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The art of porn?? September 27, 2005

Posted by Winter in pornography.
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I know this topic has been covered by other blogs so once this post is up I’ll go about finding some posts to link. I stumbled across the first quater of a channel four program last night that managed to make me feel quite ill. The program was about hip hop and it’s recruitment of pornography as a marketing ploy. There were lots of shots of the “pornographers” and so called experts declaring the great “achievements” of Snoop Dog and other people who’s names I can’t remember. Must have been really difficult for them to convince young girls to grind their buts into the camera with a fist full of cash. What really got on my nerves was how these people continually talked about “pushing boundries of sexuality,” more like pushing the boundries of exploitation.

From what I could see it was a bunch of fully clothed men standing around watching nearly naked women simulating heterosexual sex, now and again one of the men would step in and give one of the girls a good seeing to. There was nothing boundry breaking about this set up, it was, from what I could see completely aimed at pleasing men with lots of girl on girl, and women being completely submissive. There was nothing particularly erotic about any of it, and there was nothing political about it either, just annother rehashing of old gender stereotypes. If that is pushing the boundries of sexuality, I hate to think what conventional or traditional is.

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1. tekanji - September 27, 2005

There was nothing particularly erotic about any of it, and there was nothing political about it either, just annother rehashing of old gender stereotypes. If that is pushing the boundries of sexuality, I hate to think what conventional or traditional is.

Well, conventional or traditional is just putting more clothes on the women and sequestering their sexual innuendo behind closed doors. The sexual culture you describe may look different than traditional “morals”, but it’s, as you said, just a new take on the tired gender stereotypes and control of female sexuality.

If someone really wanted to “push the boundaries of sexuality”, they’d show an egalitarian expression in all forms of sexuality (not heterosexist fantasies of male/female gender caste mixed with psuedo-lesbian posturing) that rejoices in the human body rather than exploiting it for, in essence, one gender only.

And all this coming from a sex-positive feminist. If it pisses me off, you know it has to be bad.

2. Emmy - September 27, 2005

Excuse my ignorance, but what does ‘sex-positive’ mean? I’ve never heard the term before. 🙂

3. Winter - September 27, 2005

I was at an LGB group meeting tonight where I told them about our feminist group. One woman said to me “Oh so you don’t do sex then!” Big laugh. Is the term “sex positive feminist” a response to the notion that feminists do not do sex then?

4. Andrea - September 28, 2005

Ah, the old ‘feminism = unsexiness’ thing. What an excellent marketing ploy for the patriarchy that was.

5. Naiades - September 28, 2005

I’d never considered that the feminists I know would be sex-negative. In fact most I know are all for free expression of sexuality. The point is that it should be about individual sexuality, not an old version of what men think women’s sexuality should be.

Emmy I think your spot on with the marketing thing. very insideous and pervasive, I think it really is something that feminists should think about tackling.

rx

6. Emmy - September 28, 2005

Hhhmmmm. That is what I thought it meant but, like you say Naiades, I hadn’t considered the flip-side of that categorisation. I guess the distinction between sex-negative and sex-positive may also stem from early feminist writers like Andrea Dworkin where all heterosexual sex is regarded as rape, right? I think it’s important for feminism to re-establish a female/feminine sexuality that challenges the norm of male/masculine sexuality. That’s one difficult agenda though – any thoughts?!?!

7. Naiades - September 28, 2005

It really is a difficult one. I’ve always viewed sexuality as with a certain degree fo fluidity, which isn’t represented in any of the male centred porn I’ve seen. There are many questions that this whole area raises

For starters where does erotica end and porn begin? Should we or do we (feminists) go around saying which kind of sex is feminist and which isn’t? could we define it we wanted to (I don’t think so personaly)?

Then the whole how do we engage young women with femine views of sexuality that arn’t generally available through the media? how do we convince young women that feminism isn’t all about not refusing to have sex with men, or having sex with men but not enjoying it? what about young women who like heterosexual sex lots? How do we get across that that’s still congruent with feminism, and that the feminist emphasis on sex and sexuality is about choice and empowerment, not about dictating who you choose to sleep with, or or how you choose to sleep with them (which would make us the female equivalent of misogeny right?)?

It really is a tough agenda, I agree. but I think it’s something we really need to engage with becaue I’ve heard more than one young woman say she wouldn’t be a feminist because she likes having sex with men. There is a lot of misinformation out there that contributes to views like these.

rx

8. tekanji - September 28, 2005

Ah, I wasn’t accusing any feminists of not liking sex or being unsexy.

I don’t know why the group chose “sex-positive” for their label. Although thinking about it, I can’t come up with another term that isn’t equally problematic.

I’ve taken up the term because that group, in general, typifies my understanding of feminism and pornography. The sort of “opposite” camp is the anti-porn feminists (again, their terms).

I explained the basic positions over on marginal notations:
And as for the stance on pornography, stripping, and other sexual commerce, all feminists object to the exploitation of female sexuality, not the expression of it. For anti-porn feminists that means chucking the baby with the bathwater; they believe that the product cannot be separated from the industry. Sex-positive feminists, which I consider myself, believe that it is not the product that is the problem, but rather the industry and the social environment that leads to the exploitation of women.

Although after I posted that, I realized that the “baby with the bathwater” might sound as a criticism. It’s not; I respect the anti-porn position, I just don’t share it.

9. Emmy - September 28, 2005

So sex-positive means pro-porn as long as it’s not exploitative and sex-negative feminism would not make a distinction between porn per se and non-exploitative porn (and other forms of sex commerce)- it’s all unacceptable. I know this is simplistic but it seems to me that the ability to conceptualise pornography that doesn’t exploit women is the crux of the debate. Is that even do-able? On a personal level, I’ve never been able to come down on one side or the other on this issue. And that bothers me! But this discussion is really helping me form an opinion so thank you.

10. tekanji - September 28, 2005

I know this is simplistic but it seems to me that the ability to conceptualise pornography that doesn’t exploit women is the crux of the debate. Is that even do-able?

I think that’s a fair assessment, actually. It sounds simple enough, but as naiades’ comment shows, there are so many grey areas that it is actually quite complex.

As for if it’s do-able or not… Theoretically I think so, which is why I’m in the sex-positive camp, but practically it’s a lot more difficult to reconcile. In order for it to be possible, we need to experience a fundamental shift in the way we view sex and sex work.

As such, my personal consumption of the erotic is a lot lower than it might be; in seeking out non-exploitative pornography, I more often than not come up empty handed. I have learned to bristle any time one of my male friends talks about going to a strip club, because I feel that the very environment created by current clubs is toxic. I find myself torn when discussions of sex wokers come up, because I neither want to see all of them as helpless victims nor empowered women. The reality, I think, is much more complex.

Sex in our society is a multi-faceted issue, built upon layers and layers of baggage created by tradition and patriarchal institutions. The way I see it, feminism has thusfar managed to peel away one or two of those layers, but in the process we’ve uncovered many more thay had been hidden beneath the surface. I just hope that one day we’ll finally peel enough junk away to be able to see the sex-positive theories put into widespread practice.

11. Andrea - September 28, 2005

I thought Andrea Dworkin thought hetero sex was rape in the current climate, as in with seduction/coercion and whatnot, but not that it is inherently, always rape…

12. Anonymous - September 29, 2005

i think we will always go round in circles with this untill we accept that sex is inherent biology we can not change its nature much and the nature of male sex is different and ill matched to ours,sad though it is we have evolved with opposing interests. porn tells us what men feel loud and clear,we need to cut a much better deal for ourselves we simply don’t have the power to stop porn outright so we need to support better conditions for all sex workers because the more power they have the more we have ,women can only hold power as a collective men rule only because thier alliance is better than ours

13. Winter - September 29, 2005

Great discussion. If “sex positive” means “not against pornography per se” I do have a problem with the way the term equates “sex” with “porn.” To be anti-porn is then, by implication, to be anti-sex. But I can see your difficulty in finding an appropriate term.

Last night Naiades and I decided that we are “erotic feminists”…which is possibly no less problematic!

I think we might have frightened the people at the bar, where we were having this conversation while waiting for our wine.

14. Naiades - September 29, 2005

did attract a few odd looks. the bf is pleased that i’m an Erotic Feminist though!!!

15. ms. b. - September 29, 2005

Interesting distinction between porn and sex, I’d classify myself as an anti-porn-as-it-is feminist, but a sex positive one. Make sense? I’m not against pictures of people having sex per se, just the connotations and messages that come with those images/videos in our society. Sometimes the pro/anti-porn dichotomy irritates me, in its steam-rollering over nuance like that

16. tekanji - September 29, 2005

ms. b – Makes sense to me, but then that’s basically my position so I suppose I’m biased!

Sometimes the pro/anti-porn dichotomy irritates me, in its steam-rollering over nuance like that

I agree completely! I have to say it bugs me when someone either demonizes sexual depictions point blank or gives it complete approval. Like what I said about sex workers, the reality of pornographic depictions is much more complicated than “porn good”/”porn bad”.


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