Liberals love to speak about human acts, sexual and otherwise, as if there were no real world in which such acts exist. "What if we didn't live in a patriarchal society?" heterosexual men have asked me, again and again, with an optimism that isn't shared by me, given my stance against pornographers and pimps. They follow it up with the question they most want an answer to: "Would pornography then, be OK for me to look at?"
My answer is usually this:
"Let's have that conversation after there ceases to be a patriarchal society."
Sometimes they get the point. Sometimes they are determined: "No, really, WHAT IF there were no patriarchal societies?? Would you say that me looking at pornography was bad, then?" After reminding them I'm neither their priest nor pastor, I usually say, "I don't think you looking at pornography is 'bad' now, in your oh-so-guilty, Christian-dominated society's moral sense of the word bad. It's not 'bad' in the sense that some Christian preachers have taught us that masturbation is 'bad'. It's not 'bad' like that. It's bad like war is bad, like rape is bad, like genocide is bad. And 'bad' is not the most appropriate adjective to describe any of those atrocities. You won't likely hear me say that 'The genocide of Indigenous North Americans is bad'. Or 'the Nazi holocaust was bad'. Or 'the Maafa was bad'. You'll likely hear me say those are all examples of unfathomably cruel atrocities, horrible crimes against humanity, an outrage and a cause for enormous grief at what human beings are capable of doing to other humans beings."
"I think you habitually looking at pornography is, for various reasons, harmful to women as a political class of humans beings, a political class as socially and culturally diverse as any group of human beings, reduced to one or two things--sl*t or not-sl*t--by men who cannot see the extraordinary diversity in womankind, let alone appreciate and celebrate women's diversity. I believe your practice of looking at, and getting off to, pornography is harmful in ways you cannot imagine, to any woman who sleeps with you. Were you sexually interested in me, there's not a chance in hell of me sleeping with you, if your primary sexual activity was looking at exploited, objectified human beings for fun or pleasure, pretending they are not just as real as you are. Or, I certainly hope there wouldn't be a chance in hell."
"If looking at industry pornography does nothing else (and it does much, much more), it reinforces in you a male supremacist entitlement to have visual access to women's bodies whenever you desire to. In my view, and in the view of many feminists, this is unjust. You are not entitled to have access-upon-desire (or demand) to women's bodies. I mean, in reality, you are: this patriarchal society imbues you with that entitlement. I am saying, that entitlement is fucked up, it is harmful and dehumanising to women, it is dehumanising to you, and it is profitable for pimps who don't give a shit about girls' or women's freedom from exploitation and degradation."
"Our society is fundamentally fucked up, and that is one way in which it is so. Your viewing of women who were or are inside corporate systems of patriarchal exploitation also further exploits the photographed women whose histories you cannot know. And from speaking with many men I do know this: most men do not wish to know about those girls' or women's lives, their particular histories, the actual conditions they live with in order to become pornographically photographed or videotaped. I can't tell you what each woman's story is, nor do I claim that every woman in pornography is an incest or rape survivor. I knew a woman who found stripping to be at times empowering and also degrading--both. My point is that you can't know who is and who isn't a survivor of incest or rape, and the degree to which that, coupled with her being preyed upon by a pimp, led her to be visually available to you now. You assuming she isn't a survivor of abuse and meaningfully chose to be in pornography because that is what she most looks forward to in life, is utterly self-serving on your part and a cowardly way to avoid responsibility for participating in an industry that turns women into wh*res in men's imaginations. No woman is a wh*re. No woman."
"If at the end of the day or night, after you've spent several hours mindlessly or studiously glaring at images or videos of women sexually exposed inside the pornography industry, if at the end of that time you believe that some women deserve to be treated this way, that some women are on this Earth 'for you', that some women's humanity is reducible to their painted or Photoshopped genitals, or that women are "hot" to the extent that they are visually and physically vulnerable and accessible to men like you; if you believe all that so you don't have to feel implicated in an atrocity called the gross sexual exploitation and degradation of women, for men's pleasure and profit, including your own pleasure, then you ought to know that you have been lied to by pornographers and other pimps. You have been told a pack of lies that costs many women, inside and outside the pornography industry, their dignity and their lives. You need to know there's blood on your hands, the blood of women tortured, enslaved, and killed for men's entertainment. Because that is part of the industry you enjoy. When you accept all of that, and still feel compelled to look at those images, then ask yourself what being human means. And let me and every woman in your life know the answer."