Oh y’all, it has been a magical week for the menz. And in case you’re wondering, they are right and we are all very, very wrong. About everything.
Especially the sex industry.
Because you see, men are ‘normal’. Everything they do is ‘normal’. If they do it, it’s ‘normal’. And who can argue with ‘normal’? Certainly one can’t argue with nature? And, conveniently, anything that happens is somehow ‘natural’ (and therefore, immune to critique) simply because it exists.
It’s strange because I don’t see people giving up on war and murder and, like, cancer. But those things happen, right? According to the logic of everything-men-want-and-do-and-think-is-fine-and-good, these are simply natural things that happen to human beings and, therefore, are perfectly fine and everybody just sit down OK?
As such, there seems to be a little bit of confusion out there on the interwebs about the difference between male sexuality and misogyny. I feel like it’s intentional. Mostly because it’s so idiotic that I have a hard time believing that people could believe such things with sincerity. But then again, it isn’t exactly uncommon to hear some version of the “stop hating on my sexuality” response from various directions whenever feminists are critical of porn, strip clubs, or prostitution.
Last week, The King’s Tribune published a piece by Justin Shaw called Porn is Bad. Yes, you’re right! It is a hilariously witty title. Because HAHA that’s what feminists think! What a bunch of idiots.
Essentially, Shaw argues that feminists who are critical of porn are hysterical, screechy, and, generally, stupid. Did you know that what our arguments all boil down to is that “porn is bad”? Yep! It’s that easy, ladies. Forget violence, objectification, oppression, feminist film theory, powerraceclassgendersexism, because all we’ve really been saying, all this time is: bad. Men are bad. Porn is bad. The end. No wonder they hate us so much, y’all! We are a bunch of stupid, simplistic, misandrist, jerks.
Strangely, Shaw picks, specifically, on an article written by Dr. Meagan Tyler, called: “Porn: just a bit of harmless fun?” which argues that much of dominant discourse on pornography in Australia (where Tyler and Shaw reside) revolves around setting up a “straw-man version of anti-porn campaigners as ideologically driven, extreme feminists or religious loons.” So I don’t know. I guess Shaw was inspired by the piece…He appears to simply reinforce all of Tyler’s points.
Shaw does what so many people do when presented with a critique of systematic oppression. They remove all context and make it AAAAALL about them, as individuals who exist inside social bubbles, far removed from the influence of society and culture and governments and media. There were dinosaurs and now there’s porn. It’s called evolution, folks.
Rather than understanding feminist arguments based on what they actually say, based on the idea that, rather than individual men or men’s “natural desires” necessarily being the problem, rather, the problem has to do with privilege, socialization, media, imagery, blah blah blah, dude manages to boil it all down to this:
Everywhere I look, women are telling me that I’m bad. Well not me, personally, I don’t think, but men in general. Our sexuality, at its very best, is bad and, at its worst, is monstrous. Men and our sex drives must be guarded against because we are made even more dangerous to women by our consumption of any kind of porn. We must be controlled, because female sexuality is the only right moral way to be, we are just penis-driven morons.
Um. Ok. You are SO right! You were born with an all-natural love for fake boobs and rape fantasies. You were born a sexist and there’s nothing you can do about it. OH and also? Women are all born with some kind of innate, perfect, “moral” sexuality. “WE” (the great, big WE who represent all women) are good and you (men) are bad. That’s totally a feminist argument! Feminists are all about sweeping generalizations and gender binaries.
This goes on and on. Women see porn through “women’s eyes” (which are not as trustworthy as men’s eyes, by the way, what with being so clouded by morals and all), and cannot possibly understand that men are simply different-brained and, therefore, naturally inclined to be turned on by sexist imagery.
Shaw proceeds to explain to all of us idiotic women that there are actually different kinds of porn. And that the porn he likes is ok. So we’ve gotten our panties in a wad for nothing.
Since Justin has helpfully explained to us the facts and truths about porn (because your lady-brain simply can’t grasp such a thing), he moves along to answer the question that, supposedly no one has ever been able to answer in the history of feminism or academia:
The bigger question, one that the female academics seem unable or unwilling to answer is Why Is Porn?
I’ll let you in on a secret. Men like looking at it because, and here’s the kicker: we masturbate. I’m guessing that the same is true of women who watch it, but not being a woman I wouldn’t presume to speak for them.
Move along, folks, nothing to see here.
Men masturbate, ergo they watch porn. One can only assume that, before porn, men didn’t ever have orgasms alone and one can also go right ahead and assume that women who masturbate also only figured out how to enjoy themselves once industrious men invented pornography. You’re welcome, ladies!
Based on Shaw’s argument, I think we can reasonably conclude with this: feminists hate masturbation. THAT’S why they hate porn (and men. and sex. but mostly penises. badwrongyuck.).
But wait! Understandably concerned that we’re still unclear on these simple, straightforward, and true-fact points, Ben Pobjie felt obligated to write pretty much the exact same article the next day. So you don’t need to strain your special and delicate lady-eyes, I will summarize the key points for you, in a non-offensive and femmy way so the womenz can read too (we like lists, yes?):
1) Feminists hate porn because they’ve never watched porn. Sorry to break it to you, porn-researching feminists, all those images of objectified female bodies and cum-shots you think you saw? Wrong-o. You didn’t see anything.
2) You just don’t get porn. As we learned from helpful Justin, feminists don’t understand porn. We don’t get that porn is just people having sex! BOOBS YOU GUYS. Boobs.
3) Porn opens minds. Because fake lesbian sex. Without porn probably no one would even know that some women like to have sex with other women. Thanks, porn! And naturally, lesbians have sex with each other so that men can have orgasms.
Now, both these men will likely tell you that HAHA they’re joking, get it stupid? Because the best way to deflect criticism and deny misogyny is to respond by saying something creative like “feminists don’t have a sense of humour” or “oh haha, but that rape joke was a rape joke.”
But the thing about this kind of humour is that it isn’t funny. Or rather, it isn’t a joke. This is actually what people who support the porn industry believe. This is what the men who wrote these pieces believe. This is what dominant discourse tells us: pornography is a ‘normal’ part of male sexuality and because it is framed in that way – as definitive of sex and sexuality — we can’t criticize it. It’s like criticizing people for breathing. I mean, it’s just what humans DO.
Whoops! Not what ‘humans’ do, actually. It is, of course, largely, what men do. Regardless of the fact that some women watch porn, the sex industry is largely driven by men. Men make up the majority of consumers and makers of pornography. And, therefore, it has come to define male sexuality. Not only that, but because men (specifically, white men) are still viewed as ‘the norm’ in society, pornography has come to, simply, define sex.
It isn’t that pornography actually equals male sexuality, it’s that our culture has been so saturated by porn and pornographic imagery that we have learned to view sex through a pornified lens.
Yesterday morning, on CBC Radio’s Q, Susannah Breslin was interviewed by Jim Brown about her project, Letters From Men Who Go To Strip Clubs, which asks men to write in anonymously to explain why they go to strip clubs and what their experiences are like (listen here). The project takes this almost pitying approach to the men; Breslin providing an examples of men who view it as a form of therapy or who say strip clubs are the only places they can go for human contact. And it isn’t that I don’t feel bad for lonely guys, but it’s that both the interviewer and Breslin can’t seem to be able to move beyond the idea that the only possible reason people wouldn’t like strip clubs is because they are “taboo.”
Well, first of all, I don’t think strip clubs are taboo. I am pretty positive that every man I know has been to a strip club (probably more than once). Hey, even I’ve been to strip clubs enough times to know that I really, really, don’t like going to strip clubs (but boy oh boy did I try!). We live in a culture that sees strip clubs, simply, as something men do (and something that women should also do in order to prove they aren’t ‘uptight’ about such things – but that’s another blog post…).
The only other thing the interviewer can come up with is that maybe people just think strip clubs are “inherently wrong,” which Breslin dismisses on the basis that, to view strip clubs as “wrong” is to view women’s bodies as “wrong”. This massive oversimplification and erasure of of feminist critiques of the sex industry really makes it easy for the opposition, hey? To summarize: we hate naked ladies, we hate sex, we hate masturbation, and we hate men. Oh, and also? We have never seen porn or been inside strip clubs so we know not what we speak of. If we did, we would be happily masturbating away just like everyone else in the world.
While the interviewer points out that, generally, we assume men go to strip clubs to see naked ladies, he goes on to say that it is “surprising” that some men actually go there for other reasons. For example, to be able to hit on women without being rejected.
Uh. Ok. Isn’t that kind of the whole point? That men watch porn, buy sex, and go to strip clubs in order to reassure themselves that, yes, they still do have the right to access women regardless of whether or not those women actually want to be with them? Isn’t that the deal? Women have to be nice to you because they’re getting paid? They have to pretend to be turned on by your creepy ass because they’re on the clock? We know this. We know it isn’t just about female bodies (though, of course, much of it is about female bodies), but that it is also about power and privilege. Men who dig the sex industry dig it because it reinforces their sense of power over women. It’s not ok with them that they aren’t allowed to sexually harass and ogle women on the street (though, of course, many of them go right ahead and do it anyway), so they want to go somewhere where it is, indeed, perfectly ok. Don’t worry, guys, you can be yourselves here. Never you mind those ladies who want to walk down the street or go to work or sit on the bus without being propositioned or masturbated at. They’re a bunch of spoil sports.
According to Breslin, these imaginary taboos around strip clubs are the faults of feminists who aim to “police male sexual desire”. And there we have it again. Feminists just hate all things “male”. So long as we position male sexuality as naturally misogynist, it isn’t patriarchy or violence or objectification that feminists critique when they critique the sex industry, it is simply that we hate men in their natural state.
Breslin says it all outright: “At a strip club, it’s ok if you’re sexist, it’s ok if you objectify women. That’s part of the reason why you’re there.” And yet she doesn’t seem to be able to separate behaviour that is learned behaviour, the product of socialization, something that is systematic, from something she sees as being “natural” and therefore unproblematic. Being sexist actually isn’t a problem, in this context, because it’s just how men are. “That [behaviour] doesn’t mean you’re disrespectful…It’s a place where men can go to get what they want and not have to negotiate for it or feel like they’re going to be charged with sexual harassment if they flirt.”
Breslin’s conclusion, that men actually go to strip clubs because they want intimacy, seems to exist in opposition, though, with what both she and the men who write in say. “We want to be free to be sexists and to objectify women and feel ok about that,” doesn’t really speak to intimacy. It speaks to a desire to dominate.
We are working so hard to normalize sexism as something that is an innate part of masculinity and I’m just not quite sure why. If we can imagine that it’s possible for people not to murder one another or imagine that there be an end to war or child abuse or whatever other kinds of behaviour we’ve agreed, as a society, is unacceptable, or, at least, undesirable, why are we so avidly working to preserve sexism?
Why are we so unwilling to see porn or strip clubs or prostitution as something invented by a society that is not egalitarian? Just because you get an erection when you see a woman being objectified onscreen doesn’t mean women deserve to be objectified. And I don’t say that because I have a hate-on for erections, or masturbation, or penises, or even sex (though some women hate all those things and that’s perfectly fine). But because I can separate men from misogyny. I don’t believe that your erection is dependent on my subordination.
And you know why? Because I don’t believe you were born an asshole.