Monday, May 22, 2006
Though I am not a hardline anti-porner, I do respect the position anti-porn feminists take, and I realize it comes from a place of love and empathy for women.
Further, I understand that being anti-porn does not necessarily indicate a distaste for sexual activity.
However, though I understand this, I still have a couple questions that maybe some of the clearer thinkers out there can help me answer -
Is it possible to be kinky (engage in BDSM) and anti-porn?
Is it possible to be kinky (engage in BDSM) and feminist, if you are also anti-porn?
"Like your porn and your BDSM, but don't call it feminism," says Lost Clown (and many others). But I wonder why porn and BDSM are inextricably associated. Do they really go hand in hand at all times in all situations? Is it possible to envision a world where they don't go hand in hand at all times in all situations?
"I'm not talking about what two people do in their bedroom," anti-porn people often say, when I mention that it seems to run counter to feminist thought to say that I and my partner should not express myself sexually the way I and my partner like to express ourselves. Is it okay to do it, but not okay to talk about it, write about it, take pictures of it, share experiences with others?
And don't tell me what to call or not call myself, thank you. I don't tell you not to call yourself a feminist if you're gonna align yourself with the Religious Right, after all. (hellloooo, Kitty MacKinnon).
or, you know, tell me whatever you like. But that doesn't mean I have to follow your directions.
finally: oh, fuck it. lost clown/burrow: you know, there are those who would consider strapping it on and bending over boyfriend very much within the general arena of "kink," even "topping," and thus under the general umbrella of (uh-oh) BDSM. Personally, I am of the opinion that context is everything (as with so many erotic acts and indeed elsewhere). (Is the pleasure in makng boyfriend happy? The motion of the strap-on against one's own pleasure bits? Or is it in the pleasure of seeing boyfriend the one who's all vulnerable and penetrated for once? Of taking power and control in wielding the tool, for once? (that would be the toppy bit).
In any case, as far as I'm concerned: follow your bliss, my dear. Call yourself and your actions whatever you please. But you may want to consider: who do you suppose is responsible for helping to create an atmosphere where it's actually at least somewhat possible to talk about this shit in public? To get men and women to the point where they could ask for something like that? To buy the dildos and the harness in a "woman-friendly" environment, hell, even legally (there are still laws against sex toys in a number of states, did you know? and yes, they are enforced at least sporadically)? It ain't the Dworkinite feminists and their descendants, I can tell you that right now.
No; that would be the likes of Susie Bright, that heretic. Who is very much a feminist in my book. Any one sexual act isn't "feminist" (or not) *in itself,* no. Reclaiming your body and desires, whatever they may be, and helping other women to do the same, IS.
"My body, my choice."
fortunately for me the judge didn't buy it. I wonder if the radfemblogosphere would be happier if he did.
why I wonder does the whole pornstitution issue seem to stretch like an amoeba's pseudopod to include BDSM?
per sex as a "richer," more intimate act: as it happens, well, yes, this "pro-porn feminist" happens to agree with that general sentiment.
I spent the weekend at a multi-gendered Body Electric workshop, "Power, Surrender, and Intimacy." It involved the teaching and enaction of a number of acts generally lumped under "BDSM," among other things done in other Body Electric workshops (they started off teaching Taoist erotic massage; google "Joseph Kramer" for more information). It was, like all of my other Body Electric experiences, a profoundly healing and (yes) spiritual time, very much about creating community, "safe space," intimate connection, and much much more.
"To which of these are you referring? Any, some, all?"
I think the fact that requests for a definition of what constitutes objectionable material is so often met with derision, and the attitude that says "I'm not here to answer questions for you, puny mortal - if you were worth talking to you'd already know", contributes to the dangerous lack of communication on both sides.
It also may just have something to do with the fact that those are the arenas which just *happen* to be most (legally) stigmatized by "mainstream," not-feminist culture, sexually speaking, now that "sodomy" laws per se are no longer kosher, thanks to the Supremes. What was that, now, three years ago? Of course, there're also such beasties as "public sex" and polyamory, but, well, for whatever reason, they don't seem as *interesting* to talk about these days, in certain circles at least.
but so yeah. I mean, you'd think, reading some people, that the world was this safe and friendly place for whores and kinky folk, and it's only the erotic egalitarians (in monogamous hetero relationships often enough, no less) who are being put-upon.
Yesyesyes, sex is for sale, power is eroticized, that is part of the mainstream patriarchy in which we are all engulfed. But is it consciously done? Is it, indeed, straightforwardly valorized? No more so than pro-football is consciously considered homoeroticism.
I mean, d'you think Lynndie England did what she did because she read too much Annie Sprinkle and Carol Queen? Hardly.
Or, consider Thomas Aquinas' position on prostitution:
"“Take away the sewer, and you will fill the palace with pollution. Take away prostitutes from the world, and you fill it with sodomy."
A covert tip of the head; hardly a ringing endorsement. And it doesn't exactly make life easier or safer for the actual, you know, prostitutes, either way. Who cares what happens to the toilets?
(I once did a paper on medieval prostitution; I have to dig that up sometimes. some fascinating evolutions and convolutions).
So, yes: prostitution is here the seamy underside of the patriarchal Churchly anti-sex worldview. But does one conclude from this that therefore if one
"takes away prostitutes from the world" (always such an interesting proposition: does one do this through legislation? conversion? Jack the Ripper?) the world *would* be "filled with sodomy," or rather, indeed "free love," and that this is what we want? I expect that could be part of nectarine's vision of "sex-radical radical feminism."
Me, I start with this supposition: the problem isn't the sex for money, the "loose women" *or* the sodomy, the problem is that Big Daddy is putting a whole class of people in the "sewer" in the first place.
But then: there are any number of ways in which this has become the case. Radical feminism takes the position that this is the *primary* route to sewer-ization of people: men dominate women, the "sex class." I don't think it's nearly that simple. Do we consider that *any* work for hire is degrading? Back in the days of guilds and such? (there were early efforts for prostitutes to organize, many, before this century). How about these days of andvanced corporate capitalism? "What does it profit a man?" I mean, seriously: how can you look at the world and see "porn" as THE problem, or even among the top 100?
And more important, to my mind: how exactly do you propose to rid the world of it? Or prostitution for that matter? What are your methods? What's your goal? Does it matter to you if any given woman says she actually does enjoy her chosen career and wants to continue in it? Would you support her ability to work without the added threat of going to jail? Efforts to unionize? Because if not, frankly, I do not see how this is advancing the cause of "feminism."
Somewhere recently I was reading a long pdf article from a radfem (I believe; anyway, anti-prostitution feminist) POV about the legalization of prositution in Victoria, Australia. Her conclusion was that it had been a failure. I need to go back and read it more thoroughly, and frankly I would also like to find an article from someone who actually is/was working in the trade in Victoria. But thus far it struck me that it looked a bit like Las Vegas, perhaps, in that by *legalizing* (as in, creating all sorts of government regulations, including one that one was not allowed to work out of one's home, which sounded like a huge problem right there), as opposed to simply decriminalizing (*is* there anywhere that's just done that?), that was a goodly chunk of the problem right there. (the whole "two-tiered" ranks of prostituion, legal and illegal, and the ways in which both are still heavily exploited).
I mean, for me it always comes back to the fact that *nothing* is gonna be a cure-all in and of itself. Sure, if you legalize prostitution (now speculating about the U.S. again, dunno much about Victoria's other policies) but continue grinding away at workers' rights in general, genuine sexual education in schools, widespread economic disparity by heavily favoring the exploiters of this world via tax breaks and so forth, not to mention of course the constant war on reproductive rights, then, yah: Houston, we've still got a big problem.
But if you're so passionate about womens' rights and yet put all or most of your focus on "ending prostitution/porn," which is one area where the people who are otherwise very much *against* economic equality, reproductive rights, genuine sex education, and so on, are gonna be providing much of the boosted leverage and visibility of your activism in that area, well, how does that help women? Really?
ironically, yes, Dworkin has been referred to as the mother of sex-positive feminism, in that she was the one who brought talking about porn and so forth into the public discourse (from a feminist perspective, at least) in the first place. Susie Bright (among others) gave her props for this; rather more gracious than the returning sentiment to the ungrateful ideological "children," imo.
Look: I, at least, am not saying that one has to be "Leathersex, yay! Nekkid pictures on the Internets, yay!" in order to be a feminist, or sex-positive, or anydamnthing. And yes, there are a number of people in the "sex-pos" camp who give the general impression of not really knowing where they came from, in that a lot of sexual freedoms as well as women's and human rights are taken for granted, there's a lot of unconscious internalization of "mainstream" patriarchal/hetcentric/corporate/what have you values even as they claim to be fighting against them (to me it's the unconsciousness that's the real problem, always). But it's only the same damn problem that I'm having with the "radical feminists" we've been talking to/about. More stars in the sky there, Horatio; and a *lot* of history and alternate perspectives and contexts you may want to consider before Weighing Forth.
the reason I tend to be less harsh on the sex-pos folks (that I know, anyway) who do this is, at least with them I 'm less likely to be tensing up in anticipation of "you do THAT?? ewwwwww GROSS. I can't be your friend/ally/blahblahblah."
are you saying I'm a supporter of the religious right? because that is as far from true as it is possible to get
belledame can answer your question far better than I can (with all sorts of citations and links and stuff, I'd wager), but I think it's simply a case of politics making really strange bedfellows.
it's not that you're a supporter of the religious right so much as the religious right just happens to be a supporter of you, on this one issue.
No, nectarine, I recognize you as *not* being a supporter of the religious right.
What I am saying is: the fact that the religious right has made and *is* making a crusade against such things as porn and "alternative" forms of sexuality (including, but not limited to, BDSM) might ought to give one some pause before jumping on the anti-porn bandwagon, flags a-waving and guns a-blazing. Particularly if one is going to paint in huge, broad strokes about what "porn" is; and even more particularly before one decides how one is going to go about one's attempt to rid the world of it.
Sort of in the same way, you know, that radical feminists have asked "pro-porn" feminists who mostly enjoy such things as femmerotic and Cyberdyke and the written works of Patrick Califia or Carol Queen and so forth (like me) to consider the greater impact of "porn culture" ranging from the misogynistic expressions of "mainstream" porn to potentially exploitive conditions in the porn industry and prostitution to the cultural history and greater context in which pornography and prostitution exist and have existed.
So, I'm considering.
And personally, based on everything I know from personal experience as well as informal and formal research, I still consider that the existence of Flynt and so forth is the lesser of the evils. Which doesn't mean that I want that crap around, especially. Much less the real-world, gross and widespread abuse and exploitation of any number of women (and children, and yes, men), sexually and otherwise. But I'm not convinced that "fighting porn" is the way to go about rectifying it.
Are you familiar with an anthology entitled "Powers of Desire: the Politics of Sexuality"? (edited: Ann Snitow, Christine Stansell, Sharon Thompson). Some excellent historical and theoretical writing from a number of perspectives (includes Adrienne Rich's famous essay on "compulsory heterosexuality").
1983: Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon draft a proposed ordinance to ban pornography in Minneapolis.
1984: The Minneapolis antiporn ordinance is passed by the City Council, but vetoed by (the mayor).
A revised version is introduced in the Indianapolis City Council by Beulah Coughenour, a council member who built her political career on anti-ERA work. It is passed and signed into law in Indianapolis; a coalition of media groups led by the American Booksellers Association files suit to challenege it, and wins a court order declaring it unconstitutional.
WAP [Women Against Porn, formerly Women Against Porn And Violence] endorses the ordinances.
In her June 1984 newsletter, Phyllis Schlafly also endorses the ordinances."
Dworkin testified before the Meese Commission; the general history of this is about halfway down this wiki article on Dworkin. As you'll note, Dworkin said she was against obscenity laws and was against right-wing ideology and fundamentalism in general; but, well:
" a transcript is reprinted as "Pornography Is A Civil Rights Issue", pp. 276-307). Dworkin's testimony against pornography was praised and reprinted in the Commission's final report , and Dworkin and MacKinnon marked its release by holding a joint press conference . Meese Commission officials went on to successfully demand that convenience store chains remove from shelves popular men's magazines such as Playboy (Dworkin wrote that the magazine "in both text and pictures promotes both rape and child sexual abuse")  and Penthouse . The demands spread nationally and intimidated some retailers into withdrawing photography magazines, among others . The Meese Commission's campaign was eventually quashed with a First Amendment admonishment against prior restraint by the D.C. Federal Court in Meese v. Playboy (639 F.Supp. 581).
In her testimony and replies to questions from the commissioners, Dworkin condemned the use of criminal obscenity prosecutions against pornographers, stating, "We are against obscenity laws. We don't want them. I want you to understand why, whether you end up agreeing or not" (285). She argued that obscenity laws were largely ineffectual (285), that when they were effectual they only suppressed pornography from public view while allowing it to flourish out of sight (285-286), and that they suppressed the wrong material, or the right material for the wrong reasons, arguing that "Obscenity laws are also woman-hating in their very construction. Their basic presumption is that it's women's bodies that are dirty" (286). Instead she offered five recommendations for the Commission, recommending (1) that "the Justice Department instruct law-enforcement agencies to keep records of the use of pornography in violent crimes" (286), (2) a ban on the possession and distribution of pornography in prisons (287), (3) that prosecutors "enforce laws against pimping and pandering against pornographers" (287), (4) that the administration "make it a Justice Department priority to enforce RICO [the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act] against the pornography industry" (287), and (5) that Congress adopt federal anti-pornography civil rights legislation which would provide for civil damages for harm inflicted to woman. She suggested that the Commission consider "creating a criminal conspiracy provision under the civil rights law, such that conspiring to deprive a person of their civil rights by coercing them into pornography is a crime, and that conspiring to traffic in pornography is conspiring to deprive women of our civil rights" (288).
[good luck with that, there]
Well, maybe she saw it that way; but: she testified to Edwin Meese, and by extension, Ronald Reagan; by 1986 it was pretty damn clear which side of the godbags' bread they were buttered on. Is it *really* that huge a shock that they interpreted and used her work the way they did?
Later, in 1992, "The Supreme Court of Canada upholds the nation's obscenity law on the grounds that sexually explicit speech is comparable to "hate speech" because it edgreades women. The first prosecution under the new ruling is against "Bad Attitude," the lesbian sex magazine published by a women's collective in Boston..."
In other words: against queer folk, against women desiring women, against a small independent "collectively-run" magazine, no less. *Not* against Playboy or any of the big behemoths.
Here, a 1995 article about this ruling, its effects, and about the influence that the writings of Catherine MacKinnon and other feminists of her ilk had on it:
(more on Butler in the Dworkin wiki article; note that there's a slight discrepancy between this article's take on how/why Dworkin's book "Pornography" was held for inspection at customs, and the relation of her work to the Butler descision. To me, like the (correct) distinction between the myth of Dworkin saying that "all heterosexual intercourse is rape" (she did not say that) and the overwhelming bulk of what she (and MacKinnon) *did* say and do, while important to keep accurate, ultimately is not really terrific evidence that their work did *not* end up dovetailing nicely with the Religious Right's, along with other Big Guns of the Patriarchy's, agenda; and that ultimately their approach ended up causing far more harm than help to actual, you know, women (sex workers and otherwise).
*(I'm not so familiar with what's happened under Canadian law since then, but it's my impression that there's been some reversals in that trend. anyway i get the impression that the Butler law dunno about actual law; I need to do more homework).
In Catharine MacKinnon's own words:
(http://social-justice.politics.ox.ac.uk/projects.asp - Audio recordings Session 1 Part 4)
"As to the actual misrepresentation: Andrea Dworkin was never allied with the far right and, indeed, the Christian right never supported the MacKinnon Dworkin Ordinance – not any time and not anywhere – and in both the connections of these two things, these are two items that were reports that were created by a PR firm which was hired and funded by the pornographers to flood the press with these two lies so that you would all think these two things. The reason that the Christian right didn’t support the MacKinnon/Dworkin Ordinance is because it’s a sex equality law..."
I can't get that audio recording to work. Could you cite the name of the "PR firm hired and funded by the pronographers," please? Thanks.
so, Witchy - Phyllis Schafly did NOT endorse the ordinances?
does anyone want to have a shot at the questions:
Is it possible to be kinky (engage in BDSM) and anti-porn?
Is it possible to be kinky (engage in BDSM) and feminist, if you are also anti-porn?
You mentioned, a couple of comments, up a reference to paid sex as a trade, similar to guild or union work. I'd like to address and expound on that, but first:
What people tend to forget about porn is the variety of things that we call "porn." "Porn" itself has always been a dirty word, but when it comes to visual erotica of any sort, the partaking-in of such is much like the use of recreational drugs. Not all drugs harm people, not all drugs are addicting, not all drugs have unpleasant side effects. Accordingly, many people use many different drugs, for many different reasons.
As with any drug, sex is really about with whom, how, and why you're using it. Are you using it for a cheap high? A quick fix? Something to pass the time or drown your sorrows? Or are you using sex to attain spiritual transcendence? There are drugs that do all these things, just as there are forms of sex and visual erotica which satisfy these goals. As with any hard-line anti-drug argument, I find it overly simplifying to categorize porn (and indeed sex) into one generalized bastion of social evil.
As for sex and money (prostitution, pornography), I find it telling that you place a value on it as a trade, a skill set. First off, the pay factor--The question is, are you having the sex to receive the money, or are you accepting the money as a perk of having the sex? Many people would offer many varying responses here, but while we can all agree that the former is bad in that it invites abuse and exploitation, it should also be noted that the existence of the latter renders it imperative that we NOT abolish such a practice. I've known people who enjoy sex for fun AND profit, and to say that one precludes the other is foolish. I don't think porn should necessarily be banned or stigmatized, just managed. You know, like any human indulgence--booze, etc.
As for trade work, I find this interesting. Can one imagine a labor-based "sex class" in such a context? Vocational skills accrued, benefits, seniority? Sex is a powerful commodity, and those who know how to execute it well are valued by society as mates and economic forces--in both genders to a limited extent, I think. If that's the case, I would suggest then that the problem exists NOT with the world's oldest profession, but rather with the way we view it. Think about it--sex viewed as medicinal, therapeutic, consciousness-raising? Think of what would happen! It's brilliant.
I have to say, I'm fascinated by this line of thought. Based on your arguments, I'm going to have to conclude that the problem lies NOT with the sex or flavor or legitimacy of porn, but rather in the continuing attitude we hold toward such things. Of course radical second-wave feminism comes off as "anti-sex." How could it not? The patriarchal system which gave it rise bequeathed its own subconscious sex-negativism to the new school of thought.
VERY thought-provoking, Anti.
but you may be misattributing belledame's brilliance to me.
yes, sure, it's an easy mistake to make :) but she's way smarter and has a higher level of class analysis than I do.
>Is it possible to be kinky (engage in BDSM) and anti-porn?
Is it possible to be kinky (engage in BDSM) and feminist, if you are also anti-porn?
I mean, sure, if you ask me, it's possible...
Over at another blog there was at least one person who was pro-kink or at least kink-neutral, who claimed a personal "allergy to porn" but still wasn't going to come down on the side of the Dworkinites.
I think it was here, in the comments section:
Nice blog; too bad she doesn't seem to be updating.
per the idea of sex work as a vocation--in fact I do know a number of people (mostly via Body Electric and similar communities based around other workshops) who do precisely that. Some do it via education (leading the actual workshops); some are known as "sacred intimates;" some do...other sorts of related work. And then I know a few pro-dommes, some of whom are probably less "spiritual" per se than others,
And then of course you have the big voices in the sex-pos movement: Susie Bright, Carol Queen (who actively ID's as a "whore," or at least used to), Amber Hollibaugh, Patrick Califia, Annie Sprinkle. Midori. Dorothy Allison to some degree, although mostly she ID's as a novelist these days, of course. Don't know any of them personally (well, Midori, a bit now, through workshops and conferences; and Susie Bright via her blog and a vc, sorta), but they all or most of them have struck me as people who live rich, full, love-filled lives, who generally practice what they preach and find deep fulfillment from their work.
I have said this before, and perhaps it's not completely fair, but: given a choice between Susie Bright and Andrea Dworkin as role models for insight, overall happiness and mental health, I'm goin' for Susie. I suppose there is a question of whether and how much one's personal shit should get in the way of the value of one's political or artistic work. To me: it varies, but if particularly if you're gonna be propating a worldview that includes the notion of "the personal is political," then I kind of would hope you've got your personal shit fairly together before you start extrapolating to the rest of the world.
Partly why I got so steamed when Twisty did her sneery "BDSM is conformist and anti-intellectual" business. then again, she also thinks orgasms are "inane," T, so I expect it's not like I needed to take her word for much in this area. but so many other people seem to (take her word for it). it irks.
>Indeed, eighty individual feminists, along with the Feminist Anti-Censorship Taskforce (F.A.C.T.) and the Women's Legal Defense Fund, presented an Amici Brief to the Hudnut court outlining a range of feminist concerns about the anti-pornography legislation proposed by MacKinnon and Dworkin (Hunter and Law 1985). These included concerns about the political dangers of feminists aligning themselves with the conservative, evangelical right; the possibility of the legislation discriminating against minority forms of sexuality (e.g., lesbianism); interference with women's freedom to choose to produce and perform in pornography; perpetuating traditional ideas that sex is bad for women; and diverting attention and resources away from more important immediate efforts to bring an end to violence against women.
>In the months ahead, as Indianapolis appealed Barker’s decision, many prominent feminists would announce their opposition to the Indianapolis ordinance on very similar grounds. Nobody needed the First Amendment more than feminists, they argued. By the time of the enactment of the Indianapolis ordinance, feminists around the country had become aware of the MacKinnon’s challenge to the feminist tradition of opposing censorship. Some began to speak out against the ordinance. Nan Hunter, a New York lawyer, argued that it would prevent women as well as men from expressing themselves about sexuality. Thus, it ran counter to the growth of women’s freedom: Feminists ought to arguing just the opposite--that sexuality and representationsof sex present issues which ought to be in the realm of public discussion and debate. It is especially troubling that, for all the talk of rape and torture, the ordinance would actually prohibit images of some consensual sexual acts as well.
Susie Bright, the owner of a women’s vibrator store in San Francisco, objected to MacKinnon’s assumption that women were not interested in sex, too. "We’re not just a small group of women being manipulated by dirty old men," she said. Feminists who opposed MacKinnon’s views about sex and free speech grew so concerned about the danger they posed to the women’s movement that they began to organize groups to oppose the feminist anti-pornography movement. In New York, writers and lawyers formed the core of the Feminist Anti-Censorship Taskforce. In Berkeley, a "pro-sex" coalition held counter-demonstration to protest anti-feminist activities. The split in the feminist community was so deep that the National Organization of Women, while endorsing MacKinnon’s views about pornography, failed to endorse the Indianapolis ordinance. In April 1985, the anti-censorship feminists explained their opposition to the Indianapolis ordinance in an amicus brief submitted to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which was then considering the appeal from Barker’s decision. The brief was signed by prominent feminists of both sexes, including 63 women writers, lawyers and activitists from both the liberal and radical wings of the feminist movement. Betty Friedan, the founder of NOW, and the writers Rita Mae Brown, Kate Millet and Adrienne Rich were among those who joined the brief. The FACT brief began by characterizing the Indianapolis ordinance as a throw back to the Victorian view of sexuality: The Indianapolis ordinance is squarely within the tradition of the sexual double standard. It allows little room for women to openly express certain sexual desires, and resurrects the notion that sexually explicit maerials are subordinating and degrading to women...>
I wonder if MacKinnon considers Feminist for Free Expression to be puppets of the "pornographers." they include former members of FACT at any rate.
anyway, not terribly impressed with vague claims of plots to "flood the press with their lies." Can we back that up, please? If there's more context in the audio interview, a link to a transcript will do.
"The Indianapolis case convinced MacKinnon that there was little hope of winning unified support from the feminist movement. Certainly, she did nothing to try to mend fences with her feminist critics. In fact, she was furious at them. In a speech to the National Conference on Women and the Law before the Seventh Circuit decision in 1985, MacKinnon charged that her ordinance was being distorted by her feminist opponents. "It is my view that you are being largely lied to," she said. "I want you to hear the truth straight, just one time." MacKinnon denied that under her ordinance all sexually explicit material could be suppressed. The ordinance requires that the material be sexually subordinating and include depictions of specified, subordinating acts, she said. But her critics had misrepresented the defintion: Why do women lawyers seem unable to comprehend that all these elements must be there? Why do they distort the law so ludicrously? Can’t they get it right and still oppose it?
The first woman lawyer to misrepresent the ordinance had been Judge Barker. "She misquoted and mischaracterized the ordinance under review, blamed the victims and treated the law of sex discrimination as if it did not exist," MacKinnon observed later. But Barker was "not a feminist," she said. Her strongest feelings were reserved for those critics who called themselves feminists: I really want you to stop your lies and misrepresentations of our position. I want you to do something about your thundering ignorance about the way women are treated. I want you to remember your own lives. I also really want you on our side. But, failing that, I want you to stop claiming that your liberalism, with its elitism, and your Freudianism, with its sexualized misogyny, has anything in common with feminism.
These women were "house niggers who side with the masters," she said. She singled FACT out by name. "The Black movement has Uncle Toms and Oreo cookies. The labor movement has scabs. The women’s movement has FACT," MacKinnon said."
It does sound like she's talking about FACT. It also sounds like she hasn't changed her tune much in the past 20 years. Not impressed.
For that matter--even if you're *not* gonna write books on the subject, who *hasn't* seen at least some porn? I guess some people; but how interesting that she needed to blurt that out. I suspect, you know, along with everything else, there's that stigma again. Nice girls (and academics) don't.
I mean, they *could've* invited Susie Bright, instead, or any number of other women, if they wanted an "opposing" viewpoint who had something to say about Dworkin...o well.
anyway, that quote doesn't really give any more context to what we're talking about here (the dovetailing of Dworkin's and particularly here MacKinnon's agenda with that of the Christian right in the 80's and afterward, and particularly how the latter made use of the former, seamlessly), and she doesn't name the "PR firm," so until I see something that indicates something to the contrary, I'm gonna go ahead and assume she did, in fact, mean FACT.
The bad part was when Alison Assiter and Sheila Jeffreys took to the stage. Up until this point I had not heard of Assiter but was pretty familiar with Jeffreys' work and was thrilled that I was going to hear her speak. But it didn't go well. Assiter was part of the Feminists Against Censorship group that got started around the time when the anti-porn campaign, that Dworkin did so much for, really got going. And she started her talk with how much she disagreed with Dworkin's work, comparing the extreme oppression of women under fundamentalist religion to the anti-porn campaigns. And the tension became palpable and Assiter sensed it. She became flustered, rushing through her slides, making little connection between one point to the other, it was uncomfortable to watch.
Some women started to get mad. Julie Bindel and Finn Mackay, who were to speak later on the day, were some of the women interrupted her, asking her 'which side are you on?', accusing her of basically condoning violence against women, shouting across the lecture hall. Someone yelled 'bullshit' at her when she said that she thought women living in countries ruled by fundamentalist regimes, like Iran, had a harder time at the moment that Western women. Rhetorical questions were thrown at her, telling her that she was confused, a pawn of the patriarchy etc. It was like something out of movie. There were some critics that had a point though: Catharine MacKinnon corrected her on some dates and legal statements that she had made during her speak. I didn't particularly agree with what Assiter had to say and frankly by the end of her talk, there was no clear argument or conclusion to think about but nonethelessshe had been treated unfairly.
Lunch time was next and the dining room turned into a children's playground. The bullies on one side, the target nervously wandering around, trying to avoid attack but at the same time wanting to be with her peers. People were visibly turning their backs on Assiter as she walked up to groups and tried to join in. Jeffreys' crowd circled around her, sometimes moving over to tell Assiter how she needed help and that her confusion was so obvious, jumping in for a dig. You couldn't help but watch, and sometimes the conversations got so heated and loud, you couldn't help but over hear. I spoke to Assiter, as did a few other women, telling her that she had been treated despicably. Overall, the morning's events left me with a horrible feeling in stomach, I didn't like what I had seen, I was disappointed that Jeffreys had been so supportive of this behavior and I felt that she had almost found it amusing how easy it had been to drag Assiter down. I didn't want to be at a conference commemorating Andrea Dworkin and see people behaving like this. And yes, Assiter's speech was out of place, it wasn't very good and she could have said what she wanted to say better, and her perhaps there was a previous spat going on between Assister and some of the women there. Assiter did mention in her speech how Jeffreys' and her had been on opposite side of the table many a time before, perhaps referring to an ongoing fight that was not just about opposing feminist views. Yet it was unbelievable to watch.
This sort of thing shocks me. It shocked me over at Twisty's, and it shocks me when I read articles such as this. I think this is why so many young men and women alike are turned off by modern feminism; not because of anything inherently wrong with the philosophy, but rather because the ideas behind feminism have been transformed into IDEOLOGY. I think any rational human mind should fear and abhor ideology.
Also, I find that anti-porn feminist thought is almost always inextricably linked to personal trauma. I see a problem with this. My wife, very wisely, once said, "Life is ten percent what happens to you, and ninety percent how you react to it." How can we justify such conflation of personal bias with purportedly academically sound thought? I think the evidence is there, in many cases that such anti-porn second-wave thought cannot be effectively justified without the assumption that such trauma occurs to all afflicted individuals, as it has occurred to the person making the argument. It's "all or nothing" kind of rhetoric. And no respectable scholar would accept such a line of thought.
I dunno. Maybe that's just me. I have been wrong before.
Of course a number of the sex-pos camp had (physically and sexually) abusive backgrounds, also, notably Dorothy Allison and Patrick Califia. But for them reclaiming their desires, their bodies, their voices, being able to say "yes" as well as "no," was the healing force that shaped their views and activism.
Which is another reason why Twisty pissed me off; her constant dismissal of women's sexuality as, at best, some frippery (I believe she compared the female orgasm to whipped cream on a coffee drink at one point; more vividly I remember the "nothing more inane than the pursuit of orgasms" snark). It's NOT frivolous. It's not "your little porn habit" (asshat). It's desire. It's creativity. It's authenticity. It's *spirit.*
Or, as Carol Queen puts it,
"'Sex-positive', a term that's coming into cultural awareness, isn't a dippy love-child celebration of orgone--it's a simple yet radical affirmation that we each grow our own passions on a different medium, that instead of having two or three or even half a dozen sexual orientations, we should be thinking in terms of millions. 'Sex-positive' respects each of our unique sexual profiles, even as we acknowledge that some of us have been damaged by a culture that tries to eradicate sexual difference and possibility. Even so, we grow like weeds."
And anyway, if it's so inane, why go on and on about it?
Also from Queen, and more on topic, perhaps:
"Susie Bright has said that the best jerk-off book she ever found was the compiled evidence of the Meese Commission (printed, with delicious irony, at government expense).
[this was before the Starr report came out, o'course]
When I saw BACAP's leader, Joanne Masokowski, speak publically about the evils of porn, I was especially struck by one thing: She recited a list of porno titles available at convenience stores for five full minutes, getting very worked up about all the nasty words she had to say.
Andrea Dworkin's impassioned rhetoric and writing are salted with neough pornographic imagery to remind her audience (many of whom are innocents who haven't had the heinous exposure to pornography she's had) of exactly what she's excoriating...
...And just watch Helms give any speech in whcih he gets to talk about sodomy. The fellow sure does get worked up.
...in other respects, the politics of fundamentalists, feminists and homophobes are decidedly dissimilar...No, the feminist anti-[porn, etc.] forces are not the Ladies' Auxiliary of the New Right, much as they may sometimes act as though they are. The right wing, after all, has cultivated a Ladies' Auxiliary of its own, and beds down with feminism when it's strategic.
What all these people share in common has nothing to do with political affiliation, though it lends itself to being used in the name of either sort of politics. Rather, these disparate anti-porn, anti-sex activists unite in the particular form their relationship to sexuality takes. For all of them, sex (or a particular kind of sex, or sexual representation) is threatening, fear-provoking--and utterly fascinating. Crusading against other people's sexual behaviors and images lets them wallow in a very safe form of sexual obsession...
...Many people dislike pornography, for many reasons, or feel uncomfortable or unaccepting about other peoples' choices. But not all these people devote their lives to the crusade!...Something must distinguish the people who go on the warpath from the ones who don't. Perhaps it is this uncomfortable fasncination, the fact that the crusaders can't drop their focus...."
[she goes on to make a half-serious (I think) speculation about the possibility of creating a new label for such people, "absexuals," or people who get off on traumatic material that they can only deal with by holding it at arm's length and casting down judgment upon it. it is presented as knowingly ironic: look, judgment and labelling!--the suggestion is that it would be a delicious revenge on all the absexuals who'd gone out of their way for years and years to pathologize homosexuals, transfolk, and consensually kinky folk, if one were inclined to be, you know, vengeful].
I could probably write an essay apiece in response to this post and several of your earlier ones, and I just don't have the time.
But just wanted to let you know your thoughtful words are appreciated...
really, all the good content comes from belledame in the comments.
I just ask dumb questions.
Yes, I've read that comment, about how Assiter was supposedly treated, before and ruled it out as untrue. I was actually there (you've heard the session/read the transcript, I take it?).
She was, in fact, treated with extreme civility (due to the fact that she was speaking at a memorial conference, yunno...) We actually gave her far more respect than she gave Andrea Dworkin...
and belledamned222 - you're actually pissing me off bigtime with your dissing of other women's experience, yunno? The way you talk, it's like you're the only woman in the world who knows fuck about anything:
"anyway, that quote doesn't really give any more context to what we're talking about here (the dovetailing of Dworkin's and particularly here MacKinnon's agenda with that of the Christian right in the 80's and afterward, and particularly how the latter made use of the former, seamlessly, and she doesn't name the "PR firm," so until I see something that indicates something to the contrary, I'm gonna go ahead and assume she did, in fact, mean FACT.)"
FOR FUCK'S SAKE! Catharine Mackinnon - who was actually there says something that doesn't agree with your nicely tuned, patriarchy complicit view of how things 'are' and YOU DON'T FUCKING BELIEVE HER!
Like you know better?
Get your head out of your arse and read what's written from the 'horses' mouth instead of trying to make the world revolve around you, what you think and how you'd like it to be.
Oh. Only if you're a feminist, that is.
(Which I seriously doubt.)
belledamned222 - I believe you're a male apologist. You don't have the interests of Class Woman at the top of your agenda.
You're just concerned with how you can make men 'happy' - and you'll do it any way you can.
Whatever you've heard about the politics behind the Mackinnon/Dworkin Ordinance - you can hear it from the horses mouth now; the whole world can. That you choose not to be able to actually speaks volumes to me.
You're a fraud, belledamme222.
you make a good point that it makes sense to pay close attention to the recollection of someone who was there and intimately involved, i.e. MacKinnon. However, MacKinnon's assertions as to how it all went down may yet not be the whole truth - it will be her side of the story. I'm not saying she's lying to make herself look RIGHT and her detractors WRONG, I'm saying she's telling her side of the story - to which she has a right - but may still be somewhat biased.
If I wanted The Real Story of Columbus's landing in America, and I asked Columbus himself, I assure you I would not get The Real Story, although Columbus was there.
(note -unless I miss my guess, I believe Belledame is queer. I don't think she's het-identified at all.)
Like you know better?>
Uh, witchy-woo: dear heart. I did read the transcript. Talk *and* Q & A (thaks for the recommendation that I 'skip the talk,' p.s.) You don't appear to be returning the favor by reading much of what I'm actually posting, much less following any of the links.
And the person I'm linking to above was *also* actually there, (and also seems to be ID'ing as a radical feminist, cetainly a Dworkin supporter); so as far as I'm concerned it's pretty much her interpretation versus yours of how it went down at the break (along v's, who has a retort of her own in the comments section) wrt how "politely" she was treated. The transcript alone contains the interruptions; d'you consider that "polite?" I did also say she sounded like she made a fool of herself, Assiter.
What I said wrt the MacKinnon quote was: it is still not clear to me *from that transcript* what she meant by "a PR firm funded by the pornographers." What I *said* was, all by itself that other people made up lies about actual events--*public* events that were documented by a number of outside sources-- isn't terribly convincing to me, no. That would be kind of research 101, yeah-yeah?
So I did hunt down a bunch of links with a fair amount of actual documentation, and from it concluded that she *probably* is referring to FACT.
You choose not to address any of this--which you could have done and still can, you know. I mean, I've been assuming that you, too, are capable of looking and listening to a number of sources before coming to your own conclusions about an historical event or an ideology, as opposed to o I don't know raptly and unquestioningly taking every word of a beloved idol as the gospel, simply because she *is* a beloved idol.
But instead you go off like a bag of damp firecrackers and start throwing what I guess are the ultimate insults at me. Not a feminist! Male apologist!! damn, i have been DISSED. realness fight!! Show me your creds, young missy!
antiprincess is correct: I am a dyke. A goodly chunk of my problem with radical feminism, which only becomes more cemented as I do more research and talk to more, uhh, people like yourself, is that it makes no room for my sexuality. *My* sexuality, that comes out of *me,*; not some happy-crappy pie-in-the-sky utopian version of a bunch of wimmin skipping about in non-this and non-that bliss. Funny how you should mention dissing of other womens' experience as problematic. Very funny, that. We could talk about that for a while; would you like to?
or, better, how about segueing directly into how even though I am queer, I am somehow more "male-identified" than yer pals BB and her radical feminist manfriend (who has apparently never learned how to back off and shut the fuck up in supposedly women's spaces), or any of the other radical hetgirls and *their* "radical feminist" boyfriends. Please, do tell; I've been waiting to hear about how this works for quite a while. I can't wait.
What I *said* was, all by itself, the assertion that other people told "lies" about actual events--*public* events that were documented by a number of outside sources-- isn't terribly convincing to me, no.
"Could you cite the name of the "PR firm hired and funded by the pornographers," please? Thanks."
" I don't know."
Just for future reference.
Questioner (ww aside; Finn Mackay, I think): I just wanted to say to Alison... you know, you suggested that you’ve got a bad reception here and you’re asking people, you know, not to throw, sort of, insults at you. But you have come here and we have listened to your talk. But to me it’s just a case of ‘which side are you on’. Right at the beginning you said that you were proud to ally yourself with the pornographers and you said that quite clearly. Right at the beginning you said during the intro you were proud to ally yourself with the pornographers
A.A. interrupts: I didn’t. Please. I didn’t say that. I didn’t.
Questioner: Ok well maybe I misheard but that is what I got from your speech [inaudible] you were talking about where you were positioned in the 80’s and so I think, yeah, why? Why defend that [inaudible] there are many [inaudible] you can have, and as Andrea said, with regard to arguments over rapes, you know, it does come down to which side you’re on.
Does it indeed.
I mean, that would explain a lot of your response here, if that's what you believe.
While, as I said, I think Assiter generally looked ill-prepared and generally did not come off well (and should have known better), I do agree with what she replied here:
"A.A.: Sorry, I think there are many, many sides. Look, let me just say this. I don’t think that all women form a class."
Yeah, witchy-woo, I'm re-reading the transcript right now, for the third time. I don't know in what universe you can claim Assiter was treated "politely." Unless you mean perhaps "politely for a representative of the Enemy" or some such. I mean, if there are only two sides, and she (and now I, too, I guess) was on the other--then yah, it makes perfect sense to respond that way, I guess. Even as you have here.
i also talked to her afterwards. she was really messy to talk to tbh, all over the place, she claimed that she had never been subjected to male violence, so she couldnt really believe it was that common, she said again that she had never seen any pornography, which amazed me coz i was brought up around it, she said that the pain men caused women was nothing compared to the opposite, that her son had been stood up by a girlfriend (exactly that - stood up by a girlfriend ffs) and that women were always doing this sort of thing. im paraphrasing, obviously, but she did say all these things, at length.
I am not mp3-enabled (at least not at work) so I can't check out the mp3s at the moment. but I will later on, if I am mp-3 enabled at home. (I'm a little fuzzy on the mod tech, obviously.)
I wonder if it's possible to find out Ms. Assiter's take on it all. I wonder if it would change anything to hear her say "Oh they were so polite to me and I really appreciate it," or "jeez they were savages!" or "it's cool, I deserved it," or "symposium? what symposium?" or whatever her opinion was. is there a link to that somewhere?
Thanks again, V. I appreciate your contribution and look forward to reading your future comments.
all I know is that the text alone of that transcript doesn't read as terribly respectful toward her. it could well be that there's a greater context of her behavior elsewhere.
and I agree that she does come off fairly addled, and that it's pretty damn ridiculous to get up making a speech defending porn and then claim you've *never seen any.*
I mean: what *is* that? Why on earth would you do that?
I have to say, based on the transcript, that would be my first guess as to her probable response.
On the other hand, besides being ill-prepared, she comes off as deeply rattled (on the page); it is hard not to feel at least a little sorry for her.
I mean, I expect inviting Susie Bright would provoked a small-scale riot, but I honestly do think that her own eulogy was gracious and eloquent. Certainly a lot more coherent that Assiter, she is.
I keep mentally going back to colmes' role on Fox. I don't like to think that they'd have deliberately picked a relatively weak and ineffectual voice to seem "fair and balanced." As has been said, it was a commemorative, not a debate forum; their party, they could invite who they wanted to. and after all it's nobody's fault but her own for coming ill-prepared. Stil...
p.s. I'll pray for you.
i didnt see assiter getting harassed in the lunch break but i was immensely busy talking to other radfems id never met in rl before. but im not inclined to trust that particular bloggers version of events seeing as everything else they said was just not at all how i saw it with my own eyes.
there were other issues bugging assiter, serious issues. she did talk abotu them afterwards and i did feel for her. she has an iranian partner who hasnt seen his kid for years, because he cannot go back to iran. she has trouble relating to her own son, because she was the working parent, living in another city to her family, while her ex partner raised their kid. she sees herself as having sacrificed her family life to feminism, because she went out and worked while he stayed home, and to her that was the epitomy of what a feminist life should look like, a total reversal of current gender roles.
i cant say i agreed with her on anything really, but i did feel sorry for her. she seemed desperate to be in the 'sisterhood', but she went about it all wrong, by calling us names and telling lies about us. i was really angry with her because she tried to spin some guilt trip, that we should stop whinging, that we had it good now that we could work and get the men to stay home, that women elsewhere had real problems. she made me so angry, telling us effectively we were spoilt brats who should shutthahellup and be grateful.
i think she made demands of sisterhood and solidarity from us but refused to empathise with our own positions - she refused to offer us any sisterhood and solidarity in return.
personally, i think that the radfems there couldve torn her to pieces but we didnt because we did empathise with her, even tho we didnt agree with her, and because the nature of the event was so wrong for all this, it was so disrespectful.
anyway, i hope at some point you get a chance to listen to the mp3s, and hear for yourselves.
>i think she made demands of sisterhood and solidarity from us but refused to empathise with our own positions - she refused to offer us any sisterhood and solidarity in return.>
I kind of feel like this is the bottom line going on on both/all sides whenever this particular fracture comes up. That is, we all seem to be feeling this way. Hurt and frustrated and unheard. I know I have done.
The business about how she hadn't been abused, so couldn't believe others had been abused in so many numbers, if someone said that, sure I could understand getting beyond angry and not wanting to hear any more.
I still agree with her as far as this: that I don't agree that all women are one class, either. That there are many sides and many intersecting oppressions; that it's a lot more complex than man-over-woman (although that exists, no doubt).
This has come up in other contexts, you know, over various blogs these past few months: the blow-up between various feminists of color and a couple of white radical feminists, don't know if you followed. Different issue, similar complaints: bottom line, this does not fit my experience.
The emotional stuff undergirding it all is something else again, and is maybe worth trying to tease out as a separate issue.
>that we had it good now that we could work and get the men to stay home, that women elsewhere had real problems. she made me so angry, telling us effectively we were spoilt brats who should shutthahellup and be grateful.>
...I think. I mean, I see where I think that that was heard; and I can understand why you might have interpreted it that way, I think. At the same time: that's not how I read what she was saying. What I got from that was a flustered woman trying to get back to what I think was (one of her) theses, (if such she had at all, coherently): that womens' experiences vary widely, that there are maybe other factors besides sexism pure and simple; or maybe other ways of seeing "the patriarchy" (patriarchies?)
That's not what she said, no, and perhaps I misread. At the same time, I had a hard time finding the connotation of "you're spoilt brats who should shutthahellup and be grateful."
Did you or anybody tell her that that's how you understood her? How did she respond?
honestly, she was really confused, she was all over the place with her conversation and wasnt prepared to listen, but demanded to be listened to. i think she came along to prove some point of her own, i dont know what it was though.
I think that sucks pretty bad though as an analogy, and as a stance towards kinky folks.
You know what I love about BDSM? I mean, there are a lot of things; but what I really liked about it is the way it really requires a clear sense of boundaries (at least to have a good experience, I find). You kind of have to have a secure grounding in your own sense of boundaries ("here is where I stop and you start; and here is where *you* stop and *I* start") before you start playing with them, which is essentially what erotic power games are, in a very stylized, even ritualistic way (and with a very clearly defined "now we are playing" and "now the game is over." at least, the way I and my mentors play it, that's how it is).
When someone tells me something like
"What you are doing privately with your partner(s)--hell, even -thinking- about--is hurting me and/or some hypothetical woman/all women everywhere (and hurting you, too, as I can see you better than you see yourself)"--what I think is:
Ironically, that in itself is rather fucking invasive, and a sign of unhealthily blurred boundaries. I'm fairly certain I didn't give permission for you to try to pick my brain or peer into my bedroom; nor did I ask for your "help"; kindly knock it the fuck off.
and when I finally get around to writing my piece on "objectification," I want to talk about that a bit more, 'cause I look at it from a psych framework as much as anything else.
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