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Apr 13 2008

L’esprit du porn

Few phrases in the English language generate greater hilarity down at Spinster HQ than “Feminist Porn Awards.”

They have’em in Toronto. What, you don’t remember? Then let us leap together, you and I, down the Femblog Drain of His-tor-eye. Google says it was May of 2006 when Jessica at Feministing published the first “Vixens + Visionaries: Female erotic directors revolutionizing porn” press release, even as she steeled herself for the killjoy comments from the “‘good feminists’ don’t support pornography crowd.”

“What’s next?” volleyed one killjoy, “The Proud to be Degraded Festival for Young Feminists? Aren’t we past the nonsense?”

“Ha, what did I tell you?” Jessica was swift to reply. She wasn’t going to get into “the whole porn debate” but she did defend Sex Itself: “I don’t find [it] ‘degrading’ or ‘nonsense’.”

A typical exchange on a feminist blog: killjoy arguing that pornography is the graphic representation of women’s oppression, young feminist leaping straight from porn to sex and making no distinction between’em. Twas ever thus. I’ll tell you why I bother to mention it in a minute.

But first. This year’s awards were handed out at a Toronto festival called “Feisty Feminist Porn On The Big Screen.” I have seen none of the films. Normally this wouldn’t stop me from reviewing them, but time is short this morning, so I’ll confine myself to speculating wildly on the quality of feminist thought contained therein.

I’d be lying if I said the Twisty glutes were clench-free at the idea of a convocation of “feisty feminists” (let alone feisty feminists with camcorders, naked actors, and the idea that fucking on film is cool and subversive). Feisty feminists. Such moxie, such pluck. If anyone can revolutionize porn, it’s those spunky ladies of the Feisty Feminist Brigade.

Still. One would hope that the Feisty Feminists are merely the victims of an unfortunate drunken sobriquet decision, and that, against all odds, their program contained uplifting social messages of gender neutrality, fiery political commentary on the violence perpetuated by the fetishization of dominance and submission, and no misogyny. Admittedly, though, I kinda doubt it, since the films are overtly billed as, you know, porn.

If porn were “revolutionized” to the extent that it no longer depicted or depended on a commodified sex underclass, there would be nothing lurid or sensational or prurient or violent or even feisty about it, and it wouldn’t be porn anymore.

This would be fine with me.

But check this out. Someone from the Toronto Globe and Mail went to the screening. Reporter Lisan Jutras declined to comment directly on the material itself, except to opine, with regret, that “sex is never safer than when it is larded with intermittent mentions of identity politics, erotic methodologies and fair labour practices.”

Whatever this was, it clearly wasn’t comfortable, jolly old classic porn.

Jutras writes of emerging from the theater, having found the Feisty Feminists somewhat lacking in esprit, when s/he encounters a “fabulously seedy posse” of kitschy, old-school porn consumers. These specimens converse briefly with Jutras, during which interim it is revealed that one of them owns a video called “Why I Like Black Chicks.”

This perks Jutras right up. The universal order is restored! The evening is “saved”!

So, getting back to that feminist blog exchange wherein Feminist A says “Porn is the graphic representation of women’s oppression,” and Feminist B says, “There’s nothing wrong with porn. Sex is great!” Well, here’s my radical hypothesis.

They’re both right.

The graphic representation of women’s oppression is sex now. I enter the Jutras, who was so bummed by the insufficient quantity of heteronormative racist camp offered by the Feisty Feminists (and whose article is actually entitled “Desperately Seeking Seediness”), into the column of data supporting my hypothesis.

73 comments

2 pings

  1. a birch tree

    That’s intensely depressing.

    If porn were “revolutionized” to the extent that it no longer depicted or depended on a commodified sex underclass, there would be nothing lurid or sensational or prurient or violent about it, and it wouldn’t be porn anymore.

    Agreed whole-heartedly! I just did a post yesterday about some ideas that would be common sense in regulating any other dangerous industry, but that would, if enacted, probably make porn not porn anymore. Things like the removal of dominance indicators and unhygenic practices to creating a bi-gendered government oversite committee and enforcement agency.

    It’s amazing how many people (guys and guy apologists) say that porn is non-degrading and perfectly safe while at the same time whining about anyone wanting to actually make it non-degrading and safe.

    Funny how when it comes to things guys do for a living, like, say, working with Benzene, nobody ever says “Well sheesh, there’s got to be a LITTLE danger or it’s just not fun or spontaneous anymore! Nazi anti-cancer prudes!”

  2. a birch tree

    I’m a complete dork. The link should be: this. The one I put in above is a link to the page I was using to edit the post. D’oh!

  3. kiki

    Reporter Lisan Jutras declined to comment directly on the material itself, except to opine, with regret, that “sex is never safer than when it is larded with intermittent mentions of identity politics, erotic methodologies and fair labour practices.”

    This reminds me of
    this hilarious routine.

  4. Cass

    Great post, birch tree. Everybody follow the link.

  5. Caro Clarke

    I have long thought — indeed, from the moment it began in the 1980s — that the great victory of the patriarchy over the most recent wave of feminism was the triumph of porn, including the sub-section S/M. The book ‘The Spinster and Her Enemies’ brilliantly captured the way the patriarchy suggests that not enjoying the erotic depiction of domination and submission means not enjoying sex, which means mental illness. So, to show you are a bonny, bouncy *healthy* lass without nasty mental hang-ups, you have to enjoy degradation and, indeed, claim that it is liberating. Such an insidious victory is, as we have sadly seen in my native country (although Down East), so difficult to name, let alone extirpate, that I have given up arguing with young women who insist that it is *their very own idea and belief* that dressing up in a Playboy t-shirt is somehow grrrl-power.

  6. Susan

    I would never begrudge the youngsters the opportunity to work this out on their own, or audaciously assume we’d covered all of this territory years ago– but it is a bit deja vu-y.

  7. JR

    Via birch tree’s link above, I just found out about this very impressive website that somebody has put together about pornography, including a lot of “myth-busting” information that I think might be useful to throw at all the undecided / “pro-porn” people who still need convincing on this basic issue:

    http://www.oneangrygirl.net/antiporn.html

    There is a ton of useful stuff there.

    I’m not (yet) willing to say, as Twisty puts it at the end of her post, “The graphic representation of women’s oppression is sex now.” To a great extent, yes, but not for everyone all the time. Pornography is very pervasive. We are all colonized in the head by it. But isn’t it still possible, at least to some partial extent, to throw off its yoke and be human about how we have sex? I hope it is.

  8. Elaine Vigneault

    Maybe next time you should read reviews of porn by people who are experts. Maybe next time, instead of reading the Toronto Globe and Mail you should read Good Vibrations’s blog, Susie Bright, or someone who actually represents the “Feisty Feminists”.

    Why would you expect a nonfeminist to appreciate feminist porn!?

  9. invisible

    As always, I’ve become confused.

    Dammit.

  10. a birch tree

    I wouldn’t expect porn to be appreciated by feminists, because there’s no such thing as feminist porn as long as dominance markers and themes are still present in the production and woman-hating acts and ethics are still tolerated by the suits.

  11. Twisty

    I appear to have a particular talent for confusing you, Elaine Vigneault. For in my essay the newspaper reporter specifically represents patriarchal discomfiture with any titillational film that does not degrade women according to tradition. I do not use him/her to exemplify expertise in the field of feisty feminism. In fact, I feel like I cut the Feisty Feminists quite a bit of slack, considering their awesome feistiness.

  12. Pinko Punko

    It really does seem like the porn wasn’t porny enough. Like it possibly could have appeared as if it were real people having sex that might be both more realistic and deeply lacking in baroque porn excess, which the author seems to define as standard. Blech.

  13. Red Robin

    Birch Tree– Wow. I think you violated at least two constitutional amendments. Do you really think the government can ban movies that contain depictions of illegal acts? Because if they come for my copy of Pulp Fiction, there’s going to be trouble.

    I’m also troubled by the provision that the government should test workers in a certain industry for drugs twice a year. Haven’t we done enough damage to the Fourth Amendment? I doubt that would even be legal (while I am a lawyer, I’m not a constitutional lawyer, so I’m not sure).

  14. slade

    I checked out Susie’s website…and I am so pissed that I missed her lecture at Tulane on the 8th where the topic was ‘Beyond the Vagina’…so would that be the cervix?

    After browsing her site, I am now even more bored with sex. Sex, sex, sex. So love is dead now, right?

  15. ThePeat

    This is extremely naive: How is the dramatic representation of people fucking necessarily derogatory? Commodifying, certainly, but every movie–everything–is commodifying nowadays. Certainly in overt cases of degradation (“gag bitch!” etc.), but what about two (or more or fewer) lusty people going at it? If sex can be non-derogatory, why can’t filming it be, too?

    I really mean this as a naive question, not an argument. As a straight male feminist, I find my relationship to porn ambivalent and distressing.

  16. Lara

    Elaine Vigneault certainly enjoys confusing herself and everyone around her. “Good Vibrations” also sells rape porn, go and google the company and check out the website yourself. But ohhhhh, it’s “Feminist” rape porn, soo soorryyy! :P
    “feminist porn” is an oxymoron. Don’t agree? PROVE that it isn’t an oxymoron, Elaine and all the other pro-porn “feminists.” So far, all I see pro-porn feminists doing is completely ignoring the arguments of anti-porn/sexploitation feminists. They never actually respond to our arguments (unless they put words in our mouths or cluelessly equate porn with “sex”, as Twisty already pointed out). It’s just unbelievable.
    There was a blog post I read yesterday about how Jessica at Feministing doesn’t actually give a crap about feminism, but only cares about book deals and making her blog super popular, but I can’t find the link or webpage now….
    I think it’s quite telling how all these privileged white middle-upper class feminists are touting porn as the ultimate in women’s liberation when there are women in this fucking country who can barely read or are in abusive marriages or who are victims of racism and classism. What has porn done for women lately? A lot of bad, if anything.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Z0h_c9eH-8

    Hehe ;)

  17. a birch tree

    “Do you really think the government can ban movies that contain depictions of illegal acts?”

    They’ve banned depictions of child rape, for example. Besides, I’m not talking about the government banning movies, just not licensing businesses that make those movies.

    “I’m also troubled by the provision that the government should test workers in a certain industry for drugs twice a year.”

    Why? Worried porn will vanish if women are no longer kept controllable by illegal drugs?

    “Haven’t we done enough damage to the Fourth Amendment? I doubt that would even be legal (while I am a lawyer, I’m not a constitutional lawyer, so I’m not sure).”

    Every job I’ve ever had has required random drug testing as a condition of continued employment. What are you, 12?

  18. Lara

    I am much more troubled that Red Robin is a lawyer :/
    By the way a birch tree I read your post it is totally awesome. I have saved it as a favorite :)

  19. xochitl

    Yes, women’s oppression is sex. Anything else just isn’t sexy. http://buriedalive.wordpress.com/2008/01/25/not-anti-sex-anti-sexy/

  20. thisisendless

    Hmm. So what does one do if they like to watch films of people having sex, but don’t want to see the usual tripe where you know, women are hate fucked and then ejaculated on?

    I thought that was sort of the point of so called “feminist porn,” no?

    btw I’m NOT arguing for pro or anti porn.. don’t really want to get in an argument. Just wondering.

  21. Femme Futée

    I used to be really into Feministing, but I was rapidly disillusioned. The final straw was their recent “guilty non-feminist pleasures” series in which they discuss misogynistic reality shows about 25 young attractive women competing to “get” one man/a modeling contract/lose weight/get plastic surgery/etc and how fun and hilarious they are and how it’s toootally okay to watch them and find them cheeky and ironic and not be critical about the content at all, cause it’s just for fun, ya know! When commenters objected, it was quick with the: “YOU CAN’T TELL ME WHAT TO LIKE I’M A FEMINIST AND I *CHOOSE* TO WATCH THOSE THINGS THATS WHAT FEMINISM IS ABOUT CHOICE DUH.” That was about it for me.

  22. WendyAnn

    Quote:

    “thisisendless Apr 13th, 2008 at 11:40 pm

    Hmm. So what does one do if they like to watch films of people having sex, but don’t want to see the usual tripe where you know, women are hate fucked and then ejaculated on?

    I thought that was sort of the point of so called “feminist porn,” no?

    btw I’m NOT arguing for pro or anti porn.. don’t really want to get in an argument. Just wondering.”

    I’m bi but only have actual relationships with women. Men are fine, sexually, but not worth what comes with them, emotionally and sociologically, for me personally. My point is that I don’t have anything against het sex. It’s het porn I have a problem with.

    That said, I used to like to watch porn (with other women,) but the degradation of women hit too closely to home, even in so-called “vanilla” porn. I have a very hard time with the way women are treated in porn. I may identify too closely with them, but I find myself getting pissed off when I see the way men seem to think women should be treated actually depicted on film using real, live people.

    If you really must watch porn, I have a recommendation. About the only porn I can stand watch is made by Bel Ami and it’s boy on boy. It’s sweet and not raunchy (for the most part) and really doesn’t have much dominance/submission crap to it. No calling each other stupid names, no hitting, no degradation. Just pretty boys (20-25 range) having fun with each other. I haven’t watched in years, so that may have changed, but I hope not.

    I truly cannot watch het porn. It makes me feel gross – and it has nothing to do with the women parts, but the way that the human beings (women) are treated.

    It’s pretty sad when about the most feminist porn I’ve ever seen is twink on twink.

    The thing is, and here is my problem with Bel Ami: economic exploitation. It’s Czech based and I’ve learned that most of the men in it are gay for pay. Would they choose to participate in porn if it weren’t the best paying job they could find? Is it a freely made choice?

    But then I ask myself why I think it’s my place to judge their choices. Same as I ask myself when thinking about women participating in porn. But in both cases, is it truly voluntary?

    I find it easier just not to involve myself in an industry (as a consumer) fraught with so many moral (my morality, no one else’s) land mines.

    I’ve always found written porn much more erotic anyway and tend to stick to that these days. At least I don’t have to ask myself if I’m contributing to the degradation of actual, living human beings.

    So I don’t know if I’ve helped your thought process at all or not, but my bottom line is that I don’t really want to look at visual depictions of sex using real people because I can’t get past what the industry does to real people and what it does to our pornified society.

  23. Linden

    It only took 13 posts to get to the “how dare you support censorship” argument. Yawn.

  24. WendyAnn

    Quote:

    Linden

    “It only took 13 posts to get to the “how dare you support censorship” argument. Yawn.”

    These same “censorship” decries always make me chuckle. Yeah, your free speech rights hinge on being able to abuse women on film using your penis. So sorry, I forgot about that!

    And they *really* come out of the woodwork if you criticize their porn usage. It’s as if what’s discussed on this blog and others will take away their porn! Wah!

    Dudes, your porn is not in danger. No matter how much I personally wish it was.

    Your porn is safe and us mean radical feminists can’t take it away from you. You so do not get it. We want you to take it away from yourself!

    You do have to ask yourself why you get so upset when we talk about how much porn is hurtful toward women.

    Hint: it has something to do with you knowing *exactly* how harmful it is and using it anyway.

  25. Twisty

    “But what if I really like looking at pictures of naked ladies gettin’ porked?”

    Then you are actively engaged in an act of oppression. Stop it.

    As for ThePeat: apparently you have not yet grasped the enormity of patriarchy. Go to the library and read stuff.

  26. ellecain

    The graphic representation of women’s oppression is sex now.

    *whimpers* Does this mean the Patriarchy has won?

  27. delphyne

    “So what does one do if they like to watch films of people having sex”

    Twisty has answered it already but porn isn’t “watching people having sex”, it’s paying to watch women being fucked – prostitution by proxy. Men pays other men to fuck women for them, or in the case of soft porn he pays men to get women to take off their clothes and display their bodies for him.

  28. delphyne

    Oops, the grammar got messed up there – “Men pay other men to fuck women for them, or in the case of soft porn he pay men to get women to take off their clothes and display their bodies for them.”

    The other point about these “feminist” porn awards is that they are about making money not about freeing women from male oppression, which you’d hope would be what any feminist would be working towards. The owner of Good for Her admits as much in a Bitch magazine article:

    “”I think our porn sales more than tripled,” says Gallant about Good For Her’s business in the wake of the Feminist Porn Awards.”

    Porn is probably the only product where if you label it “feminist” you can make it more profitable.

  29. Red Robin

    They’ve banned depictions of child rape, for example. Besides, I’m not talking about the government banning movies, just not licensing businesses that make those movies.

    Oy. Where do I start. You are woefully misinformed.

    First: The feds tried to ban depiction of child rape. The Supreme Court struck said ban down on First Amendment grounds: Child Porn is only illegal if it depicts the rape of an ACTUAL CHILD. If it’s computer-generated or an above age performer, it’s protected constitutional expression.

    News article about opinion: http://archives.cnn.com/2002/LAW/04/16/scotus.virtual.child.porn/

    Actual opinion: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/00-795.ZO.html

    If you disagree with their result, congratulations: You’re on the side of Ashcroft in Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition. Note that the justices who agreed with you include such titans of constitutionalism as Scalia and Thomas.

    Second: If a license is needed to be in business, as your law would require, then refusal to give a license if is the same as a ban on . In Loving v. Virginia, for instance, there was no law on the books saying blacks and whites couldn’t get married; rather, a couple needed a license to get married and weren’t allowed to do so if they didn’t have a license. You’re drawing a distinction that makes no legal difference.

    Why? Worried porn will vanish if women are no longer kept controllable by illegal drugs?

    No, I’m worried that you’re a self-identified feminist who is eager to give the government amazingly intrusive abilities over a class of women. And, of course, what happens if those women test positive for drugs? Doubtless, prosecutions would follow. Congratulations, you just added to the prison-industrial complex.

    Every job I’ve ever had has required random drug testing as a condition of continued employment. What are you, 12?

    I love it when people are dead wrong and get insulting.

    Constitutional amendments don’t apply to private actors like employers. Your employer is not bound to respect your Fourth Amendment rights. Similarly, if the government is acting as an employer– say you work for the IRS– they can test you just like an employer.

    There is a distinction, however, between an employer and the sovereign. The government instituting random testing on everybody? That’s quite a bit more problematic, and one step closer to a police state.

    And the Supreme Court has, thankfully, been extremely suspicious of random drug searches by the government. See, e.g., Chandler v. Miller, 520 U.S. 305 (state cannot require all candidates for public office to undergo drug testing).

    I’m doubtful your law would be a good idea as a matter of policy. I can’t imagine having the same people who run the IRS reviewing porn to make sure that the hairstyle of the actresses too closely resembles pigtails. As a matter of constitutional law, though, it would survive for roughly ten minutes. In an odd way, I’m glad I read that; it reminds me we still have some freedom from the government left.

  30. a birch tree

    Twisty has answered it already but porn isn’t “watching people having sex”, it’s paying to watch women being fucked

    That’s a great point!

    My favorite quote to that effect is “Pornography is to sex what UFC is to ballroom dancing”.

  31. Twisty

    Yes, ellecain, patriarchy has won. It won a long time ago. That’s why I write these stupid posts all the time.

  32. Twisty

    I can appreciate that Red Robin and Birch Tree have much to discuss. Perhaps they could move their conversation about Birch Tree’s post to Birch Tree’s blog, where the post in question actually exists.

  33. TP

    I remember the first time I saw video porn. I was over 21 years old at the time, a fact that might now seem astonishing to the young men who grew up watching porn on the internet from the onset of puberty, if not earlier. It was, at that time, pretty rare to actually see a porn movie, even though it was well past the heyday of Deep Throat. Since that day it has become easier and easier to see, until the internet and broadband connections made it simple for any child to see things far more degrading than anything I have ever seen.

    So I formed a sexuality relatively free of pornography. My sexuality was subsequently damaged by using porn, maybe irreversibly damaged, but under it all, there was a sexuality that was formed by ideals of love and truth and beauty and companionship.

    When Twisty says The graphic representation of women’s oppression is sex now, I think of all the men in the world who have learned everything they believe about sex through degrading pornography. How can you teach a man like that what it means to objectify women if they have only known women as sexual objects? To remove the idea of objectifying is to remove the idea of sex. Then you have men – maybe an entire generation – who can’t imagine women as human beings because doing so would destroy their sexuality as they know it.

  34. ThePeat

    I don’t think it’s fair to say porn is watching women get fucked. There’s a great deal of porn out there with no women in it at all. Are gay men equivalent to women when they’re getting penetrated? Is the act of penetration what turns sex into fucking (and what turns butts into vaginas?), or is it the specularization?

    And Twisty:
    My problem is the opposite. I’ll resist the urge to recount my reading list, but its core of Butler, Irigaray and Spivak (in conjunction with non-feminists like Jameson, Deleuze and Guattari, and Derrida) make it clear that patriarchy (or late capital, or the state apparatus, or phallogocentrism, or whatever) are so prevalent, so endemic, that complicity is unavoidable. Even inaction is complicit. The question is not how can we avoid re-enforcing patriarchy, but how our repetitions of its mandated can become subversive. Maybe this is achieved by eliminating porn; I don’t mean to suggest that because we’re already complicit, we have license to abuse one another. I’m trying to tease out a why.

    But if porn is only about watching women get fucked (sorry my gay brothers, no porn for you) then we’re in agreement. (Where is lesbian porn in all this, btw? There’s a genre that is clearly misogynist at times, but cockless none the less.) But if porn is given its broader definition as a sexually explicit film or photo (or prose or poetry, in an even broader, but admittedly less common, conception) then women seem to be oppressed by mere male ejaculation. If the male gaze (not even monetary exchange, necessarily: think web 2.0) is all that constitutes sexual oppression, why isn’t heterosexual sex itself up for the same scrutiny? I don’t mean to recapitulate Valenti’s position; porn != sex. But unilaterally declaring all porn mere fucking (what is fucking?) represents (vertreten) without consent. Why can’t a woman record herself masterbating, post it on the web, and rely on us collectively to take the responsibility not to let her self-representation slide into a representation of woman?

    I’ll shut up now. Longwinded. I can understand why you’d be tired of making your argument over and over again, and would gratefully accept a reading list in its stead.

  35. delphyne

    Do you wank when you’re watching women masturbating on the internet ThePeat? Not making a political point, just really goddamned nosy.

    “why isn’t heterosexual sex itself up for the same scrutiny?”

    It is. Here’s your reading list:

    http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/PornAList.html
    http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/IntercourseI.html

  36. kiki

    Yeah but, “Sexual identity is dead,” says Derrida. Therefore, Foucault promotes the use of preconceptualist dematerialism to deconstruct consciousness. An abundance of discourses concerning the difference between sexual identity and culture may be found.

    But, sexuality is part of the defining characteristic of consciousness,” says Bataille. “No!” says Sontag, “Sexual identity is meaningless.”.

    If one examines constructivism, one is faced with a choice: either accept cultural capitalism or conclude that reality is intrinsically unattainable, given that the premise of constructivism is valid.

    Hey ThePeat, I have that postmodern bullshit generator bookmarked, too! Haha, it’s too funny.

  37. mearl

    ThePeat: you’re a het male trying to tell a bunch of well-read, intelligent, feminist women that at least SOME porn isn’t oppressive. If we accepted that statement, it would leave you blameless and guiltless when you watch porn and enjoyed the hell out of yourself. Therefore, you argue. The agenda is clear. You’re not a member of the gender on the receiving end of all the hatred, so you will probably never understand what it’s like. You can’t even argue for gay men, since you ain’t one. Instead of trying to justify yourself using the supposed clout of a whackload of pomo theorists who don’t ground their work in ANY attempted practical application, howsa bout you just try taking our word for it that porn is oppression?

  38. mearl

    P.S: to JR, thanks for that link to oneangrygirl. I printed out the flyer and am on my way to deposit it in every Stuff, Maxim, King, Smoothgirl, etc. etc. on the magazine racks of Winnipeg, as well as at the universities. We’ll see what comes of that. Probably a bunch of cynics ignoring the point and whining that censorship will ruin all the fun times they have treating women like subhumans.

  39. Jen

    WendyAnn:

    Hey you watch gay porn? Me too. It’s about the only thing I can find that does not always offend my lust for sex without the objectification.

    You know, in gay porn usually the two men are treated nicely. They seem to have fun, and there is not any violence. Yes, people are still having sex on screen for pay that may or may not be gay. Still, if there was a way to get as close to feminist porn as possible, the answer seems to be to take women out of the scene altogether.

    How sad is that? When it comes to sex and the depiction thereof, the only way to have any success finding something without someone being objectified is to look for something that has no women in it.

    Coincidence? Yeah, if you are stupid.

  40. Jessica

    There was a blog post I read yesterday about how Jessica at Feministing doesn’t actually give a crap about feminism, but only cares about book deals and making her blog super popular, but I can’t find the link or webpage now…

    I don’t mind that folks don’t agree with my stance on sex work (which, I’d like to think is a bit more nuanced than it’s described here), but I think this is pretty low blow. Feminism is my life, I’ve been working with feminist orgs and publications for years. Feministing is a labor of love that I (and 7 other writers) do in addition to our jobs and school, for no money. Not to mention, feminism hardly a lucrative venture. If I wanted book deals and popularity, I’d get into anti-feminism or romance novels. So please, if you’re interested in debate, cool, but questioning my commitment to feminism is just ugh.

  41. ThePeat

    delphyne: thanks :)

    mearl: You mistake me. I’m not trying to tell anyone anything one way or another. I’m trying to find a way that isn’t taking your word for it. It’s a representation problem. Taking your word for it does nothing to help me understand how the problem affects a different woman, unless her experiences are the same as yours. Your position is vital, but so is everyone else’s.

    I mentioned only one postmodern theorist (Jameson) and my understanding of him is so strongly filtered through Spivak that he’s almost unrecognizable. Pomo (and even postmodern) is a discourse-arresting worded used to avoid engaging in discussion (the same way some people use “terrorist” or “feminist”).

    I’ll check out the Dworkin, of course (I’m a little irritated at myself for not having read her yet), and in the mean time will, in fact, take mearl’s word for it–in spite of her ill will toward my curiosity.

    I really want to be clear that I started this not to look for excuses or make apologies, but to get a better understanding of the debate. Not the perfect forum, I realize, but I’m glad I have at least one more thing for my reading list :)

  42. Lara

    “Taking your word for it does nothing to help me understand how the problem affects a different woman.”

    Translation: “I don’t like listening to women period, especially women who do not enjoy pornography.”
    “A different woman” being “woman who doesn’t have a problem with porn.”

    Mearl was right sweety pie, you are just trying to justify your porn use under all this abstract blah de blah abstraction, even if you argue to the contrary in your last paragraph.

    “Pomo (and even postmodern) is a discourse-arresting worded used to avoid engaging in discussion (the same way some people use “terrorist” or “feminist”).”

    How? And the fact that you equate “feminist” with “terrorist” tells me a lot about your views :/ And post-modernism is bullshit because we haven’t even reached the level of a “modern” society yet. Ahh, darn, I can’t find the reference right now….I can’t remember which philosopher was arguing this…yeah I am a geek :P

    “…in the mean time will, in fact, take mearl’s word for it–in spite of her ill will toward my curiosity.”

    Because mearl doesn’t agree with you that means she has ill will towards your “curiosity”? I put quotes around “curiosity” here because there is a huge difference between trying to get the answer you are looking for here (“hey, feminists say porn is A OK!”) and just trying to listen to radical feminists without worrying about how they don’t agree with you. Learn to listen to women who do not capitulate to your male privilege, THEN you will learn.

    “I’ll check out the Dworkin, of course (I’m a little irritated at myself for not having read her yet)…”

    Be prepared…

    IBTP.

  43. Twisty

    ThePeat: The existence of patriarchy is not a suitable topic of debate on this blog.

  44. Elaine Vigneault

    “all these privileged white middle-upper class feminists are touting porn as the ultimate in women’s liberation”

    I never said that.

    My point was that Twisty went out of her way to find an article that served her purpose in supporting her thesis that porn is always anti-woman. She could have chosen to analyze the feminist pornographers or, gof forbid, maybe even just watch the porn herself and analyze that, but instead she just took the mainstream argument and basically said, look, they expect porn to be more demeaning, therefore there’s no such thing as feminist porn. That’s like expecting mainstream to all of a sudden ‘get’ anything feminist, like, hello, that’s not going to happen any time soon. There’s a reason we have a feminist movement and by golly, it’s not because mainstream media ‘gets it.’

  45. ::Wendy::

    I simply don’t understand ‘porn’ and wish that understanding it wasn’t necessary…. …but it seems to be necessary because it partially defines who I am in the eyes of those around me…

  46. ThePeat

    It is pretty clear I should leave. 3 brief things:

    1) Twisty, I certainly was not debating the existence of patriarchy. I am obviously ignorant of a lot of things, but that one is constantly on my mind.

    2) When I mentioned feminism, terrorism and postmodernism in the same breath, I was making the argument that these three words are used to dismiss out of hand discussions of culture/violence, neo-colonialism, and contemporary theory, respectively. See Edward Said, “Opponents, Audiences, Constituencies, and Community,” in _The Anti-Aesthetic_, ed. Hal Foster, 1983, 135-157.

    3) I’m going to continue discussing this issue here: http://ptere.blogspot.com/
    Running away? of course. But I’m also leaving a space where I am clearly not wanted. Comments are welcome and solicited.

    Twisty, keep up the awesome writing. I’ll try to resist the urge to intrude again :)

  47. Twisty

    Elaine Vigneault, I don’t know why I bother, but:

    The purpose of alluding to a mainstream critique of the Feisty Feminists was to show that mainstream porn fantasies do not include the Feisty Feminist concept of porn.

    Admittedly my writing can be gratuitously ornate at times, but I am at a loss to explain where you got the idea that my thesis here is “there is no such thing as feminist porn because mainstream media declares it so.” My actual thesis is that, because of the ascendancy of porn culture, sex has morphed completely into porn.

    Of course, it’s true that there’s no such thing as feminist porn, but not because that reporter is flummoxed by “gimpdyke” movies. There is no such thing as feminist porn because porn can only exist under the auspices of patriarchy, and patriarchy is an antifeminist social order.

  48. Agnieszka

    So, as I follow this discussion I’ve figured out that the harm of porn is twofold. First, the women who are fucked and filmed are harmed in the making of it. Then, other women are harmed by the way that men who watch the porn then behave towards all women.

    OK. So what I find myself thinking about is animated cartoon porn. No actual women have to actually get fucked for it to be made. It’s just drawings. But then, if it represents the same kind of scenarios as normal porn it will still have phase two harmful effect. (And from what I’ve seen, it does)

    I feel like maybe it might be possible for there to be animated cartoon porn that is not harmful to women. I’ve seen a handful of images that seem to fit the bill. But somehow at the back of my mind I have a nagging feeling that I’m missing something in my analysis. Is all sexual expression and all depiction of naked women poisoned by the patriarchy to the point where no erotic image can be harmless? Or is there a way out?

  49. kiki

    “When I mentioned feminism, terrorism and postmodernism in the same breath, I was making the argument that these three words are used to dismiss out of hand discussions of culture/violence, neo-colonialism, and contemporary theory, respectively. See Edward Said, “Opponents, Audiences, Constituencies, and Community,” in _The Anti-Aesthetic_, ed. Hal Foster, 1983, 135-157.”

    Are you a freshman undergrad or something? Thanks for talking down to us but I suggest you grow a sense of humor.

  50. ate

    I have to disagree that sex is porn… Porn and sex are becoming so infinitely intertwined in mass media, mass culture, mass everything that is becomes difficult to tell where one ends and the other is meant to start. It’s not difficult to understand why those less in the know get confused, particularly when it has defined their whole concept of sexuality. But the fact that so many people stand up and write about what porn really is and try to engage in sex as free from it as possible means i’m keeping the hope that the two are not yet one.

    Hey Kiki: I think he might just be an undergrad. Earnest young men telling me what to think about myself and ignoring what i say and feel and have learnt and experienced? Pompous young men quoting from the texts their aging male lecturer assigned them, and using said quotes to smugly undermine me? Questioning the validity of my dedication to feminism? Hello life. It’s his ‘intellectual’ version of porns degradation of women.

    There are lots of young men of my acquaintance that are trying their damndest to understand and to act in a way that recognises the equality that should be present and fight their privileges in whatever way they can – whilst recognising that it is an uphill, nay impossible, battle. You’ve just got to get in first before the happy-go-lucky-so-called-feminists and their “i’m a sex worker and it really empowers me” spiel. It causes me so much distress that women who wander around preaching about the wonderfully empowering nature of porn and prostitution can call themselves feminists when they are doing such an enormous disservice to women. These aren’t stupid women, uneducated women, brainwashed women. Most of them know feminist theory, they recognise the patriarchy and our inability to escape from it yet they still let men beat us down in one of the most inate forms… Some of the strongest women i know involved in some of the most awesome anti sexual assault groups are the ones most likely to sit with a bunch of males degrading their own sexuality, cheapening as some sort of social commodity, way to win the hierarchy…

    Sigh, those last few sentences may be a total contradiction of my original paragraph. Woe.

  51. slythwolf

    First: The feds tried to ban depiction of child rape. The Supreme Court struck said ban down on First Amendment grounds: Child Porn is only illegal if it depicts the rape of an ACTUAL CHILD.

    And yet they won’t ban the 70-some percent of porn that depicts the rape of actual women. Go figure.

  52. ate

    Sorry to pass around the propaganda of the patriarchy but… it just seemed so sadly relevant. Because when men see strippers, they see empowered women.

    http://www.apple.com/trailers/sony_pictures/zombiestrippers/trailer/

  53. Twisty

    “Is all sexual expression and all depiction of naked women poisoned by the patriarchy to the point where no erotic image can be harmless? Or is there a way out?”

    You pretty much summarize my hypothesis. Although I go a step further by suggesting that all woman, naked or not, in pornography or not, are defined by, as, and according to porn. The point a given woman occupies in the sexbot continuum largely determines her status. This is because all women belong to the sex class.

    There is a way out, but few are willing to commit to the revolution necessary to liberate the sex class. Thus a favorable outcome is unlikely in our lifetime.

  54. pisaquari

    Interestinly enough “feminists” are willing to jump through hoops to keep getting off on images of women’s bodies: lesbian porn, “feminist” porn, soft core anime (or something?). No one really wants to challenge or godforbid understand why the simple image of a vuvla is so enticing.
    This world will be a much freer place for womyn when our bodies do not illict genitalia-zingers by mere fact of being.
    Porn entitles us to others’ bodies–it reeks of an ownership system. Why that doesn’t send shock waves through some people’s brains I’ll never know.

  55. pisaquari

    Interestingly* and elicit*

  56. ellecain

    I didn’t mean to sound ignorant, that comment was me in my deafeatist mode. So let’s try that again: if the soft Hollywood-Sex to to Full-On Porn continuum has narrowed it’s focus and shifted so far towards porn, then has patriarchy won the ultimate round? Because it’s hard enough to talk about feminism when it pertains to basic civil rights and general “equality” – if porn and sex are indistinguishable now, I don’t see how people will ever wrap their heads around feminism. The charge of being against heterosexual sex itself has been levelled at feminists for years as a method of demonstrating how loony we are. If we prove them right by saying all sex = porn, the patriarchy has won by way of sabotage.

    The patriarchy may have won a long time ago but by saying all sex = porn, we let it keep winning.

  57. kiki

    I really think that you need to add “girls” as in “all women and girls” to the hypothesis. A girl child’s status and worth are also judged according to these standards with increasingly devastating results.

  58. ellecain

    Uh, that should be its focus. I clearly need grammar lessons.

    Instead, can’t we say sex is almost porn now?

  59. Twisty

    “Instead, can’t we say sex is almost porn now?”

    Well, ellecain, you can say whatever you like. I know I do.

    But really. I think it is impossible to have sex that isn’t influenced by pornography. How can I make this outrageous claim? Well, everything else is influenced by pornography — food, clothes, the economy, art, pop culture, the Internet, gender roles, Halloween costumes for 4-year-olds — I don’t see why sex should be seen to inhabit a special porn-vacuum.

    I mean to say, I understand the reluctance to adopt this view, since there is no easy remedy for the sad condition it describes. Suggesting that sex has disappeared and been replaced by porn is really just another way of saying that patriarchy oppresses all women, even those who don’t “feel” oppressed, and that this sucks.

  60. kate

    Indeed.

    I need an injection of racism and misogyny everyday or I begin to think someone has slipped some acid in my Coke Zero.

    Unfortunately, that feeling doesn’t occur too often, if ever at all.

  61. Lara

    Elaine said:
    “My point was that Twisty went out of her way to find an article that served her purpose in supporting her thesis that porn is always anti-woman.”

    Went out of her way??? Elaine, type in the word “porn” in the search engine and have a look for yourself.
    ‘Nuf said.

    Oh, and “pornae” in the word “pornography” means “female slave.” I think that should say enough.

    “She could have chosen to analyze the feminist pornographers or, gof forbid, maybe even just watch the porn herself and analyze that, but instead she just took the mainstream argument and basically said, look, they expect porn to be more demeaning, therefore there’s no such thing as feminist porn.”

    Wow, talk about putting words in someone’s mouth. Oh, and if you’d like a perspective from people who have watched LOTS of porn for analysis, check this out.

    And don’t you think feminist pornographers, are, i dunno, making MONEY off the degradation of women, and thus biased?

    Ellecain, I know, it’s depressing, and I would love to tell myself that not all sex is porn, and sometimes I even act that way, but in the end Twisty is right: porn has taken over ever aspect of our lives. It’s really really scary.
    And OMG I just read a few of the comments and posts at Feministing and I thought I was going to spontaneously combust from the rambling self-obsessed privileged stupidity rampant there. I remember now why I don’t EVER go near Feministing. I can’t stand Jessica Valenti et al lately.
    IBTP.

  62. Flores

    I have to support Twisty’s thesis completely. In this culture, all sex is influenced by porn and the patriarchy. I think a moratorium on sexual relationships, especially heterosexual ones, should be considered. I know this ain’t realistic. And we’re affected by the patriarchy whatever we do. Still, at least for the moment, I don’t feel comfortable engaging in sexual activity with other humans. That’s potentially too intimate a form of oppression. And I shudder at the thought of penetrative sex.

    IBTP.

  63. kiki

    “I can’t stand Jessica Valenti et al lately.”

    Lara, Jessica is the self appointed queen bee of the femblog clique and now she’s gonna have to come around back behind school AGAIN and explain how’s she’s like totally in to feminism and stuff and that we’re just too coarse to understand her privil…er I mean nuanced positions. If we keep this up we’ll have to hear about what what a burden all this is for her (but like a total honor) and she’ll feel compelled to add that just a little color on our cheeks and lips would really perk us up. We’re such downers. This will be finished of course with a, “So please, if you’re interested in debate, cool, but questioning my commitment to feminism is just ugh.” Totally. We’ll be left with nothing but the scent of strawberries as she flips her hair and huffs off.

  64. warexx

    Twisty’s understanding that ‘Suggesting that sex has disappeared and been replaced by porn is really just another way of saying that patriarchy oppresses all women’ is perfect.

    Surely sex is just the practice that enacts sex class domination. If sex wasn’t invented as a daily behaviour serving to teach us about a supposed difference between ‘women’ and ‘men’, we might just slip back into our existence as humans. There wouldn’t be any such division of the population according to ‘sex’, and there wouldn’t be any need to do sex to enact this division.

    So I agree with Twisty’s argument interpreted literally: that sex is porn because it establishes women as a subhuman group just as porn does.

    Withdrawing our support from any idea or practice that perpetuates the invention of ‘sex’ is our only option, I think. Men and male society is, of course, 100% geared to maintaining the idea of sex, so rejecting them and all their ideas is where we have to start.

  65. Jessica

    kiki, wow. so you resort to sarcasm and mocking me because you seem to think I’m – what, not serious enough? young, so therefore a valley girl of some sort? i could really give a shit if you want to get all “feminist police” on me, but it really reveals more about you then it does about me.

    peace, j

  66. J

    Am I mistaken, or is it implicit in this discussion that we who are participating in it and who are making these statements are capable of imagining ourselves engaging in pleasurable activities that we would call “sex” while trying to wall off as many of the problems attending “porn” as possible? Presumably if we found other people who felt similarly disenchanted, we could engage in interactions together that were while not wholly untainted by porn, nonetheless moving towards it?

    In other words… can we fight without complete revolution? I mean, while it’s pending, can we make smaller spaces that count? Including personal relationships with the like-minded?

    Or is this response of mine just “not my Nigel”?

  67. Twisty

    OK, enough with these ad feminam attacks on Jessica Valenti. Feministing may not be your cup of tea (personally I am all for it, and I’ll explain why in some future post), but mocking Valenti personally? That’s bush league stuff. Actual patriarchy blaming — say, where you come up with a thesis and back it up with examples from Feministing — is the preferred method, not to mention the stated purpose, of this blog.

  68. Savannah

    What if porn isn’t influencing society?

    What if society is influencing porn?

    What if it’s not actually that pornographic imagery is leaking into every aspect of visual culture, but that the dark bargain at the bottom of our culture, the thing we can’t admit, is finding expression in the pornification of sight and the even-greater pornification of porn?

    In other words, it’s not necessarily porn making our world worse, it’s our world making porn worse.

    Instead of porn colonizing us, our collective insanity and cruelty is dumping everywhere and porn is getting the worst of it.

    And “we” (collectively) have long since appointed our bewildered, barely-legal bleached blondes with triple-threat abuse histories (since that is the particular sort of sex worker under discussion here) to be the canaries for that sort of thing.

    To me, the solution (to the extent that there can ever be one) is not less porn but less war. In my opinion, if would-be Torquemadas like the jokers in charge of our government would decide they were kinky and start playing scenes with people who were at least technically volunteers, instead of coming up with self-righteous schemes to torture “dangerous enemies” who in reality are randomly-imprisoned citizens of countries which didn’t do anything to us, the world would be an immensely better place.

    In other words: if Donald Rumsfeld had become a pornographer, I think we’d all be better off. Including the actresses who would have worked for him, instead of working, as they do now, in the world he helped create.

  69. delphyne

    “but that the dark bargain at the bottom of our culture, the thing we can’t admit”

    You mean male hatred and their destruction of women? We talk about it here all the time.

    I think you’re operating under a logical fallacy there Savannah, just because war is bad doesn’t mean that porn is good. Both are manifestations of male supremacy and the sadism that must be enacted on women in order to keep men in the number one spot.

  70. Savannah

    Good question, delphyne. I think I mean, if an atheist can use this term, original sin.

    It just seems to me that the disturbing manifestations we’re seeing in some pornography is a symptom rather than a cause.

  71. Lara

    Savannah, why can’t porn be BOTH a symptom and a cause at the same time? I think it is. And I don’t know if you knew this, but rates of prostitution in “Third World” countries and the use of pornography INCREASES with the existence of war. There is a direct correlation between the two. Why are you trying to say that porn is insignificant compared to the harms of war, and yet turn around to say that if warmongers like bush were pornographers we would all be better off? The whole point of pornography is to maintain the sexual and racial status quo and to glorify violence against women, war achieves the same exact goal:

    http://www.energygrid.com/society/2007/10sf-thewar.html

    Jessica said:
    “…you seem to think I’m – what, not serious enough? young, so therefore a valley girl of some sort?”

    No one said you were not serious enough because you’re young, Jessica. We are just fed up with the way that looking cool and fun has taken priority over being feminist and critically and seriously analyzing the effects porn has on our every day lives. I myself am barely 23. Why does this discussion make you defensive?

    “i could really give a shit if you want to get all “feminist police” on me, but it really reveals more about you then it does about me.”

    Jessica, considering that you and your blog have become the official representative of feminism, and the fact that you’ve told feminists of color to “get a grip” because of your support of white-centric views on your book cover and your blog, AND that you pick issues based on their popularity and “sexayness” (http://www.elainevigneault.com/feministing-sells-out-sex.html), I would not call one mere radical feminist a “police.” No one is telling you what to do. You’re going to have to deal with the fact that people disagree with you on issues and then those people get frustrated when you are refusing to engage in a discussion with them about said issues (all the while touting to be feminist). This is not a personal attack on Valenti, this is a criticism of the way that very mainstream liberal feminism tends to capitulate to patriarchy.

  72. Rebecca

    I love this post. I’m so happy to have stumbled on it. I am a young feminist– very similar to how you have described them. I make mistakes, I’m trying figure it all out, I have a good base, and I look up to the women before me.

    It is hard being anti-porn. My biggest issue lately has been the resurgence of burlesque. I tend to hang out in a punk-rock group. One of my best friends is in a burlesque troop. I don’t go to her shows. She thinks I don’t support her. I refuse to pay money to watch them take off their clothes.

    I had to stop and leave this because I often feel alone on this issue– particularly within my generation. This helped to remind me that I’m not.

  73. Lara

    You’re not alone Rebecca, and even though I am sure your friend would love for you to come out and support her performance, she should also understand how this is a political and feminist issue for you. Yeah, it’s VERY hard being anti-pornstitution because porn culture is EVERYWHERE now.

  1. Untermed :: On Common Ground

    [...] the subject specifically of the apparent “worsening” of porn, Savannah writes: What if porn isn’t influencing [...]

  2. Fourth Carnival Against Pornography and Prostitution « The Burning Times

    [...] And finally, here’s Twisty Faster of I Blame the Patriarchy on the “Feminist Porn Awards” [...]

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