The Shit Feminists Say About Porn

I'm writing an honors thesis on porn.

I've mentioned this before, and I've said a few things about it. You probably have some idea where I'm coming from, especially since I'm a stripper. That gives you some prepackaged ideas about who I am and what I think.

I don't know, though, how to engage with all the shit (yes, shit) that feminists say about pornography.

Everybody is so concerned with taking a side. We must all be Pro-Pornography! or Anti-Pornography! and there is so little room allowed for having an opinion that's in between. It's yet another fun incarnation of the good ol' virgin/whore dichotomy.

There's so much vitriol on both sides:

"Those who oppose pornography are anti-sex! They continue the oppression of women by oppressing our sexual expression! They take away the agency of sex workers, taking away the agency and independence of women! Pornography should be encouraged as a sexual expression and an education tool!"

Or:

"Those who support pornography are anti-woman! They continue the oppression of women by encouraging representations of violence against women, perpetuating the myth that all women want to be dominated and abused! They ignore the economic and social coercion of women into sex and sex work! Pornography should be illegal and stigmatized!"

For heaven's sake, you're both right.

I think, actually, that Ariel Levy has a good idea of what's going on. Her book Female Chauvinist Pigs is immensely popular, especially with the anti-porn set, but if you read carefully, she's in the middle of the debate. She doesn't actually think that all porn is terrible (as the anti-porn activists want us to think), but she's not unequivocally accepting of porn and what she calls "raunch culture" either.

Here's an excerpt from an email conversation she had with Susie Bright about her book and what it means for "sex-positive" or "sex radical" feminists:
OF COURSE I don't think you & co. are responsible for this...the whole point of sex radicals is to explore new and different and more creative ways to represent— and to have— sex. I'm all for creativity. I'm all for exploration. I'm just not for the incessant reiteration of this one incredibly dull shorthand for sexiness... Wet t-shirt contests! Implants! Brazilian bikini waxes!

It's pathetically limiting. I'm tired of hearing about how liberating and empowering "raunch culture" is. I think it's the easy way out... as if when we buy a thong or a t-shirt with the Playboy bunny on it, then we don't have to question or face our own complicated desires. (But then you miss out on all the fun!)

You have always been about encouraging women to investigate what they really and truly want from sex. Raunch culture, on the other hand, is about performance, not pleasure. That's my objection.
Let's try and find a middle road here, people. We all want the same thing, ultimately. We want women and men to be equal to each other. We don't want these gender stereotypes and privileges to rule our lives. We want to preserve sexual freedom for both sexes. We want to make sure that no one ever has to give in to a sexuality that's harmful to them. It's a noble goal. We should work towards it together.

2 comments:

R. said...

Of all the writing out there about porn, Linda Williams' work is just about the only thing I can stomach. I adore her. Check out her book "Hard Core" if you haven't already.

papercutsandplastic said...

I have it and I'll be reading it for my thesis. I haven't gotten to it yet, but it does seem like she's got a down-to-earth approach to it.

On living, loving, learning, and fucking with the materials I've got at hand.

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