In recent days the gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has stated that ‘pornography is good for you’. Once again we see a lefty male make anti-feminist/anti women pronouncements without seemingly any understanding of the harm of this ….but yes, with all the authority his privileged educated white male status affords him.
Where to even start………?
the priority of the male perspective.
that dominators are men and that the dominated are women (and/or children).
that female sexual agency is irrelevant, ignored, eradicated.
that men never ever fail to get what they want.
that bodies should look a certain way.
that male sexuality is based on cruelty, coercion and degradation and female sexuality is a response to this. e.g. enjoyment of cruelty, coercion and degradation.
that women and girls are viewed as worthless ‘whores’, ‘sluts’ ‘bitches’, ‘fuck toys’ ‘fuck holes’, ‘dirty’, ‘filthy’…….
etc etc etc….
Peter talks about condemning violence towards women in pornography- yet this is the reality of even the ‘mainstream’ het porn many are watching on a daily basis and from a very, very young age. Criticism of such has nothing to do with prudery, as Tatchell also (predictably!) suggested, but is to highlight the misogynistic violence and hatred both often either suggested or openly presented in much of its content. Normalising of these negative and brutal ideas and imagery can only cause harm in the minds of men and boys and do much, much worse to women and girls.
‘It is true, and very much to the point, that women are objects, commodities, some deemed more expensive than others ’. From Woman Hating
Pornography isn’t just a fantasy either. What is depicted on screen is happening to real women. That’s why we must listen to the voices of exited women. We must acknowledge that exploitation, trafficking, coercion, racism, homophobia, violence including sexual violence etc are very much part of an ‘industry’ which thrives on the values of domination and misogyny.
While personally being very wary of attaching the word ‘feminist’ to ‘pornography’ especially in an on-going patriarchal culture, Tatchell talks about ‘feminist porn’ as ethical (- holding up one article he has presumably just found on the net!). Does he use feminist porn? Do many other men?? Yet this is the one example we are given as ‘good pornography’…..
When Tatchell talks of ‘non-abusive porn’ what does he mean? How can common depictions of fantasies/reality involving the often violent subordination of women be described as ‘non-abusive’? How many men and boys, for example, prioritise ‘ethicalness’ when searching for porn anyway?
Pornography is the epitome of male entitlement.
Tatchell talks about ‘consensual pornography’. Issues of consent are very complex, involving anything from economic to societal, patriarchal and gendered factors and pressures. Consent and choice are not necessarily aligned. Also how does a viewer discern consensual and non-consensual pornography anyway? Any porn site may involve those who are non-consensual, trafficked, drugged, raped, beaten or underage. Does the viewer even care?
Tatchell also highlights amateur porn as somehow ‘better’ than pornography produced through more corporate means. Amateur porn, which largely follows the misogynistic narratives, values and standards created by corporate porn anyway, has even less ‘regulation’ than that which is produced by the so called ‘sex industry’. How is that positive?
Tatchell sees porn use as beneficial. He highlights people with disabilities as needing a sexual outlet as one example of where porn can do good. Firstly he is speaking ‘on behalf’ of a group of very diverse people. Many people with disabilities, as many other people, live fulfilled lives without the use of porn. Secondly, no one has an automatic right to be involved in the exploitation of others for their own sexual gratification. (When I suggested to Tatchell that people with disabilities who were isolated should have a right to a social life, not porn, he answered by saying that society is ‘screwed up’ so this wouldn’t happen….. What, therefore is the point of trying to improve society and any human rights, including gay rights? Is any social problem really ‘solved’ with another?).
The arguments Tatchell uses to endorse such a statement are repetitions of many men who wish to justify their own porn use – clearly viewing the world as if it is exists to cater for their own privileged requirements and indulgences…..under the usual ‘progressive’ banner.
What may be perceived as ‘good for you’ Peter, or for any white privileged ‘progressive’ male, is not so good for those who are coerced into sexual activity they don’t want through the narratives of porn, those who have their bodies held up to ‘porn standards’, and all those who may be exploited, trafficked, raped and subjugated as a result of pornography.
‘Striving for social justice and defending pornography are two things which are inherently contradictory’. Maggie Hayes.
(Artwork by Barbara Kruger)