Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Open Mike 24: Assessing pornography in a feminist framework


Very interesting topic. Here is more from Bob Jensen -- a story he is very fond of repeating at his talks:
This is a story of a female student at the University of Texas. She was riding from Austin to Dallas for a football game on a bus chartered by a fraternity, on which many of the passengers were women. During the trip, someone put into the bus' VCR a sexually explicit video. Uncomfortable with those hardcore sexual images of women being used by men, the female student began a discussion with the people around her about it, and one of the men on the bus agreed that it was inappropriate. He stood up and said to the other men, "You all know me and know I like porno as much as the next guy, but it's not right for us to play this tape when there are women on the bus."

No doubt it took some courage for that young man to confront his fraternity brothers on the issue, and we should honor that. But we should recognize that his statement also communicated to his fraternity brothers that he was one of them -- "one of the guys" -- who, being guys, naturally like pornography. His objection was not to pornography and men's routine purchase and use of women's bodies for sexual pleasure but to the viewing of it with women present. He was making it clear that his ultimate loyalty was to men and their right to use women sexually, though that use should conform to some type of code of chivalry about being polite about it in mixed company.

In doing that, he was announcing his own position in regard to sex. He was saying: I'm just a john! A man who buys another human being for sex.

Pornography is really rampant among men (these days to a much smaller extent, among women). Virtually every man I know has been or is currently a user of pornography (for masturbation, or otherwise). It is important for one to engage in a critical self-analysis and be accountable for one's behavior. The question to ask oneself should be, do you want to participate in a system in which women are sold for sexual pleasure, be it part of prostitution, pornography, strip bars, or any other way. To again quote something Bob Jensen said, "A man should feel guilty about this. Guilt is the proper response to an unjust act. When we do things that are unjust, we should feel guilty." Pornography creates a class of people (women) that can be bought and sold, in which case, the people in that group will always be treated as lesser, or available for abuse.

To quote Bob Jensen one last time
The way out of this is the Marxian "ruthless criticism of the existing order". The most important point is, if a man thinks all this doesn't affect him because he is one of the "good men," I wouldn't be so sure. I'm told that I am one of those good men. I consider myself an active feminist. I have been part of groups that critique men's violence and the sex industry. And I struggle with these issues all the time. I was raised and trained by society to be a man in this culture, and I cant wash away that training overnight. None of us is off the hook.


A nuanced look at pornography (negative, positive, correlation with rape and sexual violence) by Michael Shermer in his book, The Science of Good and Evil: (see pages 195-202). Paraphrasing some points from the book:

Also references studies that show a strong correlation between pornography and sexual violence for people with limited exposure to sex or with negative attitudes towards sex, even mild erotica. Denmark lifted all bans on pornography in the 1960s when pornography surged, and subsequently sex crimes fell drastically. The idea behind the statistic being that whatever the cause for rape, it is not pornography in this case. This is not to say that negative pornography does not have an effect on increasing violence in some cases, but here also, people with limited social and sexual experience are more likely to be influenced by pornography. Interestingly, similar reactions were had from non-pornographic material that showed aggression to women.

No comments: