Friday, 20 March 2009

Pornography is a left issue

By Gail Dines & Robert Jensen

View original article here @ ZNet

Anti-pornography feminists get used to insults from the left. Over and over we are told that we're anti-sex, prudish, simplistic, politically naíve, diversionary, and narrow-minded. The cruder critics do not hesitate to suggest that the cure for these ailments lies in, how shall we say, a robust sexual experience.

In addition to the slurs, we constantly face a question: Why do we "waste" our time on the pornography issue? Since we are anti-capitalist and anti-empire leftists as well as feminists, shouldn't we focus on the many political, economic, and ecological crises (war, poverty, global warming, etc.)? Why would we spend part of our intellectual and organizing energies over the past two decades pursuing the feminist critique of pornography and the sexual exploitation industry?

The answer is simple: We are anti-pornography precisely because we are leftists as well as feminists.

As leftists, we reject the sexism and racism that saturates contemporary mass-marketed pornography. As leftists, we reject the capitalist commodification of one of the most basic aspects of our humanity. As leftists, we reject corporate domination of media and culture. Anti-pornography feminists are not asking the left to accept a new way of looking at the world but instead are arguing for consistency in analysis and application of principles.

It has always seemed strange to us that so many on the left consistently refuse to engage in a sustained and thoughtful critique of pornography. All this is particularly unfortunate at a time when the left is flailing to find traction with the public; a critique of pornography, grounded in a radical feminist and left analysis that counters right-wing moralizing, could be part of an effective organizing strategy.

Left media analysis

Leftists examine mass media as one site where the dominant class attempts to create and impose definitions and explanations of the world. We know news is not neutral, that entertainment programs are more than just fun and games. These are places where ideology is reinforced, where the point of view of the powerful is articulated. That process is always a struggle; attempts to define the world by dominant classes can be, and are, resisted. The term "hegemony" is typically used to describe that always-contested process, the way in which the dominant class attempts to secure control over the construction of meaning.

The feminist critique of pornography is consistent with -- and, for many of us, grows out of -- a widely accepted analysis on the left of ideology, hegemony, and media, leading to the observation that pornography is to patriarchy what commercial television is to capitalism. Yet when pornography is the topic, many on the left seem to forget Gramsci's theory of hegemony and accept the pornographer's self-serving argument that pornography is mere fantasy.

Apparently the commonplace left insight that mediated images can be tools for legitimizing inequality holds true for an analysis of CBS or CNN, but evaporates when the image is of a woman having a penis thrust into her throat with such force that she gags. In that case, for unexplained reasons, we aren't supposed to take pornographic representations seriously or view them as carefully constructed products within a wider system of gender, race, and class inequality. The valuable work conducted by media critics on the politics of production apparently holds no weight for pornography.

Pornography is fantasy, of a sort. Just as television cop shows that assert the inherent nobility of police and prosecutors as protectors of the people are fantasy. Just as the Horatio Alger stories about hard work's rewards in capitalism are fantasy. Just as films that cast Arabs only as terrorists are fantasy.

All those media products are critiqued by leftists precisely because the fantasy world they create is a distortion of the actual world in which we live. Police and prosecutors do sometimes seek justice, but they also enforce the rule of the powerful. Individuals in capitalism do sometimes prosper as a result of their hard work, but the system does not provide everyone who works hard with a decent living. Some tiny number of Arabs are terrorists, but that obscures both the terrorism of the powerful in white America and the humanity of the vast majority of Arabs.

Such fantasies also reflect how those in power want subordinated people to feel. Images of happy blacks on the plantations made whites feels more secure and self-righteous in their oppression of slaves. Images of contented workers allay capitalists' fears of revolution. And men deal with their complex feelings about contemporary masculinity's toxic mix of sex and aggression by seeking images of women who enjoy pain and humiliation.

Why do so many on the left seem to assume that pornographers operate in a different universe than other capitalists? Why would pornography be the only form of representation produced and distributed by corporations that wouldn't be a vehicle to legitimize inequality? Why would the pornographers be the only media capitalists who are rebels seeking to subvert hegemonic systems?

Why do the pornographers get a free ride from so much of the left?

After years of facing the left's hostility in public and print, we believe the answer is obvious: Sexual desire can constrain people's capacity for critical reason -- especially in men in patriarchy, where sex is not only about pleasure but about power.

Leftists -- especially left men -- need to get over the obsession with getting off.

Let's analyze pornography not as sex, but as media. Where would that lead?


Corporate media

Critiques of the power of commercial corporate media are ubiquitous on the left. Leftists with vastly different political projects can come together to decry conglomerates' control over news and entertainment programming. Because of the structure of the system, it's a given that these corporations create programming that meets the needs of advertisers and elites, not ordinary people.

Yet when discussing pornography, this analysis flies out the window. Listening to many on the left defend pornography, one would think the material is being made by struggling artists tirelessly working in lonely garrets to help us understand the mysteries of sexuality. Nothing could be further from the truth; the pornography industry is just that -- an industry, dominated by the pornography production companies that create the material, with mainstream corporations profiting from its distribution.

It's easy to listen in on pornographers' conversations -- they have a trade magazine, Adult Video News. The discussions there don't tend to focus on the transgressive potential of pornography or the polysemic nature of sexually explicit texts. It's about -- what a surprise! -- profits. The magazine's stories don't reflect a critical consciousness about much of anything, especially gender, race, and sex.

Andrew Edmond -- president and CEO of Flying Crocodile, a $20 million pornography internet company -- put it bluntly: "A lot of people get distracted from the business model by [the sex]. It is just as sophisticated and multilayered as any other market place. We operate just like any Fortune 500 company."

The production companies -- from big players such as Larry Flynt Productions to small fly-by-night operators -- act predictably as corporations in capitalism, seeking to maximize market-share and profit. They do not consider the needs of people or the effects of their products, any more than other capitalists. Romanticizing the pornographers makes as much sense as romanticizing the executives at Viacom or Disney.

Increasingly, mainstream media corporations profit as well. Hugh Hefner and Flynt had to fight to gain respectability within the halls of capitalism, but today many of the pornography profiteers are big corporations. Through ownership of cable distribution companies and Internet services, the large companies that distribute pornography also distribute mainstream media. One example is News Corp. owned by Rupert Murdoch.

News Corp. is a major owner of DirecTV, which sells more pornographic films than Flynt. In 2000, the New York Times reported that nearly $200 million a year is spent by the 8.7 million subscribers to DirecTV. Among News Corp.'s other media holdings are the Fox broadcasting and cable TV networks, Twentieth Century Fox, the New York Post, and TV Guide. Welcome to synergy: Murdoch also owns HarperCollins, which published pornography star Jenna Jameson's best-selling book How To Make Love Like A Porn Star.

When Paul Thomas accepted his best-director award at the pornography industry's 2005 awards ceremony, he commented on the corporatization of the industry by joking: "I used to get paid in cash by Italians. Now I get paid with a check by a Jew." Ignoring the crude ethnic references (Thomas works primarily for Vivid, whose head is Jewish), his point was that what was once largely a mob-financed business is now just another corporate enterprise.

How do leftists feel about corporate enterprises? Do we want profit-hungry corporative executives constructing our culture?

Commodification

It's long been understood on the left that one of the most insidious aspects of capitalism is the commodification of everything. There is nothing that can't be sold in the capitalist game of endless accumulation.

In pornography, the stakes are even higher; what is being commodified is crucial to our sense of self. Whatever a person's sexuality or views on sexuality, virtually everyone agrees it is an important aspect of our identity. In pornography, and in the sex industry more generally, sexuality is one more product to be packaged and sold.

When these concerns are raised, pro-pornography leftists often rush to explain that the women in pornography have chosen that work. Although any discussion of choice must take into consideration the conditions under which one chooses, we don't dispute that women do choose, and as feminists we respect that choice and try to understand it.

But, to the best of our knowledge, no one on the left defends capitalist media -- or any other capitalist enterprise -- by pointing out workers consented to do their jobs. The people who produce media content, or any other product, consent to work in such enterprises, under varying constraints and opportunities. So what? The critique is not of the workers, but of the owners and structure.

Look at the industry's biggest star, Jenna Jameson, who appears to control her business life. However in her book she reports that she was raped as a teenager and describes the ways in which men in her life pimped her. Her desperation for money also comes through when she tried to get a job as a stripper but looked too young -- she went into a bathroom and pulled off her braces with pliers. She also describes drug abuse and laments the many friends in the industry she lost to drugs. And this is the woman said to have the most power in the pornography industry.

As we understand left analysis, the focus isn't on individual decisions about how to survive in a system that commodifies everything and takes from us meaningful opportunities to control our lives. It's about fighting a system.

Racism

As the most blatant and ugly forms of racism have disappeared from mainstream media, leftists have continued to point out that subtler forms of racism endure, and that their constant reproduction through media is a problem. Race matters, and media depictions of race matter.

Pornography is the one media genre in which overt racism is still acceptable. Not subtle, coded racism, but old-fashioned U.S. racism -- stereotypical representations of the black male stud, the animalistic black woman, the hot Latina, the demure Asian geisha. Pornography vendors have a special category, "interracial," which allows consumers to pursue the various combinations of racialized characters and racist scenarios.

The racism of the industry is so pervasive that it goes largely unnoticed. In an interview with the producer of the DVD "Black Bros and Asian Ho's," one of us asked if he ever was criticized for the racism of such films. He said, "No, they are very popular." We repeated the question: Popular, yes, but do people ever criticize the racism? He looked incredulous; the question apparently had never entered his mind.

Yet take a tour of a pornography shop, and it's clear that racial justice isn't central to the industry. Typical is the claim of "Black Attack Gang Bang" films: "My mission is to find the cutest white honeys to get Gang Banged by some hard pipe hitting niggas straight outta compton!" It would be interesting to see a pro-pornography leftist argue to a non-white audience that such films are unrelated to the politics of race and white supremacy.

Up-market producers such as Vivid use mainly white women; the official face of pornography is overwhelmingly white. However, alongside this genre there exists more aggressive material in which women of color appear more frequently. As one black woman in the industry told us, "This is a racist business," from how she is treated by producers to pay differentials to the day-to-day conversations she overhears on the set.

Sexism

Contemporary mass-marketed heterosexual pornography -- the bulk of the market for sexually explicit material -- is one site where a particular meaning of sex and gender is created and circulated. Pornography's central ideological message is not hard to discern: Women exist for the sexual pleasure of men, in whatever form men want that pleasure, no matter what the consequences for women. It's not just that women exist for sex, but that they exist for the sex that men want.

Despite naí¯ve (or disingenuous) claims about pornography as a vehicle for women's sexual liberation, the bulk of mass-marketed pornography is incredibly sexist. From the ugly language used to describe women, to the positions of subordination, to the actual sexual practices themselves -- pornography is relentlessly misogynistic. As the industry "matures" the most popular genre of films, called "gonzo," continues to push the limits of degradation of, and cruelty toward, women. Directors acknowledge they aren't sure where to take it from the current level.

This misogyny is not an idiosyncratic feature of a few fringe films. Based on three studies of the content of mainstream video/DVD pornography over the past decade, we conclude that woman-hating is central to contemporary pornography. Take away every video in which a woman is called a bitch, a cunt, a slut, or a whore, and the shelves would be nearly bare. Take away every DVD in which a woman becomes the target of a man's contempt, and there wouldn't be much left. Mass-marketed pornography doesn't celebrate women and their sexuality, but instead expresses contempt for women and celebrates the charge of expressing that contempt sexually.

Leftists typically reject crude biological explanations for inequality. But the story of gender in pornography is the story of biological determinism. A major theme in pornography is that women are different from men and enjoy pain, humiliation, degradation; they don't deserve the same humanity as men because they are a different kind of creature. In pornography, it's not just that women want to get fucked in degrading fashion, but that they need it. Pornography ultimately tells stories about where women belong -- underneath men.

Most leftists critique patriarchy and resist the system of male dominance. Gender is one of those arenas of struggle against domination, and hence an arena of ideological struggle. Put an understanding of media together with feminist arguments for sexual equality, and you get the anti-pornography argument.

The need for a consistent analysis of power

Leftists who otherwise pride themselves on analyzing systems and structures of power, can turn into extreme libertarian individualists on the subject of pornography. The sophisticated, critical thinking that underlies the best of left politics can give way to simplistic, politically naí¯ve, and diversionary analysis that leaves far too many leftists playing cheerleader for an exploitive industry. In those analyses, we aren't supposed to examine the culture's ideology and how it shapes people's perceptions of their choices, and we must ignore the conditions under which people live; it's all about an individual's choice.

A critique of pornography doesn't imply that freedom rooted in an individual's ability to choose isn't important, but argues instead that these issues can't be reduced to that single moment of choice of an individual. Instead, we have to ask: What is meaningful freedom within a capitalist system that is racist and sexist?

Leftists have always challenged the contention of the powerful that freedom comes in accepting one's place in a hierarchy. Feminists have highlighted that one of the systems of power that constrains us is gender.

We contend that leftists who take feminism seriously must come to see that pornography, along with other forms of sexualized exploitation -- primarily of women, girls and boys, by men -- in capitalism is inconsistent with a world in which ordinary people can take control of their own destinies.

That is the promise of the left, of feminism, of critical race theory, of radical humanism -- of every liberatory movement in modern history.


Gail Dines is a professor of American Studies at Wheelock College in Boston. She can be reached at gdines@wheelock.edu. Robert Jensen is a professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. He can be reached at rjensen@uts.cc.utexas.edu. They are co-authors with Ann Russo of Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality. Both also are members of the interim organizing committee of the National Feminist Antipornography Movement.

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8 comments:

keithunder said...

Where does this leave us?
Does this mean we have to support the lying scumbags of new labour's oppressive and patronising Extreme Pornographu Bill.
Are we to deny are own sexuallity, and become vanilla monks?
Or do we explore Socialist and inclusive erotica?

Anonymous said...

Keith. Take your fetishizing of abuse of power elsewhere. Your site certainly bears no relation to anything that could be considered inclusive or socialist.
Whose sexuality is being denied? Pornography is a global billion dollar industry, it can be accessed anytime and anywhere by anyone. What exactly is your issue here? Your bdsm pornography is but a click away from a home computer or can be bought in magazine form at the newsagent around the corner. You feel this is insufficient?
The bleatings of those who demand the right to a guilt free wank at the expense of women is tiresome in the extreme.
As leftists we should be challenging demand for commercial sexual exploitation which profits the few at the expense of women around the world who are prostituted, trafficked, raped, abused and enter into pornography because of a mix of toxic cultural messages and past experiences.
Your denial of civil liberties rhetoric is a sham. Unless of course women's rights don't count at all..

keithunder said...

Anonymous.
You sound just like the bigots who want to deny gay people their rights. People do not choose their sexuality.
You trying to make people feel guilty about sex and their sexuality is appalling.
Of course I am against rape and exploitation. The issue is to me completely a matter of informed consent.
You seem to want to remove consent from the arguement. You don't like what some poeple do so you will stop them as your contempt for civil liberties illustrates.
Yors stalinist homophoboa and your patronising intolerance is what is tiresome.
http://www.backlash-uk.org.uk/
Is an organisation set up by men and women to counter the type of bigotry that you are displaying.

Anonymous said...

That line won't work with me keith, i'm gay you see. And from your site it's pretty clear that you're a straight man engaged in the exploitation of women for the benefit of you and other men who use your site.
I think our culture is homophobic, I have fallen victim to it many times throughout my life. You'll appreciate then, that getting a lecture on homophobia from a straight man is more than a little vomit inducing.
Alternative sexualities should be accepted in society, but pornography has nothing to do with a celebration of sexuality. It's the worst kind of right wing, conservative, misogynistic, capitalist, exploitative notions of putting women in their place: holes to be used, abused and degraded for profit and the pleasure of it's global consumer base.
Although the vast majority of pornography caters to men, and straight men at that, we in the gay community need to recognise and acknowledge that our relationships and the pornography which supposedly reflect them, ape the hateful inequalities of heterosexual pornography.
Finally, if you really are against rape and exploitation stop making, promoting and buying materials which glorify, normalise and reinforce it. There's a saying along the lines of 'if you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem'. Your position, your twisted logic, your website and your presence here propogating nonsense and self justifications are very much part of the problem of global exploitation of women and children for your right to a guilt free wank.

clairlewis said...

What about feminists right to a guilt free wank without other feminists accusing our sexuality of being abusive? It is so frustrating when I read feminists trying to claim there is only one way to view these matters relating to sexuality as you surely all know by now that plenty of feminists disagree.

Backlash is run by a team which includes feminists. CAAN ( http://www.caan.org.uk ) is mainly run by women.

Are women to continue have their consensual erotic experiences, wishes and desires invalidated by other women? That is oppressive to so many women.

Women have been victimised and portrayed in unacceptable ways in all forms of media.. so why is it with this one form of media so many feminists scream BAN IT instead of INFILTRATE IT? Imagine if we had taken this approach with television,or journalism. Banning is not the answer. Safeguarding against abuse in this industry and elsewhere remains the only sensible route, along with women actually getting more involved, such as the scrawny handful who make porn.

Pornography provides a reflection of society, it is not it's cause. it's also the medium most people see least of. it's the only medium which is restricted usually to adult visitors only. Material which is supposed to arouse sexually is about the only place sexualisation and objectification is actually appropriate.

Speaking as a mother, I am far more concerned about the level of disturbing sex/power images in mainstream media such as advertising and newspapers and women's magazines. That is where the majority of the negative images are being seen and absorbed by my daughters.

Also as a point of note, much of the banned material in the UK features women in a position of power and men in submission.

Personally I think the extreme porn law does nothing to save anyone from abuse, in fact, it provides abusers with the now legally upholded view (based on no proper evidence) that 'the pictures made me do it'.

How long will feminists continue to let men off the hook for their behviour by blaming it on porn? I find that quite disgusting and counter productive.

We would do better with campaigns to get the government and the police to actually deal with all the abuse they know is going on and do nothing about using the laws we've had for a long time against abuse.

Banning porn is going to do nothing for my neighbour who I have to call the police to regularly when she is attacked by her male partner. It's also going to do nothing to save me the day he decides to move from verbal to physical abuse because my partners are not men.

It is just so invalid to try to say that BDSM is for men. They are not doing it alone and women are not so pathetic as to be unable to give consent. It is a strange kind of feminism which seeks to infantilise women instead of concentrating on those women who really have had power taken away and helping them.

Clair Lewis

clairlewis said...

What about feminists right to a guilt free wank without other feminists accusing our sexuality of being abusive? It is so frustrating when I read feminists trying to claim there is only one way to view these matters relating to sexuality as you surely all know by now that plenty of feminists disagree.

Backlash is run by a team which includes feminists. CAAN ( http://www.caan.org.uk ) is mainly run by women.

Are women to continue have their consensual erotic experiences, wishes and desires invalidated by other women? That is oppressive to so many women.

Women have been victimised and portrayed in unacceptable ways in all forms of media.. so why is it with this one form of media so many feminists scream BAN IT instead of INFILTRATE IT? Imagine if we had taken this approach with television,or journalism. Banning is not the answer. Safeguarding against abuse in this industry and elsewhere remains the only sensible route, along with women actually getting more involved, such as the scrawny handful who make porn.

Pornography provides a reflection of society, it is not it's cause. it's also the medium most people see least of. it's the only medium which is restricted usually to adult visitors only. Material which is supposed to arouse sexually is about the only place sexualisation and objectification is actually appropriate.

Speaking as a mother, I am far more concerned about the level of disturbing sex/power images in mainstream media such as advertising and newspapers and women's magazines. That is where the majority of the negative images are being seen and absorbed by my daughters.

Also as a point of note, much of the banned material in the UK features women in a position of power and men in submission.

Personally I think the extreme porn law does nothing to save anyone from abuse, in fact, it provides abusers with the now legally upholded view (based on no proper evidence) that 'the pictures made me do it'.

How long will feminists continue to let men off the hook for their behviour by blaming it on porn? I find that quite disgusting and counter productive.

We would do better with campaigns to get the government and the police to actually deal with all the abuse they know is going on and do nothing about using the laws we've had for a long time against abuse.

Banning porn is going to do nothing for my neighbour who I have to call the police to regularly when she is attacked by her male partner. It's also going to do nothing to save me the day he decides to move from verbal to physical abuse because my partners are not men.

It is just so invalid to try to say that BDSM is for men. They are not doing it alone and women are not so pathetic as to be unable to give consent. It is a strange kind of feminism which seeks to infantilise women instead of concentrating on those women who really have had power taken away and helping them.

Clair Lewis

Anonymous said...

Internet Porngraphy

* There are 72 million unique visitors to adult websites per month, worldwide.
* There are 420 million pages of pornographic material online worldwide.
* 40 million U.S. adults regularly visit porn sites.
* 8% of all emails are porn-related.
* 90% of 8 – 16 year olds have viewed porn online (most while doing homework)
* Average age of first internet porn exposure is 11 years old.
* Largest consumer group of internet pornography is the 12 – 17 year old age group.
-Internet Filter Review (www.internetfilterreview.com)
* 12% of all websites are pornographic in nature.
* 25% of all search engine requests are for pornography.
* 35% of all internet downloads are pornographic in nature.
* Every second, there are 28, 258 internet porn users in the U.S.
* 266 new pornographic sites are added each day.
-Top Ten Reviews
* 70% of all internet porn traffic occurs during the 9 – 5 workdays.
* Nearly one in three companies has terminated an employee for inappropriate web use.
-websense.com

Impact

* After watching only 6 hours of nonviolent pornography, research subjects in one study were much less likely to desire sexual intimacy with their real partners, or to be interested in marriage or children.
- Zillman and Bryant
* One psychiatrist specializing in treatment of sexual dysfunction estimates that 60% of his cases are directly related to the use of internet pornography.
- The Sunday Paper, Atlanta
* It is estimated that 15% of people using internet pornography develop a compulsive habit that disrupts their lives.
- Paul, 2004
* At the 2002 American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers convention, attorneys present reported that 56% of their recent divorce cases resulted from a spouse’s compulsive internet porn use.
- Paul, 2005
* One therapist in Boston reports treating children as young as 10 for porn addiction.
- Boston Globe, 2005
* Studies show that after viewing pornography men are more likely to:
1. report decreased empathy for rape victims
2. report believing that a woman who dresses provocatively deserves to be raped
3. report anger at women who flirt but then refuse to have sex
4. report decreased sexual interest in their girlfriends or wives
5. report increased interest in coercing partners into unwanted sex acts
* The links between pornography use and subsequent aggression was proven so successfully by Zillman and Bryant that their studies cannot be replicated for fear of further harming possible research subjects.
- Paul, 2005
* Some women in relationships with male users of pornography report the following:
o a sense that their partners are fantasizing about pornography during sex,
o frustration that their partners no longer seek them out for lovemaking and instead prefer to masturbate to pornography,
o pain and confusion about their partners asking them to participate in sexual acts seen in pornography,
o a strong decline in intimacy and connection with their partners,
o intrusive thoughts during sex about how they look rather than how they feel,
o guilt-ridden compliance to act more like the women in porn—to shave their genitals, to strip, to have anal sex or threesomes, to be tied up or spanked, to be filmed having sex and, in general, to act in ways that feel demeaning, inauthentic, and uncomfortable.

( Ana Bridges, researcher, in Getting Off by Robert Jensen )


A few points. I'm too lazy to put them into order or paragraphs..


Where did anyone mention banning?

Why are the same tired old untruths about feminism and feminists rolled out when it comes to pornography? We're not anti-sex or anti sexuality or anti sexual expression, we're against the degradation of women as masturbatory fodder and against the eroticisation of violence against women and the buying and selling of women's bodies for that purpose. Women should not be a commodity to be bought and sold.

I agree, pornography does reflect society but it's also becoming much more mainstream and is shaping aspects of popular culture; those aspects that you highlighted were a concern for you. As a mother you might want to read up on average adolescent exposure to pornography. It's certainly no longer in the adult domain that you suggest, as some of the figures in the above statistics show.

'How long will feminists continue to let men off the hook for their behviour by blaming it on porn? I find that quite disgusting and counter productive.'
I've never read or heard anything about this viewpoint. In fact, I don't think it exists apart from in your imagination/wrongful interpretation of feminist critiques of pornagraphy. You will actually be more likely to hear feminists say that more men should be angry about how they are depicted in pornography and at notions they are no more than animals with little control of their penis or sexual urges.


I have no wish to infiltrate the industry. I have no wish to succumb to an adaptive preference mentality either. I don't know what the answer to the commercial sexual exploitation is, but i'm pretty sure it's not to engage in more of it and to think if you can't beat em join em.

'Are women to continue have their consensual erotic experiences, wishes and desires invalidated by other women? That is oppressive to so many women'
If you have been fully informed on all aspects of the pornography industry, on the experiences of the women in it; have reviewed the research highlighting the cultural harm of pornography, it's impact on values and attitudes and then still consume it then i would reserve the right to question that action. Feminism is a movement for social justice. We as individuals make a range of choices, those choices do not just impact us they impact other people. Ever boycotted a product or been on an anti racist demo? That's a critique on culture, society and a challenge to the values, attitudes and choices other individuals make. Challenging and offering a counter view can be part of awareness raising, education or just debate and I think all of those are ok.
Surely it would be infantalising not to challenge?

I myself would like a guilt free wank, just not at other women's expense, and not to some hideous construction of sexuality that sees women as a series of holes to be fucked.
Society has given most of us mixed and f~"k*d up messages about sex and sexuality, pornography is a reflection of that. Open-ness and honesty about sex and sexuality and challenging the socially constructed norms would be a more productive step forward than more porn don't you think?

BDSM is no more a feminist act than a woman shooting her pet rabbit would be. You're tired of feminists doing things that we don't actually do. I'm tired of people co-opting the term feminist in ridiculous ways. Just because you're a woman making a choice to do.. something, anything, doth not a feminist act make it.
Your statement about bdsm porn featuring more women in dominant position as men carries about as much weight as someone saying that having a black man as president of the US means there's no racism there.

On your final points about your neighbour.. Again, the brand of feminism that states pornography is solely responsible for domestic abuse or sexual violence does not exist anywhere except in your head. Pornography is a reflection of a white supremecist capitalist patriarchy; a society structured on oppression and a society in which women are viewed as 'other', lesser beings; objects. The vast majority of pornogaphy shows women being fucked in a range of ever more degrading and violent ways. Why do you think that might be? Why do you think that it is women and not men who appear on their front covers and on the front of lads magazines?
It both reflects and shapes values and attitudes about women and about sex and sexuality. It's a form of media like any other and an increasingly influential one.

The government consultation on violence against women seeks to explore the following:
* How do we prevent this sort of violence from happening in the first place?
* How do we change the way younger men and boys view what is acceptable?
* How do we protect and support children growing up in violent households?
* How do we convince women to report it when they're attacked?

Looking at pornography and it's impact is part of point 2- examining what shapes attitudes about what behaviours are acceptable. Violence against women does not happen in a vaccuum, it happens because of an abuse of power and unequal and it happens because of how women are viewed in society and pornography plays a part in how we are viewed.
You won't find me arguing that we need more services but looking at how cultural norms shape values and attitudes and challenging those are vital for social change.

If you're interested in what feminists are actually saying about pornography, about it's place on the contiuum of violence against women and on some of the research on porngaphy's impact, I suggest you read the following, as a start:

http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.justice.gov.uk/docs/280907a.pdf

http://www.womankind.org.uk/upload/CEDAW-report.pdf

http://saidit.org/archives/jun06/article5.html

http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/Porn/orgasmpol.html

http://www.stoppornculture.org/resources2.html

keithunder said...

One of the links has the following:

Take the Pledge!

By entering your information below, you are promising the following:

• I will not use pornography in any format (including internet, video, magazines, strip clubs, escorts).

• I will not knowingly enter into any intimate relationship with a person who uses pornography in any format.

It sounds a lot like the ring thing in the states promoted by ultra right wing Christians.

Encouraging people to be hypocrites does not sound like me to be a good idea. Unless my erotica is not porn.

So anonymous what are we allowed to wank to? Or shall we all abstain from that also? Is there an I won't wank anymore pledge?

If you base your argument on an unstated sub set of a government report. Here is a link about how governments use false statistics to bolster their arguments.
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/04/10/dirty_data/

You said you do not support banning. If that is the case then we have more in common than you might think.

When it comes to government abuse of human rights are you part of the problem or part of the solution?