Graphic Depictions of Female Sexual Slavery
Catchy title, huh?
I mentioned in my last post, which I can confirm made at least one person feel bad (mission accomplished!) I mentioned pornography and after getting in a fight with someone over the internet, I decided it would be best to at least write up my thoughts – or more accurately, the thoughts of other, smarter men and women – on the subject.
First off, it’s important to know what pornography really “is.” It’s often defined as “the depiction of sexual activity for the purpose of arousal” but that isn’t really accurate. I prefer Derrick Jensen’s definition, “Anything you lose interest in after you ejaculate.” But it should at least be noted, in a sort of ad hominem against the whole concept, that an accurate translation of “pornographos” would not be “writings of sex” but “graphic depictions (graphos) + female sexual slaves (pornai).” This is important to remember as we go on; at the time the word was first crafted, pornography did not refer to depictions of sex but specifically depictions of female sexual exploitation. Of course, it still does.
To start, a quote from Andrea Dworkin:
“In the subordination of women, inequality itself is sexualized: made into the experience of sexual pleasure, essential to sexual desire. Pornography is the material means of sexualizing inequality; and that is why pornography is a central practice in the subordination of women.”
Pornography is the art of suspending a woman’s humanity. It functions if and only if a human being’s existence as a relational creature can be suspended – or, in the case of a large percentage of pornographic material, actively dismantled and destroyed for the sexual fulfillment of men. It feeds off the human propensity for objectification, for the transformation of other human beings into tools and means to an end instead of ends in themselves. The Porn industry is the most blatantly capitalist entity on earth; while the average industrial setup may transform the migrant workers toiling in fields or children sewing pants for ten cents a day from living, loving individuals into tools for the production and distribution of product, the porn industry actively turns human beings into products. It denies them not only their humanity but also their agency.
And when pornography is done bleeding out any possible interaction that may portray a woman as existing just because she does, and not because she can make you cum, it comes in and creates a new framework in which to consider a woman and her body. Pornography trumpets the idea that women and women’s bodies exist for male pleasure; it works to create a mindset in which the larger cultural emphasis on male pleasure prevails and frames female pleasure, if there is any, as reactive and derivative of male pleasure; and it presents a situation where women happen to love exactly whatever men do – what they do, of course, usually involves things that the vast majority of women actively dislike.
This is how pornography mirrors the rape culture. Now, that doesn’t mean that porn is going to turn a strapping young lad into a slobbering monster. But the most insidious myth of the rape culture is that all men who rape are hideous deviants. In reality, they’re just men who have been raised to think that violence, control, aggression, and emotional deadness are the appropriate masculine traits – they’re men who have been taught that a woman’s body is owed to them and that it exists for their pleasure and not for her agency. Those concepts, the glamorization of domination and subjugation, the underlying assumption of constant female consent, and the idealization of women as beings existing for fucking, are all blatantly celebrated in pornography. If one wanted to transform an egalitarian, respectful society into one in which the seeds of rape were easily sown, I cannot imagine a more effective method than raising a generation to view sex as an exercise in domination.
This, again, doesn’t mean that rape is caused by porn; however, we also have to admit the obvious, which is that there are certainly different degrees between a champion of women’s rights and a sexual abuser. For every person who rapes, there are ten men who will legitimize that rape, explaining it away with the type of language and mentality that the “adult industry” trades in; a study out last year found that the majority of those quizzed could not accurately separate quotes from sex criminals when mixed with quotes from various pornographic magazines. Pornography legitimizes and sanctions the kind of callous, aggressive, control-oriented, woman-as-thing-to-be-fucked conceptualization of masculinity that inspires, allows, and gives cover to the rape culture. This is the true danger of pornography. While it may very well cause some men to turn to sexually assaulting women, the real capacity for destruction it wields comes after the woman has been violated: It seeps out in the policeman who takes her statement after having been told the night before that good women are always wanting sex, that she is the only doing something wrong by not accepting a “gift” that he has seen violently offered with positive results time and time again on a computer screen; it rears its ugly head when a man hears that an acquaintance has forced himself on a woman and reacts by celebrating what he sees as a positive expression of masculine aggression, a perfect example of going out and getting what he has been taught to believe every woman is secretly begging for; and it shows its dominance when the number of victims – veterans from the war against women, as Derrick Jensen says – piles higher and higher while society at large debates the woman’s choice to wear a miniskirt instead of the man’s choice to violently rape her.
I’ll end with a quote from a very great writer, Robert Jensen.
“What does it say about our society’s conception of sexuality and masculinity that large numbers of men can find pleasure in watching a young woman gag while a penis is pushed into her throat followed by six men ejaculating on her face and in her mouth?”
I don’t think it says anything good at all.