If you want to get an idea of how much pornography and porn/rape culture has seeped through into our everyday lives, I saw a very good example today on the design website Notcot.
“Beautiful birds in awkward positions” sounds like a porn genre, and the photo chosen for the main page shows an animal captured in a position that, for a human, would be sexually degrading.
The photos of birds captured in ‘mist nets’ (which are used to trap birds for scientific research), may well have scientific and artistic merit, but they are being advertised on Notcot using the titillating language of pornography. The “beautiful birds in awkward positions” line doesn’t seem to come directly from the photographer, but from whoever put the link up on Notcot (the same person who chose that particular photo out of the 20+ available), but the photographer’s own language still uses similar titillation “It is a fragile and embarrassing moment before they disappear back into the woods”, evoking the idea of a woman being caught out, and of the photographer getting away with something. Violation, exposure and humiliation are the stock-in-trade of pornography, and a prop to male supremacy, by reminding all woman that we are just one ’embarrassing moment’ away from being reduced to ‘whores’ and therefore being the legitimate targets of male violence and sexual violence.
Comparing women to animals (and animals to women) is nothing new; PETA does it, Playboy does it, men (hunters) who prey on animals and men (stalkers and rapists) who prey on women do it. Women in pornography, particularly women of colour, are portrayed as animal-like, and women’s less-than-human status is used to justify and trivialise their abuse.
Brian Luke has written a paper titled “Violent Love: Hunting, Heterosexuality, and the Erotics of Men’s Predation”, which was published in Feminist Studies in 1998. (It can be downloaded in full online, see the second link here.)
There is no incongruity in describing the disposition to shoot wild animals to death as loving, if one correctly understands the vocabulary being used. “Love” here simply means the desire to possess those creatures who interest or excite the hunter. Taking possession typically entails killing the animal, eating the flesh, and mounting the head or the entire body. The identification between “loving” and possessing by killing and mounting is made in the following hunter’s comments regarding two ducks he shot and stuffed: “‘I saw these mountain ducks and fell in love with them,’ says Paul, the tone of his voice matching the expression he wears in the photo with the Dall sheep – one of most tender regard for something precious. ‘I just had to have a pair of them.’ Aldo Leopold – hunter, forest manager, and founding father of modern environmental ethics – described the trophy as a “certificate” attesting to the hunter’s success in “the age-old feat of overcoming, out witting, or reducing-to-possession.” And Jose Ortega y Gasset, who wrote the outstanding statement of twentieth-century sports-man’s philosophy, defined hunting by both humans and non humans as “what an animal does to take possession, dead or alive, of some other being that belongs to a species basically inferior to its own.”