Thinking Sex: Pornography Forum
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|Pornography: "Only Words?"|
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-10-03 11:29:16
Link to this Comment: 6781
This week we'll be talking about pornography: bringing to class examples of what we identify as fitting that category, reading a range of theoretical essays about its power (positive and negative), and then sharing with one another....
our (tentative, temporary and always-revisable) answers to the questions raised by these experiences. Tell us here what you are thinking.
Date: 2003-10-03 23:46:29
Link to this Comment: 6789
MacKinnon's article appalled me, as it was meant to. I did feel that she was a bit over-dramatic in certain areas, especially the opening paragraphs in which all manner of torture is carried out. But the fact remains that women are abused in the making of porn and that porn sometimes does inspire violent acts. (You could argue that porn substitutes for violent acts as well--the person masturbating to the video doesn't need to carry out the contents of that video in real life because he can live it through the fantasy portrayed on the screen.) My first thought as I was reading the MacKinnon was that the porn industry needs to be regulated--not abolished altogether. No matter the contents of the material, no one should be harmed in the making of it (like mainstream violent movies). And I was asking myself as I read the MacKinnon what percentage of women making porn really are abused? As Rubin argues, MacKinnon makes it sound like every bit of porn is violent and abuses the women who make it, but this may not actually be the truth. I think this is an incredibly important thing to find out because I would object less to the contents of porn than to the conditions of its production.
I think Rubin makes a great point that many laws, works of literature, etc. are sexist but that we don't abolish the whole industry/genre. Another point she raises that I had also wondered about in the MacKinnon is whether porn is really the CAUSE of women's oppression. Yes, of course it helps it along, but how can it be the cause when it hasn't really been around that long? Women are oppressed in so many other areas of life besides sex that porn can't be pinpointed as the only cause.
One place that I felt Rubin fell a bit short was in her response to the allegations of abuse and coercion of women into the sex industry. Yes, perhaps I too am biased against sex workers, but really, how many of them enjoy their work? Women may choose to be erotic dancers because it's better than a minimum-wage job (or in addition to their minimum-age job) doing something else...but in constrained economic conditions, can this really be called a free choice? I think there need to be studies of the demographics of sex workers to find out how much abuse really occurs...because right now it feels like writers like MacKinnon and Rubin directly contradict each other not only in their opinions but also over basic facts.
Finally, I think porn and erotic materials can add a lot to someone's sex life and sexual consciousness, and if only for that slightly personal reason, I would be very hesitant to condemn the whole industry.
Name: Ro. Finnn
Date: 2003-10-05 21:53:35
Link to this Comment: 6801
If I separate the crimes of violence and coercion from the commercial exploitation of women and then work to eliminate/minimize/prosecute the crimes, isn't this better for women--without sacrificing civil liberties? Maybe i'm being too simplistic here. I find some advertisements far more injurious to many more women than that which is branded as pornography. I'll bring on to class on Tuesday and we can debate the point if you like.
Date: 2003-10-06 08:30:18
Link to this Comment: 6805
is it only words? Porn comes at us primarily in the form of photography (including video), and this makes the subject all the more complicated for me, as a photographer.
First, there is the issue of consentual vs. coerced production. That should not be muddled in with the other questions swirling around the topic. Crime is crime. Of course, just as race horses are more valuable and therefore, attended to better than draft horses, so have we devalued and largely ignored the women who are the victims of these physical and mental crimes.
That aside, there is the issue of that which is private being taken to a public arena. Nudity is not such a private issue...many societies publicly display all manner of body parts, and this is normal. Taking that thought further, some societies openly practice sexual behavior and acts of sex (whatever those involve). And what we have grown accustomed to doing publicly is not so erotic...we take it for granted. Think of fashion in Victorian times versus now. Then, a glimpse of ankle was erotic. So, if pornography must--by definition--carry some shock value that transports its voyeurs to some state of sexual arousal, then that which is pornographic shifts over time...all of it, not just the titillating, fringe representations of porn that exist in our museums and literature. Hang with me here....;-)
If porn is porn only in context of the prevailing social mores and mannerisms, then how can we possibly think about legislating against it...any of it? OK, so if it should not be banned--given that our freedoms will be seriously at risk if we ban a moving target--then whatj--if anything--needs to be done? What effect does this eye candy have on its makers and viewers, anyway?
Now, to make these abstractions concete...If a woman comes into my photo studio and says, "I want to make some nude/erotic pics for my boyfriend," the first thing that strikes me is the public versus private feeling that--OK, we can do that, but I don't want to bump into you on the street afterwards. I want you to fade into some vague anonymity. It's too risky to you for me to imagine anything else. Photos are immediately public, no matter their intended distribution. They have "legs." They get around. So, I'm wondering to myself, is it better to put a bag over the subject's head, hide her identity? Is it less pornographic if I do that? And my gut says YES. So, now I'm thinking that the most damaging forms of porn are those in which the subject's identity is clearly visible. Hmmm.
But why should that be an issue? Well, there's an "inside/outside" situation kicking in...she is immediately the female "other"...not my girlfriend, wife, sister, mother, etc. She is devalued below the women I just listed and is at risk. What I'm saying is that I suspect the logic that says porn injures all women by objectifying them. Rather, porn fragments women...is a major wedge against women's solidarity, and it is that which I am intuitively sensing when I think through my concrete example.
And I'm still thinking....
|silence, fear & power|
Date: 2003-10-06 12:32:01
Link to this Comment: 6809
Date: 2003-10-07 14:09:24
Link to this Comment: 6821
I did a little experiment on Yahoo when I was looking for something to bring to class. If you search under "pornography" the top ten results are sites about protecting children from pornography and ending addiction to porn. I found it interesting that this was the result of the search instead of endless links to adult websites. It is only under searches for "sex" and "sexuality" that actual adult websites come up. The questions of the use of language comes up again.
I'm also rethinking my own "definition" of porn as something that causes arousal.I think it's problematic. I was thinking about the last time I saw my boyfriend and how arousing it was to watch him cook dinner. There was nothing sexual about his actions but I was really aroused by it. Does that make it pornograpic?
I wrote down the word "artifical" when people were discussing the production of pornography. Striking certain poses and looking at the camera create this picture that pornography is somehow artificial in its representation of sex. Is pornograhy not real sex?
On a side note to comment on the reading, I'm already biased against Catherine McKinnon. I may be wrong, but I think she's the writer who said, "All heterosexual sex is rape". ???? While I think she had some fabulous little snipets of sentances, I was really concerned that she confined pornography to heterosexual sex. What about gay porn? Is that sexist? Male-Female sex is really just a small portion of pornography, just as Rubin points out that her examples of violent sex acts are not representative.
However, her article did make me question the growing popularity with voyeurism. There are certainly types of voyeurism that is consentual like web-cams but during my search, I noticed a lot of "hidden camera" sites where the women who are being videotapped have no idea that they're on camera. And what about taking pictures/videos with your lover and then having them put them on the internet without your consent, is that okay? It seems that these non-consentual acts should raise more alarm than consentual pornography.
Date: 2003-10-07 14:58:07
Link to this Comment: 6824
Yet in certain other ways I don't necessarily agree that pornography is the answer to channeling our innermost desires, not because it does not or should not arouse us, but because I think certain forms of pornography completely objectify the woman. I agree with the statement that Anjali made in class today, that some women look at posing in Playboy as an extremely powerful experience. Yet I cannot help thinking how much power can a woman own when she is viewed strictly as sexual? Many of the women at Bryn Mawr have had to explain to male "outsiders" that Bryn Mawr is not a school full of girls who have sex with each other all the time. While it's nice to know that Bryn Mawr is an accepting campus sexually, do we want to be known for only that?
I like the idea that Anne brought up in class today about how women working in the porn industry often view their job as just that. So it makes me question, are the women who work in porn industry channeling their desires, or are they just looking for a paycheck like mostly everyone else in this world?
Hmm, I think I may be feeling more confused after writing this response than I felt prior to writing it. I guess the point I am trying to get across is that I don't necessarily feel completely comfortable looking at women objectify themselves when I don't necessarily know that that is what they really want to be doing with their lives. More power if it is :).
|Pornography: What is it? What does it Do?|
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-10-07 17:33:22
Link to this Comment: 6835
(As promised): a record of the range of definitions of pornography which we generated in class today, as each of us explained why-and-how we had chosen the representative sample we'd brought to class:
What is pornography?
Is it good or bad?
Should it be advocated for/improved/legislated against? controlled? policed?
What fears motivate our descriptions of and reactions to the use of pornography?
What norms guide our behavior and responses?
Date: 2003-10-07 18:11:44
Link to this Comment: 6836
Date: 2003-10-07 20:26:39
Link to this Comment: 6838
|porn: good or bad or undefineable?|
Date: 2003-10-08 01:16:04
Link to this Comment: 6841
However, I got to thinking about things I'd forgotten, my own experiences with porn. I remember a documentary (?) vaguely that I once saw on snuff films. It was an undercover type of thing. For some reason, as a child, I thought that pornography and sex work was empowering for women. I am now comforted knowing that my sister thought similarly; her biggest dream was becoming a prostitute in LA – romantic, isn't it? Seeing the expose on snuff films turned my stomach and made me rethink my previous views on pornography, supported by shows on the Playboy mansion and the 'glamorous' lives of the models. I remember that while I was watching the documentary on snuff, my aunt turned to me and made a comment along the lines of, "See, no matter how bad you think it is inside these walls, it's worse out 'there'."
When I was much younger, my relatives thought that showing us (my cousins, sisters, and I) pornographic videos, etc was positive. They wanted to make sure that we "turned out" straight. (It didn't work in some cases...) It was very important to them, especially due to the kind of lives that we led, that the "kids" not get turned off of heterosexual intercourse. I wonder about their thinking and I am also wondering what I thought at the time. Unfortunately, I cannot remember. Although, I guess my belief that pornography was empowering for women shows to some degree the effect of my early and continuous exposure.
I also remember once watching a show (and I believe that this was only a few years ago) about a woman who was a former sexworker/ stripper/ dancer, or something of the sort who was "past her prime". She gave classes on how to sexualize/ sensualize women. Her clients ranged between the ages of early twenties to early fifties, and the majority consisted of suburban, middle-class women. She "taught" them how to be sexual through movement, posture, dancing, and shared stories about her own experiences. At the time, I thought that it was extremely saddening that women felt the need to attend these classes. Yet, although I was upset by what I thought to be this woman's exploitation of her clients and the coercion of a society that makes women believe that they must "be" a certain way in order to appear "sexy", I do remember a part of myself kind of wanting to attend a class too... which appalled my feminist identity.
Thinking of porn as fantasy for the consumer, I wonder if that is necessarliy "bad". We all fantasize, and some/ a lot of people use pornography to do so. Amber Hollibaugh addresses the idea of fantasy in a dialogue that she has with Cherrie Moraga:
"The real question is: Does it actually limit you? For instance, does it allow you to eroticize someone else, but never see yourself as erotic? Does it keep you always in control? Does the fantasy force you into a dimension of sexuality that feels very narrow to you?" (Hollibaugh and Moraga, "What We're Rolling Around in Bed With")
They are actually having a discussion about sex as a language, etc. It's very interesting and I think that this addresses an important point about the consumer/ fantasizer...
As for the people who direct and produce and pose/act for porn, I don't know what I'm quite thinking about that at this point. The same goes for the question of censorship, etc. Maybe I'll get back to you all...
|a should-be feminist accepting patriarchal roles|
Date: 2003-10-08 19:54:28
Link to this Comment: 6852
Her argument seems to be fueled, as Allison says, by fear of sexuality, or at least heterosexuality. Porn by its nature victimizes women, she says, because the women involved are economically/socially forced into the work. "Empirically, all pornography is made under conditions of inequality based on sex..." (20). But, MacKinnon also thinks that men and women aren't equal at all in society. Does she also think, then, that all heterosexual sex victimizes women, since women in our society are in an inferior position? (Actually, I guess she does... and that's just scary.)
Date: 2003-10-09 01:34:22
Link to this Comment: 6858
|porn is like the last ingredient.|
Date: 2003-10-09 07:30:11
Link to this Comment: 6859
Thinking about this vouyer quality, which is useful in articulating desires when desires are inconveniently socially unacceptable, illegal, expensive, etc., I wondered: is pornography a substitute for sex? An additive? An artificial flavoring?
Date: 2003-10-09 07:34:00
Link to this Comment: 6860
|"porn" vs. "porn---ography"|
Date: 2003-10-09 22:20:57
Link to this Comment: 6872
Pornography - "Material Intended to Arouse Sexual Interest." From the French "pornographie" of the same meaning. First, "pornography" meant only writings intended to arouse sexual feelings, hence "graph" as in "graphology" ang the like. It later expanded in meaning to denote any material intended to arouse sexual feelings, written, visual or otherwise. The French version derives from "pornographe" meaning one who writes pornography, but its original meaning denotes someone who wrote about or chronicled prostitution or prostitutes. It probably dates back to the Greek "pornographos" = "the writings of harlots."
Interesting....so originally, the term "pornography" was used to describe erotic writings...not images. Although the definition was later "expanded," according to this site, to include images and other materials meant to evoke sexual feelings, I would argue that today, most people think of porn as dealing with pictures and videos--- explicit images, in other words. If you look on the internet for "porn" on google, only pictures come up; there is no mention of stories whatsoever. Finally, after doing some more research through trial and error, I discovered the buzzword people seem to be using to describe sexual writing nowadays: "erotic stories," or "erotica." NOT pornography. Just thought that was interesting. Personally, I believe that writing can be just as evocative as graphic images... in fact, maybe more so for some people. Like Ro was saying on Tuesday: poems can sometimes do a better job of speaking to people- maybe it's because the message is condensed into such a small amount of words, which makes it more ambiguous and appealing to the emotions (read: the subconscious) and therefore more meaningful to the individual.
Anyway, I am curious as to how porn (or pornography, take your pick) will evolve over time. What new forms of erotic material might this term be "expanded" to encompass in the future? We've got video, pictures, cartoons/ anime, stories, poetry, and magazines--- what's next?
|somebody gave porn a bad name|
Date: 2003-10-16 23:35:45
Link to this Comment: 6902
|What turns me on...or what I find sexual.|
Date: 2003-10-17 09:06:01
Link to this Comment: 6905
Yes, it IS true that many times women may pose nude or sell their bodies, etc., etc., because they need money for food, shelter, their kids, drugs, whatever. Yes, it is true that we may not know when these women are posing for the aforementioned reasons or for some other personal reason, but that does not mean that ALL women are doing it for the aforementioned reasons.
In my opinion sexuality does not have to be something that is taken from you or forced on you or forced OUT of you. For many women and men sexuality is something that they use to empower themselves. Just like intelligence or strength, sexuality can be something we take hold of and use to propel ourselves forward, to make ourselves feel better, to form a place for ourselves in this world. I mean, honestly, who says that the woman who is extremely sexual, who any man (or woman) would want to touch, sleep with, be with...isn't just as powerful as the most intelligent woman or man in this world? After all, she can control that person to the same degree that she might be controlled by that person...or anyway, that is how I see it.
In relation to that and Playboy (which I do agree is porn, but not necessarily *bad*) how many of the women that pose for the magazine have other jobs where they are already successful? Oftentimes, the centerfold is some actress or model or even a businesswoman (it has happened!). These women engender power not JUST through their positions, through their jobs, but also through their sexuality.
Let me also mention that I don't think sexuality is JUST a naked body. Who of us hasn't been caught off guard and a little turned on (excited? surprised?) when we see our good friend in her new suit, which happens to accent her body perfectly, match her skin tone superbly, with her makeup on expertly in such a way that it accents her subtle highlights...okay, so maybe we haven't all seen a good friend in this way...but I have and speaking from my experience, it was quite sexual to see a woman looking both intelligent, put together and corporatey (i just made that word up, can you tell?? as in working for a corporation...executivey?) What I'm saying, in all my blabbing, is that sexuality can even be the woman dressed up for an interview, it can be the nice clothes, the baggy clothes, the makeup, the non makeup. It can be the way we look, act, etc. I hope this all makes sense. Nothing I say ever makes sense. Anyway, I've blabbed enough about sexuality. I wish I was sexual...hahahahaha.
Oh, and no, I'm not a lesbian...but yes, sometimes I'm turned on by my friends. They're hot ;)
Date: 2004-02-04 09:37:22
Link to this Comment: 7960
seeing my girlfriend naked is arousing....
ok no surprises. touching ny girlfriend in a sexual way is arousing. ...sounds right....but if i take a picture of her and look at it and get aroused, and then touch myself, then i am evil and objectifying.
hey, where did the sexual openness go.....oh, out the window.
firstly no one can tell us not to photograph each other, its concentual, its private, no else is involved....it happens. secondly if we ourselves dont view these feelings as inherently evil or dirty then why promote the "self loathing" that you seem to be aganst. no woman should ever be forced, corerced, blackmailed ect. into doing something she does not want to do. period. as long as that is not the case then the choice is a choice.. when a choice is concentual and the perception of the goodness of the act is subjective, then you can never limit it. even if you dont like it.
being male i find it hard to get many women to hear this point. but it usally comes up after i hear some tirade about womens sexaul repression.
repression??! icant tell you how many books, events, groups that i have come across touting about how women have nothing to hide about ther sexual feelings. "sexually empowered women arent sluts" "be cunt positive" ect. but as a male i feel as though there is this expectation that i should have something to hide. indeed the many "desires" i have heard expressed in these outlest arent all that different from mine. but these same expressions of desire comming from me or other men have been met with critisism.
that dosent seem to equal to me.
Date: 2005-01-24 14:43:14
Link to this Comment: 12190
Date: 2005-03-24 09:21:22
Link to this Comment: 13963