Friday, May 26, 2006
I can't speak for the entire universe of non-anti-porn feminists, but there is a particular aspect of antiporn theory that does deeply trouble me, and immediately calls to mind (for me) certain aims of the Christian Right.
That, specifically, is the idea that one can deliberately alter one's personal sexual fantasies and purge them of any pornographic or woman-hurting content or overtones.
This reminds me of the aim of many ex-gay ministries, which is to turn gay people straight by deliberately altering their sexual fantasies until they are purged of any same-sex content or overtones.
I see an invasive and orwellian attack on personal freedom of thought in both cases. I just can't get over this aspect of antiporn theory. It really bothers me. I need to know how it's different, and how any illusion of similarity is due to my own delusions brought on by an obsession with my own sick selfish orgasm, because I can't tell the difference myself.
Here is where I see radical feminism and right wing christianity meet in action, if not in ideology. And it scares me. I fear deprogramming by anybody, good guys or bad guys.
Anyone want to help me not be scared? Go for it.
I keep saying this and saying this till I'm blue in the face, I feel like:
it doesn't MATTER if you're OK with my being gay (unlike those evil religious right/patriarchal people, with whom I'm reasonably familiar), "just" not with my kink. I don't care *why* you're so concerned with *any* aspect of my sexuality; it's MINE. you've got your own. go examine yourself.
And ultimately, of course: it doesn't matter if these people ever get it or not. That is my own shit to work out, I realize--up to and until the influence of all the misrepresentation and scorn starts influencing the opinions of third parties of me and mine (at which point I speak out) and/or the law (at which point I go into activism mode).
I mean, people don't wake up in the morning and say "hey, let's see how many people I can shame into agreeing with me," or "I wonder how much smug self-righteousness I can spread around the blogosphere - more than yesterday? I sure hope so!"
one assumes that what hits our ears as "We know what's best for you, poor little tool of the patriarchy" starts out as "We want to help you, here's how."
are we just way wicked hypersensitive and delusional?
And I am so, so interested, always, in the insidious *other* ways in which this our sexist culture seeps in; in this case, perfect example. How many times have your girlies selves heard this in other contexts?
"You're so selfish. Always thinking of yourself. Can't you think of___?"
Newsflash, braintrust: the fact that the person you are now supposed to defer your own "selfish" pleasure on account of it might make them terribly unhappy and upset is no longer Big Daddy but The Sisterhood? Doesn't change shit.
Here's a radical notion: how about really taking a moment and *feeling* what you want? What YOU want? Just for you? See how long it takes before the nagging, "butbutbuts" set in.
No doubt. So the fuck what? You know as well as I do where that paved road goes.
The point is, it doesn't matter how good someone's intentions are if they're not *seeing you.* Then it becomes about making you an extension of themselves. That is the root of all abuse.
And yeah, I'm sensitive. Again: so the fuck what? I'll survive.
I do submit I'm no more delusional than anyone else. and further, that my delusions are a lot more fun than a lot of peoples'.
(and that, too, you know, is a legacy of abuse: the constant second-guessing oneself).
That's exactly what led me to consider myself a sex-positive feminist.
I've called myself a feminist as far back as I can remember. Back in college, I worked with the campus womyn's coalition and followed the anti-porn party line (even seeing those slideshows showing how porn portrayals infiltrated "mainstream" images of women).
However, privately, most of my sexual fantasies involved submissiveness and bondage.
I really believed there must be something wrong with me, because my fantasies were so at odds with my political beliefs.
I spent a lot of time putting my early childhood through the wringer, because (following the ideology of the time) I felt certain that such thoughts must be a sign of early abuse. [None I could find, and I feel bad for unjustly suspecting so many wellmeaning caregivers.]
Finally, I realized that I was just making myself miserable, and there had to be a better way.
My road to happiness was realizing that feminism meant being free to make my own choices, including the choice to be sexually submissive. [And in fact, because I'm such a Type A in the workforce, it's a relief to put the reins in someone else's hands (so to speak) in this arena.]
That's such a basic part of the sexual power exchange and so few people get it: it's so often *not* a reflection of one's "real" life, but if anything, the opposite. (well, not always that simple, but). It's a vacation, submission is. Which is a lot of why so many men in particular are into it, submission. (Why is there this pervasive idea among the radfemosphere that the vast majority of BDSM is about maledom, femsub? In my experience bottoms *vastly* outnumber tops, men *and* women, because so many people consider it a relief to let someone else run the fuck. anyway, there is a reason why there are a helluva a lot more pro-dommes than pro-subs out there...)
antip: seriously, everyone needs validation. call it an echo chamber if you want to: as long as you're not screaming at anyone who disagrees and/or throwing their ass out, you're doing fine. that's all anyone can do, or should do, istm.
I would go on, but I wrote about this on my own blog a few months ago, and any comment I posted here would just be repeating myself!
And talking with one another can be a way of honing our arguments, as it were, to make us more effective.
There is nothing a radical feminist can answer to your post except: you really have no understanding whatsoever of radical feminist ideology.
The hat doesn't fit and we're not wearing it.
you are exactly accurate in your assessment that I just don't get it. but I'd really like to.
can you point me to some source which describes accurately antiporn feminism that I may re-read, someone's site to look over again, something?
what is wrong with ME that I hear things coming out of the radfemblogosphere that, apparently, people just don't say?
I'd like to feel safe among people with whom I have otherwise much in common. But I do feel like I'm missing a key piece of the puzzle.
If I offered a hat that does not fit, please know I did not offer it maliciously. I really want to understand, and though I've read and considered and thought really hard and examined and re-examined, I still don't get it. (I know I'm no Twisty, but for all that I'm not the very definition of insightful brilliance, I don't think I'm quite as stupid as people may think.)
The idea of fantasizing responsibly, that is, free from pornographic or kinky imagery, is an idea that has been knocked about the blogosphere in recent days, has it not?
I may be in error in that such an idea has not been discussed, in which case I take it all back, with deepest apologies.
but I'm pretty sure the concept has made the radfemblogosphere rounds in the past few months. and I still don't get how it's different in concept or in desired results from the idea of reprogramming gays and lesbians.
If you want me to get it, someone will have to go further than simply shaking her head sadly and saying "you don't get it."
You need to seek out the information you need yourself; read things that suit your needs. It's out there.
Tell me, have you read any Susie Bright? Carol Queen? Patrick Califia? I have some recommendations of my own, you see.
No big surprise there, no doubt.
When I read
"Although I could recommend books and articles, it's not up to me to tell others what they should think and feel,"
I get the sense that the writer has information she's deliberately not sharing with me. To what purpose? As an exercise to the student? A journey of discovery?
I'm already on the road. I'm lost and you say you have a map that you're deliberately not going to let me see. It would kill you to let me look? I'm somehow missing the point if I get lost and dare to ask for directions?
A book or site recommendation does not amount to thought control. I won't be upset with you for telling me what to think if you recommend a source that helped you.
Advocating that I purge my most private thoughts - that would be, in the strictest sense, thought control. (Not saying you personally do advocate such behavior, mind you.)
you say "I'm not here to tell you what to think." I hear "hey, I'm not gonna do your homework for you, missy. I've already done my homework and got it right, and I'm not going to help you."
surely that's not what you meant.
However, what I also don't see much of from radical feminists the notion that fantasizing can be healthy, has meanings orthoganal to one's real life; and that kink and indeed certain ways of making porn can be (and often are) healthy, consensual ways of acting out fantasies; and that this is a preferable way of dealing with "taboo" or "dark" fantasies as opposed to...well, what? That's what I'm really not seeing. I mean, is the implication that if I just read -enough- Dworkin (or whomever), I'll stop being kinky because I will See The Light? Or what?
'cause in my experience, sexuality just don't work that way.
maybe the issue is simply this - the problem may NOT be in what antiporn feminism is SAYING, but what I am HEARING.
you claim that I don't even know what it's saying.
I claim that whatever it's saying, I'm hearing that antiporn feminism is openly hostile to women who are kinky (like me).
If you were to recommend a book or site to which we could both refer, from which we could both pull quotes, so we could discuss the actual source material in a way that we could all learn something, that would go a long way towards helping me "get it."
I won't be visiting your blog again.
@ff (which is a little silly since she said she wouldn't be back) -
I don't feel that I'm criticizing you. at least, that was not my intent and I apologize for not being more clear.
here is what I am saying, as clear as I can possibly make it:
I AM BEGGING YOU FOR A REFERENCE AND YOU WILL NOT GIVE ME ONE.
I FIND THIS FRUSTRATING, NOT IRONIC.
knowledge is power. you have knowledge that I apparently do not have. you, therefore, have power over me which you (apparently deliberately) choose not to share.
A book recommendation does not amount to telling someone what to think. At best, by recommending a book you're telling someone what to read.
what's so wrong with that?
what's so wrong with that?>
"Read the Bible. It's in the Bible!!
"Where in the Bible?"
"...I don't have to do all the work for you; look it up yourself. clearly you're not interested in hearing anything from a real Christian. I won't be back.
I'll pray for you."
I just made that up, of course; I've never actually seen anything remotely resembling that exchange, well, anywhere, before. noooo.
"no way" in a "OMG it's Mandos! Cool!" sense, not in a "Mandos, you clearly have no grasp of the issues" sense.
I think the problem is one of emphasis. There are a lot of women who've been hurt or are close to people who've been hurt or fear being hurt, and for people in such a situation, pleasure, including women's pleasure, is a small thing and easily sacrificed---or at least not of significant feminist import comparatively speaking.
x-thousand years of the minimizing, ridiculing or completely negating women's pleasure isn't enough?
sorry I managed to miss saying a proper hello earlier, Mandos.
There's an easy way to handwave this question away: simply note that women's pleasure has been constructed in relation to men's under patiarchy. The implications follow immediately: that women's pleasure as constructed under patriarchy is intertwined with her status as receptacle. TRUE women's pleasure is thus only an issue in the post-patriarchy.
"Jam tomorrow, jam yesterday, but never jam today"?
and, what *does* it look like, anyway? Is the vision not based at least somewhat on *something* lived, rather than just hypothesized in a mental exercise? I would hope.
For me, the best template I have of a truly sex-positive, sex-radical, and (yes) feminist world are brief moments shared in such places as Body Electric workshops and my pagan group.
Mostly what my journey has taught me is that (I believe) it is far more effective to attempt to become *whole* and conscious, not just another form of purification. Which is how I see the antiporn business, frankly; certainly the fiery crusaders (obviously there are plenty of people who just don't like it and/or would like to see it reformed somehow). That goes for most forms of radical politics. You don't overcome your shadow, individually or collectively, by just projecting it onto an external object and attempting to destroy it for once and for all; you have to go through it. It's both simpler and more difficult than the endless Sisyphean task of trying to purify oneself/the world.
you seem intelligent enough, you dont need a teacher antiprincess.
Meanwhile, my tentative hypothesis is this:
Women who have been wounded erotically and/or young women just coming of age now are seeing the world in very different ways from the people who first fought the Sexual Revolution. This is probably a world where it sure *seems* like it's a lot easier to find porn of all sorts than it is real protection from rape or assault; where there's no apparent current model of feminism that feels relevant; and where "sex positive" has gotten commodified to the point where it seems to mean stuff like CAKE parties and cheering on Paris Hilton as some kind of role model (I'm just guessing with the latter). Meanwhile, the government gets increasingly mroe reactionary, reproductive rights are being rolled back, along with any number of other hard-won, traditionally leftist concerns...so, yeah, I'm not surprised that people would be rediscovering Dworkin. She was a brilliant writer, after all; and she spoke powerfully and compellingly, and must seem so particularly to women who have been abused at the hands of men. Who else is doing that these days?
So my tentative hypothesis is:
It's time for a revival of sex-positive feminism. Last time, perhaps, it was about putting the sex back in feminism. Now maybe the emphasis should be about putting the feminism back in sex.
Of which, the starting principle is, always, for me:
YOUR VOICE MATTERS. Your desires matters, whatever they are. No means no. Yes means yes. Your body belongs to you. Learn to shout! Learn to sing!
So maybe we're at an impasse.
Myself, I came to this position and feeling of anger because I saw what looked like gross misrepresentations of me and mine (sex workers, people who enjoy porn, people who enjoy BDSM); and whenever I tried to explain that my mileage varied, I felt...stonewalled, dismissed, patronized. And insulted, hello. Clearly antiprincess has had a similar experience. There are others of us who feel the same way, I know.
1) What do you (you, v, or anyone else) mean, exactly, when you say "porn?"
2) What is it that you hope to accomplish from an anti-porn/prostitution position? How are you going about it?
That's plenty to start with.
when ive heard your answers ill have a better idea of where our disagreements actually are.
Well, first of all, per definition, Gayle Rubin's "three-part" definition is pretty sound to me. More context here:
but the relevant bit:
GR: I have a three-part definition. One, the legal definition, is that it's sexually explicit material designed to arouse prurient interest. I think that definition, at least for this historical time and place [1980, U.S.], is the most useful one. We should remember that porn is not legal; by this definition material that has no focus but to arouse is not legal. [referring here to obscenity laws, I believe]. In other words, a sexual aim is not considered legitimate in this country [emphasis mine].
But we also need a historical definition; that is, porn as we know now it is widely available, commercial erotica as opposed to the older erotica that was hand produced and was mostly something that rich people collected. In the middle of the last century, mass production of erotic materials started to take place, resulting in the cheap, printed dirty book.
Third, I have a sociological definition: pornography is a particular industry located in certain places, with certain kinds of shops which tend to put out a product with certain conventions. One convention, for example, is that the man's orgasm never happens inside the woman. Pornography has a concrete existence that you can define sociologically...
That's from 1980; but that much, at least, feels relevant today.
I don't know as I would have defined myself as "pro-porn," especially, before I got embroiled in all these dialogues/thrashes. although I clearly wasn't/amn't "anti-porn." My consumption of it is pretty much text based. I also own a few (and have seen many, or as many as can be defined as "many" within this very small subgenre) independently-produced, lesbian-made DVD's; and I subscribe to an independent lesbian-made-for-lesbian website (the main stars are the owners and producers; the other actors are their personal friends, for the most part).
My position as "sex-positive" (for lack of a better term) is rooted in my struggle to claim my sexuality as a queer woman; I grew up feeling invisible, like what I wanted didn't matter. It was finding such authors/educators as Susie Bright and Carol Queen, and the ability to go play and explore at such venues as "play parties," burlesque shows, erotic workshops, and so forth (among other factors) where I felt I really came into my own (it is an ongoing process); where I began to really claim my voice for the first time. I do find it "empowering," yes. Not in the sense that any one particular act or article of clothing is inherently "empowering" (I think that is a common misconception of what is meant by this). In that the very act of listening to my body, my own desires, of learning to state clearly, "This is what I want" (and do not want)--that I find profoundly important and powerful.
And while obviously it is not enough, politically, to claim one's desires in the sexual realm alone, and jeebus knows there's been a terrible rollback of womens' gains in many important areas in the U.S. and elsewhere--reproductive rights, genuine and serious anti-rape and violence efforts, socioeconomic equality (by which I do not just mean "equity feminism;" I mean that there are deep-rooted problems that intersect with, but are not limited to, male-over-female oppression; one more reason why radical feminism qua Dworkin doesn't do it more me)--while all that is true, I do still believe that learning to live in one's body, to truly find one's own voice, is profoundly important. And, too, that learning to do so in the erotic realm *can* have a ripple effect into the other areas of one's life as well. I know that; I've seen it. I've lived it. And I've also learned the opposite: that when you shut down on your erotic self (in my case, internalized homophobia), you don't just reduce the possibility of your having an orgasm, or even (in the case of homophobia) finding a partner you're truly in love with--you end up numbing and shutting down a lot more of yourself as well. You can't cherry-pick, in my experience, when it comes to your emotional life, what you will and will not "allow."
And consensual BDSM, and written and consensually performed visual erotica, I submit, is a safer and better way of channeling and harnessing some of the darker parts of one's erotic self than simply trying to stuff it down or will it away.
So, that's me. Happy to calirfy or elaborate on any of that.
which expanded into a separate post:
That is so fucking sarcastic, dismissive and condescending... and you're wondering why there's no fucking dialogue?? You're saying radfems create a divide?
Sort it out, for fuck's sake.
Ok AntiP - this is for you and for you only, right? I don't want any smartarse putdowns from your mate bd because she pisses me off bigtime with her know it all, fuck you, feminism sucks and women who disagree with me are crap shite. She responds to this in any shape or form and I'm outta here - ok?
Gay is good. Gay is fine. Hetero is good. Hetero is fine. Women hating pornography is bad. The world is currently full of women hating. This is not good. It gets into your head.
You know like how adverts are designed to influence - make you believe in the product? You know how when you go to see a movie and you come out somehow believing that story was real?
Porn is no different. The message of most porn is that the female body is less than human. Most porn objectifies women. It makes us into sexualised body parts that aren't human. No human sensibilities. No person there. Just body parts, existing for the sexual exitement of the viewer. This is endemic in Western culture - endemic to the point that you can't turn on your TV without seeing it nor walk down your street without it being forced into your eyes.
Phallocentric pornography exists to demean women. It's a power thing and it gets inside your head. Even women are encouraged to sexually judge other women by the standards of patriarchy.
Is that right? Is it right that women as a class (that's you, me, my daughter, everywoman) are marketed as 'less than', as 'submissive', as a 'product' to be bought and sold?
Then we have to expurgate those advertised images of ourselves. We have to deny the patrirachial sexual fantasies of 'women' that are incessantly promoted to us.
I agree, it's hard to remove oneself from the mainstream and take women hating out of one's sexual fantasies but, if one cares enough, it's very, very possible to shift from a patriarchial to a humanist view.
And the Christian right have fuck all to do with this. They wouldn't even know what I was talking about! Women have no agency as far as the Christian right are concerned - no more than they do for the pornographers.
Yet some feminists get sucked in by the hate-speech....I wonder why that is...
It makes us into sexualised body parts that aren't human. No human sensibilities. No person there. Just body parts, existing for the sexual exitement of the viewer.
and this, quoted by belledame222:
We should remember that porn is not legal; by this definition material that has no focus but to arouse is not legal. [referring here to obscenity laws, I believe]. In other words, a sexual aim is not considered legitimate in this country [emphasis mine].
I submit that the difference here is in how wrong you think it is to disembody sexual activity from the personhood of the participants.
How 'bout explicitly (het or gay male) erotic material that *does* include actual characterization, tenderness?
Educational videos like those from Betty Dodson and Joseph Kramer?
If asking those questions alone are enough to drive w-w off, well, I'm sorry.
I would like to go on record here as protesting this
"feminism sucks and women who disagree with me are crap"
as putting words in my mouth; a rather severe distortion of my position(s); and, frankly, I suspect, a case of projection.
Well, and there is also this question:
Is it (some peoples') opinion that *any* explicit rendering of sex acts in media is *by definition* denying the personhood of the participants? Regardless of the tone, content, or context?
Because if that's the case, then I do have a hard time seeing how this *isn't* very much rooted in the (patriarchal) notion that (roughly) sex is most sex is inherently degrading and dangerous and you should save it for someone you're monogamously partnered with. And that it's pretty much only men that want the more "perverted" stuff, and that left to their own devices, women aren't or shouldn't be all that interested in sex (at most, maybe, sure, it's nice, but not really necessary). And/or, aren't aggressive or interested in power-over, of themselves, women.
If that's *not* the case, but rather the argument is that while in theory there *could* be sexually explicit media (and maybe even exists now, albeit in vanishingly small percentages) that most porn reinforces already-ubiquitous sexism and other reactionary attitudes (including the notion that women--hell, *people*--that's a longer post--are objects rather than fully human in their own right), then I fully agree.
The question then becomes, what to do about this.
I am fascinated by the notion of "expurgating;" again, this is where I part ways with some people. I don't believe "expurgation" works. I believe in what's called "the return of the repressed," that it really happens. And that what's stuffed down, individually or collectively, comes back up uglier and more dangerous than before, sooner or later.
It's also my understanding that the very notion that one should or can "expurgate" unwanted qualities from oneself (as opposed to becoming conscious of them and transmuting them, as in the psychologically therapeutic process, for instance) is in fact *extremely* "patriarchal, in that it is derived from monotheism and particularly Christianity (the reactionary forms). "If thine eye offend thee pluck it out," you know. From my perspective: hasn't worked in 2000 years. Not when it was being doine from a Christian orthodox perspective, not when it was being done from a Maoist orthodox POV, and not over the last 30 years of radical antiporn and umpteen *millenia's* worth of trying to "expurgate" prostitution. Maybe time to try some other approach.
Instead, my preference would be to create forms of erotic expression that genuinely reflect my (and other womens' and other marginalized folks') desire. Also, a space for meaningful sex work that includes (like all other forms of work, ideally) economic security and adequate health protections and care. Along with other efforts to make the world more into a place I want to live in, which includes efforts to prevent rape and sexual violence, exploitation in general, protecting reproductive rights, and much more, obviously.
yet more speculation on the question:
"What *is* porn, anyway?"
Apparently it's goin' around; dykotomy started talking about this and then happened to wander over to my blog. good reading stuphs, recommended.
>She responds to this in any shape or >form and I'm outta here - ok?
well, you don't need my permission to stay or go. I try to keep the hostility on a short leash (obviously with varying degrees of success), and I guess I can never remind all of us too often to try extra hard to be civil.
Now, lis riba made the remark you found objectionable, not belledame, I feel compelled to point out. Further, I did not find her comment particularly sarcastic - I found it an accurate observation.
a) I felt it was a true statement that Feminist First was unfairly lording her knowledge (and therefore power) over me - so lis riba's statement that she was "nonconsensually topping" me, I thought that was a correct assessment.
b) Also, I feel it is true that most antiporn radical feminists are (or claim to be) against all forms of power games, and therefore the fact that FF seemed to be engaging in one did seem surprising, and cause for remark.
so, although I see where someone might read her comment as sarcastic, I myself did not see the sarcasm. (It might have been utterly dripping with it, but I did not catch it. I suppose lis riba herself would have to weigh in before any real verdict can be reached on that.)
>Phallocentric pornography exists to >demean women.
I am not sure that everything pornographic is phallocentric. if everything pornographic is phallocentric, then "phallocentric pornography" is redundant.
first of all, absence of phallus would then indicate absence of pornography, and we know that porn can be plenty porny without showing a penis anywhere.
Further, I submit that one person's nausea-inducing phallocentric travesty can absolutely be another person's idea of fun, or leave another person feeling completely neutral.
what about lezlez - as distinguished from hetlez - dildo pictures? gay male sex pictures? lots of phalluses, not much demeaning of women.
the famous facial cumshot? again, for some women the very idea is enough to induce the dry heaves. for others, hey - slime is slime, the fact that it's on the face and not the knee or elbow or sole of the foot or edge of the blanket makes no difference at all. for others still, it's just not a satisfying sexual experience unless/until one's face is so beslimed.
but we're not really talking about the activity itself, for me. we're talking about the documentation of the activity and the wider ranging consequences of that documentation.
If one is to condemn the activity itself in all cases, that gets a little too close to contradicting the "nobody cares what you do in your bedroom" dictum.
I get the feeling that people start to care once a picture of what you do in your bedroom escapes the confines of that bedroom and takes on a life of its own, possibly influencing other people in other bedrooms.
I will have to think further on your comments, witchy-woo, and say some more after I've thought more. I don't feel real confident that I've responded to you properly just yet.