On Porn… The Chicken and The Egg

QUESTION: Is it that watching misogynistic porn gradually makes men misogynists- makes them hate women? Or is it that men who already hate women seek out and enjoy misogynist porn? Or is it that watching misogynist porn simply allows men to feel the can express their misogyny openly?

There is a strong link, either way, between misogyny in attitude/behavior on one hand and porn-watching on the other.

So what came first: the chicken or the egg?

Leaving aside statistics and cognitive-behavioral studies, and focusing on my life experiences I know three things.

1) I know that the porn industry is massive, expanding in all directions, and incredibly rich- it’s a big business because of big demand for porn.

2) All the men I know have seen some porn. Most of the men I know choose to watch it. Of the small group who do not choose to watch it, most have no serious objection to it [for example saying it’s not to their aesthetic taste] and none I know have any outspoken or politically based objection to it.

3) All the porn I have so far encountered is grossly misogynistic. Even the purportedly ‘tamer’ excerpts show the most repugnant treatment of women, express a visceral hatred of the female body and rejoice in the sexual degradation of women. I have never seen any porn that is not patriarchal in its worldview.

So: either most men hate us already and express this by watching porn, most men hate and oppress us through watching porn, or most men will come to hate and oppress us because they watch lots of porn.

Or all of these things are happening at once and feeding off of each other.

Actually, I’ve decided I don’t give a shit which came first if the results are the same for us.

I conclude, therefore, that in order to prevent men from learning to hate and hurt us in concrete ways from porn, the porn industry must be destroyed.

Or, to prevent men who already hate and hurt us from reveling in their hatred and expressing that hatred on the bodies of real women inside and outside of the porn industry, the porn industry must be destroyed.

Not defended as ‘free speech’.

Not out of sight out of mind.

Not supplemented with nicer material.

Not Queered.

Not reformed.

Not excused.

I dare you to throw a stone in Goliath’s face. The only relevant question now, is how can we do this quickly and ruthlessly?

 

Hey porn ‘engagers’…

 

'engage' this

 

 

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10 Comments on “On Porn… The Chicken and The Egg”

  1. Lis says:

    Hey, aren’t there elections soon?

    Fierce, Fearless FACcer: Since you’re canvassing on my doorstep, may I ask you a question?

    Patriarchal, Porn-Lovin’ Politician: Why, yes, little lady, I’m certain I could answer any political question your pretty head could think of Please do!

    FFF: In your personal life, do you view pornography?

    PPP: Of course I do, silly girl, it is my right to view images of women as sexual objects whenever I choose I regret that I cannot answer questions of a personal nature. Would you like to ask about my politics?

    FFF: That’s what I just did. Goodbye.

  2. murenne says:

    Great post and great comment! Thank you!

  3. Using the catchphrase “FAC you” to express an anti-porn message doesn’t actually make sense because FAC are Feminist Against Censorship, a group who have been around since 1989, comprising women with a mixture of views on porn but who are united in their anti censorship views. It’s unlikely any of the group would subscribe to the idea that “the porn industry must be destroyed”. Opinions would probably be more nuanced and take the idea that not all porn is the same into account.

    http://www.fiawol.demon.co.uk/FAC/

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminists_Against_Censorship

    • Alexa says:

      Ok, thanks. Have heard of feminists against censorship, but did not know they also use FAC as an acronym. Obviously i meant feminist action cambridge as FAC, and am using this as a replacement for fuck in general conversation, because it is funny to others in FAC. its just sarcasm, and does not imply that FAC members are all anti porn.

    • Lis says:

      Plus, y’know, anti-porn doesn’t necessarily have much to do with censorship. Quoting Dworkin (emphasis mine):

      Well, first of all, I’ve published twelve books and all those books are acts of speech. Most of the people who talk about censorship tell us that they would protect Hitler, they would protect white supremacists, they would protect any kind of garbage in the world. But that somehow or another when my speech is suppressed I deserve it, I sort of deserve it.

      The question about censorship, I think, is not a real question. I think it’s propaganda. Catharine MacKinnon and I drafted an ordinance, which is a civil rights law–a civil law, not a police-enforced law–that defines pornography as a violation of the civil rights of women, and it articulates certain causes of action–things that if they happen to women, women could go into court and sue the pornographers or the people who made a profit off of their bodies. That fell squarely in the realm of allowing people who have been silenced by oppression and by the abuse of power to have some kind of recourse in this society.

      It’s an idea that many people have found a good one and that law reviews are constantly publishing articles about. Many of those articles are saying, “Yes, we want to do this or we want to do something like this.” Part of what we drafted as a law has already become law through judicial decisions. For instance, our law covers the use of pornography as a form of sexual harassment in the workplace, which is especially relevant when women are in what have been all-male jobs. It’s a kind of harassment that is used to drive women out of the workplace. That part of our law has already been upheld in one sexual harassment case.

      So there’s nothing that we have done that in any way increases police power, that sanctions prior restraint, which is actually the legal definition of censorship. In other words, I make a law that says you can’t use the word “gray” and if you use the word “gray” I’m going to send the police in and they’re going to arrest you and if you’re found guilty you go to jail. This is nothing like that, this says that the plaintiff, the person who’s bringing a lawsuit, has to prove that the harm was done to her, the burden of proof is on her. Obviously, the material already has to be distributed in the world before it can do that harm.

      So that’s a very important point. The second point I’d like to make about that, if I could, is that when my book Pornography: Men Possessing Women was published in 1981 it said absolutely nothing about legal remedies of any kind about pornography. It was an analysis of the power dynamics in pornography. That book was labeled as being an act of censorship by people who were defending the pornography industry. So that those of us who oppose the industry are always called censors while those who want the industry to be strong and well and survive and make money tend to claim the mantle of civil liberties, although they rarely have earned it.

  4. RomseyGirl says:

    If anyone’s in any doubt about the effect that viewing porn has on men’s attitude to women, take a look at this: http://elkballet.wordpress.com/2011/08/19/porn-users-explain-why-porn-is-healthy-part-1/ And great article, Alexa!

  5. idletaught says:

    I agree that a lot of heterosexual pornography is misogynistic and that this is a problem by definition but this article is being heteronormative. Not all pornography involves women and not all pornography is heterosexual.

    Does the author propose to destroy the non-heterosexual porn industry alongside the heterosexual porn industry?

    Guess how radical that would *not* be? Homosexuality was illegal in the UK until 1967. Within living memory the production and dissemination of gay pornography was a criminalised activity being carried out against a background of state and societal oppression of sex and sexuality. A history of state oppression that continues at the societal level after the state’s official decriminalisation of homosexuality. In this context the contempt expressed here for queering pornography is *not* radical, it’s heteronormative.

    One could not even begin to respond to a questions like “is all erotica misogynistic?” or “is all gay porn misogynistic?” or “is the L word misogynistic?” here without first going beyond some of the crude generalisations being espoused by this article.

    It is not derailing to raise the question of erotica. Erotica exists as much as the pornography industry does and the author of the article is not entitled to determine the limits of what might be considered relevant to the discussion by other contributors I thought that the question of how erotica might relate to this polemic was a rather gentle way of raising the matter of women not just being vicitims of patriarchal sexual exploitation but also embodied, sexual, desiring and masturbating subjects.

    • Lis says:

      This article is about the misogynistic pornography industry, which is a subject which feminist women are allowed to talk about, and even be angry about (god forbid that feminists should get angry about woman-hating) despite everyone else’s best efforts to the contrary.

      First, pornography can be misogynist without being “heterosexual” (though I’d argue that no misogynist pornography is “sexual”) and pornography can reproduce misogynist positions of domination/submission without involving women, and still act as something which reinforces woman-hating. Please don’t bring up D/s in response to this point; D/s can be misogynistic, of course. Some would say that some D/s is not misogynist, in which case that D/s is substantially different to the reproduction of misogynist positions of domination/submission in pornography.

      Second, being oppressed for being homosexual (by which, I assume you mean gay and male – the pornography industry has done nothing to liberate lesbian women) is not a defence against being misogynist. Gay male liberation does not come at the cost of women’s liberation. If pornography designed for the consumption of gay men is liberatory for gay men while remaining woman-hating, it is still a valid subject of feminist critique. So its liberatory quality (or otherwise) for gay men isn’t relevant here, only its misogyny. As appropriate for a feminist blog.

      Thirdly, “queering” pornography outside of the mainstream, misogynist pornography industry (or industries) is a separate issue and too-much-discussed in the context of this conversation, which is about the misogynist pornography industry. If a pornography industry (or pornography developed outside of an industry) is not misogynist then it is not part of the misogynist pornography industry and is not the subject of this article.

      I’d argue that this is a small or non-existent category, you presumably would argue that it’s larger, but I guess if you are worried that antiporn women will destroy it (I’m not sure why you think we are capable of that) then you can rest assured that we will destroy pornography from most woman-hating to least. If the “queered” pornography you like is so wonderful for women, it will be last on the list, and we will have had plenty of time to reflect once the really awful stuff is out of the way.

      Finally, erotica does not “exist as much as the pornography industry does”. That is patently false. The pornography industry is a multi-billion-dollar international industry which rapes and abuses women (and some other people) and reinforces systems of woman-hating (and the hating of people based on some other characteristics, such as hatred of transsexual bodies). “Erotica”, if it exists as something other than pornography, is presumably something other than pornography, and is not the subject of this article which is about the misogynist pornography industry.


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