Mar 20 2009

Spinster aunt forced to do housework; blamer has idea

No time to think up trenchant remarks today. Horribly, the architect who designed the new habitat here at El Rancho Deluxe is sending over a photographer in less than an hour — apparently the house is up for some award at Bunkhouse Quarterly Review — so I’ve got to clean the entire shack and finish unpacking. That’s right, I said unpacking. Remember six months ago when Spinster HQ relocated from North South Austin to Cottonmouth County? Well, it probably won’t shock you to hear that I completely forgot to unpack until just this minute.

These are Worst Case Scenario conditions, people. Strangers crawling all over the domicile, rearranging furniture and depositing glass bowls of Granny Smith apples on counters; me frantically fumbling books onto shelves and shoving piles of dog hair under carpets all before 10 AM, when any normal person would be out frolicking in the dewy morn photographing spiders.

So, while I chug coffee and try remember where the heck I could have put the Dustbuster, I leave you with a transmission I just received from veteran blamer Rootlesscosmo on the subject of the word “porn” and the fairly gross way it has worked itself into the everyday English idiom appended to otherwise pleasant words, like “food.”

By the way, rootless, your shift key is broken! It only works intermittently. Just an FYI.

Hi Twisty,

There was a thread at IBTP a while back that discussed the use of such phases as “food porn,” etc. I’ve been thinking about that and had an idea; I’m not sure where to post it, so I’m sending it to you direct. It’s this: “food porn,” “real estate porn,” and suchlike promotional materials focus on the desire of the viewer; we know better than to think the pecan pie wants to be eaten or the beach house to be sold. But this is exactly what the producers and defenders of real porn — pictures of rape — always try to do, because that takes attention away from the women being raped in its production. So I’d venture that because “food porn” (etc.) foreground the viewer’s desire and fulfillment, the use of these terms (which I’ve used in the past but will try to eliminate from my vocabulary) reinforces the pimps’ marketing.



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  1. the baboon

    Ooh, but what about “torture porn”? Can we keep that one? I feel good about that because it reinforces the connection between the viewer’s pleasure and the pain/humiliation of the human object depicted by the pornographers.

  2. Alex

    I say let’s jettison the whole lot of ’em. The word “porn” is bad enough, and the -porn suffix just as evocative of rape culture. Let’s just strike it from the English language altogether. The word is so tainted by its lurid history that it’s irretrievably damaged.

    Oh, and best of luck with the dog-hair concealing and Granny Smith apple-arranging. El Rancho Deluxe sounds like quite the place, so I’d love to see some photos some time.

  3. rootlesscosmo

    The shift key works OK; the trouble is my sloppy typing, which Spell Check doesn’t always notice. Sorry.

    Thanks for including my message in a post.

  4. Lovepug

    Oooo, oooo, oooo, pick me! Pick me!

    I love this topic. I love it because I agree with Marilyn Wann’s hypothesis that our culture is gradually converting its Vicotorian aversion to sex into an aversion of food.

    To further the whole “food porn” landscape, we must also make food somehow nasty and forbidden. If you take your average women’s magazine’s obligatory monthly article about dieting, switch all terms referring to food and eating with terms associated with sex, the whole Victorian pearl clutching of it all bubbles to the surface and becomes clear like a Magic Eye picture.

    Our culture is also adopting new food austerities. I don’t mean to call out any vegans here; I know all y’all mean well. It’s just that nothing says morally superior these days than being able to claim that you eat healthier or less than ordinary folks.

    So, as we gradually move from “masturbation will make you blind” to “eating Girl Scout cookies will give you diabetes,” it only makes sense that we should pornify food as well.

    And, hell yes, it totally waters down the destructive rape culture nature of actual porn.

  5. Barbara P

    Wow Lovebug. That’s exactly it. Except that I don’t think our culture is gradually converting, but has completely converted already.

  6. nobodyspecial

    I don’t know — it seems to be exactly describing precisely what porn is, just the base satisfaction of a capitalist appetite.

    But I do seem to see an awful lot of faux-empowerfulated ninny women using it, as if they’re trying to kid themselves that their use of the word “porn” in a sassy, outspoken fashion will make it hurt less when their boyfriend tries to whine and badger them into an assfuck.

  7. Lu

    I don’t mean to call out any vegans here; I know all y’all mean well. I would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone, or increase awareness, that when a phrase is prefaced by “I don’t mean,” or “It’s not my intention to,” or “Not to be rude, but,” what follows usually does just that. If not, why vegans in particular, then? It’s not like vegans are the people usually lording it over everyone else with their moral superiority. That’s a game anyone can play. I think maybe the inklings of moral superiority/inferiority are in the eyes of the beholder.

  8. Lu

    Otherwise, though, Lovepug, I admire your blaming in this case immensely.

  9. phiogistic

    “Torture porn” is a reasonable term. It isn’t normalizing pornography; it is pointing out the similarities between pornography and mainstream movies such as Saw I – V, Hostel, The Devil’s Rejects, Wolf Creek, etc. These types of horror movies exist so the male audience can vicariously get off on women being terrorized, tortured, dismembered and murdered. The similarities to “regular” porn are inescapable, they are both about taking vengeful pleasure in depictions of women being hurt. In porn, the torture is real, while in torture porn movies, the hurting is done with special effects. For now.

  10. Squiggy

    I’m a vegan in the film industry. Often food is sent for during the shoot. Almost always the food is big piles of meat on bread. I have taken to quietly asking the food orderer if they might bring me back a (at least) vegetarian option. Quietly. The food is delivered. As we sit in a circle eating our respective lunches the person next to me invariably asks what I’m eating and I, again quietly, name the menu item in question. Suddenly the whole circle of ten to twelve eaters begin speaking, then shouting loudly about how much they LOVE meat. They even go into gory detail about how MUCH they love the critter suffering for their insatiable craving for the bodies of the critters. They are all laughing loudly and have put on expressions usually seen on gargoyles. Honestly, showing their teeth as if they are dripping with blood. I’m surprised they don’t orgasm over their obvious physical pleasure derived from just thinking of the sexy process of eating that which has suffered for their pleasure. If food can be porn then meat certainly is porn for many meat eaters.

  11. Jezebella

    Squiggy, I feel your pain. I live in deer-hunting country in a red state. I get this sort of treatment all the damned time.

  12. gayle


    I agree completely. I took a film class back in college which demonstrated how the Horror genre had changed due to the influence of porn. The old time horror movies typically placed the audience in the victim’s role using camera POV, etc. You were meant to identify with the victim, that’s why and how you’d be frightened. The slasher genre objectifies the victims and puts the audience in the role of the attacker.

    It pisses me right the hell off that commercials for Saw and Last House on the Left, etc., come blasting through my TV, attacking me unawares. They’re offensive, and I think, genuinely triggering to anyone who’s been victimized in real life.

  13. Sabayon

    “To further the whole “food porn” landscape, we must also make food somehow nasty and forbidden. ”

    Exactly! The term food porn is as much a result as cultural normalizing of pornography as the de-normalizing (hmm, need a better word) of, ya know, food. It implies that one is doing something nasty and transgressive by *gasp* eating a brownie. I also think it would be a hilarious exercise in blaming were one to take an article from a “Women’s magazine” on food and replace “carbs”, “junk food”, or “empty calories” with “masturbation”. I especially hate the phrase “empty calories” as it suggests that it would be better to eat no calories at all, as if calories are not in fact the fuel of life.

  14. gayle

    I’m a bit lost here. I’ve only heard “food porn” used in reference to watching foodie/cooking TV shows.

    Are people now using it to refer to actually eating?

  15. Lu

    Squiggy, I think we’re getting into “Sexual Politics of Meat” (Carol Adams) territory, too, here.

    Gayle, it must be morphing. I can’t fathom all the varied meanings of the term “food porn,” but in my experience it started with pictures of food and descriptions of food that were perceived (or meant) as just a little too celebratory of food as an object. Thus it was seen as sexual. I think the more proper term would have been “food fetish” or “food paraphilia.” But why be linguistically specific when you can more easily use the language of exploitation? It’s just more titillating that way. I get the feeling now that the taking pleasure in food is now becoming such a no-no, especially for women, that it must be bad and wrong and forbidden, and somebody must be getting f—ed over or it just isn’t fun, amirite?

  16. Squiggy

    Thanks Lu. I just bought that book online after you mentioned it. It was only 93 cents. Shows how much the P values it.

  17. Hattie

    Yes, the confusion of thinness with moral superiority is a sign o’ the times, all right.
    But the idea of porn that rootless puts forth is important. And original. Making food nasty, yes. God knows there’s nothing more disgusting on god’s green earth than the sight of a woman enjoying a square meal.

  18. Lovepug

    Aw crap. I really and truly said that just so it would be clear I’m not necessarily including vegans because I know loads of vegans and know the reasons why they are vegan and none of those reasons include moral superiority and other than a few crazed PETA folks this is largely the case and a vegan always gets a square meal at my house and it was just my ham fisted way of trying not imply that by moral superiors I was meaning vegans because there is a bit of austerity that naturally goes hand in hand with being a vegan.

    I was mostly meaning dieters and those who would have all of us on diets. The ladies who lunch who are so much better than you because they did not eat the cheesecake.

    So, the pug is now tucking her curly tail under and going back to bed.

    And vegan cupcakes are delicious by the way. In fact, I wish I had a dozen or so right now.

    Time for a commenting break.

  19. humanbein

    The etymology of porn is interesting, since porne is ancient greek for whore. The graphy part indicating pictures of one. The conjuncture of commerce and sexuality, or perhaps of triggering an emotional response in the hopes of getting money in some way. Setting aside the obvious truth that women wouldn’t sell themselves without oppressive circumstances that dictate such a thing; I think what is hiding under the use of porn in this way is pimping out something intimate for money.

    Pure evil in every way. I totally agree with all the above posters that porn is moving into the mainstream and this is just an example of how quotidian it has become.

  20. nobodyspecial

    There’s also the turnaround BS angle to it — a woman can call her cooking magazines food porn so that when her husband reads his real porn, she can say, “Well, he has his and I have miiiine!” and try to convince herself that makes it all better.

    Yeah, sure you do. Except your porn doesn’t involve you pestering the shit out of him to swallow at 2am, does it?

    Seriously. I’ve only ever heard women’s magazines called “porn.” Magazines about food, home decorating, or shopping. Lookie! Girls have porn, too! That makes male porn a-okay, cuz we have ours and they have theirs, so we’re all equal now!

  21. gayle

    “There’s also the turnaround BS angle to it — a woman can call her cooking magazines food porn so that when her husband reads his real porn, she can say, “Well, he has his and I have miiiine!” and try to convince herself that makes it all better.”

    Great point! Men try this trick with romance novels, too. And yes, sadly, I’ve seen and heard women buy into it.

    Yes, your desire for romance is exactly the same as his desire to degrade and humiliate two “barely legal” women at the same time.

    Sure it is.

  22. Lu

    Lovepug, what a sweet aw-shucks elucidation. I mean that. If you need to sleep, go right ahead, of course, but don’t be taking a commenting break on accounta that. As I said, your comment was great and eye-opening.

  23. tinfoil hattie

    Nothin’ says MANLY like MEAT! Meat, and trucks, and wimmen, and BEER!

    Just watch tv for 20 minutes. That commercial about needing a big huge gas-guzzling truck so you can drive with a meatball sub on your lap is particularly revolting. Gee, I wonder what “meatball sub” is a symbol for? (bats eyelashes daintily)

  24. Jess

    I especially hate the phrase “empty calories” as it suggests that it would be better to eat no calories at all, as if calories are not in fact the fuel of life.

    “Empty calories” indicates that the food provides energy but not other nutrients like vitamins and proteins; thus the calories are relatively “empty.” It’s an odd phrase, though; it makes it sound as if the calories are there but at the same time not there.

  25. Tierney

    Is the “[noun] porn” a continuation of the “[noun] whore” fad that was popular several years ago? Both seem to fall under the “Can’t you take a joke?” brand of misogyny, reminding women at all times that they are the sex class while ensuring that anyone who takes offense will be “overreacting”.

    Also, the association of food and sex is an old one. We’ve had eras of direct correlation (hearty appetite = lusty sex drive) and eras of inverse proportion (overeating = sexual frustration). Now we’re in the Gotcha! era where women are expected to be many contradictory things at the same time. A woman who is eating stereotypically “healthy” food is uptight and controlling while a woman who eats “too much” or the “wrong” thing is an unhealthy slob (oh, and ugly of course). It reflects perfectly our current views on sex where a woman not performing for dudes’ pleasure is a prude and a woman doing anything defined as “sexual” is a slut.

  26. Interrobang

    I just want to register a protest: Any normal person, given their druthers, is still fucking sleeping at 10AM, not out frolicking anywhere except maybe Dreamland, and certainly not covertly obtaining images of arachnids.

    Extreme owl: Hoo, me?

  27. Laughingrat

    Nice blaming here, like y’all need me to tell you that. Lovepug and Rootlesscosmo did some nice work especially.

    Squiggy, the behavior you’re describing is SO all about the whole domination/submission thing that patriarchy thrives on, as is that comforting myth among meat-eaters that it’s okay if animals die for us as long as we’re “grateful” for it. In the scenario you describe, those folks take pleasure in having hurt someone weaker than them (an animal), which pleasure is then redoubled by forcing descriptions of that pain on someone who finds it objectionable. Presumably, in choosing not to take part in the torture of animals, you have marked yourself as weaker in their eyes and also deserving of domination.

    I have encountered this myself when people learn that I keep pet rats; occasionally I will meet somebody who revels with obscene delight in telling me all about the time they tortured some small animal to death, or encouraged their domesticated predator to do so. It’s as if caring for the small and meek is a violation of our society’s rules or something, huh? That’s patriarchy for ya.

  28. Sabayon

    “Empty calories” indicates that the food provides energy but not other nutrients like vitamins and proteins; thus the calories are relatively “empty.” It’s an odd phrase, though; it makes it sound as if the calories are there but at the same time not there.

    Well, yes I know that’s what it means, but I find the way people talk about “empty calories” tends to shame women for having the audacity to eat calories at all, and ignores that calories are themselves necessary nutrients. If nutrition writers were to instead use phrases like “nutritionally poor/rich”, or just good old-fashioned “nutritious” it would be much less shaming and more food-positive. I think it’s deeply problematic how most articles written for women about nutrition focus on what foods are “bad”, rather than what delicious healthful foods there are (furthering our discussion about vegans I’ve noticed that the nutrition articles in veg*n mags tend to be like this) . Naturally, IBTP.

  29. speedbudget

    I just humped a brownie.

  30. terristrange

    LaughingRat – I too am a rat lover and have been subjected to this before. The reptile lovers seem to enjoy telling me how much money I could sell my beautiful darling rats to them for. Completely disregarding my love and attatchment to an animal that can be domesticated and is also very loving and attatched to me. I’ve also gotten plenty of “jokes” about violence against small animals, which is funny I guess.

    Feministing recently posted a blog about Askmen.com and their “10 ways to subtlety tell her she’s gotten fat” or something like that, some ways include making her try on clothes that are old and telling her how good she looked back then, fixing her chair so that it will break when she sits in it, and feeding her tiny portions so that when she needs more to eat you can nag her about how she’s snacking too much. All of these are based on shame because as we all know, women who enjoy eating are sex perverts.

  31. yttik

    “I just humped a brownie.”

    I’m rolling on the floor here.

    It’s a good topic, the shame women are supposed to feel about food, it’s forbidden and yet necessary for life, so you can’t escape it. It is similar to the contradictions we use to define sex, its bad, wicked, and yet everybody’s supposed to be thinking and doing nothing else.

    We have definitely pornified food, like we’ve pornified sex, to the point where it is very difficult to have a healthy, natural relationship with either food or sex. You cannot escape the messages, the cultural influences, that attempt to dictate how we think about things.

  32. Comrade PhysioProf

    Rats make excellent pets. They are very smart, docile, and social. When I was in grad school I had Long-Evans hooded rat that was a real sweetheart.

    Funny pet rat story: I had recently bought my girlfriend at the time a really nice terry-cloth robe as a gift, and I was wearing the robe while holding the rat in my lap sitting on the couch. I dozed off, and when I awoke, I found that the rat had unraveled half the robe and was building a nest out of it!

  33. meerkat

    Hey, some animals want you to eat them! http://suicidefood.blogspot.com/

  34. nails

    Most of the time when men defend porn to me its all about how consenting everyone is and ok it is for women to choose it, blah blah blah. I think the use of the word ‘porn’ for objects kind of makes the notion of pornography respecting the humanity of women seem silly, and I actually do think that it the term ‘food porn’ is accurate. Food porn and people porn are essentially viewed the same way by the people who consume it. food porn sends the message that chocolate is a sexual experience, and by doing that they say that humanity is irrelevant in porn. It is about turning women into objects because it is the only real way that porn can portray anything. It could certainly strike a nerve with fun feminists to understand that yes, that is what porn actually means and how human or feminist the object of porn is doesn’t make a difference in how it is seen by people who use it. I’ll have to think about it more, but it seems to capture the dehumanizing effects of porn pretty perfectly in the description so im not sure i am 100% against the use of the word.

  35. larkspur

    Oh no. I hope we’re not gonna need to appoint a Porn Czar. But hey, if we did, maybe the porn part and the czar part would cancel each other out, and we’d never see either bit of verbiage again.

    Also, Twisty: are you accepting house boi applications? So you can have more time for spider pix?

  36. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    I want to see the pictures, the result of the Twisty house -er, porn thingy. Does that make me bad?

  37. Rozasharn

    For all the rat-lovers:

    A picture of a rat with its teddy-bear at CuteOverload.com

    Happy rat-cat cohabitation, from I Can Has Cheezburger

  38. speedbudget

    HA! Porn czar. I can see the congressman lining up right now to apply for that job.

  39. Jezebella

    As a non-rat-lover, I never thought I’d say this, but that rat with its teddy bear is eye-wateringly cute.

  1. Quote of the Day: Food Porn « Anti-Porn Feminists

    […] by antiplondon in pornography harms, quote of the day. trackback Today’s quote is from I Blame the Patriarchy, but, this time, not from Twisty […]

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