Posts tagged pornography

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.

In pornography, there’s literally a market for everything: Why ‘feminist porn’ isn’t the answer 

“If there’s something you don’t like about your body, put it into a search engine, put ‘+ porn,’ and you’ll find a whole host of sites that find that’s the most attractive thing about you,” porn producer, Anna Arrowsmith said in an interview with BBC, with reference to a debate she would be participating in, hosted by Intelligence Squared in London.

The debate was centered around the motion: “Pornography is good for us” — indeed, a stupidly simplistic and unanswerable question in and of itself; the debate shone a light on the intellectually void and anti-feminist nature of the delusion that is “feminist” or “queer” pornography.

Arrowsmith begins her argument in a most telling way; describing how, one night, walking through London’s red light district, she realized that, rather than feeling angry, she was “envious” that men’s sexuality was being catered to “in so many different ways.” This feeling is likely familiar to many of us and is also an entry point into pro-porn/prostitution feminism for many women. After all, it’s not particularly unreasonable that a woman might feel “envious” of men’s position in this world. It makes perfect sense to feel as though we’ve gotten the shaft (pun!), as women, as far as cultural and social prioritization of female sexuality goes. But is the answer to take what men have in the sex industry, break off a corner piece, and try to mold it into something marginally less male-centric? Is the answer to exploitation to provide “equal” opportunity exploitation? Is our goal, as feminists, to be more like men and to merely adapt to a male-dominated world as best we can? Are we so unwilling to imagine something different than simply “more porn!”?

“I knew then that it was far more productive and feminist to invest my time in creating something that allowed women to explore their sexuality than it was to thwart men’s freedoms,” Arrowsmith said.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. And while you’re at it, be sure to let the men know you’re on their side. They need change nothing — you’re jumping on board with them. Arrowsmith wants to be seen as one of the “good” feminists. Non-threatening. Fun. Sexxxxxy. Alas, the logic and ideology behind her arguments is not only confused, it’s anti-feminist.

Not only does Arrowsmith want to reassure men they are doing nothing wrong, that she’s on their side, that all she wants is a piece of the pie — but she goes so far as to blame feminism (in particular, Andrea Dworkin) for victimizing women: “Such theorists see women as inevitable victims which, in turn, encourages women to see themselves as victims. It is this anti-porn feminism that gave men the power to taunt women with porn…”

It’s all in your head, Arrowsmith’s self-help style, faux-empowerment discourse goes — Just change your frame of mind, and you can change the world. Yet no amount of positive affirmations or standing in front of mirrors, telling ourselves we are not victims and that we are empowered, will stop men from raping and abusing and objectifying us. Feeling good is great. I highly recommend it. But a political movement to end oppression and inequality, it is not.

Feminism hasn’t victimized women. Neither does the word “victim,” victimize women. Perpetrators of violence victimize women. Blaming women for their own oppression is the lowest of the low. Naming the perpetrator is rule number one in this movement.

Still think Anna Arrowsmith is on our side? Still think “feminist pornography” has anything to do with feminism?

Arrowsmith imagines herself to be making a case for female empowerment via the sex industry. That is, if the fetishization and sexualization of everything and everyone is the be all end all of liberation.

She believes that the problem with objectification (which she understands, in her muted and apolitical way, to mean: “seeing someone for their sexual attractiveness alone”) is simply that it isn’t “socially acceptable” for women to objectify men (though they are capable of doing so “just as easily”).

You see, Arrowsmith has limited her vision of female sexuality (and is working very hard to convince us to limit ours as well) to what she sees in a male-dominated world — understandably — this is all we know. If only we could have what they have, that whole injustice thing would fade away. If women, too, were able to objectify men as men objectify women, objectification would cease to play a starring role in the global epidemic that is violence against women.

Just imagine! If a woman had objectified Joe Francis, he never would have made a lucrative career off the backs of young, inebriated women he convinced to “go wild” — Certainly if women could produce similar films, the objectification and exploitation that support his hatred of women would vanish. Certainly Francis’ view of women as objects that exist solely for his financial gain and/or male pleasure had nothing to do with his recent conviction on assault charges. Nope. The fact that if you don’t comply to Francis’ wishes, and you happen to be a woman, he may or may not smash your head into a tile floor, has nothing at all to do with his soft-core porn empire (which he, like all pornographers, presents as “free speech”). He has a long history of exploiting and abusing women and girls. If you should ever need a clear picture of the connections between prostitution, pornography, and violence against women, look no further than Joe Francis. Or Larry Flynt. Or Belgian porn king, Dennis Black Magic. Turning living beings into objects erases their humanity. It’s far easier to abuse an object. Men who don’t respect women, don’t respect women.

Would “queer porn” have changed how Joe Francis saw and treated women? If it were “socially acceptable” for women to objectify men, would Girls Gone Wild have ceased to be an exploitative, woman-hating, dick-fest? If more women with tattoos and real breasts were made into porn, would the billion-dollar porn industry lose a cent? Would it change it’s misogynistic ways? Would those porn producers suddenly start respecting women? What’s the logic behind this?

Cover your eyes and plug your ears, ladies. Objectification is for everyone. This could be your liberation.

Arrowsmith’s arguments outline many of the problems with discourse around so-called “feminist pornography” — One of those arguments being that diversity will address and erase the misogyny that is integral to the industry. So, the argument goes: if we simply include diverse bodies in our porn, it will cease to be sexist. But, if the problem with pornography lies in narrow definitions of beauty, then we’re making the argument that it’s impossible to objectify women who aren’t thin or who don’t have surgically enhanced bodies. Or that somehow it’s more ethical to objectify “alternative” or “diverse” bodies.

This is, of course, not true. Objectification doesn’t only work on hairless, orange ladies whose bodies have been trimmed and buffed and stuffed full of silicone. Oh no. Men are fully capable of objectifying all kinds of women. Rape happens to fat women and disabled women and older women and racialized women, too, Anna. Is the ability to watch “an amputee,” as Arrowsmith suggests, in porn, progressive? Would we feel better if we watched a woman over 40 be gang raped? Would fetishizing cellulite end male violence? Please.

Another key problem, according to “feminist porn” pushers, is that porn is simply misrepresented. Arrowsmith says, for example, that the oh-so-diverse ways in which porn objectifies all kinds of women isn’t represented in the “mainstream press.” But the problems with porn goes far beyond “representation.”

Germaine Greer, who was placed on the other end of this debate, points out that “porn is not a style, and it’s not a literary genre… It’s an industry.” In other words, this isn’t merely an issue of representation. Nor is it an issue of diversity. Today, pornography is just as much about capitalism as it is patriarchy. It’s about the commodification of bodies and of sexuality for the purposes of profit. Under an inherently exploitative system, such as capitalism, I find the idea that porn is about anything liberating or has anything at all to do with democracy (as Arrowsmith calls it: “the democratization of the body”) deeply ignorant. Capitalism’s whole deal is profits before people, so the notion that one who aligns themselves with a movement towards social equality, such as feminism, would advocate for an industry that exists at the expense of women’s lives, is illogical.

Arrowsmith presents the industry as one that caters to women’s needs and lives, saying: “The porn industry is organized around the women who perform in the films as they decide their limits and are hired on that basis.” Ok sure. If you think that having a three year career (which is the average amount of time women last in the porn industry) in which women are pressured to perform more and more extreme acts and, once they do perform those acts, can’t return to the more “vanilla” acts they were doing before constitutes a female-led industry. The ones who get longevity, financially and career-wise, are the men who run the industry. Women get a few thousand dollars, maybe three years, and a lifetime of humiliation as those images follow them around for the rest of their lives.

Perhaps worst of all, Arrowsmith believes that pornography is a useful stand-in for actual sex education: “It’s where most men learn about where the clitoris, A-spot, and G-spot are.” But the fact that porn is actually seen as a kind of sex education and is actually where most boys and men are learning about sex these days is not something to be celebrated. Not only does porn provide a warped understanding of what women enjoy, sexually (being dominated, facials, gang bangs, double-penetration, everything men enjoy sexually, etc.) but it doesn’t teach consent. Instead it provides viewers with the impression that women are always up for anything and, furthermore, that rape is something that turns us on, even if we think we don’t want it.

By far, the most common female character in porn is “teen.” I tend to think that sexualizing teenage girls isn’t best sex education for men. Is this the “diversity” you’re talking about, Anna? Is this the sex education we want for men? Anna Arrowsmith should probably google “teen porn” and then get back to us about this great, pro-woman sex education porn is providing for men.

Ironically, Arrowsmith runs a “campaign website” called WeConsent.org. The site purports to “campaign against moral panics and anti-erotic industry legislation.” Everything from the name to the supposed aim of the site should be raising red flags. The intentionally meaningless language intends to manipulate the public into believing that 1) the porn industry is interested in “consent,” and 2) opposition to the porn industry stems from puritanism and some kind of illusory “anti-sex” position.

I say “ironically” with reference to the name of the site because, in fact, the entire basis for the sex industry is lack of consent. And no, before sex work advocates start manipulating my words to mean that I think sex workers or porn performers can’t be raped, because every sex act that is paid for constitutes rape, that isn’t exactly the argument I’m making. Consensual sex happens when both parties desire sex. If one partner does not want to have sex, and sex happens anyway, that constitutes rape (i.e. nonconsensual sex). In porn, those involved are being paid to perform sex acts. They are paid because the sex acts they are engaging in are not desired. Once you are paying someone to have sex with you, it no longer counts as consensual, enthusiastic, desired sex. Yes, you agreed to perform whatever sexual acts — but you did so because you were being paid. Not because you really, really, really wanted to fake an orgasm while that very special man fucks you in the ass.

“Whatever happens between consenting adults…” is another manipulation put forth by the sex industry advocates. But is this the kind of consent we’re looking for, as feminists? To be paid to perform sex acts and fake enjoyment? Really? It doesn’t sound liberating to me. That doesn’t sound like “free sexuality” to me.

Even more odd is how the pro-porn “feminists” have also positioned themselves as “sex-positive,” implying that there exists a faction of feminists who are “sex-negative.” I’m perpetually amused to have been placed in some imagined “anti-sex” camp due to my criticisms of the sex industry, though it becomes less and less laughable as more and more people seem to be buying into the notion that “pro-porn” equals “pro-sex.” After all, what’s so “sex-positive” about commodified, coerced sex? What’s so “sex-positive” about promoting an industry that encourages an understanding of sex and sexuality that is not only male-centered, but prioritizes profit over the well-being, pleasure, and respect of women?

Greer’s comments, in fact, were the only “sex-positive” thing I heard in the entire debate, who said (and I completely agree): “I’m in favour of erotic art. I’m desperate to find a way to reincorporate sexuality in the narrative that we give of our lives.” That I feel nothing less than elated in the rare moments I’ve seen women’s bodies and sexualities represented onscreen in ways that don’t objectify and degrade shows me how desperate I am for this as well. We’re so accustomed to pornographic representations of sex and sexuality that we can’t even imagine an alternative. We’ve been told that porn equals sex and that, therefore, to be critical of porn is to be critical of sexual expression. That argument is then extended into one that says that, by either criticizing, limiting, or “censoring” pornography, we are repressing people’s sexualities and sexual freedom. But, as Greer points out: “Pornography doesn’t make us less repressed — pornography is a way of making money off of the fact that we are repressed.”

The solution to the massive and insidious impacts of porn on our lives and views of women, men, and sexuality is not “more porn”. Neither will “diversity” resolve the misogynistic and exploitative nature of the porn industry. The fact that Arrowsmith believes that objectifying “an amputee” or women who don’t look like Playboy models is liberating shows a depressing lack of understanding with regard to how the industry functions and the ways that objectification impacts the status of and real lives of women everywhere. The fact that she believes that women will feel better about their perceived flaws because they can find porn that fetishizes said flaws is, frankly, stupid. “Ooooh look! That man just came all over that lady’s tummy rolls! Body-hatred = resolved.”

“Whatever gives you pleasure, gives you power” can only be your mantra so long as power (rather than social equality) is your modus operandi. When Arrowsmith tells us that “whatever interests you, sexually, is what you should practice,” what she’s condoning and advocating for is not women or female sexual liberation, but a model that says that individual desire, whatever that desire may be, takes precedence over justice, equality, and human rights. Beyond that, pornography limits possibilities for, and our ability to explore real sexual pleasure outside the confines set up by the linear narrative of porn which prioritizes male ejaculation over all else and teaches women to focus on their performance (and faked orgasms) rather than their pleasure.

Arrowsmith says pornography is like “a game or a sport,” and she’s right, in a way… The “game” is one of narcissistic conquest wherein, as Anita Sarkeesian reminded us recently, with respect to “the game of patriarchy,” rather than being the opposing team, women are the ball.

Arrowsmith’s “queer, feminist porn” is nothing more than a desire to jump into the court and grab a racket in the vain hope she won’t get hit.

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.

Girls explains the difference between porn and nudity in half an hour (nsfw) 

After all my frustrated and repetitive attempts at trying to explain the difference between porn and images of naked bodies and the difference between objectification and images of female sexuality that aren’t exploitative or sexualized, Sunday night’s episode of Girls basically did it all for me.

Go watch it, if you can, but here’s a super brief recap for those who missed it: Hannah meets a hot doctor dude (Joshua/Patrick Wilson) who comes into the coffee shop she works at to complain about the shop’s garbage ending up in his trash cans. Hannah, being the secret culprit, goes to his place to apologize, kisses him, and they spend the next two days humping. Good times.

The point I’m often trying to make with regard to pornography and pornified images of women is that objectification defines pornography and, in large part, explains why pornographic imagery contributes to the oppression of women. The thing about objectification is that, though we very much like to pretend that it’s somehow ‘natural‘ or unavoidable, it isn’t. It isn’t necessary for women to be objectified onscreen and simply seeing women’s naked bodies or being attracted to a woman doesn’t necessarily mean those women are or must be objectified. It is possible for there to be depictions of sex and sexuality on television and on film and it is possible for female bodies to exist on screen (even naked!) without those images constituting pornography or exploitation.

It isn’t about skin or sex or even voyeurism. It’s about the choices made with regard to context and, essentially, camera angles. The camera is responsible for putting the audience in the position of the objectifier and of forcing us all to see women onscreen through the male gaze. The camera can make different choices. Directors can also make different choices about the kinds of bodies (friendly reminder: all bodies can be objectified, so objectifying less conventional bodies is not radical, per se, BUT putting non-conventional/imperfect bodies onscreen and not making those bodies the butt of a joke is a good thing) that are depicted onscreen and the contexts within which those bodies are depicted.

So while everyone on the internet is busy talking about whether Hannah/Lena Dunham could bag a dude like Joshua/Patrick Wilson in real life, they’re missing the actually interesting and revolutionary (yes, I realize I may be a little overexcited about a whitey TV show about rich kids in NYC, but let me have this one, please?) aspect of the show, which is NAKED FEMALE BODIES THAT AREN’T PORNIFIED. It’s possible and it happened.

S

Yes, dudes are choked because WTF is up with women on screen that aren’t just masturbatory material and actually look like normal, real, people, but this, of course, is a sign that Dunham is doing something right. You want proof? and thought it was the worst episode ever. I, on the other hand, thought it was the best episode ever and felt swoony inside my cold, black heart after watching.

I’m pretty positive that the way to be absolutely sure that we’re doing something right as women is if a bunch of internet dudes are pissed off about it.

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.