Monday, May 11, 2009

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

This is the first part of a multi-part post. Here are the links to the rest of the series:
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.

What follows is a conversation that has transpired (and continues) by email, between a profeminist man in the US and another one in Australia. There are places both of significant agreement and disagreement. The correspondence has been and will be shared with me (and you) as long as I use no one's name, which, primarily for the sake of the privacy of a woman involved, I'll honor. (I know the US guy but have had no knowledge of the Aussie guy, other than reading the exchange that follows in its "unabridged" form. I'd put the whole thing out there, but I think there's some places of repetition, so am making this more streamlined than the originals.) I find it, overall, to be a responsible conversation.

First contact:
Email #1 from USguy to Aussieguy:
As I understand it, you have found Andrea Dworkin's writings to be very useful, and would like some support around giving up the habit of using pornography.

I've been an activist in the feminist anti-pornography movement, and in other areas dealing with systemic violence against and exploitation of women by men, which includes, of course how every individual man regards (through behavior) women's humanity and right to privacy and dignity.

I gave up using pornography years ago. I know there are many approaches, and have spoken with many men over the years about how to do so. Rarely, though, do the men ground their motives and desires for change by sharing the compassionate concerns of a radical feminist who understood, more deeply than do most people, what the cost to women is, individually and as a class, of maintaining a pornography industry. So I am encouraged by your commitment to learning and changing behavior due to reading the work of someone who has written so astutely about the subject of turning women into objects for men's use and unjust gratification.

I look forward to hearing from you soon, and can hopefully offer meaningful woman-centered support in this area.

First response (email #1) from Aussieguy to USguy:
Thanks for getting in touch.

Yeah, I was saying to [woman's name removed] that reading Andrea Dworkin's Pornography really made me understand how my entrapment by porn is illusory and I'm actually empowered to choose it or not. It made the choice to stop objectifying women seem totally real.

It comes as part of a longer project, of course. I've been [part of an online support group, the membership of which is seeking to give up using pornography], seeing a counsellor, doing a little bit of work on a modified 12-step programme and stuff like that. I originally decided to give up porn about 7 years ago but slipped back in within about 6 months. Since then I've had times of putting varying amounts of effort into it and also discovered a few things. I noticed how it's become harder to stop as I've hated it more. Someone described that once as "defining the battle" or something, that really rung true for me - now that I've identified that behaviour as the one I'm challenging, it's in my mind constantly. I've also discovered how much broader it is than porn. Objectification of women enters into my life practically every hour and is so habitual that I had no idea how much I do it. I've found that parts of my life are structured around creating opportunities to view porn or perve on women.

I'm glad to hear you're keen to offer support, and that you seem to be coming at it from a pro-feminist perspective too. It's been really hard to find people to talk to about it who fully identify with my analysis of the porn industry and its place in society. I don't think I'm evil but I think that the mass media porn industry is really horrible and my support of it is a serious thorn in my conscience.

There is a lot to say to you about my situation and where I'm up to etc. if you want to get involved and help. I know you're a random stranger, possibly from another country, so you'll have to set a boundary on how deeply you want to attend to me in particular. I'm ready to write you about 500 chaotic words on where I'm at, and have a good D&M if you're up for it.

I'm interested to hear about what you think, on reflection, were the most important things in your giving up porn.

good to hear from you

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