Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Problems With Porn

Can we speak of a socialist attitude to porn? Going by past discussions on the UK Left Network and its regular eruption into skirmishes millions of words long over in feminist blogspace, you would have to say "not really". The tendency is for debate to quickly boil down into hard and fast positions, with more nuanced contributions pushed aside. You either find porn a blatant display of patriarchy's sexual dominance, that it is degrading to women who take part in it, and damaging to the men who view it; or a libertarian position where, when all is said and done, as long as what takes place is between consenting adults, there's no real harm involved. Women and men should have the right to participate and view it if they wish.

Unfortunately, Addicted to Porn, another late night offering from Channel Four, does very little to move the debate on from these mutually hostile and mutually exclusive camps. In fact, there is no attempt to even set up any kind of debate. The message from this short documentary is unambiguous: porn will either fuck up your life or turn you into a violent criminal.

Addicted to Porn looks at four men. Eldon, the 32-year-old "star" of the show, clearly does have a problem. He spends 34-40 hours a week watching porn and has to work part time because his addiction means he can't hold a full time position down. He finds sex with real women an anti-climax compared with the stuff he sees on film. Eldon feels porn is ruining his life and wants to give it up, but finds it difficult to break with his pattern of behaviour. So he attempts to go without for a week for the benefit of the programme. He describes the conflict in his mind, one moment thinking he should stay away from the material, in another feeling that going to a peep show at a Soho cinema "doesn't really count". He is forced to find things to do to occupy what would have been his porn-time. He undertakes a short course of hypnotherapy, goes on a blind date, and ends with torching his video collection.

Warren's addiction is more severe. He has become obsessed with acting out the hardcore fantasies he's seen on the internet. His previous partner was unwilling to accede to his demands, and left along with their son. Despite destroying his relationship and not having seen his son for six years, his passion for porn remains undimmed. He now has a partner willing to go some of the way, but scours the internet looking for contacts happy to act out his fantasies. Warren's story conveys a real sense of his compulsion. He openly talks about the frustration he has with the addiction, and the stress stemming from the lies and secrecy he uses to cover his porn-fuelled liasons.

Duncan took his to the extreme. It's as if he stepped out of The Bonfire of the Vanities, or a Brett Easton Ellis novel. Born into a wealthy family and having secured a lucrative career in marketing in New York; cocaine, porn, and prostitutes dragged him into a spiral costing him his job, career, his Upper East Side home, family ties, and around $2 million. After losing his job in 1991 he moved to London in an attempt to escape, but it remains with him still. He monitors himself constantly to keep himself from lapsing, which means even avoiding glancing up at the top shelf of a newsagents and putting himself in situation where his prior behaviour could reassert itself.

Finally, and most extreme of all, is the case of Graham Coutts. One may recall his murder of Jane Longhurst in 2003, a crime committed, it was claimed, because of Coutts' addiction to violent pornography, especially that featuring strangulation and asphyxiation. We are left in no doubt that murder was the unavoidable consequence of his taste in porn.

The talking heads who intersperse the programme all sing from the same hymn sheet. David Nutt, a neurologist, argues there is a chemical basis for porn addiction. Whenever we engage in pleasurable activity, the brain's release of dopamine lays down a memory of the circumstances that led to the release. However, "excessive" sexual pleasure, the repeated dopamine releases in conjunction with porn viewing gradually disconnects the demand pathways from the neurological means of managing it. The brain becomes predisposed to this behaviour, thereby forming the basis for an addiction. Once this has taken place, one cannot detox as drug addicts can, because the problem remains locked inside porn addicts' heads. Mary-Anne Layden, a criminological psychotherapist recalled how every sex offender she's ever worked with had some relationship to porn, in its absence in prison, they remain able to call up the imagery they once viewed and elaborate a series of fantasies with this "raw material". For Jeffrey Satinover, the main problem is not with the small number of violent acts that implicate porn, but with the huge number of men who regularly view porn, albeit with mild effects. This can put strains on relationships and inflict the kinds of damage Eldon and Warren have experienced.

The chief failing of Addicted to Porn is not so much its one-sided argument, but the paucity of evidence it has to back it up. The agony aunt, Flic Everett offers some anecdotal examples from her postbag from women distressed by their boyfriends and husbands desires for porn-a-like sex, and we see a brief table top discussion between three women talking through their experiences. But to what extent can these charges be laid at porn's door? Like all sexual preferences, are they not rooted in our formative biographical experiences? Is a man with a taste for violent sex just as likely to carry out his fantasies because of porn, or in spite of porn? Of course, this isn't to suggest porn is separate to formative (sexual) experiences, but it does imply that porn is a dependent variable, an element in the overwhelming majority of sexual biographies that is a consequence of one's peccadilloes rather than a cause of them. In other words, between a "normal" man who views porn and a sex offender who has viewed porn lies a river of specific and separate experiences. For example, Graham Coutts didn't murder Jane Longhurst because he was addicted to violent porn; rather it is more likely the addiction sublimated his murderous desires for a period of time.

I am sceptical toward claims that porn can drive violent sexual behaviour, but the claims the programme makes about addiction and the impacts it can have do seem credible. As recently discussed on Madam Miaow and Splintered Sunrise, one consequence of porn has been to promote total body hair removal on women, and perhaps a little bit of "tidying up" where men are concerned too. But to what extent has this assumed the weight of peer pressure and compelled women to conform to yet another 'feminine body' demand, under pain of malicious gossip and rumour? And does the popularity of porn, and I'm mainly talking about straight/"lesbian" porn aimed at men, affect the way men view women? Is there any truth to the objectification/degradation argument, does it make the overt commodification of sex (proliferation of semi-pornographic lads mags, lap dancing bars, strip joints, prostitution) more socially acceptable?

But what of the positive effects of porn? Does porn demystify sex, and hold open the possibility of more satisfying sexual relations? Can it offer a relatively safe and risk-free avenue for "previewing" experiences one may desire to carry out?

Porn and the reception to porn is complex. For socialists to get a proper understanding of the way it feeds off desires, the effects it has on behaviour, how it reinforces/subverts dominant hegemonic codings of gender and sex, we need to stay way from the pitfalls of moralising and laissez-faire acceptance. Otherwise analysis and debate will get locked into the non-fruitful rehashings of the same tired arguments.

19 comments:

Leftwing Criminologist said...

"For socialists to get a proper understanding of the way it feeds off desires, the effects it has on behaviour, how it reinforces/subverts dominant hegemonic codings of gender and sex, we need to stay way from the pitfalls of moralising and laissez-faire acceptance. Otherwise analysis and debate will get locked into the non-fruitful rehashings of the same tired arguments."

I completely agree. There's also the question of definition - when is something porn, and when does it change into not porn?

Darren said...

Re: the picture accompanying your post.

Does Splintered Sunrise know that you've hacked his desktop?

Jim Jay said...

Good piece, thanks for writing it.

On a "socialist attitude to porn". Whilst lots of socialists disagree on almost any topic there is a difference between disagreement between self defining socialists and a cogent well argued leftist position. Just because a socialist thinks something does not make it a socialist position.

I wouldn't describe myself as a Leninist but Lenin summed things up pretty well when he said that "social being determines consciousness." To put it crudely "you are what you do"

To argue that people, say, rape because they had a predisposition for rape (and any porn use is a distraction) is, I think, clunky.

To say that sex offenders "use" porn as a "consequence of one's peccadilloes" is a dangerous path to go down and, whilst I'll concede the kernel of truth I think it ignors the effects our "habitus" has on our own behaviour.

I'm uncomfortable with the suggestion that there is a great dividing line in consciousness between sex offenders and everyone else - I think it approaches an essentialist view of an individual's character. I wonder if it would be better to ask what part of social consciousness does the sex offender crystalise most clearly?

Oh, this is a jumble - what I'm trying to say is that someone might get into porn because they like looking at people fucking and it turns them on - but it becomes a thing in itself.

As a habit becomes entrenched, and as the viewer comes across (cough) material they were not looking for and did not create it introduces new permutations to their life.

* what's the effect of a consistent association with sex as a viewed, passive act?

* what's the effect of habitual sexual acts that do not involve either social interaction or consent?

* what (unintended?) ideological message is carried in pornography? Is it really sex positive? Or is that sex is a comodity?

I agree with your conclusion Phil and I suspect you might agree with some of what I've said (if it's not too rambling to be uinderstood) - but I wonder if the left tends to let porn off the hook a bit too much in these debates, concerned about becoming moralising or, god forbid, thinking about their own personal behaviour as a political act.

N said...

I think the socialist view of the rights and wrongs of pornography must centre on the economics and consider how capitalist drivers effect the form and consequences of porn. After all without the profit motive would porn exist or would we be merely discussing erotic art?

Louisefeminista said...

I am sceptical of these programmes re porn and issues around addiction as they medicalise a social problem. I mean, what about alienation and atomisation? People are generally cut off from one another and social relationships are hard.
They also reduce to blokes to Pavlovian status and that kinda abdicates any responsibility re behaviour.

But obviously, we do need to go beyond the "porn is the theory and rape is the practice" as that is reductionist and arguing against the radical feminist position that patriarchy is a monolithic entity, never changing and static.

I also think that it is worth (as opposed to reinventing the wheel) looking up some fine socialist feminist works on pornography as there is a good body of work out there.

Jim Jay said...

The program itself was terrible - I saw the first half. But the clash of the medium and the message was hilarious.

The message was porn is bad and may make you evil - the medium? A program packed full of pornographic images and titilation and the odd graphic account of sex murders and necrophilia... um... bit of a conflict?

Charlie Marks said...

These "concerned" programmes are usually suspect. As Jim Jay sez, a wee bit of a conflict. I didn't see the programme, but I'm guessing specimens were displayed in the course of the programme...

A comment, if I may, on gay pornographic films:

Male performers get paid substancially more for appearing in gay porn than they do in straight porn, where the female performer is the focus of desire.

Does this disguise a similar exploitation - beyond that of capitalists - to what is said to exist in straight porn?

I think so: there are power relationships at play in most gay porn films (top/bottom) which are usually fixed, like those at work in straight porn - though I suppose the effect upon the viewer is dependant on identification with role.

I have never heard the argument that porn leads to sexual violence directed at gay pornography, I'm guessing this is because it's a minority pursuit...

Renegade Eye said...

I'm plugging this post at my blog.

Phil BC said...

@ Darren - Where does Splinters get all his slightly risque photos from? He didn't come by them via a casual google image search, I can tell you! lol. I like to think my chosen pic is a little bit tasteful and just about safe for work. I think a little bit is left to the imagination.

@ Criminologist - Defining porn, that's a bit of a toughie. I'm sure plenty of academics and other writers have had a bash (so to speak) over the years. The problem of course is if you define it as "still or moving images of one or more people in explicit poses and/or engaged in sexual activity", it still leaves the question of defining erotica open. Can any meaningful distinction be drawn? Is there a difference between, say, the pornographic images Brett Easton Ellis evokes in American Psycho, and the intense evocation of sensation Melissa P engages in 100 Strokes of the Brush Before Bed? I remember having a stab at trying to differentiate between porn and erotica during the course of a UKLN debate a couple of years back, but it got shot down in flames.

@ N and Louise - I agree with you both. Porn has to be placed in the context of capitalist society, especially as it is big business these days. Furthermore, internet porn has been a major driver of online developments: pop ups, security technologies, video streaming, etc. all have roots in the buying and selling of porn. Aside from its political economy, I do agree Marx's theory of alienation could have a lot to say about it. As the division of labour and the abstract processes of capital chop us up into atomised units, alienation could allow for an understanding that embraces the complexity of each individual instance of porn use while teasing out the general features. I must profess ignorance about socialist feminist work on porn though, the stuff I've read over the years has tended to focus on the family, womens' labour, childbirth, the gendered character of capital, etc. Would you recommend anything, Louise?

@ Charlie - A coherent approach to porn has to acknowledge the specificities of each type of porn. For instance, of it hasn't been done already, it would be interesting to see what a comparative analysis of "lesbian" porn aimed at men and so-called dyke porn aimed at women would throw up. In fact, more analysis at the growing body of material aimed at women of whatever sexual persuasion would be interesting. On gay porn, do you know if much research has been done?

@ Renegade, cheers for the plug!

Phil BC said...

@ Jim, I think I was guilty of being flippant with regards to sex offenders and porn. Being a man with a serious Bourdieu habit(us), I should have known better. What I was trying to get away from were the reductive accounts promoted by this programme, and radical feminist accounts more generally. My hunch is with regard to sex offenders is their behaviour is rooted in their biographies. They may come to porn, which can go some way to crystallising their desires, and then this is fed back into the underlying causes. I don't want to set up an essential differentiation between "normal" men and sex offenders, but the truth of the matter is only a minority of men who view violent porn then go on to commit a sex crime. Hence the reason why I laid stress on other causes. This isn't to say men who view violent porn regularly aren't influenced in some way by it, but the character assumed by that influence will vary from person to person.

I think we're barking up the same tree here, Jim. All too often the left has defined itself in terms of the moralising or libertarian positions, a position which interestingly enough is echoed when it comes to sex work and prostitution. If we are to get a grip on porn, understand the place it occupies in the political economy of capital, the behaviours it encourages, how it reinforces bourgeois hegemony; as well as its potentially liberatory and subversive effects, our analysis has to be far more nuanced and sophisticated than that offered by the moralisers and the apologists.

PS I liked your conclusion about personal behaviour. It is a legacy of the Leninist left generally in this country to not concentrate on personal behaviour, mainly because building a party and the party being the main vehicle of our activisn tends to sideline these issues. But I do think we should take personal behaviour seriously, but obviously there's a fine line between it and adopting a moralising tone.

Red Maria said...

"Can we speak of a socialist attitude to porn?"

Yeah. Let's have more of it.

In all seriousness, this is an area on which socialists can have little in the way of a coherent position. As I've argued before, in the absence of any consistent thinking on sexual ethics, a particular fixed position on in this case porn would seem arbitrary and ill-reasoned. Consider just one obvious philosophical problem - do socialists accept a censorship precedent on this and if so will they apply it to other subjects as well? Would a censorious position apply to gay porn? What about other kinds of sexually commodifying behaviour that reasonable, ethical people consider undesirable - such as the woman who sleeps with her boss for professional advancement, would that merit similar condemnation?

But hang on, these things are part of the warp and weft of human life anyway. Male sexuality of either the gay or straight variety does seem particularly responsive to visual stimuli. Can socialists realistically expect ideology to suppress deep human drives? Christianity, which probably has the most richly developed thinking on sexual ethics of any ideology, never managed to.

Perhaps the very last place socialists should seek inspiration on such knotty questions is feminism. A long since blown-out movement which has degenerated into yet another branch of the grievance industry, with its cliques of embittered, talentless sob-sisters and professional whiners. They represent nobody, least of all the great seething mass of female humanity. The two exceptions to this rule who very much are worth a read are that pair of magnificent matriarchs, Germaine Greer and Camille Paglia. La Paglia's monthly column has, I believe, returned to Salon.com - required reading.

Louisefeminista said...

Phil: There's the pamphlets written by Feminists Against Censorship, excellent bk Sex Exposed eds Lynne Segal and Mary McIntosh, Caught Looking (Kate Ellis), Dirty Looks (Pamela Church Gibson, More Dirty Looks (ditto author), Tales From the Clit (Cherie Matrix et al), Bad Girls and Dirty Pictures (Alison Assister and Avedon Carol).

Finally, I would recommend Walter Kendrick's The Secret Museum, a history of modern porn and the word "pornography".

Hope that helps.

Charlie Marks said...

Phil: I am not aware of any published academic research of into the impact of gay pornography on viewers as regards increased tendencies to sexual violence. I imagine that there would be similar problems, especially since there can be problematic depictions of masculinity in gay pornography.

Jim Jay said...

Cool discussion, very interesting.

Phil "All too often the left has defined itself in terms of the moralising or libertarian positions"

I think this is dead right and, I think, stems from the desire to decide whether to be for or against it - which usually gets dragged into a rather turgid debate on whether to censor porn.

I'd like to see more of an examination of what porn does to the consumer, and why people consume this product. I mean you don't need to look at porn to have a good wank after all.

Ahem, perhaps I've gone to far... oh well.

Anyway, that discussion has always been rather cut off by this attempt to squeeze every question into "what position are we taking today"

charlie "there can be problematic depictions of masculinity in gay pornography."

I'm curious what you think these are. I'm not disagreeing but I would be interested to hear a little more on this.

Talking of your picture by the way Phil - you do know you need to change it don't you (the hosts of the pic don't seem to like hotlinking)

Red Maria said...

Louise and others may be interested in this:

Press release
English Collective of Prostitutes

Tel: 020 7482 2496

Fax: 020 7209 4761

Email: ecp@allwomencount.net

Web: www.prostitutescollective.net


Sweden has not made it safer for women


In response to Women’s Minister, Harriet Harman’s proposal for legislation to criminalise men who buy sex, along the lines of that introduced in Sweden , Niki Adams, from the English Collective of Prostitutes commented:

“The 1999 law introduced in Sweden which criminalised men who buy sex, who on conviction face six months in jail, has forced prostitution further underground, made women more vulnerable to violence, driven women into the hands of pimps and made it harder for the police to prosecute violent men and traffickers. Ministers are visiting Sweden and Amsterdam but New Zealand ’s experience of decriminalising prostitution where women are now more able to come forward and report violence, is being ignored.”

PUBLIC MEETING:

Before a decision is made on these issues, politicians, the media and the public must hear first hand about:

New Zealand’s decriminalisation of prostitution,

Sweden’s criminalisation of clients,

and their effects on women’s health and safety.

Keynote speakers:

Catherine Healy

Key to New Zealand’s successful decriminalisation of prostitution in 2003, Ms Healy was appointed by the Minister of Justice to the New Zealand Prostitution Law Review Committee. She is a founding member and the national co-ordinator of the New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective. She is frequently sought by national and international organisations for advice on issues affecting sex workers. She was widely consulted for the publication of A Guide to Occupational Health and Safety in the New Zealand Sex Industry recommended by the Justice and Electoral Select Committee. She collaborated with researchers from Otago University , Christchurch , on major research into the effects of decriminalisation soon to be published. In1993 Ms Healy was awarded the New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal for her services to women.

Pye Jakobssen

Organising for sex workers’ rights since 1994, Ms Jacobsen is a founding member of Sex Workers and Allies in Sweden (SANS) which organises against the criminalisation of sex workers resulting from the criminalisation of clients.

Wednesday 16 January 2008 4-6pm

House of Commons, Committee Room 10

Westminster, London SW1 All welcome

Hosted by Baroness Vivien Stern and John McDonnell MP


ORGANISED BY: The Safety First Coalition, made up of members of the church, nurses, doctors, probation officers, drug reformers, anti-rape organisations, residents from red light areas, sex workers, sex work projects and others who came together in the aftermath of the tragic murders of five young women in Ipswich, to press for women’s safety to be prioritised and for an end to the criminalisation which makes sex workers vulnerable to attack. It opposes Clause 72 which increases criminalisation. It is co-ordinated by the English Collective of Prostitutes.



CLAUSE 72 (NOW 150) is being promoted as an alternative to a fine but it is an additional power. It requires anyone arrested for loitering or soliciting to attend a series of three meetings with a supervisor approved by the court “to promote rehabilitation, by assisting the offender to address the causes of their involvement in prostitution and to find ways of ending that involvement . ” Women will be humiliated by being asked to reveal intimate circumstances while no resources are being made available to “address the causes”. Failure to attend will result in a summons back to court and a possible 72-hours imprisonment. Women may end up on a treadmill of broken supervision meetings, court orders and imprisonment, on top of fines and prison sentences for non-payment of fines. Even the Magistrates Association has expressed concern.



English Collective of Prostitutes or Safety First Coalition

Tel: 020 7482 2496, 07811 964 171 ecp@allwomencount.net www.prostitutescollective.net





wtwtwtwtwtw

EVIDENCE ON THE IMPACT ON SEX WORKERS SAFETY OF SWEDISH LEGISLATION

Excerpts from “Purchasing Sexual Services in Sweden and The Netherlands :
Legal Regulation and Experiences”, Working Group on the Legal Regulation of the Purchase of Sexual Services, Ministry of Justice and Police Affairs, 2004, Norway .

“Street work has gone up in Malmo [town on the border with Denmark ] and down in Gothenburg and Stockholm .

“It has not been possible for the working group to find an answer to the question as to what happened to the women who disappeared from the street. …”

“Our informants have given us a general impression of an increased fear of attack. … For the street prostitutes prices have fallen and fear has increased. …The women’s experience is that they feel that the criminalisation process has affected them negatively… It has become more difficult to carry out ‘quality assurance’ on those clients.”

“It has been claimed that prostitutes’ dependence on pimps has increased because street prostitutes cannot work as openly. The police informed us that it is more difficult to investigate cases of pimping and trafficking in human beings because prostitution does not take place so openly on the streets anymore. … Women are less visible … they are more difficult to reach by the support system.”

“Prostitutes’ dependence on pimps has probably increased. Someone is needed in the background to arrange transport and new flats so that the women’s activity is more difficult to discover and so that it will attract the attention of the police.”

Isabella Lund, SANS – Sexworkers and Allies Network in Sweden , 6 June 2007

“The law has increased the risks and violence against sexworkers …”

“Those who are worst afflicted are unfortunately the most vulnerable sexworkers, the street prostitutes, addicts and sexworkers from other countries. On the streets the negotiations must happen a lot faster than before since the police can be around the corner. … it is therefore hard to do a correct risk assessment.”

“The risk of infection has gone up because if a sexseller gets infected with a sexually transmitted disease, and the authorities advise her customers to contact them, many men are afraid to do so.”

“… if a customer meets a sexworker that he/she suspects is the victim of sexual trafficking, that person is today scared of going to the police. Before you could obtain evidence against traffickers and pimps based on customer’s testimony.”

“A lot of sexsellers on the street report being robbed and feel it's harder for them to contact clients outdoors. They therefore have to rely on other channels … and the likelihood of ending up in the hands of profiteers and pimps for those who need help increases.”

“Sexworkers feel more pressure from the police. … Police have also sometimes been reported to become heavy handed or brutal.”

“Sexworkers also report that the networks between sexworkers that existed before on certain known streets for prostitution have disappeared or weakened as a result of the sex-purchase law. Earlier you could warn each other for dangerous customers, fake cars, etc. … The "normal" clients have almost disappeared from the streets. Those who remain are the ones with a twisted mindset and street prostitutes today are more exposed to robbery, assault and rape than before.”

“When the prostitution market disappears underground it is harder for the authorities to intercept the persons that really need help. In Gothenburg many young women seek help to detoxify because of their addiction to heroin and almost all of them have sold sexual services. But the city’s prostitution group (social workers) seldom comes in contact with these women because they don't show up on the streets today. The same goes for the young drug addicts in Malmo .”

Recent correspondence from Ms Lund: “The police got an extra 7 million SKR to implement the law but there are no extra recourses to help sexworkers leave prostitution.”

Other sources:

“Sex in the New Europe: the criminalisation of clients and Swedish fear of penetration” Don Kulick, Professor of Anthropology at New York University and Stockholm , 2004. In addition to many of the above, Prof. Kulick found that evidence such as possession of condoms by women was used to convict men and that foreign sex workers were immediately deported and therefore would not report violence.

“Sex workers critique of Swedish Prostitution Policy”, Petra Ostergren, 6 Feb 2004. www.petraostergren.com

Sweden Radio report: “Swedish police report that prostitution on the streets is on the increase … and has returned to earlier levels – despite law banning sales of sexual services …” , Dec 2006.

Issued by Safety First Coalition

We are available to discuss any of the above.

Email: Tel: Web: www.prostitutescollective.net

politiques USA said...

If you don't want to be addicted to porn then don't watch porn:

David Nutt, a neurologist, argues there is a chemical basis for porn addiction. Whenever we engage in pleasurable activity, the brain's release of dopamine lays down a memory of the circumstances that led to the release. However, "excessive" sexual pleasure, the repeated dopamine releases in conjunction with porn viewing gradually disconnects the demand pathways from the neurological means of managing it. The brain becomes predisposed to this behaviour

Since it's a dopamine problem, I wonder if people have "withdrawals" problems when they try to kick the habit (cold turkey). They are condemned to release the same dose of dopamine to feel "normal" on a daily basis.

Charlie Marks said...

Jim Jay: by "problematic depictions of masculinity".

I think the following best describes what I'm trying to get at:

"What one sees in gay male pornography is an almost pervasive glorification of the idealized masculine/male icon. Cops, truckers, cowboys, bikers, and Nazis are eroticized. Racial stereotypes are sexualized and perpetuated. Muscle, "good-looks," and youth are glorified. Ostensibly straight or at least "straight-acting" men rape and/or humiliate descriptively (frequently stereotypical) gay men. Sadism, bondage, watersports, fisting, bootlicking, piercing, slapping, whipping, incest, branding, burning with cigarettes, torture of the genitals and nipples with hot wax, clamps, and the like, rape, and prison rape are presented as erotic, stimulating, and pleasurable. In most of these materials, it is the white, physically more powerful, more dominant male who is romanticized and afforded role model status. In those scenarios where male sexual partners "take turns" being the "top," the characteristics of dominance and non-mutuality remain central to the sexual act. The result is a hierarchical and rarely compassionate or mutual sexuality." GAY MALE PORNOGRAPHY: AN ISSUE OF SEXISM, Christopher Kendall(http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/Porn/kendall2.html)

Jim Jay said...

Thanks Charlie, I think that's a vivid and useful passage.

To add to this the final sentance "The result is a hierarchical and rarely compassionate or mutual sexuality" could essentially apply to all porn no matter what genre I suspect... although these things are often difficult to determine.

For instance it's difficult to see pictures of a man and woman having sex and not immediately place all our own culture baggage on top of this - that there is a difference between our subjective understanding of images we are seeing and whether our analysis would bear objective scrutiny (if any such thing existed)

So, to take a passage at random "it is the white, physically more powerful, more dominant male who is romanticized and afforded role model status." It seems to me that porn appears to rely on architypes and quite specific subsets of being. So being black is a thing in itself, being from Leeds is not. The size of cock is a thing the size of balls far less so.

Whether this romantisises or creates role models I think is more open to debate.

Phil BC said...

@ Maria - I think you were being too hard on feminism generally. I do have a lot of time for the socialist feminist tradition(s). They tend to offer analyses and explanations of gender relations far in advance than the radicals, liberals, and postmodern/poststructural types. As for feminism as a movement, and this much vaunted '3rd wave' buzzword, I don't see much in the way of an independent existence outside of the odd Reclaim the Night march in London, or conference. I suspect Louise and other readers know a lot more about it than me. Also, thanks for the ECP press release. I've long argued for complete decriminalisation, and it saddens me to see some socialists, such as the SSP, to go along with this deeply reactionary legislation. I might blog about it soon.

@ Jim, this 'for or against' position taking is a legacy of the British far left's habit of thinking, and I suspect is common to comrades working in Trotskyist traditions elsewhere. Unfortunately it can and does act as a brake on creative thinking. I would be willing to stick my neck out and say this is a contributory factor toward academia being a chief source of theoretical innovation in Marxism in the post war period, but that's for another time and post I think.

@ Politiques, Eldon, the guy who went sober for a week didn't describe it in terms of cold turkey . It felt like something that was ever present, a bit like an itch you don't know how to scratch.

@ Charlie - v interesting. I wonder if lesbian porn by and for lesbian women features similar tropes.