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Regarding Porn, again

2009 February 27
by Solomon Lutze

So, awhile back I made a post about pornography. Having thought about it, I think that it’s a pretty good example of the way gender shapes technology, particularly with regards to the sheer volume of porn on the internet, particularly when compared with non-pornographic websites. I’ve decided to write my next paper on this subject. I’d like to talk about the assumptions that technology (in this case, the technology that is the porn industry) makes about gender, while thinking about who porn is intended for, who actually consumes it, who WOULD like to encounter erotic works if they were more (or less) tasteful than those produced by the porn industry, etc. I’m really interested in trying to include more opinions from people on this blog, too, so if you have any thoughts about it, whatever they may be, please feel free to contribute either here or on the post linked above (which has more content of my own thoughts about it than this post). Thanks in advance!

Oh, and let’s link some articles, too.

(I admit, a huge part of the reason I link is to see if people outside the class come in and comment. So if you’re outside the class, come in and comment!)

I thought the last one was interesting because there was little (no?) mention of the men in pornography, or the men who are intended to be sex objects themselves. Pornography is if nothing else multifarious; if there’s a fetish, there’s probably porn to pander to it.

so much to say. this will be an interesting essay, I hope.

2 Responses
  1. Roisin Foley permalink
    March 1, 2009

    This, and your previous post, reminded me of this article. The author uses the book “Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity,” by Robert Jensen, who “considers pornography a visual manifestation of misogyny,” and thinks that “masculinity must be abandoned altogether as, in his opinion, it is inextricably linked to a world in which women are viewed as stupid, submissive, and deserving of abuse,” to expand Jensen’s argument to consider the idea that the only way “to progress beyond this conveyance of hatred toward people of color is to eradicate the use of race in its entirety.” I think it’s really useful to consider these arguments alongside each other, even if I don’t agree with Jensen’s assessment of maculinitity as something that only contributes to the subjugation of women, something that is only destructive.

    In terms of your question about “who WOULD like to encounter erotic works if they were more (or less) tasteful than those produced by the porn industry, etc,” there is a sizeable industry of “feminist” porn. Here’s a link to the Feminist Porn Awards . There’s also a sizeable industry of “altporn” of which Suicide Girls is probably the best example, which is often marketed as feminist or run by/for women but which has come under fire for actually being rather exploitative.

  2. Anne Dalke permalink*
    March 1, 2009

    The first, now-classic and I think still-invaluable study of these questions was written by Gayle Rubin in 1984: “Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality.” Rubin argues that feminism is a theory of gender oppression; it does not follow that it will offer up an adequate theory of sexual oppression: “I wanted to add sexual practice to the grand list of social stratifications, and to establish sexuality as a vector of persecution and oppression.” Rubin calls in this essay for better scholarship on sexuality, and for a sexual politics that isn’t confined to the “edifice of feminist orthodoxy.”

    She asserts that 2nd wave feminists actually assimilated the usual stigmas and common hatreds of non-normative sexual practice, targeting minor, powerless sexual practices as the primary enemy of women’s freedom and well-being. Very little gay male behavior was “granted the feminist seal of approval”: every sexual variation — transsexuality, male homosexuality, promiscuity, public sex, transvestism, fetishism, sadomasochism– was vilified and attributed causal primacy in the creation/maintenance of female subordination. Rubin argues hard that feminism has not dealt adequately with sexual practice, sexual difference, sexual variety: “On the grand chessboard of life, I wanted to block this move.”

    To do so, she studied the work of sexologists like Havelock Ellis and Magnus Hirschfeld, who catalogued sexual variety, normalizing and destigmatizing homosexuality and other “variations” on “normal” sexual practices. She also critiqued the use of “19th c. romantic friendship as the ideal standard for lesbianism,” the “master narrative in lesbian historiography,” claiming that this “woman-identified-woman” approach “evacuates lesbianism of sexual context”
    (classic ex: Adrienne Rich, for whom close supportive relationships between women=lesbianism).

    Rubin claims that, until the late 19th c, there is no significant evidence of self-conscious, self-identified lesbian communities or politics, but individual consciousness changed in course of industrialization. Her later work explores how sexual communities formed and were organized as urban populations, the “territorial” building of subcultural systems designed to facilitate non-normative sexuality.

    Rubin’s done a lot of more recent work with the gay male leather community, which she describes as a “textbook case of “sexual ethnogenesis,”a “particular unity of the kinky and the masculine” which codes both desiring/desired subject and desired/desiring objects as masculine: man can be overpowered, yet retain his masculinity. Gay men articulated an indigenous political theory of their sexual culture, she argues, in their own terms.

    Anyhow: Rubin’s speaking @ Penn later this week, delivering the opening speech (@ 7:30 on Wednesday evening, in Houston Hall) for the promising-to-be-landmark conference on Re-thinking Sex.

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