Posts tagged porn

Porn teaches men they are gods. Pop culture teaches men that the epitome of success is to be surrounded by naked women, fawning over you. Prostitution exists because we, as a culture, very much believe that women exist to pleasure men. We tell women that they have to “work” in marriage, to keep their men happy, to keep them from straying — buy sexy lingerie, try threesomes, try anal, perform every porn fantasy he has — he needs it, he deserves it, it is your job.

We can continue to skirt around these truths — that the sex industry and our patriarchal culture breed men like Rodger — but expect more violence, more deaths, more rape, and more abuse. Our world is rife with Elliot Rodgers. We create them every day. They aren’t going anywhere.

It’s the Belle Knox brand of feminism. It says that if an individual woman consents to — or even enjoys — performing in pornography, it must be ok. It says that if an individual woman likes pornography, it must be ok. And not just ok, but potentially empowering. I have no idea why we would assume that only men’s sexualities can be shaped by porn or why, simply because a woman’s fantasies have been shaped by porn that means those fantasies and that pornography is necessarily feminist. I don’t give a shit how many people like porn. I don’t give a shit if you say you like performing in porn (most women don’t, for the record, but there are exceptions to every rule that you’re sure to find if you look). That changes absolutely nothing about what porn is and how it impacts our lives and society as a whole.

1) There are no more excuses. It is not ok to work with this man. The entire fashion industry is enabling him. His assistant appears to be enabling him. Celebrities are enabling him‬. Everyone who pays for his photographs are enabling him. Harper’s Bazaar, GQ, Rolling Stone, Vogue — this is on you, too.

2) This is porn culture. You hear me? What Richardson is doing is mainstreaming porn. You cannot separate his behaviour from his work. They are one in the same. The work he produces is pornographic. I want everyone — especially so-called feminists — to stop trying to draw lines between the exploitation and degradation of women, pornography, the way women are treated and viewed and how women feel they must behave in this culture. It is ok to say that something is not ok. Just because it’s “sex” doesn’t mean anything goes. This perception of “sex-positivity,” this “No judging! No shaming!” shit that is ever-popular in online feminism and was enabled by the third wave has made space for the culture we are in now and made room for Terry Richardson. And while yes, Terry Richardson is responsible for Terry Richardson, and patriarchy is also responsible for Terry Richardson, the condonation of pornography and the pushing of the idea that women should be cool with objectification (and not just “cool with,” but “empowered by”) is also responsible.

There is such a thing as porn culture and we’re looking at it. There is no separating “fantasy” from “reality.” We can see the ways in which they bleed together. What Terry Richardson is doing he is doing because of power, but he’s also doing it because we live in a culture raised on and saturated in pornography. This is what we learn is sexy — what Richardson is doing is a porn fantasy. He is making porn and he is doing porn to women.

Decades ago, Andrea Dworkin said: “Pornography happens to women.” Get it? Open your eyes.

Is it not ok to work with Richardson now but it never was. And all you feminists out there calling him out for being a sexual predator are great and all, but it’s time to start making some fucking connections.

“A magazine for everybody” is a magazine for men 

“Female friendly” “Porn for women” “Woman-made porn” We’ve heard it all before and here it is again in Adult, a magazine “of contemporary erotics and experience.”

Women have been so indoctrinated by the idea that male sexuality = human sexuality that we can only understand “sexy” though the eyes of men.

Photo via The Cut/nymag.com

Adult tries to disguise it’s overt glorification of the male gaze by claiming it is “by women” and “for everyone” but the lazy sexism is impossible to miss.

“I want a magazine that is for everybody but feels like it was made by a woman,” says founding editor Sarah Nicole Prickett (of selfies-are-empowering infamy).

“Who is ‘everybody?’” you might ask. Even Prickett admits that a porn magazine by, and supposedly for, women is no different than any other: “all of the people in the magazine — the subjects in the photo editorials are women.” I haven’t gotten the impression the magazine is being marketed as “lesbian erotica” so what Adult seems to be doing is to sell objectified women to heterosexual men and women.

Something new, my ass.

I wouldn’t dare advocate for “equal objectification” — I fail to see how objectifying men will stop us from objectifying women — but to claim the male gaze as our own is foolish, never mind unoriginal.

If all we can come up with, as women, is the same old thing, it should tell us something about the pervasiveness of the notion of “male as human — all others are other.”

Prickett passively defends the choice to allow “everyone” to borrow powerful voyeuristic gaze commonly reserved for men with the same argument the faux-feminist, “good men” do: “We’ve all sort of internalized this idea that the female body is just intrinsically more attractive.” It’s like when men go to the strip club and claim it’s because they love women so much: “They’re just so much more beautiful than men.”

That’s not beauty, that’s objectification. It’s not that the female body is “more attractive,” it’s that we see the female body as something that exists for public consumption. Which is all this new (yet old — retro sexism, anyone?) magazineseems to do: perpetuate the notion that women are things to-be-looked at. Sexism isn’t just for men anymore — now women are “free” to join in on the “fun.” Empowerment™.

“When there was a man in the photo, it didn’t totally work,” Prickett claims. Well no. Of course it “didn’t work.” We’re used to looking at women in this way, it makes us feel comfortable. To objectify a man would be to remove his power. That’s why it feels uncomfortable to us. We are accustomed to women portrayed as powerless. Indeed, to try something new, to challenge that easy-to-digest notion of woman as “thing” is difficult. Easy is easy. Obvious is easy.

How Adult is different than just Hustler for hipsters or Playboy for Terry Richardson devotees, I don’t know. Prickett says the publication is “literary” as well, something she claims to value: “If I’m in too much of a literary milieu, I’ll totally freak out about how unsexy everyone is. But if I go to a fashion party, I’m like, ‘Can anyone here read?’” (you’ll find Prickett quoting herself extensively on her Tumblr page, enamoured); but as we all know, everyone reads Playboy for the articles. Black is the new black. Porn is the new porn. Women are the new men.

“So we have some boring soft-core hipster porn mag,” you might say. “Big whoop.” But this particular endeavour is offensive in a way that goes beyond plain old objectification.

The “for women” argument as stand-in for progress is trite, but it fools people. Meaningless words are thrown around to create a fog that vaguely resembles intellectualism to those who don’t know (or don’t care to know) any better.

“…it returns to the first meaning of “radical”–the roots of things, traced below the skin…” the descriptor on Amazon states ambiguously. Smoke and mirrors seem to be Prickett’s calling card — “fake it till you make it,” her motto.

To co-opt radicalism in order to market porn would be ballsy if it weren’t clear that the meaning of the word was lost on the author. The irony of attaching “radical” to “below the skin” in order to sell a skin mag is comical, at least.

That Prickett comes from “a seemingly sheltered background,” as The Daily Beast describes it, is less “ironic” than obvious. She’s still behaving like a rebellious teenager, relating to them in a way that seems envious: “I’ve written essays defending sexting and the selfie. I’m very on-side with teenage girls and almost anything they do on the internet.” If only we could reclaim that self-exploitative childhood we missed out on, as adults… Maybe it’s not too late.

Pornifying women may feel rebellious when we’ve come from a restrictive background. And calling it “porn for women” is sure to draw attention — as we’ve seen, the magazine has received extensive coverage across the U.S., but as philosopher Drake tells us: “Seek respect, not attention. It lasts longer.”

Liberals want more lies in ‘Lovelace’ 

Lovelace was hard to watch. It was hard to be reminded that there was a time when women couldn’t legally testify against their husbands. It was hard to watch a woman trying to escape from an abusive man, but have nowhere to go. It was hard to watch yet another woman’s trust and love for a man be repaid with hatred and violence. But it felt refreshing to see Hollywood deal with the sex industry in a way that didn’t make light of, glorify, or sexualize women’s experiences in it. wrote: “cinematic justice has never been so bittersweet.”

Deep Throat holds a significant place in pop culture, pinpointing the beginnings of porn culture. It was seen as fun, sexy entertainment then and is seen more as kitsch today — continuing to be, more often, the butt of a joke rather than a reminder of the brutal reality that is misogyny.

Today the project of mainstreaming pornography that began back in the 70s is complete. Hipster culture loves vintage porn. We’ve brought it back via burlesque and pin-ups, as well as in fashion photography. Our larger cultural attitude towards porn is that it’s an ordinary part of life. Objectification is something fun we do at parties, porn is decorative — something we put up on walls or play in the background at parties. It’s something that brave, open-minded, sexually liberal women do. Feminism had something going there for a while in a solid critique of pornography during the 80s (galvanized, in part, by the publication of Linda’s memoir, Ordeal). But we lost the plot on that one, handing porn over to liberals, capitalists, and pop culture.

Feminism has come a long way and so has porn culture. No longer relegated to dark theatres, no longer a subculture or something that’s purely masturbatory — it’s a look.

We’ve all seen enough American Apparel ads to know that grainy, soft core porn style that’s supposed to remind us of the good old days before breast implants and hairless crotches, as though it’s more ethical to objectify women with real breasts. We don’t see it as sexism, we see it as a throwback. Or art. Or irony. Or something.

Don't Google "Terry Richardson porn." I did and it was disgusting. Just trust me on this one.

But hair or no hair, real or fake breasts, the only thing that’s really changed since the 70s, when Deep Throat came out, is that porn has successfully woven it’s way into our everyday lives. It’s our fashion, our entertainment, our celebrity culture, it’s in the bars and at the parties we go to. That the foundation for our current reality was built, in part, on the abuse and exploitation of this one woman, Linda Lovelace, is not insignificant.

Gang rape is in this year.

Linda Lovelace was called the poster girl for the sexual revolution, if that tells you anything about the sexual revolution… Women really got screwed on that one (pun acknowledged). Informed of our liberation, we became free to become the public, rather than just private, sexual playthings of men. What was different now that we were “liberated” was that we had to like it. We had to be turned on by our own objectification and enjoy whatever male culture deemed sexy. Our own “liberation” was used against us, to shame us into subordination — albeit with smiles on our faces, moaning and groaning in feigned ecstasy.

Most media outlets covered the film with an appropriate level disgust for and critique of the reality of Deep Throat, the popularization of which turned out to be, essentially, a celebration of abuse and exploitation. “This is the Linda that the world didn’t see and who, even as her body became a public spectacle, nursed her wounds in private,” reads a review in The New York Times. How often do male fantasies come at the expense of women’s lives?

In The Week, Monika Bartyzel argues that Lovelace failed to capture the extent of the abuse inflicted on Linda, saying that the directors “frame Chuck and Linda as some pair of doomed, star-crossed lovers by ending on the note that Chuck died exactly three months after Linda on July 22, 2002.” Bartyzel points out that Chuck began abusing Linda and prostituting her even before they were married, though the film shows the abuse beginning on their wedding night when he rapes her. As grim and as upsetting as it was to watch the film, the reality was actually much worse.

Stoltenberg points this out as well, saying:

The movie makers left out the worst of what was done to Linda, which was abominable and included forced bestiality. Had they not, I have no doubt, Lovelace would have been not only unreleasable but unwatchable.

Even the most tepid version of reality is almost unbearable.

Gloria Steinem, who befriended and supported Linda when she came out about the abuse and wrote the article, “The Real Linda Lovelace,” for Ms. Magazine in 1980, said something similar after attending a screening of the film — that Linda’s life with Traynor and in porn was much more violent than Lovelace let on.

Yet liberals and even some feminists are unsatisfied with that truth. Desperately clinging to the “empowerment” narrative sold to them first by the porn-makers themselves, back in the 70s, and again by third wave feminism today, they continue the victim-blaming that began so many decades ago, questioning Linda’s credibility and asking why she returned to the industry years later. (Newsflash: she needed the money.) They say, over and over again, that Linda eventually rejected the anti-porn movement years later, as though that somehow compares to or negates the abuse and exploitation she experienced in the industry.

In a rather convoluted review at Art Forum, writer Sarah Nicole Prickett accuses the film of painting Linda as a victim (well, I’m afraid she was), calling it “pro-family, anti-porn-industry propaganda.” Angry at the lack of nuance and the perpetuation of simplistic tropes, Prickett sees the film as, “at surface, a morality play” which falls back on the “happy hooker/sad hooker dualism.”

Prickett’s main source of frustration seems to be that the filmmakers painted Linda as a “good girl.”

In 1972, Linda found millions of Americans willing to think any woman would believe that her clitoris was in her throat, and in 1980 she entered a world ready to accept that a woman regretted, without complexity, every sex act she’d ever committed. But this year—what gives? Must a heroine still be proven innocent?

A piece in The Atlantic reminds us that things are oh so different in today’s porn industry — full of fairy dust and ponies. Whatever you do, make Linda’s story the exception, not the rule, the writer warns us.

Somehow, no matter how many tales of abuse and exploitation we hear, no matter what we actually see in the world around us, we are loathe to point the finger at the perpetrator.

The liberals are angry, no doubt. But not at the gang rapes or the beatings inflicted. Rather they’re mad that Linda wasn’t the “sexual revolutionary” society wanted her to be. Mad that she wasn’t the “happy hooker” or the “carefree if drug-addicted superfreak” that would be so much more palatable (and more titillating) on screen.

We’ve learned to look for nuance at the expense of truth. Grey areas and character flaws don’t alter reality to the point where we can’t say that which is glaringly obvious. We remain so uncomfortable with the victimization of women that we look away — pointing towards Andrea Dworkin and vilifying Catharine MacKinnon, women who supported Linda and fought tirelessly against male violence. Whether or not Linda remained a staunch anti-porn campaigner for life doesn’t change her history in porn and her experiences at the hands of abusive men in her life.

Feminism is an easier target, to be sure. And perhaps if you silence the voices pointing out oppression, it will cease to be a reality for you. Of course the privilege of ignorance will never save those who bear the brunt of our collective fantasy.

Interview: Meghan Murphy on the sex industry, individualism, online feminism, and the third wave 

This interview was done for and posted (in French) on Isabelle Alonso’s website. Isabelle is a French TV personality and ex-president of the “Chiennes de garde”, a well-known feminist group in France. The interview was conducted and translated by Sporenda.

1)  The blog, Feminist Current, that you launched last year, is attracting quite a bit of attention. It won “Best Feminism Blog” in Canada and has quite a few followers. Do you explain this success only by the quality of your writing or by a increased  interest in feminism?

M: Well, I can’t say for sure. I get the feeling, based on the climate in feminism these days and from connecting with other feminists online, from around the world, that there is a lot of frustration towards and disappointment in the way feminism is represented by more mainstream or maybe third wave sources. The analysis is often quite superficial and it’s become acceptable to advance this sort of derisive attitude towards both radical feminism and the second wave. The smearing of the second wave and of radical feminism, more often than not, is unfounded and comes from those unfamiliar with the theory and the history of the movement. There’s a real lack of critical thinking and an unwillingness to make larger connections around things like the mainstreaming of porn and the sex industry to women’s status in the world and violence against women.

There’s also a kind of bullying (I realize that’s an overused term these days, so perhaps it might not feel like the ideal descriptor to some, but it sure does feel like bullying to me…) that goes on and has become acceptable online, in particular. You have to really toe the party line or risk getting blackballed. It discourages honest conversations and critical thinking. There are these trigger words (often various words attached to “phobia” or “shaming”– “whorephobia,” or “kink-shaming,” for example) that are thrown around and, once uttered, the conversation is done and people are accused of being some kind of “phobic” regardless of what’s actually being argued. Critique is repositioned as “judgement.” People seem to conflate critiques of larger systems of power with critiques of individuals and individual choices. You know, to be critical of the sex industry isn’t to be critical of prostitutes — it’s to be critical of male culture and inequality and oppression. It’s a real problem as well as an excellent way to squash critical thinking and scare people into accepting certain movement mantras and language without thinking or questioning it. It’s a bit cult-like.

So I think when I started writing about feminism online (rather naively, I must admit) back in 2010 and was critical of things that you’re not allowed to be critical of in mainstream feminism — things like burlesque, porn, stripping, prostitution, etc. — maybe people felt a little relieved? That isn’t to say that I’m the only one writing about this stuff, but I know that feeling of relief that comes when you’ve been uncomfortable or unsure about something but you aren’t sure why, and everyone else seems to be ok with it so maybe you should be ok with it too, and then you read something where someone really articulates exactly what was bothering you and it’s like, THANK GOD. You know, there are so few feminists blogging about the Nordic model, for example (in a positive way, anyway). When I learned about it, first from Trisha Baptie, and then from other feminist organizations and Aboriginal women’s groups, and I was like, yeah this is so obvious — this makes sense. But people have been taught the politically correct stance is legalization. Abolition isn’t fashionable.

There’s an incredible backlash when you are critical of the sex industry. It’s not the popular position to take these days — we’ve been so indoctrinated with this idea that if you’re critical of the sex industry, you’re critical of sex (when in reality it’s the opposite) so it’s not an easy thing to advocate for in public. You will really get shit on. So that probably discourages a lot of feminists from supporting that model and abolition in general, publicly. The more of us come out and say this stuff publicly, though, the more other women will feel free and encouraged to explore these ideas without fear of attack and being shut down. They’ll feel like, oh, ok, maybe I don’t have to like porn in order to pretend to be sexually liberated – maybe my discomfort with prostitution is justified – maybe I’m not crazy. So I think that’s why Feminist Current is growing in popularity. I think maybe it’s just a relief to see this kind of discourse happening publicly and see that other women and men want to get on side.

2) From what one reads, Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs) are big in Canada. Some of them visit your site to attack your posts and try to advance their position – that men are the real victims and are being victimized by modern women and feminists.

Why is it, in your opinion, that there are so many MRAs in Canada? What do you get about these men based on what they post on your site?

M: Oh gosh, I have no idea why Men’s Rights Movement and MRAs are so big in Canada! I think it’s partly that they’ve found a place in AVFM and CAFE, for example. So the existence of those groups, who are putting forth these ridiculously warped and anti-feminist ideas and manipulated statistics, likely reinforce the idea that it’s acceptable for men to go public about their hatred towards and fear of feminists and the feminist movement.

The MRAs who comment on my site (or try to comment on my site) are mostly just kind of confused. They don’t understand what feminism is or what the feminist movement is about. They say the same things over and over again — they think feminism is about advocating for a matriarchy or that it’s all about women having power over men. They really don’t get the idea of patriarchy and the fact that it’s systemic — that it isn’t about individuals. Their arguments are always about how “Men are victims too!” or that men are the real victims in this world, not women. And it’s like, yeah, of course. Of course lots of individual men experience violence and suffer throughout their lives. And, yes, some men are oppressed on a systemic level too, via race and class. But the idea behind feminism is not that everything is rad for all individual men – it’s that women experience oppression on a systemic basis as a result of being born into and socialized based on their assigned social class of “woman.” Because in our society there are two social categories when it comes to gender – men and women – and based on the fact that we’ve decided, as a culture, that women are “feminine” and men are “masculine” and that masculinity equals power, dominance, strength, etc. whereas femininity equals submission, weakness, passivity, etc. So sure, an individual woman might have a specific kind of circumstantial power over an individual man — for example, if she is white and part of the upper class – but that doesn’t change the fact that, in our world, women as a class are subordinate to men as a group and, as a result, are prostituted, abused, murdered, raped, objectified, harassed etc. specifically because they are women and in a way that’s gendered.

MRAs pretend feminists think that being a man is consistently this amazing, perfect thing, but the fact is that patriarchy isn’t necessarily “good” for men either. Masculinity is shitty. It means you’re taught to be violent and aggressive and that you can’t have feelings, that you can’t ever be vulnerable or weak. I feel so sad for men who never learn it’s ok to have and talk about their emotions and be vulnerable. It’s awful.

This is also why things like homophobia happen — you know, because gay men aren’t properly performing masculinity. Part of the thing about masculinity is that you fuck women. If you don’t do that, you’re messing with the whole system. Women are the fuckable ones — Men are the fuckers, women are the fuckees, as it were. So when men are having sex with other men or women are having sex with other women, it challenges that system and that’s one of the reasons some people hate or fear gay people.

Fitting in to these two categories is hard. It’s not natural. We shouldn’t have to be either feminine or masculine. To fit in takes work. It’s bad for everyone. I mean, it’s worse for women in many ways, but really, it’s not easy for anyone.

3) You have underlined that, for women and feminists bloggers, posting their views on the internet can be kind of a double-edged sword, as it’s also the place where extreme misogyny is being expressed, not just through huge amounts of pornography but also through vicious attacks, harassment and threats.

Have you experienced this “free for all” on women? What does it say about men’s feelings toward women and feminists?

M: Well, yes, I experience a lot of vitriol online. Especially because of the things I write about the sex industry, as I mentioned earlier. And it doesn’t just come from men. In fact, I think women sometimes feel freer to attack me in really vicious and hateful ways – even sexist ways (you know, calling me “bitch,” “cunt,” etc.) because they’re women and so it’s ok, somehow? I mean, I get attacked by men too, all the time, but some of the worst has come from other women.

I think maybe this happens because they don’t want to name the perpetrator… It’s often women who aren’t ready or willing to acknowledge that men are the ones out there who are perpetrating violence against not only women, but also against trans folks and, actually, against other men too.

Instead they target me. I’m an easy target. You know, I’m out there, as public person, I’m not protected by an institution, I don’t work for anyone, really, I work for myself. And they know that when they start a pile on, others will be eager to join in. It’s funny, in a way. I mean I’m not exactly raking in tons of cash blogging about feminism. It’s not as though I’m the one committing violence against women, but maybe it’s easier to focus on me than it is to focus on those with real power in this world. Maybe the reality is too hard for people to face. It’s a harder problem to address – widespread violence against women and misogyny. So they tweet nasty things at me instead. I don’t know. You’d think they could come up with something more productive to do.

People want very much to believe that things are ok. That’s why there’s such a concerted effort to pretend as though sexism can be empowering. It’s easier. You don’t have to change anything or confront any of the difficult truths about what’s behind the sex industry and how deeply misogynist it is. You don’t have to acknowledge that, you know, there are probably a lot of men in your life who’ve bought sex and who watch porn and probably your boyfriend goes to strip clubs and tells you that you’re supposed to be ok with it because “all guys do it” and “you’re just jealous” or whatever other b.s. we’re fed with regard to accepting sexist behavior from the men in our lives – so we feel like we have no other choice.

We love our boyfriends and they watch porn. What do you do? Especially when your boyfriend and the world at large keeps telling you that all men do this and it’s normal and that you should be ok with it. Fuck that. First of all, all men don’t watch porn. Maybe most do, but not all of them. Secondly, in no way do you have to be ok with it. We’re told we have no other option. No alternatives. So instead we try to cope. Things like “sex-positive feminism” are coping mechanisms — so, you can pretend you’re empowered as an individual, that women in prostitution just love fucking strangers all day, that you’re objectifying yourself, rather than being objectified. If we can trick ourselves into believing the sex industry empowers us then maybe it will become true! We’re desperately trying to make “good” that which is not “good”. We’re grasping for power anywhere we can.

I think that’s much of what this burlesque-is-empowering-for-women thing is about, for example. You know, it can feel good to get that kind of positive attention. I get that. I’ve been there. Everyone likes to feel desired. But the folks who are doing burlesque and calling it “feminist” or “empowering” aren’t honest about that. They aren’t honest about what’s motivating them to strip onstage for an audience. They want to pretend that it’s some kind of nouveau-feminism when of course, it’s just the same old thing. We’re used to seeing women as pretty objects to be looked at. Getting strangers to watch women strip isn’t anything new… Women get positive reinforcement for shaking their tits on stage and men are stoked that this is (supposedly) feminism! It’s empowering, they’ve been told. So it’s cool, right? I mean, no wonder people are into it. It’s no mystery.

Maybe we’ve become so hopeless about the feminist movement, because there’s still so far to go, that many women have just given up and are, like, ok, let’s just make the best of this. So we end up with “feminist porn”, burlesque, prostitution as “empowerment”. It’s about giving up on something more, something better — real power that isn’t temporary and that isn’t based on our ability to get men to pay in order to objectify us or to get positive reinforcement because we’re shaking our tits around on stage. It’s really sad, actually.

4) One of your most commented on  posts underlined that, based on a recent study done in Sweden, the Nordic model  not only reduced prostitution (by 85%) but seems to have reduced violence against prostitutes as well (48% less rapes, 38% less physical assaults according to the prostituted women who were polled). 

This goes against the prediction made by the pro-prostitution advocate –: that the penalization of johns would increase violence against prostituted women.

Not only did the media fail to relay the results of this study but a “sex worker union,” — Prosentre — even used it to assert that the Nordic model did not work, since prostitutes were verbally insulted more often now (because the johns didn’t dare physically assault them). What do you think of this silencing and twisting of facts by the media and pro-prostitution groups?

M: There is a vested interest in maintaining and promoting the sex industry as “ok” or as simply another form of work. Mostly this happens (obviously) because the sex industry is highly profitable. We live in a capitalist system, which means that anything that is profitable is defended vehemently, at the expense of human lives and of the planet, as we see via the push for pipelines in Canada. I mean, we all know full well that pipelines will inevitably be an environmental disaster, yet these projects move forward despite known consequences. Capitalism is a very powerful system. If it weren’t for capitalism, the sex industry wouldn’t exist. At least not in the same form as it does today and to the extent that it does.

“Sex worker unions” have been shown, thanks to journalists like Julie Bindel, to be little more than lobby groups for the industry. They aren’t about protecting the human rights of women, they’re about promoting the sex industry as being like any other “safe” industry – “a job like any other,” they say. But in the end it’s about profit (at the expense of women) and, of course, male pleasure.

Places like New Zealand are often used as examples by sex work advocates of how legalizing prostitution “works” – but all that’s changed in countries where they’ve legalized or completely decriminalized prostitution is that there’s more prostitution (and more trafficking). Women in the industry are still raped, abused, and murdered. Prostitutes still go missing. What it does is to create a two-tiered system, where a few very privileged women “get” to work indoors in legal brothels (which we are told is safer, despite the fact that women are abused and raped and murdered indoors as well), and everyone else – women of colour, women with mental health and addiction issues, illegal immigrants, trafficked women, etc., still work in an illegal market, most of which continues to be run by organized crime. The danger is still there and it’s still there because of male demand. The only real way to stop violence against prostituted women and to stop the exploitation is to criminalize the men who are doing the harm. Demand is what keeps the industry going, so curbing demand is the most obvious way to stop the exploitation.

The industry finds a few spokespeople – women who will say: “Oh this is great!  Everything is fine!” and then those women are touted as representative of all prostituted women. It’s quite disgusting, actually. Because those people know full well that most of the women in the industry aren’t happy and want out. They know full well that the silent women, the women who don’t get to speak their truth and to be public about their lives and experiences, are trapped in the industry – in massage parlours, trapped by poverty, addiction, abusive boyfriends/pimps, etc. To want to keep your job, I get, but I don’t get throwing all these women under the bus in the process.

5) Advocates of prostitution and porn call these Nordic reforms “anti-sex” and “moralistic” but it’s interesting to note that these laws are passed in countries (Sweden, Norway, Iceland) that are known to have the most open, relaxed  and non repressive attitude about sex. Your comments on that?

M: Yeah that’s a funny one. I mean, if we’re talking about free sexuality and a real liberated vision of sex and sexuality, you’d think you’d be advocating for consensual sex. But prostitution isn’t about female desire or “enthusiastic consent”, which is supposedly what we’re touting in feminism these days. I mean, sure, sometimes a woman “consents” to letting a man have sex with her or agrees to perform other sex acts, in exchange for money, but she isn’t “consenting” because, you know, she’s really into this guy and really wants to sleep with him. If she did, she wouldn’t have to be paid to do it. That whole argument – the one that says that feminists who are critical of the sex industry are anti-sex, shows a real anti-intellectualism and lack of critical thinking.

I mean, as you say, the countries that have criminalized johns, banned strip clubs, and are considering banning pornography are the countries that are the most progressive and the most sexually liberated. The US isn’t a sexually liberated country. It’s completely saturated and obsessed with pornography while simultaneously having this huge faction of right-wing, religious groups who think sex should only happen in traditional, heterosexual, marriages for the purposes of procreation (which is, of course, about controlling women’s bodies and maintaining a patriarchal family structure). I find the whole idea that women who advocate for porn and prostitution are “pro-sex,” whereas feminists who advocate against objectification and exploitation and are positioned as “anti-sex,” kind of hilarious and, in many ways, embarrassing. I just picture the next generation of feminists looking back at the third wave with shame. I mean, all these ridiculous women parading around in stilettos and pasties, on stage, pretending they are advancing women’s rights. What a joke. That whole burlesque/sex work is empowering/feminist porn aspect of the third wave is making a mockery of the movement.

6) The proposal to ban hardcore pornography online in Iceland was discussed on Feminist Current. Do you think it’s justified to attack the principle of free speech and promote censorship to advance the feminist agenda? Do you believe pornography qualifies as free speech?

M: The whole “censorship” argument in defense of pornography is illogical. I mean, as a society, we aren’t against censorship. We “censor” child pornography, for example, and are perfectly ok with that form of “censorship.” I don’t understand why suddenly, just because a woman turns 18, it’s ok to objectify or degrade her. The concept of “consent” and the way that the feminist movement has reinforced consent as a crucial part of sex (whereas, in the past, of course, it was acceptable to rape one’s wife – meaning that “consent” didn’t always matter so much to men when it came to sex) isn’t to be scoffed at, but at the same time, it’s really oversimplified the conversation around sex and sexuality in an unhelpful way.

I called it “the tyranny of consent” in a recent post that discussed the way that “consent” is often used to limit the parameters of conversations around sex and force us to accept anything anyone agrees to, regardless of the circumstances under which they agreed. It removes context from the conversation. I mean, it’s not as though, simply because a woman signs a contract or verbally agrees to perform certain sex acts, that’s unequivocally “ok” or necessarily ethical. And, again, what’s the difference between a 17 year old woman and an 18 year old woman? A 17 year old can’t give consent ethically and an 18 year old can? What about a woman who’s been raped and abused and exploited her whole life, since she was a child – suddenly when she turns 18 her, now her life of abuse is erased and she’s simply a consenting adult and therefore her prostitution is A-ok? It makes no sense. People use consent in order to comfort themselves and in order to turn these issues – pornography, prostitution, coercion, inequality, power dynamics, objectification, etc. — into something that’s black and white – as though it’s as simple as consent vs. non-consent. But it isn’t that simple.

Regarding the “free speech” and pornography issue — please. Pornography doesn’t expand the conversation, it limits it. When do we ever talk about corporations and multi-billion dollar industries as being champions of or representative of “free speech” except when it comes to pornography? What a joke. Pornography is about sexualizing the oppression of women. Is oppression “free speech?” Of course not. If we were talking about actually liberalizing nudity and sex and if we were seeing real, feminist depictions of bodies and female sexuality on screen, of course we could talk about freedom of expression. But we aren’t. We’re talking about porn. And porn is regressive when it comes to expanding our understanding of, and the conversation around, women’s bodies and sexuality. It teaches society that women are things that exist for male pleasure – to be looked at and to be fucked. Let’s see some fucking feminist erotica. Let’s see depictions of female sexuality and women’s bodies, on screen, that aren’t objectified and sexualized for the male gaze and then we can have a conversation about “free speech.” But please. Pornography is just about men’s right to hate and profit off of women. Free speech my ass. Men are fully capable of masturbating without objectifying or exploiting women. And if they claim not to be, well, that’s a terrible insult to them.

7) The topic of “grey rape” was discussed on Feminist Current. You told a personal anecdote where a guy who took you back home and with whom you’d had no intention of having sex, finally got you in bed by insisting relentlessly and just wearing you down.

And this guy and his friends were indignant that you deemed his behavior “rapey”–  to them, this was normal behavior for a man, certainly not unethical; you were the unethical one by calling it “rapey”.

What do you make of his reaction, and of yours, and more generally, why is it so hard for women to just say a straight no to such men and  stick to it?

M: Well actually most of his friends, our mutual friends, that is, agreed that his behaviour was at least sleazy and gross, if not “rapey.” He was indignant because he was concerned about his reputation and because he refused to see his behaviour as problematic or be accountable for it. A relative of his, who I dated years later, accused me of somehow vilifying the “rapey” dude (which I really hadn’t – I’d merely shared my experience with a few friends) probably, in part, because he’d never heard my side of the story and, I imagine, because he also didn’t want to acknowledge that someone he was related to, someone he was close with, could be anything but a “good” guy. Even more likely is that he’d engaged in similar behavior himself at one point or another and didn’t want to examine that more closely.

Many men want to see themselves as the “good guy” – they want rapists to be monsters. They don’t want to look at how they might be complicit in rape culture. They want it to be easy – again, black and white – but it isn’t that simple. That’s why we tell ourselves that it’s fine and natural for men to buy sex and watch porn and go to strip clubs. We draw lines that make no sense. On one hand, we say: “Rape culture is bad. Women are human and deserve respect.” And then on the other we say: “Except for the women that aren’t fully human. Except for the women who exist to be looked at and to be fucked because god knows if men aren’t provided with orgasms on demand, they might die. OR, as some reason, they might rape the “good women” – the women who aren’t “to be fucked” — who are privileged enough not to have been prostituted.” We still seem to want to compartmentalize everything.

In porn there’s no talk of consent. Women are just “up for it” all the time – and somehow we’re still pretending that doesn’t perpetuate rape culture and that “normal guys” aren’t complicit??

I mean, it’s the same thing that happens when women talk about domestic abuse – people say: “Oh but he’s so nice. I know him! He’s so good with my kids. He helped me out when I had car trouble,” or whatever. They want abusive men to be these horrid, creepy, evil, monsters lurking in bushes or in parking lots – but abusive men are just “regular guys”, if that makes sense…

I’ve been in abusive relationships. When I came out about one situation in particular, I couldn’t believe how many people – friends of the man – just refused to believe that he would do what I said he did. They made up any and every reason to convince themselves and others that I was lying. They just couldn’t get their heads around (or didn’t want to) the fact one of their buddies, someone who gave them rides home from parties, someone who watched their kids, could be abusive.

People need to realize that it isn’t fun to go public about rape or abuse. It’s awful. And mostly people blame you and don’t believe you. There’s no reason to lie. I mean, sure, I guess it’s happened the odd time, but please — telling the world that the man you said you loved, and who you lived with and slept with and cooked for and that you called your partner was abusive? It’s embarrassing. It makes you feel hypocritical and pathetic and weak. It shouldn’t, but it does. It’s not something that’s easy to do.

As for why it’s so hard to say no, well, women are taught to be polite and not to hurt others’ feelings. And, like, often we’re attracted to the guys who date rape us – I mean, we went out with them, right? Maybe we even made out with them – but that still doesn’t mean we want to have sex. Sometimes, after a certain point, you’ve said no so many times and it’s like, “Ok fine, whatever.” And clearly I’m not advocating for that but the point is – how many times should we have to say no?? What guy wants sex because he’s had to convince and coerce and pressure a girl into it? I mean, I ask that question with the implication that no man should want that — that ideally we want to have sex with people who are enthusiastic about having sex with us – but the truth is that this isn’t what men learn. They learn to pursue. And women learn to be pursued. We learn to be passive and men learn to be aggressive. So it’s almost no wonder these kinds of situations come up so regularly. Ideas about masculinity and femininity have really messed us up.

8) What do you think of so called “pro-sex feminists”?

M: The term “pro-sex” is misleading. It implies that there is some faction of feminists that are “anti-sex”, which really describes nothing and is wrongly applied to women who are critical of the sex industry.  The reason I’m critical of the sex industry isn’t because I’m “anti-sex”, it’s because I’m anti-objectification and anti-patriarchy. Whether or not I “like” or “don’t like” sex is irrelevant.

That said, I do “like” sex. With men (Ack! Am I blowing the pro-sexer’s minds?)! And I know that porn isn’t “good” for sex. It teaches us that sexuality is about domination and subordination and it teaches women that their performance is more important than their pleasure. You know, I don’t want to think about whether or not I look “sexy” while I’m having sex. I want to focus on pleasure and on my partner and on enjoying the actual moment. I can’t have an orgasm if I’m self-conscious or if I’m worrying about what my stomach looks like. Women learn that we are to-be-looked-at and that being “sexy” has nothing to do with our own sexual pleasure. I mean, women get breast implants in order to “look sexy” and, in doing so, often lose sensation in their nipples. So we intentionally numb an erogenous zone in order to look sexy for the male gaze. We’ve made female sexuality into a performance (for men).

So I think “pro-sex” creates an imaginary dichotomy and forces women to believe that, in order to be “pro-sex” or “sex-positive” they must also support the sex industry, which is actually a pretty smart trick the sex industry is playing on us. What’s sad is that some feminists are buying into it. I mean, as we discussed earlier, countries that are far more sexually liberated then the confused and repressed U.S., like Iceland and Sweden, are the same countries that are banning strip clubs, placing restrictions on access to pornography, and criminalizing the purchase of sex. Americans’ concept of “liberated” is completely ridiculous. They think the free market will magically erase exploitation when we know full well that the opposite happens. Prostitution and pornography are not the end all be all of a free society – unless you understand freedom to exist at the expense of half of the population.

9) What are your thoughts on Femen?

Femen. Oh Femen. Well, what to say… They are a little misguided… They seem to mainly be focused on getting media attention and on shock value, which I’m afraid I don’t have a ton of respect for. They have also made some pretty ignorant and offensive statements about feminism: “We’re the new face of feminism…Classical feminism is dead,” for example. So it’s difficult for me to take them seriously or feel any allegiance with them.

They’ve alienated so many women and feminists with their statements and actions — their “Topless Jihad”day being a particularly insulting example of this – as though Muslim women will somehow be “liberated” by baring their breasts… It perpetuates this idea that, somehow, women in the West are completely free and liberated because, I don’t know, we’re “allowed” to dress provocatively, whereas non-Western women are all completely oppressed due to their lack of booty shorts and breasts on display. It’s not accurate and it oversimplifies the issues. It also teaches us, in the West, to not look critically at the sexism and misogyny of our own culture, instead pointing to other cultures, saying “Oh those poor oppressed women, we should teach them the wisdom of our ways”. The West has long been completely self-absorbed and obsessed with the illusion of “individual choice” epitome of freedom. Femen plays into that and simultaneously presents a vision of female liberation that looks like a sexy, naked, thin, white, blonde woman. They are making feminism palatable for the male gaze. And of course, for that reason, the mainstream media loves them – which says a lot about the integrity of their message, in my opinion.

10) What do you think of this opinion seen on AlterNet (US radical progressive site): “Feminism is something individual to each feminist”? Do you consider (as some feminists do, Gail Dines for instance) that neoliberalism is presently the biggest threat to feminism?

M: Well, I’m not sure I’ve seen that perspective on AlterNet, per se (though perhaps it has been, just saying I can’t speak specifically to whether or not that perspective is promoted by the site — they seem to publish a wide variety of viewpoints), but I’ve definitely seen that “feminism is just whatever individual women decide it is” thing in all sorts of places. Certainly I agree with Dines’ analysis with regard to neoliberalism. I mean, neoliberalism is destructive to any movement because, at its root, it’s about individualism and movements are about collective liberation (or they should be in any case – that’s why they’re called “movements” and not “this is just what I feel like doing as an individual right this second so screw you guys”).

The idea that feminism is about individual choice has come about, in part, because of an American kind of neoliberal discourse that places individual “choice” and freedom outside a context of systemic inequality and oppression. It’s like the myth of the American dream – that if you just work hard enough, you can make it, and if you don’t make it, it’s your own fault for being lazy or weak or whatever. It removes any responsibility from the state and places it on the shoulders of the individual which is, of course, the basis for the entire American system.

Privatization says “it’s all on you – it’s not our responsibility to take care of you when you get sick or lose your job or can’t feed your kids – that’s your own failing as an individual.” So that kind of thinking has infiltrated the feminist movement and it has many people believing, as a result, that feminism is just about individual women feeling good or feeling “empowered.” This has led to the idea that, for example, burlesque is feminist because “it makes me feel good in this moment.” Of course, feeling good is great but it has nothing to do with liberating women from male violence and oppression. Whether or not you “like” to dance around on stage in pasties or whether or not you “feel good” in stilettos has nothing to do with feminism. I mean, sure, do it if you feel like it, but don’t call it feminism. It’s selfish and ignorant and shows a lack of critical thinking and awareness of the world around you and the global and historical context of women’s collective oppression.

The sweetest revenge (porn): Joe Francis meets karma 

Hi karma. Some days you warm my heart.

Joe Francis, misogynist extraordinaire and the man who brought us Girls Gone Wild,the soft core porn empire that made millions coercing drunk coeds to flash the camera or even perform sex acts for free is trying desperately keep a sex tape of his own from going public.

He’s threatening to sue any media outlet that releases the tape; his lawyer saying: “It is not only unfortunate, but it is a crime.

OH REALLY, JOE FRANCIS? REALLY IS IT A CRIME TO RELEASE VIDEOS OF OTHER PEOPLE PERFORMING SEX ACTS WITHOUT THEIR PERMISSION? IS IT FATHOMABLE THAT PEOPLE MIGHT NOT LIKE IMAGES OF THEIR NAKED BODIES SHOPPED AROUND ON THE INTERNET? Oh. Ok then.

Just so we’re clear, it’s totally fine to convince drunk 18-year-olds to flash the camera and then sell those tapes to the world (because everyone is on their best behaviour and has the ability to make thoughtful and clear decisions while wasted on spring break and being egged on by groups of dude-bros), BUT it’s a crime to release Joe Francis’ sex tape to the world. Because he’s a special flower who deserves RESPECT even though he treats women like a form of currency/punching bags.

Francis went to court in 2006 over claims from two 17-year-old girls that they’d been told by a camera man that he was shooting a “private film” when, of course, he was not and over the the fact that the girls were not of age to consent. He managed to evade charges, though that was not the first or last time he was accused of turning underage girls into porn. He plead guilty to child abuse and prostitution charges in 2008, though he claimed to have “never committed any crime,” saying he only plead guilty in order to get out of jail.

Last month, Francis was found guilty of false imprisonment and of assault and will be sentenced in July, facing a maximum of five years in prison.

I hate to depend on criminal charges in order to prove a dude is a cretin, because we often end up dependent on the old everything-is-a-ok-so-long-as-there’s-consent adage or on the odd notion that there’s some kind of gaping difference between exploiting and objectifying a 17-year-old and exploiting and objectifying an 18-year-old. I’m relieved, of course, to see Francis charged for something — anything, as he seems to believe he’s not only untouchable, but that he’s doing nothing wrong and is some kind of defender of free speech and the First Amendment, but I wish that we didn’t have to rely on “consent” as the marker of ethical behaviour or wait until he is charged for actually assaulting women before deciding he’s scum.

In any case, no more pretending — this dude is the worst in every way.

It’s abhorrent that this sociopath moves freely among stars and celebs as though he’s some kind of legitimate business man and is viewed as a celebrity himself, though we’ve known for at least a decade that he’s a violent, sexist, pig. Of course this is how things go when we treat prostitution and pornography as just normal, acceptable, harmless parts of life (Here’s looking at you, “sex positive feminists!” Keep up the freedom fighting!).

In any case, I doubt the experience of trying to keep his own sex tape under wraps will cause Francis to make any connections between his own behaviour and how, oh maybe people don’t like their private lives and bodies shared and exploited for profit online, but I can’t help but enjoy the irony of it all.

The tyranny of consent 

Emily Witt’s recent essay, within which she describes traveling to San Fransisco, where she watches a BDSM porn shoot for a Kink.com series called Public Disgrace, the purpose of which is to show women  “women bound, stripped, and punished in public,” inspired a number of responses.

Despite my, probably obvious, criticisms of both porn and the BDSM genre, the piece is a very good read (by which I mean, it is engaging and complex and thoughtful); although very, very graphic (by which I mean, don’t read it unless you wish to read very detailed descriptions of sadomachochism).

There’s no real way to defend the production of this kind of film, the scene for this particular production being one in which, as described by for The Atlantic, “… a group of San Franciscans crowded into a basement to watch and participate as a diminutive female porn actress (who consented very specifically to all that followed) is bound with rope, gagged, slapped, mildly electrocuted, and sexually penetrated in most every way.”

He adds, accurately, that “the tenor and intensity of the event can’t be conveyed without reading the full rendering.” Granted, the scene sounds rather terrifying and one might ask, on what basis was “consent” given by this young performer. But interviewed after the shoot, the woman expressed genuine pleasure and enthusiasm about the experience. Believably, I might add.

The question that came up for me, and for some others, was this: Regardless of there being “consent” and even pleasure, is the production and distribution of this kind of film ethically defensible? While I have no real interest in exploring the responses that argue this kind of porn is ethically wrong because it’s “uncivilized” or “barbaric” or un-Godly or whatever writers for The American Conservative think about sex that happens outside of marriage and what kind of sex counts as the kind of “civilized” sex God would have, I am interested in the issue of consent and how “consent” is so consistently twisted to mean “ethical.”

In feminism, as well as in other liberal-type circles, we talk about consent a lot. “Anything that happens between consenting adults…” is the mantra. Those who have formed critiques of the sex industry, of course, are well aware of the ways in which this “consent is magic” ethos oversimplifies the concept of consent and removes relevant contexts and larger impacts from the conversation.

Consent is, without a doubt, very important and this drilling of “non-consensual sex isn’t sex” into our brains has changed the way many people engage in sex and communicate with their sexual partners. Consent is also, obviously, still not a given, as demonstrated by the incredibly high rates with which rape occurs as well as by conversations about “grey areas,” so it’s clear we’ve got a long way to go on this one.

Though the consent conversation is imperative, I think we’re doing it wrong.

“You might think we are doing things to the model that are mean or humiliating, but don’t,” said Princess Donna Dolore (the director of the Kink shoot). “She’s signed an agreement.”

She signed an agreement. Meaning, she “consented.” She even enjoyed the scene. I believe she enjoyed the scene. I believe people connect pleasure and pain. I understand how playing with power and subordination and domination and fantasy turns people on. I’ve experienced this. So many of us have and do. I know.

When it comes to the ethics of shooting a video that explicitly depicts violence and degradation and the humiliation of women, though, the issue of consent that’s become so black and white in conversations that happen in the self-described “sex-positive” sphere of feminist discourse, is distorts the issue.

Ethically, of course, there has to be consent. But also, consider that ethics aren’t about individuals. Ethics are about the ways in which our actions and behaviours affect and impact those around us. Ethics are about society. To say “she signed an agreement” — meaning “there was consent,” says nothing about society or the ways in which the production of this kind of pornography impacts women and men everywhere and social relations. So, in this case, this one individual is ok. Maybe. Sure. The performers in this particular film enjoyed themselves this time. Great. But a conversation about ethics doesn’t end there.

To be completely honest, which is something I do try to be, Witt’s descriptions of the scene didn’t upset or disgust me. The scene, as described by Witt, was titillating in many ways. I have, after all, been socialized here in this porny, violent world, along with the rest of you. But I’m certain that, to watch the finished video or even perhaps to have watched the scene in real life, would have inspired a different reaction in me. I contemplated, for some time, actually watching the video, just so I could know for sure and, therefore be better able to describe exactly what it was that changes when we watch this kind of imagery. In the end, after talking about it with a friend, I decided against it. I’ve seen enough porn in my life to know how watching women being degraded or abused on screen makes me feel. I don’t particularly want my sexual fantasies to involve electrocution or fisting or being hit with a belt. I’m not convinced I need to watch a woman wearing a sign that reads “worthless cunt” be groped and prodded and hit by strangers in a bar in order to understand the imagery. Maybe I’m wrong.

Rape fantasies exist for a reason and I’m certainly not shaming women who have them or who even play out these kinds of scenarios in the bedroom (but men who play out rape fantasies on women in the bedroom? Yeah, you go right ahead and feel ashamed). Power is sexualized in our culture. It’s why we think Don Draper is hot. Sexual violence is all twisted up in our lives and psyches. We see images of sexualized violence on TV and in movies all the time. Not in porn. Just on regular old crime dramas and in horror films. It’s part of our history. It’s hard to escape history, culture, and socialization.

So while the issue of why many of us are turned on by sadomasochistic fantasies or experiences should certainly be explored (and has been by many), when we talk about profiting off of the production and distribution of imagery depicting sexualized violence, there is much more to the conversation, in terms of ethics, than simply “consent.”

Witt makes this distinction after talking with Rain, a self-described “24–7 lifestyle kinkster” who works for Kink. Speaking about Princess Donna with reverence, Rain describes the burning, blinding pain brought on by getting cum in your eyes, saying:

“Do you realize the dedication that takes?” asked Rain. “That’s how committed she is.”

Witt asks herself: “Committed to what? To getting guys sitting in their studio apartments to jerk off to you for $30 a month? Not an insignificant accomplishment, but enacting a fantasy of violence for personal reasons was one thing; doing so for money was another.”

Consent is messier than we often pretend it is. It isn’t black and white, though I think we’d like to think it is. “Consensual” or “nonconsensual” are the two choices we’re offered when it comes to ethics around sex and sexuality. And those two choices, as well as our efforts to create straightforward guidelines with regard to sexual ethics, are being used against us. If signing a contract is all we need to determine whether or not Kink is producing pornography under ethical circumstances (which, for the record, they are not), then we need to re-think the ways in which we’re having conversations about “consent.”

“Anything that happens between consenting adults…” can only be the mantra of feminists and liberals so long as we don’t mind our work against rape culture and exploitation being usurped by the sex industry, for profit.

Ethics are neither limited to capital or individuals because how we conduct ourselves would never come into question if not for the “society” factor. It stands to reason that, if we aren’t considering the impact on society, as a whole, with regard to our ethical quandaries, we aren’t really talking about ethics at all. We’re either talking about profit or pleasure from a place of self-interest, in which case “consent” becomes something you get, not because it’s necessarily “ethical” or “right” or “good”, but in order to fulfill the interests of a certain faction of individuals, regardless of social context.

“Consent” is a necessary starting point, but is far from the end of the conversation.

You want proof that criminalization works? Look no further than the feminist movement 

The Nation and Tom Dispatch published an epic, historical look at the successes of the feminist movement over the past fifty-odd years and the long road ahead by Ruth Rosen yesterday.

In the article, Rosen points to various male “behaviours” like rape that, while once were viewed simply as “custom” were redefined, thanks to the feminist movement, as crimes.

Not so long ago, you may or may not recall that there was no such thing as rape in marriage. Husbands were entitled to sex, with or without the consent of their wives. Not so long ago, date rape was a common and unspoken experience for women. There were no conversations about consent when it came to sex. It simply wasn’t relevant.

Rape still happens far more than most would like to acknowledge or imagine and we still have a long way to go towards ending violence against women, but things have changed and things must continue to change.

Lately the issue of banning pornography has been a hot(ter) topic of debate due to the fact that Iceland is considering banning online pornography. noted, in her article for The Observer, that Iceland, one of the most progressive countries in the world, ranking in first place in Global Gender Gap Report 2012, that the ban is widely supported among police, health professionals, educators and lawyers.

In anticipation of the typically silly and ignorant responses from libertarians and pro-sex industry types claiming critics of sexualized violence against women are simply prudish, conservative, freedom-haters, McVeigh quotes Halla Gunnarsdóttir, adviser to the interior minister Ögmundur Jónasson, who says, about the prospective ban:

We are a progressive, liberal society when it comes to nudity, to sexual relations, so our approach is not anti-sex but anti-violence. This is about children and gender equality, not about limiting free speech

In other words, this is a feminist initiative.

Now, talk of bans or of criminalization of things like pornography often lead to people to say things like: “FREE SPEECH!” “RIGHTS!” “CENSORSHIP!” But these people are stupid.

We live in what is commonly known as “a society”. Within said “society” we tend to rely on things we call “laws” in order to help us function in a way that is conducive to living in said “society”. This isn’t to say that all laws are necessarily good laws and, often, criminalization targets the marginalized in disgusting and oppressive ways.

This is not the case for feminist laws that prevent men from abusing women.

Much of the work the feminist movement has done in terms of making the world a more equitable one, has been with regard to legislation. Without changes to legislation, women would still be owned by their husbands and wouldn’t be able to do things like vote or have jobs or get a university education or say no to sex. Laws aren’t bad. Criminalizing certain behaviours is also not (necessarily) bad.

Let’s reflect on the behaviours we’ve criminalized in our society: murder, rape, domestic abuse, animal abuse, advocating genocide, and creating, buying, or selling child pornography. There are other behaviours we’ve criminalized that are silly, like doing certain kinds of drugs, but that’s a whole other political can of worms.

The point is that, as a society, we support the censorship of things we believe are deeply harmful to individuals and to society as a whole. Many of us, particularly feminists and other progressive types,  support the criminalization of behaviours that are violent and abusive. Whether we like it or not, laws do shape our behaviour and agitating for changes to legislation and been hugely successful for feminists (though there is much, much more work to do).

There is no need to share “information” that encourages and perpetuates and supports the oppression of women. In fact, I’m pretty sure that would count as some kind of hate speech. Pornography encourages and perpetuates and supports both rape culture (so, violence against women) and the oppression of women.

True freedom and true freedom of speech would exist in a society without systemic oppression. In a world wherein male violence against women is an epidemic, it is not reasonable to say that we live in a free society. It is also not reasonable to defend behaviours that perpetuate oppression and violence on account of “freedom” and “freedom of speech”. Those who argue this are stupid, narrow-minded jerks who’ve spent too long eating American freedom fries and only care about “rights” in as much as those “rights” provide them with access to the sex/money/power they believe they were born entitled to.

To those who argue that it’s impossible to ban pornography because it’s so popular, universal, or “normal”, well, so was marital rape at one time. So was smoking in hospitals. So was owning slaves.

What’s “normal” and acceptable today likely won’t be in 20 or 50 or 100 years. Banning pornography won’t lead to an immediate disappearance of all pornography, just like the illegality of murder hasn’t stopped murders from happening. But it does set a standard and it does teach us what is acceptable behaviour in society. The fact that we’ve criminalized rape has led us to understand that sex should not happen without consent (lest it become ‘rape’ and not ‘sex’).

Changes to legislation won’t solve everything, but is necessary.

Now, pornography is not “good” for society and it isn’t “good” for women (it isn’t even “good” for men!). Because of the internet, it’s readily available to children which means that this generation and all those that follow learn that women are to be fucked and to be humiliated and to be degraded from the beginning.

If you think change isn’t possible then you have no place in any progressive movement, conversation about equality, or, really, in a democratic society. If you think your “freedom” should come at the expense of half the population, then you’re the problem and your protests will fall on deaf ears, your cries of “censorship” growing ever more quiet as the rest of us move towards emancipation.

Revenge porn is about porn 

If you haven’t yet heard about revenge porn, you’re lucky.

Notorious dickbag, Hunter Moore, is big into the revenge porn game. He can be credited with mainstreaming the concept of punishing your ex by posting their nude photos online without their permission via his website, IsAnyoneUp.com.

Doesn’t take much to get rich these days, just a complete lack of anything resembling a soul.

Not only would Moore post the photos, but he would also post the person’s name, location, and link to their social media accounts, also helpfully facilitating comments under the images critiquing the person’s appearance. Innovative, right!

Eight months after his original site shut down, Moore, committed as ever to cretin status, announced he would be launching a new site: HunterMoore.TV.

Of course, the fact that he manages to keep this up this seemingly “legally questionable” endeavour begs the question: “How is this actually legal?” explains, in an article for The Guardian, that (in the U.S.) under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, “website proprietors are not liable for content that is submitted to them by third parties.”

Even with that loophole, it’s clear that these sites aren’t going to get off scot-free.

Another revenge porn site (Gosh, it’s just a mystery why degrading women via porn is so popular!), Texxxan.com (and their hosting company, GoDaddy.com) is being sued by approximately two dozen women on the basis that the site was “significantly designed to cause severe embarrassment, humiliation, and emotional distress.”

The deal with revenge porn is that someone you once trusted enough to let take a photo of you engaged in a sexual act or text a photo of yourself naked to, now hates you enough to want to seek ‘revenge’ by turning you into publicly consumable porn.

Now, while the purpose of revenge porn is indeed, as Jill Filipovic writes for The Guardian, “to shame, humiliate and destroy the lives and reputations of young women,”(i.e. not just about masturbation), I would add that the existence of revenge porn is very much a result of a porn culture.

When we look at the ways women and girls are harassed and abused online, we see that it often isn’t just about words, rather it is often about porn. We see this in the Amanda Todd tragedy which happened back in October. While Todd was bullied and harassed, both online and by kids at school, she was also a victim of porn culture. As many feminists pointed out after she killed herself, Todd was not only ‘bullied’, as most of the mainstream media put it, but she was harassed in a completely misogynistic way. What many news outlets failed to mention was that Todd was turned into porn. A man she’d been chatting to online coerced her into showing her breasts via a webcam, later threatening to share the image with her friends and family unless she gave him a “show.” He followed through on his threat, circulating the image of Todd, who was in grade seven at the time, online.

Sound familiar?

It isn’t possible to separate what happened to Todd from this ‘revenge porn’ phenomenon, which is also why it isn’t possible to separate ‘revenge porn’ from ‘porn’.

Revenge porn is about degrading and humiliating women. It doesn’t work on men because men aren’t hated on a mass scale, as women are, and because men’s bodies are not used against them, in order to punish them.

Just as revenge porn isn’t simply about naked bodies, neither is mainstream porn. It’s the power dynamic that’s ‘sexy’ and it’s the degradation that separates both revenge porn and ‘regular’ porn from straight-up nudity and sex. When women are objectified, they lose power and men gain power. The male gaze is a disempowering one.

The fact that pornography is being used as a means to publicly harass and degrade all women (regardless of whether or not the woman in question was compensated for her image and/or the use of her body) should tell us something about pornography and about our misogynistic culture. It tells us that porn isn’t ‘just about sex’ or about ‘loving women’s bodies’ and that it isn’t somehow completely neutral.

The fact that 12-year-old girls are being pressured to text ‘sexy’ photos of themselves to boys and men (as well as older girls and women) is as a result of a porn culture. Porn cannot be separated from larger culture; isn’t something relegated to ‘adult only’ sites. It’s what we’re all supposed to be, as women, and it’s used against us. Feminists say ‘porn harms’ and often the public isn’t sure what that means. Well here’s an example.

Men like Hunter Moore grew up in the same culture that the man who harassed Amanda Todd did and in the same culture boys are growing up in today, learning that to coerce girls to turn themselves into porn gives them power.

It should be clear by now that porn is not about loving women.

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