I had given up on reading the UK F-Word a long time ago, as it seems determined to be as irrelevant as possible, when it isn’t being co-opted by sex industry advocates and/or queer/postmodern non-politics; but it’s been a long winter break.
I did run across one interesting article, on F*fty Sh*des of Gr*y, and its portrayal of domestic violence as ‘romance’:
Just like Christian Grey, he began pushing me to do what he wanted sexually. I continually resisted, and yet he pushed and pushed until I gave in.
Then, when I totally belonged to him, he sat me down, just as Christian did to Ana and told me he was too bad for me, that he would hurt me and destroy me and that I should stay away from him.
“Why?” I cried, “Why would you do this to me?”
“I’m too dangerous,” he murmured, “Just stop seeing me.”
I cried some more and told him I couldn’t. I loved him. And he relented and said that it was my choice. If I wanted to stay with him, I could. But whatever he did afterwards was because I had made that choice. Oh my. My very own Mr Grey!
And my Mr Grey held me to that.
When he forced me to kiss another guy, he held me to it.
When he tried to force me to have an abortion, he held me to it.
When his desire to have younger, teenage victims led to him becoming a registered sex offender, he held me to it.
When he abused me sexually in every way possible, he held me to it.
When he raped me when I was 6 months pregnant and my baby was born three months premature, he held me to it.
Honestly, Christian Grey is not the ideal man. He’s an abuser and he will destroy every woman he meets. My ex-husband was one of the Christian Greys of this world and he broke me, body and soul. I believed my love could change him. I believed his childhood had damaged him and I could fix him, but it is not childhood trauma that causes men to abuse. Abuse is a choice.
To the organisations, individuals and media outlets defending Fifty Shades as consensual BDSM, this is not a consensual relationship. It is domestic abuse. When you defend this book, you become abuse apologists.
The lack of consideration for women’s humanity evinced in a t-shirt that reads “I choked Linda Lovelace” would be shocking if it weren’t so ubiquitous. That we have been so desensitized to the sexual abuse of women by the porn industry and by societal misogyny that people continue to shop at a store that sells a shirt that basically says my human dignity and bodily integrity are less important than the size of your dick ought to worry you enough to make you question your participation in the perpetuation of that idea. If that’s too much to ask, then at least stick to designs with less room for interpretation. Say, “Fuck Art Let’s Dance!” for example. It’s safer that way.
Why are women told they look like men when they aren’t wearing form fitting, feminine clothes, makeup, jewelry and done up hair and hairless bodies?
“Looking like a woman” seems to be something artificial, like natural, unadorned women aren’t really women. Then what are we? If looking like a woman is performing the feminine gender, then there is nothing tangible or relevant about it at all.
Don’t be offended when someone tells you don’t look like a woman, you do, their perspective is just so skewed they can’t see woman without gender and gender roles. Gender is a performance and lie, and so many people believe it.
Thought experiment: flip this around. Instead of thinking, “why people think we look like men if we don’t look like RuPaul”, flip it to answer: because men are afraid they’ll look like women if WE don’t assume the burden of distinguishing ourselves from men in every way possible. Upper class men used to look our modern definition of feminine, too, but women didn’t exist as much in the public sphere as we do now.
From Josephine the Singer
The law was passed twice in Minneapolis in 1983 and 1984 by two different city councils; it was vetoed each time by the same mayor, a man active in Amnesty International, opposing torture outside of Minneapolis. The law was passed in 1984 in Indianapolis with a redrafted definition that targeted violent pornography—the kind “everyone” opposes. The city was sued for passing it; the courts found it unconstitutional. The appeals judge said that pornography did all the harm we claimed—it promoted insult and injury, rape and assault, even caused women to have lower wages—and that these effects proved its power as speech; therefore, it had to be protected.
There simply is no historical atrocity — including the concentration camps, including slavery in the American South, including the Vietnam War — around which the pornographers have not built these scenarios of rape and humiliation and injury as if the person who is victimized is the person who asked for it and the person who gets sexual pleasure from it.
Andrea Dworkin, 1991 interview for Omnibus episode
From the Andrea Dworkin tribute blog (contains a link to a YouTube vid which I haven’t watched yet)
In a preliminary study, researchers have seen disturbing trends in teen sexual behavior amongst the urban poor, where a number of teenage girls they surveyed engaged in “multiple-person sex” – and were often forced or coerced.
Researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and Boston University School of Public Health, among others, surveyed teenage girls aged 14 to 20 who went to clinics in schools and communities in the Boston area. One in 13 reported having engaged in a group-sex experience – anything ranging from an orgy or three-way, to a “train” or group sex.
The average age for a first-time “multi-person sex” experience (or MPS, as the researchers call it) was 15.6 years old. Out of the 7.7 percent of respondents who’ve have a multi-person sex experience, over half were forced, pressured, or coerced to do it.
Even though the research was conducted in Boston, Massachusetts, people in other urban areas should take notice. “I’d be surprised if this behavior is unique to Boston,” said Emily Rothman, associate professor of community health sciences at Boston University’s School of Public Health. “In Philadelphia, my expectation is you’d find the same thing.”
Age, race, and place of birth did not factor into the likelihood that a girl had engaged in multi-person sex, she said. All of the respondents were urban teens living in poor neighborhoods, who went to clinics for their reproductive health issues. Rothman said there was a bigger factor that increased the likelihood of a multi-person sex encounter.
“Girls were five times more likely to engage in MPS if they or their boyfriends had watched porn,” she said.
Out of all the 328 respondents, 11 percent “were forced to do sexual things their boyfriend saw in porn,” Rothman said. “Out of those who engaged in MPS, 50 percent did things their partners saw in porn first. Porn may be influencing the sexual behavior of these teens.”
Reedy was 19 when the man entered the petrol station near Pittsburgh where she was working to pay her way through college and pulled a gun. He emptied the till of its $606.73 takings, assaulted her and fled into the night. But the detective who interviewed Reedy in hospital didn’t believe her, and accused her of stealing the money herself and inventing the story as a cover-up. Although another local woman was attacked not long after in similar fashion, the police didn’t join the dots.
Following further inquiries, Reedy was arrested for theft and false reporting and, pregnant with her first child (by her now ex-husband), thrown in jail. She was subsequently released on bail, but lost her job. More than a year after attacking Reedy, the man struck again, but this time he was caught and confessed to the earlier crime.
When the charges against her were dropped, Reedy sued the police and has now won a marathon legal battle and a $1.5m (£1m) settlement against the detective who turned her from victim into accused. The payment was agreed earlier this year, but can be revealed only now because of a non-disclosure clause that was part of the settlement.
Now 27, Reedy talked exclusively to the Observer to announce the settlement and speak out about how she hopes her vindication will change the way the police investigate rape. “I’m relieved that people will be able to see now that I was telling the truth,” she said. “Although mine is an extreme case, I’m not the first – and I won’t be the last.”
Reedy’s story is dramatic, but it comes against a backdrop of problems across the US, with accounts of police ignoring or neglecting rape reports, while bullying victims and scrutinising their behaviour rather than the suspect’s.
“There is a national crisis,” said Carol Tracy, of the Women’s Law Project, an advocacy group in Philadelphia. “We’re witnessing the chronic and systemic failure of law enforcement to properly investigate crimes of sexual violence.”
Theatre director Stella Duffy wrote a response to the Lush torture porn/gonzo shock tactic stunt I covered yesterday:
Your video of a performance artist highlighting the plight of animals abused in cosmetic research has caused a bit of a fuss, hasn’t it?
I suppose that’s what you wanted. To get people talking. To get them discussing.
Well, you’ve certainly done that.
Here’s what I’ve seen and heard people saying today :
– that it’s shocking and saddening to see images that YET AGAIN use a woman being degraded to make a point
– that you have, yet again, bought into the ‘horrible compromise‘ (your phrase) that presenting another beaten/broken woman is worth it.
– in your (bare) justification linked above you say you are sorry to any women who have been subjected to violence and might be reminded of it by this campaign. Not good enough. By limiting your apology only to those who have been actual victims of violence you disregard the fact that we ALL live in a society demeaned and degraded by violence against women.
– that I, along with many many others, will not shop with you again because you clearly feel it is OK to present images of abused women in your campaign.
– that you have done yourselves a great disservice by not acknowledging that ALL abuse is part of a continuum.
– that your video is naive at best and flagrantly misogynist at worst.
– that it’s irrelevant whether or not the performance artist herself came up with the performance concept, there have always been women who put other women furthest down on their list of concerns (Margaret Thatcher, anyone?).
– that OF COURSE we support the banning of animal testing for cosmetics, many of us were around when Anita Roddick started these campaigns, it’s hardly new. But we firmly believe you have created a damaging, dangerous, and anti-woman piece of imagery.
Ok, so this publicity stunt happened back in April, but there’s still a few more shopping days till Christmas, so there is still the chance to boycott the cosmetic brand Lush, which has managed to out-do PETA in the misogyny stakes, by subjecting a real live woman to sexualised torture in full public view, in the window of Lush’s Regent St store in London.
TRIGGER WARNING: this post contains descriptions of sexual and sexualised violence, and images (hidden below the fold) that are disturbing and potentially triggering.
The woman, Jacqueline Traide, a social sculpture student at Oxford Brookes university, of course, ‘chose’ to be there, so even though she was really suffering, really in pain, and really afraid, we can’t question or challenge it, because it got people to sign a petition, and maybe it sold some Lush cosmetics instead of another brand.
The pictures are gruesome, and are reminiscent of torture porn (except that in a horror film, the woman wouldn’t really have detergent squirted in her eyes, or really be force fed).
More importantly, it looks like gonzo porn, which is real. I’ve seen clips of gonzo porn (from one of the Channel 4 documentaries that came out after the 2004 HIV outbreak in the LA porn industry), where the woman being fucked on a porn set had her mouth forced open with a dental instrument that looks very similar to the instrument used on Traide; also a woman had a similar thing done to her by a man thrusting a hand into either side of her mouth (yes I do mean hand: all of his fingers were inside her cheeks, try doing that to yourself just with your own hands, it hurts). The outcome is the same both ways, the woman is unable to speak, and unable to control what goes into her mouth and down her throat (spit, snot, vomit, urine and semen are all ‘normal’ in gonzo porn), the emphasis in the porn clips was on the woman’s fear and pain, which she could only express through her eyes since her mouth was so distorted.
This graphic misogyny will, apparently, make people think about animal testing. Perhaps men will think about it after they’ve gone home and had a wank to the pictures they snapped of Traide with their mobile phones?
Surely it is possible to improve animal welfare with out reducing women to the level of animals? The Lush stunt was organised to “spearhead a Humane Society International campaign to end cosmetic testing on animals,” and Lush has given them an award (ie money) “in recognition of HSI’s ‘outstanding contribution’ to European Union policy interventions.”
A brief look around their website fails to bring up any other woman-hating, attention-grabbing shock campaigns, so why not let them know how disgusting you found the Lush campaign, and tell them you hope they are not turning into PETA.
How long before PETA, in a game of one-upmanship, tries to barbeque a real live woman?
I first saw this on tumblr, but can no longer find the link, it was written up extensively, and titillatingly, in the Daily Mail:
They dragged her along with a rope around her neck and pushed her down on a bench.
It was feeding time for Jacqueline Traide and you could tell from the look on her face she was terrified.
First, they stretched her mouth open with two metal hooks attached to a strap around her head.
The man in the white coat grabbed hold of her ponytail and tugged it until she tilted backwards.
By the time he had finished spooning food down her throat, she was choking, gagging and trying to break free.
For the next ten hours, this attractive, 24-year-old artist was given injections, had her skin abraded and smothered in lotions and potions – then endured having a strip of her hair shaved off in front of stunned onlookers in one of Britain’s busiest streets.
The guardian covered on their fashion blog, but only in the second to last section, after a paragraph on union jack themed false eyelashes:
You may have seen last week the disturbing images of when a Lush window became the location for a powerful anti-animal testing protest. All day, performance artist Jacqueline Traides was subject to what looked like a series of brutal experiments. She had her mouth clamped, eye drops administered and part of her head shaved, before being thrown out with the rubbish. Intrigued by these images, I got in touch with Jacqueline to ask about her motivation. She told me she’d been following the campaign for a few months and had found it hard to find cruelty-free cosmetics she could use as a performance artist. She got involved in this particular protest at the last minute and was actually a little unsure of how it would pan out, “I knew there were going to be various experiments but I wasn’t aware to the full extent”. So how real was it for her? “It wasn’t just performing, it was a live act. But I had a choice, a voice to ask to go to the toilet, to say stop. Animals don’t have that choice. My commitment was to stay there and endure it.”
So she didn’t even know exactly what she was signing up for, not exactly meaningful consent then is it?
Tamsin Omond, Lush’s campaigns manager, also gave a bullshit apologia for Lush’s behaviour, which is unconvincing from beginning to end, but is particualrly galling in this paragraph:
We felt it was important, strong, well and thoroughly considered that the test subject was a woman. This is important within the context of Lush’s wider Fighting Animal Testing campaign, which challenges consumers of cosmetics (a female market) to feel, to think and to demand that the cosmetics industry is animal-cruelty free. It is also important in the context of Jacqui’s performance practice: a public art intervention about the nature of power and abuse. It would have been disingenuous at best to pretend that a male subject could represent such systemic abuse.
Which is practically victim blaming: us stupid women asked for this with our thoughtless consumerism – let’s not ask why women hate themselves so much that they can’t leave the house without make up on, and how it’s women to blame for not being able to afford the ‘good’ expensive shit Lush sells.
Oh, and somebody hurt their precious fee-fees by saying “women aren’t marketing tools. Rape is not a gimmick.” – this is pure empty rhetoric on Osmond’s part, they mean well, they’re saving animals, how dare anyone upset them by telling them that what they are doing is wrong, don’t we realise how much they care?
Osmond claims it’s all ok because “We did not perform a sexy version of oppression or create a teasing ‘naughty’ campaign.” She is either being disingenuous or is startlingly naive if she doesn’t understand that violence against women doesn’t have to be ‘glamorous’ to turn men on, women’s suffering in and of itself is sexy. Traide really suffered, and a lot of men are going to be turned on by that.
When the sex positive movement becomes more comfortable and open to:
- addressing how sex workers are sometimes abused and raped by their clients
- addressing how capitalism puts women, especially women of color, in financial situations that coerce them into prostitution and pornography, where they are usually raped repeatedly by pimps, johns and clients
- addressing how rape culture and porn culture interact to promote rape myths through the fetishization of violence against women and women’s pain
- addressing how racism and misogyny are used in pornography to reinforce stereotypes about women of color, such as the Jezebel Trope, the Fiery Latina and the Submissive Asian woman. As well as how these racist-sexist narratives are not okay.
- addressing how being sex-positive means promoting expressions of sexuality that do not rely on racism and misogyny. You can’t “Smash Patriarchy,” if you’re getting off on the very constructs that patriarchy is founded on and uses to oppress real people with EVERYDAY.
- start acknowledging that the current attitude of [non-animated] pornography being “just fantasy,” is dehumanizing to the people involved in the production of it. That those are real people on screen, enduring real and sometimes painful sex acts (that they are sometimes coerced into doing).
- start acknowledging that not all fetishes are okay! Fetishizing real people because they belong to a racial or minority class is not okay! And as much as many of you, DO NOT want to read these words and admit to it: FETISHIZING SLAVERY IS BASED IN RACISM!
I will not support it, nor will I identify with it.