EDIT: Since writing this post nearly two years ago, it has come to my attention that SnowdropExplodes is a complete piece of shit. Womanist Musings has the details:"On said blog, a few years ago, he had written a piece, describing an incident in which he assembled a rape kit and stalked a woman, with the intent of raping and murdering her. He did not in fact follow through with his intention. He claimed to have posted this piece in order to encourage other men not to rape and blamed this incident on depression."
SE has never acknowledged that he's the scum of the fucking earth, and so all the quotes from him should be read with the knowledge that this man sees no wrong with plotting to rape and kill women. I apologise for not including this sooner - I saw his name being excoriated in a blog I follow and literally only just found out. I'm now off to bathe in bleach for a month.
This is a response to a response written to my previous post written by SnowdropExplodes, which can be found here. It's a good post, and makes some great points, and I’ll try and keep my response short.
“She starts by quoting Dines and Jensen, which is always going to get on my bad side. I take nothing they say to have any validity. They are despised by the people they claim to want to help (sex workers) and they do not try to engage with the lived realities of those people - or, indeed, the men whom they appear to despise”
This is a criticism of a lot of academic feminists. However, that argument is to do with sex-workers. You can’t deny everything someone has created during the course of their career because you disagree with their views in one part of it. The article I quoted from Dines and Jensen exists to point out the hypocrisy of those on the left who oppose other industries that have harmful side-effects, yet have no problem with pornography, and yes, I find it a bit bloody disingenuous that people who will regulate massive parts of their lives according to their political and moral views, for example, being vegan because they are opposed to the side-effects of the dairy industry, won’t regulate their need to get off in the same way. I’m sidetracking here, but I will return to this point later. To reiterate my original point - criticising Dines and Jensen for failing to engage with the lived realities of sex workers doesn’t mean that anything they write about that involves the interaction between sexual organs is wrong.
”I'll draw out only one thing, which is Natalie Dzerins’ own extraction. She writes:
I also oppose pornography for the body fascism that is endemic to the culture and the way that it seeps over into the mainstream as a ‘norm’.
Except that in the porn I've seen, bodies have tended to be much less conforming to contemporary beauty standards than in womens’ magazines, or lads' mags. In general, the more mainstream the media, the more misogynist it is - hardcore porn, for all its surface problems, arguably has fewer bad messages about women than stuff you can buy in your supermarket.”
I’ve got two problems with this argument: Firstly, it assumes that I am only opposed to the porn industry. Of course I’m not. I’m equally opposed to any industry that fosters gender inequality. Saying that other people engage in the same nasty activities (by which I mean creating problems for women as a whole) doesn’t make it alright. Secondly, there is a seepover whereby what is popular in pornography becomes popular in the mainstream. I’ll concede that in pornography, things like a complete lack of body hair below the eyebrows was, to begin with, a cinematographic device (I understand it’s easier to see the penis/vagina interaction* if there’s none of that pesky natural hair in the way), but now according to mainstream media it is de rigeur for all women. I think that this occurs because softcore porn magazines (like lads’ mags) see this trend occurring in pornographic films, so reflect it in their pictures to make them more ‘edgy’ and more like ‘real porn’, and then this trend is picked up by womens’ mags, who say ‘this is what men like so you should do it’, and thus, another aspect of body fascism is born. It’s not how all body fascism comes about, but it is a cause of some. If there were no trendsetters, there would be no trend.
(*No, I can’t believe I just said that either.)
”The post's co-author Georgie writes:
In a culture of gender inequality it is impossible to make porn which isn't oppressive.
However, I was of the impression that feminist analysis (particularly of a Marxist type such as that described by Ms Dzerins) says that all media suffers the same problems. It isn't porn per se, but media in general.
This sounds like a reason to be opposed to any form of writing, television, movie-making, or whatever!”
As noted above, I am opposed to anything that propagates gender inequality, especially media propagation of such. However, porn is one part of the media. It’s possible to write books and make films that don’t propagate gender inequality, and for them to be popular, but I don’t believe that in this capitalist porn industry you can make porn that doesn’t. I feel I must reiterate that I’m not opposed to people watching other people fucking, and I don’t think that fucking inherently creates gender inequality; I’m opposed to this capitalist porn industry. I wouldn’t have a problem with people creating porn that didn’t oppress women, objectify them or create problems for all women, but the industry we have right now is not going to do it en masse, so I am opposed to the industry.
”She starts with the "choice" canard, as a common challenge to her position. I am not a fan of discussing this, because (as Dzerins points out) choices are not made in a vacuum, and it is also quite possible to say "I support your right to make that choice, but I think it is a poor choice to make" (or, as Dzerins puts it, "I do not oppose the womens’ right to be in the films, I oppose the films themselves.")
The question about choice and sex work, though, should be on choosing how to make the rent. Some people will be happier working in a shitty waitressing job, and others are happier to make their money by spreading their legs (either on camera, or for paying customers - porn or prostitution). Both are equally exploitative of poverty and, according to the socialist feminist position that Dzerins seems to take, it would appear that we should also be opposed to restaurants and diners for their exploitation of women who need to earn the rent.”
Of course I am opposed to restaurants (or any other businesses) that don’t treat their workers fairly. But this misses my point, which is about an industry that encourages the suppression of those who aren’t even part of it.
”I do not look at sex work as being about "empowering". It can be an empowered choice, or it can be a forced choice (see remarks above), but in itself it is not empowering. It is "empaychecking", as Renegade Evolution (porn performer, stripper and all-round sex worker) puts it, and as noted above, that is sometimes very important from the point of view of keeping a roof over one's head and food in the belly, and all those essentials of life. It can also provide the dosh to get nice things. If we are to be opposed to the commercial porn industry, then a lefty person really ought to consider how the men and women who earn their living from it should go about filling those gaps in future. As I wrote several years ago now, mining is a terrible job, but when the Thatcher government tried to close the mines, the miners fought tooth and nail for over a year to keep their jobs, despite how disgusting and dangerous and degrading the work could be. While the money may not be empowering, having it taken away certainly would be disempowering.”
Of course I agree that this should be a consideration. The reason I didn’t address it in the OP is because I was trying to write ‘anti-porn 101’, and it’s hard to get everything in. However, surely one argument against slavery (and I am loathe to make this analogy) is “well, who would pay money to employ the slaves if we free them?”. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t oppose removing this society-created ‘need’, but that we should make a better society to give these people more opportunities. I don’t want to ban the porn industry, I want to create a society where there’s no demand for this porn industry, and such an egalitarian society would have more opportunities, especially for women.
”I struggle with the concept of "female-friendly" porn, because I don't know what that means. There is something very clear that needs to be pointed out here: Dzerins’ position, going from this answer and from her post title, is about the current state of the industry. But many of her arguments are about the concept of pornography. The implication from Dzerins is that "female-friendly" means "non-misogynistic", but I think that usually it means "intended to appeal to women's sexual fantasies". The problem with the latter position is that plenty of women I know happen to like the fantasies portrayed in other porn, and find "female-friendly" porn to be boring. Other women don't like either, and other women like both, and some like the "female-friendly" stuff.”
I did mean ‘porn intended to appeal to womens’ sexual fantasies’. I find it trite fluff, intended to allay an entire industry built on oppression by one token gesture. I want to make it clear that these parts were my responses to arguments I see all the time, not things I’d necessarily bring up myself. Personally, I think that the equalising effects of ‘female-friendly’ porn are so inconsequential as to be removed from the debate entirely. It’s worth pointing out that the industry classification of this kind of porn as ‘female-friendly’ belies the fact that it views its other output as ‘female-unfriendly’.
“What if the women like being submissive during sex?
I have no problem with women enjoying submission during consensual sexual encounters which take place with the knowledge that the submission only belongs in the bedroom.
Well, gee, how magnanimous of you! D/s and M/s relationships do not always have scene-delineated premises. Sometimes the consensual power-exchange operates throughout the whole relationship. I suppose I could be generous and assume Dzerins means "the submission only belongs between her and her partner", and BDSMers (especially subs) usually know very strongly the distinction between "I submit to you" and "I submit to no one else".
But here's the question that you haven't answered: how that relates to men and women's desire for BDSM porn (which is different from rough sex porn and so on, but might fall into the category "depicts violence against women" if you're not on the same page regarding BDSM). Is your case that the moment a couple video themselves and share that video, that they are suddenly corrupting and destroying women's rights everywhere?”
“I'm sorry, but actually I do need to see images of humiliation, "violence" and (in some people's interpretation) objectification and degradation, because that is my kink. I am a sadist and a Dominant, and wishing my sexuality away won't make it change (Lord knows, I tried, and suffered because of trying - like trying not to be gay, I guess). To me, vanilla sex is not sex. If it hadn't been for sex education at school I might never have figured it out - sex to me involves pain and domination and bondage and stuff. The gender of my partner is secondary (although I go mostly for women, male subs interest me as well).”
I’ll admit I worded that one wrong. FWIW, I sub. I haven’t got a problem with people doing what gets them off, I really don’t. I have a problem with the industry that commodifies these kinks. What I was trying to say when I said ‘only belongs in the bedroom’ was there’s a difference between normalised and systemic abuse of women, whereby all women are targets for bad treatment (whether by violence or lack of opportunities etc.), and an understanding between two or more people that this will be done for the purposes of sexual gratification when I said ‘only belongs in the bedroom’. Even in the most extreme D/S relationship, the S can always back out of the agreement. Women can’t back out of inequal societal arrangements.
If a couple are into BDSM, that’s great. If they upload a video of themselves for their own gratification and the gratification of others, great. However, BDSM should be seen for what it is, which is a kink. The porn industry normalises small parts of it like they should be ritual in everyone’s sex life, and these are the parts that oppress women in the wider world, and that’s the problem.
”How do you distinguish in using peer pressure to make porn unacceptable, between "porn is not okay, but sex is"? Unfortunately, the same pressures that could be used to attack porn used in this way, would also work very strongly to attack women, because they would serve to make "slut" an even stronger assault. To make being openly interested in sexual material into a source of shame, one cannot avoid generating a sense of shame about interest in sex. And who already receives the most attack for being interested in sex? Women. That's why "slut" is such a nasty word in most usage. If the rest of the world weren't so sexist, this plan might work, but unfortunately, it is. And that's how come porn tends to be sexist too. Just to be clear - I think peer pressure against sexist attitudes should be used; but I think that peer pressure against porn would be a bad move.”I think there should be a distinction drawn between making being interested in sexual material shameful, and making being interested in the use of an industry that is so harmful to women shameful. Obviously, for the reasons stated, it is the latter we propose, and as a sex-positive feminist, I see no shame in a person being interested in sexual material that is made in a positive and unharmful way. Saying that ‘the world is sexist so we should ignore this problem’ isn’t solving anything, it’s just continuing the same line of oppression that’s been going on for centuries. We should be fighting to change society, not just shrug our shoulders and say “well, that’s just how it is”.
EDIT: I just want to say that I know these posts have been very hetero- and cis-normative. I don't want to alienate anyone from the debate, but since the majority of industry output (and the stuff I have a real problem with) is hetero- and cis-normative, that's what I've trained my focus on.