Thursday, May 21, 2009

Not For Sale: The Crazy Parts.

So I've been reading this book Not For Sale, about how hookers and pornstars just don't know what they're doing and the poor dears need us to protect them from working in their professions. It's funny, I used to think feminism meant thinking women were strong. But apparently real academic-like feminism is all about how women are frail beaten-down little things suffering under the weight of the world. We're so weak we might lose all our power from a poorly-chosen word or a passing beer commercial. I don't know how I got out of bed this morning.

I've already posted what I really think, so let's get to the ridiculous quotes already.

First, some phrases that crop up repeatedly in the book:
"porn is exploitation of women and children"
They say this one a lot. Women and children, women and children, they're basically the same thing, right? Both vulnerable and powerless and unable to make any decisions about their lives. So if you're attracted to women or turned on by women in porn, you're basically a pedophile.

(We don't need to worry about male porn actors, they're just people doing a job and they can take care of themselves. Besides, the bastards are clearly enjoying it anyway.)

"in prostitution, men buy women"
No. Men buy women's time. They buy their services. At the end of the transaction the woman still owns herself.

"as this Hustler cartoon shows, society believes that women..."
There's a lot of agonized, dead-serious analysis of Hustler cartoons in this book. Multiple authors in the anthology felt the need to give horrified descriptions of Hustler-cartoon violence and disrespect toward women. Yeah, it's tasteless and purposefully offensive, I'm not arguing that point. But I do want to know who made the Hustler cartoon guy the arbiter of morals and politics for all society. Is the Hustler cartoon guy really the Voice of America, saying what we all think but only he dares? This is a fascinating theory, and I wonder how it ties into things like (worksafe) this.

Okay, now some specific quotes.
The participation of women always shocks the general public--whether in lynch mobs, management positions in the prostitution industry, or the Abu Ghraib pictures. Their presence and participation suggest several possibilities to me (perhaps a complex blend of them all):
1. The women were grateful to have their male cohorts' sadistic/aggressive gang-bang impulses safely diverted to some other target;
2. The women were trying very hard to be 'one of the boys', as the support/approval of the unit/tribe is very important to surviving military service in a hostile environment-and as we know, a woman has to try twice as hard to succeed in 'a man's job';
3. The women were already strongly racist, and were bonding racially with their troopmates in a mode parallel to male bonding, through pack violence;
4. The women had themselves been victimized or intimidated (rape is quite common within the US armed forces) and were themselves being used as porn models, being told where and how to stand, when to smile, etc.

LYNNDIE ENGLAND, MISUNDERSTOOD WIDDLE VICTIM. Seriously, crazylady, women are people. Sometimes people make their own bad decisions. Sometimes people are evil. Bending over backwards to explain how a woman committing abuse couldn't possibly be doing it without a man in control is pedestal-placing at its creepiest.

Pornography may be socially functional not only in male bonding, but also as a social tool for emphasizing and enforcing women's lower social status. It might serve as an impossible standard of sexiness and beauty that no living woman can measure up to, as a message of intimidation and hostility to female employees trying to enter traditionally male workplaces, or--(and I suspect this is a more important function than we realize) it may be a veiled threat: this is what can happen to women without money, without the protection of a man.
Shit, and I thought it was for wanking.

Also, dang, having sex is not the worst thing that can happen to a woman. I mean, I'd sure quake in terror from a veiled threat that if I don't watch myself I could sink so low as to put a penis in my mouth. Heavens forfend.

On Our Backs [a for-women, by-women porn mag] claims to offer "the best of lesbian sex." However, the standards by which the magazine is determined to be the best of lesbian sex are clearly not feminist. When the best of lesbian sex includes pictures of a white woman pushing a knife into an Asian woman's nipple, it is clear that lesbian pornography holds de Sade and Hitler in higher esteem than feminist principles.
It took 287 pages, but we've finally gone Godwin! If women are fragile flowers who can't negotiate informed consent, than minority women are even more so, apparently. Perhaps we need to make a policy that non-white women may not be sexually submissive, because the poor things can't possibly know what they're getting themselves into.

Lesbian pornography carries articles and advertises books that detail torture methods for women to use on other women, including how to set one's partner on fire.
I've been "set on fire." (Really, I've had alcohol set on fire on my skin. Obviously no one in BDSM-land sets people on fire fire, you wouldn't need an article for that, just a can of gasoline and a coroner.) It didn't hurt. It was a powerful, ethereal, exhilarating experience, but not a painful one. As methods of "torture" go, it's about as likely to extract nuclear secrets as a nice massage.

And the same with other forms of "torture" performed on bottoms who ask for it and enjoy it. The truth is that no one needs instruction from a porn mag on how to cause pain. Everyone already knows how to swing a crowbar. What takes education and finesse is causing pain the right way, causing it safely and sexily. What On Our Backs teaches is "torture" the same way that The Joy of Sex teaches "rape."

Images of non-penetrative, exploratory, experimental sex are so rare as to be almost nonexistent in pornography. As Dworkin (1987) has convincingly argued, penetration under patriarchy--and especially in pornography--means more than penetration. A man's act of putting his penis into another's body connotes that he now owns that person, and once owned, the "woman" relinquishes any right to say no.
Shit, I'm a joint stock corporation by now. Of course I later did say "no" and quite effectively to several of those men, but even though they listened to me, I guess it was "connoted" that they didn't, or something.

My vagina's the real traitor here, you know. In making me enjoy penetration--in making me crave it--in making me frequently unable to get off at all without it--it's betrayed my true womanly essence that just wants to snuggle and "explore." (Seems like porn does more exploratory and experimental sex than anything, but I guess those words are really supposed to mean "cunnilingus and cuddles," or something.)

[Interview with a former pornstar]: A lot of people have the misconception that women in pornographic films make a lot of money [...] This was ten years ago, back in the early nineties. What I got paid was about $200 to $300 for one scene. You could be in the movie three or four times and get paid more. But that money doesn't last very long if you have a $200-a-day coke habit.
Well... then don't do that much coke, dumbass. Shit, my job wouldn't support me either if I put $200/day up my nose, but I took a long hard look at my household budget, made some difficult cuts as we've all had to do in these times, and determined that a gigantic mountain of blow was not a basic survival necessity.

It's about educating [teenagers] and making them aware of how to protect themselves, so that when they do encounter situations like that and they see pornography, they will know what's going on. "That woman was raped, battered and beaten as [a] child and she's reliving her experiences on film to survive."
Or she wasn't. You don't know. And you don't seem particularly interested in asking. If sexism makes women voiceless, so does one-true-way feminism. "I don't need to hear her story, I already know it from what she's doing on the screen!"

(A question that's a little too advanced for the discussion here: if a woman was abused as a child, does that mean she shouldn't be allowed to do porn? I do see the potential for it being unhealthy, I'm not quite that obtuse, but at the same time, telling her she can't seems like it's making her abuse control her adulthood in another way. Former victims have the right to grow into a sexuality of their own, and I'm not comfortable telling them what that sexuality should look like.)

[More from the pornstar interview]: Pornography is not free speech. ...For example, in my case, my free speech would allow me to take those original tapes and burn them so they couldn't be sold any more. Do I have a right to do that? No... The government needs to step in and say, 'OK, if you're going to have young girls sign contracts--then here's how the contracts have to be written.' It should be illegal to use their image for longer than a certain period of time and it should be illegal for pornographers to only pay the women 0.02% of the profits made from the woman's image.

Bear in mind that these "young girls" are really 18-25ish young women. Apparently the government should understand that such a silly vulnerable little creature can't sign a legally binding contract.

Hey, do you think this would work on my lease? "Well, yes, I did sign an agreement to pay $900/month, but I'm only a young girl, you have to understand I didn't really know what I was signing, I think the government should come in and tell you that anything over $200 is obviously unconscionable."

"...Also, if I want to burn the apartment, that's my free speech."

Marriage, rape, and prostitution may appear to be very different ways of "being the man there," and the women experiencing each of them may be known by different names as well (wife, rape victim, whore) and the practices may fall into different categories legally. But seen from the point of view of an acculturated male-supremacist sexuality--witnessed through sexual feelings rigorously conditioned to own, to respond sexually only to selected human bodies as ownable objects--these practical distinctions have a visceral common theme... it is the feeling of owning someone else's body in sex.
I dunno, man, if I were a rape victim, I'd be pretty cheesed off to hear my experience described as just like getting married. And if I were a married man... shit.

I could go on forever, but you get the idea. The idea is that there are a lot of creeps in this world who want to control people they have no right to, and some of them call themselves feminists.


  1. Hell, as a wife I'm pissed off both on behalf of me and on behalf of rape victims.

  2. Shit, now I need to go tell my husband - the one who's been telling me all week that he's too tired for sex - that he's just owning me for my sexual services. The fact that we both work, both do household chores, that the bills are in both our names and we have equal say in what happens with our money, our possessions, and our time together - all of this means NOTHING; it is just a SMOKE SCREEN to blind me to the fact that I am a SLAVE.

    tl:dr, what LabRat said.

  3. You know, the flip side of this is: if consensual, (martial) sex is the moral equivalent of rape, why then bother to obtain consent or get married? Makes me feel real nice about being a man.

    I know, I know, I'm just being sarcastic here.

  4. Anybody using Andrea Dworkin in their argument automatically loses the argument, no exceptions.

  5. And how do they explain my volunteering as an advocate with the sexual assault resource center? Or am I just "looking for victims"?

  6. William - I think the idea is that you're not really supposed to be attracted to women at all. That's the real violation--wanting something as selfish and crass as to put your penis in another human being. Everything else is just trappings and excuses.

    Strings - It's a little more subtle than that--they'd say (I actually saw this recently so I'm not entirely strawmanning here) that you're just doing that to feel like you're some big damn hero saving the day. The fact that you actually are doing good work is irrelevant--anything that makes a man feel good has got to be bad somehow.

  7. [i]Bear in mind that these "young girls" are really 18-25ish young women. Apparently the government should understand that such a silly vulnerable little creature can't sign a legally binding contract.

    Hey, do you think this would work on my lease? "Well, yes, I did sign an agreement to pay $900/month, but I'm only a young girl, you have to understand I didn't really know what I was signing, I think the government should come in and tell you that anything over $200 is obviously unconscionable."[/i]

    Ha ha! That would be CRAZY.
    You only get to do that if you took out a mortgage, silly.

    William, tell us more about martial sex. I'm intrigued. :)

  8. "But even though they listened to me, I guess it was 'connoted' that they didn't, or something." Haha. I hate that crap. Fucking academics who think that, like, discursive formations & connotations of words are more important that what physically happens in the real world. & so they don't have to actually look at what happens in the real world. So intellectually lazy. (I should add, of course, that not all academics are like this.)

    Also, "experimental sex" sounds terrible. Experimental *music* can be okay... sometimes... but I don't want a fucking non-linear soundscape in bed with me.

  9. (worksafe)I wouldn't look at a website with the giant heading "Pervocracy" at work. Does anyone here?

  10. Well, no, but I work in a middle school.

  11. Lastnightsclothes - I think it's worse than intellectual laziness, I think that wacky academic settings sometimes breed the idea that the discursive metasubsupertext is the really smart impressive part, and looking at actual reality is a gauche, simplistic habit of the less enlightened.

    Greenearth - "Worksafe" also implies "not offensive or disgusting", and thus tells people that I'm not linking them to goatse or anything.

  12. This goes all the way back to ancient Greek philosophers, and perhaps even earlier. Many of them apparently believed that experimentation and observation of reality was unnecessary - you could discover or solve anything on pure logic alone. Ignoring whether or not this is actually correct (unlikely, but not relevant to my point)... The flaw in this viewpoint is that the vast majority, if not all, humans are too biased to the conventions of the day and too limited in perceptions of time and space to be able to do this very effectively. If there were ever any super-genius philosophers who got everything right on logic alone, they were most likely maligned and forgotten due to their logic being too alien for most to comprehend.

    Sad to see that after over 2000 years of epic fail, some people are still at it.

  13. RE: prostitution.

    Many prostitutes begin at ages 12-13, when they're still children, and don't have many recourses at age 18-22 either. Some have drug addictions. So I am for programs helping them to leave the lifestyle, if they want it.

    I found that short paragraph interesting:

    So, yes, I don't think average street hooker is strong, not because she is a woman, but because of her position in life. And yes they should be helped.

  14. Don
    I got married because I wanted to have a woman who was legally required to sleep with me at night.
    The relevant word in the above is sleep. I don't know a bloody thing about marital sex.

  15. 1st Anon - I don't think it's okay for people to be prostitutes when they're underage or they don't have a free choice, but I don't see that as a reason for trying to eliminate prostitution entirely. I see it as a reason for legalizing and regulating.

    2nd Anon - Legally required? Shit, my parents are still technically married and they don't even sleep in the same country anymore.

  16. What a great post, laughed all the way through and then laughed as much at the comments. I definitely want to try some of that "martial sex", I guess that's what they do in the Army ...

    Only comment is that I could support some regulation of the contracts porn actors sign. Better yet might be for their industry to be unionized ...

  17. Does this book address male gay sex at all? After spending much of last night at a gay bar, I'm wondering whether I've been raped.

  18. I just found you via Evil Slutopia and have been spending my morning reading back through your posts, laughing muchly, and thanking goddess of some variety that there ARE other people out there who think this kind of drivel is batshit insane and hurtful to the cause of empowering actual real, strong women. Delicate, fragile flower my ass.

  19. 'also as a social tool for emphasizing and enforcing women's lower social status.'
    Well I dunno if it's a tool, but definitely, in the majority of mainstream porn, those status dynamics are there. And even if I get off on watching these dynamics for some reason, I don't think I would if I had grown up with different porn.

    Also, I find your other comment 'don't do that much coke dumbass' devoid of compassion. The prostitution environment is conducive to drug use. So is the rock star lifestyle, with the difference that rock stars have people to help them.

    'Also, dang, having sex is not the worst thing that can happen to a woman. ' Well, it is still thought of (by the patriarchy) as very shameful to have been a porn star though. Author seems to be internalizing that.