Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Death of Imagination: on pornography, shame, and humanity

[image is from here]

I don't quite get why liberals don't get what pornography is and does. I honestly don't quite get it. I think individualism and liberalism have combined so thoroughly with capitalism and patriarchy to make people believe, against great evidence, that pornography just causes "arousal" or "harms no one". You have to be a pretty fucking callous bastard to come to that conclusion. You have to not see the women used in pornography as human, and you have to not give much of a shit about how your pornography use impacts on the women around you: the women you are in relationship with, and the woman you objectify more and violate more in public, at the gym, in the office, or wherever, because you're consuming so much CRAP you can't know what is a human rights issue from what is natural.

Pornography makes sex into sexxx, which is the fusion of cultural sexuality to shame, degradation, oppression, and humiliation. That's what it does. That's what it exists to do. Oh, and to make pimps a lot of money. Pornography teaches males that women with fake breasts and bleached hair and painted fingernails are "naturally beautiful". Pornography tells lies both about women and about men, and it truly amazes me that more people don't get this. How "pornographised" does society have to be to think "hey, pornography: it's great!" How bound do our souls have to be to capitalistic, patriarchal greed and callousness to not recognise inhumanity when it's staring us in the face. The inhumanity is not the women in pornography, mind you. The inhumanity is in the pimps who mass market women's "retouched" flesh without regard for her bodily integrity, her health, her history, or her future.

Too often, conversations about sexual liberals get framed up in ways that preclude even getting at WHAT THE HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE IS. In this case, we have someone trying to disrespect and disregard--to shame--the feelings of women who don't want their male spouses or boyfriends using internet pornography. And so we can watch how it's never, ever okay to say or do anything that might just make a male feel SHAME about something he's doing that's fucked up. But it's open season on shaming women who stand up for their human rights to be seen and treated as human and to demand that any man treat all women as fully human. Wow, what a concept, huh? Men respecting ALL women. What is this, the year 2010?? Oh, yeah, it is.

This was just posted @ sexgenderbody blog, which is where the initial discussion takes place.

A multi-part reply. What’s between asterisks is from the initial discussion at that blog. What’s not is by me.

*”My girlfriend doesn’t let me watch porn because she says it’s cheating.”*

  1. This is the poor powerless man-plea which is disingenuous and dishonest. Let’s face it: he can look at pornography practically anywhere he wants to. His shame becomes a way to manipulate a situation in which he has more power than she does, and his needs are in direct opposition to her sense of feeling loved and respected as a whole person. He gets to care about that or not. If he wants to choose porn-watching over intimacy with his girlfriend, he gets to. But he doesn’t get to whimper about her “not letting him” do something he, in all likelihood, does, even if only out of childish rebellion to “mommy trying to control me”.

    *A couple of weeks ago I posted a blog about women who can’t orgasm, and in that was a bit about men who are shamed by their wives for watching porn.*

    I think men feeling shame about looking at raped women is an appropriate feeling to have. And in this society, whenever men have humane feelings about women, there will always be plenty of women and men to immediately rush to those men’s aid, to make sure they don’t have to hold the burden of some “uncomfortable” feelings. Geesh. So if women feel uncomfortable with their bfs watching raped women displayed by pimps, they should “get over it”. But if men feel shame for realising something might actually be legitimately upsetting to a woman about a man in her life looking at the material pimps with cameras mass produce, he is NEVER told to “just get over it”. That’s called sexism, folks. Pure misogyny: His feelings matter and fuck hers if they get in his way or “cramp his style”. That her style is always cramped is apparently never allowed to be the point of a thread discussion. That she has to negotiate a world that will caste and stigmatise her, not him, as a wh*re, or a “good girl” or a sl*t, but NONE of those terms translate over to heterosexual men, well, that’s “off topic”.

    *I have to admit I was a little skeptical, even as I was writing it, that these women are really out there.*
    Every woman I know, which is about a hundred women.

    *Just like the girls who refuse to put “those things,” (aka dicks) in their mouths*

    That is a strawwoman argument. Who, in the actual world, are you talking about? We can all “create people” to then pretend are just so obnoxiously puritanical or prurient. Who are they? Really?

    *, women who freak out when their man watches porn are like alien beings to me – I’m pretty sure they’re real, but haven’t encountered one in real life, so I still doubt their existence. Unlike in the X-Files, I don’t want to believe.*

    So partly I just want to say, yes, they are real, they exist. I know them. They have names and histories and actual legitimate feelings on this subject that ought not get “shamed” by folks who “don’t get it”. Unless the rules are “women should be shamed any time they don’t want to do something a man wants to do, sexually” but no man should EVER, EVER feel anything close to shame, because the poor dear may not survive”. If those are the rules, I’m not playing that game.

    *My contact with these bizarre creatures*

    Again, deeply shaming and disrespectful to every woman I know.

    *was solidified last night when I heard not one, but two stories about women who feel that if their man watches porn it is CHEATING.*

    And this is another key strategy of non-engagement: first, dismiss “those people” as either non-existent or crazy… or something negative, and then, if you just HAVE to deal with them, mischaracterise their issues. What does “cheating” mean to those two women? Can we find out? Because OBVIOUSLY it doesn’t mean their fellas are out having sex with other women in the flesh. I mean these women aren’t stupid, right? I mean they are human and do deserve respect, right? Like, say, the way someone you care about or love deserves respect and to not be shamed for having feelings about something?

    *Once I realized my bubble is not as impenetrable as I thought, I decided to reasearch this phenomenon further. In doing so, I opened pandora’s (dirty, naughty*

    Or not naughty, but “oppressive” or “dehumanising”. I mean if you’re only going to frame this up as prurients vs. puritans, we’re never going to actually get to the issue at hand, which I’d argue is men betraying, using, and mistreating women.

    *little) box, and found that a significant number of divorces stem from the husband viewing pornography.*

    Yup, and all those women aren’t stupid, silly, overreactive idiots. (Right?)

  2. *I also found this article in the (cough) Catholic News Agency,*

    I can lead you to plenty that aren’t put out by any church, and that are anti-church.

    *where the Director of the Center for Research on Marriage and Religion (more coughing) conducted a survey. Their completely unbiased findings included:

    Married men involved in pornography report feeling less satisfied with their marital relations and less emotionally attached to their wives.*

    You don’t want to deal with that, as a reality. So you dismiss it out of hand. Well, that closes off the conversation then doesn’t it? That’s what some men report. So are they stupid too?

    *(The same wives who put restrictions on what they can masturbate to?)*

    No. The women who have legitimate feelings about this matter that you don’t want to explore. (You’ve owned that you don’t want to… so why do it if all you’re going to do is trash anyone who doesn’t agree with what you assumed to be the case: that these women don’t exist, and if they do they’re puritanical?

    *Pornography use more than triples the rate of marital infidelity. 56 percent of divorces involved one party having an “obsessive interest” in pornographic websites.*

    Yup. So that’s reality. Now, what do you do with it?

    *(according to which party?)*

    Try and find a way to disregard, disrespect, or demean it? One might argue there’s something deep in this that you’re not wanting to look at. You’re awfully quick to silence those who are speaking. Did you notice that?

    *A reported 70 percent of youth aged 15-17 have come across pornography accidentally while online. (But don’t worry. . . ) While adolescents initially experience shame, embarrassment and disgust at pornography, these feelings recede with repeated exposure.(Thank god).*

    I really experience you as so greatly disrespectful that I really wonder whether you are open to actually listening to what people have to say on this matter. Are you? Repeated exposure to most things desensitises people. So the first bomb going off has a really powerful impact on the psyche that the hundredth may not have. Someone who is raped once may experience profound trauma, but the hundredth time, maybe they’re just numb and dissociated. Maybe there are actual reasons to feel shame, that aren’t rooted in puritanism. Can we explore that as a possibility, or not?

    *Pornography encourages greater sexual permissiveness, leading to a greater risk of out-of-wedlock births and sexually transmitted diseases. (I think they’re confusing this with abstinence).*

    No, they’re not. But if you want to just ignore their findings, why even put them up to begin with?
    *All joking aside, the real question is whether viewing pornography should be considered cheating.*

    I think that’s an easy way to frame the question to make the women who care about this seem like fools. And I find that intellectually dishonest. You pretend to be doing one thing, without owning that you are doing something else. Own your intentions. Don’t set people up to look like fools, who aren’t fools.

    *Merriam-Webster defines adultery as “voluntary sexual intercourse between a married man and someone other than his wife or between a married woman and someone other than her husband.” Aside from what this limited definition means for polyamory, it is a pretty obvious win for porn watchers. While a lot of you little dirties like to pretend you’re fucking Jenna Jameson, the reality is that it’s all in your imagination, and therefore you’re not cheating on anyone. But you knew that.*

    I’m moving beyond this myopic discussion topic, because, to me, it ignores what women are saying. Maybe not women you know, and maybe not all women. But A LOT of women are.

    *It’s the wives/girlfriends that seem to need a better understanding of porn* and its purpose.*

    *Edit: I’m talking about a healthy porn-viewing regimen, not a porn addiction. If their real-life sex parnter is being neglected, it’s time to trade boxes*

    Why? Why limit the discussion to something that isn’t that prevalent? What if most people who watch porn watch it compulsively or addictively? That’s my experience of men. That it is an “entitlement” issue, much more than it’s a “sexual variety” issue. It’s an issue of power and authority: he gets to name reality, she doesn’t. Not an issue so much of “cheating”.

    *The point of porn is to give men the visual stimulation they enjoy to help them get off. That’s IT.*

    No, it isn’t. The point of pornography is to earn money for pimps. THAT’S it’s main purpose. It is, after all, a multi-BILLION dollar a year industry. What other industry that large would you dismiss as “stimulation” and that’s all? The fast food industry? The advertising industry? The music industry? Television? Dominant press? Government speeches? Priests’ sermons? No, it’s an industry that necessarily uses and abuses women to have “a product”. If you really want to know what pornography is, read this book, which details it quite accurately:

    Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality, by Gail Dines, Ann Russo, and Robert Jensen. Read also, “Getting Off” by Robert Jensen. They’ve studied the industry for decades. Have you? I have studied it as well, mostly by knowing people in it and impacted by it.
    See: and

    The giant industry, which is not “an idea” or “flights of imagination”, requires teen girls, some younger than that, to be out on the street, picked up and seasoned by pimps, and photographed or videotaped by their pimps or by a pimp they are introduced to, after they’ve been told over and over “this is what you’re good at” or, “this is what you’re for”. To know what pornography is, you have to live inside the industry, be pimped, be in pornography, commercially, and see what is really going down. Women need to be on drugs or to dissociate or be beaten up to do what is “asked” of them. And those who do it “willingly” and those women certainly exist, are not representative of who is trafficked and in prostitution and pornography internationally. I know some of those women personally. Do you? Just because people in your world aren’t dying from drinking unclean water doesn’t mean “they don’t exist”. You are privileged to not know them.

    *It isn’t about what their wives should be doing in bed, or how perky and fake their wives tits should be.*

    Well, actually it is, when men look at porn and then “suggest” stuff to the women in their sexual lives. And it is when a woman with HUMAN breasts who feels a little self-conscious about the fact that they don’t look like they’re stuffed with helium, sees her boyfriend or husband only getting off to helium breasts. (So much for heterosexuality in men being “natural”: there’s nothing “natural” about how women look in pornography. See this Dove ad for a glimpse into what I mean (it’s been watched over TEN MILLION TIMES. Are all the women and some men who “resonate” with what it is saying about commercialised “beauty” idiots? I hope you don’t think so:

    See also: Killing Us Softly 3, a video which is on YouTube, about how advertising sells women and men misogyny, without calling it that.

  3. *It’s not about viewing women as objects.*

    It’s about treating women as objects, as sexxx-things, and about being so dehumanised that one cannot even see the people being pimped AS full human beings, or as anyone you should give a shit about.

    *It may be about viewing THOSE women as objects, but the ultimate goal is to have an imaginary girl to shoot their wad all over.*

    I disagree, and so do men I know who used to use or never used pornography. If you don’t believe me, read this man’s account of his use of it during his relationship with a woman:

    Pornography and Love, by Victoria and Garry Prater. See:

    None of the authors or experts here are “right-wing” or give a fuck about obeying a male god.

    *Women, instead of being threatened by this, why not embrace it and use it to your benefit?*

    Maybe because it is designed to degrade and dehumanise her, and the women in the industry who you don’t acknowledge as actually existent.

    *I assure you, “Honey, let’s watch some porn tonight and rub each other off” will make you one of the hottest women your husband could ask for, because you’re real and you will fuck him, and you are a dirty whore who wants his load all over your (insert husband’s favorite body part here). He knows you’re not really a whore, but he’s willing to pretend with you, and he will still love and respect you in the morning, I promise.*

    Are you a right-wing pro-sex-in-marriage writer? Because that’s precisely what they argue for. Just do what he wants, ladies. It’ll all be fine. Not. This is pro-patriarchal agenda stuff, and you’re not owning it as that, pretending you’re both new and disinterested in the subject, unless some men are actually made to think about their actions as political and ethical, as actually truly impacting another human being negatively. Hmmm. Wouldn’t it be great it all men actually cared what women think and feel? Or would that be “a shamefully bad thing”?

    *The irony is, even if you are the dirtiest little slut your husband could ask for,*

    He’s out there looking for her, believe me. And he’s likely a Republican, or Right-wing, and preaches the gospel of Jesus. And he’s also the liberal dude who thinks it’s all cool. Prostitution, pornography, hey, no one’s getting hurt, right? He’ll use a prostitute who is a junky and not give a shit about her humanity, because, hey, “she’s selling and he’s buying”. And that’s, what, equality? Consumers are equal to the corporate manufacturers? Consumed person is equal to the purchaser? Not in reality. No. Capitalism never works that way, actually. Nor does patriarchy. And the pornography industry is bound to both, not in the fun way.

    So, yes, the one’s getting hurt are getting hurt. Unless their hurt doesn’t count as human pain, of course.
    *he’ll still watch porn, because men also like variety.*

    Because men don’t like being told what to do. They like telling the women in their lives what to do, sexually, though, but that’s never critiqued as anything other than “an uptight woman problem”. Hmmm. See the pattern? You’ll see in the book, Pornography and Love. At least one man gets a bit honest about the subject. After being in denial about what he’s even looking at pornography FOR… really.

    *He did it before you, he’ll do it after you, and he’ll do it while he’s with you (whether you know about it or not). Porn is a healthy expression of a single person’s/ couples sex life, so please save the guilt and shame for church and GET OVER IT.*

    I’d argue it isn’t at all. So I guess we can agree to disagree, but I can back up my statements with human stories that are true, about women inside and outside the industry. Can you?

    *Edit: I’m talking about a healthy porn-viewing regimen, not a porn addiction. If their real-life sex parnter is being neglected, it’s time to trade boxes!*

    Well, maybe she feels it’s cheating because she IS being neglected because instead of spending QT with her, he’s in the other room jerking off to images of incested girls and raped women. Maybe, as a human being who wants intimacy and care and attention, she has “a problem” with him doing that. And why shouldn’t she?

    *I have heard the perspectives you list, from people in person. I myself fall into the same camp you do, namely that pornography is not one thing – good or bad. Like anything, the real definition lies in how a person uses or experiences it.
    I can see that some people may feel threatened by it when their spouse / lover uses pornography. For those people, it is what it is. I would have those people ask their partner what it is about and embrace each other. For me, that is what a relationship is about. But, those terms are my terms.
    We each choose the terms of our relationships, our values and the meanings that we attach to our own actions and the actions of our lovers. It will either work out or it won’t.*

    I think that comes very close to the position in the book, Pornography and Love. It argues for mutual respect, mutual listening, and mutual caring. (Sounds awful, doesn’t it!)

    *I don’t see masturbation, pornography or sex as a problem in itself.*

    And if you were cum on every day, in your hair, on your eyes, up your nose, in your mouth, down your throat, up your ass, etc., several times a day, by men who don’t give a shit about you as a human being, might you feel differently? The images are of actual people, who either exist in the world or have since died. Either way, should we be grossly insensitive to how “men’s needs” impact their lives? Men demand 24/7 access to raped women. They either want the images, the evidence, or they want to rape. Not all men. But the group, men, have it as an entitlement, a socially protected right, to have such access. Across the globe. In what sense is this not a human rights issue?

    *I do see how people can use any of those things as an addiction or be triggered into anger or fear by them. The effect of pornography does not lie within the pornography itself but in the story and meaning we give it.*

    Unless you’re the woman in the pornography, or the gay man, or that trans person being used in abusive ways. Unless you’re the woman who is so goddamned tired of hearing the father of her their two children beg and plead to “try this just once” (putting his dick in her butt), that she gives in out of sheer exhaustion, and she doesn’t like it, and says so, and he’s annoyed, so just goes on looking at those women in the internet who seem to REALLY like it a lot! And if you think those women are “really feeling sexual pleasure” you are living in a world of great imagination. They’re not. They’re working in a kind of hell.

  4. *It’s funny, I honestly would never know either of my men watch porn, if we didn’t talk about it. I’ve never “caught” them, or had any evidence whatsoever (well, except the occasional DVD left in the DVD player), but I *know* they both have very active porn watching lifestyles, and it never impacts me at all.*

    “Very active porn-watching lifestyles”

    That would, it seems to me, come under the category of unhealthy according to this blogger’s own criteria. I would argue it impacts them quite a bit. And if you don’t care, that’s fine.

    I have to care about what daily sexxxual dehumanisation is doing to them, because they are my friends. If they stop engaging with others and just play videogames all day, I’ll also care. And if they watch “reality tv” all day I’ll also care. I’m going out on a not too long limb here to say that capitalist patriarchy is not designed to really meet our human, communal needs. Call me crazy, but there’s tons of evidence to back up that claim. Pornography is a capitalist patriarchal product which sells humans as things. And the society is designed to make us feel like “hey, that’s cool!”

    I support questioning whatever you are being sold as “good for you”. And I don’t think corporate pimps are humanitarians who really want you to live a humane life. And I don’t think their product is designed to help you know what that even looks or feels like. Industrial pornographers, who are pimps, are anti-imagination, which is why so many people can only imagine pornography when they think of “sexy sex”. Pimps want you to think, and feel, like sexxx is sex. You call that liberating?

    See, for more, here:

    I got the title a bit wrong above somewhere.
    Here it is, correctly written:
    Love and Pornography, by Victoria and Garry Prater (2009).
    Enjoy! It's a GREAT read. Let's discuss this book, okay?