Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Andrea Dworkin on Men's not-so-impossible Task of Distinguishing between Sexually Graphic Material and Pornographic Material

[book cover image is from here]
These are some of life’s easier distinctions. I used to ask groups of folks how retailers of pornography could tell the difference between Joyce and hard-core visual pornography. I noted that although, generally speaking, they weren’t the best and the brightest, they managed never to stock Ulysses. If they could do it, I thought, so could the rest of us.
-- Andrea Dworkin, in Heartbreak
The whiteboys used to go on and on about this matter. Perhaps some still do, as privileged foolishness dies a slow and painful death. (Painful for others, that is.) The self-defined "bright" men would exclaim: Oh, woe is me!, however will law be able to determine the difference between something so utterly subjective as "pornography" from other sexually graphic materials sold in book stores across the country?!

The political and social truth-teller Andrea Dworkin, with the constitutional law professor and attorney Catharine A. MacKinnon, co-drafted what should have become a law twenty-plus years ago across this country. But, alas, the liberal/libertarian (and conservative) whiteboys doth protest so much, as whiteboys invariably do about anything that might ruin their rapist fun, that it did not become law.

The truth is the pimps themselves spent enormous amounts of money to misrepresent what the law was, how it would work, and what it existed to do. It wasn't, as they complained, a criminal law. It didn't empower the State to seize materials from the semen-soaked hands of male pornography users. It couldn't have been used in all the alarming ways whiteboy pimps feared it would. White straight men are a profoundly delusion bunch, all in all. There are exceptions, of course. But the group designated--always only by their own peers--as "the most brilliant human beings on Earth" just couldn't conceive of how we all might distinguish two different things--one from the another. As if distinguishing this from that were no longer a capability among human beings--well, whitehetboy human beings, that is.

There was so much ado about nothing back in the 1980s about "blurred lines" and "slippery slopes". White het men ran proverbially into the streets waving their arms above their heads declaring that the Dworkin-MacKinnon Anti-Pornography Ordinance might lead to confusion--great, unfathomable, cataclysmic confusion; a vast, gigantic cognitive tsunami of confusion--as to whether a book written for a "mature" audience was pornographic or just sexually explicit in some other ways. (You know, like the recently deceased J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. These "brilliant" men thought that it would be easily mistaken for, say, "Debbie Does Dallas".)

The deeper truth was that these and other histerical straight white men were actually up in arms, up in legs, up in breasts and buttocks, about the possibility that there might be a consequence--a negative one--to them accessing images of raped and pimped women or just their fetishised body parts. Since then, such images and other materials have become accessible 24/7/365 (and in a Gregorian calendar "leap year", 366).

But during the pre-Internet 1980s, there was a kind of fear among white het men in the U.S. only known to those who lived through The McCarthy Era, or The Cold War--a fear akin to that similarly irrational fear of COMMUNISM, which was always a greater threat in the U.S. white conservative man's mind than anywhere else. Feminism, when not radical, is like the more palatable version of Communism, aka Socialism. Each (feminism and socialism), if allowed to accomplish their goals, are sensible efforts for achieving a more humane society so that the oppressed and subordinated are not so damaged by those with significantly more material privileges, social status, and economic power.

As MacKinnon as noted in her ground-breaking book, Toward A Feminist Theory of the State:
Sexuality is to feminism what work is to marxism: that which is most one's own, yet most taken away. Marxist theory argues that society is fundamentally constructed of the relations people form as they do and make things needed to survive humanly. Work is the social process of shaping and transforming the material and social worlds, creating people as social beings as they create value. It is that activity by which people become who they are. Class is its structure, production its consequence, capital a congealed form, and control its issue.
Implicit in feminist theory is a parallel argument: the molding, direction, and expression of sexuality organizes society into two sexes: women and men. This division underlies the totality of social relations. Sexuality is the social process through which social relations of gender are created, organized, expressed, and directed, creating the social beings we know as women and men, as their relations create society. As work is to marxism, sexuality to feminism is socially constructed yet constructing, universal as activity yet historically specific, jointly comprised of matter and mind. As the organized expropriation of the work of some for the benefit of others defines a class, workers, the organized expropriation of the sexuality of some for the use of others defines the sex, woman. Heterosexuality is its social structure, desire its internal dynamic, gender and family its congealed forms, sex roles its qualities generalized to social persona, reproduction a consequence, and control its issue.
U.S. and UK conservative and libertarian white men don't want their gender identities and the systems which bolster and enforce them, tampered with by anyone who thinks a right to be free of violating gazes, grabs, and gang rapes ought to extend beyond the population called "straight men".

Such men in the U.S. at least, are utterly reluctant to grant the rest of society the right to free, accessible health care and college. Gasp. Imagine that in the U.S.!!!! (No student debt? No putting off getting an infected tooth attended to?) Why, what would the Founding Fathers think?!!? Oh, you say many of them had this very thing in mind? Oh, well, not THOSE Founding Fathers. I'm speaking about the ones who had plantations and slaves who didn't find anything morally or politically problematic with doing so, and who crafted laws so that they would be allowed to continue to own plantations and slaves. 

White privileged men find so many ways of stating--with whatever needed aggression is called for to get the point across, "There will be no radical (humane) redistribution resources, power, and access to decent living. We cannot have that for the many, when we (greedy bastards) use up so many resources.

The "resource" pimps and pornographers use up is women's energy to fight for freedom from slavery to men's sexual tastes, and touches. The pimps and producers of pornography use up this resource by coercing women to do things that require dissociation, deference, denial, and the sustained degradation of one's being by others who will pay large sums of money for the opportunity to do just that.

This resource is a kind of resistance. It is a form of power that exists to liberate gendered beings from patriarchal tyranny--a destructive dualism hiding its own hierarchical nature from social scrutiny. Without this resistance, limitation and imitation of gender are easily passed off as "freely chosen" and "transgressive".

The systems and institutions which keep gender tyranny tyrannical include pornography--not "the idea of pornography" but the multi-billion dollar a year pornography industry, which is entirely material and concrete, even while also mental and conceptual.

White educated het men fetishise women's body parts. But they appear to take even more delight in argumentation the sole purpose of which is to turn reality into matters of intellectual abstraction and political obfuscation. And so it becomes a bit of a problem for these boys when someone comes along and notices that they aren't making any sense at all. "The emperor, not the empress, is without garb".

The quote which opens this post, by Dworkin, is one of many found in her books that reveals how ridiculously illogical men are--the very men who claim feminists don't know what they are talking about. Feminist intellect has got masculinist "logic" by the scrotal sac, which is, after all, where so many men argue their decision-making skills are stored.

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