Jensen: Porn's Cruel Boredom

Amnesty International

This article, by Robert Jensen,  was originally published in Last Exit Magazine, (Sept. 24, 2008) and can be found at Robert Jensen's Homepage.

Pornographers sexualize the degradation of women. Those are negative emotions, butpowerful emotions. Consumers of pornography say I’m wrong, that they don’t see the cruelty and degradation that I am describing. In some sense, they are telling the truth -- they aren’t seeing the cruelty and degradation because they are men in a patriarchal culture focused on their own pleasure. To see the woman as a person deserving of respect -- to see her as fully human -- would interfere with getting it up and getting it off.

* * * * *

The Cruel Boredom of Pornography

by Robert Jensen

There is a finite number of ways that human bodies can be placed together sexually, and as one pornography industry veteran lamented to me at the annual trade show, “they’ve all been shot.” He sighed, pondering the challenge of creating a sexually explicit film that is unique, and mused, “After all, how many dicks can you stick in a girl at one time?”

His question was offered rhetorically, but I asked: How many?

 

Probably four, he said; simultaneous oral, vaginal, and double-anal penetration was realistic. Another producer later in the day told me he had once worked on a film that included a double-anal/double-vag scene -- a woman being penetrated by four men at once. He said the director had a special harness made to hold the woman for that scene. In contemporary mass-marketed heterosexual pornography, it’s unexceptional to see a standard DP (industry slang for “double penetration,” with two men entering a woman vaginally and anally at the same time) with oral penetration.

Whatever the number, theoretical or routine, the discussion reminds us that pornography is relentlessly intense, pushing our sexual boundaries both physically and psychically. And, pornography also is incredibly repetitive and boring.

Pornographers know all this, of course, and it keeps them on edge.

These days there are about 13,000 pornographic films released each year, compared with about 600 from Hollywood. Not surprisingly, a common concern at the Adult Entertainment Expo each time I attended (in 2005, 2006, and 2008) was that the desperate struggle by directors to distinguish their films from all the others was leading to a kind of “sexual gymnastics.” Lexington Steele, one of the most successful contemporary pornography performers and producers, put it bluntly: “A lot of gonzo is becoming circus acts.”

“Gonzo” is the pornographic genre that rejects plot, character, or dialogue, offering straightforward explicit sex. Gonzo films are distinguished from “features,” which to some degree mimic the structure of a traditional Hollywood film. According to the top trade magazine: “Gonzo, non-feature fare is the overwhelmingly dominant porn genre since it’s less expensive to produce than plot-oriented features, but just as importantly, is the fare of choice for the solo stroking consumer who merely wants to cut to the chase, get off on the good stuff, then, if they really wanna catch some acting, plot and dialog, pop in the latest Netflix disc.” [1]

In that description is considerable insight into why pornography (1) has always been boring and (2) will continue to become more brutal.

The industry works from the assumption that the men who consume the vast majority of commercial heterosexual pornography are not really human beings with hearts, minds and souls. In the porn world, a man is a kind of sexual robot in search of nothing more than the stimulation of pleasure circuits. In that world, the goal is to reduce human sexuality to the production of an erection and orgasm as quickly as possible -- get it up and get it off, efficiently. Pornography assumes not that a man has a penis but that a man is nothing more than a penis.

The pornographer faces one serious obstacle in all this: Men are human beings. No matter how emotionally deformed by the toxic conception of masculinity that is dominant in a patriarchal culture such as the United States, we are human beings with hearts, minds and souls.

No matter how much men try to cut themselves off from the emotional component of sex, that component never withers completely, and therein lies the potential problem for pornographers. When all emotion is drained from sex it becomes repetitive and uninteresting -- in a word, boring, even to men who are watching solely to facilitate masturbation. Because the novelty of seeing sex on the screen eventually wears off, pornographers who want to expand (or even just maintain) market share and profit need to give their products an emotional edge of some kind.

But pornography doesn’t draw on the emotions most commonly connected with sex -- love and affection -- because men typically consume pornography specifically to avoid love and affection. So, the pornographers offer men sexual gymnastics and circus acts that are saturated with cruelty toward women; they sexualize the degradation of women. While most of us would agree those are negative emotions, they are powerful emotions. And in a patriarchal society in which men are conditioned to see themselves as dominant over women, such cruelty and degradation fit easily into men’s notions about sex and gender.

When I offer this critique to men who are avid consumers of pornography, they often tell me that I’m wrong, that they watch gonzo and don’t see the kind of cruelty and degradation that I am describing. They tell me that that there’s no cruelty in a woman is being penetrated in aggressive fashion by three men who call her a whore throughout the sex. They tell me that when five men thrust into a woman’s mouth to the point she gags, slap a woman in the face with their penises, and ejaculate into her mouth and demand that she swallow it all, there’s no degradation.

In some sense, they are telling the truth -- they aren’t seeing the cruelty and degradation because they are too caught up in the sexual arousal, and in such a state their critical faculties are derailed. They don’t see it because they are men in a patriarchal culture focused on their own pleasure. To see the woman as a person deserving of respect -- to see her as fully human -- would interfere with getting it up and getting it off.

When I was a young adult who used pornography, I didn’t see it either, because I had a stake in not seeing it. That’s why after an orgasm I would quickly leave the theater or adult bookstore. That dates me, I know; my pornography use came before the VCR brought pornographic films into the home. But the pattern endures; many men I talk to today tell me that after masturbating they quickly take out the DVD or shut off the computer to avoid really seeing what is taking place on the screen. To slightly revise a cultural cliché, when the little head’s work is done, the big head re-engages. When the sexual experience is over, men can think, and when men can see the reality of pornography’s contempt for women most don’t want to watch.

These are general observations, an attempt to identify patterns in pornography. But the world is, of course, complex. There is considerable individual variation in the human species; not all men watch pornography for the same reason or have the same experience. And among those 13,000 films each year, there is variety. But there is a pattern to men’s consumption of pornography and the industry’s strategy to keep men consuming:

  • Heterosexual men tend to consume pornography to achieve sexual satisfaction without the complications of dealing with a real woman.
  • Pornographers deliver graphic sexually explicit material that does the job, but to do so they must continuously increase the cruelty and degradation to maintain profits.

Gonzo producers test the limits with new practices that eroticize men’s domination of women. Less intense forms of those sexual practices migrate into the tamer feature pornography, and from there in muted form into mainstream pop culture. Pornography gets more openly misogynist, and pop culture becomes more pornographic -- many Hollywood movies and cable TV shows today look much like soft-core pornography of a few decades ago, and the common objectification of women in advertising has become more overtly sexualized.

 

Where will all this lead? How far will pornographers go to ensure their profits, especially as the proliferation of free pornography on the internet adds a new competition? How much eroticized misogyny will the culture be willing to tolerate?

When I ask that question of pornography producers, most say they don’t know. An industry leader such as Lexington Steele acknowledged he has no crystal ball: “Gonzo really always pushes the envelope. The thing about it is, there’s only but so many holes, only but so many different types of penetration that can be executed upon a woman. So it’s really hard to say what’s next within gonzo.”

What’s next? What comes after DPs and double anals? What is beyond a “10 Man Cum Slam” and “50 Guy Cream Pie”? I can’t claim to know either. But after 20 years of researching the pornography industry as a scholar and critiquing it as part of the feminist anti-pornography movement, I know that we should be concerned. We should be afraid that there may be no limit on men’s cruelty toward women. In a patriarchal society driven by the predatory values of capitalism, we should be very afraid.

--------------------------------

Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center. His latest book, All My Bones Shake, will be published in 2009 by Soft Skull Press. He also is the author of Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity (South End Press, 2007); The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege (City Lights, 2005); Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (City Lights, 2004); and Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream (Peter Lang, 2002). Jensen can be reached at rjensen@uts.cc.utexas.edu.

 

[1] “The Directors,” Adult Video News, August 2005, p. 54.

The Media Education Foundation has also put out a new documentary called "The Price of Pleasure: Pornography, Sexuality and Relationships"

 

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  • Guest (Dave)

    What an empowering revolutionary message: "Be very afraid!"

    Jensen claims that in order to "deliver graphic sexually explicit material that does the job" pornographers "must continuously increase the cruelty and degradation." This claim only makes sense if the only thing that gets men off is "cruelty and degradation."

    Jensen seems to think that human sexual experience must either consist of "love and affection" or "cruelty and degradation," i.e. there is nothing else. Therefore sex without a sufficient degree of "love and affection" must necessarily consist of "cruelty and degradation." This is a ridiculous oversimplification of the realities of sexual experience, to say the least.

    It's interesting that in spite of his "20 years of researching the pornography industry as a scholar," Jensen does not even mention the fact that a large percentage of pornography directed towards heterosexual males consists of women having sex with each other. Presumably this is because it does not fit neatly into his schema.

    But all of this is really besides the point. If Jensen really wants do do something about a "patriarchal society driven by the predatory values of capitalism," perhaps he ought to focus on the actual concrete conditions of women in the sex industry, rather than engaging in an idealist critique of what he imagines is going on inside men's heads.

  • Guest (TellNoLies)

    "Heterosexual men tend to consume pornography to achieve sexual satisfaction without the complications of dealing with a real woman."

    Presumably this refers to masturbation. The phrase "the complications of" smuggles in an unneccesary bit of moralism. Most men and many women, straight and queer, mainly use explicit sexual materials to masturbate. The proposition that this practice should be eradicated is, frankly, hallucinatory.

    The cruelty and degredation Jensen refers to here are undoubtedly ubiquitous and the logic of its constant intensification that he describes is real enough. It is a logic that is not limited to porn, but is generally characteristic of the spectacle under capitalism. But it is not the only logic at work and acting like it is only undercuts the credibility of his critique by presenting a cartoon that most people know from their own experience is not the whole picture.

    One is tempted to ask Jensen if, in the course of his studies, he encountered representations of sex that he personally found both arousing and politically unobjectionable, and, further, if he acted in any way on that arousal. Has Jensen encountered any other men (or women) who both share his concerns over the cruelty and degradation he describes AND like to look at pictures (or read words) when touching themselves? What do THEY do? Do they constitute a market?

    I don't think we can neatly separate working conditions in the sex industry from what goes on inside the heads of people who consume its products. But, given the enormous amount of shame that is attached to sex, Jensen might want to abandon a bit of his scholarly distance and start by talking about his own desires, how he acts on them, and any contradictions they might involve.

  • <blockquote>"I don’t think we can neatly separate working conditions in the sex industry from what goes on inside the heads of people who consume its products."</blockquote>

    I think there are three moments that need to be untangled:

    1) the production of pornography -- which is closely tied to the economic and social conditions facing women and that produce a huge "industry" of prostitution.

    2) the distribution of pornography -- where women (and people in general) are reduced to sexual objects in the crudest ways -- and displayed that way on newsstands, in film, online.

    3) the "consumption" of pornography -- which is inseparable from the way men view women (and are trained to view women). In our society, several generation of men and women have had their thinking about sex framed (in an unprecendented way) by the availability of pornography. There has been a major assault on sex education in schools for half a century, while every thirteen year old gets introduced to sexual relations by seeing the version acted out via "money shots" and fetishized fantasy. It is not just a matter of "how men think creates the demand for pornography" -- but also how men are trained to think by the great availability of pornography.

    I think each of these moments embodies the current oppression of women -- and stands as an obstacle to their liberation. But they are quite different.

  • Guest (gangbox)

    This isn't the first Robert Jensen essay I've read - I've actually read a number of articles he's written, both on his own website and on various radical feminist and liberal blogs he posts his work on.

    I've also read criticisms of Jensen's work on sex positive, pro sex feminist and socialist feminist websites (porn actress and socialist Nina Hartley is one of his sharpest and most on target critics)

    Based on that broad overview of his work, I can say that Jensen's view of porn is framed by a Christian-influenced culture of moralistic shame, coupled with an opportunistic desire to advance the cause of radical bourgeous feminism by tying it as the caboose on the far right's locomotive.

    This follows a long tradition, dating back to Dr Catherine McKinnon and Andrea Dworkin's block with Attorney General Ed Meese and the conservative city governments in Minneaopolis and Indianaopolis to outlaw porn back in the 1980's.

    Jensen's view of human sexuality is deeply unhealthy - this idea that most people (and almost all men) should be ashamed of our sexual urges is straight out of Catholicism, and is a very anti human attitude.

    There's also a class dimention to Jensen's anti porn moralism - it disproportioately targets low income working class men (who consume the majority of pornography in this country)

    The fact is, all human beings need sexual stimulation, but due to social circimstances, there are large numbers of people who are not in sexual relationships.

    This includes a broad swath of humanity, a section of people that is disproportionatly proletarian.

    Remember, in patriarchal societies (which is to say, every country in the world) men are expected to bring money and/or earning capacity to the table to enable them to be sexually active, and it's common for women to reject men who do not have an adequate source of income.

    What's the cliche in America - the first thing a woman wants to know about a guy is what does he do for a living?

    In other words, for men who don't have money, an active sex life can be impossible.

    All that talk about "loving relationships" is a cruel joke for guys who are unable to find a partner due to their low income.

    So, for many working class men (migrant laborers, middle aged divorced guys, teenagers with very low paying jobs) their only sexual outlet is pornography.

    This can be seen very starkly in countries where arrainged marriages are still practiced.

    The United Arab Emirates, with it's hundreds of thousands of male Indian mirgrant laborers living in same sex labor camps on the edge of Dubai and Abu Dhabi is a stark example.

    There's no porn in the UAE, so men go to the beach with their camera phones and make their own "do it yourself" movies of women in bikinis at the beach.

    Those men often face fierce police repression from the Dubai and Abu Dhabi police, who fight to protect the "honor" of affluent sunbathing Arab women from being "sullied" by being filmed by working class Indian men.

    But even in the west, there are men who's only source of sexual release is pornography (fortunately, they don't have to make their own porno like the Indian guys in the UAE - they can just go to the store and buy a tape or go online and surf the net).

    Be that as it may, Jensen's campaign is aimed right at those men and their sex lives - and he provides no real alternative to porn other than pure sexual denial.

    Of course, these working class guys aren't the only unpartnered folks out there.

    There are lots of unpartnered women out there too. They face the flip side of the male "no job no sex" contradiction - many of these women do not fit into our society's rigid beauty standards for women (because, for many men, the first question they ask about a woman is "what does she look like") - these women are the reason that romance novels (which, basically, are porn for women) constitute 50% of all of the books sold in the United States.

    In short, in a world where capitalism brings so much sexual deprivation to so many working class people, should communists really be in the business of attacking porn, which is the only sexual outlet for these folks?

    Is fighting porn really in the interests of the working class?

    Beyond that, there are class issues in the porn industry itself that Jensen and his co thinkers never address.

    Workers in the porn industry in this country are systematically discriminated against by the motion picture industry unions.

    Neither the Screen Actors Guild nor the American Federation of Radio and TV Artists will allow porn actors or actresses to join their union - and will actually <B><I>EXPELL</I></B> a member caught making a porno.

    <i>[that's the reason many porn actors and actresses use colorful aliases rather than their real names on the credits of the movies]</i>

    This is despite the fact that mainstream film content is often quite sexualized - there is still a rigid line "across the Santa Monica mountains" (that's the geographical dividing line in Los Angeles filmmaking - north of the mountains is where the porn is filmed, south is where mainstream pictures are made) and porn actors and actresses are viewed as unworthy of union wages, benefits, or contractual protection of their commercial and copyright rights to their creative work.

    Porn directors are similarly discriminated against by the Directors Guild of America, as are the porn writers by the Writers Guild of America.

    Other behind the camera unions follow suit - there is a similar porn film work ban on members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Union [IATSE] - the largest union in the motion picture industry, which represents almost all of the tradespeople and unskilled blue collar workers who work on movie sets.

    IATSE also represents the camerapeople, set designers and wardrobe people - and those professionals face the same anti porn ban.

    The other craft unions in the movie industry, Local 399 of the Teamsters and Scenic Artists local 829 of the Painters Union, similarly discriminate against workers on porno films.

    So, why aren't we demanding full trade union rights for porn actors, creative people and technicians, instead of attacking porn?

    Admittedly, there is a lot of sexist content in porn - but that's true of every branch of the capitalist media in America, so why just make porn the whipping boy?

  • Guest (Arthur)

    For less boring porn and less boring reactionary politics, try <a href="/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susie_Bright" rel="nofollow">Susie Bright</a>

  • Guest (saoirse)

    Jensen’s piece is flawed on many levels. One Jensen conflates gonzo porn with the entire porn industry implying that gonzo is somehow the leading force or cutting edge of the industry. This is like arguing that reality based TV illustrates the decline of quality TV programming in America. CBS’s Survivor aside, its not my favorite kind of TV but it’s a strawman argument. It looks at a narrow phenomenon without offering any context.

    Any cursory look at the monthly sales and rental reports generated by the Adult Video Network (AVN) illustrate that gonzo films one of many sub-categories in the market place. While undeniably popular they hardly compete with big budget plot driven films put out by Vivid’s top stars.

    So why focus on gonzo? Lexington Steele is one of the porn industry’s top player. The African American star makes his own films from romance driven light porn, to edu-porn such as Tristan Taromino’s The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Woman to some gonzo flicks. Steele’s films are Gonzo does push the envelope buts it’s again hardly the only game in town.

    As a trend within porn I am not a fan of gonzo. It’s porn on the cheap with zero production values. It’s low quality stuff. And often reproduces some of the worst elements of what make porn problematic. Still gonzo has produced stars such as Belladonna who has made a name for herself doing extreme acts. Her line of girl on girl gonzo films have a genuineness, humor and straight up sexiness that makes her not only a popular porn star but a smart maker of erotica. Jensen seems skims the surface of gonzo offering up what he finds disturbing and ignoring all the rest.

    Further it seems that Jensen fears the no holds barred gonzo films he sought out. Why he choose not to watch some feminist porn or compare and contrast it to the gonzo stuff is unclear to me. But I am left wondering, is it the DP’s that bother Jensen or what might come next? Surely the are more disturbing or problematic films out there. I can name a few.

    Still I can’t figure it out if its he thinks there is something wrong with having sex with two men at the same time is problematic or filming it is. Is it that Shane’s World (a popular gonzo line of films) is more offensive than say Briana loves Jenna (one of the best selling plot driven titles) b/c of the medium. Going back to TV I do think The Wire is superior entertainment than Wife Swap. I do dig Dexter more than Flavor of Love. But as I mentioned there is a gem in every genre. And I don’t think reality tv nor gonzo is going anywhere I worked in the adult industry for nearly 5 years and have been watching porn for most of my adult life. And I can think of maybe 2 films where I saw a double penetration. In an industry that makes over 13,000 films a year its as easy as changing the channel. At the very least we need a deeper awareness of what erotica exists to offer a more all sided critique.

  • Guest (Carl Davidson)

    What I find bizarre is Jensen's repeated attendance at these Adult Film conventions. Reminds me of the guys who subscribed to Playboy 'for the articles and interviews'. Of course, Playboy is almost lost innocence these days. I still think the best take on all this stuff is found in Wilhelm Reich's 'Mass Psychology of Fascism' and his 'Sex-Pol' reforms.

  • Jensen’s argument that porn is the shame of sex, not its solution. To observe and analyze its content is apparently an "attack" – and a sign of Jensen's personal moral degeneracy. Which is to say that any exploration of the "private" ways in which we produce and reproduce misogyny is to be not discussed, let alone acted on. Jensen doesn't demand censorship, merely a conscious engagement with what it is that is attractive in porn, and why it is that people are drawn to it. He notes the shift towards fetishized abuse that have become prevalent in porn and asks men to look within themselves for why they like this. I think its worthy of discussion. As Mike noted, while the right wages war on sex ed, hard pornography has become a prevalent means by which young people learn about sex. It could be argued there is a relationship. That in this sense porn is an anti-sexual minstrel show, not a manifestation of sexuality or the erotic. Jensen's argument that porn is a retreat from intimacy is obviously not universally true, if porn is understood as sexual <i>imagery</i> as such. Jensen isn't arguing that porn is simply erotic imagery. His point appears to be that porn is the corn syrup of the erotic, and people are dying of diabetes.

    <i>So, why aren’t we demanding full trade union rights for porn actors, creative people and technicians, instead of attacking porn?</i>

    Try demanding OSHA compliance on porn shoots and you’ll be denounced as a censor. Nina Hartley thinks compulsory condom usage is beneath discussion, so the occasional HIV infection (and far more prevalent minor STDs) is just the cost of doing business. Condoms can't be mandated, its argued by the spokespeople of the sex industry because when the market speaks, people don't want to watch condoms. Any talk of valuing the life of the workers is a load of bullshit when they can't work in porn unless they have bareback sex, because its not about sex – it's about "the industry".

    I'm not for censorship, and I think Jensen would be served by viewing sites such as kink.com which incorporate consensual relations and discussion in their videos. Harder edged than even most of the gonzo porn he find objectionable, it is also humanized in a way that mainstream porn is not. Interviews and lifestyle discussions are part of the mix, it is not heteronormative. They are play-acted vignettes, where the models (male and female) talk out of character before and after the scenes. It doesn't seem to fit Jensen's argument, despite the physical and psychological intensity of the particular acts.

    Porn is a fact. It's not going away. So the issue seems less about porn as such, and much more about its content and the way in which (largely) men relate to it is a social sense. So let's not castigate Jensen for being one of the few people willing to get into the erotics of male domination, and perhaps admit there might be more than a little truth to what he's saying.

  • Guest (gangbox)

    Redflags,

    Jensen tends to dangerously oversimplyfy porn.

    He presents this simplified vision of that industry as if all of the product is gonzo - and then launches a strawman argument against gonzo that he applies to <i>all</i> porn.

    Which <i><b>might</b></i> be valid if the only type of porn out there was the gonzo stuff.

    But, in large part thanks to the anonymity and searchability of the internet, is far from true - if anything, porn today is more diverse than any time in history.

    Beyond that, what kind of "solutions" does Jensen offer us?

    Basically, he has a leftist version of Christian guilt and shame - oh yeah, and "renouncing masculinity" (whatever the hell that even means!)

    As I said in my above post, the fact is, there are a lot of folks out there for whom a sex life with a partner is not a possibility - and for whom pornography in it's varied forms (from Mr Jensen's gonzo down to and including Harlequin romance novels) is their only sexual outlet.

    And a disproportionate share of those folks happen to be proletarians.

    Jensen and his cothinkers have no answer for those people, other than the cruel taunt of "loving relationships" as the only acceptable sexual outlet.

    That's cold comfort if you are a paraplegic man on SSI living in a welfare hotel, or an overweight single mom with 3 kids and two jobs, or a Sudanese migrant laborer working in a South Dakota slaughterhouse.

    The cold hard reality is, for many in our society, masturbation is their only sexual outlet - shaming them like the Christians (and the other Abrahamic religions) do is not a communist way of dealing with them.

    Beyond that, neither Jensen nor you have a real answer to the real labor issues in the porn industry.

    It's easy to cheap shot Nina Hartley about condoms - but you didn't have one word to say about the fact that SAG, AFTRA, DGA, WGA, IATSE, the Teamsters and Scenic Artists local 829 all refuse to bargain for <i> any </i> workers in the porn industry - not only the actors and actresses but not even the folks that drive the gaffers trucks.

    Wouldn't the whole HIV prevention question be a whole lot different if, just as is the case on the other side of the Santa Monica Mountains, everybody on the set was union?

    It's one thing to blacklist one porn actress - it's a whole different ballgame to take on the whole Screen Actors Guild!

    Bottom line, I think that we as communists should recognize that pornography is a social necessity for vast sections of the population, and should be critically supported.

    That is, we should defend the pornographers (even the gonzo guys) from the censors - but at the same time, demand union rights for the performers and the crew, and criticize sexist, racist and other objectionable content <b>on a case by case basis</b> (that is, condemn this film or that video or that website for being wrong, rather than attacking all porn all the time).

    Maybe Robert Jensen and the rest of the latter day Dworkinite sex hating fanatic squad would not approve - but I think I can live with that!!!!!!

  • Two arguments start off gangbox's comments, and they both miss the point:

    <blockquote>"This follows a long tradition, dating back to Dr Catherine McKinnon and Andrea Dworkin’s block with Attorney General Ed Meese and the conservative city governments in Minneaopolis and Indianaopolis to outlaw porn back in the 1980’s.

    Jensen’s view of human sexuality is deeply unhealthy - this idea that most people (and almost all men) should be ashamed of our sexual urges is straight out of Catholicism, and is a very anti human attitude."</blockquote>

    First, you can't argue politics by association. I.e. Jensen thinks like McKinnon, Mckinnon "blocked" with Meese (whatever means), therefore Jenson's argument are really crypto-fascist censorship. That cheap method of argumentation can (literally) be used against any argument. (It is used against Kasama and the 9 Letters, when the RCP repeatedly says things like "your arguments sound adament, and adament almost rhymes with economist, and economism inevitably leads to capitulation, and so your project must be counterrevolutionary."

    Second, the issue is not sexual urges, it is sexual expressions.

    In other words, all of the modern world accepts that we humans are mammals, with sexual drives that are natural. (The earlier view that these "drives" were sinful urges is part of this debate... but not at issue here.)

    But human being are both sexual and intensely social -- and a great many of our actions are socially conditioned (not hardwired). The desire for sex is inherent, how we act that out is not.

    And (at the risk of sounding pedantic) one starting point for our understanding is that the ways sexuality has been expressed (for millenia) have been shaped (profoundly) by male supremacy and the dominance over women. (I am reading a biography of Ghenghis Khan which descibes sexual relations among nomadic people.... where kidnapping of brides is a common way of overcoming shortages of marriage women in your immediate group. One case among many.)

    So to argue against particular FORMS of sexual expression (in a revolutionary way, from a perspective of fightingfor the liberation of women) is not to argue for the shamefulness of sexual "urges." Otherwise, you will find yourself supporting construction workers who harass women walking on the street. ("Hey baby, nice ass!") The problem with that is not that "sexual urges are shameful," but that groups of men harassing women on the street (done as male bonding and amusement) is a public reinforcement of women's second class status (as property, as sexual object, as someone socially powerless to make assholes shut-the-fuck-up). This should be obvious and basic for progressive people.

    I think there is a major struggle to be had over objectification -- The separation of sexuality from real intimacy. The reducing of people into "things for me and my gratification."

    This kind of reduction of human beings is very basic in class society and it is axiomatic in America. Even questioning whether people should objectify each other (and whether men should objectify women) is shocking and bewildering for many people. (When men say "let's go get some pussy" it is different from "let's go meet some women." Literally the women are presented as the wrapping of the sex organ... and the "meeting" is really only a ritual for getting to the main act.)

    Mutual use (as sexual object) is part of why relations between men and women is so awful and so alienating in our society.

    RedFlags writes:

    <blockquote>" Jensen’s argument that porn is a retreat from intimacy is obviously not universally true, if porn is understood as sexual imagery as such."</blockquote>

    It many not be UNIVERSALLY true, but is that the issue? The incredible explosion of porn and its availability since the 1960s (which has both social and technological aspects) has contributed to an extreme alienation and atomization that has GENERALLY happened in society -- the privatization of life, the shrinking into the self, the viewing of everything (even others, even politics) as something to consume (and to evaluate as a consumer).

    the separation of sexuality from actual contact with other people, and the separation of sexuality from contact with people who you know and love, is a contributor to a deep alienation and sorrow within society -- a loneliness behind walls of isolation.

    And the ideas that blossom there (and the old school male chauvinist ideas that metasticize there in new ways) have a social impact -- on the conditions that women walk through every day. When women meet men (in the workplace, or school, or political life) they don't know precisely which brains are conditioned by hours of pornographic fantasy -- but they experience the results of it (in disrespect, in the sexualization of ordinary interchange, by the shaping of sexual expectation and practices, etc.) One friend called it the pornogrification of American life -- because of the many ways it is pervasive, even when unspoken.

    Finally, i found TNL's argument very (uh) odd:

    <blockquote>"given the enormous amount of shame that is attached to sex, Jensen might want to abandon a bit of his scholarly distance and start by talking about his own desires, how he acts on them, and any contradictions they might involve."</blockquote>

    First, our discussion of pornography (its impact on women's liberation and what communist revolution would do about it) does not hinge on how individual men handle their "own desires."

    It is like discussing global warming, and having someone say "lets cut down our scholarly distance, how will you handle not having a webber grill?" It is not about how any individual will handle the changes....

    And to focus on how Jensen handles his "desires" -- is to insist (yet again) that the issues of pornography be seen through the eyes of MEN in THIS society. It also appears to me as a veiled polemic: implying that the liberation of women and an end to the systematic objectification of women's sexuality is something no man can advocate without being a hypocrit -- and so Jenson (the author) has to open himself up to PERSONAL scrutiny of his private details in order to be allowed to make his SOCIAL and POLITICAL arguments.

    when Engels wrote "the family, private property and the state" -- should he have included a chapter on his personal household (on who did his laundry, on who he slept with, on how his food was prepared) in order to establish some bonefides for making his arguments? The main reason why not, is that we are talking about a revolution, not a series of reforms. And undoubtedly the domestic life of a Marx or an Engels were deeply stamped with patriarchal solutions to daily problems -- given that they lived as writers and theorists in 19th century England -- and this is really not relevant to their argument about ending such social conditions.

    When Gore argues for ending global warming, are the Republican rightists fair when they discuss the energy footprint of Gore's house -- or is it a divergence? then why should Jensen be jacked up to discuss how and when he masturbates, or what he thinks about when he does?

    The reason Gore's home lighting is irrelevent is because global warming can't be solved on that level -- it has to be solved on the level of social policy and the basic operation of economy (not by individuals working out microsolutions in their "buying patterns.") there is a whole aparatus of reformist assumptions in thinking that global warming is solved by new light bulbs -- and therefore the advocates of ending global warming should open up their private practices for scrutiny.

    An,d of course, at a certain point we do need to discuss how men would handle a society where women (generally) are not constantly "there" for the entertainment of any bored male. There would have to be a lot of transformation i imagine (not just of behavior but also of desire itself) -- and some of it happens during the revolution (starting now) and some after the revolution (when the larger social conditions are being changed).

    But that is hardly the place to start.... the key issue around pornography is not sexual satisfaction or release. It is not whether to embrace or reject "sexual urges." It is about the status of women, about whether they are to be subordinated to men in general or not. And it is about whether we even recognize that the objectification of women (casually, constantly, generally, for money and for fun) is a part of the horrors of class society -- not part of human nature.

    Why were women (over and over) amazed in socialist countries that they could walk down the street without being harassed, or feeling fearful. Why do women like it when the revolutionary movement is not characterized by a typical sexualized atmosphere around man-woman encounters, and why are they so disappointed when they encounter the "same old shit" at other times in the revolutionary movement?

    Why is it such a clear and revealing sign of capitalist restoration when prostitution flourishes around hotels in formerly socialist countries? Why did the western journalists gasp in recognision in the late 1970s in china at the emergence of paid sex -- and proclaim that this was a key sign of how profoundly the new chinese turn was rejecting revolution?

    In my view, if we don't uproot this sexual objectification of women (in ways that don't criminalize the erotic per se, but that ends the casual and commodified exploitation of women's bodies) then we won't really be serious about the liberation of half of humanity.

  • Guest (Sovvie)

    A couple quick notes on Jensen's piece:

    1) If pornography were so boring, he wouldn't need to campaign against it.
    2) He jumps from saying that porn renders sex emotionless to speaking of porn involving "negative emotions, but powerful emotions."
    3) I don't see Jensen in this piece (or elsewhere) ever acknowledge the women who enjoy watching exploitative/violent/degrading/etc. pornography. (By the way, there was a teenage girl recently convicted in Guelph, Ontario, Canada for having a large collection of child porn showing young girls getting sexually abused by adults. She admitted to finding young girls sexually desirable. Authorities originally had assumed it was her father's collection! Jensen, try simplistically blaming The Patriarchy on this one!)

    There is so much nuance missing in so many arguments regarding pornography.

  • Guest (nando)

    Sovvie:

    I find your brief list of criticisms of Jensen unconvincing --

    Who doesn't know that pornography is boring but also extremely ensaring? Who doesn't see that pornography depicts sex that is mechanical but intense -- i.e. stripped of many of the usual emotions surrounding it in real life -- and yet, at the same time, who doesn't know that these depictions stir powerful emotions (even while they depict the sex itself as emotionless)?

    No one among us can argue that some women are drawn into behaviors and views that are degrading to women. And that is hardly an argument that it isn't a part of patriarchy.

    In many places in the world, women are the enforces of patriarchy (meet mother-in-laws in feudal china, or the enforces of genital mutilation in Subsaharan Africa, or the "mean girls" of U.S. junior highs.)

    The fact that some girl was drawn into a fetishized fascination with watching other girls abused is not a nuance, or a proof that this is separate from patriarchy. The moment you excavate HOW that girl was socialized in that way.... then the linkages will appear. For example, children who exhibit sexually aggressive behavior are almost always acting out their own sexual abuse (in other words, this is socialized behavior). And much of this is treated with denial. When Freud encountered patients speaking of being sexually abused as children he could imagine it was all true -- and that it was so common -- and he chose to believe that it had to be that INVENTED fantasies of such things were common (not the victimization).

    Similarly, some people argue that there is not enough attention to the range of pornography. Perhaps. And I think some opponents have focused too much on one or two genres (implying that pornography mainly depicts the beating and rape of women -- in ways that are just not factually true). But in fact, I think that our communist case needs to be made around pornography generally (the commodification and obectification of women and their bodies) not around the content of this or that depiction or fetish.

    I think that people see the consumption of pornography as private -- and so don't see the social cost of its production, distribution and pervasiveness. It is seen as something "for me" -- a brief pleasure in a difficult world. And so it is jealously guarded -- even while its social component is ignored or denied. The fact that pornography is consumed in private does not make it victimless. Nor does the fact that the women in the industry "enter voluntarily" or that spokespeople can be found who are female.

    The impact of pornography's pervasiveness is not just on the women "in the industry" (who are widely abused, degraded and ripped off by pimps, drug-addicted boyfriends and the industry itself in ways that need to be exposed and quantified. Pornography is filmed prostitution -- the viewer may be "removed" in a voyeristic way, but the social relations are hardly that different.

    But it affects the status of all women -- in ways that need to be exposed and quantified.

  • Guest (Sovvie)

    <i>But in fact, I think that our communist case needs to be made around pornography generally (the commodification and obectification of women and their bodies)</i>

    Disclaimer: I am not a communist. ("Sovvie" stands for Sovereignist, not Soviet or such.) I was just browsing through discussions on Jensen and this looked to be a good one. I figured I'd toss out a few quick thoughts.

    However, I do find your thoughts to be an interesting read and I even agree with <i>some</i> of them. Thanks for sharing your musings with regard to my comment.

  • Guest (Arthur)

    Redflags,

    <blockquote>Jensen doesn’t demand censorship, merely a conscious engagement with what it is that is attractive in porn, and why it is that people are drawn to it.</blockquote>

    Actually Jensen is co-editor of <a href="/http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/081470638X/qid=1131132875/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/002-1283997-4293625?v=glance&amp;s=books" rel="nofollow">Freeing the First Amendment: Critical Perspectives on Freedom of Expression</a>

    <blockquote>Why, this volume asks, does the First Amendment--the very document intended to ensure the freedom of U.S. citizens--need to be freed? And from what?

    Long an icon in American law, politics, and journalism, the First Amendment--and the potential and real dilemmas with which it presents us--have only recently begun to be scrutinized. Challenging the idea that the only champions of free speech are traditional liberal theorists who oppose alternatives to the mainstream interpretation of the First Amendment, the contributors to this volume, among them such prominent thinkers as Frederick Schauer, Owen Fiss, and Cass Sunstein, explore new and provocative ways to think about freedom of expression. By reformulating traditional liberal and libertarian approaches to the First Amendment, this volume convincingly disputes the notion that those who question an unwavering reliance on free- and-open competition between individuals to produce free expression are necessarily enemies of free speech. It argues instead that these alleged enemies can in fact be champions as well.</blockquote>

    Both Robert Jensen and Mike Eely are very "nuanced" in their preachiness. But don't kid yourself.

  • Arthur:

    <blockquote>"Both Robert Jensen and Mike Eely are very “nuanced” in their preachiness. But don’t kid yourself."</blockquote>

    Uh.... don't did yourself how?

  • Guest (Arthur)

    Mike,

    I thought it was pretty clear. I was urging Redflags and others not to kid themselves that either Robert Jensen's or your "nuanced" critique of porn focussing on gonzo is not a mealy mouthed advocacy of censorship.

    You made that pretty explicit yourself in stressing that you advocate "uprooting":

    <blockquote>in ways that don’t criminalize the erotic per se</blockquote>

    What you want to criminalize would not include what you consider to be erotic.

    The revolutionary women's movement confronted oppression. When the tide ebbed the same old "protecting women" stuff got internalized like the earlier wave that ended in Women's Christian Temperance Unions.

    Some of the best critiques of the conservative regression in the women's movement that parallelled the decline into pseudo-left politics generally came from the leatherdykes with their in your face challenges like Samois' <a>Coming to Power</a>.

    If you cannot get hold of a copy, see <a href="/http://www.leatherarchives.org/resources/issue21.pdf" rel="nofollow">Gayle Rubin's essay in leather times</a> on the history of the battle fought and won against censorship actually imposed within the movement by "nuanced" advocates in the name of "protecting women".

    But you know that. You were there, in the RCP.

  • Guest (question)

    I don't see how questioning the relationship of power to expression is demanding censorship.

    Alternative weekly newspapers that don't run sex industry ads tend to go out of business. Where is the freedom NOT to run ads for prostitution, or to engage in social and non-commercial discussion?

    Anywhere? Jensen's article discusses what porn largely depicts. Why this is controversial...

  • Guest (Quorri)

    UP WITH CENSORSHIP!!

    hahaa.... why are we so afraid of this word? we are crazy! OF COURSE I would uphold censorship for things like snuff films and child pornography, and I dare each and every person who reads this to try to say they wouldn't be ok with that! (Ok, but if you are not ok with censoring child porn, then I don't really know if there is a point in us communicating because there is something very wrong with you and you should probably be shot)

    Thank you so much, Mike, for this:

    <blockquote cite=""> "...the key issue around pornography is not sexual satisfaction or release. It is not whether to embrace or reject “sexual urges.” It is about the status of women, about whether they are to be subordinated to men in general or not. And it is about whether we even recognize that the objectification of women (casually, constantly, generally, for money and for fun) is a part of the horrors of class society — not part of human nature." </blockquote>

    Yes we are all sexual beings, yes we need release of that energy in positive ways to be healthy, yes there are tons of people who can't get sex when they want it and GUESS WHAT?

    MASTURBATION WORKS JUST AS WELL WITHOUT PORN AS IT DOES WITH IT!!!

    There is so much bullshit put out by (mostly men) people such as:

    "I have a boner, I can't make it go away on my own so you'll have to have sex with me"
    "I just CAN'T be aroused without being violent"
    "It's not hurtful to someone if it is consensual"
    "I need sexual release and consuming porn is the only way to get it!"

    etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum, ad nauseum

    You can masturbate, you can do it whether or not you have assistance, it IS psychologically damaging to participate in violent sex and possibly physically damaging, it is damaging for people to produce porn, and all of it is tied up with the objectification and exploitation of women, in general.

    I hope someone smarter than me with more savvy can find the studies done on people who watch porn and the effects it has on their relationships or their ability to even have one.... the studies findings are pretty straightforward. The gist of it is that couples who watch porn together are instantly less satisfied with their lovers and less able to find them sexually satisfying than they were before.....

    I just think that the point is that porn is bad for everyone, all the time. There is nothing good about it, at all. Erotica is not porn, and that is a different story and subject altogether...perhaps there is something positive there. But let's all remember that no one decided to become a porn star because of how fulfilling and happy it would make them... and if they say so, they are lying to themselves and us.

    I'd love it if people would get more into the oppression inherent in pornography and the patriarchal oppression promoted by it.

  • Guest (question)

    Quorri says: "let’s all remember that no one decided to become a porn star because of how fulfilling and happy it would make them… and if they say so, they are lying to themselves and us."

    That's just not true.

  • Guest (Comments)

    This is an interesting discussion but there are some very obvious points left out.

    Pornography is an evolving category. There are forms that involve no use of "models" (drawings, anime, etc.) and there are the forms discussed here, mainly videos. A huge proportion of the business conducted by video rental stores these days is in the porn category. The market caters to varying tastes, with a disproportionate gay segment.

    It's worth lingering on that thought for a minute, since all the discussion above has assumed that pornography "is about the status of women." It's that, no doubt, but it's about more than that too.

    The evolution of technology has (maybe inevitably) led to such phenomena as xtube (do a google search), a free website where people so inclined post homemade videos of themselves in sexual situations (masturbating, having sex---heterosexual, gay, bisexual, whatever---satisfying exhibitionistic impulses, without getting any material reward). It's hard to find generic "exploitation" here.

    Let's say a gay "bottom" posts a videoclip of himself getting fucked by his boyfriend (or some anonymous hookup) because that act of exhibitionism somehow satisfies him. Let's say the act depicted is quite precisely analogous to the kind of violent sexual activity Jansen finds "degrading" in a heterosexual situation. But plainly the gay man doesn't feel degraded, or if he does, he feels so in a positive way, within a role-playing context. Fetishes (and physiological responses) are complex things!

    Jensen seems to be arguing for a kind of model heterosexuality operating independently of porn-fed masturbatory fantasy. In the age of the internet that's probably not possible. Seems to me we should recognize that pornography is ubiquitous, probably uncontrollable, extremely diverse (and not reducible to "anti-woman propaganda"), increasingly produced by amateurs for their own stimulation and circulated on the net, and worth serious analysis rather than dogmatic dismissal.

    This is not well worked out but wanted to contribute to this thread before the end of the day.

  • Guest (the divine comedy)

    a few thoughts...

    How does this article or anyone in this discussion in general even define what constitutes pornography? Is it just the whole gambit of depictions of sex or sex related activity? Just certain mediums? Or only the ones that are produced to be sold? Or is it how someone uses an image or text (ie for arousal, whether it's the undergarments section in a catalogue or a pair of shoes or article of clothing)? It seems that if you select only materials that depict degradation, domination etc. or are produced under very poor social conditions and say "this is pornography, unlike that other stuff which is art or erotica - and pornography is destructive/wrong because it depicts the degradation of women", all you really have is a tautology, no?

    Similar problems seem to be arising to what occured in another thread that discussed sex ("Telling each other how to fuck") - a whole whack of issues (however interconnected in certain instances) are all muddled together and it's not clear what problems are being identified in relation to what, if certain things are even problems at all, and what methods are being proposed to address them (what's the vision? inside a party? movement? wider society? standards of conduct for membership? censorship? counselling? sexual education?).

    This website has had in its short existence some very intelligent discussions on the issue of how homosexuality has been at times approached by some aspiring or actual revolutionary movements/groupings - and the overall consensus on Kasama has been a laudable critique of approaching homosexuality as a problem of ideology and to see the pursuit of sexual and relationship choices among people of the same sex/gender as not only well within the range of healthy human activity, but even essential to the well being and fulfillment of many people. I mention this because I fear at present much of the way the debates in this thread and "Telling people how to fuck", have been framed by some or the way terms (ie domination) are used seem to threaten to leave some collateral damage in the wake of their premises and generalizations - namely, "kinks" or alternative sexual lifestyles. People have them. Strange ones. Silly ones. Ones that may even act out, depict or play around with the language, imagery and roles of relations of power in our society (bondage, role play, domination/submission, sadism/masochism etc. what is generally captured under BDSM). Scientifically, we don't know much about "kinks". We suspect there is probably some link between socialization and their development, but it doesn't seem to be an obvious one (ie for years the dominant view in psychiatry was that people who were into forms of BDSM had been abused at some point in their life - this has now been thoroughly debunked) nor is it clear to what extent such "kinks" can be modified at their root in a psychologically healthy way. We know that people don't chose their kinks. We know that a healthy sexual life in general is crucial to most peoples overall well being and sense of fulfillment. We also have a pretty good idea that to shame and repress people in their expression and pursuit of these kinks can have a variety of negative consequences for a person's all around well being. Scientifically, this is almost all we know in a nutshell. However, we also know (or should) that socially we live in a society in which people are pursuing them more and more unapologetically with consenting partners, consuming and participating in the creation of various forms of media related to them(pornography?) and even developing "communities" or sub-cultures often with their own ethical guidelines. And in all this there is a demand to be free of shame, judgement and discrimination in their lives. Now are we to see these kinks as a problem of ideology? Is their relationship to actually existing oppressive relations in society (which no doubt exist on a vast scale)simply to reinforce or unconsciously reproduce them even though they may simply depict or reenact them under vastly different conditions? What is the social meaning and content in 2008, of an employed woman, well informed about sex and contraception (and in a position to ensure the latter's use) with no history of sexual or physical abuse in her life to, on her own initiative, request of her male partner to role play a "rape" fantasy, to agree on a "safe word", and to then proceed to act this out, during the course of which she experiences intense sexual gratification? (or maybe she decides it's not for her). Is this at all liberating? Or a deeply reactionary act that illustrates the extent of her unexamined and internalized ideological world/self-view?

  • Guest (N3wDay)

    Quorri,

    "it IS psychologically damaging to participate in violent sex and possibly physically damaging"

    Can you perhaps define "violent sex' and justify this statement a little further?

    Is it psychologically damaging to me to have clothes pins clamped down on my nipples while having sex, uh, why? What differentiates controlled pain from any other pleasurable sensation, say such as smoking pot?

  • Guest (nando)

    comments writes:

    <blockquote>" The market caters to varying tastes, with a disproportionate gay segment. It’s worth lingering on that thought for a minute, since all the discussion above has assumed that pornography “is about the status of women.” It’s that, no doubt, but it’s about more than that too."</blockquote>

    there are paradoxes and ironies in all of this. It would seem to be contradictory -- if pornography includes a heavily gay component (which is mainly man-man and doesn't depict women much) for the central issue to be the status of women.

    Pornography is about "the status of women" in ways that go far beyond the specific ways that women are depicted (or not depicted). Sexual objectification of human beings arises on the basis of patriarchy and the historic subordination of women. It is conjoined with a larger superstructure of ideas in class society that treat people generally as things for exploitation.

    Pornography overall (in both its hetero and gay forms) shapes and reflects dominant male views of sexuality -- which have a lot of similarities in both its gay and hetero forms. And the forms that male sexuality take in this society affect women (even if women are not directly depicted in some of its manifestations.)

    <b>A related point:</b> The status of gay men in this culture (whether their relations are generally accepted or violently demonized) is itself closely tied to struggle over the status of women.

    It is impossible to understand the persecution of gay relationships, or the intensity with which it is pursued, without understanding that it is tied to and symbolic of an even larger enforcement of oppressive sex roles on women.

    Society today is wracked by a historic confrontation over the subordination of women -- it rakes across the lives of people who are otherwise untouched by politics. It crisscrosses every institution, every family and virtually every moment of interpersonal interaction. And because of that set of contradictions, everything related to sex roles gets drawn into a maelstrom of heightened conflict and hysteria.

    In my opinion, both the struggle for gay equality and the struggle against it are conditioned by the struggle over the status of women. Of course, the just struggle of gay equality and acceptance has real social importance in its own right. and so too other issues around sex roles and gender that aren't narrowly "about" women. But all of these matters are inseparable from the question of women's emancipation -- and will find their resolution (in their own right) as the encompassing contradictions around women's oppression get fought to a revolutionary solution.

    we just can't resolve (or even scratch) the agonizing and infuriating contradictions around sexuality, sex roles, and intimacy without understanding how they are conditioned by the struggle for the emancipation of women.

  • Guest (The Divine Comedy)

    @ Saoirse: Your critiqe of Jensen's over-generalization is spot on, and informative. It's too bad much of the discussion of these matters tends so often to display a remarkeable ignorance of a sometimes (and increasingly) diverse and complex reality.

    @ Comments: Wow, I don't think I would have even bothered with my post if I had seen what you wrote first. Very well said.

    Building on Comments' post, does anyone here really forsee that a future society linked by such technologies as we see today, but free from market coercion and socio-economic inequality (including sex/gender inequality), would be one in which people do not produce sexual media or view sexual depictions with some degree of anonymity or removal from the act itself? Does anyone here see the struggle against such sexual behaviours, expressions and forms (by whatever methods) as a necessary precondition or desireable step to arriving at such a society? I wonder what the political cost of pursuing such a vision would be to an aspiring party/movement in North America, in 2008?

    Also, N3wDay's question/point is crying out to be answered.

  • Guest (Arthur)

    Nando,

    the struggle for the emancipation of women includes siding with <a href="/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex-positive_feminism" rel="nofollow">sex positive</a> women against other women trying to tell them how to be good little girls, let alone men prescribing what people should or should not fantasize about or how.

    As for the "maelstrom of heightened conflict and hysteria" calm yourself, you will get used to dealing with a world in which Maoists can also have nipple clamps.

  • Guest (Iris)

    Gangbox,

    Mike did not 'blame porn' on men who 'view women sexually'. That is precisely what he did not say--he is urging a focus on the social relations and how they are expressed in pornography (and in the way men treat women on the street--or should we let the Workers keep hollering at women because it helps them with their sexual desire? their masculinity?) He is not saying that the urges themselves are bad, and you are not actually addressing his points.

    And while I found the points you made in your first post interesting (and I appreciate your contributions to the discussion) I also get frustrated by your attitude in discussions about sexuality. You put up hurt sensibilities--'why are you attacking prol men? and their masculinity? you must be puritans!' etc. As a woman very disturbed by some popular trends in pornography and by the way it effects the way men treat me in general, your puffing up to defend proletarian masculinity when we are talking about sexual degradation in porn angers me in the way white people puffing up to defend themselves in open discussions about systemic racism angers me.

    I too want to deal with the communist tendency to censor and fear sexuality, and to do that we shouldn't run down the rabbit hole of patriarchal Stalinism because one person in a long thread made comments about shooting child rapists. Consider that some commenters are young women, who may have direct experience with rape or abuse, mmmkay? When I was a 20, and just came to feminism, I was very angry--I was attracted to radical feminism, and Marxism (which I saw as getting 'more to the point'). Most of the young women in the Women's Studies program were liberal, sex positive type feminists. They basically posited that they could continue to act and wear and do what they wanted, and as long as they personally thought about it differently--well its all changed. Magic. (It influenced me while it frustrated me). Well, it's not--as said above, your individual consumption patterns don't change the greater, oppressive context. Its not about 'wearing what I want' (though, of course, you should be able to!) or just 'biological urges'. What communist would say this is JUST about biological urges?!

    My political views of porn and sex have changed and become more nuanced...I think representations of sex change as society changes, and I don't think porn or sexuality is some sacred cow we can't discuss. Controlled pain, as N3w said above--isn't it ok to do that? I think so. Should we view dom-sub relationships in the greater context of gender, social relations, patriarchy, an the subversion of all that? Why wouldn't we? I have gay male friends who run a bondage club for gay men. Do they like it sexually? Yeah. Do they reproduce patriarchal relations? Do they subvert them? Yes and yes--it's complicated, and they're generally progressive people. Can videos of sex be educational, entertaining, real? Can they be used to help women NOT see sex through the prism of masculine desire and power relations (like most porn, and real-life sex), as we are taught to see it in this society? Maybe yes!

    I am asking myself a lot of questions about this stuff and I come from the perspective of dealing with the patriarchy, which I think is intertwined, and correct. I also think Christian rooted fear and shyness around sex, and just non-sexual physical contact is very pervasive in our society (it sure is in my Midwestern up bringing), and I acknowledge that it effects how I think, and what I am comfortable with.

    And I just wanted to say, I always appreciate Saoirse's contributions :)

  • Guest (Iris)

    Also, Gangbox: if it is correct to say we need to analyse and do away with puritanical strains in communist outlooks on sexuality, it is also true to say this trend of 'whatever the worker wants is off limits'--say their lawns, which are the number one pesticide polluter of the Great Lakes, or the fact that they need porn to jerk off, or want strawberries in February whatever the cost--also needs to be analyzed and discarded.

    The 'masculinity' (and misogyny) of the proletariat, and all the forms it takes, are not off limits to analysis or criticism, just as their xenophobia and racism and consumerism--all products of our capitalist society--are not off limits. The viewing of violent pornography, where women are dominated by men, has an effect on the psychology and social relations of women and men (and otherwise). What about this effect on working class women? Of victims of abuse?

  • Guest (Iris)

    And please don't say I'm trotting out a stereotype of 'working class brothers beating their wifes', because I'm not. Just respond to reality, will you?

  • Guest (Quorri)

    Gangbox sez: <blockquote cite=""> You might want to warm up that old 7.62mm NKVD-issue Tokarev pistol for me, Quorri - cause I happen to believe that, due to the fact that a certain portion of the population have pedophiliac tendencies, it would be far preferable that they masturbate to virtual child porn, rather than rape real live boys and girls (and in the real world, those are the two realistic choices we have)!</blockquote>

    It would be preferable that anyone pursue videos rather than actually raping someone, but that doesn't make the videos right. I've seeen videos of child porn and there are real children being sexually exploited by real people in them, that is sick and wrong. We have another realistic option that you failed to note, and it is to re-create society in such a way that these internalized power issues aren't dominant in the structuring of lives and habits, especially sexually, in this case. Yes, I think pedophiles should be shot and killed when it is absolutely known for sure that they rape children. Also, I'M A GIRL NOT A GUY. Why does everyone assume I'm male? Oh well :D

    Divine Comedy sez: <blockquote cite=""> What is the social meaning and content in 2008, of an employed woman, well informed about sex and contraception (and in a position to ensure the latter’s use) with no history of sexual or physical abuse in her life to, on her own initiative, request of her male partner to role play a “rape” fantasy, to agree on a “safe word”, and to then proceed to act this out, during the course of which she experiences intense sexual gratification? (or maybe she decides it’s not for her). Is this at all liberating? Or a deeply reactionary act that illustrates the extent of her unexamined and internalized ideological world/self-view?</blockquote>

    IMHO, this women, while perhaps not sexually abused specifically, has grown up in a society that has images of women chained to the newest gaming console in high heels, makeup and a cocktail dress, constant depiction of women as subservient to men and only present for the sexual gratification thereof, and rampant sexism and harassment... to say the least! This woman, then, has a great likelihood to be acting out sick, internalized, backward social roles that are deeply embedded in her way of being, by no choice of her own. Socialization is all powerful stuff.

    <blockquote cite=""> Building on Comments’ post, does anyone here really forsee that a future society linked by such technologies as we see today, but free from market coercion and socio-economic inequality (including sex/gender inequality), would be one in which people do not produce sexual media or view sexual depictions with some degree of anonymity or removal from the act itself? Does anyone here see the struggle against such sexual behaviours, expressions and forms (by whatever methods) as a necessary precondition or desireable step to arriving at such a society? I wonder what the political cost of pursuing such a vision would be to an aspiring party/movement in North America, in 2008?</blockquote>

    Sexual media is fine, let's all make liberating sexual videos where people are pleasured without power struggle or degradation, that's awesome. Let's not, however, make pornography, where we have seen nothing but. Indeed we need to struggle against some sexual behaviors in a society that is to be truly emancipating and liberating for everyone, and it is because this type of sexual behavior, degrading and objectifying pornography, is supportive of and promotes the exact types of misogyny and patriarchy with which we struggle against. But that doesn't mean I'm going to come into your bedroom and steal your nipple clamps to burn them :P It means we need to constantly struggle to uproot all forms of oppression everywhere, and pooping on your partner is one of them.

    Newday:

    <blockquote cite=""> Quorri,

    “it IS psychologically damaging to participate in violent sex and possibly physically damaging”

    Can you perhaps define “violent sex’ and justify this statement a little further?

    Is it psychologically damaging to me to have clothes pins clamped down on my nipples while having sex, uh, why? What differentiates controlled pain from any other pleasurable sensation, say such as smoking pot?</blockquote>

    Violent sex is violent. Violence is the exertion of force so as to injure or abuse. I don't see clamping nipples as injuring or abusing, unless it is! You can definitely tear some flesh, ruin some nerves, trash on some mammary glands, and more... but you can also just apply some clamps. So many acts can be, on one end, not violent and, on another end, very violent. A high five can be both.... So I'm not going to go into it further. But I think we are all imaginative enough to understand what is and what is not violence.... no? Stop me if I'm wrong.

    Let's take rape fantasy as an example. The consensual adults agree to role play a rape and have safe words and all that, they respect each other well enough. Good. But as soon as the scene begins and one person is threatening another, one person is pushing another around, one person may be binding another, there is likely to be bruises and whatnot....but psychologically there are even more! Our subconscious minds take abuse and degradation literally, even when people are joking around with us! If my friends says, "You idiot!" My subconscious actually thinks I'm being called an idiot, even if it was a joke and I knew that. The degradation that goes on in a rape is internalized whether the rape is planned and consented (not actually rape) or not.... Violence does damage.

  • Guest (N3wDay)

    I think perhaps nipple clamps were a little to weak of an example, but I'm also going to steer clear of rape fantasy because I think that IS wrong (although it shouldn't be regulated, ie: bedroom police), just like I think n*gger jokes are wrong. I think some acts do in fact reproduce negative relations even when 'joking' or 'acting'. But I don't think violence is violence is violence. I think your viewing it as black and white is overly simplistic.

    Let's take whips. If I have my partner beat me with a tool originally meant for farm animals do I somehow "naturally" internalize that violence as her disliking me, or thinking of me as an animal? What about when I do it to myself when no ones around? Do I internalize this act as my own self hatred. What about when I use my fist?

    No not at all. Because a major component of physical violence that determines how humans view it has to do with the intent behind it. If my friend slips and spills hot coffee on me no part of me thinks that he/she secretly hates me, although I experience the pain, however if he/she were to throw it on me intentionally the character of the act changes completely.

    If my partner slaps me while having sex I get turned on. If she does it during an argument my feelings get really hurt. The exact same act within two different contexts produce different results.

    I don't think in situations like this there is adequate reason to believe that somehow because 'a' in one situations means on thing, in a different situation 'a' necessarily produces the same results sub-consciously. There are a million other psychological components that contribute to whether we internalize something as damaging or not.

    I'm not advocating 'whatever turns you on', but I think the situation is much more nuanced and complex than it's being portrayed.

  • Is it just me, or is there something pornographic about discussing pornography during the most intense election of our lifetime?

  • Guest (Quorri)

    I think you are right, Newday, that things are more nuanced than black or white, in most situations. I think we can agree that one act in one situation is not going to carry the same meaning or implication that the same act would in another situation.

    But, I still think that there is a degrading character to whipping and slapping that exists even within your scenario of you and your lover consensually acting in such ways. I can't say that you experience it this way, but I still see it there. It kind of connects to my earlier statement that no one loves being a sex worker, that no one finds it fulfilling and self actualizing, even if they don't experience it directly as non-fulfilling and non-self actualizing....

    I have had many friends become sex workers of various types: prostitutes, strippers, pornography actors. I have watched every single last one of them go from somewhat happy and adjusted to severely emotionally damaged and, most often, addicted to drugs. Ever heard Sarah Silverman's song? "Do you ever take drugs so that you can have sex without crying?" It's hilarious and disturbing all at once, because it is so often true. These same friends will argue that they are fulfilled and happy, that they feel liberated.... So why do they have to snort cocaine to get by? I think the damage has been done to them, and that they are even further from becoming truly liberated because they have even further internalized the oppression and hopelessness of their situations in our sick society....

    And, you know, not a single one of them would have ever become what they are now had they been given exactly what they needed their entire lives: respect, sustenance, housing, community, and freedom from oppression, amongst other things. That's my take on why there are not people who are actually fulfilled by these jobs.

    Having said that, not all sexual media is oppressive and it is possible to create sexual media, even when paid, that is not damaging to anyone involved. I just don't see many people given that opportunity or pursuing that option, it doesn't exist very often. Not many people are into making sexual media that is not degrading precisely because it does not sell, because it is not reinforcing of the dominant, power structures that exist in society.

  • Guest (gangbox)

    Iris,

    I totally 180 degree disagree with you - I believe that the working class should rule, and that's the only path to a better world.

    And since we'll be the new ruling class, we should be allowed to have at least as much freedom as the present rulers have.

    Hell, that's the reason I'm a communist!

    So, I think we should just say no to hair shirt aceticism!

    The proletariat should have our porno (in all it's varieties, gay, straight, fetish, BDSM, whatever)!

    And we should have our strawberries in february (and, for me, New Zealand Kiwi fruit in Novemeber - excuse me, but I have 3 of them in front of me right now - yum)!

    And I don't have a lawn, cause I live in an apartment in Harlem, but I certainly think that my working class brothers who have lawns should have them, with all the fertilizer and turf builder and lawnmowers they need to keep em nice and green!

    Oh yeah, and don't forget the 52 inch flatscreen so we can watch the Knicks win (well, maybe <i>that's</i> a little utopian)!

    My communism is the free liberatory communism of universal abundance - not the phony communism of shared misery (save that for Kim Jong Il)!


    Quorri-

    Sorry for getting your gender wrong.

    And I'm sorry you believe in shooting people as a way of solving criminal justice problems under communism (just ask Henry Yagoda, Nikolai Yezhov and Laverenti Beria about how <i>that</i> worked out)!

    Fact - sexually deprived males are known to rape.

    Fact - giving those males a sexual outlet (like porn, or prostitution, or strip clubs) protects women and kids from being raped.

    Fact - I called for <b><i>VIRTUAL</i></b> child porn, where it would be images of adults digitally manipulaed to <i>resemble</i> children so no kids would be harmed.

    And, child rapes would be prevented by giving child molesters a safe sexual outlet.

    I don't do the state sanctioned homicide thing, so I can't join you on the shooting people piece!

  • Guest (celticfire)

    <blockquote cite="">Is it just me, or is there something pornographic about discussing pornography during the most intense election of our lifetime?</blockquote>

    Redflags: What do elections matter if we're supposed to abstain? :P

  • Guest (zerohour)

    "I have had many friends become sex workers of various types: prostitutes, strippers, pornography actors. I have watched every single last one of them go from somewhat happy and adjusted to severely emotionally damaged and, most often, addicted to drugs."

    "And, you know, not a single one of them would have ever become what they are now had they been given exactly what they needed their entire lives: respect, sustenance, housing, community, and freedom from oppression, amongst other things. That’s my take on why there are not people who are actually fulfilled by these jobs."

    There is a politics of the body that I'd like to learn more about, but what you're describing here sounds like what happens to much of the workforce in general. What is the difference between the exploitation of a woman's, and a man's, body for sexual fantasy and exploitation for sport or for general wage labor? Many people in high stress jobs are miserable and take jobs. Many others face physical debilitation - is this not psychologically damaging and as well as a violation of physical integrity? How about healthcare attendants who take care of your infirm parents or grandparents because many people just don't have time to do it? Is this not outsourcing emotional intimacy?

    I'm not saying there's no difference, just trying to get at the heart of why a critical discussion of sexuality, and its representation, inspires such heated reactions. In everyday life, this question is reflected in the observation that Blockbuster video will not carry pornos but has an extensive selection of horror movies where people are routinely mutilated and killed. What's the nature of the ideology at work?

    Also I think we are eliding the discussion back and forth between people's sexual practices and pornography, the exaggerated representation of such practices. I think we should separate the two, or at least zero in on the linchpin that connects both, which is the question of morality, and moralism.

    I find it interesting that some Marxists in these threads, when talking about porn, have decided to shift the focus away from production and decided to emphasize the rights of consumption and "free" expression. Sexuality may just be the universal acid that eats away at all pretense to reveal the liberalism underneath some Marxists' rhetoric.

  • Guest (zerohour)

    Sorry I meant "take drugs" not "take jobs".

  • Guest (Iris)

    Divine Comedy:

    I'm glad you still wrote your post!

  • Guest (TellNoLies)

    "Our subconscious minds take abuse and degradation literally, even when people are joking around with us! If my friends says, “You idiot!” My subconscious actually thinks I’m being called an idiot, even if it was a joke and I knew that. The degradation that goes on in a rape is internalized whether the rape is planned and consented (not actually rape) or not…. Violence does damage."

    The subconscious is a hypothesis. A very popular and seductive one. But a hypothesis no less. Even if it does exist, the claim that it takes everything literally is a huge one.

    This discussion is important but I'll be heading off to watch the pornography of the elections shortly. Redflags is right on this score.

  • Guest (saoirse)

    Regarding zerohour's point that "...Blockbuster video will not carry pornos but has an extensive selection of horror movies..." There is something to this though Blockbuster video has a long history of censoring and editing videos that they carry in their stores dating back to the video release of Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ.

    Today these policies still exist and horror releases are the primary targets. Blockbuster went through a long phase over a decade ago when they barely carried any horror. More recently they shifted there policy and re-expanded there sci-fi/horror sections on several outlets and markets. However there policy of editing and censoring films still stands and is well documented.

    More generally I try to come to this discussion looking towards the sincerity of all the participants. I am not looking to jump on folks for not being "sex positive" or criticizing them for being fascistic sex censors. I have my concerns. I try to state them in a principled fashion and avoid the hyperbole. I am not familiar with Jensen's other writings but this piece offers little insight into gonzo porn. Zerohour’s later point about “emphasize the rights of consumption and “free” expression.” Leads me to ask the question – did you follow 2nd wave feminisms “sex wars”? While flawed on many levels a healthy about of scholarship and discourse emerged during this period and its worth engaging the material. For me fighting against patriarchy, sexism and homophobia includes a sharp critique of the sex industry including those producing and consuming it. But I strive to do this in the context with having dangerous desires and fantasies. Many sex positive feminists hold similar positions.

    The main-streaming of porn (see Lexington Steele recurring role on F/X network’s award winning Nip/Tuck and Jenna Jameson on the NY Times best seller list) has occurred with reforms in the industry. Redflags pt regarding Nina Hartley is well taken. Safer sex should be more the norm in film. But STD testing is. And this was and is an important reform. Similarly the huge pay differential in favor of women porn stars and their growing influence in the production of porn movies and websites necessitate a more nuanced understanding of what’s taking place in the industry. While the emergence of new mediums such as the internet and the globalization of porno raise new issues in an industry that markets flesh and fantasy.

  • Guest (zerohour)

    "Today these policies still exist and horror releases are the primary targets."

    Blockbuster policy isn't really my point. Rather it is the ideology that considers portrayals of sexual pleasure less acceptable than that of bodily mutilation. Some have dubbed the new wave of horror movies like Saw and Hostel "horror porn" indicating possibly deeper shared impulses. Even in other video rental shops, the adult video section is sequestered while horror movies are out in the open.

    "did you follow 2nd wave feminisms “sex wars”? While flawed on many levels a healthy about of scholarship and discourse emerged during this period and its worth engaging the material. For me fighting against patriarchy, sexism and homophobia includes a sharp critique of the sex industry including those producing and consuming it."

    I didn't mean to suggest that consumption patterns were irrelevant, just that it could not serve as the beginning AND end point of any discussion about pornography.

    However I still have some questions: why do we isolate sexual representation as an especially fraught domain for critique? Is it lingering Christian morality? Opposition to the commodification of intimacy? Is porn inherently patriarchal and oppressive or does it just reflect existing relations? By representing them, does it legitimize them too?

  • Guest (nando)

    I think that it is often very difficult to get the debate over intimate and sexual matters onto a social level. On one hand, an argument is made that the widespread commodified objectificatoin of women (within the culture) as sexual objects affects their status.

    But far to often that counter arguments avoids that level of discussion altogether. There is quite a difference between questioning whether women can be equal in a society where they are so univerally objectified, and another approach which focuses the discussion on the work conditions under which pornography is made.

    The conditions under which pornography is made (and the conditions under which prostitution is conducted) are, certainly, part of the social issues involved -- but even if those conditions could be improved and humanized, the question remains: can women be liberated from patriarchal conditions if the sexual depiction of women as objects is widespread and common in the society.

    The issue is not, in my opinion, making a distinction betweeen shades of pornography (though certainly violent pornography, rape depictions, rank degradations of women or children are particularly reactionary). The issue is what is the connection between the subordination of women in this society -- and the sale of sexual depictions of women for the entertainment of men. Is there a connection? Does one reflect the other? Do they reinforce each other? Are they separable?

    I really think those questions need to be approached first -- before men line up to protest that their particular practices or fantasies are far from the worst. That takes the discussion away from the larger, determinant social question (which communists need to examine and answer): doesn't socialist revolution require a critical approach to the large scale cultural depiction of women as crude sexual objects?

    Is the heart of sexual politics the struggle for personal satisfaction (and for public tolerance of anything that produces personal satisfaction) or is the heart of sexual politics the world-historic emancipation of women? That is a very basic method of approach.

    Two points on the question of censorship:

    A revolution requires new social standards -- or it is no revolution. Things that were previously "normal" and unquestioned (in the old society) suddenly become intolerable and beseiged in the new society. that is part of what revolution is about. That should be pretty obvious, right?

    So one of the difficult questions we need to ask is HOW exactly do new social norms emerge? How do old ideas become unacceptable, and new ones become genuinely embraced?

    My personal feeling is that we do not need to make illegal everything we consider reactionary. In other words, not every matter of social revolution becomes a police matter, or a criminal matter. There will be protracted discussion (in society, among the people, among revolutionaries) over many matters.

    How do we view religion? Should Christmas remain a national holiday, if so, how is it marked? What are appropriate ages of sexual consent? How should sexual relations (and the revolution in sexual relations) be portrayed in the culture? How should the new society respond to people who sell sexual acts, or who solicit such acts, or who act as pimps for women?

    Who decides such things?

    I think all of those things will emerge from the revolutionary process... and I don't assume at all that the automatic, kneejerk response to all of this is state censorship or police action.

    But I also believe that if things don't really change (around the treatment and depiction of women, for example) then it will not have been very deep or far-reaching revolution. And if we (as a movement) don't engage in such matters (including now, in how we train each other) then the politics we carry out will be disappointing -- to the very people who want and need society to change.

    A society where women's bodies are still bought and sold for money -- where sexuality is a commodity -- and where women are routinely depicted as merely sexual objects (for the entertainment of men).... I really think that is a society that has not gotten very far on those matters.



    I think our movement needs a sense of what we think about such matters. But not everything we think is wrong should be illegal under socialism, and not everything we object to should be

    Our revolutionary movement needs to have a sense of how we

  • Guest (Quorri)

    TNL sez:

    "The subconscious is a hypothesis. A very popular and seductive one. But a hypothesis no less. Even if it does exist, the claim that it takes everything literally is a huge one."

    Good point. Way to keep me in check. :) I'm so totally emotionally attached to the question of pornography and the exploitation of women and children in general (and I guess the subconscious theory, too?) that I tend to leap ferociously into things and get carried away... Plus, sometimes I'm really good at forgetting to be materialist in my world... :) Socialization worked on me, too.

    Zerohour sez:

    "What is the difference between the exploitation of a woman’s, and a man’s, body for sexual fantasy and exploitation for sport or for general wage labor? Many people in high stress jobs are miserable and take jobs. Many others face physical debilitation - is this not psychologically damaging and as well as a violation of physical integrity? How about healthcare attendants who take care of your infirm parents or grandparents because many people just don’t have time to do it? Is this not outsourcing emotional intimacy?"

    Excellent point...I don't know if I think there is a difference, now that I think about it like that. I guess the main point would be whether or not sex work can be done in a gender neutral way, as far as not expressing oppressive or privilege based bias toward anyone at all, really.

    &amp; Zerohour sez again:

    "Some have dubbed the new wave of horror movies like Saw and Hostel “horror porn” indicating possibly deeper shared impulses."

    Yeah, really, there's a connection... literally, at times. Has anyone seen The Hills Have Eyes 2 (I think it's called) ? The gigantic, angry, fierce, filthy, just amazingly massive mutant/man rapes one of the female protagonists for a decently disgusting amount of time, shown in detail. We're talking minutes of brutal monster rape. I guess it might have been the unedited version, and no matter what it was it made me wonder if some man's whole vision for that movie centered around that scene.

    Once again, I don't think there could possibly be a good enough reason to produce some things, and that scene was one of them. Child pornography is another. I'm totally supportive of censorship in areas such as these.

    Nando sez:

    "My personal feeling is that we do not need to make illegal everything we consider reactionary. In other words, not every matter of social revolution becomes a police matter, or a criminal matter. There will be protracted discussion (in society, among the people, among revolutionaries) over many matters."

    I think you are right. I think, if we and everyone does our job right, that society can be transformed in such ways that not everything needs to be a police or criminal matter because, hopefully, people will be engaged and responsible enough to call out backward actions and ideologies and help people see why certain shit is not ok... But I'd hope there would still be some sort of stated, shared, specific ideals and some methods of counseling and sort of re-education (always a hot topic :P) available to those who just don't get it.

  • Guest (Arthur)

    Redflags,

    it's just you, there's nothing perversely transgressive about subverting the intense discussions of whether to remain irrelevant by abstaining or remain irrelevant by joining the Obama coalition ;-)

    Iris,

    <blockquote>Most of the young women in the Women’s Studies program were liberal, sex positive type feminists. They basically posited that they could continue to act and wear and do what they wanted, and as long as they personally thought about it differently–well its all changed. Magic. (It influenced me while it frustrated me). Well, it’s not–as said above, your individual consumption patterns don’t change the greater, oppressive context. Its not about ‘wearing what I want’ (though, of course, you should be able to!) or just ‘biological urges’.</blockquote>

    Ok and lets remember that the original puritans were the leaders of the english revolution, rejecting "frivolity" because it went with passivity and they were serious about changing the world.

    There are reasons, positive reasons, why revolutionary movements challenge decadent life styles and go for "plain living and hard struggle". (Perhaps also the origin of unisex jeans and hairstyles in the 1960s as well as the Aimish coming from the German revolution dressing "plain").

    But the term "puritan" acquired a negative connotation, and the term "politically correct" was developed in the modern left (long before it was adopted on the right) for good reasons too.

    It seems to be universal that when a high tide ebbs, reactionaries take up the old forms and impose them as new dogmas that are designed to cramp peoples minds rather than unleash their rebelliousness.

    Right now we need to break with preachiness and moralism and especially with "victim" mentalities.

    You mentioned:

    <blockquote>I have gay male friends who run a bondage club for gay men. Do they like it sexually? Yeah. Do they reproduce patriarchal relations? Do they subvert them? Yes and yes–it’s complicated,</blockquote>

    That strikes me as a genuinely nuanced approach, not preachy or a mealy mouthed advocacy of censorship.

    Nobody could pretend that gay clubs (SM or not) aren't "complicated". The same is true for straight or mixed SM clubs and for that matter clubs in general and people's sexual relations in general.

    I'll reciprocate with an acknowledgement that issues around censorship can be complicated too. For example right now in Australia we have an <a href="/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Territory_National_Emergency_Response" rel="nofollow">intervention in aboriginal communities</a> that includes outright bans on alcohol and porn.

    This was fought bitterly by most of the "liberal left" in Australia, including sex positive women, in "solidarity" with significant sections of Aboriginal community leaders. They pointed out that the intervention was actually relying on a "moral panic" about child abuse to justify quite draconian infringements on civil liberties.

    That was true enough. Despite compelling arguments against <a href="/http://www.koori.usyd.edu.au/news/pearson.pdf" rel="nofollow">The Human Right to Misery, Incarceration and Early Death</a> nothing much was done about the complete devastation of aboriginal society by welfare dependency and substance abuse until they were able to get past the liberal gatekeepers by focussing on child abuse and porn.

    Recently the new government tried to weaken some of the more draconian aspects of the intervention but backed off in the face of opposition from Aboriginal women determined not to go back to the levels of violent abuse that had resulted from previous policy.

    I doubt that the (very real) porn saturation in those communities is anywhere near as significant a problem as the welfare dependency and alcoholism, but I'm certainly not going to oppose the intervention and side with liberals pretending that the first serious effort to reverse complete destruction of those communities was based on racism or violated any rights worth preserving.

    Mike said:

    <blockquote>Otherwise, you will find yourself supporting construction workers who harass women walking on the street. (”Hey baby, nice ass!”) The problem with that is not that “sexual urges are shameful,” but that groups of men harassing women on the street (done as male bonding and amusement) is a public reinforcement of women’s second class status (as property, as sexual object, as someone socially powerless to make assholes shut-the-fuck-up). This should be obvious and basic for progressive people.</blockquote>

    The point for me is that Mike is reinforcing the idea that women are "socially powerless to make assholes shut-the-fuck-up".

    The predominant social change in recent decades has not been things going from bad to worse, as presented by Mike and Nando, and especially not as regards the status of women

    The reality has been that women are far less economically dependent as a result of participation in the workforce and far less biologically dependent as a result of contraception. Consequently there is something terribly patronizing about the idea that they need protection by lectures against porn from Sensitive New Age Guys.

    So I agree with:

    <blockquote>The ‘masculinity’ (and misogyny) of the proletariat, and all the forms it takes, are not off limits to analysis or criticism, just as their xenophobia and racism and consumerism–all products of our capitalist society–are not off limits.</blockquote>

    But I don't therefore have to agree with you either about lawns, or about strawberries or about violent porn.

    Nothing's off limits (except preachiness).

  • Guest (Quorri)

    Nothing is off limits, except nothing. :P

    But seriously, Arthur sez:

    "The point for me is that Mike is reinforcing the idea that women are “socially powerless to make assholes shut-the-fuck-up”.

    The predominant social change in recent decades has not been things going from bad to worse, as presented by Mike and Nando, and especially not as regards the status of women"

    Yes, perhaps women are better off now than they were at some other time. Perhaps not. But, either way, we are not better off enough.

    I was walking out of a bar one night into a crowd of at least 14-20 people, smoking. A man came up behind me as I exited, grabbed me around my shoulders pinning my arms useless, and proceeded to drag me down the street. As I quite audibly begged for help and cried, no one did anything. I was, luckily, able to get away and get into another bar, to a bouncer, who then laughed at me as I cried that someone was after me, the man pursued me as I escaped. That bouncer just laughed at me.

    I was definitely socially powerless in this situation, and only luck was in my favor.

    Could you clarify this for me, Arthur? What specifically are you talking about when you say that women don't "need protection by lectures against porn from Sensitive New Age Guys"???

  • Guest (Arthur)

    Quorri,

    I'm sorry you were attacked and glad you escaped.

    In this context, what I mean is that I don't see any connection between the fact that the asshole attacked you and whether or not he either uses violent porn or has been exposed to lectures from the likes of Robert Jensen.

    I don't really understand the context of what happened to you or why you feel socially powerless.

    What is your understanding of why nobody came to help when you cried out, why the bouncer just laughed, and why the attacker was able to hang around and try again?

    From what you described I'd see a need for confronting the crowd that didn't help and the bouncer who laughed and for imprisoning the guy that attacked. Sensitizing people about porn just doesn't cut it.

  • Guest (Arthur)

    Nando:

    <blockquote>My personal feeling is that we do not need to make illegal everything we consider reactionary. In other words, not every matter of social revolution becomes a police matter, or a criminal matter.</blockquote>

    I honestly cannot tell. Is this intended to express mealy mouthed advocacy of censorship or mealy mouthed opposition to censorship?

  • "In this context, what I mean is that I don’t see any connection between the fact that the asshole attacked you and whether or not he either uses violent porn or has been exposed to lectures from the likes of Robert Jensen."

    The debate here is what role porn plays in a society that already devalues the lives and bodies of women. It's true she doesn't make a direct connection, but our understanding can't be reduced to simply an individual motive, but requires an exploration of its enabling enabling by social mores.

    "I don’t really understand the context of what happened to you or why you feel socially powerless.

    What is your understanding of why nobody came to help when you cried out, why the bouncer just laughed, and why the attacker was able to hang around and try again?

    From what you described I’d see a need for confronting the crowd that didn’t help and the bouncer who laughed and for imprisoning the guy that attacked. Sensitizing people about porn just doesn’t cut it."

    Social power is not just a feeling, or the ability to resist, but the ability to define the parameters of acceptable behavior. One just has to look at the statistics for <i>reported</i>rape and partner abuse to see how far society needs to go. The fact that women may have some personal [self-defense techniques] and legal recourse should not distract us from the main point that she should not have to worry about being attacked to begin with.

    You don't see why she felt socially powerless? Because the incident happened in public and "society" did nothing.

    As for the crowd, Arthur, your avoidance of the larger issue doesn't cut it. Whether she confronts them or not, the question is: what is the ideology which allows people to see a woman getting attacked as something either trivial or downright entertaining? Does porn play a role in propagating such ideology?

  • Guest (Comments)

    "Does porn play a role in propagating such ideology?"

    Well, that's the kind of proposition that can be, as sociologists put it, "operationalized" and tested. Does an ideology allowing for the abuse of women prevail in Afghanistan, where porn is not widely tolerated and available, more than Japan, where porn IS---very---widely tolerated and available? What about Sweden?

    These connections ought to be investigated concretely, not merely posited.

  • Guest (saoirse)

    I am not in favor of merging a porn discussion with one of horror films but the issue has been raised. The term "torture porn" was first used by NPR and NY Magazine's David Edelstein in his review of Eli Roth's Hostel. Not surprisingly Edelstein does not hold horror films in high regard. Frankly I think the Hostel films are very smart and particularly after Hostel 2 many critics has been elevated as a series that like Romero's Dead films and Craven's Scream series sought to make a social statement within the genre. Roth has been an articulate critic of the term "torture porn" appearing on Fox News and elsewhere debating and deflating his critics. I would recommend foks youtube the debates.

    Further before we delve into a debate of horror films I suggest that like our porn debate we dig deep and do some research. Carol J. Clover's Men, Women and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film and Nicholas Roger book Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night are a great place to start.
    .

  • Guest (Iris)

    Arthur, you're sounding more and more like a mealy-mouthed libertarian. I second onehundredflowers comment, as it is more concise and less enraged than the one I was beginning to type...

  • Guest (onehundredflowers)

    "These connections ought to be investigated concretely, not merely posited."

    I agree, which is why I didn't posit it, but asked the question. I wouldn't want to suggest that other kinds of representation, cultural norms, institutional practices and everyday interactions weren't also at work. Porn does not exist in a vacuum and it is wrong to isolate it as THE cause of anything. However, its connection with sexuality gives it a specificity that needs to be explored.

    One possibility that has not been explored is that of porn as a repression of sexuality.

    The Mitchell Bros., the producers of one of the most notorious early porn films <i>Behind the Green Door</i> did not set out to produce porn, but to do something more radical. It was their intention to produce mainstream dramas in which the sex would be graphically presented as part of the matrix of ordinary life. Unfortunately, they had no real artistic talent, and the sex in their movies was more compelling than the plots or dialog, hence their career path.

    The aesthetic demands of popular entertainment mitigate against porn even attempting to portray sexual relations in realistic contexts or interactions. As such, it largely remains a projection of sexual fantasy mediated by ideology. Rather than encouraging real, healthy explorations in sexuality, porn's effect can be to make sex, in all its uncertainties and messiness, seem highly inadequate and unsatisfying. It does not project an idea of what one can do, but rather what one cannot.

  • Guest (RW Harvey)

    A response to Jensen...

    http://www.alternet.org/story/104863/the_great_porn_misunderstanding 3A_pornography_is_mostly_about_fantasy%2C_not_reality/

    I appreciated his insight that most men, when they see/feel a woman is being abused and degaded in porn are totally turned off.

  • Guest (Quorri)

    Wow, I have so many problems with the article posted above, in comment 52,<i>The Great Porn Misunderstanding: Pornography Is Mostly About Fantasy, Not Reality</i>. Let's start here:

    <blockquote cite="">"A woman I treated used to masturbate to the fantasy of being held down and sexually ravished against her will by the janitor in her office building...If these fantasies became realities, however, the fantasizers would likely feel something on a spectrum from uncomfortable to traumatic. Reality, however, doesn't matter. Our unconscious minds creatively interpret scenarios and perceptions that help us get aroused."</blockquote>

    Ok, yeah. Lots of women I've talked to have degrading and (if made real) traumatizing sexual fantasies.... but that in no way means that these fantasies are a good thing. Let's ask ourselves this, if we didn't live in a society of patriarchy and constant female degradation and oppression, if we didn't live in a society where women constantly are made to feel under literal ownership by males and constantly put on a level lower than males, would we still have these fantasies? The most compelling argument I've heard for why women have these fantasies is that these women have internalized consistent abuse in order to feel some sort of control over the situation, control which is too often lacking in reality. That is unhealthy, at the root.

    I am not arguing that we should label these fantasies as "wrong".... and maybe they serve an important function in keeping us sane, but I'd hope that we could bring society to a place where women don't <i>need</i> to internalize abuse and degradation in order to feel sane....

    Here is another bit:

    <blockquote cite="">"Good and healthy sex requires not only affection and love, but also the capacity to not worry about one's partner, to "let go" with selfish abandon. ...The sexual ideal of two people lovingly gazing into each other's eyes is belied by powerful needs for something more out-of-control, perhaps forceful, and transgressive."</blockquote>

    This bit of unscientific positing is pretty insulting, for me. He is arguing that there can be no sexual pleasure without selfishness and aggressiveness???!!! Wow! I have great sex without being selfish or aggressive! What kind of an argument is this? I genuinely hope that everyone can have sexual pleasure without "letting go" of their partner's needs or desires, without ignoring the feelings of their partner, and without bringing aggression into it. Once again, I'm not labeling it as "wrong", outright, to have kinky or edgy sex, I'm just saying, there is no need to say that we can't be aroused without some level of the kink/edge, or without "letting go" of our partner's needs and our own.

    Another bit, here the author is talking about the four aspects of pornography we should be analyzing.

    <blockquote cite="">"1) the writer/director's plot and/or intent, 2) the actual experience of the actors while making the film, 3) the woman or anti-porn critic watching it and imagining it being done to her, and 3) the man masturbating to it."</blockquote>

    I'm sorry, I think that the sexism is obvious but let me point it out, here's the opposite of what he said: the male or anti-porn critic watching and the woman masturbating to it. Jesus, are we still this sexist? Yes. I guess we are. Or at least this dude is... MALES CAN BE PORN CRITICS. FEMALES MASTURBATE TO PORN.

    And this bit underlines a great part of my problem with porn:

    <blockquote cite="">"In the overwhelming majority of pornographic sex, including the extreme gonzo scenes Jensen describes, the women come to enjoy it. If they aren't, themselves, actively, insisting on it, they eventually appear to get aroused. In other words, they're invariably depicted as enjoying their so-called degradation. Everyone is turned on. Everyone."</blockquote>

    EVERYONE! It's true! The women being raped often are smiling eventually or at least moaning in pleasure and saying "yes" every once in a while, interspersed among the more common "no". But does anyone honestly not see how messed up this is? He argues that, if the woman were to do what was realistic, scream and cry, then men wouldn't want to watch it. Well, he simply ignores that a great many would still enjoy it and enjoy it even more, but he goes on to say that, since men want the woman to be happy (they want her NOT to scream and cry), that implies that they really care about her.... WTF?

    Maybe we could look at it another way. A young man is watching a lot of porno (because sex is so ridiculously shamed in our society and he can't get sex info anywhere else) and sees these types of scenes over and over again. The next time he is at a party or somewhere and tries to come on to a girl and she says no, but isn't crying or screaming, do you think he'll stop? He's a lot less likely to, with this type of conditioning. LOTS OF GIRLS WHO ARE RAPED NEVER SCREAM OR CRY. LOTS OF PEOPLE WHO ARE MOLESTED OR RAPED PHYSICALLY ENJOY WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THEM. It is physiological, they can't always help it, but that doesn't mean it is right, that the person doing it has some kind of best interest in mind, or that the person consuming the video of it has the ability to actually make distinctions between what's right and wrong, what's real and not.

    <blockquote cite="">"Based on my own clinical experience and on a review of the research, if the actresses were to respond on film realistically -- say, by screaming in pain, sobbing, dissociating into grim and vacant fugue states -- the overwhelming majority of men would get turned off, lose their erections, and change the channel. The male viewer does not, in fact, want these women to be demeaned and hurt; unconsciously, he wants them to be happy."</blockquote>

    Unconsciously, huh? Well yippee for me if he doesn't make it a conscious thing....that unconscious desire for my happiness doesn't stop anyone from raping me.

    <blockquote cite="">"The woman involved might see cruelty. But for the man, the hidden logic is: "If I hold you at arms length, if I treat you like a 'piece of ass,' if I love you and leave you, then at least I'm not imperiled by the chronic sense of inadequacy, guilty failure, and pressured obligation that I seem to feel is my lot as a man in our culture.

    That's the appeal of most porn. It's a fantasy enacted on the screen in which certain irrational and burdensome feelings of guilt, worry, and rejection get momentarily reversed -- just long enough to allow excitement to emerge and climax."</blockquote>

    So, ok, let me get this straight. It's ok to uphold misogynist, oppressive, and patriarchal sexual degradation because, in the end, guys get to undo some of the unfair, social conditioning that has been unfairly put upon them by society's rigid, gender roles??? FUCK YOU. What about my conditioning? What about my unfair gender roles? All of us have a responsibility to dig into that shit on our own, without further fucking up other people's lives and emotions. Guys' supposed burdens can find another way to deal....holy cow.

    <blockquote cite="">"Suffice it to say that there is very little scientific evidence that porn leads to any actual confusion between fantasy and reality. There is little evidence that men leave their online escapades and then insist that their wives engage in double penetration or face-slapping. The only people who are confused about the difference between fantasy and reality are Jensen and his fellow travelers."</blockquote>

    I guess there might not be a lot of evidence specifically supporting whether or not porn itself, individually, allows people to blur the reality vs fiction line.... but there are heaping mounds of evidence that show that TV and virtual sensations do a great job of messing with our minds.... that's part of why the military uses video games for training and to desensitize their troops to murder and also why children who watch more TV are more violent.... so, based on that, I wouldn't say that porn is incapable of messing with our minds in the same way that the rest of media does.

    Anyway, I've literally seen people go from one type of less degrading sex to full out abusive sex, and it was in part due to porn. Granted these people have something wrong with them that they need to address, but porn made it all that much easier for them to be so amazingly degrading to their partners. Just like popular media also made these same people all that more likely to be the womanizers they became, because they saw so often just how acceptable it is to treat women in that way.

  • Guest (Rachel)

    The pornography-as-catharsis argument is by no means a fact. It has been refuted numerous times and, while there are studies that go both ways, the preponderance of evidence points to the likelihood that, just as seeing a commercial for McDonalds increases desire for McDonalds in its audience and influences some to go out and get some, seeing what is essentially a commercial for rape is going to increase desire and probably influence some people to go out and do it. Obviously, it's not a one to one correspondence where viewing porn=becoming a rapist and no porn viewing=no rape. Almost nothing in social life has that kind of correspondence. That does not mean that it's not a serious contributing factor.

    Certainly, many women have rape fantasies, use pornography, and some front for major corporate producers of pornography a la the aforementioned Nina Hartley and Susie Bright. But for those of you who are dedicated to a revolutionary cause, try to think about it in those terms. Lots of people are really dedicated to getting that new car or fancy lawn, or whatever - in short, to "compete" on the consumerist level that is really just a distraction from the continued expropriation of their labor power and denial of any say in the way society is run. We're not going up to these people individually and telling them that they're living their life the wring way and they don't really want what they want. What we're doing (at least so far as those communists/leftists that I know) is forming a vision - someday a reality- of a society in which people DON'T want things that are destructive to society, the environment, those around them, and themselves.

    In general (of course I can't say that no one, ever in the world, has ever once been patronizing or censoring under the name of anti-pornography feminism, but this is so for any label, as everyone here probably knows) this is exactly what anti-porn feminists are doing. Really, there is no one coming to raid your bedroom and steal your nipple clamps. We're coming to ask you to consider the social relations surrounding the production and consumption of pornography, and how they both reflect and help to reproduce an unequal and extremely damaging set of gender relations, which are themselves both dependent on capitalism (the view of women as property, whether it's for the traditional housewife role or for sex) and prop up capitalism (women's unpaid work, as well as a distraction for oppressed groups of men-why endanger yourself taking it out on the system when there's a woman around) Actually, no, we're not going to ask, we're going to demand that you consider these questions, because if they aren't considered, there won't be a real revolution, only another "revolution" like so many others throughout history, which only switches who's on top rather than altering the fundamental social dynamics at work

    In short, I don't know any communist who has suddenly decided that communism is patronizing towards the proletariat because he met a guy who likes his job and has just bought a new car, but this is somehow what feminists are supposed to swallow when the subject is sex.

    I do think it's really great that leftists are talking about this, because it's been a "don't touch" issue for such a long time. It's an important issue, one of many in building a viable communist revolution and society, and even while I strongly disagree with a lot of the opinions expressed it's great to see it on the table.

  • Guest (zerohour)

    "a commercial for rape"

    Porn is not just a commercial for rape. This sort of hyperbole only clouds any real discussion and investigation.

    I agree that there is no one-to-one correspondence between graphic depiction of certain acts and the attempts to reproduce them in daily life. It is a similar argument against violent movies and video games and is easily refuted. There aren't scores of kids playing Grand Theft Auto, then going out to beat up prostitutes and attack cops. People don't watch horror movies, then put on hockey masks and kill people with chainsaws. This is banal and hardly worth pointing out, except to dismiss the idea that visual media has any psychological effects leaving only two questions to remain: the rights of pornographers to free speech and the rights of people to consume. This only reinforces a blind spot shared by both economist socialists and liberals: the complex workings of ideology.

    I haven't watched porn since before the days of "gonzo" but I imagine it fundamentally hasn't changed much.

    Porn, like any other graphic media, communicates more than its overt content. Overtly, it is a heightened fantasy in which people have no greater priority than sex, and women, in particular, want it all the time with anyone who's around. It portrays a world in which desire is mutually shared and there are no serious consequences - no pregnancies, STDs, or psychological trauma. On another level, it transmits an idea of the kind of human relations that must be true for the world to work that way. The characters in these movies are healthy and happy precisely because they are not repressing their overwhelming sexual desires. Not only do women [I am not focusing on men at the moment since it is considered a social norm that men are perpetually horny - "all men are dogs"] want sex all the time, but they <b>should</b>. Since no other aspects of their lives is portrayed, we must assume that unbridled sex is the key to their happiness - and source of their problems when it is denied.

    For men, it constitutes a further bolstering of a world view in which their desires are considered paramount, for women it is a further demand that they identify their desires with those of men. I am not saying that women don't greatly desire sex, but existing power relations and social conditioning sets different terms for each party.

    I don't have an all-around analysis of porn but I think we have to situate it in the context of other forms of media. One of the reasons, the discussion around porn can get exaggerated is the desire to locate the source of our problems in a single cause. If it's not porn, it's video games, TV shows, comic books, advertising, etc., So, no, watching porn isn't going to induce a guy to try to replicate its acts in real life. Rather, we need to understand the ideology and psychological states that it induces and how it interacts with other forms of representation, in ways that reinforce, but sometimes even challenge, relations of power. People are enmeshed in gender ideology and relations well before they encounter porn.

    "We’re coming to ask you to consider the social relations surrounding the production and consumption of pornography, and how they both reflect and help to reproduce an unequal and extremely damaging set of gender relations, which are themselves both dependent on capitalism"

    I agree with this, but the solution on much of the left has been to deal with these problems on the superficial level of behavior, which implies repression. It's simple: concoct a set of principles that revolutionaries are supposed to adhere to. Modify one's behavior to conform to such principles. Over time, such behavior will transform psychological patterns. The problem is, this doesn't work. It only defers the problem which will show itself in other ways [return of the repressed]. People have to be able to take responsibility for these behaviors without being pathologized ["people have something wrong with them"]. It only sets up an unhealthy dichotomy between sick, depraved individuals and clean, pure souls.

    Actually Quorri's larger quote in interesting: "Anyway, I’ve literally seen people go from one type of less degrading sex to full out abusive sex, and it was in part due to porn. Granted these people have something wrong with them that they need to address, but porn made it all that much easier for them to be so amazingly degrading to their partners."

    There are a few instances where people do try to act out what they see on the screen, but the question of causality has to come into question here too. How does the depiction cause the act? I'm inclined to agree with her and say it would may not have had its effects unless the pre-conditions already existed. That is, it reinforced and triggered underlying behavioral tendencies and provided them with a form to manifest them.

    There is a lot to break down in the US; not just the anxieties over sex, but even the boundaries of the private/public divide which only aggravates those anxieties. In other Western [-ized] countries, graphic sex is depicted [see Ang Lee's <i>Lust, Caution</i>] in the context of larger social relations. Of course, it is still to be debated why it has to be depicted in its entirety [with edits for time of course, but Lee doesn't skip the orgasm]. Regarding porn, it is an idealized representation of sex, but it is NOT sex and as such, it has its own particularities that have to be addressed.

  • Guest (Saoirse)

    I am not sure how to productively contribute to this discussion. There many important points being made and I think this is an important discussion. First I think we have to disentangle and state what are the issues we are speaking about, what our analysis is, how these issues inter-relate and how they operate in and of themselves.

    There is a relationship between art and literature, erotica and porn, capitalism and exploitation. But here in this discuss the debate shifts rapidly between them that I have a hard time participating. For example we are talking about porn and suddenly we’re speaking about rape and rape fantasy. What is the connect? Are we speaking about particular films and literature? As a sex radical I want to know what the perimeters of the debate are?

    As a woman I want to be engaged as a subject rather than a victim. I have no illusions about how women are treated in the sex industry. But I don’t see a lot of concrete data here all sides are relying more no subjective experience and a priori opinion. This is what it is. What is porn? Well it’s a form of erotic entertainment used by individuals and couples primarily to get off. Again there is a range of porn available, the benefit of our great capitalist market place. The age of gangster control of shell companies on 42nd street has given way to internet based sites such as darkplay.net or enterbelladoona.com run by women. Both are open to analysis and criticism.

    And on that note I want to again state that I believe in the sincerity of everyone engaged in this project of revolution. I would appreciate the same in return. The idea that pro-porn feminists don’t want to talk about critically about porn is not true. But the idea that “no one is coming to raid your bedroom” is a not true. Aside from sodomy law’s and institutional homopbobia, the primary goal of most anti-porn feminist is regulating our access to erotica. Mackinnon is very clear on the use of criminal obscenity law. The Bulter decision in Canada is a clear example of anti-porn legislation in practice. It ended up targeting the lesbian community as well as ironically Dworkin’s own work. So yes I believe there is a necessity to defend my right to have fantasy, play and porn.

    Suggesting that Susie Bright and Nina Hartley front for major corporate producers would be a stronger if we can name which producers we are speaking as our arguments would be stronger if we named the erotica we objected to. Since Susie Bright has made a career primarily as a mainstream publicized author she is as much of a “front” for corporate sponsors as Dworkin and Mackinnon or any academic who punches a clock and takes a paycheck.

  • Guest (zerohour)

    "We choose everyday how we make love or don’t, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Sex doesn’t wait until after the revolution, and it is in the choices we make (and the ones we feel we can’t that returns us to the discussion of the depictions or ideological reproduction of eroticized alienation. Is the depiction the issue, exactly? Or, as Quorri has returned to again and again – the ways in which we treat each other, love each other or don’t?"

    Porn isn't just about depiction any more than language is just about sounds. There is meaning involved at different levels that need exploration. There is a question of the relationship between ideology and power: how it is propagated, what forms it takes, how it shapes our relations, and how we can transform it. How is behavior outside of this problematic?

  • Okay, Soirse, let me try. (and sorry Zerohour for reposting an edited version of the comment you quote from just above. I should write out longer posts before posting them!)

    Jensen is challenging us to step aside from a few of the common starting (and ending points) of the discussion of porn.

    Is every pin-up picture an advertisement for rape? Let’s say no. Is every depiction of penetrative sex? No again. Nor is that what is being argued, I think, by really anyone. When the much-maligned Andrea Dworkin defined pornography, she called it the graphic depiction of prostitution. This is an important distinction, because the prostitute has signed away her agency in the sexual relationship and is not merely depicted as objectified, but is in fact an object by the rules of the relationship. This is a debatable definition, but returning to what Jensen is arguing – I think it is the key point insofar as radical egalitarians are concerned.

    Porn is an actual industry, with class relations internal to itself. They aren’t about sex or the erotic, but making a return on investment. As this industry has grown in ways that are truly unprecedented in human history – making near universal access to and endless array of images from cheesecake to graphic fantasies of all kinds. It is also something people do on a mass scale outside of commodity relations, as a private act of pornography. It is porn's role in our own eros and relationships that give this discussion its heat, not the labor conditions in porn. I don't think anyone is here is arguing for exploitation at all.

    Quorri’s point (and Jensen’s), which bears repeating, is that not only do men experience a particular sexual charge from (arguably porn-fostered) cruelty, but that women do as well. The point isn’t merely male vicimizers and female victims, but that this sado-masochism of everyday life is actually part and parcel of the systems of domination we live in, it's realization is not an escape from it. Whether this is the cause or effect is part of the debate, but what gets people in a hackle is the very ethical demand to open such felt desires up for analysis, and even transformation. To not treat our desires as simply natural, neutral and <i>themselves</i> in fundamental need of liberation through unchallenged realization.

    The arguments about changes in porn production strike me as ridiculous. Porn has gotten more abusive, or the abusive trend of porn which was always there has become more pronounced and prevalent. It has. To say that porn doesn't effect people is to deny that art exists, that propaganda and advertising don't work. They do, and porn does. Fantasy has an effect on reality. Are we arguing that?

    The relationship between the erotic and power is real. No matter how hard the reactionary right fights it, sex has long separated from primarily being about reproduction. That happened in America before I was born, really – and an acceptance of sex separated from the reproductive act has been, all and all, a good thing for men and women and all our trans friends and fam.

    The essential perversion of separating eros from reproduction is bound to have some peculiar effect. The plasticity of gender and, now, sex itself is a fact. This is one of the greatest social revolutions the world has ever seen. It is a radical severing, fuel for religious reactionaries who want more than most anything to put that genie back in the bottle. Many people want it undone, including those on the left who have replaced conception’s role in sex with love. But sex isn’t just about making love, and even love making itself is not merely an affection. People need affection, but also like and crave sex because it is raw, primal. Just like LSD helped people grasp that such a thing as cosmic consciousness even existed, so too does <i>felt</i> transgression also help shortcut to shed the shame-weight of civilization.

    As gender relations have become increasingly egalitarian, with women have full access to all levels of education, occupation and public life, there has been a real breakdown of <i>traditional</i> patriarchal relations. The idea that men have the “final say” is frankly considered something worthy of mockery among large sections of the population, and the old privileges of ownership are no longer legally binding. When the chains aren't legal, but remain strong – problematizing our own reproduction of authoritarian sexuality seems valid, even if the discussion itself provides no satisfying solution. Gaining consciousness of our sexuality is hard exactly because of the desire to lose consciousness in sex.

    It is in this situation, which we actually live, where porn is a proxy discussion for the eroticization of power, or viewed differently – as power’s generic conquest of the benevolent erotic autonomy so romanticized by just about all of us. Porn, understood in the Jensen/Dworkin sense, is the generic reproduction of male right and female subordination, chosen or otherwise. Of course men and women are both complicit in this, but this doesn’t change the ethics of the point they are seeking to make.

    Sex today feels like everything else: we are no longer bound the old rules, but we are not yet free. People are alienated, lonesome, sometimes poor and desperate. We don’t make love or fuck in the ethical abstract, but in the sometimes hard, sometimes joyous terrain of our real lives.

    Discussions of an ideal erotic are the same as liberty in the abstract. Americans have great degrees of personal liberty under the cash nexus – which is to say not so much at all when we really get down to it. This wage slavery of the erotic is appropriate to the wage slavery of the free market. Yet different in that we do have choices which are not simply governed by the market, or paying the rent or needing to eat. We choose everyday how we make love or don’t, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

    Sex doesn’t wait until after the revolution, and it is in the choices we make, and the ones we <i>feel</i> we can’t, that returns us to the discussion of <i>depictions</i> of eroticized alienation. Is the depiction the issue, exactly? Or, as Quorri has returned to again and again – the ways in which we treat each other, love each other or don’t?

  • Guest (Saoirse)

    Redflags.

    I guess for me I feel like we're back to square one. I don’t think I missed the essence of Jensen’s argument to begin with nor do I think I’ve misunderstood the discussion that has followed. But reading your post that seems to be what your saying. re-read and understand Jensen's real point.

    The definition you put forth as being the starting point of the discussion, "“Dworkin defined pornography, she called it the graphic depiction of prostitution.” Going on to say, “the prostitute has signed away her agency in the sexual relationship and is not merely depicted as objectified.” Further state, “Porn, understood in the Jensen/Dworkin sense, is the generic reproduction of male right and female subordination, chosen or otherwise. Of course men and women are both complicit in this, but this doesn’t change the ethics of the point they are seeking to make.”

    This is exactly the argument that sex radicals and pro-sex feminists have been objecting to since Dworkin's argument was first put forth. We come full circle back to the feminist sex wars. This is fine as the debate remained unfinished. But the terrain has changed even if the starting points have not.

    Looking toward a freer future is apart of the equation. And still Jensen's shame, moralism and hyperbole hardly move us forward. I am interest in seeking unity and advancing the destruction of patriarchy. This is not my starting point.

  • Saorise writes:

    <blockquote>"And on that note I want to again state that I believe in the sincerity of everyone engaged in this project of revolution. I would appreciate the same in return. The idea that pro-porn feminists don’t want to talk about critically about porn is not true. But the idea that “no one is coming to raid your bedroom” is a not true. Aside from sodomy law’s and institutional homopbobia, the primary goal of most anti-porn feminist is regulating our access to erotica. "</blockquote>

    Again here the end of a social phenomenon is equated to the police. I.e the idea of reducing the "access to erotica" is equated with "raid your bedroom."

    But none of this is so simple.

    First of all, I believe there should be "reduced access" to porn: I.e. women are for sale everywhere. It dominated the newsstand. It is a major form through which sexuality is expressed in the culture. And since the question of definition has come up: porn is (to me) those cultural depictions of sex that take them furthest from context of human relations -- where "the story" is at best a skimpy container for the sexual play. It doesn't remove the sexual display from a cultural context -- but the context is the objectification of the people (both as filmed prostitutes and as the sexually active/available characters they depict.)

    But revolution can and should change the way sex is desplayed and sold in society -- without necessarily bringing police into intimate and private spheres. And the inability to even engage that, reflects a real shortcoming with our understandings of revolution -- i.e. we are not planning to set up a police state, but OUR POLICE STATE, where OUR CONCEPTION of social norms are enforced on everyone by force that is external to them, and OUR rules of interplay are enforced by such external force -- since what is really enforced (in such a scenario is, obviously, the social relation of police state (which is, as we know, quite compatable with a shift from post revolutionary to fascist/state-capitalist.

    But i believe that if a serious struggle is waged (a social struggle, involving sections of the people) for a transformation of women's status in society -- then it will invevitably collide with the current "sex industry" and the current consumerist view of women.

    Can we have a music industry where women are on a permanent video stripper pole?
    Can we have a printing industry given over to the endless depiction of woman-as-insatiable-thing-for-you?
    Can we have a social process of raising children as conscious human beings -- where each child's family and then these ugly crude depictions of women and intimate relations are virtually the ONLY models and examples that kids are exposed to?

    And let me be clear: I don't care much about the range of content in porn, or whether the pimps and filmmakers are women. the central issue is not the conditions under which films are made (though I do think the discussion of "actors" and unionization is absurd -- this is filmed prostitution with all of the social problems of prostitution generally -- including violence, death by STD, drug overdoses, social stigma exploited by pimps and more.) Yes there are extreme fetishized depictions of horrific sex (rape, torture, child abuse whatever) -- and they are particularly oppressive to people, and reflect particularly reactionary ideas and practices in the society. But i believe a revolutionary critique of porn starts with its inherent OBJECTIFICATON OF WOMEN -- the reduction of women and intimate relations into abstracted USE OF WOMEN, divorced from real intimacy and the struggle for equality. And that objectification is inherent in porn by its very nature -- in a way that is not inherent in the depiction of sexual moments and sexual acts in other cultural media. (For example, the rape in Thelma and Louise or in the story of Pulan Devi the Bandit Queen or a dozen other examples we could give is not pornographic, and objectively is part of a cultural work that undermines the oppression of women, even if a few sexually twisted men might be aroused by it.)

    And on the question of police: I am against criminalizing private matters of intimacy, but I am naively not against all police activity in socialist society. In other words, we should not be against organized, armed forces under socialism that do (when necessary) enforce the new social norms: hunting down counterrevolutionaries, pursuing corruption, protecting people and communities against anti-social activities (rape, arson whatever). In short, in a socialist society, socialist police will be needed -- and there needs to be strugle that they enforce the socialist revolution (and its new deepening norms) not some thinly-disguised form of the old law-and-order. But I am not against having laws against the pimping of women (beating, robbing them, preying on homeless and displaced women, connecting drugs and prostitution for exploitation). Is that wrong? Will that crimp your "access to erotica"?

    In fact I want to call out this focus on self and "access to erotica." That is not our starting point.

    OUr starting poinit has to be "what transforms the status of women -- really liberates them in a historic and irreversible way" from the hell that today's world is. Liberates women from being a proletarian commodity, domestic servant and comodified sex slave. Yes, that may crimp many currently-existing kinds of access to commodified sex... and so what?

    If you approach these matters from the point of view of CONSUMERS of commodified sex -- you will reproduce the horrors of patriarchy (all in the name of a free and "liberated" approach tosexuality of course.)

    I was particularly struck by the quote above:

    <blockquote>“The woman involved might see cruelty. But for the man, the hidden logic is: “If I hold you at arms length, if I treat you like a ‘piece of ass,’ if I love you and leave you, then at least I’m not imperiled by the chronic sense of inadequacy, guilty failure, and pressured obligation that I seem to feel is my lot as a man in our culture." That’s the appeal of most porn. It’s a fantasy enacted on the screen in which certain irrational and burdensome feelings of guilt, worry, and rejection get momentarily reversed — just long enough to allow excitement to emerge and climax.”</blockquote>

    Let's take a moment to examine this: There is a patriarchal view (among many men, broadly in society) where they cannot accept women on the basis of equality. To them it appears as castration -- as conjuring up of inadequacy and obligation.... it is (in a twisted view of sexuality) very unsexy to have relations of equality with women.

    And so you have a rise of sex for pay -- where the relations of domination are clear, where there is no pretense of equality and mutual caring, where the hired woman (in real life or filmed prostitution) is uncritical, always willing, greatly appreciative and completely undemanding.... It is a fantasy designed to sooth the soul of men challenged by unsubmissive women (in real life) and the real problems of intimate life.

    Is that ok? Is it ok to create a whole world that reinforced these patriarchal views? where men play "sexual king-for-a-day" in a fantasy world of women trading sex for money?

    And that same post listed the 4 points of view we needed to approach things from -- but it left out the main one, the fifth one: what is the larger impact on society, on women who are not involved in this sex trade itself, of the existance of this vast trade in commodified fantasy and sex? How does the reinforcing of this (both ideologically and socially in millions of transations daily) impact the status of women in society as a whole? How you are viewed in the high school classroom, or walking down the street, or when you discuss the (real life!) relations of intimacy in a real-existing love relationship? What are you compared against? What is seen as norms or habits or behaviors that are positive and acceptable?

    Why are women refusing sex or requesting the most simple equality seen as "bitches" and how do we transform that?

    ("Gee, i just can't get aroused in a setting where the woman is adult and equal...." Is the solution to lovingly create many places in society -- real or fantasy -- where this man can engage women who are not adult or equal, so he can get aroused?)

    without simplifying this, the two ways of viewing tis are "from the male consumer and his most transitory needs" and from the point of view of revolutionary transformation of society. The discussion proceeds o n two levels, with two languages, with two sets of concerns.

    And all revolution runs into this, where people say "all that is fine, all this talk about change and liberation, but what about me (my property, my career, my enjoyment of Cancun, my control over my children, my ability to choose my neighbors, my whatever)...."

    The differences of approach and method are very stark to me. And without being dramatic, let me add, that they seem to suggest two very very different roads for society.

  • Guest (Rachel)

    I want to clarify one point - MacKinnon has consistently spoken against the criminal obscenity law, on the grounds that what it attacks is not materials that cause harm to women, but materials that offend men in power. I agree with this. MacKinnon and Dworkin drafted a civil ordinance allowing women to sue pornographers and distributors for material which has been proven in court to cause specific harms. You're free to agree or disagree with that ordinance (it doesn't really matter, because it's not in effect anywhere) and in fact, many anti-porn activists, including Jensen, have issues with at least part of it - there is no united front on what the best way to fight sexual exploitation is. But I want to make clear the difference between MacKinnon and Dworkin's civil approach and the criminal obscenity law. Yes, "MacKinnon is very clear on the use of obscenity law" - she is clear that she is opposed to it.

    For MacKinnon's opinion on obscenity law versus civil rights law, read "Not a Moral Issue" in <i>Feminism Unmodified</i>. Several of the essays in her more recent collection, <i>Women's Lives, Men's Laws</i> also address the issue. The text of several versions of the ordinance is available online at http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/other/ordinance/newday/TOC.htm

    As far as some other forms of documentation, there is a video presentation of a content analysis of mainstream pornography here: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4489853897776743667 /> There are some other videos from the conference discussing more generally the feminist anti-porn position.
    For research into porn's effect on its viewers and the debunking of the cathartic effect, the research of Neil Malamuth and Edward Donnerstein is persuasive. These are laboratory studies, not surveys or theory papers.
    Kathleen Barry, in <i>The Prostitution of Sexuality</i> explores the continuum human trafficking to "voluntary" prostitution, and how the two are inextricable. It's a tough read because it's heavy on the research, but it's very convincing for that reason.

    PS @ Redflags, I love your post. I think a lot of people, even those who haven't gone so far as to promote revolution, are feeling something missing in their lives today, and trying to find it in many areas of life - but paradoxically, the more personal and important the subject is (I think sex would definitely qualify) the harder it is to break out of current ideas and imagine better ones, because it means repudiating the only way we've ever experienced something that's really important to us.

  • Guest (Saoirse)

    Rachel,

    I did overstate my take on Mackinnon's view of the use of obsentity law. My bad. Thanks for posting the documents, I look forward to reading them.

    Still Mackinnon and Dworkin at the time of Butler, viewed the decision as an opportunity to further advance there own legislation. This is fine but its is also a lipservice argument. You hardly standing in opposition to the obsenity laws when your then using them to piggy-back your own agenda. Similarly Mackinnon and Dworkin offered a prefunctory denouncation of homophobia while supporting the attack of a lesbian publication that supported S/M. Again that's fine but it is what it is.

    Mike juxaposes the scenes of rape in Thelma and Louise and Pulan Devi the Bandit Queen with the entire porn industry. Well okay. But the former are not erotica and at least some of the later is erotica. So what's the point? That in a new society we'll be free to watch progress films (that I happen to like) that show how rape is bad but not films that show guys and girls having consensual rough sex. Sorry. We are on different roads.

    What workers think of their jobs actually does matter. And what women and men think about their jobs in the sex industry matters too. Certainly as apart of the working class I want a voice in my own freedom struggle. When and under what conditions is it appropriate to listen to sex workers?

    Lastly what i, the individual, wants matters. Patriarchy and the oppression of women is not some abstract to be debated online nor watched in movies. Its the living experiences of individuals and all collective humanity. Grounding our freedom struggles in our lives is entirely relevant. We come from different places, struggle to see and understand each other and build on the struggle. We ground our theory in practice and in struggle. But in doing so the individual does not disappear.

  • Guest (RW Harvey)

    How quickly our discussions of sex, sexuality, pornography turn polarized and become filled with all sorts of idelaized pictures, moralizing analyses, and moves to protect one's own proclivities. This to me speaks to the complexity of human love, human desire, human anxiety in the face of love and desire, on and on. This complexity is built-in to human beings, with patriarchy and capitalism the most recent inflections.

    Pardon my personal ancedote, but I think it illustrates the complexity I speak of and the importance of really being careful when working the edges of the individual and the social.

    From my first sexual experience (age 15) until the age of 45, whenever I was experiencing oral sex by a woman I adamantly refused to have an orgasm in her mouth. I knew and felt in my very bones that this had to be a degrading act, a knowledge that came as a mixture of my being raised by a singl mom, my experience in the women's movement, and my communist understanding of the "woman question." So, imagine my complete cognitive dissonance when my wife told me that I was depriving her of her pleasure my refusing to consummate oral sex in the way that hasd always repulsed me.

    Now, one might say that I was repressed and uptight, or I was a noble, sensitive man; one might say she liberated me or was compelled by her own inner mysoginist to participate in this debasement, etc.

    My point is that, as Saoirse says, individual perceptions, likes and dislikes do indeed matter. If socialism and communism are to be the most liberating forms of societies on earth then perhaps we must really scrutinze al our a priori assumptions and attitudes on human sexuality with a dash of open-heartedness, humor, and curiosity. One thing I do know is that mysogyny will not be combatted by a left version of paternalism that places all female desire -- no matter how kinky -- under the lens of "they really don't (and can't) know any better since capitalism distorts everything." How much of female desire, female-centered porn, etc., is actually in rebellion to mysogyny and male dominance? These would be good point of analysis as well.

    In addition of Michael Bader's controversial writings, I would also recommend David Schnarch's "Passionate Marriage"; "A General Theory of Love," by Thomas Lewis, et. al; "Art and Intimacy," by Ellen Dessinayake. Of course the aforementioned Susie Bright is compelling, as is "The Centerfold Syndrome" (antiporn) among others.

    Perhaps, contrary to Engels, our alienation from our own bodies is the oldest and first form of oppression (rather than between the sexes), the one that has, depending upon social relations) furthered the alienation or lessened it. Rather than the polarity between the personal and the political, or the slight variation that the personal is political, we have to see the dance that is both personal and political simultaneously. Perhaps we need to remember that just like the sex act(s) themselves that demonstrate gyrate in the throes of animal lust and respecful awe for the person we share this act with, that human sexuality and desire are unstable terrains that can not be commanded a priori to do as they are told (or as we tell them).

  • Guest (gangbox)

    Comrade Mike,

    Forgive me if I'm wrong here, but you seem kind of contemptuous of the idea of workers in the porn industry engaging in labor struggles, because it's filming prostitution.

    Why does that rule out labor struggles by those workers?

    If prostitutes can engage in concerted actions to achieve their demands - and there are places where they have - Sweden, the Netherlands, San Francisco, Cambodia - why can't actresses who merely play the part of prostututes on TV engage in labor struggles?

    What would you say to sex workers who have actually successfully unionized - like the strippers at the Lusty Lady in San Francisco?

    They've been union for over a decade now - and they won real gains (including equal pay and work opportunities for Black and Latina strippers) - does that not matter to you?

    And, what with the mainstreaming of porn and all, would it not be a great victory if the hypocritical bluenoses who run SAG, AFTRA, WGA, IATSE, Scenic Artists local 829 and Teamsters local 399 were forced to provide the same level of minimum wages, benefits, union workrules and copyrwight protections to the porn industry as apply in regular motion pictures?

    Why is it wrong to fight for that - especially as mainstream Hollywood's product gets even more pornified by the day?

    Or should we demand those unions abandon their existing jurisdictions as mainstream films become more pornographic?

    We can stand on the sidelines and fulminate against porn like the Christians do, or we can do something to actually help the workers in the industry - which sounds like the more communist choice [WWLD = "What Would Lenin Do"]?

    And what would you say to the primary customer base for prostitution, strip clubs and porno movies - lonely men who don't have a sex life?

    I know you and Redflags have said that you really aren't interested in their needs or desires.

    But, unfortunately, in a world where men are judged by their male peers in part based on how successful they are with women, men who aren't good with women (especially those who are very inept and therefore don't have a sex life at all) have an unfortunate tendency to act out in inappropriate ways against women.

    This is indeed a <i>"Socialist Police"</i> problem - and, as any cop in any social system will tell you the best way to prevent crime is with prevention - lock a door and prevent a burglary, put a highly visible security system in a store and stop a robbery, put an alarm in a car and stop a grand theft auto.

    And, in this case, give sexless men a sexual outlet and stop a rape.

    Look, despite some of the quite frankly idealist stuff I've read on this thread about changing male female relationships, the cold hard fact is, under capitalism, sexual relationships between men and women boil down to an exchange of sex and domestic service for income and protection.

    And that will continue to be the case for a very long time after the revolution.

    The cold hard reality is, high status attractive in shape men with good jobs will still be more likely to succeed with women than low status unattractive out of shape men with low income jobs or no jobs at all.

    The handsome muscular Commissar will have a wife and a mistress and girls on the side and will get all the sex he can handle and then some while the unatractive overweight night shift janitor at Party headquarters will be lucky if he has a girlfriend who, occasionally condescends to give a weak wristed half hearted handjob.

    Look at every real life society run by communists and just <i>try</i> and tell me it wasn't like that!

    So, you would deny those men a sexual outlet!

    I would take the totally opposite view - since it's socially necessary for public safety reasons to guarantee that <i><b>all</i></b> men have a sexual outlet, I would not only have the full range of porno with absolutely <i>NO</i> state censorship whatsoever, I'd also have state subsidized strip clubs, <i>bailarena</i> clubs and even houses of prostitution.

    Yes, you read right.

    I just called for the continuation of prostitution under socialism.

    Prostitution under the best possible wage, benefit and safety conditions for the prostitutes (including lots of bouncers - to guarantee that the more agressive clients behave themselves), but yes, prostitution.

    Yeah, I know I'll get a lot of heat for saying that - but I think it would be socially necessary, in particular if we find ourselves fighting a protracted war or wars.

    Wars require armies, which require that large numbers of teenaged boys be pulled out of normal life and placed in very regimented and often same sex segregated military units, often for years at a time (there were Chinese PLA units mobilized in the mid 1940's that didn't get demobilized until the early 1960's, for example) - those guys need a healthy sexual outlet, or they will tend to act out sexually against female civilians.

    The only alternative would be the one the PLA chose - making sexual activity by enlisted men a drum head court martial death penalty offense.

    In short, we will have to deal with sex - and, in particular, frustrated agressive male sexuality, after the revolution, and we can deal with it either with the velvet glove or the iron nightstick.

    I'm not a big fan of police or police states (socialist or otherwise), so I think it would be a lot more liberatory to deal with it with the velvet glove.

    Oh and before I go - what about Gay porno?

    Somebody above argued that gay male porn was somehow sexist against women - I just don't get that!

    Gay male porno is essentially defined by the <i>absence of women</i> (that's kinda what makes it "gay", you know!), so how are they sexist against women (other than not hiring them to be in the movies?)

    I just don't get that!

    And why should gay men (including the legions of men in the closet) be denied their sexual outlet because of the gender wars.

    Mike, you call for <i>"reduced access" to porn</i> I call for <b>Universal Adult Access To Porn"</b> - that is, every adult and older adolescent should have access to pornography and other sexual entertainment without restriction, and the only restrictions on porn and other sexual entertainment should be labor restrictions bargained for by the sex workers themselves.

    Frederick Engles would have called it "Free Love" and, quite frankly, I think he would have approved!

  • Mike says: <i>all revolution runs into this, where people say “all that is fine, all this talk about change and liberation, but what about me (my property, my career, my enjoyment of Cancun, my control over my children, my ability to choose my neighbors, my whatever)….”</i>

    Yes, and all revolutions run into the limitations of program as such. Of course. When revolutions are less about opening up and more about closing down, they encounter resistance from the very people in whose name revolutions are launched.

    And what of this?

    It's one thing to steer social resources over the resistance of the formerly entitled into development for regions and people who have been denied capacity, yet another to demand the stifling of problematic consensual, non-commercial relationships. It's the difference between reactionary jokes and Fox News. There's a relationship, but they need to be approached quite differently.

    One of the ironies is that some of the most forthright and effective opposition to the "sadomasochism of everyday life" has come form explicit advocates of BDSM. Making informed and ongoing consent the bottom line for sexual play essentially changes the character of any particular acts engaged in. It's a million miles from the dull grind of the prototypical male selfishness and female acquiescence of heterosexuality.

    There are limits to what political projects as such can accomplish, or should even seek to. Challenging what arouses people isn't just going "back to square one", Saoirse. It's an ongoing, ethical issue.

    The extent to which the particulars of arousal and consensual sex are deemed the business of political movements should be quite narrow. We need spaces of comradeship, and that is a struggle, where people aren't sexualized as a matter of course. But in the realm of the private and consensual – I think there is very little revolutionary political projects need to get into. We won't surpress sexism in representation if we can't overcome it in everyday life. The attack on the representation of the relationships we find objectionable, if we even agreed on what they were, would be an admission of failure without learning the lesson.

    Prostitution is a problem. I think it's right to struggle with friends and people in general not to feed into such alienated sexuality. But I would sooner help bail a prostitute out of jail than ever think of using police structures to regulate the workers as criminals.

    There's a lot to learn from harm reduction methods, and not the hypocrisy of christian criminalization of sex workers. In regards to those who profit from sexual exploitation, a revolution in social ownership would do more to change the conditions which give rise to the worst abuses than any hectoring or guilt trips. Where consent rules, we can begin to discuss what could be better. Without respecting consent, even to places we don't understand, we would not escape the inherited christian moralism and shame that make people get prickly when backward ideas gets called out.

    We will return to these same grounds over and over... for many years to come. Maybe there were feminist sex wars decades ago that set some of the terms for this discussion on "changed terrain" – but they aren't old hat to most people. And the terrain hasn't actually changed as much for most as it has in the bleeding edge of the sexual subcultures in the major cities, something I know I sometimes forget.

  • Guest (Quorri)

    Gangbox sez all of the below quotes, which I then respond to:

    <blockquote cite="">"We can stand on the sidelines and fulminate against porn like the Christians do, or we can do something to actually help the workers in the industry - which sounds like the more communist choice [WWLD = "What Would Lenin Do"]?"</blockquote>

    Sex workers or any workers getting more rights, protections, money and material stability is great. Go unions, go sex workers. But there is another option, in addition to the two you've listed, which is to try to raise the material status of people so that they don't need to become prostitutes and pornography actors and actresses..... and, you know, to radically change all social relationships in such a way that people don't need to be made into objects for the explicit pleasure of another, at the loss of one's own.

    <blockquote cite="">"And what would you say to the primary customer base for prostitution, strip clubs and porno movies - lonely men who don’t have a sex life?"</blockquote>

    I say you have a hand, and you also have the ability to become close to someone. All this talk about men who can't make enough money to attract a woman or men who are too ugly to attract a woman is fucking bullshit, don't pardon my language. EVERY person is attractive to some other person. Every person. I have seen the hugest, pimpliest, ugliest, meanest people with lovers. It is not impossible. I am an attractive person who is relatively skinny and pretty smart. People like me. I'm funny. Still, I had a hard time finding someone I loved. WE ARE ALL LONELY. Love, or even just companionship if that's what you want to call it, doesn't always come easy. That doesn't mean we should put people in the role of sex object to satisfy our loneliness. It doesn't mean I get to go buy a slave to objectify and force to make me feel physical pleasure.

    <blockquote cite="">"But, unfortunately, in a world where men are judged by their male peers in part based on how successful they are with women, men who aren’t good with women (especially those who are very inept and therefore don’t have a sex life at all) have an unfortunate tendency to act out in inappropriate ways against women."</blockquote>

    Well then maybe they should learn how. And maybe we should attempt to change the relationships and roles in society that create this hierarchy based on sexuality or lack thereof. But we definitely shouldn't indulge the behavior, so sexist and debasing, because of how unfortunate it is that they have to deal with pressure. That's like saying that a cop, who has so much pressure to treat minorities and women and young people (and everyone?) like dirty pieces of shit, should be given people to beat so that they stop shooting unarmed, innocent people in stressful moments. Think about it.

    <blockquote cite="">"This is indeed a “Socialist Police” problem - and, as any cop in any social system will tell you the best way to prevent crime is with prevention - lock a door and prevent a burglary, put a highly visible security system in a store and stop a robbery, put an alarm in a car and stop a grand theft auto.

    And, in this case, give sexless men a sexual outlet and stop a rape."</blockquote>

    How many times in my life have I been told that men need sex in order to prevent rape. MEN NEED A MORE CLEAR VIEW OF WHAT WOMEN ARE AND SHOULD BE TO PREVENT RAPE. Men need some self respect and a view of other people that holds them as valuable and respectable beings who deserve a say in what happens to them. Men have hands to jack off with and they can use them. If they don't have a hand, well, maybe we should provide them with nurses who can do it for them (which I've seen done for people in that very situation and it is totally ok).

    <blockquote cite="">"Look, despite some of the quite frankly idealist stuff I’ve read on this thread about changing male female relationships, the cold hard fact is, under capitalism, sexual relationships between men and women boil down to an exchange of sex and domestic service for income and protection."</blockquote>

    I'm sorry your relationships are so void of anything else. My own relationship is definitely not an exchange of domestic service and sex. It is more like an exchange of companionship and respect, which happens to include a shared living space and some sex. If we had no sex with each other, we'd still be two people who greatly respect and love one another, and we'd still clean the house.

    <blockquote cite="">"And that will continue to be the case for a very long time after the revolution."

    Gee, I really hope we can do better than that. I know we can. I'm doing it already.

    "The cold hard reality is, high status attractive in shape men with good jobs will still be more likely to succeed with women than low status unattractive out of shape men with low income jobs or no jobs at all."</blockquote>

    Yup, unless they find some people who aren't so shallow and materialistic. Until they have a material basis for living no matter what their personal situations and a society that upholds mutual respect and choice and love over objectification and domestic service traded for sex, as you so disgustingly put it. But, more importantly, why should these mens' difficulties in finding companionship make it ok to objectify other people? How does that make it ok? It is still harmful and still feeds into a system of women's oppression.

    <blockquote cite="">"The handsome muscular Commissar will have a wife and a mistress and girls on the side and will get all the sex he can handle and then some while the unatractive overweight night shift janitor at Party headquarters will be lucky if he has a girlfriend who, occasionally condescends to give a weak wristed half hearted handjob."</blockquote>

    Probably not the greatest relationship between that janitor and his girlfriend. Guessing he should find one who actually cares about him. Sounds, also, like that commissar is still stuck in the system of relations which views women as sex objects, as he seems to be seeking the sex and not the relationship.

    <blockquote cite="">"Look at every real life society run by communists and just try and tell me it wasn’t like that!"

    Well there weren't that many, and, from what I've heard and read, it wasn't like that (GPCR)

    "So, you would deny those men a sexual outlet!"</blockquote>

    I'd deny them using humans as their sex toys, but I'd never deny them the use of their hands. How narrowly do you define sexual outlet, anyway? Is it only an outlet when one person is literally being used so that the other can orgasm? That's pretty low, man. Sex is better than that, if we want it to be.

    <blockquote cite="">"I would take the totally opposite view - since it’s socially necessary for public safety reasons to guarantee that all men have a sexual outlet, I would not only have the full range of porno with absolutely NO state censorship whatsoever, I’d also have state subsidized strip clubs, bailarena clubs and even houses of prostitution."</blockquote>

    This is the argument that supports both of the rapes I've had to deal with in my life, and it's probably also the one that led to my abduction by a man. The argument that posits that men need some sort of outlet or else they'll go crazy with rape lust is the same argument that says that men need some sort of outlet and so you'll do just fine as that outlet, whether you like it or not. Can you really not step outside of the preconceived notions of male and female roles and relations long enough to see how sexist and distorted this view is?

    Why is it never said that women need a sexual outlet or else they'll go insane and rape everything in sight? I always get a response along the lines of "women can get laid whenever they want!" But no! They can't! Some girls want sex bad and can't find it! Sometimes it is because of the same bullshit said above about not having money or a job or good looks.... why is no one worried that they'll start abusing children and animals and all sorts of things as their new sexual outlet?

    BECAUSE WOMEN DON'T HAVE POWER OVER MEN AND ARE NEVER IN A POSITION TO EXPECT A SEXUAL OUTLET, BUT ONLY TO BE USED AS ONE.

    Fuck.

  • Guest (Quorri)

    Oops, I messed up :P There are a few lines without quotations around them, within the box quotes, that are actually my words....

    One is: Gee, I really hope we can do better than that. I know we can. I’m doing it already.

    and the other is: Well there weren’t that many, and, from what I’ve heard and read, it wasn’t like that (GPCR)

    Hahahaa....I'm awesome :P

    Gotta be better with my block quotes, sorry.

  • Guest (gayporn)

    Alright, the discussion of gay porn here is completely inadequate. I thought I'd drop something of a turd in the punchbowl by suggesting people listen to this audio presentation:

    "On Bareback Subcultures and the Pornography of Risk" http://slought.org/content/11332/

    It presents a case of the ultimate in self-destructive sexuality/pornography. It's very explicit. There are all kinds of ways in which it contradicts assumptions on either side of this debate.

    On the one hand, there is no doubt about the self-destructiveness of the acts discussed, on the other there is an argument that the self-destruction is itself formative of community. It is not mainly about the reduction of sexual relations to a commodity. It also makes problematic certain assumptions about the transference of fantasy to reality or vice versa, and makes clear that gay pornography is not defined (as gangbox seems to think) by the absence of women, as if the point is to exclude women, as if the turn-on is related to that absence. Gay porn is defined that way by hetero-sexual men.

    The above discussion aside, is gay porn or sexuality necessarily oppressive of either the women not in the movies, or the men that are? Does it generally or necessarily encourage brutal, alienated sexual relations? How do you separate the "oppression of women" supposedly going on in a gay porno, from the oppression of women in gay relationships in general? Doesn't such a logic begin to come full circle back to the RCP's line on homosexuality? The problem of course is the subsumption of homosexuality within "the woman question". Is that really what's going on, and is that really how we should be analyzing this?

    I think there is no doubt that the particular sub-genre discussed in the above link shows that pornography has developed to unheard of extremes where the risk of death is literally the turn-on. As far as I know, that is not a line that mass produced and distributed hetero-porn has crossed. And yet, often in more typical gay porn the sex is not explicitly demeaning in the way that is typical of hetero-porn.

    The presentation speaks in passing of the role of pornography in the formation of gay sexuality. And it suggests yet another contradiction in the world of porn. It is as if the desire to avoid intimacy is reversed with gay porn. As if the alienation of being a homosexual, even in today's world, leads one to seek out reconciliation of your desires vicariously in the form of pornography, which is safe in ways that your typical adolescent's social world is not. In other words, particularly for those in the closet, your pornography is a moment of reconciliation with yourself, in a condition where true intimacy can be literally life-threatening (homophobes, predators, AIDS, etc.).

    There is something more here than shock and contrariness. If Jensen and others really want to investigate pornography, then they should look at the entire field, not just the stuff that fascinates them (for whatever reason). The inability to deal with the way in which gay porno is dispositive of many of his claims suggests that what Jensen is doing is defining acceptable female sexuality, even as he poses it as the sins of masculinity.

    Regarding Saoirse's comments, and the defense of Hartley and Bright, it seems that they place the agency of a woman in the choice to either sell her commodity or not. Where Redflags argues that prostitution is definitively an abandonment of agency, Hartley and Bright would argue that it is its ultimate expression. But it seems that Hartley and Bright would then see the modality of agency as primarily the individual right to property, and the right to dispose of that property as they see fit. Their conception of agency is fully bourgeois, and of course they would support the porn industry and even see it as a realm of freedom, in exactly the same way the bourgeoisie sees the production and circulation of commodities as being the essence of freedom.

    I wouldn't necessarily endorse Mike's "love" ethics, but consent in a market environment is not a liberatory notion of sexuality.

  • Guest (Kira)

    Right on Quorri,

    I wish I would have read this thread when it was still active, I just had to share what I know anyway, hope it helps someone.

    The argument that rape has anything to do with anything other than a need to feel power over another human being is so dead. Nothing about normal sexual outlet about it.

    Also, the psychiatric treatment plan for pedophiles is to NOT CONSUME child porn, or even look at childrens underwear ads. This is because fantasizing about an act makes you more likely to do that act in reality. think about it: You practice what you're going to say before an interview to calm your nerves and improve your performance. This is exactly how it works for sex acts as well.

    Just to make sure I have been clear, consuming child porn makes a pedophile more likely to re-offend, not less because now they have an outlet.

    It is very concerning to me that much of the discussion on this thread has been from the point of view of men seeking to justify the consumption of porn without even trying to get into the question of whether or not what they are consuming is harmful to others, and themselves. Why so defensive, I didn't hear anyone say that sex is bad or that you shouldn't masturbate? Also, seeking to justify porn culture as OK because women consume it as well, this completely misses the point that women have also been socialized to find the degrading depictions of women to be sexually arousing - is that healthy? Just to point out the fallacy of this argument, there were many black people who accepted the system of slavery, did that justify it?

    Sexual relations are warped under capitalism and patriarchy, we have no way of knowing what expressions they might find under socialism and then under communism - but we could at least start with an honest accounting of where sexuality is today.

    As a last word, I think that this is an important discussion to be having even though there are a lot of backwards views represented here. The fact that there is so much resistance to this discussion highlights the need for it, we can't come to a correct understanding of things in isolation or without putting our wrong ideas on the table for examination as well.

  • Guest (Tom)

    This is a great discussion.

    Gangbox:

    <blockquote>And, in this case, give sexless men a sexual outlet and stop a rape.</blockquote>

    Wow. No. Rape is not about a lack of a sexual outlet. It is a violent response to powerlessness.

    And Gayporn seems to be getting at the fact that the issues surrounding pornography don't only manifest along the lines of the gender binary. I would argue that gay porn aligns very well with the culture of sexual degradation and gender roles found in hetero porn. In fact, I'm not sure what gay porn completely freed from the systems of the gender binary and heteronormativity would even look like...

  • Guest (Maz)

    Well, it's unlikely you can ever find a single thing rape is "about" since it means different things in different contexts. A Saudi prison gaurd raping an inmate has a different motivation and meaning than a date-rape on a U.S. college campus. However, it seems difficult to ignore that sex is an important factor in most rapes, at least I thought this should be obvious (otherwise why not just torture or non-sexually degrade your victims?) A blanket statement that it is "a violent response to powerlessness" doesn't grasp this.

  • Guest (chegitz guevara)

    It also misses the fact that the powerful seem just as capable of engaging in rape as the powerless.