Friday, December 09, 2005

A feminist blogger gets her wings

The latest debate about pornography on Alas so neatly coincides with my own analysis of the topic that I decided to finally become a real feminist blogger and get involved in a debate about pornography.

Amp's post was in response to a Znet article called Pornography is a Left Issue. I like their approach - my usual line on pornography is "the problem with pornography isn't that it's seuxally explicit it's that it's fucking sexist." And I certainly agree with this

As leftists, we reject the sexism and racism that saturates contemporary mass-marketed pornography. As leftists, we reject the capitalist commodification of one of the most basic aspects of our humanity. As leftists, we reject corporate domination of media and culture. Anti-pornography feminists are not asking the left to accept a new way of looking at the world but instead are arguing for consistency in analysis and application of principles.
Amp's main critique of the article is this
Where Dines and Jensen fall down, in my opinion, is in not providing a working definition of what pornography means. The truth is, porn - like "partial birth abortion" - is one of those terms that is used so loosely, it has become impossible to be sure what any particular author means unless they explicitly define their terms.
I I think the article has a more fundamental problem. The authors ask: "Let's analyze pornography not as sex, but as media. Where would that lead?" But they don't answer that question. They refer to the sex, they don't analyse it.

I think this analysis is desperately needed, and instead the word 'pornography' is substituted. I think that you generally have more through feminist analysis of any episode of TV written by Joss Whedon than of most sexually explicit materially. In a way this makes sense, more feminists watch Buffy than would want to spend any time around mainstream pornography. I can't even handle FHM Magazine, one of my friend's flatmates left one lying around and I found the attitude towards women so repugnant that I wanted to hide it.

Sometimes I'd like to burn every bit of sexist media: Playboy, Debbie Does Dallas, Deep Throat, FHM, Cleo, Mills & Boon, Dolly, Girlfriend, Girls Gone Wild, Dawson's Creek, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Then I'd like to weigh down David E Kelley and throw him off a bridge.

In their different ways, I have a problem with the portrayal of sex in every single one of those media listed, but I don't think it's the sex that's the problem. It's the attitude towards women. I think asking the government to regulate the content sexually explicit material, like asking the government to regulate television, is likely to be useless - mostly because I know the government is never going to be on my side.

I would like to regulate pornography on the basis of the conditions it was produced. I think Linda Lovelace should be able to block the production and distribution of Deep Throat. I would fully support that part of the McKinnon-Dworkin ordinance that allowed women to sue producers of pornography on the grounds that its production was rape (and set a very low standard for them to be successful).

But in the end I have very little use for the term pornography, it's too much like political correctness - no-one can define it by the know it when they see it. And while I do believe in analysing sexually explicit material as media and not as sex I don't want to do it, because that would mean I'd have to look at the stuff.


  1. Anonymous11:27 am

    Dines & Jensen have done the dirty work of looking at the stuff and analyzing it, and they wrote a book about it called Pornography: the Production and Consumption of Inequality. I'm not sure what kind of in-depth analysis you expected from one article, but insinuating the article's authors have provided an inadequate analysis or unwieldy definition of pornography only goes to proves their point that antipornography criticism really is marginalized to the point of non-existence by leftists. The vilification of Andrea Dworkin by liberals is not an anomaly.

  2. It seems the sort of society that would prevent a woman from willingly posing naked or semi naked for a willing photographer in order to publish a magazine that will be viewed by and only by willing readers is a society that is very much the opposite of most modern leftist thinking and is clearly adding an additional thing to it's list of stuff women are not allowed to do (but potentially men are).

    I admit I can see some value in it - but it comes a little down the list from things like preventing youth from gathering in potentially threatening groups in public places (or having low barriers to allowing members to sue other members for peer pressure).

  3. sweetpea in the section on media in that article they spend more space analysing cop-dramas than they do analysing sexually explicit material. I wasn't aware that they'd written a book, and I'd like to read it. But their article should stand alone.

    In the article they don't provide an unwieldy definition of pornography - they don't define pornography. To say so isn't marginilising them, it's engaging.

    Genius nowhere in my piece did I suggest banning pornography, the article didn't either. It's a problem that critiquing pornography is seen as synonomous with calling for it to be banned. That was the problem that the article was drawing people's attention to.

    Although any actual left-wing response (rather than liberal-left response) would analyse the context in which those choices were