I know, complaining about dumb MRAs being dumb is like complaining that rain is wet. But since an MRA has gone to the trouble of ‘critiquing’ our What’s Wrong with Pornography page, and since we’ve had a handful of hits through, and I’ve got a half-hour to kill, I thought I might as well make the most of this ‘teachable moment’.
The original post is here. You don’t need to click through to it (and give the guy extra page hits), I’m quoting him in full here (including, in bold, the original WWwP material he quotes).
WARNING: some of the language used here, and some of the links, may be disturbing or triggering.
Pornography harms women. Pornography is not fantasy. Pornography happens in the real world, to real women; everything you see in pornography happened somewhere to a real woman.
Yes, Pornography is real—to an extent. Pornography is an entertainment industry. So while some of these things in porn do happen, such as the actual physical sexual contact, it doesn’t mean that everything else such as incidents surrounding it happened. Nor in fact, does it mean that these women are being forced into this. They choose to do this. Just because a woman is low on income and sees this as a last resort does not mean that they were forced by into it. There are other options that the woman has, but for some reason she chose that industry to make her life.
The fact that the “actual physical sexual contact” is real is the point! Whether or not Chad and Randy really are qualified plumbers, or whether that really is the woman’s home and not a porn set, is really not that important.
When porn is dismissed as ‘just fantasy’, it is dismissing the importance of the real lived experience of the women used to make it, it is saying they are not real people and they don’t feel real pain. Every sexual image you see in pornography has to happen, for real, to a real woman, whether it’s a woman being subjected to a triple anal, or being penetrated by ten men in a row then thrown in a dumpster in an alley, or being penetrated while having her head flushed down the toilet. Even if the only women in the world to be subjected to these things were the women filmed to make porn, it would still matter, because those women matter.
The “incidents surrounding it”, if we are talking about the ‘features’ porn (which has some kind of a plot) made by the big LA production companies, will be contrived, and this is not at all important. There are also big LA production companies making gonzo porn, which is just recorded scenes with no plot and talking to the camera, which claims and appears to all be real, not contrived or scripted.
There is also a huge amount of ‘amateur’ porn, this may be ‘professional’ porn made to look amateur, or it may simply be a recording, made with or with out all the participant’s consent/knowledge, of sex acts, that themselves may or may not be consensual.
“They choose to be there.”
Ah, that old canard! Let us assume that he is only talking about porn produced by the big LA production companies, that he has not considered the fact that any man with a camera and internet access can become a pornographer, and that any filmed rape becomes pornography.
Let’s assume he is unaware that the women trafficked into prostitution around the world are also used to make pornography, or that US pornographers are now travelling to the developing world to make their ‘rape camp’ pornography, where they can take advantage of the desperate poverty, the lack of interest paid by the authorities, and Western males’ demands for pornography that satisfies the intersection of their racism and their woman-hating. (See: Hughes, Donna M. (2000). ‘”Welcome to the Rape Camp”. Sexual Exploitation and the Internet in Cambodia’. Journal of Sexual Aggression, 6, double issue: 29-51.)
Just looking at the big LA production companies doesn’t paint an encouraging picture. Women may ‘chose’ to enter the porn industry (assuming you have no problem with the coercion of poverty itself), but once there, she may find she lacks real choice about what happens to her, and lacks choice about leaving.
We have the experience of Lara Roxx, who contracted HIV on a porn set:
Roxx’s interview with AVN itself shows the fluidity of “consent” in these matters. “I told [my manager] I wasn’t interested in anal at all, and I was a little freaky about the no-condom thing too,” she said. On arriving at the film shoot, she was pressured into performing the “double anal” scene by the director, Marc Anthony. She says: “So I get there and Marc Anthony tells me it’s a DA, which stands for double anal. And I’m like, ‘What? I’ve never done a double anal’. And he was like, ‘Well, that’s what we need. It’s either that or nothing’. And that’s how they do it… I think that sucks, because he knew double anal was dangerous.” Later, she says, she was in pain and could not sit down.
All the women in the industry have ‘managers’ (who act more like pimps) who have an interest in having them do more and more extreme acts because they get a cut of the money. They work in collusion with the pornographers to manipulate and coerce the women to do more and more extreme sex acts.
This was the case with Felicity in the documentary Hardcore. She started out saying she wouldn’t do anal, or work without a condom. Her manager/pimp took her to see a porn shoot where ten men where having sex with one woman, and he was filmed by the documentary makers constantly trying to bully and manipulate and wear her down. Eventually he took her to see Max Hardcore:
When Max Hardcore finally arrived, he took Felicity into his office for what she, and I, thought would simply be an interview. But it wasn’t. Within seconds of their meeting, he pushed her over his desk, unzipped his flies, and began having sex with her. Felicity was obviously very scared. And yet I kept my camera running.
During the later shoot, Felicity ran off set because Hardcore had forced his penis down her throat to cause her to suffocate. Hardcore followed her, and tried to get her back on the set, first of all flattering her, telling her how unique and special she was (disturbingly, these are the exact same words another woman who had worked with Hardcore used to describe herself during an interview in the documentary). When that didn’t work, he stared screaming and swearing at her, at which point the documentary crew intervened to get her out of there (which is something that professional documentary makers will very rarely do).
There is no reason to think that there is anything unique about any of the above. A blanket statement like ‘they chose to be there’ is meaningless.
The pornography industry is a multi-billion dollar global industry. Pornography exists to make money. It is an industry that chews women up and spits them out; it is an industry where exposure to violence, harassment, injury and infection are seen as normal and acceptable.
Yes, yes it may be. The problem is, that doesn’t make it illegal. Construction workers face similar problems. They are constantly being exposed to danger and they are asked to physically destroy themselves. Or US soldiers. They’re asked to put themselves in areas full of hostile enemies with not just knives, handguns, and a midnight alleyway, but against enemies with automatic weapons, bombs, and tanks. Life is not this rosey little world where everything is fair and nice. People from all walks of life are forced to do things they don’t like. And why is this a ‘woman’s’ issue? Why is this not potrayed as something that also chews men up and spits them out? Are they no less on sexual display? Are they no less considered meat that is to be tossed out when no longer of value? What about men who start suffering erectile disfunction? What about men who get too old and are no longer considered of use?
“Construction workers face similar problems … Or US soldiers”
No, a construction worker is not paid, specifically, to fall off scaffolding, and a soldier is not paid, specifically, to get killed. Both are unintended consequences of the jobs of being a construction worker or being a soldier, and health and safety measures, such as correct training and proper equipment will minimise these risks (more so with the case of construction workers than soldiers of course; being a soldier will never be ‘safe’ in the conventional sense, and the above statement is in no way an endorsement of the military, militarism or the military-industrial complex. Nor is it a dismissal of how poverty acts as a de facto draft, in the US in particular).
With pornography, the risk, the violence, the damage, is not an unintended consequence of the work, it is the work. A woman is not subjected to a triple anal without condoms by accident, because there was a temporary slip in h&s standards, she is subjected to it because it is the work.
“And why is this a ‘woman’s’ issue?”
This is a feminist blog, which means being unapologetically for and about women. Yes, porn is bad for men too, they go bankrupt paying to access it, they can’t form meaningful relationships after using it, and some men may feel bad about their bodies because of it (which wouldn’t be surprising, as women are already getting their genitals mutilated to conform to the porn standard), (although men do have Ron Jeremy). This is not a good thing.
But it seems to me that whenever men bring up a ‘what about the poor men?’ argument, they have no real interest in the welfare of other men, they just want an excuse to bash feminists. If you think porn harms men, do something about it.
“What about men who get too old and are no longer considered of use?”
It’s women that the porn industry chews up and spits out, as anonymous when they started as when they finished. Women have a very short ‘career’ in the porn industry, due to the demand for ‘very young girls’ and the very physically gruelling nature of the work itself. Women become ‘veterans’ of the porn industry in their early 20s. This is just more ‘what about the poor men?’ whining.
Pornography doesn’t expand our sexuality – it stunts it. Mainstream heterosexual pornography dictates a narrow and limited idea of human sexuality. In pornography, male sexuality is predicated on cruelty, coercion and degradation; female sexuality is predicated on submitting to or appearing to enjoy being subjected to cruel, coercive and degrading treatment. Pornography eradicates women’s sexual agency, and makes it harder for women to find out about their own bodies and their own sexuality.
False. Yes, there is some porn that does indeed display men using predetorial means of obtianing sex. Porn that displays men being manipulative, forceful, and doing things that are degrading nd cruel is not potraying an accurate form of sexual experience. But
then again, pornography isn’t a documentary. It’s not meant to teach men what sex is—it is there to act as a ventation. In the same way that playing a video game of two hardcore cops on the edge is not an accurate represenation of how real police officers work is not meant to portray the reality of law enforcement, neither is porn an actual representation of sexuality. Because it’s not supposed to be.
Porn is directed at men, or least, the majority of it is. And thus, most porn represents a very male dominated presentation because it is a male fantasy. It is the idea of men getting entirely what they want out of sex. What is that? Pleasure and dominance. Just like how in an action game, we want to be a gun totting badass who guns down innocent civilians who get in the way of villains. Porn is nothing more than a fantasy. It’s no better than attacking a violent movie for being violent.
This doesn’t mean that men who watch porn will become violent. It may, for some who are rather naïve, direct them into having some early trips in how reality works if all they’ve seen is fantasy, but that doesn’t mean it ruins their life forever, just like how playing a football game on the Wii and then playing it in real life suddenly causes a brutal awakening to the naïve player. As for women—again, this is not a female oriented industry. Perhaps there are women, who like it, but this is again, a fantasy and they will not be looking to be making love with someone, but rather get out sexual tension.
“Porn that displays men being manipulative, forceful, and doing things that are degrading [and] cruel is not [portraying] an accurate form of sexual experience.”
Well it clearly is, for any woman who has experienced men being manipulative and forceful, and has been subjected to cruel and degrading treatment.
One of the main tenets of MRA ‘thought’ is that violence against women (physical/domestic/sexual) is rare and shocking, and the few times it does occur, it occurs outside of the context of mainstream society, and is perpetrated by psychopaths, not otherwise ‘normal’ men. (The other main tenet is that evil feminists invent the vast majority of incidents of violence against women, for the sole purpose of going against nature and using the state to control men.) There is a lot of this minimisation and denial in what this MRA is saying, and I will deal with each instance as it occurs.
“It’s not meant to teach men what sex is.”
But it clearly has that function. Robert Jensen, in his book Getting off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity describes attending sex industry trade fairs, and meeting lots of young men who think porn is great because it shows them what women like.
“Basically,” agrees Lee, “you’re copying what you’ve seen, but you’re trying to turn it into your own, put your own twist on it. That’s how I’ve experienced life, really, through porn. It’s like a seed that gets put in your brain.”
“Porn is nothing more than a fantasy. It’s no better than attacking a violent movie for being violent.”
A more useful comparison is cookery programs. Lots of people watch cookery programs, some people just watch them, others try to recreate the meals completely, most people sit somewhere in between. But no one would try to argue that a cookery program is just fantasy, no one would want or be able to cook like that in real life, and no one would even think of trying. Lots of people cook, and lots of people engage in sexual activity, few people get the chance to be a “gun [toting] badass” in real life; that is confined to the realm of fantasy, while sexual activity isn’t.
Those making the comparison between porn and violent films often miss the point. Yes, anyone old enough to watch a violent movie is old enough to understand that it is faked, the explosions and blood and guts and starships and aliens are all fake. But there is still an underlying message, an act of propaganda to all media; for example the representations of Arabs in US movies post 9/11 (and not only post 9/11) acted as propaganda for invasion. The propaganda of pornography is one of male dominance and female submission, in other words, the status quo.
Humans are cultural animals. TV/movies/records/pornography are a means of cultural transmission, just like any other medium or form of communication. Nowadays, in fact, these are our primary means of cultural transmission. And everybody knows that. That’s why people object to racist depictions or homophobia or even the absence of positive onscreen role models for minorities. Because all that’s part of our cultural transmission, part of how we share and exchange and teach values and ideas.
The advertising industry is a multibillion-dollar industry as well, and manufacturers spend that amount of money because it works, it makes us want things.
Add to that the physiological and psychological reinforcement of orgasm (as blogger Kenzie points out: “Oxytocin is know as the love hormone. Mothers and babies both have extraordinarily high levels of this hormone in the period just after birth, when they are experiencing a period of powerful bonding […] it’s the biggie that we produce when we orgasm”), and you have a pretty powerful form of propaganda in pornography.
“This doesn’t mean that men who watch porn will become violent. It may, for some who are rather naïve, direct them into having some early trips in how reality works if all they’ve seen is fantasy, but that doesn’t mean it ruins their life forever[.]”
Well thank goodness for that! Some poor man isn’t going to have his life ruined by “having some early trips in how reality works”! Forget the consequences for the women he ‘trips over’ he’s going to be ok!
Pornography portrays sexual violence against women as normal, natural and an inevitable part of male sexuality. Sexual desire does not develop in a vacuum. The prurient attitude we have to sex in this country, combined with a lack of decent sex education, means that many people use pornography as their primary source of information on what sex is supposed to be like. Mainstream heterosexual pornography tells men that the sexual abuse of women is exciting, and that women enjoy being abused. It tells women that in order to do sex properly, they have to put up with and enjoy such abuse.
Just as sexual desire does not develop in a vacuum, neither do humans lack the ability to learn when reality isn’t living up to fantasy. A young male, even one who has learned only sexuality from porn, is not going to act that way against a woman for only the reason of watching a porn video. Human interaction is far more complicated than that. If a young male experiencing sex for the first time does something overtly aggressive that he sees portrayed in a fantasy—it will be met with female hostility. Why? Because the female does not like it. Now, because in most cases, men want to make their sexual partners happy long before sexual interaction, they will often immediately cease that action. Why? Because it is a logical response. Just like how if I were misinformed in a proper way to speak to someone, I would not continue to act that way when my expectations of their responses are not met. This is because we are a very social species and we will more often than not cease a behavior that is disapproved by another individual.
This is not always true of course. There are plenty of people who will insist upon their way and demand that others obey—but that is not the fault of pornography, but rather a mixture if improper raising on the parent’s part or simple problems with that individual. It is not the company’s fault that someone has chosen fantasy over reality and has trouble because of it.
“A young male, even one who has learned only sexuality from porn, is not going to act that way against a woman for only the reason of watching a porn video.”
We have never claimed that violence against women occurs solely due to pornography. We live in a patriarchy, and there are lots of messages about how men are supposed to treat women. Pornography is patriarchal propaganda, and powerful propaganda too, it makes domination sexy.
“If a young male experiencing sex for the first time does something overtly aggressive that he sees portrayed in a fantasy—it will be met with female hostility. Why? Because the female does not like it. Now, because in most cases, men want to make their sexual partners happy long before sexual interaction, they will often immediately cease that action.”
What we have here is a massive amount of rape denial and victim blaming – if a man is “overtly aggressive” the woman can just tell him to stop and he will! The number one rape myth is that rape happens because women don’t say no clearly enough.
What counts as “overtly aggressive” behaviour? A man pestering his partner for sex after she has said no? A man going into a woman’s room and getting into her bed after she has let him sleep on her couch? A man grabbing a woman around the throat (a common act in gonzo porn) once they have initiated sex? A man, with two of his friends, grabbing a woman and dragging her off into an alleyway?
Some women can and do talk or fight their way out of attempted rape, but lots of women can’t, for reasons for which they are absolutely not to blame. A woman may be frail, or disabled, or ill, she may be drugged or drunk, a young child may not understand what is happening to her. It may simply be the case that the “overtly aggressive” behaviour has terrified her, and she doesn’t fight back because she doesn’t want to be killed.
His claim only works if you believe that rape and sexual violence are rare or unusual occurrences; that we don’t live in a rape society (one of the main forms of propaganda for which is pornography).
“There are plenty of people who will insist upon their way and demand that others obey—but that is not the fault of pornography, but rather a mixture [of] improper raising on the parent’s part or simple problems with that individual.”
So he is admitting that there is violence against women after all, even that plenty of men do it! But nope, it’s nothing to do with the society the person was raised in (a patriarchal society that includes pornography and a saturation of pornified images), it’s “simple problems” (but where do these “problems” come from?) – as if violent men just need to be taken aside and given a quick talking to – which is more minimisation of male violence; or we can blame the mother (I’m willing to bet that that’s the real meaning behind the gender neutral ‘parents’).
Pornography reinforces male supremacy, and the idea that men are entitled to sexual access to women’s bodies. Men define themselves as being whatever is not a woman, in order to be a man it is necessary for there to be a subordinate group of women for men to compare themselves to and feel superior to. In mainstream heterosexual pornography men are always the active agents and women are always the passive objects. No man in pornography ever fails to get what he wants; the women in pornography exist solely to satisfy men’s desires, they have no will or desire of their own except to service men’s needs.
An incredibly bad argument. First, saying that men define themselves as what is not womanhood is utterly and completely bunk. Men are the way they are because men desire to be masculine and they define that based upon their own desires and culture. Furthermore, men are not always portrayed as active agents. There is plenty of pornography depicting women as the aggressors and men as passive objects that the women desire to have and get—purely for their own sexual pleasure.
Again, this isn’t something that men thought on for hours, days, weeks, or even years, but rather a natural desire of humans. It has taken a sexual encounter and potrayed it in a light that while not socially acceptable—is exciting and hence, arousing. The same is true in women. Some women might find a porn where a woman gets forced into sex as arousing because women view masculinity as desirable. And while they would never accept a male who forces her into sex when they want to, they find the situation arousing because it presents a very radical and masculine heavy image.
“First, saying that men define themselves as what is not womanhood is utterly and completely bunk. Men are the way they are because men desire to be masculine and they define that based upon their own desires and culture.”
This is complete and utter nonsense, you cannot define masculinity without also defining femininity; they are two sides of the same coin. Why do men desire to be masculine? Where do the ideas for what is and isn’t part of ‘masculine culture’ come from? Even if your only definition of ‘masculine culture’ is ‘hanging out with the boys’, you have already made a distinction between people who are men and people who are not!
“Furthermore, men are not always portrayed as active agents.”
There is plenty of fetish porn showing men being dominated, but this is still for men, and about men’s sexual pleasure in being dominated. The dominatrix is there for the money as much as any other ‘consenting’ porn performer and her pretend power ends when she is no longer being paid to dominate a man. Men have no interest in giving up their power and privilege in the real world, but plenty of interest in keeping it.
“Again, this isn’t something that men thought on for hours, days, weeks, or even years, but rather a natural desire of humans.”
So, things are they way they because it’s the way they are because it’s the way they are and so on in infinite regress. The status quo is normal, natural and inevitable, so let’s just ignore how much the status quo benefits men and harms women.
Pornography portrays sex and women as disgusting. The words used to describe women and women’s bodies in pornography betray the fact that women and sex are seen as dirty and disgusting by the men who use it: ‘bitch’ ‘cunt’ ‘slut’ ‘fuck toy’ ‘fuck hole’ ‘dirty’ ‘filthy’ etc etc.
Again, that is not entirely true. There are plenty of porn movies, games, and the like that portray sex as deep, beautiful, and in some cases, even spiritual. The women in these more ‘dirty’ pornographies are not portrayed in such a manner because they wish to influence the audience, but rather to appeal to the audience’s already set desires. People don’t make movies (often) because they want to influence people, but rather to appeal to something people like. Action movies and comedies exist because people like them and will pay to see them.
In that same manner, people will pay for dirty porn because they want dirty porn.
Again with the infinite regress, they want it because they want it because they want it!
“There are plenty of porn movies …”
The old ‘better porn’ argument! I’ll believe in this mythical object when I see it.
“People don’t make movies (often) because they want to influence people, but rather to appeal to something people like.”
I have covered the propaganda argument above so will not reiterate it again here.
Pornography promotes misogynistic beauty standards. In mainstream heterosexual pornography women are interchangeable, it trains women and men to see a natural female body – one with pubic hair, or small breasts, or any fat – as unnatural and disgusting.
Another misconception. First off, this only shows the lack of knowledge and the abundance of ignorance shown here. There are many pornographies out there that show fat women, older women, hairy women, and women with small breasts as attractive and desirable by males. This is again, because it is playing to the likes and dislikes of people. People in general, prefer attractive counterparts. This is based on a natural desire to seek out a mate that is not only healthy, but successful. This is determined by many factors that make men and women attracted to each other. Women seek out masculine men and thus will be more attracted to men with greater physical strength and stamina, but even more so men will be attracted to women with hips that shows they will bare healthy children or ample breasts that show they will be able to supply that child with nutrition.
No, they are shown as fetishes, reduced to a single part (their fatness, their wrinkles, and, since all pornography is racist, their black skin), not a whole person. Not that any woman in porn is shown as a whole person, or as ‘desirable’ in the everyday sense of the word, they are shown as objects, existing to be used by men, and that using them is desirable. Often, porn using not-conventionally-attractive women will be playing on the ‘grossness’ of those women, and the grossness of having sex with them.
Pornography affects you. Even if you are not a pornography consumer, a significant number of the men you interact with every day will be. It’s difficult to imagine that a man can spend a lot of time viewing and masturbating to degrading images of women without that pornographic ideology having a negative effect on his view of women.
It’s difficult to imagine because it isn’t true. Most men are not stupid, easily led individuals who will believe one source of information their entire life when all of their interactions prove this to be wrong time and time again. Nor is it true that because a great deal of women like Twilight—a fantasy about an emotionally distant and abusive male vampire who treats his girlfriend like an object and nothing better than added luggage. —that they will suddenly all desire men such as that. Which is ironic because most men hate Twilight because the vampire Edward is an emotionally distant and abusive boyfriend who treats his girlfriend like an object and nothing better than added luggage.
In short, if this is what you consider a good argument, you’re in trouble. The argument ignores the reason for porn and why it exists. It furthermore ignores the fact of why it exists. This isn’t an argument about morality or how these women are being abused (because they aren’t, they chose this), but rather an argument of porn causes sexual violence and violations. It’s no different than claiming that video games cause violence. It ignores that most people understand the difference and it ignores that most people do not act they way they should in a fantasy setting because fantasies by their nature, are designed for that purpose. So we can act in ways we don’t often act. So we can be the villain, or the cop on the edge. Or the hardcore stud screwing some hot chick and tells her to go make sandwhich.
The fact is, you don’t understand men or women. You just want to paint a perfect world where no one ever even conceives of people being remotely violent or aggressive towards another in a way that isn’t socially acceptable when in fact, we all do it. And the reason we simulate it is so we don’t actually have to do it to get the same satisfaction from it. Just like how some people play video games for the thrill, some people watch porn of abusive sex for the thrill of being mistreated or mistreating. They all appeal to portions of the human mind.
It is easy to imagine, because we all live in a pornified rape culture and come up against misogyny and male violence every day. We do understand men very well, because we have to negotiate with them every day in order to survive.
Men don’t dominate women because they are stupid and they think that’s what women want; they do it because society is set up in a way that allows them to do it, because they benefit from doing so, and because porn makes dominance sexy. Patriarchy is not an accident, it is a system of power and privilege that all men benefit from. He is again working from the false premise that violence against women is rare.
He accuses us of wanting a world without violence or aggression (which we do, unapologetically), then insists that we just have to put up and shut up because it’s all natural and inevitable, and anyway it isn’t that bad, and even if it is, porn isn’t anything to do with it. The fact is, the vast majority of violence against women is socially acceptable, and a lot of men do do it. Not only is this MRA an apologist for porn, he is an apologist for male dominance and male violence in general.