Quote of the Day: Jane Caputi

It is no coincidence that both Playboy and Disneyland, magic kingdoms of phallic fantasy and consumption, came into being within a few years of each other in the 1950s. For while seemingly opposite, they are actually twins. Each is devoted to promoting the fantasies of the ruling class; each depends on the other for existence. Just as the social construction of the “good girl” depends on the social construction of the “bad girl,” so does pornography utterly depend on its alleged opposite: family values, patriarchal morality. That is, it depends on religiously legitimated disgust and hatred for the body and sexuality, particularly female sexuality, which is identified with dirt, filth, “whoredom,” evil, and monstrosity. For it is only when, consciously or not, we buy into this patriarchal religious ideology that sex and sexual depiction become “dirty” and taboo but, at the same time, deeply desired. Only under such a religious ideology can pornography be conceptualized and taboo breaking itself sexualized – a structure absolutely necessary to the maintenance of patriarchal power.


I fully understand and applaud the female desire to be “bad,” that is, to be transgressive in a culture that constructs active female sexuality as either sinful or criminal. Yet, to do this in a truly subversive way would be to claim, articulate, and express sexualities with allegiances to no patriarchal values – puritanical or pornographic – and to foreground what John Stoltenberg speaks of as “sexual justice” […]. Sexual justice requires equality, not the power relations masked behind what male-supremacist, privileged individualist, and hierarchical culture has promoted as “sexual freedom” (the freedom to have power, the freedom to objectify, the freedom to consume, and the freedom to possess socially devalued and oppressed others).

Jane Caputi
Review: Pornography

Reviewed work(s): Dirty Looks: Women, Pornography, Power by Pamela Church Gibson; Roma Gibson
The Invention of Pornography: Obscenity and the Origins of Modernity, 1500-1800 by Lynne Hunt
Making Violence Sexy: Feminist Views on Pornography by Diana E. H. Russell
Only Words by Catharine A. MacKinnon

NWSA Journal, Vol. 6, No. 2 (Summer, 1994), pp. 315-323

2 responses

  1. Now I know patriarchy and male-defined misogynistic notions of female sexuality is always contrary, but why oh why would men want to engage in sexual activity with women, given that women’s bodies and sexuality is supposedly ‘dirty, evil etc. etc. Logically, if a penis comes into contact with a female body does not the penis become ‘dirty’ and contaminated. Denise Thomson has this to say about male sexuality. ‘If it is being used by penis which brings women into disrepute, then the negative values of degradation, debasement and corruption belong with the penis. If it is the penis which disgraces women, then it is the penis which is the original disgrace. Thus does male supremacy expose itself for those with the will to see. The disrepute which is culturally located with ‘whores,’ loose women etc. is actually a moral lack in men projected in a strict psychoanalytic sense on to women.

    My interpretation is it is the penis which is ‘dirty, disgusting and whorish’ not women’s bodies and most certainly not female sexuality.

    Yes, to be truly subversive means to disregard and totally abandon patriarchal myths concerning construction and enforcement of female/male sexuality. It means abandoning notion of male dominance/female submission and instead promotes sexual justice and real sexual equality and mutual respect.

    The sexual liberation has not yet occurred neither has the sexual revolution but the sexual libertarian/male supremacist ideology now comprises both private and public male ownership of women and their sexualities.

    This is why male sexual violence against women and children is not ‘male sexual violence’ but simply normal male supremacist pseudo entitlement!

  2. […] the ‘good girl’ and the ‘bad girl’ are two sides of the same patriarchal coin, so the pro-prostitution ‘sex positive’ and the […]

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