the olden days: thinking about porn

Posted by on Dec 11, 2015

This is an old post from my old blog that I found because somebody linked me to it on twitter. All the links to the post are dead, so I just deleted them. I am also quite embarrassed that I used ‘pron’ rather than porn, back in the olden days of blogging, we used to do cute little things like that to try to keep google et al from finding your blog. How I miss those days.

So when I first came to blogging I was vehemently anti-porn. And then I came across the sex positive feminists in the blogosphere, and although I had serious misgivings with what they were saying, I was willing to listen. I’ve spent a lot of time listening–I’ve figured out from Queer Dude that there is a difference between sex positive and pro-pron people. From other bloggers, I figured out that pro-pron people feel feminist liberation can come from female controlled and centered pron. That queer and transgendered folks also find liberatory aspects in pron. From Radfems, I found out that radfems feel there is a difference between a free expression of female sexuality (which is good) and pron (which is, in general, bad). And most importantly, that there are women of color who are grappling with all of these issues as well.

Now, knowing all the stuff that I know, I am not so vehemently anti-pron any more–but I’m also not feeling the pro-pron thing either. I have these random thoughts that individually may not make must sense, but pulled all together under one post sort of make up the beginning of an opinion. They are as follows:

** Renegade Evolution has a post up about Women, Subversion, Capitalism, Practicality & Feminism. I disagree with her presentation and argument of “the master’s tools” and what it means for feminists. And the discussion really made me think of how pron has been styled into the “choice” debate–Pron is supposed to be empowering because women enter it “by choice” OR women have no “choice” thus, it is disempowering.

** As with other “choice” debates (abortion is the biggie), “choice” rests its foundation on the beliefs that 1. the person making the choice is valued by society and 2. the choice the made is valued by society. In the abortion debates, people like Dorthy Roberts (and lots of other RWOC theorists) argue that “choice” is harmful to women of color (and other marginalized women) because it continues the agenda against women of color such that women of color are systematically violated for making the “wrong” choice. For example, the choice to have a baby is certainly available to all women in the U.S., but it is generally only poor white women, disabled women and women of color that must contend with back to work programs, sterilization without consent, losing children through child protective services, imprisonment, etc. Also, many times, under the guise of “feminist choice’ white feminists employ violent and harmful policies of reproductive control over women of color–for example, the unquestioned support of Planned Parenthood (a corporation with a proven track record of systematic “population control” policies.)

** In terms of pron, I see the choice debate as being harmful to women of color in the pron business (and the sex industry in general), because it assumes that a black woman (and all woc) making the choice to do pron is valued by society in the same way that a white woman making the choice to do pron is. That is, all women are the same, they all hold the same level of power, and they all are considered *desirable* by those who either do or don’t consume the product they do or don’t deliver.

** The assumption that all women are the same–that there are no hierarchies of oppression, marginalization, and/or violence that exist between women blatantly disregards the capitalistic system that has always and probably will always value white, thin, able-bodied blond women in terms of “product” more than any other woman. As I said at RE’s–it’s not necessary for the u.s. to bomb Denmark for U.S. citizens to value sexual services performed by blond white women. But as different scholars argue about arab and asian sex workers, it wasn’t until the u.s. began to actively colonize these areas that sex as performed by arab/asian workers came into demand.

** Similarly, it’s not necessary for the U.S. to be a “Christian Nation” for U.S. citizens to value white female virginity. Snow White is a virgin. So is Cinderella, Ariel, Belle, and Sleeping Beauty. What little girl in the U.S. doesn’t want to be a princess? There’s a reason why Asian, Arab and indigenous princesses all came along before the black princess did. Notice anything about this pic?

** Angela Davis argues that racism will always exist within the confines of a capitalistic system. Furthermore, there is no way to eliminate racism from the structure of capitalism as capitalism is dependent upon racism for its survival. Other activists/scholars build upon her argument and argue that disablism, ageism, homophobia, transphobia, nationalism etc will always be present within a capitalistic system as capitalism rests on a foundation of inequality. Each ‘ism is used to varying degrees by a capitalistic system to reinforce hierarchies that keep 2-8 percent of the world’s population in control of everybody else.

** An example of racism directly related to pron–on a female owned, created, centered pron site there was the following phrase over the pic’s of a black female sex worker, “It’s not very often you come across a great female black performer, but…” Even within women centered porn, great black female sex workers are the exception not the rule. How do black women negotiate that particular type of racism? How do black sex workers negotiate racism that is present in the “solution”?

** On the other hand, how does the elimination of one industry in a capitalistic system eliminate racism in every other industry in the U.S.?

** A woman in Detroit was recently arrested for selling sexual services with her seven year old daughter online. She brought a bag with her to the hotel meet up that was filled with sex toys. She promised the undercover cop she was working with that he had free access to do what he chose with her daughter. As more details have come out, this apparently was not the first time she has done this with the seven year old, and she has four other children that the police suspect have also been sold in this way.

** From UBUNTU’s website:

The consequences for sex workers of color may be greater in terms of community acceptance and stigmatization. Scholar Elizabeth Higgonbotham coined the phrase “the politics of respectability” to describe how racial oppression can be broken down if oppressed folks are just respectable enough. Basically, people of color who engage in stigmatized behavior are seen as reflecting poorly on their people and disparaged for their actions. The politics of respectability most certainly enters the Duke rape situation when we see community leaders like Jesse Jackson offering to give the survivor a full-ride scholarship to pay for the remainder of her education so that she does not have to strip. While it is certainly a wonderful thing that a single mother of two no longer has to worry about how to pay for school, the gift confuses the issue. The problem is not that she was stripping. The problem is that she was raped.

** I believe this quote is one of the only quotes on any feminist site I have ever seen discussing pron that confronts the idea of “choice”. The problem (or solution) is NOT that women are choosing to enter into sex work, the problem is that they are being raped and violated while working. The problem is that it’s OK to rape, fuck, beat, threaten, intimidate, stalk, verbally assault those who perform acts of sex. If it is ok to violate those who sell sex as a product (and thereby presumably, within a capitalistic system, have power), why on earth wouldn’t it be ok to violate those who don’t? In other words, if it’s ok to violate a factory worker in the U.S. that belongs to a Union, why would anybody think that it’s not ok to violate a factory worker in Mexico that doesn’t belong to a union?

** If sex work is valued by feminists in a way that decenters “choice” and recenters, for example, community health (as UBUNTU has chosen to do), how might that hold feminists accountable to the seven year old child sold by her mother? How might it hold feminists accountable to women of color sex workers? Or to hetero married non-sex workers? Or to sex workers in other nations? Or to those who are being sold into sexual slavery?

** Beth Richie:

For if we’re truly committed to ending violence against women, then we must start in the hardest places, the places like jails and prisons and other correctional facilities. The places where our work has not had an impact yet. I think we have to stop looking for the easy clients, and we have to stop being the friendly colored girls as some of our anti-violence programs require us to be. We must not deny the part of ourselves and the part of our work that is least acceptable to the mainstream public. Just because we’re a lesbian. Or maybe because a survivor is addicted and relapsing, or because she may be young and pregnant, again. Or because she’s a sex worker or because she does not have legal status in this country. We must not let those who really object to all of us and our work, co-opt some of us and the work we’re trying to do. And if this anti-violence movement could ever really be legitimate in a patriarchal, racist society–in a society where building more jails and prisons is a growth industry, where racism is allowed to flourish through hate speech, hate actions and hateful neglect of communities of color. Where violence against women and poor people in this country is condoned and celebrated. Not only in this country, but around the world. Where some women don’t matter except to serve those in power, as nurses or secretaries, sex workers, wives or prisoners.

…we need listen more closely and remember the voices of the women of color who are farthest from this room. We need to listen to the hardest stories of the failure of our work. We need an analysis that is based on the experiences and needs of not just some of the women, that ‘every woman’ somewhere, but of all of us. All women. We must take leadership in this movement from those who, up until now, have been excluded from this movement. Not only by white women, but by some women of color too. And ultimately, we need to be accountable not to those in power, but to the powerless.

My summation:
** The solution rests not in eliminating an industry (which makes feminists accountable and dependent upon the legal system in a particular nation/state), but in community power and health (which makes feminists accountable to their communities and specifically, the women of their communities)

** Which also means that the answer is not individual action within the system as RE stated, but collective action against the system.

I’m not sure if these thoughts finally amount to any spectacular understanding of pron, sex work, or life in general. They represent me working through an issue from a third space more than anything. I welcome discussion from others who are also working through issues from a third space. Comments are on moderation.