Thursday, July 13, 2006

A Mostly Serious Piece on Pornography

Okay, so my response has taken slightly longer than a day. Mea culpa, I got a job at a store (ending in "art" and beginning with "K") so I actually don't have as much blogging time as before.

Anyway, when I was conducting my interview with the protestors, they kept repeating my questions back at me, curious as to what I believed in. "Did I believe in god?" "Was I a moral absolutist or a moral relativist?" "Could I see how pornography leads to rape?" that type of thing. I feel I restrained myself as much as I could, but these are questions I would like to answer for the benefit of those who'd like to know.

In this entry, I'd like to talk about sex and pornography. For the purposes of this discussion, pornography shall be defined as the viewing of sexual acts for the purposes of titillation (rather broad, I know, but work with me).

Now, I normally tend to fall into the pro-sex feminism side: I like sex, and see nothing wrong with expressions of sexuality. I deny, vehemently, that woman are uninterested in sex, or have less of a sex drive than men. Any woman who has experienced an orgasm is secretly laughing at anyone who says that. This is a stupid stereotype, but more to the point, it can be quite dangerous (because people turn this into a weird sex-as-dominance, or sex-as-transaction, or sex-as-something women have that men want to get). And, I am quite strongly free speech, and I think too many things that count as "pornography" are actually much more about anti-sexuality squick: namely things like belly-dancing or nudity in general. There is nothing wrong with our fleshly body, and carnal delights are quite grand, thank-you-very much. We are sexual creatures, and a denial of that is an exercise in frustration. Sex is a wonderful, messy, intimate, silly, pleasant, sometimes earth-shattering, sometimes disappointing, lustful, stupid-looking, lovely hedonistic activity to do. It's better with skill and experience, it's better with trust and love, but it is what it is. Sex is an activity that two people engage in. Sex is not a "self-gift" in the sense that I'm less than a person afterwards. It is more like a duet, where I am lending my skills to another singer in a beautiful music (and the other person gets to cover up some of my false notes). Does the fact that I have sang with another person make this song less beautiful? Neither does the fact that I have had sex with other persons make it less meaningful when I have sex now. Pleasure is an important an integral part of the action: it is sole reason to have sex is for pleasure, both my partner's and mine.

To that end, I LOVE the PBR. As I stated before, they are the only place in town that sells some sex-aids: massage oil, incense, sexual games, and masturbation aids such as vibrators. These things can help with sex, making better foreplay, more creative sex, more pleasurable sex.

But then, there's pornography. Pornography gets weird, because it's no longer an act that two people engage in. Suddenly, you are purchasing the right to be a voyeur, without the direct consent of the people involved. In many cases, sex is not something that two people engage in, but it something someone does to another. Man fucks woman. Subject-verb-object. In homosexual sex, there's a "bottom" and a "top", someone who's getting penetrated, someone who's doing the penetrating. And then there's "lesbian" porn, where it seems every woman is two drinks away from doing another woman, while they wait around for a "real man" to come and "fix them".

Clearly, most pornography I do not think accurately reflects healthy sexuality (not to mention, lacking almost any artistic merit. Hasn't anyone heard of "plot" and "dialogue" and "acting"? I mean, come on, there's temporary suspension of disbelief, and then there's WTF is wrong with you people.) To that end, I support the protestors against the objectification of SEX (which they misunderstand as the objectification of people, namely women). Women who engage in sex are not being objectified, woman who engage in this weird human-object dominance play are being objectified.

Where we draw the line, is where it starts to get fuzzy. If I wanted to watch "Madame Bovary" and they didn't fade to black when the sex scene came on, is that degrading? I would say no. But if I were to watch "Barely Legal Teen Fuckfest"* I think it would be degrading. However, since we live in a free society, I am not at liberty to say what can and cannot be watched, in the name of free expression. As soon as I start limiting other people's expressions, it will not be too long before they come after my own. Yet, I still disagree with pornography that is sex as a commodity, and I feel there is a great underlying misogyny in rape porn.

So, I'm not overmuch fond of the north side of the building, but I can't say not to have it. I don't want the store to close; I just wish the selection would change, so that it was less about sex-as-a-power play and more like sex-as-a-pleasurable activity. And I think that's where the divide between me and the protestors: I don't like objectifying sex, and they just don't like sex as a pleasure activity. If my boyfriend (in this point in my life, I have no desire to get married) were to go into the store, I'd be "whoopee! New toy!” not an insecure mess that he didn't find me attractive.

I do not believe that pleasure is inherently bad, just like I don't believe sacrifice is inherently good. Activities that lead to pleasure, and have no other harming side effects (like a violation of another's autonomy) are fine. Pleasure is a good in and of itself. Sacrifice that leads to betterment is fine. Needless sacrifice is stupid and should be avoided.

Later I will attempt to delve more deeply in my ethical philosophies.

*I have no idea of “Barely Legal Teen Fuckfest” actually exists. It sounds plausible, and it doesn’t sound like a healthy expression of sexuality.


At 10:20 AM, Blogger Noumena said...

Great post!

In one of Catharine MacKinnon's essays, she makes a bit of a deal about how opposition to objectification (and support of objectification) crosses the left/right split. You have a beautiful one-sentence refutation of that alliance: "And I think that's where the divide between me and the protestors [lies]: I don't like objectifying sex, and they just don't like sex as a pleasure activity."

I honestly think social conservatives have deliberately co-opted the language of objectification from feminists because it's so much more rhetorically successful than 'having fun is wrong!' Just like they've co-opted dignity to attack affirmative action and choice to promote being your husband's maid. If you press these protestors, I bet you'd find out they're probably still pro-objectification (it's a sin *for a woman* to show off her body!), anti-dignity (watch out for those scary black folks!), and anti-choice (women not being housewives is wrong!).

At 2:29 PM, Blogger Goddess Cassandra said...

I've got to say, my feminist scholarship is horrible under-read. I've read some Steinmen, and I am familiar with the big ones (MacKinnon, Dwokin, de Bouviour) but, I just haven't had time to sit down and study it.

I think you're right about the co-option of the language, however.

At 9:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check this out:

At 9:05 PM, Blogger JOSHUA S BLACK said...

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, "Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, "I am the LORD your God. After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances. Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the LORD your God. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.

"None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness: I am the LORD. The nakedness of thy father, or the nakedness of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover: she is thy mother; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. The nakedness of thy father's wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father's nakedness.

"The nakedness of thy sister, the daughter of thy father, or daughter of thy mother, whether she be born at home, or born abroad, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover. The nakedness of thy son's daughter, or of thy daughter's daughter, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover: for theirs is thine own nakedness. The nakedness of thy father's wife's daughter, begotten of thy father, she is thy sister, thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.

"Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father's sister: she is thy father's near kinswoman. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother's sister: for she is thy mother's near kinswoman.

"Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father's brother, thou shalt not approach to his wife: she is thine aunt. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy daughter in law: she is thy son's wife; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother's wife: it is thy brother's nakedness.

"Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, neither shalt thou take her son's daughter, or her daughter's daughter, to uncover her nakedness; for they are her near kinswomen: it is wickedness. Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time.

"Also thou shalt not approach unto a woman to uncover her nakedness, as long as she is put apart for her uncleanness. Moreover thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour's wife, to defile thyself with her.

"And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.

"Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion.

"Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you: and the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants.

"Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you: (For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled;) that the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you. For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people. Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinance, that ye commit not any one of these abominable customs, which were committed before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am the LORD your God."

Furthermore, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”

My friend, many people complain about the fact that God had commanded Israel to wipe out entire nations, but He did so because of sin. God still judges all sin today. Hell is his place of punishment. You know that the things that you write of are evil. Therefore, cease to do evil that the Lord may have mercy on you through His Son Jesus Christ. Hell is not the fun place that you think it may be.


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