Defending Sex Work, Celebrating Monogamy

In her most recent post in our series of exchanges, Meghan Murphy asked me to answer a number of questions. Some of those questions were inspired by a commenter at her place named “Pisaquari”, who wanted to challenge me on my views about pornography and sex work as they related to my own life. I had written:

I reject porn use personally because it is incompatible with how I want to live my sexual life. I want my sexuality to be radically relational, where my arousal is inextricably linked to intimacy and partnership. I also want my sexuality to be congruent with my feminism, and for me personally, that means rejecting porn.

Meghan asked me to clarify, sensing (as did Pisaquari, apparently) a disconnect between my private behavior and my public views. While there are plenty of men who condemn pornography and sex work in public and then indulge in one or both in private, it’s a bit rarer to take the opposite tack I’m taking: affirming sex work and the possibilities of feminist pornography while remaining “personally opposed.” (It sounds a lot like the famous position of Mario Cuomo on abortion, who said he couldn’t countenance abortion personally but was strongly supportive of abortion rights.)

Answering Questions

Meghan asked a number of questions; I’ll tackle the first four here.

1) Why is pornography use incompatible with your sex life? What are the specific lines of impasse between your sex life and using pornography?

I’m a big fan of monogamy. Mind you, I don’t think monogamy is morally superior to all other ways of arranging sexual relationship. As long as we’re talking about mutuality, enthusiastic consent, and radical honesty, I think that there are many equally valid ways of living out one’s sexuality with other people. I want my sexual energy to flow towards my wife and no one else, even in fantasy. Since looking at porn (and presumably masturbating to it) would involve fantasizing about other people, that’s not something I see as compatible with my vision of monogamy.

I’m not a naturally monogamous person. I don’t know if many people are. But I like the discipline of total monogamy, which I find very rewarding and fulfilling. That really is more personal predilection than anything else. I no more expect others to share that same value system than I expect other people to share my fondness for soccer and my dislike of baseball.

2) Is pornography use incongruous with your feminism? What tenets of your feminism are not in line with pornography use?

It’s not incongruous with my feminism. It’s incongruous with my personal value system about sexuality at this point in my life. I used a lot of porn when I was younger, almost all of it before the internet era. (I wrote a tribute of a sort to Bob Guccione last year.)

But I do think that there are many different types of porn, much of which is blatantly anti-feminist. From my perspective, what I find to be the most loathsome genre of porn is the one that follows a deception narrative. A porn actress pretends to be a naive ingenue looking for a modeling gig and then is tricked into having sex with the photographer or his friend. I assume (or hope) that the deceit is only feigned. But I find the idea of being aroused by another person’s manipulation or humiliation to be fundamentally incompatible with feminism. Enthusiastic consent is sacred, or ought to be. And porn that ties the viewer’s arousal to the violation of informed consent — that strikes me as deeply problematic.

So, if the question is “can a heterosexual feminist man look at porn” without being a hypocrite, I think the answer is yes. But we need to ask what kind of porn he’s looking at. Being aroused by the naked body of someone you’ve never met, gazing with desire on another human being — that’s not inherently anti-feminist. The conditions under which those images were created matter. The story line connected to those images matters. And the way in which the use of those images affects the viewers’ relationships (specifically their views of women) matters enormously.

3) Why is pornography not inextricably linked to your version of intimacy? What version of intimacy do you ascribe to that is undermined by viewing what, could ultimately, turn out to be an empowered, feminist woman?

I like sex that is radically relational. I know there are empowered feminist women in porn. Some of them are friends of mine. But I want my arousal — and my entire sexuality — connected to my marriage to Eira. I know from my experience with porn years ago in more than one past relationship that it’s easier sometimes to get off to an image than to connect with another complex human being. So I’d use porn and have no energy for the woman I was with. I learned that sexual intimacy in a long-term monogamous relationship involves a kind of conservation of resources. If I’m getting off to an image on a page or on a screen and as a consequence have less interest in marital intimacy, we’ve got a huge problem. I’ve seen that problem and lived that problem and damn well don’t want to go back there.

I have an empowered, feminist woman with whom I’m privileged to share a home, a life, and a bed. I want all my sexual energy going into the relationship I have with her.

4) Would you also reject porn made by one of your students who claimed she was empowered by the experience and wanted your opinion? Taking into account that you wouldn’t want to diminish the importance of her personal experience by denying her the right to be viewed…

Let me be clear that I think there’s a difference between looking at and “using” porn. Like most people, I don’t find all porn arousing. I’ve had students in the porn industry, including a few well-known ones like “Julia Ann”. On a couple of occasions, I’ve looked at their work out of curiosity or directly because I was asked to.

I’m not sure I buy the idea that porn is addictive the way, say, cocaine is addictive. I can’t imagine snorting coke and not getting hooked on it (I was a cokehead for a long time). Porn doesn’t work that way in my life, and I’m not sure it works that way for others. In other words, I can usually see it without being invariably sexually aroused by it. That doesn’t mean I spend a lot of time looking at porn for “research purposes.” A lot of it is boring or unpleasant, frankly.

I am developing a course called “Navigating Pornography” for spring 2012. There’ll be more about that to come.

Changing Views About Sex Work

I’ve gotten to know a lot of sex workers in the last couple of years. I started to move away from a reflexive anti-sex work position after a powerful conversation with Audacia Ray at the 2008 Women, Action, and Media (WAM) conference in Boston. I’ve shifted my views substantially towards a “harm reduction” rather than an “abolitionist” stance. I’m excited to be forming a partnership with Sex Workers Outreach Project-Los Angeles, our partners at SlutWalk. I’ve got a project in the works with Jessie Nicole, the director of SWOPLA. More on that soon.

So while I’ve had a major ideological and political shift around sex work and pornography, I remain devoted to the particular way in which my wife and I practice monogamy in our marriage. My sexuality is “lockboxed” with Eira. In a sense, that liberates me to interact in an utterly non-sexual way with everyone else, while also challenging me to work on maintaining radical intimacy in my marriage. Do I think that every feminist, or even every straight male feminist, needs to do the same? Absolutely not.

89 thoughts on “Defending Sex Work, Celebrating Monogamy

  1. This is the kind of well-thought-out and well-articulated post that got me reading your blog in the first place. Kudos, Hugo. I don’t agree with you 100% on everything (or even 90%), but I do appreciate your thoughtfulness and candor.

  2. I’m not sure that I understand the difference between looking at and using porn.

  3. Neelam, looking at porn in this instance means to gaze at it without seeking sexual arousal, gazing with a curious or critical or analytical eye. “Using porn” means employing it as a masturbation aid.

  4. Great post dude. Though I gotta protest the soccer thing. That sport is Teeeeerrrrible. And don’t be badmouthing our national pastime. Baseball is awesome.

  5. Dobb, I’m actually sitting here wearing an Oakland A’s hat. But I find the sport interminable. I’m enjoying the Gold Cup, gearing up for the women’s world cup, and planning on a great summer of watching the Galaxy tear up the MLS. And the Premier League is only two months away from starting again.

  6. I love baseball with all my heart, but even I admit that it’s an acquired taste at best. Football has the adulation of the world; who am I to disagree?

  7. Interestingly, I don’t feel that fantasizing about other people impacts my ability to be monogamous and believe that it is pretty normal to be attracted to and/or fantasize about others without having to actually act on it. I’ve never had trouble being monogamous (let me just point out that I don’t necessarily believe monogamy is ‘natural’, though I seem to fall into it fairly easily and do believe this is probably because of social conditioning), so perhaps that’s why I don’t see fantasizing as being particularly threatening to my relationship with my partner. SO, my criticisms of pornography have little to do with how it might impact a man’s ability to remain monogamous to his partner but rather, of course, that I think it would impact their sex life in an entirely negative way as mainstream porn actively alters the way in which we view men, women, and sex. If we’re talking about the personal, of course.

    Why won’t you take a position in terms of mainstream, sexist, pornography, Hugo? I realize that there are empowered women in pornography – does this change the way in which sexist pornography impacts women? And men? How it impacts the way that our culture views and treats women? My answer is no.

    What about the way in which that sexist pornography impacts our culture at large? Or impacts women at large? Aside from your personal experience in the bedroom, I mean.

    How is it possible that this pornography is NOT incongruous with your feminism? Is your feminism all about you and your marriage? Is feminism not about ending the oppression of women? I’m sorry but I just feel like your focus on the personal rather than the ‘political’ kind if dodges the question(s). Is this what liberal feminism is all about? Making everything about the individual and ignoring the larger impact? I certainly hope not. And, if so, I want nothing to do with it.

  8. And we don’t really want anything to do with you, so I guess it all works out. Have fun!

  9. Mehgan, the first and third question you asked directly linked his personal sex life and porn and now your complaining because it’s too personal? And he very clearly stated his position on porn – “It’s not incongruous with my feminism.” How is that dodging the question?

  10. Meghan,

    I agree absolutely that sexist pornography is problematic. I said as much in the post when I wrote: I do think that there are many different types of porn, much of which is blatantly anti-feminist.. porn that ties the viewer’s arousal to the violation of informed consent — that strikes me as deeply problematic.

    So, if the question is “can a heterosexual feminist man look at porn” without being a hypocrite, I think the answer is yes. But we need to ask what kind of porn he’s looking at.

    So, porn that involves real or feigned humiliation and violence? Not okay. I’m not okay with that endorsing its use. (BDSM fetish stuff is often very different, as my feminist friends in the kink subculture often point out.)

    I want porn to be produced under the best possible conditions where those who work to produce it are well-compensated and protected. I want the users of porn to be equipped to distinguish fantasy from reality, just as we expect people who went to see Avatar to understand that the Na’vi don’t really exist. And I want the people who use porn as masturbation material to be reflective about how their porn use impacts their relationships.

    A liberal feminist view of pornography is deeply concerned with maximizing the freedom of all parties, including the right of those who work in the business to be free from violence and coercion. We do that by regulation, by working with the industry and those who distribute its products. We do that by challenging men and women alike to be thoughtful and reflective about the ways in which porn impacts their sexual lives. We don’t achieve it by banning pornography, and I don’t think we’ll achieve it by allowing for civil suits to be filed against those who produce and distribute erotic imagery featuring consenting adults.

    I feel about porn much as I feel about alcohol: I care about the conditions under which the stuff is made (are those who pick the grapes well-compensated); I care about the impact on the consumer (is he an alcoholic, or can he drink in moderation); I care about the impact on society (drink driving, etc.) Sensible regulation and education is best.

    And just as I don’t drink alcohol at all (sober since 1998) I stay away from using porn to masturbate as well.

  11. Meghan, as I read Hugo’s assessment of mainstream pornography, he acknowledged that many individual pornographic films, books, and magazines do indeed carry deeply harmful and distorting messages. Hugo actually provided two specific examples of themes that frequently carry deeply harmful messages, and I suspect than anyone familiar with the current state of the culture could come up with many more.

    I would add that mainstream pornography does not differ too much in that respect from mainstream crime fiction, mainstream fantasy, mainstream science fiction (as Norman Spinrad showed with his book The Iron Dream), and many mainstream presentations of history. So I have to ask: how do you define mainstream pornography, and how do you differentiate it from, say mainstream police procedurals that do so much to promote paranoia and resulting damaging criminal laws.

    I view mainstream pornography as simply part of a larger range of cultural products, all more or less distorting and harmful. Your comments lead me to suspect you view pornography, or at least what you characterize as mainstream pornography, as uniquely harmful. This raises two questions for me: first, what do you identify as the boundaries of mainstream pornography? Second, what specific and uniquely damaging traits would you identify, compared to other mainstream cultural products?

  12. I would add that mainstream pornography does not differ too much in that respect from mainstream crime fiction, mainstream fantasy, mainstream science fiction (as Norman Spinrad showed with his book The Iron Dream), and many mainstream presentations of history.

    This isn’t really an apt comparison. You’re mixing depictions of real people (photographs or videos) with text. No actual Dominators were harmed in the creation of The Iron Dream or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and while actors in porn movies are actually having sex, actors in mainstream movies are generally not actually being shot or jumping off buildings. If you’re talking about something like a collection of Penthouse Letters that’s a bit different, but you’re asking us to compare apples and pomegranates.

  13. Great post. I concur with just about everything you said, and have arrived at those opinions in similar ways (with the exception of porn; never much cared for it, like probably a lot of women, for obvious reasons). And I completely agree with your stance on soccer vs. baseball. Baseball is so boring, it really sort of makes me mad.

  14. Not sure how well this thought will go over, but I’ve been thinking a lot about sex (porn) movies and the actors in them compared to emotional and physical acts portrayed by actors in “mainstream” film.
    For anyone at all familiar with acting, whether stage or film, actors are routinely required to portray challenging emotions (terror, anxiety, sadness, joy) and physical acts that they are not feeling at that time in their real life. These portrayals can affect the actors deeply in real life as the emotional toll of “playing” an emotion is often no different than actually experiencing it. Whether a method actor or not, it isn’t unusual for actors to need a break between projects to ground themselves after a difficult piece.
    Given that, is there an intrinsic difference between these portrayals and the portrayals given by porn actors (I’m using the gender-neutral term) of sexual excitement, lust, orgasm, etc?
    One can say that porn actors are having actual sex and that it is different. One could respond and say actors are having actual terror or depression.
    Is the difference one of which feelings and behaviors are “okay” to show in our repressed society?
    Why is it okay to portray violent fights and imagery where actors (or stunt actors) are sometimes actually harmed, but not sex?

    One obvious difference I see, that Hugo points out, are the protections inherent in “mainstream” performance versus porn.

  15. Another obvious difference is that most of us have acted at one time or another in amateur productions (even if just in school plays as kids) and having been OK with it, while most of us have not had the experience of having actual sex for some production or other (as opposed to because we wanted to) and having been OK with it.

    At least, I think that’s the case. I know I’ve acted some role or other on at least six different occasions, and I wasn’t part of the theater crowd; if I’m unusual in how often I’ve done this, I’d think it at least has to be common to have good friends who’ve done it, and to have seen them, whatever the stresses involved, be happier for doing it.

  16. I think that there is something radically feminist about this post. The radicalism that I’m speaking of has nothing to do with the content exactly but more with how the content is explained. Contrary to what Meghan says above I feel the separating out the personal from the political is in this case a radically feminist move.

    The personal is political was first used to describe a government invasion into matters that intimately effected women’s lives and bodies. It needed to be pointed out that these personal matters are the stuff of politics. Making this statement boldly erased the allusion that politics is part of a public masculine sphere detached from a private feminine sphere. Pointing out the connection between these two spheres was a crucial starting point for feminism; but feminists also get stuck here.

    Sometimes it is easy to assume that the ethics that govern our personal lives should be the ethics that determine our politics; or that our personal lives need to mirror our politics. But this is not the way that political perspectives should be determined. Rather we need to ask what practices and beliefs can and can not be reconciled with our personal beliefs and actions. This is perhaps more complicated than it appears (esp. in the case of sexuality.)

    In the case of the man who sleeps with prostitutes and then publicly condemns prostitution we might assume that this man is secretly for prostitution and that his actions are hypocritical. If this is the case then this man’s actions and politics can not be reconciled. If, however, this man sleeps with prostitutes because he suffers from a sex addiction, or finds that he is able to fulfill a fantasy with prostitutes that can not be fulfilled else where, but at the same time objects to prostitution for some other reason it becomes more difficult to state weather this man’s actions can be reconciled with his political stance. Perhaps this man is for prostitution, but denies this position because he is ashamed of his behavior; or perhaps this man has some strong moral objections to prostitution, but desperately needs to have some of his needs met and knows no other way. Here the relationship between the personal and the political needs to be carefully sorted out.

    The sorting out of this relationship can help us to realize where we might be likely to shame and misunderstand others. It can also help us to realize our own relationship to the polity. In sorting out these things we can not only begin to understand how patriarchy destructively governs our personal lives, but we also learn how to resist patriarchy and support those who it would other wise insists that we condemn or shame. And perhaps more to the truly radical part of this post: Hugo’s observations and stance here create agency around his own sex life while at the same time resisting the patriarchal expectation to judge and shame those who choose differently.

    Being sex positive is not about what kind of sex life you have, but about believing in the potential agency of other to create their own sex life.

  17. Soccer is the only sport where 97% of all effort ends in brutal failure. It’s 90 minutes of men running around, failing and then lolling on the ground pretending to be hurt. It’s a sport with little to no strategy, no action, and no toughness. Baseball isn’t as awesome as Gridiron football, the most complex and detailed sport ever created. It’s the closest thing to war we can get without guns, but at least baseball has action going on most of the time. Unlike soccer where games end in 0-0 ALL the time baseball has hits, runs, home runs, strikeouts, walks, stolen bases, diving catches, double plays. Things actually happen, unlike soccer where kids chase a fucking ball for two hours.

    Now for porn. Pornography is fanstasy, men know it’s fantasy. That’s why most men and women in mainstream porn look so odd. The overdone makeup, the overlarge breasts, the copious genital piercings, and the terrible, terrible sex (who enjoys sex on a BBQ grill?…No one)all scream to the viewer “Hey idiot, this is faaaaaaaaaaake!” And that’s a big part of the draw for some people. They find the falsity arousing.

    That’s how men can watch porn and not go on rape frenzies. In fact, the studies have suggested (so far) that the porn explosion lowered the amount of rape. This doesn’t surprise me. Men don’t become rapey by watching rapey porn. Men decide to watch rapey porn because they themselves are rapey. In one of the great cases of unintended, but good consequences these men seem to “blow off steam” watching porn. If anything then, porn is a safety valve that channels not so great desires into anonymous masturbation, rather than not so safe consent violation.

    And can we drop this “objectification” nonsense? OF COURSE porn objectifies women, it’s a representational medium. By the simple act of recording you are objectifying the performers, turning them into flat images instead of real people. This is what erotica has done since the dawn of human-freaking-kind. People have been drawing pictures of genitalia and erogenous zones for millenia, and most of the time they were doing so to more effectively masturbate. The fact that porn zeros in on dicks, clits, boobs and butts, isn’t an indictment of the genre. Human sexuality has a built in objectification engine. It’s so pervasive that we develop all kinds of exotic fetishes around those objects, feet, tongues, nails, calves, hair, skin color, muscles…if you can think it, someone has fetishized it.

    Let’s face it folks. The act of desire is a contradictory thing. It acknowledges subjectivity and objectivity at the same time. We look across the room and we swoon because that person, that subject, values us, and yet we also swoon because that person, that object, is hot and desirable. We see this contradiction in entertainment media all the time,but in erotica it’s more bifurcated. On the subject side you have romance “novels” (A very loose term) and on the other you got pornz. Neither one is all that smart or challenging, but they both get you off in some way, and that’s their purpose.

    And on a practical note, you just can’t regulate porn. It’s impossible.

  18. I don’t like getting involved in these kind of debates, but I do love reading them. There is one point that I’d like to bring up (which has made me delurk, as it seems it might go somewhere). I’m curious as to why particulars are almost never brought up in such debates about pornography, instead ‘mainstream’ is thrown around as a catch all term that makes pornography in that category ‘bad’. What is ‘mainstream’? Is Digital Playground’s ‘Pirates II’ mainstream? Are films by John Stagliano’s Evil Angel mainstream? Is Naught America’s common teacher/student theme scenes mainstream? What about the Dutch Seventeen Studio’s youth centric films? What common aspects of particular directors’ work is problematic? Is Max Hardcore defensible? Have particular directors or studios become better or worse over time? Is bad or over acting enough to satisfy concerns with problematic fantasies, like Zero Tolerance’s ‘Who’s Your Daddy?’ series?

    I mean, when discussing pretty much any other section of media, particulars are discussed: Is Joss Whedon’s ‘Dollhouse’ a feminist work, or an anti-feminist work? Is Lady Gaga actually feminist and a positive roll model, or a pawn in manufactured music and raunch culture? Is Madison Paige from the PS3 game ‘Heavy Rain’ a positive character, or simply there as the token sexy female?

    It seems to me that pornography never gets discussed on this level. It is only ever broadly alluded to. The closest I’ve seen are some recent takes on sex-positive blogs regarding Kink.com and pre and post interviews, especially after the Nicki Blue ‘virginity’ debacle. Should it be discussed at that level? Is the fact that it isn’t important? Does it tell us something else about pornography? I don’t have any answers, but it seems to me that ‘mainstream’ is used very much like the opposite of ‘erotica’. (‘Erotica’ is classically pornography that I like, while ‘mainstream’ seems to be pornography I couldn’t like.)

  19. Porn is real. The women in it are real. Calling it a ‘fantasy’ necessitates seeing the women in it as sub- or non-human. When women who have exited the prostitution industry speak of their rapes in it, they are not speaking of ‘fantasy’. They are speaking of real sexual violence done to real women, with real feelings, with heart and soul.

  20. I think if you don’t focus on what happens to women who are filmed in porn movies, you are really missing the point entirely. The industry degrades and dehumanizes women, and women who exit this industry report being raped as part of the movie making process. We also have porn films being made where the actors are not forced to wear condoms, and thus endanger the actresses in the films. So when men are watching porn, they are seeing women being sexually used and abused. They are witnessing the degredation of women on film and getting enjoyment out of this. Men don’t care if actual rape in the film is occuring or if the actress is forced into all kinds of horrifying situations that she didn’t sign on for. But a lot of men I know can sure get mad about child labor in the manufacture of NIKE shoes. We cared about working conditions worldwide, but men who watch these films have no conscience in this way. You really can’t have a liberal personal feminism… feminism is about social change on a global level. It is about ending the exploitation and degredation of women. It is about making sure that women make the world’s decisions as much as men do, and that would be lowering the bar considerably I think.

    Feminism is not a personal decision, it is a political decision. What men do to women is about their ownership of women in little houses worldwide. It is about porn being used as rape manuals in Bosnia, it is a tool of all kinds of abuse. I personally would never associate with any man who watched porn. I ask them if they use porn, and if they say they do, they are out of my friendship or business group on the spot. It’s something I make very clear. How are women being treated at the films studios? What is happening to them on film that they did not consent to? Get a clue about this folks.

  21. Ask a key question: what would happen if women were in charge of the law, the courts, and the police force? What would happen to porn if women controlled the government? I think you’d see a radically different world.

  22. In fact, the studies have suggested (so far) that the porn explosion lowered the amount of rape.

    *eyeroll*

    No, Dobb, “the studies” have not suggested any such thing, and as somebody who is in favor of pornography with less sexism, I am really goddamn tired of seeing the tired-old ‘catharsis’ theory trotted out instead of buried with other relics of a bygone age, like leisure suits.

    Correlation is not causation. And there is, again, no evidence whatsoever that watching porn creates some kind of magical anti-rape dopamine in people’s brains.

  23. I’m exhausted so I’m not quite to my usual standards of eloquence. Sorry in advance.

    I too find it interesting that in your relationship the use of pornography isn’t compatible with monogamy. Not bad, or wrong, but interesting. Of course I’ve never had a desire for my sexuality to be “lockboxed” with my partner either. Relationships work differently.

    I’m a little aghast that Meghan would pose these questions about your sex life and then hold you in contempt for making it personal. I’m still shocked by how much personal information it seems necessary to disclose to have a conversation about sexual assault. Especially from someone who was so upset that her income was questioned, which seems to me to be equally steeped in a patriarchal and oppressive system. I know all too well how politicized one’s personal experiences can be, but I would be deeply embarrassed to ask someone about their sex life with their partner in a public forum. All of our desires are shaped in and informed by a patriarchal system. As long as no one is being harmed, and there are no children or animals involved, I don’t see it as any of my business, and would actually generally prefer not to know.

    Although I suppose since Meghan and the other “radical feminists” she aligns herself with believe pornography is inherently harmful it seems that interrogation makes sense from their side.

    Of course the porn industry is sexist and creates sexist products. The fact is that most industries are. Colleges valorize male athletes to the point where real women are being raped, but I’ve yet to hear the dismantling of the NCAA proposed as a solution. The porn industry is undergoing rapid changes, some of which are for the better and some of which probably aren’t. But making the leap from “this is why porn is harmful and problematic” to “and that’s why we must END THE PORN!” is ridiculous. Is it a feminist move to call for the end of the agricultural industry because of its continued use of slave labor? Or shut down the army for their continued use of sexual assault and horrific violence (which is a conversation I’d be much more inclined to have).

    When you start looking at the sex industry as just that, an industry, the way in which it gets approached drastically changes. There is a wide range of experiences in the sex industry (like every industry!), and more police presence, more marginalization, and more de-humanization of those who work in it make everyone involved at higher risk for violence. Since WHEN has criminalizing the buying of a product actually stopped the demand or production of it? It certainly hasn’t worked with regard to prohibition, the drug war, or prostitution. It has pushed those markets to the edges of society and made them more violent and more oppressive. I’m not comparing the use of pornography to the use of drugs or alcohol, but rather the effects of criminalizing and marginalizing industries.

    Porn is real. Real women are having real sex. Therefore we should try to make the working conditions and economic conditions safer and healthier for them. We should have options should they choose to leave the industry and not vilify them for their past when they pursue other careers. And we should fight against destructive and misogynistic images of women in every industry.

    I think Hugo has taken a stand on pornography. He’s taken a stance that he doesn’t wish to use it in his personal life. And he’s taken the stance that there are deep roots of misogyny and abuse in the industry that need to be changed and is going to work with sex workers to institute those changes. I think that’s admirable, and going to be far more effective in the long run.

    Also – baseball is awesome.

  24. Jessie, bless you, you’re full of win here:

    Colleges valorize male athletes to the point where real women are being raped, but I’ve yet to hear the dismantling of the NCAA proposed as a solution. The porn industry is undergoing rapid changes, some of which are for the better and some of which probably aren’t. But making the leap from “this is why porn is harmful and problematic” to “and that’s why we must END THE PORN!” is ridiculous.

    And yes, I’m excited about working with you and with others because I want practical but transformative solutions that meet people where they are.

  25. “Calling it a ‘fantasy’ necessitates seeing the women in it as sub- or non-human”

    No, it doesn’t. You don’t watch Out of Africa and wonder if Meryl Streep moved to Denmark to become a writer or if Robert Redford is died in a Africa. Pornography is performance in the same way. Just as other creative projects can have real effects on their stars, i.e. the Spiderman star who was injured during rehearsal – his injury is real but that doesn’t mean the performance was anything other than fantasy.

    Not for nothing, I agree with some of what SmJ said – that it feels as if there’s a disconnect in discussions of porn – not just at the level SmJ pointed out but also a disconnect in terms of art and film criticism. Porn is mostly a visual medium and it feels as if much of the analysis is done as if it is a written medium and the argot and conventions of visual media aren’t being employed.

  26. I think if you don’t focus on what happens to women who are filmed in porn movies, you are really missing the point entirely.

    I agree fully, and I think Hugo does as well, based on the content of his post. However, unless you think the filming of sex acts is inherently (regardless of working condition) inhumane, the solution would then logically be to change the working conditions than to just abolish explicit films altogether.

    It’s the same thing with meat. If you don’t like the way cows or meat handlers are treated, one way to approach it is to say no one should ever meat ever, and there’s a certain kind of validity to that approach, if only as leverage against the meat industry, but even as leverage, the end goal is ultimately to treat animals and other humans humanely, not to end the consumption of meat altogether (full disclosure: I’m a vegetarian, so I wouldn’t really care if people decided to stop eating meat).

    We also have porn films being made where the actors are not forced to wear condoms, and thus endanger the actresses in the films.

    If actors are forced not to wear condoms, it endangers all actors, not just female actors.

    But a lot of men I know can sure get mad about child labor in the manufacture of NIKE shoes.

    I don’t agree fully with this thinking, but I would imagine the rationalization would be that the children are being exploited as underage children, whereas adults in porn at least appear to have agency in their own employment. The double standard is not as egregious as you make it out to be.

    Feminism is not a personal decision, it is a political decision.

    This is a false dichotomy. Feminism is both a personal decision and a political decision.

    I personally would never associate with any man who watched porn. I ask them if they use porn, and if they say they do, they are out of my friendship or business group on the spot.

    And if they say they don’t, odds are they’re lying. They’re just telling you what you want to hear. That doesn’t solve any of the problems you’re talking about. Some men legitimately do not watch porn, but the vast majority do.

    It’s something I make very clear. How are women being treated at the films studios? What is happening to them on film that they did not consent to? Get a clue about this folks.

    The solution is treat them better. If you saw someone who constantly had dysfunctional approaches to relationships, would you tell her “You just should never have relationships with anyone ever,” or would you tell her “Maybe you should rethink the way you’re approaching relationships.”

    The fact that you keep going on and on about the working conditions or porn actually alludes quite nicely to more of a liberal than a radical feminist approach to porn. Working conditions can change. More importantly, it would be a lot easier to change working conditions or porn than to end porn altogether.

    Ask a key question: what would happen if women were in charge of the law, the courts, and the police force? What would happen to porn if women controlled the government? I think you’d see a radically different world.

    While I do agree that women being in charge would change things, there’s a dangerous tinge of gender essentialism in your question, which reeks of a conservative “Women are just gentler and more nurturing” attitude that usually acts against women politicians.

  27. Hugo, this was a great post and I love the comments here. Catie got it right in saying that what you’ve done here is in a weird way radically feminist.

    I’m interested that you started to change your views after a conversation with Dacia. (I’m a fan of hers and Red Umbrella.) That’s a theme in a lot of your writing, do you notice? You have these conversations, almost always with women, and as a result you have this major overhaul in your thinking. It’s admirable that your’e able to reflect and change your mind.

    But… but don’t you also think it’s privileged people who get access to you to change your mind? Dacia is college-educated, and from the sound of her, so is Jessie Nicole. They speak to you in a language you understand, and you connect with them easily. But the question worth asking yourself is who gets to have those conversations with you? Who do you take seriously? More pointed, who isn’t tabling at SlutWalk or at WAM whose voices you need to hear?

    Just an observation.

    And baseball is awesome. Soccer is like watching paint dry. I know you and your wife love it, but I just don’t get it.

  28. @Jessie – the reason I reiterated Pisquari’s questions about the personal was to try to force the political into the conversation. I don’t WANT personal information from Hugo. In fact, I think I am extremely frustrated that this is where the conversation has ended up, once again.

    Separating “personal from the political is” not “a radically feminist move” as Catie suggests, rather, as SheilaG points out: “Feminism is not a personal decision, it is a political decision. Pretending that your own personal habits in the bedroom have any real impact on ending global male domination is deluded.

    I did not “ask someone about their sex life with their partner in a public forum”, Hugo just volunteered that information. I tried several times to steer this conversation towards one about the political, but to no avail. Did you miss that this was EXACTLY what Pisquari was implying in her questions? That she was trying to get Hugo to make his personal arguments political? Rather than simply about his individual ethics? The last thing I want to talk about is Hugo’s personal life.

  29. “Neelam, looking at porn in this instance means to gaze at it without seeking sexual arousal, gazing with a curious or critical or analytical eye. “Using porn” means employing it as a masturbation aid.”

    So…what you are seeking determines whether porn is being used or not. I don’t think that what we seek governs our physiological response to the stimulus that we are seeing. We may start with the intention of being “critical” and end up in a very different place physiologically.

    An artist may critically or analytically look at the nude model, but that does not preclude arousal. Nor does it guarantee arousal. But nevertheless, once one chooses to engage in pornography, whether by viewing critically or for the intention of masturbation, body physiology will take over. I do not mean that one will automatically throw themselves to the ground and begin masturbating, but arousal can be very subtle. What happens if this subtle arousal begins whem one is in an analytical mode.
    So, I don’t believe the line is as clear as you have drawn it. There is some texture in the landscape, rather than a line. One can always control when they turn pornography off and walk away. And not all pornography is exciting. But you don’t know that until you look at it.

  30. But nevertheless, once one chooses to engage in pornography, whether by viewing critically or for the intention of masturbation, body physiology will take over.

    If what you’re saying is true, how then can feminists critique pornography without looking at?

  31. Meghan – your latest comment here and your post over at your site both express frustration with the conversation and where it’s gone.

    Let’s talk some story, shall we?

    When I was in high school, a feminist nun (how cool is that?) assigned our ethics class a book of essays that, IIRC, was entitled A Class Called Women or A Class Called Woman. It had been first printed in the late 70s or very early 80s. One of the stumbling blocks we had is that our English teachers were driving home the point that in English you can accurate write “Women are nurturing” or “Men are aggressive” – standard English usage means if a single woman or man doesn’t fit your description it’s an inaccurate statement. This nun made an interesting point – in most European languages, you can talk about humans as a class without meaning an individual person and the essayists in this book were trying to do the same thing, to push our language in that direction. We adopted some language for our class that helped us – we’d talk about “women as a class” or “women’s group experience” to help us keep meaning clear.

    When I read your statement “Arguing that men don’t see full human beings in pornography is not the same as saying ‘you, Individual Man, do not think women as a whole are human beings’.” I was reminded of that class and that book (I really need to see if I still have it on my shelves at home – it was an interesting read). Of course you’re going to be frustrated – you’re using English in nonstandard ways and the audience doesn’t understand your usage. I realize that radfem theory holds that we need to think about women as a class, but that usage is going to be a stumbling block in any conversation in English.

    The story then goes like this: you ask a question using the language of radical feminism, one that when you speak to your colleagues is readily understood, yet when a non radfem audience here’s the questions, they bring a different set of assumptions and understandings of how language is used and what it means. So the conversations veers off in a direction you would rather it not and you get frustrated. The audience, as well, gets frustrated because they’re saying, “Wait, you said ‘men’ do this but not all men do it so your statement is wrong, why won’t you address that?” It’s not that it’s the same conversation over and over, it’s that it’s the same misunderstanding over and over. And at the risk of being blunt and rude, frankly the radfem position is the minority one, the liminal one, the marginal one, and sometimes being the minority means learning to translate so the majority can understand you.

  32. @Alexa You’re dead right. Audacia and I are both white women with advanced degrees who identify as former workers. Those privileges grant us entrance to audiences and spaces most other sex workers are excluded from. We have been trained in using language that appeals to others with an academic background. Our community and movement is full of other voices from other backgrounds, but ours (and others like us) are consistently the ones that are privileged.

    Much like the way the media privileged pictures of scantily clad young white women to portray SlutWalk, when the experience of being there reflected a far more diverse attendance.

    Thank you for bringing that up!

  33. @Meghan

    I’m sorry. I must have misinterpreted these questions:

    “1) Why is pornography use incompatible with your sex life? What are the specific lines of impasse between your sex life and using pornography?”

    Because I thought that you were asking him explicitly about his personal life. I’ll take you at your word that you wanted him to focus on his politics, but I think the phrasing of that set of questions did not reflect your stated goal of keeping the conversation political. I think examining the relationship between your personal life and politics is important. I think it’s helpful to examine your sex life in relation to your politics as well. However, I still think it is in poor taste in general to ask someone else to do so in a public setting.

    On this: “Pretending that your own personal habits in the bedroom have any real impact on ending global male domination is deluded.” We are in complete agreement.

  34. Male college athletes who rape women are not equivalent of prostituted women. I seriously had to type that out and post it.

    Rapists are not the same rape victims.

    When the frat boys of Yale proved they could not stop reveling in their man-given right to sexually harass women they were shut down. Not educated more, not given “transformative solutions” to laugh at and ignore, not practically maximizing their freedom with regulations to curb the offensive behaviors. The hate speakers had their hate-encouraging group banned and their hate speech banished from campus for 5 years, and not a single feminist blogger was anything less than ecstatic about the ruling.

    So, who’s down with a 5 year ban on the porn industry making any new porn and after that we’ll reassess if they can stop their hate-encouraging speech acts?

  35. “If what you’re saying is true, how then can feminists critique pornography without looking at?”

    I am not saying that critiquing is not happening when someone looks at porn with an eye to critique it. I am saying that in addition to that there are a whole host of other things happening….regardless of our intentions.
    Maybe you get turned on, but you could just as likely be repulsed, confused, feel guilt, etc. The mind doesn’t exist in a vaccuum all on it’s own. Just because you decide it’s critiquing, doesn’t mean that will be the only level on which you engage.
    When we engage, we have free will. We can go further or pull back. We can be sickened or delighted.
    I’m just saying that the spectrum is wide.

  36. @Jessie – Ok, I see what you’re saying there. What I’d hoped would force the political out may have been misconstrued as wanting to further force the personal.

    @glendenb – I think you’re right. And though I try to get away from academic jargon, I often fail because it is the way in which I understand these ideas and the way in which I feel they can be communicated most accurately and clearly. I need to keep working at this because, you are right, it is difficult to speak to a mainstream audience using this kind of language. Confusion often ensues.

  37. Absolutely right Songes.

    Let’s just silence everyone who we disagree with, that’s GOT to be the solution.

    Don’t agree with us? We’ll use the power of the state to shut you up!

    And people wonder why radical feminist solutions aren’t more popular…

  38. I remain devoted to the particular way in which my wife and I practice monogamy in our marriage. My sexuality is “lockboxed” with Eira.

    This reminds me of Brazilian poet Vinicius de Moraes’ famous statement: “That love be eternal – while it lasts.”

    Let me chime in here with support for Hugo’s basic positon as I, too, happen to be a guy who supports porn and sex work but who is personally not much interested in porn and who has never paid money for sex.

    I have one VERY simple question for all the anti-porn people here: can you give me a clear-cut definition of what porn IS? Because looking over the comments above, I see a lot of heat and anger being generated over a concept that is not at all clearly defined.

    Here is what it seems many of you are saying: “What turns me on is healthy erotic. What turns YOU on is evil, demeaning porn.”

    Kinda off-topic, but Dobb sez…

    Soccer is the only sport where 97% of all effort ends in brutal failure. It’s 90 minutes of men running around, failing and then lolling on the ground pretending to be hurt. It’s a sport with little to no strategy, no action, and no toughness.

    There speaks a man who has very little understanding about football (what Americans call soccer), but nonetheless has very set views about it. Not a good indicator regarding his opimions on other topics.

  39. One other point that has come up in my recent intellectual work, which I’d like some response on…

    Most men don’t see women in pornography as humans.

    Correct. So?

    Most women and men don’t see the person behind the Taco Bell counter serving their burrito as humans. They don’t see the people in Chinese sweat shops who sew their shirts as humans. They don’t even see the “illegal” immigrants who get shot coming across the Mexica border as humans.

    Given all this, WHY should I – or any other moral human being – get particularly bent out of shape over porn or prostitution?

  40. Mythago, the number of issues that fall under the banner of pornography, mainstream or otherwise, make it more than slightly frustrating to discuss. I have always considered the treatment of performers in pornography a significant issue, and I have always said that it makes sense to address the harms done to performers in pornography (actually in any cultural industry) first. I do understand that the actual or perceived harms done to the performers in certain types of pornography make up part of the message: the message that the makers have done these things (to women), and done them with impunity. But I still insist that protecting the performers in any cultural situation from actual violation comes first. A choir singing a Bach chorale with the choir leader raping the members behind the scenes cries out for correction no less than a sex film made with trafficked performers.

    Once we deal with that, once we ensure that only willing, informed performers and models appear in any work, including pornography, then we can address what I regard as the secondary question: what the work says. And here I agree with SMJ: from what I understand from reading Jensen et. al. (never having seen a so-called “gonzo” movie and not much wanting to), so-called “mainstream” pornography actually has a huge number of different messages. And it seems to me that some of those messages, at least, do no more harm than messages in other mainstream cultural products.

  41. So, who’s down with a 5 year ban on the porn industry making any new porn and after that we’ll reassess if they can stop their hate-encouraging speech acts?

    How quickly we forget how Butler was used.

  42. I am going to echo similar (radfem) sentiments expressed here, Hugo—this, largely, reads like a dating profile.
    You’ve essentially answered the questions like this:
    “I have these preferences because of these subsequent preferences.”

    What I was *trying* to get at with these questions is where the personal begins and ends with you, where the political begins and ends? Do they hold hands? Ever? At what point(s)? Yes, personal details were expected (by me) in the answers but only to the extent they linked (or de-linked) from their political implications.

    Let’s take question 2 (which you mistyped):

    “WHY is pornography use incongruous with your feminism? What tenets of your feminism are not in line with pornography use?”

    (house cleaning: you answered this in a yes/no format which is off the mark since the question of WHY assumed your feminism and pornography were incongruous. I based this off your sentence “I also want my sexuality to be congruent with my feminism, and for me personally, that means rejecting porn.” Thus, I find your first comment “It’s not incongruous with my feminism. It’s incongruous with my personal value system about sexuality at this point in my life” contradictory with the former—splitting hairs at best)

    I asked for tenets of your feminism. Principals, Values and Ideas which you ascribe to/live by/profess that HELP WOMEN. Not just you or your wife but OTHER WOMEN.
    You did not give those.

    The closest you got to this was addressing pornography that deceives the female subject. You find this “deeply problematic” and “anti-feminist.” Me too but it’s not because it doesn’t bring me to orgasm or makes me think about someone who isn’t my partner.
    Would you take a political stand against this deceptive pornography? Would you tell other men they are participating in misogyny by consuming this porn? Does it ever go beyond Hugo? B/c that’s political: it.goes.beyond.you.

    I find this political and personal compartmentalization to run counter to any sort of productive or progressive feminism. We can sit around all day and undermine each other’s political goals by saying something doesn’t fit us all snug and tight. Big Deal. Who DOES it fit??
    Not to mention, The Individual is an ever-moving target.
    For example, here is the range one can expect to find while engaging with the Hydrahead of *The Individual*:

    “listen, I’m just lil ole me and lil ole me likes lil ole me stuff and is only representative of lil ole me”

    and in the same instance

    “OMG—I freaking MATTER. How can you possibly suggest a POLITICAL STANCE without FIRST hearing from ME? I have been SILENCED by your audacity to have a POSITION before *I* arrived!

    So someone wants to criticize the political implications of an action with their personal experience (i.e. proporn to radfems) but then say that their personal experience isn’t political?? WTF.

    If the individual (personal) can both stalemate a political action/discussion b/c they are Super Important and at the same time be nothing more than a de-politicized blip living at their Bubble Residence then how they hell is anyone supposed to reconcile all this *personal experience*! It’s changing its relevance just as quickly as it changes its story.
    ***Pick Your Level of Importance Already!***

    Because at some point I (personal) wants to DO SOMETHING that’s not just about me (political).
    And I will happily *speak for other radical feminists and women* (<the nerve of me) and say I am not alone.

  43. We had this argument in another form on the other thread. Sam and some others were proposing that the very problem with radfem argumentation is that it attempts to override the individual and personal and unique with political generalizations, but no such generalized politics of the personal is actually possible.

  44. How quickly we forget how Butler was used.

    Is Butler used by men every day in every country to perpetuate sexual abuse and profit from the organized rapes of teenagers and women? If not, then it’s not an apt comparison to a temporary moratorium on the industrialized pornography businesses.

    Do you believe it was wrong to suspend the Yale fraternity for 5 years over their freedom to speak how much they love Yale sluts and “yes means anal”, mild sentiments compared to the misogynist content of porn masturbated to daily by millions of men?

  45. Pisaquari, did you really read my answers and conclude that I was only troubled by porn because it makes me think about someone who isn’t my partner? You asked me why I didn’t use it; there’s no way to construe that as anything other than a deeply personal question. (FYI, Meghan rephrased your questions and it was her rephrasing I used.)

    I’ll say it again: much of mainstream porn is sexist, bordering on the misogynistic, featuring storylines that celebrate women’s deception and abuse. I’d challenge those men who do continue to use porn to think about the circumstances in which the porn is produced, and to confront the ways in which what turns them on may be tied to women’s degradation. That’s not a call to stop masturbating to visual images, any more than a call for reforming agricultural labor practices means you need to stop eating vegetables picked by migrant workers’ hands.

    I’m an enthusiastic advocate of harm reduction — both in terms of the harm that may be done to women in the making of porn and in terms of the harm that’s done to the lives of people who are affected by someone else’ compulsive use of porn. And some of the best allies we have in doing this work of harm reduction are those who appear in porn or do other sorts of sex work.

    I’m interested in what we can do now, not in some happy future utopia. I’m not going to let the best be the enemy of the better, which is why I want to meet people where they are. And frankly, my own use or non-use of porn is almost irrelevant to that work — but I did get asked about it, and I answered.

  46. Do you believe it was wrong to suspend the Yale fraternity for 5 years over their freedom to speak how much they love Yale sluts and “yes means anal”, mild sentiments compared to the misogynist content of porn masturbated to daily by millions of men?

    The problem from the university perspective is that this was public harassment of a women’s dorm.

    If the DKE students had just been in their little fraternity chanting it to themselves, nothing would have ever happened to them.

    Just as if my boss starts sexually harassing me at work, she can get fired or sued. If she has sexual thoughts about me at home or talks sexually inappropriately about me to her friends outside of work, there’s nothing I can do about that.

    And the truth of the matter is banning DKE from campus for five years does not in one bit change the way those DKE students think about women. They will remain misogynists. In fact, this will probably only bond them more tightly together in ritualized misogyny (“Heh, heh. Remember when we got banned from campus for chanting?” “Yeah. That was awesome. I’d totally do it again.”)

  47. Songes sez:

    Is Butler used by men every day in every country to perpetuate sexual abuse and profit from the organized rapes of teenagers and women? If not, then it’s not an apt comparison to a temporary moratorium on the industrialized pornography businesses.

    Can we have some reasonably non-partisan proof that teenagers and women are being raped in organized fashion in the U.S. porn industry, please?

    Do you believe it was wrong to suspend the Yale fraternity for 5 years over their freedom to speak how much they love Yale sluts and “yes means anal”, mild sentiments compared to the misogynist content of porn masturbated to daily by millions of men?

    Have you stopped beating your mother yet?

    This is the rhetorical argument you are using: question someone regarding whether they support a disgusting form of behavior and rhetorically link said behavior to a view they support, a view you disagree with politically.

    It is a nasty and dirty rhetorical trick, but it has an easy anecdote: simply break the statement down into parts and respond to them singularly.

    So let’s go…

    1) First of all, suspending the Yale frat has little to do with freedom of speach issues. Being a member of a fraternity or even having a fraternity is not an inalienable right: it is a priviledge granted by the university. Generally, the priviledge is given on the understanding that the fraternirty will engage in charity work and be a positive force for life on campus. I think we can safely say that consciously and gratuitously insulting at least half the student body violates that charter. No one in that case suggested that the Yale men didn’t have the right to scream all the insults they want: they just don’t have the right to do it as an organized fraternity.

    The issus is thus not one of free speach.

    2) Neither you, nor I, nor ANYONE has a decent idea of what the content of the pornography men masturbate to is. We have a pretty good idea that most porn SOLD involves a fair amount of misogynistic positioning. We also have a fair idea that the majority of porn available on the internet has nothing to do with the torture or rape of women. What we don’t know is this: what’s the porn men are actually jerking off to? Porn manufacturers would love to know that and the only response we have so far, from a social science perspective, is “Well, it’s pretty damned diverse. Men seem to be turned on by a wide variety of things.”

    3) The Dworkin/McKinnon posiiton on the “objectifying” effects of porn is not based on any solid reseacrh at all, but on the musings of a man who lived in pre-capitalist times and died at age 80, still a virgin: Kant. In late capitalism, objectifying is endemic and to complain about the morality of one particular part of it strikes me as utopian, to say the least. To put it in simple and blunt terms, most men and women allow themselves to be objectified by porn in order to avoid being objectified by upstanding young citizens such as yourself when you buy your sandwiches at Subway. Solve that second problem and you’ll solve 90% of the first. Ignore the second problem and the first will never go away: in fact, it will expand.

    4) Dworkin/McKinnon et al also perform an interesting rhetorical manuever that, once again, is not based on scientific research but seems to be based on a sort of secularized version of the protestant view that “sins of the spirit are also sins of the flesh”: they collapse fantasy into reality and presume that the things people fantasize about when they look at porn are a) the same thing that’s being depicted in the porn and b) reliably leads to attempts to reproduce said activities in real life.

  48. It feels to me as if the focus on porn is a fundamental mistake.

    Appreciative Inquiry and World Cafe and other social change processes begin with the insight that what we focus on, what we give attention, is what we energize – if we focus on problems rather than successes we energize the problems, they become dominant. Rather than focusing on how “porn” “degrades” “women” we should ask “What happens that allows some women to have positive epxeriences as sex workers? How do we recreate those conditions?” In the same way, we might ask “Such and a such a film/magazine/story portrayed its characters in a positive way – what made that possible and how do we replicate those circumstances etc. to other portrayals?”

    I first heard this quote from Germaine Greer but it was also in Norman O. Brown’s Love’s Body – the opposite of patriarchy is not matriarchy but fraternity. Brown meditated on the meaning of that – fraternity embodies radical equality, a ritualized killing of “the father”, a break from him, a deep engagement of equals in creating a society. If we ask “How can we create conditions that lead to radical equality in society?” we get very different answers than if we ask “How do we confront sexism?”

    At some level, I’m talking about looking at issues differently – at asking different questions and using language differently to generate different outcomes.

    On another topic entirely:

    I had an experience the other day that I found very funny. In my neighborhood, there are lots of shady corners and places to picnic. A family with two small boys had found themselves a comfortable spot and were enjoying the warm day. Mom and Dad were resting when the two boys (I’d guess they were both under 5) dropped their trousers and had a pissing contest – who could spray furthest! Mom cued in by their boisterous laughter sat up and was horrified to see her kids naked butts and realize what they were doing. The boys were genuinely puzzled at her reaction. I’m not coming out in support public peeing, here btw, but rather reflecting on the way in which anatomy influences behavior. When boys are toilet trained, one of the gimmicks is putting floating targets in the toilet for them to aim at – it’s a game. I’m not sure how to say this succinctly but at some level, I think men and boys don’t perceive something as dirty just because it comes out of their penises. I’m would guess it’s the same women, but when your bladder is full and you finally get to a bathroom, the sense of relief is visceral and positive.

    I find the claim that a man ejaculating onto a woman’s body or face is degrading unpersuasive. Such an argument assumes first off that semen is dirty and when it lands on a person, they are degraded; such a reading puts semen in the same category as urine and – i.e. the body ridding itself of something it does not need or have use for. Semen, however, is not such a substance; semen is in fact a substance manufactured by the body for the specific purpose of creating new life – like an egg in the ovaries, it is potentially the agent of creation, a substance which is not degrading or dehumanizing. Semen is not a waste product, it is not filth or dirt. Seeing ejaculation as inherently dirty and degrading seems to me to hide a very negative attitude toward the body and sexuality – that both are shameful and dirty. It’s an attitude that isn’t necessarily accurate or reflective of the real world. Orgasm isn’t dirty and so semen isn’t dirty; instead, ejaculation represents success and being ejaculated onto isn’t degrading. If I were deeply into myth today, I might even suggest is represents a form of sanctification, that the fluid of life elevates those who are touched by it.

    Having said all that, I’m not suggesting every woman should be into it, but I think a blanket condemnation of it as dirty and degrading is inaccurate.

  49. Bit of a thread hop, but in response to this:

    Ask a key question: what would happen if women were in charge of the law, the courts, and the police force? What would happen to porn if women controlled the government? I think you’d see a radically different world.

    It would be exactly the same except genderflipped. Lot of porn for women, a little porn for men, most of which either is for or of lesbians. All the rest would be the kinds of porn men could easily make themselves, i.e. fanfiction.

    The reason most porn is made for men is because men have had power for so long, and specifically have had power over the media and our cultural attitudes towards sex, not because women somehow have less sex drive.
    —-
    But now I’ve already started to post, a little more about porn:

    I’ve seen plenty of porn that’s not demeaning to women in any way. Don’t want to go into much detail right now, but for one, a lot of porn is just pictures of naked or semi-naked women, without anything else added. I can’t see how that’s even possibly wrong, assuming the actress did it with her full consent.

    But I admit there is a lot of crap porn out there as well, and I think the main problem with it is that the porn industry makes a lot of BDSM stuff without intending to.

    Imagine that you were outside one day and a bunch of people seemed to spontaneously reenact the last scene in Hamlet. Of course, they’re using modern English, but all the names are right:Horatio, Laertes, Claudius. So, confused, you watch for a while, and as it turns out once the goblets of poison start coming out they do indeed drink them and seem to fall down dead. And the question is, were they really drinking poison or were they just acting?

    Same question for the porn industry: in BDSM and BDSM porn, you know that when people start getting hit it’s explicitly acting, and there are tons of safeguards against anyone actually hitting anyone, by accident or otherwise. But in mainstream porn, you don’t know, if the actor slaps the actress or calls her a slut or whatever else, if it’s supposed to be light BDSM (and thus an act) or if the people making this porn think that’s how women really should be treated.

  50. Rather than focusing on how “porn” “degrades” “women” we should ask “What happens that allows some women to have positive epxeriences as sex workers? How do we recreate those conditions?”

    I really like this approach, because it focuses not on lofty abstractions but on practical things. If we take the assumption that women are indeed forced into prostitution (and not all are) because they don’t have any better options, the solution isn’t to try to forcibly get rid of prostitution (which is not practical anyway). The solution is to offer these women better options. Just as the most effective ways to get kids out of gangs is to give them productive after school programs, improve their neighborhoods, and offer them better educational opportunities instead of just a nebulous “Gangs should not exist.”

    If the main problems with porn rad fems have are in the treatment of the workers and not the representations themselves (though those can be problematic as well, depending on what the representations are), the solution would be to create sexually explicit movies with better working conditions and better representations. That way people who aren’t forced at gunpoint (as opposed to forced by economic circumstances) into porn can then choose to work in a better working environment.

    Imagine that you were outside one day and a bunch of people seemed to spontaneously reenact the last scene in Hamlet. Of course, they’re using modern English, but all the names are right:Horatio, Laertes, Claudius. So, confused, you watch for a while, and as it turns out once the goblets of poison start coming out they do indeed drink them and seem to fall down dead. And the question is, were they really drinking poison or were they just acting?

    I agree with what you’re trying to say, but this is not the best example. In a scene from Hamlet, you’ll know if they were really drinking poison or not by checking to see if they ever get up. They won’t lie down there forever if they’re just acting. In BDSM porn, people are actually getting hit and hurt physically, so it’s impossible to know whether the circumstances were consensual or not.

  51. “The Dworkin/McKinnon position on the “objectifying” effects of porn is not based on any solid research at all, but on the musings of a man who lived in pre-capitalist times and died at age 80, still a virgin: Kant”
    –lol

    Before I start rambling again I just want to say that I think the conversation between these two blogs has been really awesome; and I’m glad that for the most part people are really talking to each other.

    Now on to a rebuttal:

    In my earlier post I just wanted to point out that there is a relationship between the personal and the political that is much deserving of exploration; however this relationship does not necessitate the statement “the personal is political”. The problem with this statement is the to to-be verb which emphatically insists that there is always already a unidirectional relationship between these two things. When feminists say “the personal is political” they often mean that your actions equal your politics. In other words actions equal speech. But actions do not equal speech.

    If I am tied up, beaten, and fucked by my lover these actions might constitute a rape, but they might also constituent a consensual sex scene. The action of beating, tying and fucking do not by themselves constituent anything. Rather it is my agency (the ability to consent, and continuously consent) that determines how the actions of this scene are to be interpenetrated.

    Also, my own interest in BDSM sexuality does not make me opposed “vanilla” sexuality, even if I never participate in it. What’s important here is not my actions, but my agency; I need to have the right to choose what my sex life looks like. Making a decision about what your sex life looks like while at the same time seeing other possible acts as viable choices (even if these act are not the same things you would choose for yourself) is a feminist action.

    So perhaps the point of Hugo’s post is that he chooses one thing for himself while at the same time recognizing the agency of others to choose different things for themselves. Also notice that Hugo is concerned about porn that is coercive and eroticses women’s inability to choose.

    Now onto a different topic. I want to purpose a hypothetical political situation and see what people think:

    To me one of the major problems with the porn industry is that most of the movies are produced and directed by men. What if the government gave incentives to women who became directors and producers of pornography? is this a good idea? Why or why not?

  52. The truth is we often know very little about the working conditions of movies in general, even more mainstream Hollywood movies or independent films. Even in commentaries and interviews, actors will often say what’s diplomatic instead of what’s truthful—far more likely to say “I feel so lucky to be working with such-and-such director” than “That person was such an a-hole.”

    I was not a fan of Last Tango In Paris, but it wasn’t until a 2007 interview (more than three decades later) that Maria Schneider talked in detail about feeling raped and humiliated.

    From Maria Schneider, Actress in ‘Last Tango,’ Dies at 58:
    The famous scene, she said, was not in the script and made it into the film only at Brando’s insistence. “I felt humiliated, and to be honest I felt a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci,” she said. “After the scene, Marlon didn’t console me or apologize. Thankfully, there was just one take.”

    In theory, a sex scene in a movie can appear to be rough to viewers but actually be filmed under very respectful circumstances to the actors involved, and on the flip side a sex scene can appear to be a tender love scene to viewers but actually be filmed under very strenuous and disrespectful circumstances. Unfortunately, in Last Tango the anal rape scene was both a literal and theatrical rape.

    I can’t believe my university’s film series advertised it as “There’s even sex with butter!” as if it were some kind of fun food play, in which both characters were smiling and laughing while having sex.

  53. @Mythiago

    I said suggested(so far). Correlation doesn’t equal causation, but it can suggest it. And the catharsis argument does hold logical weight. Don’t you think sociopaths blow off thier murder steam on Grand Theft Auto? And if you don’t like that there’s always the “They’re spending more time watching porn and less time doing shady shit” argument. That’s been pretty much proven with violent crime and violent movies. We can easily transfer it to pornography.

    @thaddeus

    Disprove my points about soccer or quit yer whining. Tell me about it’s grand strategies that dwarf the complexities of all other sports. Gridiron uses a 400 page playbook, baseball uses intricate codes, and sabermetrics, and basketball has hundreds of schemes and set plays. Show how 90 minutes with nothing but a couple saves and 1 or 2 goals doesn’t equal constant failure. Show me how a sport where flopping and faking injury=toughness. To be sure it requires athleticism and endurance, but there’s very little contact and very little grave injury. The plays aren’t all that complex, and usually fail anyway. I know a lot of people love it, but that’s got everything to do with it’s low costs, simple rules, and the fact that those of average size can play (including stumps like Maradona). Other sports require not just talent and will, but a particular body type and sports infrastructure(like school programs). Soccer’s egalitarianism is it’s root of popularity, but that doesn’t make it complex, interesting or any less boring for someone not raised in it’s silly soup.

    PS. While the game pales to others. I still watch a fair amount of it, especially when I’m in Europe. In fact I still follow la Liga. Bad sports is better than no sports I say. So pretty please with sugar on top, don’t accuse me of ignorance.

  54. To me one of the major problems with the porn industry is that most of the movies are produced and directed by men. What if the government gave incentives to women who became directors and producers of pornography? is this a good idea? Why or why not?

    I definitely think there should be incentives for women to become directors and producers of sexually explicit movies. Whether that incentive should come from the government or not is debatable.

    While I do think there should be certain laws and government programs to help police and guide our society, we also as consumers have a lot of power over how things change. It’s far more effective for consumers to change companies through taking their money elsewhere than for the government to both make and enforce laws against companies, especially since so many companies donate money to politicians’ campaigns (conflict of interest at least, if not flat-out corruption).

    The problem with the “Just don’t consume porn” line is that it’s taking what has the potential to be a legitimate desire and just squashing it completely. Yes, the Foxconn manufacturing plants in China have terrible working conditions with suicides. Does that mean we should no longer have electronics at all? Everyone should just throw away their iPhones? Well, I’m sure there are some people who would espouse that course of action, but the problem isn’t really the electronics themselves so much as the working conditions of the people making the electronics. If you can make the same electronics with better working conditions, you don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater (I’ve always wanted to use that cliché).

    So, yes, the consumption of sexually explicit material produced under humane working conditions, with full consent of and proper compensation for the actors involved, and depicting a wide variety of sexual practices is a legitimate desire for the populace to have. And considering people do have this legitimate desire already, the most effective thing feminists could do is create feminist porn that appeals to both genders. There is already a small movement to create more porn that appeals primarily to women, filling a niche that has until recently been neglected. There should also, in order to be truly radical, a movement to create feminist-friendly porn that appeals to men.

    Unless you believe, as the gender essentialists and pop-evo-psychos do, that men can be turned on only by what is demeaning to women, it only makes sense that to fix the porn problem, there should be porn that appeals to men and shows them they can be turned on by sexually explicit material that is not also misogynist. That would truly be subversive. Calling for an end to porn would not be radical at all.

  55. By the way, my last post was extremely heteronormative. I do think much of this discussion is mainly relevant only to the heterosexual sphere, but I just made a lot of gay men invisible. Sorry about that!

  56. FWIW, I think gay men are pretty casual about porn – it’s not a big deal and much of the drama heterosexuals experience over porn is absent in the gay community. Provided your boyfriend isn’t starring in it unbeknownst to you, I think there’s very little conflict about porn in the gay relationships; in the same way that lots of gay couples have worked out nonmonogamous yet committed relationships and so the occassional experience of waking up in the wrong bed isn’t necessarily problematic. My point of course being that just as lots of gay folks didn’t see the big deal with Anthony Weiner’s dick pics, they tend to not really get the radfem obsession with porn.

    My point? Yeah, I don’t think gay men would feel your comment made them invisible.

  57. Let me respectfully point out that a political position needs a clear enough definition to facilitate discussion, a marginally realistic proposal for achieving the stated goal, and a coherent argument for the proposition that the proposed goal should take precedence over other possible uses for the time, effort and energy required. The proposal by “Songes” for a “moratorium” on pornography meets none of those standards: no clear idea of the critically important question of what it would mean banning, no path to achieving it, and most importantly, no argument for committing time and energy to a project that failed disastrously the last time out.

    Let me propose a two modest but, I suggest, relatively achievable harm reduction measures instead. First, ask (demand) that law enforcement agencies that work to suppress human trafficking take organized steps to follow up claims that pornographers have used trafficked women in pornography. Interview survivors. If they have performed against their will, use face-recognition software to track down the films. If authorities find cases where trafficked women appear in pornography, take criminal and civil action against them; go after their money. Second, create a standard form for consent to sexual activity. Require producers to have all prospective performers sign, in the presence of a person acceptable to the government, and not in the presence of the producers or their representatives. Require each person certified to witness consent to have anti-trafficking training, and resources to support trafficked individuals available. Exclude companies that do not keep properly executed consents on file from participating in the credit card system, which means they can’t sell on the Internet. Laws like this already exist to exclude persons under 18 from appearing in pornography; I suggest similar laws can prevent producers from forcing trafficked people to perform. If nothing else, it makes sense to try.

  58. I like the idea of prosecuting traffickers, but there is a flipside proposal to yours, too, John, which is to have a whitelist of porn that is “okay” (in the sense that feminists have vetted the working conditions of the performers) and encourage people to go there.

    It’s like, as has been mentioned before, sweatshops. If you want people to not support sweatshops, the best way to do it is not to say “Don’t support sweatshops. Stop buying clothes from companies that use sweatshops.” The best way to do it is to say “Do buy from these companies, which I will actually list, who do not use sweatshops.” Sure, if people do enough Google searching, they could probably find that stuff out, but if you actually want people to do stuff, you make it as easy for them as possible to do.

  59. OFF-TOPIC to Dobb
    Disprove my points about soccer or quit yer whining. Tell me about it’s grand strategies that dwarf the complexities of all other sports.

    Your point is that it has NO strategy and now I’m supposed to prove that it has more strategy than any other sport?

    How’s that go, Dobbs?

    Actually, any given moment on the fottball pitch is a strategic situation. It is fluid, most definitely, but like hockey, the players are attempting to put certain combinations into play and the opposing team is trying to block those combinations. Working out which combos work, sussing out what the other team is using, changing your line-up or mix on the field is all quite strategic. You don’t recognize it, I’m guessing, because you don’t see or understand it. Intricate codes? Football is full of them.

    As for “faking injury”… Interetsing that you should bring this up, as football injuries are very real and most players dread them. Just because the sport isn’t well on the way to KILLING its players – like American football – doesn’t mean that the injuries are “faked”. And yes, some do indeed get faked: forcing fouls and making the most of them is as much a part of football as it is a part of basketball, a sport you seem fond of.

    Finally, as for a sports infrastructure… you obviously haven’t been to Brazil. We’ve won the world Cup five times and have a hugeloy developed school structure. The U.S. sends relatively untrained college boys to the World’s Cup and routinely gets its head handed to it with great regularity. In WOMEN’s football, however, the U.S. has a relatively big investment in schools and training and guess what? The U.S. women’s team rules.

    [Rant over. Sorry Hugo]

  60. I find the claim that a man ejaculating onto a woman’s body or face is degrading unpersuasive. Such an argument assumes first off that semen is dirty and when it lands on a person, they are degraded

    glendenb, I think you’re overlooking the difference between “face” and “body.” I see squirting a water gun in someone’s face, or throwing a pie in someone’s face, as a form of insult. (I see the humor of “pie in the face” scenes as coming from the contrast between the insult of throwing something at someone’s face and the fact that that something is just a pie.) For that reason, though I don’t think of semen as “dirty” at all, I’ve always assumed that any actual consensual and mutually enthusiastic case of someone ejaculating on someone’s face would have been a case of at least light BDSM, while I’d never have made the same assumption about ejaculating on someone’s body. Maybe I assume wrong, and there are lots of people who do this in real life and don’t see it this way. But it’s definitely the “face” part that’s led me to make this assumption, not any “semen is icky” factor.

  61. Professor Schwyzer, I’ve recently discovered your blog through a friend, a former student of yours. I am deeply troubled by you and your work, but not for the reasons I’ve seen here so far.

    By your own admission, you led a wild and reckless life. You then had a powerful conversion moment, gave up your addictions and surrendered to Christ. You now have a happy and by all counts faithful marriage to one woman, and you have been blessed with a healthy daughter. You lead a very conservative life, and the comforts you enjoy (both material and spiritual) are bound up with your personal conservatism. Even what you write here, about wanting sex to be radically relational, is very traditional and rather beautiful.

    But even though you know the right path is the one you walk, you pretend that yours is just one valid choice among many. You’re not a hypocrite, and you’re no doubt proud of it. You don’t lead a double life. But what you’re doing is far worse and far more sinful as you know the truth and you live the truth in private while inexplicably and enthusiastically enticing others to the sins you yourself abhor.

    Pornography tells lies and seduces men and women alike. Prostitution is a profound evil that cannot be redeemed. A hypocrite would at least pay lip service to virtue even if his personal frailty meant he slipped into vice. But if you really have been graced with the strength to stay personally virtuous, your warm embrace of smut and its peddlers is bizarre and evil. You praise evil with faint damns, while reserving your harshest language for those who challenge all to live as you already do.

    No doubt you will spam this comment, but I’m hopeful that some moral crumb inside you will see this and think. You’re killing people, Professor Schwyzer, killing their souls. Think again.

  62. That last post made me think of these beautiful words of Jesus from the sermon on the mount.

    Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

    Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

    “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

    I certainly see killing of souls, but I don’t see Schwyzer doing it. Is he acting like a pharisee or something?

  63. Hugo, you’re a refreshing exception. You don’t condemn things in public only to engage in them in private, you do the opposite. I sometimes disagree with you, but everything Agnes has to criticise is what I appreciate. I’m sure you hear it all the time, but I wanted to say it anyway.

  64. Agnes, I assure you that I am convinced that there is more than one road to human happiness. It’s not as if I’ve found some great secret that I’m now determined to keep for myself. God did change my heart and my life, and one of the things that I’ve learned in relationship with God is that God leads sheep from different folds in different ways.

  65. The phrase in the topic title “defending sex work” creates the impression that Hugo thinks of sex work as a good thing. My reading of his arguments, here and elsewhere, suggests that a refusal to condemn sex workers might perhaps describe his position better. Ensuring we accord people who currently work in prostitution or pornography the greatest possible dignity comes before working for the long-term goal of building a world where exploitative prostitution and degrading pornography no longer exist.

  66. Dobb: No, actually, the catharsis theory makes no logical sense at all. Suggestion: when you find yourself throwing a bunch of arguments out and hoping one of them sticks, perhaps they aren’t very good in the first place.

  67. I should make it clear that I believe it possible to make art about sex in a way that does not degrade its subjects, and that some of what gets classed as “pornography” by some people does so. I know a lot less about prostitution, so I can’t say whether an exchange of sex for money can ever take place without exploiting one or both parties.

  68. There’s actually not a lot of experimental support for catharsis as a general effect. In particular, Albert Bandura’s experiments have pointed toward a social learning model of what encourages and discourages aggression, rather than a catharsis model.

    Also, rates of violent crime are strongly correlated with what how many people are in particular age cohorts, so it’s possible that the declining rape rates in question may be more related to aging populations than to any shifts in availability of pornography.

    I rather doubt that porn has a single uniform impact on rape, in either direction.

  69. Lynn – that’s very insightful. I want to push the idea a little though.

    A couple months back I attended the Festival of Colors at the Krishna temple. It was a wild Dionysian festival – music, dancing, the air literally filled with color. People would through the color (corn flour, dyes, natural scents) into the air, or onto other people. Then, they’d make eye contact, stick their hands into their bags of color and gently touch another person’s face. It reminded me of an anointing ritual – a sacred touch one person to another. What was an explosion of energy and laughter when it was thrown into the air or onto another person took on an entirely different significance – the act is fundamentally the same, both the intent and the experience were different.

    I’m suggesting we can’t describe an act as necessarily having a single meaning. Between different sets of partners, the act can have very different meanings and intent. We can’t describe the act itself as one thing or another. It could be an anointing or it could be something else – it could have meaning, it could have great meaning.

  70. No, A.Y., Professor Schwyzer isn’t a pharisee. He’s a moral elitist who knows the truth but deliberately obscures it from the sight of others. He’s not a fraud or a hypocrite because there is no discontinuity between his public life and his private life (or so we assume, and have no reason to doubt). He knows perfectly well that marriage and fidelity and self-restraint are the keys to both material prosperity and personal happiness in this life.

    But instead of using his not-inconsiderable gifts to advocate for the Good he himself enjoys, he encourages his many followers and friends to follow their ids, even if it leads them to misery and ruin. Professor Schwyzer is praised for his tolerance and his empathy and his decency. Everyone misses the point: he’s a happy warrior for a deathstyle.

    Schwyzer will give his Heloise the best of everything. But the best thing of all that he will give her is an intact home in which to grow up. He’ll never admit it, insisting that monogamous marriage is a “personal choice” rather than the most morally sound option. Heloise will reap the benefit, and his students and their children will miss out on what should have been his wise teaching about the benefits of marriage and continence.

    I think the most shameful thing about Professor Schwyzer is that he knows the truth, and it has set him free. Set him free to peddle lies to others. I call that evil.

  71. @Lynn: As well as more stringent legal definitions and prosecutions of rape, awareness of rape, and autonomy for women. The idea that we have more internet porn and less rape therefore porn lessens rape is so stupid that I’m kind of insulted to hear it, frankly.

  72. Actually, Mr Siu, the whole discussion has come across as rather heteronormative. Thanks for the mention, though. The thought does count.

    I’m feeling a little snarky about Mr Glenden’s response, though, particularly the closing sentence. “My point of course being that just as lots of gay folks didn’t see the big deal with Anthony Weiner’s dick pics, they tend to not really get the radfem obsession with porn.”

    Now, had that been phrased to reflect that single-gendered pornography lacks or might lack some of the problematic dynamics of multi-gendered pornography, that would have come across as a bit more neutral. Personally, I see the big deal and get the reactions of all kinds of people to pornography. Okay, some/many don’t, but I’m not going to be any more harsh on them than I am on anti-porn feminists who don’t think it’s worth making exceptions in their statements for pornography that doesn’t include women.

  73. I should make it clear that I believe it possible to make art about sex in a way that does not degrade its subjects, and that some of what gets classed as “pornography” by some people does so.

    I think several independent/art house/foreign films I’ve seen would fit in that category. Off the top of my head, Shortbus, In the Realm of the Senses, and Intimacy.

    Actually, Mr Siu, the whole discussion has come across as rather heteronormative. Thanks for the mention, though. The thought does count.

    Yeah, that’s why I apologized. I do think that a discussion can be solely about heterosexuals while still acknowledging that gay people exist. That doesn’t seem to be the case here.

  74. This remark isn’t directly related to the above conversation, but I need to vent.

    First I should say that since I discovered Meghan’s blog, I have been fascinated, and very interested, even though I’m no feminist. But now I’ve looked at some other blogs of “radfems” like “factcheckme” and I’m feeling quite sickened by some of the hostility, malice, agression and bizarre views. Some of the attitudes of these women are so cruel and self-righteous that its hard to imagine that their enemies could be worse. In fact, I’m also realising that I AM their enemy, because I like “Penis in Vagina” sex (what a bizarre expression, and a strange perspective on nature!) I just hope that they don’t have male children, because that would be tragic for the kids.

    So I feel a bit shaken that such people exist. It will take me a while to process it, but it shouldn’t be too hard to avoid encountering them again – it was quite difficult to discover them in the first place. Maybe I’ll find some sympathy, because bad things must have happened to them (by men). But it is extroadinary to split humankind into two such fundamentally seperate categories “us” and “them”. And presumably they’d think they’re the nice ones?!

  75. Now, had that been phrased to reflect that single-gendered pornography lacks or might lack some of the problematic dynamics of multi-gendered pornography, that would have come across as a bit more neutral.

    Exactly, Douglas. I agree with A.Y. that it’s certainly possible to talk about heterosexual pornography in a way that doesn’t pretend gays don’t exist – but that’s very different from pretending that gay porn and straight porn are exactly the same thing in every way except for a slightly higher number of dicks.

  76. Agnes:

    Hum. I was raised in a two parent rather conservative home with religion as part of life. Material wealth and comfort? Nope, we did not have that, despite the God and the Solid Nuclear Family Values and such. I’ve rather turned out to be one of those epitome of embracing the Freudian ID sorts- yet its not exactly led me to ruin. And while rather grim and often hostile, I am not so sure I am any more unhappy than great numbers of people who often have trials and hardships in their lives- also married, and well, involved in the sex biz.

    But you know what does make life harder for people like me sometimes? Folk painting us as evil, regardless of what we do, or what we do for others, or if we believe in God or not (which I do, actually). It’s as if a whole lot of people who dang well know phrases like do unto others and judge not lest ye be judged and all that Godly and Goodly stuff throw it all out the window when someone or something does not meet up with or measure up to their personal views and beliefs. Am I more evil than you or what have you because of who I am or what I do? Maybe, maybe not. But oddly enough, despite my numerous faults and sins or what have you, I do not make a habit of judging others for doing what brings happiness and stability and goodness into their lives- even if it is not how I would do it, or anything of that nature. I find it oddly ironic. There are plenty of people out there who would be happy for you if God and your beliefs make you a happy or stronger or better person- yet it seems you would instantly paint them as wrong or bad or evil because they do not see things the same as you- and that does not seem so good or Christian to me, really.

    Then again, I am a Jew, which hey, could paint me as the wrong sort right off the bat even though, hey, Jews have been around for a looong time and have had plenty of experience with God and persecution and all sorts of human suffering brought on by their ways of worship and such.

    I am not so sure it is a Godly or Goodly thing to be judging others like Hugo when, well, according to the bible, judging others is not within your worldly and human purview.

  77. also @ Agnes: where is your evidence that “marriage and fidelity and self-restraint are the keys to both material prosperity and personal happiness”? what are the benefits of marriage and continence, in your opinion?

  78. For a very centrist view of the importance of marriage and why we undermine it our peril, see this week’s Economist.

    http://www.economist.com/node/18867552

    Note this quotation:

    The iconic American family, with mom, dad and kids under one roof, is fading. In every state the numbers of unmarried couples, childless households and single-person households are growing faster than those comprised of married people with children, finds the 2010 census. The latter accounted for 43% of households in 1950; they now account for just 20%. And the trend has a potent class dimension. Traditional marriage has evolved from a near-universal rite to a luxury for the educated and affluent.

    It’s not just that rich people marry, it’s that people become richer as a result of being married. Professor Schwyzer knows this full well, and as an affluent married man, he ought to be encouraging others to follow the example he has managed to set on his fourth foray into this indispensable institution.

  79. HA! tell that to my husband. we got married, we had kids, then he lost his job and we were evicted (with a toddler and a 2-month-old). tell me again about how affluent Mr. and Mrs. Antiprincess are?

  80. [quote] It’s not just that rich people marry, it’s that people become richer as a result of being married. Professor Schwyzer knows this full well, and as an affluent married man, he ought to be encouraging others to follow the example he has managed to set on his fourth foray into this indispensable institution.

    um how about everybody just gets the same rights (i.e. no tax incentives for married people) and marriage is a spiritual commitment that individuals can choose to make.

    P.S. people that deny other people rights are evil.

  81. I’m also not at all sure that “traditional marriage” is so traditional amongst the, er, non-educated and non-affluent in the first place. I’ll have to dig out my copy of Stephanie Coontz’s The Way We Never Were to check on that.

  82. There’s a great Simpson’s episode from very early on. Marge goes on a campaign against Itchy and Scratchy and wins. Near the end of the episode, she’s approached by the women of Springfield to help them protest a showing of Michaelangelo’s David. She refuses and says she wants to see it. The women call her “soft on porn” and stage a protest against the statue.

    Yeah, I’m not porn expert guy but the idea that straight and gay porn are somehow different strikes me as a logical fallacy; in the same way that trying to discern a meaningful distinction between erotica and pornography is also an error – not the least of which is that we’re talking about an art from which has existed since we clever monkeys started making images. One person’s erotic is another’s irredeemable filth.

    The term itself is often abused. Andrea Dworkin – often cited unfortunately – said it was graphic depictions of prostitutes. She was playing games with language, using our modern understanding of graphic depictions to mislead her readers. Graphic, in this sense from the Greek, referred to writing as “graphic analysis”. Yet, even that falls short since the ancient Greek art is filled to overflowing with sexual imagery. We can’t forget, as for example, Ancient Minoans with their bare breasted statues of goddesses or priestesses, the ancient Romans with their fleshy public spaces, the public baths, the massive “red light” districts in their cities that sold every kind of sex imaginable to every kind of customer imaginable and then drew pictures of it on their walls. Modern pornography stands in line with thousands of years of erotic images. Visit some of the Hindu temples and you’ll see carvings of the gods engaged in almost every kind of sex. It’s holy art in some places.

    Western civilization is fleshy, earthy, bawdy because humans are fleshy, earthy bawdy creatures. In English, we have Chaucer and his racy tales, Shakespeare’s frank, and rather earthy depictions of sexuality, Spenser and his iconic poetry, his women in bowers and all sorts of complex sexual imagery in literature, painting, sculpture. Renaissance sculpture and paintings and frescoes are loaded with all kinds of depictions erotic and not of the human form. Victorian erotic arts were vast, varied, fascinating and category denying.

    The idea that a literature professor or sociologist can watch some movies and look at some pictures and come up with an accurate or adequate reading of what porn is and isn’t, what it portrays and doesn’t is risible. The argument that “straight porn” is all sorts of problematic because of the patriarchy and gay porn isn’t is a grand special pleading which to my mind should disqualify it as a valid argument. Porn, is porn is porn, is erotica is erotica.

    The history of the term bowdlerization is one of my favorites. There was a Mr. Bowdler who worried Shakespeare was a bad influence so he produced and expurgated version of Shakespeare. Then he turned his sights on other authors. He couldn’t bring himself to just outright censor things, so he took out all the offensive parts. Our Modern Mr. and Ms. Bowdler’s mean well, but for me? I’ll decide what offends me and I’ll not read it, watch it, listen to it or buy it.

  83. Agnes,

    Actually, Mr. Schwyzer’s three (3) divorces show that he doesn’t have the slightest bit of respect for the instution of marriage. Jesus made it fairly clear that marriage is indissoluble and that remarriage is adultery. I’m all about making dispensations from the law in the name of charity, but it would be nice if those for whom the dispensations were made would show some gratitude, instead of trying to justify abortion, pornography, prostitution, liberal feminism, and all sorts of other assaults on the moral order.

    In short, you’re totally right, and Mr. Schwyzer is beneath the contempt of all decent and civilized people.

  84. Hector- who died and made you the authority on decent and civilized? You mostly sound like a self righeous prick.

  85. Pingback: Men, Feminism, Race, Movements and the Cult of Hugo Schwyzer: The F Word Interview with Ernesto Aguilar | Feminist Current

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