Friday, September 15, 2006


Porn, Feminism, Censorship.........

Last night I attended the end of a meeting hosted by the Alliance for Workers Liberty on the issues surrounding porn and censorship, in the wake of the government's proposed ban on 'extreme violent pornography'. Some interesting points were raised, including the vagueness of the law. What exactly would constitute the materials in question, and how would one know if they were breaking the law? Could a couple be arrested for engaging in kinky sex and videoing it purely for their own consumption? Some anti censorship feminists raised the view that the ban is not really about sex but more of an excuse to give the State more power over individuals. Sentiments which I pretty much agree with.

One of the most interesting speakers was a gay man who confessed to enjoying S&M. He questioned the common discourse of women as victims, and pointed to the pornography involving dominant females and submissive men. He also pointed to the fact that sex workers more commonly have clients who wish to be dominated rather than the reverse. It is relatively rare in comparison for a man to pay a woman to be submissive. Some of the most succesful sex workers are dominatrixes.

Freud viewed male sexual masochism to be a 'feminine' perversion (using his own language) in which the male takes the submissive position usually associated with the female. Interestingly enough some anti porn feminists have echoed this thinking. Perhaps this is true for some. But what occurs in the human psyche tends to be far more complex than to be reduced to one formula for all.

The same man told of his experience in meeting people who had been in abusive relationships who turned out in fact to be sexual submissives or masochists, they just were not aware of it at the time. His recommendation was that they discover that sexual masochism does not have to entail putting up with abuse, and find a supportive community where they could act out their desires in a consensual way. It was a very interesting observation to make, and an insight I believe to be true in many cases. I have long speculated on the sado masochistic nature of many abusive relationships, and questioned the simplistic approach taken by many feminists towards domestic violence when it comes to women. Camille Paglia mentions the sexually charged nature of many such relationships. This would also go a way to explain why many victims return to their abusers.

This is what makes radical feminist analysis such a sham. Some adherents of this school of thought were forced to recognise lesbian S&M as being a valid expression of female sexuality. But hetero S&M? May as well forget it, as not only would you be backing up norms of sexual inequality and patriarchal relations, you'd also be consenting to abuse. The unequal relations between men and women prevent this from being valid. Besides, we have often been told, masochistic fantasies on the part of straight women do not even come from us, rather they are 'induced' on the part of the patriarchy and thus not a valid form of female sexuality. How patronising and sexist to assume that women are mere receptacles, internalising male ideas and thus having no independent sexuality of their own. And who dares give themselves the arrogant right to define what can and what cannot be legitimate forms of female sexuality?

Both the State and the rad fems would do well with keeping out of people's bedrooms. The rad fems are all the more insidious as they claim to wish to liberate women - but in reality all they are doing is making a new code of conduct that is as constraining as any patriarchal ideology ever was. Female sexual masochism is still a rather taboo subject, and I do suspect this is partly the reason why some women find themselves in abusive relationships where they have little control over what happens to them. The same can be said for male submissives, to an extent. But they seem to have more outlets. Female sexuality is still a bit of a dark area, and some men would probably be embarrassed were a woman to ask him to take on the dominant role. Likewise women may be afraid or embarrassed to ask.

To get back to the starting point - pornography is not inherently oppressive of women. Some women as well as men enjoy it, a factor that is neglected in much discussion of the issue. Why shouldn't visual imagery be a legitimate expression of male (or female) sexuality? It predates capitalism by a long stretch, hence the left rhetoric of 'the commodification/objectification of women by capitalism' is empty phrasemongering most of the time. Katie Price (aka glamour model Jordan) is not groaning under the weight of her oppression/objectification. She is quite happy and doing quite well from it, thanks. The idea that she is any kind of a victim does not stand well with her own thoughts on her career. Capitalism may well market on female beauty and sexuality, but does it not do that with everything? Why should sex be singled out as being inherently different or worse? Most critiques are really a veiled form of Victorian prudity - 'obscene' images offending their taste. In which case they shouldn't look at them, quite simple really. There may be an argument for not having porn on brazen public display lest it offends some people, but let's not pretend there is anything radical about this. There is nothing inherently different about 'left' or 'right' critiques of sexual imagery, the rhetoric is simply emphasised differently. Also the right have, in recent periods, seized upon the liberal rhetoric about the exploitation of women.

Sexual objectification is something human beings all do to each other to some extent. When we see a person we find sexually attractive we initially see them as a sex object, only later do we find out more and see the other sides to them. Women do it to men too - Hollywood actors spring to mind. Yet I don't see men groaning under the weight of their oppression by the evil female gaze.

Sex positive feminism does exist - yet it is given nowhere near the media coverage or has the prominence of the dour neo puritans with their Victorian morals disguised in 'radical' sounding rhetoric. Sadly much of this rhetoric is seized upon and echoed by the political left as well - probably due to male liberal guilt and political correctness. Most notorious for this are the now broken 'Scottish Socialist Party' with their puritanical feminists and neo Calvinist morality.

It is long overdue that the left awake from this. Perhaps in opening these matters for discussion the Workers Liberty group may just be heading in the right direction, although a few male (and female) voices of conservative feminism did spring from the floor.

The issue of the exploitation of women in the sex industry should not be treated differently from the exploitation of workers in any other industry. Sex work should not be singled out for special treatment that thus stigmatises. It is disingenuous to demonise an entire industry and by implication the people who freely choose to work in it by stripping away their free will and making all of them victims. If anybody is forced or coerced the issue is one of sexual abuse, filming it being secondary to the act itself. Otherwise, workers in the sex industry should have union rights and protection given to other workers, as well as respect. Perhaps porn should come with a fair trade stamp, hence that will assuage any worries about the ethical nature of the product.

7 comments:

Jim Jay said...

I should say that the SSP is neither broken (as it is recruiting members and at 6% in the polls) nor is it puritanical.

Seeing as their youth wing has just launched a high profile "fuck abstinance" campaign to the great delight of leading women members I think you're basing your ideas on prejudices you have about a couple of women you've met on the net, and are certainly out of date.

What have they done recently that fits with this characature of "neo Calvinist morality"?

Liz said...

It is not a caricature but an honest political depiction in my view. I have no 'prejudices' about women I have met on the net - they told me what their views are.

It is their line on prostitution and pornography, which I think should be clear from the context of my post. I was also told once by one of them (seriously) that women who dye their hair suffer from 'false consciousness' as they serve the agenda of the cosmetics industry. Such bilge is really beyond satire.


Whatever Sheridan's faults may be he is not a 'sexual abuser' as members of that clique depicted him. He was accused of other things far worse according to his open letter- to be accused of supporting sexual slavery is no joke. Rosie Kane was reported in NOTW as saying a club like swingers ' is against all her political beliefs' - why should that be? If it's not to her taste, fine, I don't think it would be my kind of thing either. But it's got nothing to do with politics, what people do consensually is none of my (or her) business. Yet they are obviously fond of making it their business. Another thing - why was Sheridan ever asked to resign anyway? Surely it should have remained between him and his wife.

So that is what they have done recently to fit my depiction, Jim.
As for 6% at the polls, not exactly a triumph for socialism, is it? Talk to me about 20% and you might have a point.

Liz said...

"Solidarity and the SSP both mentioned many campaigns through the day although I have to say the best campaign was an SSP one, initiated by the youth in response to the right's pressure on sex education by giving out "fuck abstinence" packs at schools - including guides to getting abortions, a free condom and other items guaranteed to give every Daily Mail reader a heart attack."

So they are complete hypocrites then. Right - fully grown women are unable to consent to certain types of sex they don't approve. Yet in this scheme children!!! miraculously can consent to abortion. What childish and irresponsible nonsense. I'm not a parent but if I was I'd be most pissed off if a teenage daughter of mine had post abortion syndrome after picking up one of their kits. Are these people there for these girls if they are later traumatised by the decision? No, they don't give a damn, as it's always a free choice.

That is why those people are nobody to lecture anyone on morality, sexual or otherwise. And no, I don't read the Daily Mail.
The more I learn about that clique the more I despise them.

Paddy Garcia said...

Check this place out next time youre in town:
http://www.whatsyours.com/host/php/index.php?whsmodule=welcome
The wickedest cafe in London!

Anonymous said...

Just checked it out. Funny most of the gallery images were of women (and stereotypically thin women), or should I say predictable....

saltyC said...

What is your point re: feminists and DV? Don't forget that many feminist activists against DV were battered women themselves. If masochism is a component of DV, shouldn't it therefore be overcome, rather than trying to find a "safe" outlet?

Also, the assertion that female submissives in sex work is rare is flat-out false. From my experience, men actually pay more to dominate than to be "dominated".
Furthermore, the john is always in control, calling the shots, including directing the dominatrix to act out the misogynist fantasy of a domineering bitch.

Liz said...

Re: Feminists and domestic violence - I often find their analysis a tad too simplistic. Whether or not they have been abused themselves is besides the point, if anything it may make their analysis more subjective and thus less helpful.

Why should masochism be 'overcome'? If it is a part of that person and their sexuality who are you to say it is wrong? Why shouldn't it find a safe outlet?

Your experience of men paying more to dominate is not everyones. It hasn't been that of many other sex workers. Your assertion that the 'john' is always in control is a piece of dogma, not a statement of fact. The relations are more complex than this in reality, with the clients in fact sometimes feeling they are being controlled and the sex worker feeling a sense of power in having succesfully sold an illusion. As for the dominatrix acting out a fantasy that is 'misogynist' - that is another piece of doctrine, not indisputed fact. I for one don't think it is 'misogynist' any more than my own fantasies of domineering men are 'misandrist'. Way too simple, and in my view at least, plainly false.