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Mar 31 2009

The power of porn

The spinster aunt typically leads a quiet life, so naturally the sordid movie-viewing habits of British politicians ignites an enormous conflagration of interest here at HQ. When the sunny skies, cool breezes, and furry woodland creatures start to wear on the nerves, one turns to the Internet for titillating news from Parliament. Huff-Po doesn’t disappoint! The website says Home Secretary Jacqui Smith expensed pay-per-view “X-rated movies” consumed by her husband Richard Timney.

Busted! Smith was obliged to issue one of those meaningless politician apologies. She’s sorry she made an accounting error. Her spokewoman added helpfully, “X-rated is not the same as porn.”

Smith’s better half also issued one of those meaningless politician apologies. Timney’s sorry he embarrassed his wife and he’s sorry he erroneously put the naughty 10 quid on the taxpayers’ tab, but of course it was all a silly mistake.

Timney did not apologize for his interest in films featuring the graphic representation of rape, or even explain why, in addition to the porn, he found it necessary to watch “Ocean’s Thirteen” not just once, but twice.

Just once I’d like to see a prominent political figure hold a press conference and say “My husband is a slimy pornsick shitbag and I’m initiating dehitchment proceedings forthwith.” But no, they always make with the “X-rated is not the same as porn,” and “Dick and I just want to put all this behind us and get on with our lives” crap.

Of course, when a thing as idiotic as this makes international news, it can mean only two things. The political party to which the beleaguered personage belongs is throwing her under the bus, and/or the opposition is seeking to prove its moral superiority. How convenient for whoever is using Jacqui Smith as a political red herring that she married a slimy pornsick shitbag, and that pornography is a no-fail attention-grabber. From the Telegraph:

There was no sign of Mr Timney at the property today and the only notable activity was a visit from a glamour model sent by a tabloid newspaper to offer him a selection of pornography.

35 comments

  1. Feminist Avatar

    She was being thrown under the bus long before this- they got her over misclaiming expenses on her second home (which she denies) and it was the detailed review of all her claims that picked up on this little bit of gossip.

    However, it is extremely convenient and common for female members of the Labour Party to be scapegoated when the party wants to clean its dirty laundry. Never happens to the boys… And she’s holding on by the skin of her teeth, and even tho this is not my party, I kind of hope she keeps her job. 1) Because a woman should not lose her job because she has an arse of a husband and 2) because LP show no loyalty to their female politicians, but the dudes can throw the economy down the toilet, send us to war, take bribes, have dodgy sex lives, and the party always gets behind them. Where is the loyalty? IBTP.

  2. yttik

    “My husband is a slimy pornsick shitbag and I’m initiating dehitchment proceedings forthwith.”

    Oh can we have this, please?? Just once?! The first female politician or politician’s wife who refuses to stand there somberly clutching her pearls and apologizing for her husband, wins my undying loyalty.

  3. Kathleen

    that is one of the most elegant, succint summaries I have heard in a while, “x-rated is not the same as porn”. It’s so illustrative of the whole public conversation about sexuality: say what you will about the YAY empowerfulment sexyfun pro-pornsters, at least they have an argument. May be wrong, may be patriarchal, may be confused about its own motivations, but it’s an argument. Same deal with the ¡¡¡¡nekkidness is a sin!!!! religious right — may be wrong, may be patriarchal, may be deeply hypocritical, but it’s an argument. The Twisty Way is, obvy, an argument too.

    But “x-rated is not the same as porn” is just a total incapacity to think or have a stance or do anything. You can argue with funsexy pornsters and you can argue with the abstinence&celibacy-onliers/except when makin’ babiers but “x rated is not the same as porn”? what can you say to that? what does it even mean? it’s usefully nonsensical, for which IBTP.

  4. Twisty

    Kathleen: ““x rated is not the same as porn”? what can you say to that? what does it even mean?”

    I suppose it depends on what your definition of “is” is.

  5. Comrade PhysioProf

    When the sunny skies, cool breezes, and furry woodland creatures

    The last time you mentioned the climate, you were living in some kind of godforsaken wind-strewn desolate tumbleweedy desert. Where the fuck did these motherfucking furry woodland creatures come from? Did they just float in on the cool breeze?

  6. Kathleen

    right you is, Mamzelle Twisty. :)

  7. Twisty

    Comrade PP: “The last time you mentioned the climate, you were living in some kind of godforsaken wind-strewn desolate tumbleweedy desert. Where the fuck did these motherfucking furry woodland creatures come from? Did they just float in on the cool breeze?”

    Damnedest thing. They sprouted when we got an inch of rain the other day. Just add water. Presto. Foxes leaping out of holes, bunnies hopping hither and yon, coyotes in the distance making with the ancient, lonesome howling. A fucking nuisance, is what it is.

  8. JetGirl

    Frankly, I am equally offended that the tax-payers were charged twice for “Ocean’s 13.”
    I blame the porniarchy.

  9. TwoBees

    “X-rated is not porn” demonstrates just how normalised porn continues to be. She’s only sorry she got caught out. No mention that they won’t repeat the viewing, only that they might pay out of pocket next time.

    They had to watch Ocean’s Thirteen TWICE ,and he can’t rent his own porn. That tells you what we’re dealing with here.

  10. parallel

    However, it is extremely convenient and common for female members of the Labour Party to be scapegoated when the party wants to clean its dirty laundry

    Exactly. There has been huge resentment – for years – from the media and from MPs of all parties towards women in government. It’s disguised as objections to sleaze/PC/incompetence, but the relentlessness and gleeful viciousness shown when the offending MP is female demonstrates fairly clearly that it is in fact all part of the backlash.

  11. TheLady

    This is the second high profile female politician to be – not thrown under anything, I hate that phrase I refuse to use it I won’t I won’t so there – wait, hung out to dry is just as bad – fed to the tabloids over something that her husband is supposed to have done.

    At least Tessa Jowell’s had actually done something naughty though, so I think someone in NL really is trying to get rid of Smith in a serious way. Then again, sex scandals and sleaze are something that seems to stick to British Home Secretaries more than most. David Blunkett comes to mind.

    Anyway, I’m getting off my point, which was: can anyone remember a male politician losing office or in any other way suffering in his career because of something his female spouse was accused of?

    Because I can’t, and I’ve been thinking about it all morning, trying to figure out what it is about husbands that make female celebrities (politicians are just a different kind of celebrity these days, at least in the UK) vulnerable to their misdemeanors in a way that doesn’t cut the other way?

    (I mean, besides the Patriarchy. That one’s obvious. It’s the exact dynamic I’m trying to unpick)

  12. Comrade PhysioProf

    Damnedest thing. They sprouted when we got an inch of rain the other day. Just add water. Presto. Foxes leaping out of holes, bunnies hopping hither and yon, coyotes in the distance making with the ancient, lonesome howling. A fucking nuisance, is what it is.

    There’s just no pleasing some people.

  13. speedbudget

    TheLady:

    Women are the property of their husbands, according to the Patriarchy. So one would think, logically, that if their husbands do stupid shit, it’s not their fault, since property necessarily has no agency or control.

    Ah, but you forgot about the P. The glorious P has that all figured out. Women are property, but we’re also supposed to be the civilizers. That’s the trade-off. We are owned, but we get to be the holders of the reigns of men’s nastier impulses. That’s a positive, by the way. So while we have no agency of our own, we are required to be the entire frontal lobe of men’s brains.

    Or something. My head hurts after trying to explain that.

  14. Feminist Avatar

    There was also Wendy Alexander, head of the Labour party in Scotland, who lost her job for making sense. She said that if we were going to have a referendum on independence it had to be done now (aka a year ago) and the English part of the party hung her out to dry and said she clearly wanted independence and so was a traitor to the LP cause. When actually, she read the political situation extremely well and knew that the SNP were at a low point and a successful return for independence would have been unlikely at that point. But, did anybody stand up for her? No. And this was after a long campaign to get her outted on misfiling support money- by her own party-, despite the fact a parliamentary and police investigation proved she was entirely without fault. I mean, have you ever seen the police get called into deal with a male politician’s expense claims- for heavens’s sakes they even sold peerages and the police barely investigated.

  15. parallel

    I mean, besides the Patriarchy. That one’s obvious. It’s the exact dynamic I’m trying to unpick

    I think it’s the same dynamic where Michelle Obama says “if you can’t run your own house then you can’t run the Whitehouse” as a dig at Hilary Clinton and gets resounding laughter and cheers for it.

    That is – Clinton (Smith, whoever) is an uppity b*tch who has failed in her wifely duties to put out and/or keep her husband under control. The fact she has encroached on male territory as well makes the witch-hunt even sweeter for them – see what happens when women step out of line !

    She must be punished for this and the mob will agitate for her come-uppance which is 1) to be jeered at and 2) to get out of politics and back into Kinde Kuche Kirche where she belongs.

  16. parallel

    that first sentence above is quoting TheLady. Italics failed.

  17. slythwolf

    “x rated is not the same as porn”? what can you say to that?

    “Of course it is, and you know it.”

    I mean, I ask you. If X-rated is not the same as porn, then what is?

  18. yttik

    Female politicians are attacked for every little thing and held to a much higher standard than males. If they aren’t judged incompetent and corrupt because of their husband’s behavior, they’re judged incompetent because of the way they dress, the wrinkles they may acquire, the breeze that may be blowing that day. In contrast we have male politicians sexually exploiting congressional pages or toe tapping in public restrooms. We have Hiram Monserrate in the NY state senate who violently assaulted his girlfriend as well as being arrested for running over the leg of a tow truck driver in a rage. These crimes hardly make the press, let alone threaten the politician’s seat. It’s excused, over looked, boys will be boys, don’t you know.

  19. Marilyn

    What film was he watching? In fact, X-rated is not the same a porn actually can be a valid point depending on the film.

  20. Kathleen

    Slythwolf — well, of course. But I meant, more, that the statement encapsulates the idea that somethings are bad things, and other things are not bad things, and that the bad things are not the same as the not bad things.

    But if you try to get people to SPECIFY what they mean, they become totally incoherent. It’s part of why any conversation about pornography quickly gets whisked over to “child pornography” which everyone can agree is a Bad Thing. But if you want to discuss is porn bad? Most people just can’t think about it without their heads exploding. Which is why I kind of find religious nuts and funsexiers refreshing: they will articulate “yes” and “no” explicitly, and have reasons, and then you can talk about those reasons.

    It’s obviously why we all find Twisty so refreshing, too, because she is able to elegantly engage the question “is porn bad” in a way that is (1) coherent and (2) not reduced to “yes, because nekkidness is an abomination” or “no! it’s sexy and awesome!”

    but I think most conversations are of the confused variety, because people feel oogy with both the “wages of sin are death” and “empowerful woo!” arguments and can’t even begin to wrap their heads around the “women are people” one.

    Marilyn — what’s in an x-rated film that isn’t sexual in content? I’m not being feisty, I honestly don’t know.

  21. ChelseaWantsOut

    “but I think most conversations are of the confused variety, because people feel oogy with both the ‘wages of sin are death’ and ‘empowerful woo!’ arguments and can’t even begin to wrap their heads around the ‘women are people’ one.”

    Yes, definitely. Well put!

  22. Marilyn

    Kathleen – An X rating, or as it is now known, NC-17, is defined best as follows: one that “may contain explicit sex scenes, an accumulation of sexually oriented language, and/or scenes of excessive violence. The NC-17 designation does not signify that the rated film is obscene or pornographic, simply that it addresses these topics.”

    I would not want human sexuality to be off limits to film makers, just treated honestly, which is what porn and most of the Hollywood complex doesn’t do. Remember, Midnight Cowboy, which doesn’t have a single naked woman in it, got an X rating.

  23. Twisty

    Marilyn: “What film was he watching? In fact, X-rated is not the same a porn actually can be a valid point depending on the film.”

    Well, the spokesperson wouldn’t fess up about the titles, so even if, for the sake of argument, there exist 2 X-rated films that do not feature rape, it seems pretty clear that these were not what the guy was watching. Otherwise, why keep mum?

  24. Kathleen

    Well, I wonder if there is single film in film history that got an X or NC-17 rating without featuring sex of some patriarchy-defined kind (gay sex definitely bleeps on that radar).

    Because from what I understand, the ratings boards are notorious for letting any amount of violence through without a peep, and lotsa boobies/full-frontal female nudity/ heterosexual humping too, but gay content? Penises? Forbidden. Like, it’s an empirical question — even if theoretically the X/NC-17 rating *could* be applied for excessive violence, has it ever been? Or has it always been [certain kinds of] sex?

  25. Marilyn

    Twisty – No argument there. I think we can assume that he was looking at real porn, but the term “X rated” is a generic, and has little to do with the MPAA rating system. That’s why I wanted to make the distinction..

    Kathleen – I definitely disqualify the MPAA rating board from the realm of enlightened, disinterested bystanders. Watch This Film Is Not Yet Rated for all the dirty details.

    But there are many fine filmmakers out there who are exploring human sexuality in its many forms – gay, lesbian, hetero, celibate, am I missing something? – who are doing a lot to advance the feminist cause of healthy sex, or at least not harming it. What is shown or not shown isn’t really the issue with me, and you’ll find plenty of penises in world cinema.

  26. Dipenates

    In the UK ‘X rated’ seems solely to refer to films with sexual content. The equivalent of NC-17 is ’18′, which restricts movies from being sold to, or viewed by, people under that age. There are also age restrictions at 15, 12 (along with a special ‘under 12s can view with an adult’ sub-category), PG (anyone can view, but parental guidance is recommended), U (anyone can view) and Uc (aimed at children).

    Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, for example, were given 18 ratings because of their portrayals of drug use and violence respectively.

    There is a distinction, drawn by the non-tabloid British press between erotica and porn. It’s possible that Richard Timney is trying to frame his egregious oppression as enjoying some art-house cinema.

    This whole thing is particularly unfortunate because Ms Smith is currently shepherding through the Policing and Crime Bill which, among other things, is criminalising ‘paying for sexual services of a controlled prostitute’ and making it easier for communities to resist lapdancing bars opening in their areas. Although it is not exactly smashing the dominant pornified paradigm with a sledgehammer, it’s possibly better than a poke in the eye.

  27. tinfoil hattie

    I think Midnight Cowboy was originally rated X.

  28. Marilyn

    Dipenates – Thanks very much for the helpful information.

  29. Galloise Blonde

    Apparently the movie in question was Raw Meat 3 — gay porn.

  30. Twisty

    At Spinster HQ we draw no distinction between the various niches and sub-fetishes available in pornographic form. They all draw from the same primary model of extreme misogyny, whether or not actual women are depicted.

  31. Clarity

    Agree with porn being a by- product of extreme misogyny.

    Ugh and the Sun/ Daily Mail send their 18 yo glamour models to every location where there’s been a breach of anti- woman.

    A councillor had a nude calender on his wall, there were complaints by numerous folks – the whole country went mad that we’re goin’ crazy ol’ PC! The Sun as a national newspaper sent glamour models parading to his house and photgraphed him for front page.

    I couldn’t hate my country more.

  32. Vinaigrette Girl

    yes, double standards about porn and yes, porn is too mainstream.

    But:

    Jacqui Smith is attempting to continue driving through a nonsensical violation of civil liberties known as a national ID card scheme which nobody in their right mind would want.

    Her claiming on expenses runs this way: she rents a room from her sister in London and calls that her “primary home”, and thus her family home qualifies for an extremely generous “second home allowance” which she can claim without receipts – it’s an allowance, not an expense. The second home allowance was intended to defray the expenses of provincial MPs who had to be in London when Parliament was in session, not for paying off your family’s mortgage and refurbishing your family home on the taxpayer’s dime. Which is precisely what she has done. She isn’t the only one, of course, and men are getting pilloried for the same crap. But she is Home Secretary, not some humble back-bencher.

    So yes, her husband is a prat, and that wouldn’t normally be anybody’s business but for the fact that she knew parliamentary allowances were or would be in the public domain, and she should have kept an eye on her be-damned expenses, and the fact that she’s a woman doesn’t exempt her from not being a nose-in-the-trough pig of a politician, and no, the press shouldn’t have made such a field day out of it, but frankly, she is the Home Secretary, she has a highly powerful important cabinet post, and she is doing at best a mediocre job, and somebody close to her made her look a fool. She didn’t leash her husband and she didn’t check her own paperwork and it’s not good enough, sorry.

    Other Home Secretaries have indeed been hung out to dry.

    But you know what? She still has her job. So she hasn’t been thrown under a bus or sacked or sacrificed or anything else, actually, in real life.

    But yes, again, about how much porn has become mainstream and how sucky that is.

  33. Vinaigrette Girl

    p.s. …

    Her husband is her parliamentary assistant; her employee. So, this time, it’s not pure and simple sexism – Giles Chichester and Derek Conway are male names with which to conjur – it’s just a total shower.

  34. Dipenates

    While I entirely concur, Vinaigrette Girl, that Jacqui Smith’s housing expenses do not seem to comply with the spirit of the regulations, they (apparently) do comply with the letter of it.

    This is very different from Giles Chichester, who disbursed half a million pounds of expenses through a family company while being the Tory’s ‘sleaze czar’. It’s also different from Derek Conway, who spent over quarter of a million pounds in salary to his wife and two sons without being able to provide evidence of work that they had actually carried out.

    I agree with you that she is ultimately accountable for expenses claims put in against the name of her office but I’m not sure that had a male politician put in an expense claim for porn there would have been a chorus of voices pointing out that recourse to one off the wrist was necessitated by his wife being so hard on the eye.

  35. DancingGrapes

    Twisty, I think you and Robert Jensen (UTexas, Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity) should go out for tacos. You’re both part of my fantasy conference on fighting patriarchy!

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