Category Archives: porn

Sex, Porn, Feminism, Victimhood

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I guess this post will get us into trouble with some. Somebody sent me a link to the following article and asked for my opinion. It is an article that raises so many issues and which by implication accuses Sophie and me of being non feminists and much worse. I am going to try and address some of the points raised in the article. I want to start by saying however that while I disagree with the tone and conclusions of the article, I do think some of the issues raised deserve serious and ongoing consideration.

The article can be found here.http://www.feministcurrent.com/2015/12/09/the-sexiest-oppression/

The article by Natasha Chart starts with some very dubious and convoluted claims. Firstly she gives scant details of a story from Britain’s Daily Mirror in which an elderly woman is said to have died after a sex game went badly wrong. She then states quite categorically that in a just, feminist world, the neighbor who was involved in the sex game should have been tried for murder. In fact she equates his actions with the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Now we have looked at the account in The Mirror and it is fair to say there is not much more detail there than in Ms Chart’s account. What is clear is that the local authorities were convinced that there was more evidence for a tragic accident than for murder. Ms Chart wants us to believe that is because we live in a “male supremasist” world. The fact remains however that the only judge who has found the neighbor guilty of being a murderous, woman hating, monster is Ms Chart herself; and this is based solely on the scant evidence contained in a tabloid newspaper and her own very jaded opinions.

Then within a few tortuous, logic defying sentences such as these;-

…This is how you turn oppression into a titillating taboo that isn’t taken seriously. This is how you turn public health and safety threats like rape, torture, and murder, into “sex.” Which is private.

Talking about sex in public is obscenity. So talking about the way women are threatened and physically abused becomes obscenity and, in turn, becomes “sex.” As a result, everything about women’s bodies and oppression is turned into private obscenity that can’t be discussed like other topics…

She blames men in general, pornography, church and religious authorities and women like Sophie and myself for all that is wrong in the world and for the fears and prejudices that clearly dominate her daily life. She finally comes to the conclusion;-

…There is no part of male supremacist culture that doesn’t believe that women owe men sex, by which it is usually meant, she owes him sexual subservience and arousal over his use of force or coercion. Porn and church teachings are simply the most prominent outlets for this view, almost universally held…

I wonder how she would account for women such as Sophie and myself who even without men around, play sexual and psychological games of dominance and submission? I wonder if she is capable of understanding that such activities can be done with love and can be deeply pleasurable and fulfilling to both parties equally (no matter which role they are playing and no matter what genders they happen to be)?

Well I doubt that she can. She states in the same article that she was in the past a serial victim of  abusive relationships. And frankly it is the cries and screams of a serial victim who blames the world for her own mistakes that sing out most loudly in this article. That sounds harsh, doesn’t it? And I don’t want to be drawn in to blaming the victim, but…

We have all known women (and sometimes men) who repeatedly wind up in abusive relationships of various types. We try to warn them, but they won’t or can’t listen. Many of us know people who repeatedly have problems with drugs, or alcohol, or gambling… We cannot help the victim until the victim realises the truth of their predicament and owns it. Yes there are some total bastards out there; there are sick, twisted and vicious men and women… But not all men or women are bad because of the sins of the ones we are attracted to… Drugs and alcohol are not bad in themselves… Sometimes we have to acknowledge that the problem belongs to us and stop blaming others and being angry at half the world.

And sadly the article we are discussing here is so infused with that kind of mis-directed anger that it will find no uncritical audience except for other similarly damaged souls.

It is genuinely sad because it does touch on issues which need to be discussed and grappled with more openly. Even those of us who describe ourselves as “sex positive feminists” have to admit that there is still far too much exploitation in all aspects of the sex industry.

Some weeks ago Sophie and I were looking through a site we often visit for sexy and pornographic images. Some of the images we enjoy would be described as fairly hardcore by some and may elude to, or depict quite clearly, things associated with bondage, dominance, submission and mild violence. (Anybody shocked by that revelation has not been following our blogs very closely). However while browsing that site we came across something that made us pause and indeed left us feeling bad and sullied. It was a short video gif which showed a woman being subjected to very aggressive sex by two men at the same time. We both felt that the woman was not consenting, that she was probably full of drugs and that she looked absolutely terrified and out of control. We felt as if we were witnessing an actual rape. We felt sick and reported the image. But I have to admit that reporting that image probably didn’t achieve much and almost certainly did nothing to help the woman concerned. And we can’t escape from the fact that while we choose to believe most of the pornographic images we look at involve people who are fully consenting at every level; some clearly aren’t.

So what are our options? Let’s remove any semblance of kid gloves. We are two women who are unashamed hedonists, who have enjoyed colourful and diverse sexual encounters with each other and with other women and men. Our sexual tastes and fetishes cover most of the BDSM spectrum and go well beyond that. We enjoy porn. Most of our friends and acquaintances have similarly liberal views and tastes in matters of sex and sexuality. But we acknowledge that there is still a lot of exploitation in all aspects of the sex industry and there are real victims.

We could spurn all forms of sexual enjoyment outside of each other. We could stop looking at any form of pornography for fear that there may have been exploitation in the making of it. We could go further and campaign against all forms of pornography. Equally we could campaign against the very notion of prostitution where there is also undoubtedly gross exploitation. And besides all that we could hate all men and blame them for the perversion of sex, sexuality and gender roles in society. I suspect that is what Ms Chart would like us to do.

But this would not work and would ultimately be disempowering for us and all women and men. It would be defeatist. It would be like saying men have fucked up everything to do with sex so we should retreat to some puritanical version of vanilla sexuality where there can be no danger of exploitation so long as we all repeat the same, supposedly feminist, mantra. And if we happen to have tastes which are not vanilla we must remember that this is only because we have been brainwashed by the previous Male Supremacist society. In other words we must remember at all times that We are all victims and live accordingly!

But why should we allow one form of oppressive orthodoxy to be replaced by another one? For hundreds of years the Christian Church and other religious institutions have sought to control people, especially women, by policing sexuality; by determining what we are allowed to do and think in matters of sex and then condemning everything else as sinful. Many women of my parents generation would be envious of the sexual freedoms and independence we enjoy. Moreover those who happen to be gay or transgender or who can’t be pigeon holed anywhere on the sexuality spectrum are just beginning to enjoy liberties and acceptance that their predecessors could not of imagined. We should not allow victim driven forms of feminism to rob us of the freedoms we enjoy and which were many years in the winning.

What we must do however is enjoy our sexual freedoms responsibly. Where we see exploitation and crime we must treat it and report it as such. Some people can be empowered by their consensual participation in the production of pornography, and nobody has the right to judge them for that. But as consumers of pornography we must insist on only buying into that type of porn. We should aid in the hunting down and prosecution of all criminal activity in the sex industry. We should flag up anything suspect as soon as we see it. We should only pay for and share material we are confident is consensual and fully legal. This will not cure exploitation quickly but if there is any truth in the capitalist idea of market forces, eventually the exploitative, criminal side of the sex industry will be squeezed out.

We should aim to defeat the misogynists, the exploiters and the criminals by acting as responsible and empowered adults who are comfortable with our sexuality and our gender. Fearful and vindictive victims are unlikely to achieve anything except by totalitarian control.

Cassie

Sex Positive Feminism

I am writing this post in support of a post by Kalika Gold I reblogged yesterday. You can find it here.

It seems there is a growing trend in modern feminism to treat many aspects of sex and sexuality as either wrong, or taboo or anti feminist. Now I don’t make a point of hunting for feminist literature, nor do I often feel the need to stand on a soap box and extol the virtues of feminist ideology. Generally I just get on with my life. But I have always considered myself to be a feminist in practice and I will draw attention to things which seem to be setting women back in some way. Sadly it seems that some feminists are setting back the cause by getting sidetracked into some pretty backward, conservative and reactionary attitudes to sexual behavior.

But what do I mean by feminism? I guess there are a hundred definitions and I don’t want to get into a debate about what is the most politically correct use of the term. To me feminism is a pretty simple thing; it means that women and men should have equal opportunities and possibilities in all aspects of life and that they should have equal pay and equal respect for doing equal things. To unpack that a little more I believe strongly that women and men should have equal access to education, equal access to the job market and all professions and that their sex and gender should make no difference to their rewards and remunerations. Moreover as a society we should value and respect women and men equally in all ways even when acknowledging the physiological differences between them.  Following on from this it should be clear that this means I am against the unwilling exploitation of one sex by the other.

This is where the problem begins because I also describe myself as sex positive. This means simply that I have a positive attitude to sex. I like sex. I see it as a perfectly natural and healthy aspect of life. And by sex I pretty much mean all consensual forms of sex no matter what gender or mode of sexuality it is expressed in. In some ways I see sex itself as a morally neutral thing; it is a bodily function like breathing or going to the toilet; the morals we attach to it come from other aspects of life and society. In my own opinion I think western society has for all sorts of religious and social reasons had an unhealthy and repressive attitude to sexuality for a long time, made worse by a lot of hypocrisy within the power structures of society. Whatever… The point is there are a lot of us who feel that sex is good, healthy and generally positive and it seems on some issues this puts us on a collision course with a dominant quarter or feminism.

I like some forms of pornography. I don’t think there is anything intrinsically wrong with prostitution or many other forms of sex work.

“But it is exploitation of women!” Some feminists will scream. “You are being a traitor to your own sex and all the progress feminism has made!”

Well they can scream all they like. It is them who are wrong.

Yes there is exploitation in prostitution, pornography and many other jobs in the sex industry and all women and men should fight against that whether they call themselves feminists or not. Exploitation is wrong. Sex is not.

I have written about this subject before in the following posts.

I’d like to be a prostitute    &   Porn

(Strangely enough those are my most visited posts)!

As feminists we should be fighting to take the criminal element and all aspects of exploitation out of the sex industry. But the sex industry isn’t going to go away. There will always be a market for it. And it is not only or even mainly the proverbial dirty old men in trench-coats who enjoy the fruits of the sex industry; it is also people like me and maybe you.

As women we have waited a very long time to be able to fully enjoy sex and sexuality in a way that men have long taken for granted, free of shame and free of condemnation.  Let us not allow so called feminists to drag us back into the dark ages of guilt and hypocritical Victorian values. I want a future when all girls upon reaching maturity can make their sexual choices freely and individually and enjoy their sexuality without shame. I want a future where all those who work in all branches of the sex industry do so freely within a safe, healthy and legal framework with the same perks and advantages that members of any other profession enjoy.

I want a future when the hypocrisy about sex is over. That is where feminism should be taking us.

Porn

I came across the following in a blog written by somebody who seems to be a genuine and relatively open minded Christian. My spiritual and moral views are very different but it did get me thinking.

I hate porn because…

It is violent and inhumane
It normalizes rape
It is racist
It is addictive
It is misogynistic
It is an exploitative multibillion dollar industry
It nurtures sex trafficking and child abuse
It limits sexual imagination

Now I am not at all adverse to porn and will admit to using it both on my own and with lovers to spice up sexual activity, but this post troubled me because although I disagree strongly with some parts of it there are some parts which do require further thought.

It is violent and inhumane. I am not sure what is meant by inhumane here but I think I can categorically state that most porn is not inhumane. As for the violence, yes, there can sometimes be violence in porn but certainly not all porn is violent. Should we limit art or theatre or cinema because they sometimes depict violence? Some sex does have a violent aspect to it. I would not recommend children to see such things but surely adults can choose what level of violence they find acceptable, whether in a crime series on TV or in a porno film or magazine. The key is free will and choice both for the viewer and the participants. Where that free will is taken away I would agree there is a serious problem which is then a crime  punishable by law. Most porn however does not in fact require anybody to cross those criminal boundaries.

It is racist. Rubbish! Okay there may be some racism in porn but that is like saying there may be some racism on TV, or in life. I have seen no evidence that porn is any more racist than any other aspect of life, and believe me, I’m about as anti-racist as you can get.

It normalises rape. I personally have not seen any porn that normalises rape. I am aware that there is porn which includes rape fantasies, this is not my taste and I don’t watch it but some people do. I am also aware that there has been stuff produced which includes real rape scenes. This is illegal just about everywhere and I hope the people who produce, film, organise and distribute such evil things are caught and put in prison for the rest of their days. However these criminal films and photos are not in any way typical of what most people call porn. But back to the statement that porn normalises rape; I have seen my fair share of porn and I still think that rape is one of the most abhorrent crimes there is. I see no evidence at all that it normalises rape.

It is addictive. To some maybe. So is coffee. So are video games. So is chocolate. So is alcohol. So is tobacco We can’t ban everything that may be addictive to some.

It is misogynistic. Perhaps some of it is. In fairness, quite a lot of porn could be viewed in that way. On the other hand there are a lot of female porn stars who have more wealth and power than most men could dream of as a result of their profession; so who is exploiting who? I don’t think all porn is misogynistic but I would agree it is something to be wary of. Perhaps in the past men were by far the biggest consumers of pornography (and I guess that is still largely the case) and therefore some of their sexual fantasy stereotypes have been allowed to persist for too long. I think now there are more women at the business end of the industry and also more women as consumers of porn (or am I the only one??) and so hopefully the more misogynistic aspects of the industry will decline. I certainly hope so.

It is an exploitative multibillion dollar industry. I am no fan of capitalism, but since when has making money been a crime? Most multi national, multi billion dollar industries are exploitative to some degree (take a look at what is happening with Apple and Foxcom at the moment). I would like porn and all other industries to be less exploitative in all ways and I do think we as customers of porn could be more demanding and choosy about what we buy in order to prompt the industry to end any and all forms of exploitation which exist within it.

It nurtures sex trafficking and child abuse. Those are two completely different subjects. Let’s start with child abuse. Child pornography does exist. It is illegal. It is one of the very few things I would call totally evil. It is however in no way similar or connected to the kind of pornography that most responsible adults enjoy. To use child pornography as an example of pornography as a whole is like saying snuff films are typical of horror movies, or that all English should be banned because it contains expletives. The fact that you or I may get turned on by some images of adults engaged in sex, does not make us more likely to commit child abuse. The very idea is ridiculous.

Trafficking, on the other hand is another story. I have worked with people who have been trafficked and such people have some horrendous stories to tell.  I’d have to say from personal experience of people I have met, that porn and the sex industry as a whole are too often connected with trafficking. Forced prostitution in particular is frequently associated with trafficking and I think it is fair to say that some low end porn is indeed tainted by the trade in people trafficking.  I think it beholds those of us who think that sex and erotica are a normal and healthy part of adult life to report anything we find suspicious to the appropriate authorities. I don’t think there is anything morally wrong about enjoying pornography, but there is certainly something wrong about contributing in any way to the exploitation of others by pretending we haven’t noticed anything wrong. With great power comes great responsibility and perhaps the same should be said for great pleasure.

It limits sexual imagination. Not in my case it doesn’t! Seriously though, does reading books or enjoying works of art reduce imagination? I think not. Why should porn limit sexual imagination? That just doesn’t make sense.

There are going to be those who think that any talk or mention of sex outside the marriage room is wrong. For the rest of us we have to find our own moral boundaries when it comes to sex related matters. To me it makes no sense to talk about porn as a whole because the word could relate to so many different things and so many different extremes of those things. What I find erotic, some others might not. Personally I think there is both a beauty and a raw, hormone driven pleasure in some sexual imagery that I refuse to be ashamed of. However I do think that as consumers we have to be responsible for, and thoughtful about, what we buy. I wouldn’t buy T Shirts I knew to be made in sweat shops, and I think I should be careful not to buy or watch porn if there is any evidence of exploitation in the making of it. Hopefully there is enough “fair trade” erotica to keep me satisfied.