Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pornography Use and Other Violations: A Conversation Between Two White Men, part five

Here are the links to the whole conversation:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9

CAUTION: What follows is a conversation between two men about their abusive behaviors toward girls, women, and others. Any survivor of child sexual abuse, rape, or other form of sexual violation and objectification may be quite triggered by portions of this exchange. All violative behaviors are named as such by at least one of the two people, critically, with remorse and/or regret. Both people do not currently use pornography.

Email #5 from Aussieguy:
Wow. I have such a jumble of emotions in response to that mail. I agree with every point you made. (Isn't it revolting to agree so wholeheartedly with each other...;)

I have been thinking about privilege and power a fair bit lately and I think there is more to it than the fact that privilege persists despite our being opposed to it, even though that is very true. I think that the power that privileged people have is only power to exercise and enjoy our privileges. We do not have unequal power to create justice. When we genuinely act to undermine the unfair power we hold and the system that gives it to us, we find ourselves as disempowered in that moment as any person standing up to injustice. But instead of discouraging me from taking action, that experience makes me more committed because it is only when I work with others to resist oppression that I ever step down from my plinth so we can be truly equal.

Look, there I am writing about politics now. It seems like now that I've told you a lot of my story, I can spend some time on opinions and discussion too.

When you said "If she blames herself, it's one way to be less terrified, because once she realizes she didn't do anything to contribute to what happened to her, it can leave someone feel VERY vulnerable to future assaults." that was suddenly very clear to me. I have had a related vague feeling about how it's dangerous to confess to women instances of when I have objectified them or violated them without their knowledge, not because of the consequences for me but because they might feel afraid. Your explanation clarifies it really well.

That comes back to a point that my partner [woman's name deleted] made to me once: that men don't ever deal with this shit among ourselves. I am much more likely to confess this stuff to a woman than to a man. It's not because I'm afraid of being punished over-harshly by men. It's because I expect very little response and more likely even an attack for thinking there's anything wrong to confess and a defensiveness because they all have the same habits too. But actually, it is necessary for us to be confronting this behaviour ourselves and not leaving it for women to take on against men's threats (not idle threats) of violence.

You said "In my experience, in the last twenty years, increasingly, it isn't "cool" to be a feminist who isn't "into" porn."

It's really true. A friend of ours who had broken up with his girlfirend a couple of months earlier was round at our place and he mentioned that he likes downloading porn. He and [my partner] got into a discussion and he totally defended his right to look at porn. I said nothing, feeling strongly that porn was wrong but also feeling unqualified to tell anyone else not to use it while I continued to have the habit. He used as justification that some number of his past girlfiends enjoyed looking at porn with him and one of them taught him to download it. He also talked about how he had found websites where women and couples posted footage of themselves having sex and it was all very empowered and consensual. ([My partner] said later that that's like saying that someone is empowered by global capitlaism if they start a small business.) Implicit in some of his arguments was an accusation that we were interfering in his private life and trying to take away his only source of sexual pleasure while he was single. Afterwards, he said "Wow. I don't think I've ever been part of such a conservative discussion about porn."

I have looked hard for websites where I think the ethics are OK and the women are not degraded and I have not found a single one. I think his justifications amount to nothing and that if he cant have a wank without using porn, he's not using enough imagination. There are plenty of ways in which oppressed people buy into their own oppression, so women being into it is not the issue either. As well as that, one woman can objectify another, or one woman can objectify women generally, for her own sexual pleasure. It doesn't make it just.

A few women I know, who have had various experiences of male sexual violence, have been making DIY porn and exhibiting it as a self-empowering response to their experiences. Several of them talk about porn as a potentially women-friendly and consent-based thing. While I see some healing value for them in getting together and making the images, I think they miss the point about the mass porn industry being based on continual exploitation and also the way the content itself contains so much imagery of violence, degradation and oppression.

I agree with your points about the therapist being there to help me feel better about myself. It seemed a bit as though he was just there to help me with whatever I wanted and he would help me give up cornflakes if I told him I felt bad about it. He has offered no recognition that the problem really exists in society and that my response is an attempt to take responsibility for my own part in it. I felt a bit like saying "Well, what are YOU doing about it, then?" And in fact I will, but with less bitterness. I have the idea that you are doing good things and I'd like to get onto talking about what they are and start some activity on it in my life too.

One thing I have done, in a kind of sporadic way, is to call myself out among my radical community for my behaviour. I haven't actually admitted the worst to them, though I have to you. I have highlighted my porn viewing and general objectification and habit of perving down women's tops but not told them about any instances of deliberately setting up perving opportunities. But it has been the early beginning of a move to get this stuff talked about and shift our expectations of men's behaviour in our community at least.

I look forward to hearing back

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