavily trumpeted interview handed out to Belle du Jour or Lindalee Tracey, there doesn’t seem to be a proportionally equivalent nine massive book/film deals or heavily trumpeted interviews with women, children and men sex workers who have been trafficked, beaten, raped, tortured, drugged, pimped etc. Isn’t that strange? So which women who are sex workers do you think are the ones most commonly silenced?

  199. Mar Iguana

    No! The enemy is not women. Imagining a post-patriarchal world is merely a precious statement you find laughable, Barbara Morgan? Well, I find your statement that patriarchy is eternal a real stitch. The only thing that is eternally constant is change so you are giving patriarchy far too much power. It had a beginning, therefore will have an end. We are at THE fork in the road as a species and patriarchy, merely a system, is what has brought us to this brink of destruction. It is not life that is unfair, it is patriarchy that makes it unfair.

    It’s always darkest before the dawn. I’ve long known it was going to get a lot worse before it gets better and that’s what we are seeing right now on so many levels as ailing patriarchy goes through it’s death throes, making it as dangerous as any abuser who is loosing power over the oppressed. Until we all go up in mushroom clouds, there is always the chance that half the human race will wake up. Especially when they find themselves losing their human rights as well, the goal of this neocon administration, who are nothing more than a bunch of scared shitless, old white men. They know deep down their day is done and we are seeing their last hurrah. I love the smell of white, male desperation in the morning.

    What women have accomplished in the last forty years is awesome, press coverage or no, and it is becoming very obvious to many, even some of the boys, that something is very, very wrong with sexism. Recent history is a direct response to the second wave: The Backlash.

    While women’s voices have been systematically silenced, the article on women college graduates making 80% of boy salaries out the gate was all over the place last week. Call me a cock-eyed optomist, but I don’t think as more women than boys bust it in school then get screwed money-wise from the get go, they are going to take that laying down, so to speak. And, wait until the ramifications of the recent abortion ruling by the supremes hits, when women start getting sued by their parents and husbands for aborting.

    There is so much more in your comment that is just plain wrong but I have to go get ready for work. Just know the boys would be thrilled to see your defeatism. Dare to imagine. What the hell? It’s like chicken soup: doesn’t hurt and just might be the cure.

  200. Silence

    I’m rarely at my best in the morning, so forgive me if my contribution now lacks sophistication.

    Someone earlier mentions the “choice” of a woman to enter prostitution as analogous to a person working in an abattoir. In other words, it’s an unpleasant choice, one that you only take if you have no better options, but the people who take it do not desrve to be degraded or talked down to because they’re doing what they must to survive.

    So let’s flip this around in view of the Happy Hooker analogy. What would you think of a person who actually enjoyed working at an abattoir? Someone who got off on terrified animals being slaughtered, the stench of blood and fecal matter? I think most people would, at very least, look askance at such an individual and many would consider them ill because they were enjoying violence, filth, and death.

    So what exactly are Happy Hookers enjoying about their role in the sex trade? Is it the feeling of “empowerment” they get over men? That’s generally, what I hear, that these women enjoy the feeling of being able to rouse men’s desires and then gratify them –or not. But if that’s the case, we’re just back to the old dominance/submission agenda that is already governing our sick society. While I can understand why women fantasize about being the ones with power for a change, it would ultimately be no healthier for women to beat down men than it is for men to be beating down women. And in the case of sex worker, if that is what is motivating her, it is all an illusion. Their so-called ‘power’ fades as the age and fall from the standards of feminine beauty as set by the patriarchy. And the very fact of being sex workers places them in a category where the patriarchy decrees they can be raped, beaten, and humiliated without consequence because they are filthy whores who desire sex. I see no way that servicing a man for money can be considered an act of liberation for women, no matter what she may claim.

    I’ve heard that if you live with shit long enough, the smell of it starts to smell good to you. That may be the excuse of some of the women who say they enjoy sex work; it’s become familiar to them and they’re afraid to change. Such women I whole-heartedly sympathize with. But the ones who honestly enjoy it are getting off on dehumanization. They have to be — is it any more possible for a sex trade worker to view her clients as people rather than two-dimensional people-shaped objects than it is for her johns to view her as a person? I don’t see why anyone should support a choice. If there are ever going to be changes in the system, if we are ever going to topple the patriarchy, it has to start with everyone realizing that everyone around them is a three-dimensional human person, regardless of gender, race, age, or any other difference you can name.

  201. delphyne

    One of the reasons these discussions continually default to the choices of women in porn and prostitution and arguments over the same, is to ensure that people forget to focus on the choices of the men who decide to use pornography or the bodies of prostituted women. It really can’t be said enough. At the moment johns and pornsturbators are hiding behind women’s choices. If what they are doing is so great let their choices be scrutinised and dissected to the same extent that women’s are and then perhaps the landscape of this argument would begin to look a little different.

  202. delphyne

    In other words, even if it is true that for some women being in porn or working as a prostitute is truly empowering or even liberating, ever last man who pays for sex with them or masturbates over their pictures is a total misogynist scumbag with no respect women, particularly the women they sexual exploit.

  203. WeaverRose

    “When you’re already oppressed, it is, in fact, impossible to volunteer for oppression.”

    There it is: Truth, short and sweet. Well said Twisty.

  204. lawbitch

    “no problem with agreeing that a lesbian relationship will have less strongly defined power hierarchy based on sex”

    I’m hetero, so I appeal to my lesbian sisters in blame for their thoughts. Isn’t there *no* heiarchy based on sex?

    A friend of mine and her SO decided to have a baby. They sat down and decided who would have the baby based on age, health, employment, etc. What a eye opener! I don’t have that option in my marriage. I’d love to be able tell hubby to have the next baby. It would definitely change the dynamics of my relationship.

    BTW, my friend had the baby, and she’s very happy. ;-)

  205. ruxandra

    There you go: there’s good women who deserve compassion and respect and then there’s happy hookers, defined as despicable (possibly evil). So feminist! Who defines these things? What is a “happy hooker” and have you ever talked to a sex worker, of any kind, in person? One of the things I quoted before mentions the problems at either end of the position-on-pornstitution spectrum. Does everyone who is “anti-pornstitution” want to “get in bed with right-wingers, infantilize women, condescend to sex workers, refuse to critically consider porn as a social practice, and prescribe what gets to count as “healthy” sexuality (usually vanilla, reproductive heteronormativity)?” No. Well, not everyone who “supports the rights of sex workers” is of the “empowerful fun feminist” or “Aunt Tom” or “happy hooker” (stereo)type, either. It’s not that difficult to see.

    Sam: yes, definitely; I’m pretty sure it would be a huge step forward if every country did at least as much, and adopted the Swedish model. But what else can be done? We know that prostitution can flourish whether it’s legal or illegal to sell sex, because of so many factors within the patriarchal context, and that international trafficking works on a whole other level that works with and in spite of the various measures taken to curb and address the sex and porn trade locally (including making the buying of sex illegal as Sweden did). We can’t really talk of “anti-pornstitution” as if it was all one issue, which needs only one approach. It will take working on all possible fronts to better the lives of those who are exploited and to put an end to all exploitation; and a lot of different ideas and approaches, short and long-term. The question, though, no matter what we say or theorize or who we blame (even though that’s an important part too), is: what do we actually propose and what do we do (as in concrete steps, not ultimate goal), how do we stop exploiters and how do we help in real ways those most hurt and exploited by pornstitution, and also who counts, who gets to have a voice and agency – all of that.

  206. delphyne

    I agree with you about calling women in the sex industry “Uncle Toms” (which also strikes me as racist) and “Happy Hookers”, ruxandra. There’s no need for that in a feminist discussion.

    It’s worth noting though it is a staple of pornography that the women in it are portrayed as loving what is done to them by the men involved or what the viewer wants to fantasise. If you look at pornographic magazines the photo-shoots are almost always accompanied by a blurb, supposedly by the woman pictured, saying what sex she likes and how she loves men doing XYZ to her. In porn films the same kind of things happens. You never get the real truth because that wouldn’t fit in with male fantasy that women’s desires are completely in tune with theirs.

    It also now appears to be part of the job description for women in the sex industry to announce how much they love their jobs and how empowering they are. In fact thirty years ago Linda Lovelace was being dragged round the interview circuit announcing what a superfreak she was. Later on she was able to speak of her real experience which was that she had been raped. People on the pro-porn/pro-prostitution side of the discussion often compare sex work to other so-called degrading jobs. The one thing those jobs, be it working in McDonalds, working in an abbatoir, or typing letters for a sexist boss, don’t have in common with sex work is that the workers in the former aren’t expected to proclaim that the work is empowering or that they love every minute of it. Even if they did, people probably wouldn’t believe them.

  207. LMYC

    It’s been pointed out (paying hookers to leave, Naomi quotes,
    etc…) that the appeal of porn isn’t the opression it’s the
    objectification.

    Um, scuse me, it’s been pointed out that the oppression and the objectification are THE SAME DAMNED THING.

    *bzzt*

  208. Catherine Martell

    ruxandra, please don’t strawfeminist me:

    There you go: there’s good women who deserve compassion and respect and then there’s happy hookers, defined as despicable (possibly evil). So feminist! Who defines these things? What is a “happy hooker” and have you ever talked to a sex worker, of any kind, in person?

    No, I didn’t say that there were good women who deserve compassion and then evil women who enjoy it. I said that it was impossible to consider that the majority of people in the sex industry had made a “choice” to be there, and that the “Happy Hooker” – which is a stereotype based on an unpleasant 1970s film – was almost certainly a myth. I apologise if people were offended by the term: I was using it deliberately to parody the mindset that suggests women in sex work are, on the whole, happy and free, rather than with intent to demean any of the actual women involved.

    However, if cheerful prostitutes do exist, I have stated that they are entitled to their views; I just don’t personally consider that talking about how much you lurve being a prostitute and how it’s never done you any harm is in the best possible taste in a world where most prostitutes are done very serious harm indeed.

    And yes, I have talked to a number of sex workers in person. I grew up in a red light district, and live in one again now. My feminism didn’t spring out of nowhere.

    Well, not everyone who “supports the rights of sex workers” is of the “empowerful fun feminist” or “Aunt Tom” or “happy hooker” (stereo)type, either. It’s not that difficult to see.

    As I noted above yesterday, no one here seems to be saying “Women in porn are wicked sluts and we should ignore their rights!” I expect most of us would support improvements in the rights and conditions of sex workers. I would. It’s better than nothing. But I don’t believe that most people in the industry have even made a choice to be there, and for me the most fundamental right to establish is the right not to be a sex worker.

    This doesn’t mean we should ignore all other rights of sex workers and only focus on ending the trade. Nor does it mean that, if you’re in favour of rights for sex workers, I would assume you were a member of any of those groups you mentioned.

    delphyne:

    I agree with you about calling women in the sex industry “Uncle Toms” (which also strikes me as racist) and “Happy Hookers”, ruxandra. There’s no need for that in a feminist discussion.

    See above re HH. As for “Aunt Tom”, again, I was deliberately invoking a stereotype of the slave who endorses his own slavery; it wasn’t a racial reference. The intent was to point out that other people’s arguments were relying on stereotypes rather than reality. My apologies if you found either of these terms offensive.

  209. Bird

    One of the authors I work with brought in a book today that she came across in her research on missing persons for her current project. It’s called Heroines, and it’s a collection of photos of drug-addicted women, most of them prostitutes, from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. A number of those women are now dead. Most chillingly, the writer pointed out one photo to me and noted that the woman in the picture was one of those found dead on Robert Pickton’s pig farm.

    For me, that’s the face of prostitution. That’s the face I saw when I lived in Vancouver’s East Hastings area—the women who were selling their bodies for heroin and crack cocaine outside my apartment building every day. That’s the face I see in my current home city when I drive through the area northeast of the downtown core. Sure, there are women who don’t walk the streets. Our city licenses “escort agencies” and “massage parlours.” There’s even one local escort who’s a vocal advocate for prostitution as a career choice. But for me, those exploited women, walking corpses with hollow eyes or sad teen girls huddled in mini-skirts and too-thin jackets in a Canadian prairie winter, are the real face of sex work. Yes, there are some women who have it differently, but that’s the reality for the majority.

    Back when I was a good young Christian of the evangelical sort, I went to a bible college in Regina, SK. A group of us students decided that a good project would be to distribute food, clothing, needles and condoms to women on the streets, in what we saw as an emulation of Christ’s love. We were refused permission to go out at night (students in residence had a curfew), and the college denied us use of the funds provided for “student missions projects” because they thought that giving women condoms and needles was just “encouraging their lifestyles” and that our plan didn’t involve enough trying to convert/pray at people. That was one of the major reasons for me leaving the church—I couldn’t stomach the idea that love was something you were only supposed to give to the right people: namely, those who were willing to toe the church line.

    I don’t blame any of those women for the lives they have to live. I blame a society that doesn’t provide a real safety net. I blame a culture that sees drug addicts, street people, and prostituted women (especially the “low track” women) as inhuman and unlovable and refuses to protect them from abuse and violence and give them the survival tools they need. I blame the men who use these women as ways to put cash in their own pockets or a place to deposit their spunk and their hate. In short, IBTP.

  210. Artemis

    What I find interesting (and worth discussing in light of what’s been said here about sex work) is that, within the patriarchy we live within, there is continuum of degradation around work.

    The far end of that degradation spectrum includes forced/coerced prostitution and sex work (the 99%), slavery, imprisonment, sweatshop labor, and other forms of bodily oppression. Somewhere up from that end is labor in an abattoire. Moving on up you get to the low-paid, dead end, miserable jobs like hotel housekeeping, dishwashing, farm labor, and the like. McJobs are next perhaps, then perhaps office work that is demeaning and demoralizing. Then the range of jobs that are demeaning and demoralizing that pay just enough to live on. Maybe up from there are some trade union jobs where you at least have a chance at decent wages, benefits, consistent work life, and job security, but still in a society that lumps you into particular categories and treats you accordingly.

    All along the way you find the use of humiliation and threats in one form or another to keep the person in line. All along the way you can find people who will defend the work they (or others) do as being a positive thing for one reason or another. But in a patriarchy it’s really just degrees of degradation, not true freedom for the vast majority of human beings.

    Some people want to think that a prostitute chose that work freely because we want so badly to believe that all of us have freedom in this system.

    Changing the overall nature of that is a massive undertaking. The first step is recognizing that almost all of us are degraded by the patriarchy through our work. We’re able to make the argument that “my job is not that bad” or “that job is not that bad” because there is so much worse, even as we feel shitty in the way we’re treated in our jobs. We have to recognize the continuum. If we were able to lop off the far end of that – if we refused to set the bar so incredibly low for how humans are treated – perhaps everything above it would then come under a harsher spotlight.

  211. J

    Artemis,
    I like what you point out, but I think you cut your criticism short if you treat work as something we willingly do no matter what it is – sex-work or computer programming. You might take what Cathrine said earlier about establishing a right not to be a sex-worker, and take that to the level of work period. You can take the imagine of the “happy hooker” as the self-identified “I like my job” types at any level of the spectrum, and the rest of us are those who bear whatever we have because the only other option to working in our structurally-determined range of occupations is probably to starve to death.

    The prostitute that wants out is not much different than the majority of people who work for a living, except that unlike most working-class people she is aware of the intense degredation and alienation she experiences in her “line of work” and feels she should be treated better. Even in her case though, “out” is probably just the more subtle, apparently acceptable oppression the rest of us experience as “normal,” “everybody-has-to-do-it” working-life.

  212. techne

    As tools of the patriarchy go, porn wasn’t invented out of whole cloth. Patriarchy hijacked a biological drive that existed long before it (patriarchy) was even a glimmer in a chimpanzee’s eye. So I read all this and wonder, when taking porn out of the discussion, how much of sex is also being taken out? Is sex patriarchal?

  213. afm

    This is my porn. I love people who think. and kick ass. I’m totally gonna go vertically integrate myself now using my objectification of the patriarchy.

  214. J

    “So I read all this and wonder, when taking porn out of the discussion, how much of sex is also being taken out?”

    Try inverting your question: how much sex is there (in porn) to be taken out? In kind of critique of porn going on in this blog, in this entry and among the commentariat at any rate, the point is that porn is not about sex. You say that patriarchy (in porn) hijacks a biological drive, all the while leaving whatever the hell it is that you’re talking about in the air for unassailable rhetorical loftiness par excellence. Just what are you talking about here? The notion of a “biological drive,” even if we consider it strictly as a Freudian concept, is so loaded that I’m not going to be the one to dismantle it.

  215. J

    “As tools of the patriarchy go, porn wasn’t invented out of whole cloth”

    I should have tried to put this another way, because it’s the implicit assumption in the very first clause of the above quoted sentence that trips up most people’s approach to a critique of porn. Porn is not a tool of patriarchy: it is patriarchy. Basing your thought around porn being a tool is to already detach porn from patriarchy, such that it is a hop-skip-and-a-jump to wondering about porn after patriarchy. This detachment involves a misrecognition of patriarchy as the content of a form of sexual representation, rather than the very form itself. This is not to say that representations of sex are categorically patriarchal or objectifying, but to that extent neither are they porn.

  216. Blamerella

    I don’t blame any of those women for the lives they have to live. I blame a society that doesn’t provide a real safety net. I blame a culture that sees drug addicts, street people, and prostituted women (especially the “low track” women) as inhuman and unlovable and refuses to protect them from abuse and violence and give them the survival tools they need.

    Bird, you learned that even the fundies understand the need for a slut class. Here in Arizona, there was a bill before the legislature to increase the penalties for pimps and johns when the prostitute was a minor. The lawmakers who opposed it were some of the most hardcore religious conservatives. Why? Because they were worried about the fate of upstanding honky dudes who were merely getting a bit of sexual release with the underclass designed for that purpose. They all but said as much in the committee hearings.

  217. Silence

    When I wrote my post above, I neglected to mention that I did, in fact, know an ex-sex worker. She was more my brother’s friend than mine and I lost touch with her when he did. She was a strong, smart, confident woman who lived in New York City.

    Rents for a decent apartment in NYC are very high. To pay the rent, this woman took a job at a ‘sex museum’ where women stood around naked in boxes. About as safe as sex work can get; no possibility of touching. The first time I met her, she had just started it, and she was cheerful and defiant. I dare say that at that point she would have vehemently defended her right to work in the trade. And I would have agreed and still agree — women have a right to work in the sex industry. But working in the sex industry does not occur in a vacuum. It happens in the context of the society we live in, which is patriarchal and degrading, particularly to women.

    About a year later, I met this woman again and she had given up the job. It had started to make her sick. The men couldn’t touch her, but she could see and hear them and that was quite enough. She had come to realize that her smarts, her confidence, and even her contempt for her cleints meant nothing. Their inability to view her as anything other than a sort of human blow-up doll dragged her down and she said it was a depressing episode in her life.

    Women simply can not take their clothes off in front of men without it becomming an issue of dominance and submission. I’m an artist. I went to art school were I took life drawing classes. There was only one other woman in my class. Whenever there was a male model, my fellow students would groan and complain and look for excuses to cut class. Whenever it was a female model, you can bet they were all there with their eyes virtually bursting out of their sockets. In fact once another class was having a lesson with a female model my class had never seen before, so they snuck up to take a look at her without her clothes on.

    It made me sick, quite frankly. These models were there to help us learn how to draw human bodies properly, not to titillate the students. But they could not see these women as professional human beings who were there to do a job. No. They were women, and women are meant to be leered at. The story ends there. My position on sex workers is that I do not understand how any woman can truly enjoy being treated as an object, as a member of the sex class by society. I do not think these women are evil or bad, but I do think they’ve internalized the message of the patriarchy to such an extent that they’re not reliable witnesses as to what most sex workers actually endure. Yet they’re always brought out whenever a serious discussion on prostitution is invoked, preventing a balanced discussion from taking place. That’s my complaint against them. If it bothers anyone, well, frankly, tough shit. I don’t see why this demeaning sex trade should continue just because a very small minority is given the spotlight so often to tell everyone how content they are.

  218. leen

    Porn is not a tool of patriarchy: it is patriarchy. [Ellipsis here!] This detachment involves a misrecognition of patriarchy as the content of a form of sexual representation, rather than the very form itself.

    Yowza, J! Very well said.

  219. magickitty

    YAY I READ THE WHOLE THING!

    I want to print out this thread and highlight every profound statement, to the joy of highlighter manufacturers everywhere. Thank you all (except for you-know-who) for articulating my inarticulate rage.

  220. buggle

    Silence-that was an awesome post. Dang. That’s exactly how I feel-these women are just pulled out in conversations to prove that “some woman like it!”

  221. RadFemHedonist

    As a marginally off-topic question, has anyone seen the soft porn that passes for music videos these days (in some cases, there’s always Mika and Gorillaz to cheer you up a bit). There’s this song that’s basically cheerleader porn with trumpets, it’s appalling that this is being shown, it’s exploitative crap and kids are seeing this, it’s on in the middle of the day. I’d much prefer if they’d show comprehensive sex education and vibrator adverts, that kids should see.

  222. phio gistic

    Here are some things I am doing to fight porn in my life:
    Don’t watch porn
    Don’t date people that do
    Don’t let men around me get away with saying things like “All men look at porn” or “porn doesn’t hurt anyone” or “it’s a free choice”
    Speak up against things that normalize porn
    Keep Girls Gone Wild from filming in my town via petitions and public resistance
    Don’t patronize video stores that have a ‘back room’ or otherwise sell/rent porn, and do let them know why you don’t spend your money there

  223. Lisa

    Add me to the list of people who finally got hit over the head with the clue club by this post.

    I was never a fan of porn, always got that it was not good for women, but I understood it more on an instinctual level. I was never able to articulate it as well as this. Now I think I can rip off some of this post, as well as the whole brown eyed, collar comment, which was also excellent (among others) and explain it to people in a coherent way.

    Thanks, Twisty.

  224. magickitty

    Strictly speaking, that would be “performing cunnilingus” upon her.

  225. Cathy

    Alternet is running articles on so-called feminist strippers, with that “empowerment” garbage. They think it’s their choice, so it must be feminist. They have sadly confused feminism with libertarianism. They don’t care one bit that they are harming society in general, and women in particualar, so long as they get “theirs.” Who cares if those blue-balled creeps go and rape someone after her “fun performance” – not her. She doesn’t care that many men somehow assume ALL women are evil sluts and treat us like shit because of what she did. She laughs all the way to the bank, and we pay the price. It is indeed a backlash.

    I totally agree with Miller’s comment on Apr 28th, 2007 at 4:22 pm.
    It’s like these women are the “Uncle Toms” of feminism.

    I’ve never seen “feminist porn.” Does it humiliate men the way misogynist porn does women? Are women shitting on men’s faces, cutting off their dicks and stuffing them in their (men’s) mouths? Kicking them in the balls till they cry?

  226. wtf

    “They don’t care one bit that they are harming society in general, and women in particualar, so long as they get “theirs.” Who cares if those blue-balled creeps go and rape someone after her “fun performance” – not her. She doesn’t care that many men somehow assume ALL women are evil sluts and treat us like shit because of what she did.”

    Wait, so are you blaming the actions of evil men on women? That sounds awfully feminist to me…

  227. nomoneynofoul

    There is no real “consent” possible for women in this country when it comes to porn and prostitution in this society.

    The bottom line is the bottom line. Would you do this with this person at this time if there was no money changing hands?

    If not, then the money is influencing the decision.

    Depending on the circumstances, the influence of money on your “consent” could be huge.

    Maybe you are one of a handful of women with trust funds who CHOOSE to prostitute. Most women in prostitution DON’T have trust funds, they have financial pressures. They might rather choose to consent to something else for the money, but no one is offering it up and the rent is due tomorrow.

    The degree to which you are free to consent is directly proportional to the degree of desperation in your life.

  228. Deiter

    Exactly what is porn is a stickier matter (pardon the pun) than Blame the Patriarchy’s (BtP) argument acknowledges. The old boundaries of porn have changed in too many ways.

    Thank the internet for this cultural milestone. Porn has in many ways become decentralized, de-institutionalized, de-industrialized: Though the old industry paradigm still survives in some form, much of the material available now is personalized, localized, and amateurized. Where does this enter in the discussion? Are the feministas so self-indulgent as to micromanage the personal intimate relationships of others? Who are we to pass judgement on whatever goes on between consenting adults? Or is it now that these people have thrown open the doors of their bedrooms they require institutional scrutiny and moral policing? Perhaps they aren’t the ideal foot soldiers in the war on patriarchy, but does that make them oppressed? If a person thinks they’re happy, oppression can become uselessly academic point.

    To wit: What if a woman lets a partner post nude pictures of her? What if she posts them herself? What if she allows her partner to post their consensual acts, whatever the political connotation, with her approval and support? (Or what about gay porn? Are men immune from oppression and exploitation?) We are a world of varying intelligence, security, and personality (not to mention love): Everyone can’t be held to the same standard. The politically incorrect aren’t necessarily abused and oppressed victims.

    Amateur material is everywhere. Whether the intent is exhibitionism, narcissism, self-exploitation, desperation for attention, oppression by another, humiliation, or degradation–who’s to say? BtPs argument would seem to say that anyone who posts a nude picture of themselves is a victim of their own oppression. This description is far too facile and simplistic to hold much truth or be of much use.

    My point: The discussion of porn has to acknowledge how nuanced and difficult the terrain now is, how permeable the boundaries are. If it doesn’t, the discussion is hypocritical, priggish, and useless.

  229. Mar Iguana

    Deiter. Shut up.

  230. Cathy

    In response to wtf:
    “Wait, so are you blaming the actions of evil men on women? That sounds awfully feminist to me… ”

    Absolutely not!! I was trying to show that the woman who wrote that column on AlterNet was trying to justify her behavior by calling it “feminism,” which is pure BS. I’d never blame the actions of evil men on that woman, much less women in general. I was just disgusted by her smug assertion that she was somehow being feminist just because she got a lot of money from them. I want life to be better for all women (all human beings, really) – not just those who can make money without thought as to the consequences of their action.

  231. Cathy

    delphyne:

    Not to be argumentative, but I watched a video at http://web.mac.com/bobbywos/iWeb/Pornography & Pop Culture/Gail Dines.html

    which showed that, increasingly, the gonzo porn is showing who hate what is done to them, are crying, etc. That seems to be the appeal for the more misogynistic of porn viewers.

    It’s pretty clear that our society is taking away a woman’s right to abortion and contraception, while using “free speech” arguments to further the use of hate speech.

    The sanction of violence against women is another indicator that overpopulation has gotten way out of hand.

  232. mearl

    Yes! ruxandra, I had to post a “hell, yeah” when I saw your quote from Propagandhi! Winnipeg bands, John K. Samson, and men who examine their masculinity, HELL, YEAH!

  233. mearl

    And to Deiter: there is a sock somewhere with your gob’s name on it. Find it.

  234. wiggles

    Barbara Morgan May 1st, 2007 at 12:02 am

    J said something about a, “post-patriarchal world.” LMAO. That is, without a doubt, the most precious statement I have ever seen anyone make. Doesn’t the marginalized status of feminism and the explosion of young women embracing their own oppression tell you anything? Patriarchy is here FOR ETERNITY.

    Or only until we smash it.

  235. Sera

    I am sure you don’t particularly need to get drooled all over just for the act of posting, but let me tell you. I really only got into/”discovered” you after you’d disappeared. I am very glad that you’re back so I can stop feeling like a buttface for having missed the opportunity to actually your posts the same year they were posted.

  236. Satsuma

    This description of pornography is just excellent Twisty. Glad that I ventured on this site, because I’ve always loved your posts at Heart’s blog. M’s letter asking about “feminist” pornography, and her difficulty standing up against the pro-porn supporters was very well explained.

    I wanted to add some of my comments, because I think pornography is making people all the worse.

    There actually is tremedous hostility to women who are against either straight porn OR lesbian porn. The next generation in Los Angeles is quite enchanted with this garbage– all of course under the heading of “fun” “freedom” etc. What I’ve discovered is that a lot of the women who are into all of this were abused as girls, or came from very abusive families or step-families. The more you found out about the lesbian porn advocates, the more you discovered the self-hatred and abuse beneath the radar screen.

    Even one of the gay men I know out there who goes to “orgies” all the time and brags about the all the porn he watches, and all the sex he is obsessed with, once admitted in a moment of truth, that he always felt unloved. That his father rejected him for being gay, and that he had extremely low self-esteem. All of this came as quite a shock to me, because he has everything going for him. I was shocked the most at his admission that this orgy filled porn life was the best it was ever going to be for him.

    When he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he was so afraid that the treatments would harm his “sexual performance” (men think sex is about performing, and they believe it is all about the penis all the time), that he chose to forgo treatment. The cancer is slow acting, but he will die slowly, all because of his sex addiction.

    I tell this stuff to bring home a truth about sexual abuse and pornography. Andrea Dworkin linked the two very effectively. The difficulty is, that on blogs, people get flippant. They just attack anti-porn feminists and drive them off the blog in the first place, and the people who say “they choose to love this stuff” are not honest about who they really are: rejected and sexually abused young people, who are fed into the porn killer machine yet again.

  237. Laughingrat

    Thank you for this post. I was recently mobbed and booted out of a feminist forum for suggesting that sometimes women make unfortunate choices (like engaging in pornified behaviors) which hurt other women. The idea that it was possible to debunk these choices while understanding why women make them, and not hating the women involved, rolled right off ‘em. Even though I thought I was acting in good faith, it made me second-guess myself. Maybe pole-dancing really is empowering? Maybe “choosing” to pander to porn culture is actually really good for women?

    It seemed likely that you’d have posted something, at some point, that’d reassure me that I was still on the right track, and here it is. So again, thanks.

  1. Reading assigment at PunkAssBlog.com

    [...] Those of you who are not regular readers of Twisty Faster will still want to pop on over for this one. In such a society, where a woman is a member of the oppressed sex class, her performance of sex in a film which is then consumed by paying customers to satisfy their prurience, this is not even remotely a politically neutral act. Porn — gay, straight, bi, live-action, animated, or ‘feminist’ — is the graphic representation of the oppression of the sex class. Until the sex class is liberated from male oppression, porn can be nothing else, no matter how many fun feminists claim it empowerfuls them… [...]

  2. Feminist Law Professors » Blog Archive » That NYT Magazine Feature About Pornography

    [...] NB: A post about the San Francisco Chronicle’s love letter to Kink.com is accessible here. ALso, there is a recent IBTP post about pornography with a long comments thread here. [...]

  3. My thoughts on the sex industry « I am the Lizard Queen!

    [...] If anyone’s interested, here’s more on the debate: on the more pro- side, here’s Jessica’s post about the Feminist Porn Awards turns into a debate in the comments thread; on the other hand, in this post Twisty (of I Blame the Patriarchy) explains it all to you (three rapid fire-thoughts: a) IBtP is not for beginners!; b) I really enjoy reading IBtP about 90% of the time; and c) I couldn’t read the comments thread because toward the beginning someone mentioned that people shouldn’t “need” visual stimulation anyway, at least not ideally–and, yeah, don’t even get me started on how I feel about that one). Also, if anyone’s curious, here’s the post that set me off–and it wasn’t the post so much as the fact that someone voiced disagreement, ending with the line “Sorry Kyso, but as a feminist sex worker who works constantly – and selectively – to preserve and promote my political beliefs, I cannot help but feel offended by Twisty’s blatant overgeneralization and ignorance of the porn industry”–and rather than engage her in a dialogue, the subsequent comments just shut her down, rather harshly in my opinion. (Also, like Twisty, I generally enjoy reading Kyso’s writing.)  Example: What the Patriarchy wants most is for women to enact their assigned role of sex hole(s). It doesn’t care much how you do it. [...]

  4. {disenthrobulation!} at The Republic of Dogs

    [...] From She Who I Never Tire Of Reading: Well, M, the Twistolutionary manifesto argues that anything called “porn,” whether or not it is explicitly violent or BDSM-y or designed to titillate ‘feminists’ vs. sweaty, beer-gutted pervs, exists only to enthrobulate the fetishization of culturally-generated (and, frankly, comically hokey) constructs. It is readily apparent to the visitor from the planet Obstreperon that these constructs include arbitrary standards of physical sexihotness, arch-backed-heavy-eyelidded-ooo-baby body language, penetration worship, dominance and submission, corny fashion accessories, “the art of seduction” et al — and that they have, at their root, everything to do with a paradigm of dominance and nothing to do with actual sex between individuals with equivalent personal sovereignty. [...]

  5. The secret lives of prigs at I Blame The Patriarchy

    [...] I allude to this comment; as an example of aforementioned tiresome trends it by no means stands alone, but it’s the rancid onion ring that clogged my last artery. [...]

  6. Women's Space/The Margins

    The First Carnival of Radical Feminists…

    Welcome to the First Carnival of Radical Feminists!

    Introduction As those of you who have been patiently waiting have observed, putting this carnival together became far more intense and complex – and time- consuming — a project for me than …

  7. First Carnival of Radical Feminists « Carnival of Radical Feminists

    [...] submitted a classic post from the Great Blamer, Twisty Faster, entitled “Reader Actually Asks Spinster Aunt’s Opinion”  and added the following from the comments courtesy of Blamer Miller on Apr 28th, 2007 at 3:57 pm: [...]

  8. I’m absolutely positive « Ms. Ann Drist’s Blog

    [...] the meantime, though, here’s an absolutely brilliant deconstruction, thanks to I Blame the Patriarchy: …our world order is predicated on binary sex roles, one of which is privileged and dominant, [...]

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