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pornography and patriarchy

by anonymous volunteer Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2002 at 9:18 PM

this is an extended reply to a comment found here.

pornography and patr...
unrequited.gif, image/png, 409x94

--"No one should be denied the beauty of the naked body.. it is art in all it's magnificence, not dirty, filthy, or obscene."

you think the human body itself is art? who is the artist? your mother? we haven't called anyone "dirty, filthy, or obscene" as you say.

look, as James Brown says: "we're people. we like the birds and the bees. but we'd rather die on our feet.... than keep living on our knees."

okay, please excuse us for spinning off completely into speculative editorial mode, but we've been thinking about this stuff quietly for long years (we certainly don't expect total agreement, even from friends and supporters).....

--Concerning The Right To Unrequited Love--

we agree that the naked body can be beautiful and we believe most people are chronically deprived of the sexual experience they desire. but pornography only aggravates and exploits that deprivation. everybody knows that. the feminist critique of pornography is only asking you to be as honest with yourself as you were when you were a boy. you say "no one should be denied", but a pornographer doesn't offer you what you are denied any more than a heroin dealer offers an addict. pornography offers pictures. let's not kid ourselves. maybe the women are beautiful. so what. they don't even know you exist. generally these are pictures of painted faces and cosmetically altered vaginas, anuses, and mammary glands in circumstances and settings that are meant to make insecure men get erections and ejaculate without interaction. it's tragic if it isn't comic. take it to the next level: if it's the whole three dimensional "beauty of the naked body" that you're after without having to consult with the person IN the body.... then you may have to attend some sort of 'live' venue.. and if your idea of 'beauty' involves more than the sense of sight, and you still don't want to risk rejection or even negotiation with a woman, you may have to commit more fully to the logic of the sex industry and consult a procurer who can provide a prostitute for you. (technically that's illegal in California - but notice: that isn't because the woman didn't choose you. a woman's choice doesn't rise to that level of significance in a pornographic society. throughout the legal porn industry and beyond, a woman's sexual preference is scarcely even considered. the very fact that she need not be consulted arouses. men are socialized from a young age, with porn, to view a woman's right to choose as a turn off.)

for average heterosexual men, there are essentially three avenues to sexual access: a middleman, a woman, or a sex crime. the feminist critique of pornography has been telling men to renounce the middleman for more than thirty years. today 721 million porn videos are rented each year in the USA. total sales and rentals is aprox. $4 billion annually (see 'You Are What You Eat' by Robert Jensen in Clamor #16 Sept./Oct. '02). all of this while traditional social barriers to consensual mutually selective sex have all but evaporated (-by "mutually selective sex" we mean sexual contact between individuals who have selected one another as partners). in other words: the only major barrier to sexual fulfillment today may be the fact that a lot of men no longer find consensual mutually selective sex desirable.

why? because consensual mutually selective sex is perceived by men as a loss of personal autonomy. why? because, although the adolescent's new capacity for unilateral sexual desire is only one component of the increased desire for personal autonomy typical of puberty, the capacity for unilateral sex develops concurrently with that general increase, and remains resonant with more general personal autonomy throughout maturity.

the capacity for unilateral sexual desire functions within patriarchy as a pacifier. normally, that capacity has a limited evolutionary role by facilitating sexual selectivity. it says:"what i want is not necessarily what you want" Without this, young adults would be controllable. social and circumstantial factors would then conspire to coerce mating habits. in this sense, adolescent rebellion and sexual selectivity is a guard against coerced and contrived biological degeneration.

additionally, we think unilateral sexual desires are an important part of social ritual. unilateral attractions have a place in a more satisfying and elaborate interaction, in a longer dance that allows for what we call "chemistry" to happen, in a call and response that inevitably conjures up more multilateral things.

but in a patriarchy, unilateral sexual desire is like a red lighted button on the chest of a puppet - every time the button is pushed the puppet feels autonomous, individual, rebellious and free. when we move the focus of our eyes to where the procurers direct us, we feel free. looking at porn is like allowing the puppet master to make the puppet hit that red lighted button on its chest over and over again. the more you submit, the more free you feel.

in general, people don't take kindly to having their personal autonomy stripped from them. in fact it is extremely difficult to do. the genius of patriarchy lies in this: if you allow them to indulge their capacity for unilateral sexual desire, men will bear the loss of every other personal autonomy with heroic self-sacrifice.

once instituted, the endurance of this system, like any other effective tyranny, is insured by the myopic self-interest of the men. the liberation of women, in this context, becomes seemingly impossible since their oppression constitutes the last shred of the autonomy of men - a stark and cruel autonomy from which the stubborn bloodsuckers will not be torn.

ultimately, the sex industry is only a middleman who relieves men of the onerous requital of their preferably unilateral desire. a man and a woman who could have met at a party or in the park are instead introduced by a middleman who denies the woman her capacity to refuse and relieves the man of the chance he may be pitied, and extracts his fee from both of them. same scenario pimp or pornographer. as time goes on the middleman thrives while the man and woman beat their heads against the riddle of unilateral sex, letting the middleman's hand in their hard-earned money all the while.

it's not enough if the man stops going there and returns to his bewildered wife. it's not enough for the woman to go become a seamstress or whatever and pray to Mary. we don't want to ask people to do that. it's only enough if the man and the woman manage to climb out of the crossed purposes imposed on them.

but what happens when male consumers try to renounce the middleman if the feminist critique of pornography is no longer publicly viable? how are men supposed to communicate with real women if they can't think critical thoughts about the trap they have been in. we're afraid the inevitable answer may be some combination of backsliding and/or sex crime. this is why the feminist critique of pornography is more essential than ever. it is our contention that average heterosexual men in the USA today are about as capable of honest intimacy with women as heroin addicts are capable of honest friendship. the pimp and the pusher sit back and watch for any twinkles of awareness dawning.

so what do we do as far as general strategy? my feeling is that the battle against the sex industry must be fought in conjunction with other battles for autonomy. a successful movement against unilateral sex must be made to resonate with other movements for autonomy and against authoritarian structures. we want to see more cooperation with movements for economic justice, movements for peace and against war, movements against coercive control and incarceration, movements in defense of biodiversity and the intellectual commons, and others. the connections have been there, waiting to be made. we should make them. otherwise it seems there will be no way to avoid outright enmity between the sexes.

we share many enemies with numerous movments. we need to expose not only the addiction but the pusher, dealer, druglord, senator, and president at the other end of the line. we need to expose not only the porn consumer but the procurer, the production company, the publisher, the distributor, the parent company, the media mogul, and ultimately the same senator and president.

putting porn on a pedestal is a mistake. beauty is not hard to find.

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the right to unrequited love

by anonymous volunteer Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2002 at 9:18 PM

the right to unrequi...
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