“Beautiful birds in awkward positions”

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.”

8 responses

  1. […] blog got a visit yesterday via the search engine term “women in awkward positions porn” – I rest my case. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. Posted in: […]

  2. Excellent (as the posts on this blog always are, I’m starting to notice). You have a keen eye for truth and a great way of presenting it. Not like I personally would have needed this as proof of anything, but the search engine term that landed someone here rounds it all off perfectly.

    I recently wrote a rather long post about the nature of patriarchal violence against women that also talks about how we have consistently been defined as closer to animals in body and mind, justifying not only our oppression, but gynocide, and how this ties in with sexuality.

  3. Thanks for the link, it’s a comprehensive and exhaustive account; I particularly like this:

    Women were declared to be weaker in their faith and more ‘carnal’ than men – because women make men feel ‘carnal’, of course. That’s why we’re so evil, you see, because men have historically always been incapable of taking sexual responsibility for themselves. Note how the narrative has shifted over the centuries: men are now seen as the more carnal, less sexually disciplined ones, but women’s bodies are still blamed for that.

    It’s a small point from all that you’ve covered, but you mention Simon Baron-Cohen, have you read Cordelia Fine’s ‘Delusions of Gender’? She pulls apart some of his shoddy research very well. Reading her book, it’s shocking how much poor quality research on this subject gets accepted and disseminated when it supports the status quo.

  4. Thank you, glad you enjoyed it. I would actually have had so much to add that I felt a bit overwhelmed by the whole thing. It just kept growing!

    I’m absolutely itching to read Delusions of Gender. I have heard great things about it and I feel that we should all be armed with as much of this kind of knowledge as we can possible cram into our heads. For precisely the reason you said: as long as it doesn’t challenge what they already think they know, it all gets waved on through. Baron-Cohen would be more at home in the 19th century with his misogynist assumptions, and yet one of the most respected universities of the world apparently thinks it’s fine.

  5. I know. A lot of science, even research which is published in peer review journals, is really poor quality, and then it gets mangled again for reporting in newspapers and ‘popular science’ books.

    But saying that Fine’s book is very well researched and referenced!

  6. Keep your pomo politics out of rape discussions


    I appreciate your blog, but I want to make some criticism that seems lost on many internet feminists. Please stop ranking sexual assault survivors by race. It’s offensive. You can’t make the claim that poc have it “worse” when they are raped. It’s just not true. I know many white survivors and contrary to the popular idea among feminists that somehow “white women” are “believed more” or “treated better” this is frankly racist bullshit.

    In my city the DA”declines to prosecute” 70% of rape cases. And, no it’s not just poc who get shafted by the police, courts and communities. This “white women’s privilege” identity politics bullshit THEORY does not apply to rape no matter what Peggy Macintosh wrote in the 90s. I guess you can spout that “white women” who are raped “have it better” but you are wrong and racist. Stop politicizing people’s personal tragedies so you can make yourself look “racially sensitive”. If anything affects the ability to get justice in a rape case it’s MONEY – please quit insulting white rape victims so you can get cookies from your identity politics buddies.

    If you want to criticize the media for focusing more on white women then please qualify that you are criticizing MEDIA but when you make it about individuals you are just being a divisive racist asshole who is abusing white rape victims so you can look good to your post modern feminist friends. Thanks.

  7. I don’t know if you’ve read this post:


    but your comment seems more in reply to that post than this one – hell, for all I know you’re the same person coming back for another pop (your use of a statement for a user name suggest that you may well be the same person – it’s been over a year, did it take you this long to come up with another comment!?).

    I have not here, or anywhere else on this blog, ‘ranked’ sexual abuse survivors, nobody’s experience of rape is subjectively ‘better’ or ‘worse’, ‘more important’ or ‘less important’ based on their race or any other factor (class, religion, sexuality, gender expression, ableness). All I said in this post was that WoC are portrayed as ‘animal like’ in porn, and that is a true statement.

    White women do have white privilege, and that means a better (notice that ‘better’ is relative, and not the same as ‘good’) chance at getting taken seriously by those in power than non-white women. Racism is real, and I am not ‘shafting’ white women by recognising that.

    If the ability to get justice relies on money, then class intersects with race, and a wealthy white woman has the best chance of all of being taken seriously (again ‘best’ here is still relative, and doesn’t mean the same as ‘good’).

    As for your claims of me trying to get ‘cookies’ from my “identity politics buddies” and “post modern feminist friends”, you’ve just demonstrated that you don’t have a clue what radical feminism is about, and don’t know what ‘post modern’ means either – radical feminism it is the antithesis of post modernism.

    You need to ask yourself why this post has made you so angry, why do you think just talking about WoC is the same as ‘racism’ against white women? It isn’t a zero sum game.

  8. And that ‘thanks’ at the end of the comment, definitely the same racist commentator!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: