A pro-love story

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow. I’ve got to write something, I tell myself. But what can I say? Inspirational messages aren’t really my bag, but neither is hopelessness. In truth, I’m a romantic. A skeptical romantic, but a romantic nonetheless.

Romance is awkward for feminists. It’s defined by bullshit like proposals and lingerie and heterosexuality and money. So being a romantic and being a feminist can feel incompatible.

I don’t want diamonds. I don’t want babies or showers or proposals or my husband’s last name. Nor do I want a husband, actually.

But I want love. Monogamous, forever, love.

This confuses people. I suppose it is a little confusing. Rational me (which unfortunately tends to be a little different than romantic me) thinks ‘forever’ is a bit of a joke. Rational me thinks monogamy is a bit of a joke, too. Who, really, can spend their whole life with one person?? And why bother?

Yet, I’ve always been monogamous. And it hasn’t been difficult. The relationships? They’ve been difficult. The men have been sociopaths, addicts, alcoholics, abusers and morons. There have been jocks and frat boys and rockers and rappers and anarchists and oldies. And hey, I’m no walk in the proverbial park. But monogamy was never a problem. Love was never a problem. I may have bad taste, but I don’t I don’t get bored. I don’t leave because I fall out of love. I leave because of assholes.

As much as I would like to find ‘love’, in the barfiest of senses, I don’t prioritize dating. My goal isn’t to find a man. There are a number of things in my life that are more important to me than a romantic relationship, including: my dog, my sleep, my writing, my happiness, my space, my private afternoon dance parties, and my sanity. But I want it.

I want someone to be with and someone to buy groceries with and plan life with and to think I’m the best. I want someone to do my laundry but also stay out of my way. I want a partner to live with who doesn’t live in my house. I want someone to give me advice I’ll probably never take (because, in the end, I know what’s best). I want someone to argue with even though we both know I’m always right. I want someone to cook for, not because I want to take care of someone but because I get sick of leftovers after the second day and cooking for one is a bunk deal.

When I tell people I don’t want to get married they assume it’s because I want to remain single. And I suppose I do, in a legal sense. I want to push back against cultural norms that force us into useless institutions built at the expense of women’s freedom. I don’t like the idea of signing a love contract and marriage no longer is meant to be (supposedly) a financial arrangement.

If this is all about romance, then why cling to the institution of marriage? And if it isn’t about romance than why all the white, sparkly, flowery, showy, bells and whistles? Why not just call a spade a spade (and you can tell me what that spade is, whether it’s fear of being alone, fear of being broke, or fear of what being unmarried means for your social status and self-esteem, particularly as women)?

And listen. I get the desire for a wedding. Weddings are the best. There’s no other occasion that you can legit force everyone you know to come to one place, stare at you admiringly, buy you gifts, and talk about you for hours on end. The dreaminess of the wedding is not lost on me. I, too, love parties and drinking and dancing with my friends. Weddings are happy fun times and I’m grateful for those who have them because 1) Free booze, and 2) When else do I get to buy a new dress?

What bothers me is not the celebration of love. Cynic that I am, I do think love is wonderful. What bothers me is the commitment to conformity.

Make as many excuses as you like but there’s no reason to get married before having kids (unless you’re concerned your male partner might leave you high and dry, in which case there’s something bigger to consider besides commitment, and that’s gender and economic inequality). There’s no reason to take your husband’s name (unless you find patriarchy romantic and think ownership represents love). There’s no reason to follow traditions like having your father give you away or wearing a white dress or exchanging crazy-expensive blood diamonds (unless you see yourself as a commodity to be traded from man to man, think virginity is a gift to your husband, or think tacky jewelry is impressive). There’s no reason your kids need to take your husband’s name. They aren’t going to get ‘confused’ if they have a different name than their mom or their dad. Kids know who their parents are.

I like romance. I like love. I want the stupid romantic comedy forever and ever bullshit, just like you do. But the rest is just a thinly veiled excuse for a, still, unequal society and for social acceptance in that society.

No judgement (ok, some judgement), because I understand what draws women, especially, to the romantic industrial complex. Count me among the hoards of women who feel excited and, yes, more valued, when their partner buys them flowers (which are, for the most part, pretty useless, wasteful, and unethical). Sadly, I will forgive all sorts of fuckery if someone buys me flowers. When I was 22, my silly, 6’7”, basketball-playing boyfriend bought me the tiniest diamond ring you could buy. Just because I wanted a diamond ring. Actually, he bought me two of them, as the first was lost in a tragic toilet flushing accident. It’s embarrassing, but true. I still have it (pictured on the right).  I, too, like wearing pretty dresses and parties thrown in my honour. I want someone to tell me they love me in front of a whole bunch of people. I want to put all of my friends in a room and make them dance to R Kelly songs. I want a big cake and a trip to Hawaii. I want happily ever after.

But I’m not getting married just to have those things.

There’s something messed up about the fact that so many women are still taking their husband’s names and defending it on account of what? Romance? Tradition? Simplicity? It’s none of those things. Not by a long shot. There’s something wrong with the fact that we associate romance with patriarchy and simplicity with making men (and men’s families) feel comfortable. It isn’t our job, as women, to make women feel ‘like men’.

There’s something messed up about the fact that *some* women think having children will fulfill them, as women. Sure, have kids if that’s what you’re into. But don’t excuse your decision (if it was, in fact, your decision) with some kind of ‘it’s my feminine destiny’ crap. You can be a woman — happy and fulfilled and full of love — without growing and expelling a human being from your body. If you have to adopt, you’re still just as much of a woman. If you don’t have kids, you’re the best. And bully for your vagina.

On my 33rd birthday I had dinner with some friends. I’d already had the party-till-dawn-party that weekend and now it was a Wednesday and I didn’t much care if I celebrated the day or not. I had received a heartbreaking email earlier that day and cried for hours, feeling all the more sorry for myself because it was my birthday and how could he. The man who sent it didn’t know it was my birthday and, in his defense, I deserved to be heartbroken, because even feminists behave badly sometimes. That night at dinner I got the impression my friends would have rather been anywhere but out for dinner. Maybe I was projecting. Maybe eating after 8:30PM is a little too wild and crazy for a weeknight. Or maybe my friends and I have as much relationship baggage any 20+ year relationship might have.

I sat through dinner listening to women who were once my closest friends talk about babies and pregnancy and their husbands or husbands-to-be. Their lives. But not my life. They complained, just as I’d found myself complaining, while in a relationship, about their partners. Their boyfriends/husbands weren’t domestic enough. They had the wrong friends — Friends who didn’t have kids and still wanted to have beers and jam on the weekends and go out to shows and come home at 2:00am and I thought: “I’m your boyfriend.” “I’m your annoying husband.” “You’re complaining about me.” I still want to go out on Saturday night and party with my friends and I still want to hang out with people who don’t have babies and I still want to be myself, even when partnered. Once you have babies and get married are you to stop associating with the yucky singles? It felt like we were changing in very different ways.

I didn’t tell my friends about the day I’d spent sobbing and hating myself for ruining what could maybe have been something good with someone good. The day I spent mourning the loss of potential romance, thwarted only by my bad decisions. They didn’t ask. I listened to them talk about babies and complain about their partners and knew I would have been happier and less lonely-feeling at home with my dog. It was depressing. The combination of getting older, having lost a maybe-love, and realizing that I had little in common with some of my oldest friends, was rough. Spending time with people who you feel like you can’t relate to is lonelier than being alone.

I read an incredible essay about online dating recently by Emily Witt. Though, in the end she gives up on OkCupid, realizing that computer technology isn’t the ideal way to build chemistry and, in the end, bodies are required, she concedes that:

In the depths of loneliness, however, internet dating provided me with a lot of opportunities to go to a bar and have a drink with a stranger on nights that would otherwise have been spent unhappy and alone.

So here’s the thing. I’m not lonely. I don’t get lonely. Part of that may be that I have a few social circles there when I need them, but the rest is, I think, that most days I very much like myself. I enjoy spending time alone and rarely feel like I need someone else around. It hasn’t always been this way, not by a long-shot. But there it is.

My desire for love isn’t because I feel as though I have an empty space I need to stick someone in. It isn’t because I think it will make me feel more normal or whole or fulfilled. It’s about having someone in your life who knows you. Like knows you well enough to know that you’re kind of a shithead sometimes, but likes you anyway. It’s about having someone to look out for you and stick up for you and care about your well-being too — but mostly I think it’s just about wanting someone to really understand you.

I wrote this because of Valentine’s Day and because I felt like I should say something…feminist? I wrote this because I’m not really anti-romance. As much as I don’t mind being single, I hate the fact that so many people around me are pairing off into boringsville. I’m anti everyone turning 30 and suddenly feeling like they’re caught in a race to some kind of heteronormative finish line. I don’t understand the fear that leads women to change their names and start panicking about their boyfriend’s proposals or about getting pregnant. I just can’t relate. But I can relate to stupid, irrational, dreamy, fantastical love. I can relate to wanting a partner in life, and not just because I need help with my chores (but I really, really do need help with my chores).

I’m not anti-romance or anti-love. Love is human. Institutions aren’t. Choose love and lose the bullshit. I think our lives are worthwhile regardless of diamonds and proposals and babies and our husband’s names. Men seem to have managed just fine without any of it.

Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy, founder and editor of Feminist Current, is a freelance writer and journalist. She completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog. Follow her @meghanemurphy

  • Max

    Why so down on marriage? Sure, it’s a funny old institution; but its meaning has evolved a bunch of times. Can’t it mean something other than succession or wife-ownership? Funerals have a different meaning – we don’t plant people in the ground soy they can rise up on judgement day anymore – why not marriage? Can’t it just (just!) mean partnership and fidelity?

    I mean, I’m totally with you on the wedding thing – weddings are awesome. Mine was more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Six years on and I still hear new stories about shenanigans that went on.

    But being married is way better than any wedding. There’s power in the words “wife”, “husband” and “married”. When I think of my partner in terms of her being my “wife”, it makes me try harder to be a good “husband”. I don’t know if being married makes me more invested in the relationship, but it kinda feels like it.

    Marriage isn’t for everyone, but it sure as hell works for me.

    Also, Valentines is a crock. Fuck you, Hallmark. Yeah.

    • Grackle

      “Why so down on marriage? Sure, it’s a funny old institution; but its meaning has evolved a bunch of times. Can’t it mean something other than succession or wife-ownership? Funerals have a different meaning – we don’t plant people in the ground soy they can rise up on judgement day anymore – why not marriage? Can’t it just (just!) mean partnership and fidelity?”

      You act as if we’re in a post-patriarchy and that all of the things that make the tradition of marriage distasteful are irrelevant and long gone. Its meaning hasn’t really evolved all that much, even in our “modern” society–how could it, when only a couple of generations ago, the wife was still the property of her husband and couldn’t keep a bank account, own property, or use birth control without his consent?? And the gross, sexist traditions that Meghan complains about are still very much in place and as always, affect women far more than they affect men.

      For the record, I am married to a man, and I have no regrets whatsoever about it. (I don’t need to get into details but we very intentionally eschewed the more explicitly anti-feminist aspects of a wedding–not as many as I’d have liked nowadays, but I was very young.) But that doesn’t mean that I don’t see Meghan’s point ten-thousand percent. I agree that it would be really nice if the institution of marriage was just about “partnership and fidelity”, but it isn’t. Not yet. Maybe not ever. And that doesn’t even cover the issues of heteronormative finish line and how it affects female reality. Single men are still seen by society as swinging bachelors looooong after single women have become “desperate” spinsters or old maids. (I guess we don’t really USE the latter terms as much as we used to, but the sentiment still applies.)

      At least we can all agree that Valentine’s Day is crap.

  • CycleVancouver

    “Romance is awkward for feminists. It’s defined by bullshit like proposals and lingerie and heterosexuality and money. So being a romantic and being a feminist can feel incompatible.”

    Romance is awkward for feminists ONLY if it’s defined by the BS.

    Otherwise I agree with everything else you wrote! (Well except for R Kelly, I still can’t forgive him for the whole peeing-on-a-girl thing.)

  • CycleVancouver

    I should add that I’ve had CBC radio on all morning: Early Ed, The Current, and soon Q trying to out-treacle each other, it’s a serious puke-fest, and your essay is the only thing keeping me from running to the Haagen Dazs. My goal is to hold off until noon at least.

  • Ed Drain

    You can’t be anti-love, or you would not be such a strong person who gives of her talent and time to help women (and men too, I would argue) all over the world. So pardon the sexually charged pun, but I think you are a great lover (of people!) already. Now excuse me while I prepare for the inevitable backlash for saying that *word*!!

    • Meghan Murphy

      I do love (some) people, it’s true!

  • http://lifeinthepatriarchalmatrix.wordpress.com Bedelia Bloodyknuckle

    Meghan, I can relate to this somewhat. I say “somewhat” because I am turning 21 in 6 months and I am having the same feelings you are having (Or have been having for the past couple of years). I am not interested in getting married but it would be nice to be with someone who as you have said “knows you well enough to know that you’re kind of a shithead sometimes, but likes you anyway.” Yes!

    • Meghan Murphy

      Well, yes. I mean everyone can be a shithead sometimes. People are imperfect. I think we just want to be liked/loved anyway. Personally, I just don’t see the point in marriage. There’s no rational argument for it. I feel like it provides people with social privilege and that’s a big reason many do it, so I want to avoid that…I also think that, for women, we learn to feel validated when a man wants to marry us — like we’re worthwhile or something — so I get the impression that for some women, to go around saying ‘my husband’ ‘my husband’ is a bit of a status thing? Again, that isn’t to say that I don’t understand wanting romance and love and commitment and life partners, etc., but I wonder why the marriage factor matters so much?

  • Lillian

    Historically speaking, marriage did consider women property of their husbands. But monogamy was only relevant to women. Men were never monogamous in traditional marriages, where these rules were applied only to women. Now, partnership and more modern marriage arrangements seek the monogamy rule for men as well, as opposed to giving women the freedom to be polyamorous. I am certain that most men will never be monogamous, nor should they be. The same should apply to women. This doesn’t diminish romance. It acknowledges real human behaviour. Monogamous “romance” is part of the fantasy industrial complex.

    • Lela

      Mandatory polyamory for everyone, regardless of health consequences! Hurray! (Sarcasm.)

      • Lillian

        Play safely!

        • Lela

          Thanks for the sex-ed lesson.

  • Aims

    “I’m anti everyone turning 30 and suddenly feeling like they’re caught in a race to some kind of heteronormative finish line.”

    This. So much. I get caught up in it myself sometimes, and it feels terrible. Then I remember I’m living my life, not some predetermined script that I keep messing up. And I feel a lot better.

    And this radical feminist got a lot of love from the men in her life yesterday – friends and lovers – so while feminism and romance is tricky, I feel sure today that it’s possible (ask me again next week 😉

  • Missfit

    As far as I can remember, I never thought I would get married, simply because I can not promise to love someone for better or for worse till death do us part (because beside the ring, the dress and the champagne, there is a promise to be made). People change. And there are things within the ‘worse’ part that can happen and that I am not willing to put up with. I just can’t make a promise if I am not certain that I can keep it.

    We are brought up with an idea of what romantic love should be and do. Especially girls. We expect a lot from it; that it will fulfill us, that it is within such relationships that we will experience ultimate love. Looking back at my romantic relationships with men, I wonder if I really saw them for who they were, truly knew them; thus, could I really have loved them? Was I not in love with an illusion? Is romantic love feeding on illusions? I for one have become completetly disillusioned. Love is blind while I see too clearly.

    I do have people in my life who truly know me, intimetaly, love me unconditionally and understand me. Probably more than any man could. I am thinking of my best friend, my mother (I do tell her everything, yes really) and my daughter (even though she’s too young yet for the mutual understanding part). As for the physical part of love, I come to have more bad feelings and thoughts than good ones associated with ‘the physical act of love’ that I prefer to pass for now.

    Maybe it is just a phase and I will not live celibate forever after. But I do find love between a man and a woman (too) difficult under patriarchy. And where would I find a man who is not hooked on porn? They seem so rare nowadays; what are the odds that I meet one?

    • Meghan Murphy

      I hear you. Certainly ‘love’ relationships between men and women will always be difficult under a patriarchy. I will say that I have met at least a few men who don’t watch pornography, so don’t give up hope in that arena!

      • Lillian

        The men who “don’t” watch pornography are liars.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Not true! These men have no reason to lie to me. I’ve had numerous conversations with most of my male friends about pornography. Most of them watch (guiltily). A few don’t. Why bother lying about it?

          Yeesh. And I thought I was cynical.

          • Lillian

            I believe Dan Savage on this :)

          • Meghan Murphy

            I get that most men do, but honestly, ALL men don’t. I mean, believe what you like, I guess, but you’re wrong. So is Dan Savage if he claims (seriously) that all men watch porn — I suspect he was exaggerating/joking a little.

          • Lillian

            Me too! But porn takes a lot of different forms. Some of it isn’t even called porn. But there are men who do lie about watching porn. Dan Savage is porn-positive. Other men feel ashamed. Shame is a compelling reason to lie.

          • Lela

            This is just my opinion, but you sound like a porn industry apologist. Can’t resist a good opportunity to make your pitch, am I right?

          • Lillian

            Uh, no, I am no apologist for porn, or anything else? What up?

          • Lela

            Then you’re doing the work of pornographers for free.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I find that most of my male friends talk to me about porn because they feel guilty, rather than in spite of it.

          • Lillian

            Confessing feelings of guilt and shame. Sounds intimate. :)

          • Meghan Murphy

            Are you being creepy? Don’t be creepy…

          • Lillian

            Creepy? It just seems pathetic that men would confess their feelings of guilt and shame for watching porn. Why? What is keeping them from not watching porn? Why do they have a need to share with you about this? That seems creepy to me.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Because they are my friends and friends talk about their lives and thoughts and feelings with one another. Do you think men wouldn’t feel guilt and shame over watching porn? I mean, they watch it because they’ve been conditioned to. Men grow up watching porn from a very young age these days. They don’t ‘need’ to share, but they do. Most likely it’s because they read the things I write about porn and are aware of my opinions on such things and then want to talk about it with me.
            You seem like kind a jerk, Lillian…tbh.

          • Grackle

            There are men who are feminist allies, Lillian. Though we can probably all agree that the great majority certainly do watch porn (it’s really considered such a normal, indispensable part of life now in many circles) there ARE some who say that they don’t and mean it.

          • Lillian

            In expressing my views, I didn’t expect such defensiveness and name calling. Of course not all men watch porn. Some of them don’t have access to it. And some of them understand the implied violence of porn and don’t watch. But to find it pleasure able to watch what is essentially staged raped scenes, then feel guilty and talk about it. I would recommend them to a therapist before welcoming them as a friend. That is what seems like creepy and jerky behaviour to me. But if you wish to coddle these men because they have been conditioned to watch porn from a young age, I suppose that is your own choice. My boundaries don’t include porn watching with a confession of shame. It is unnecessary as a tool of masturbation (even while it is used in fertility clinics). I don’t permit smoking around me either. Or people’s pets. It is the heteronormative position to accept the pornographic participants in our circles.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Alas, you don’t get to have opinions about my friends :(
            I would recommend you not recommend individuals you don’t know see therapists. Partly because they may well already see therapists and you would be best not to assume that they don’t already and partly because that is a weird and jerky thing to say about people you don’t know.

            I also fail to see how seeing a therapist would help men to better understand how porn harms. I suppose therapy could help with the addictive aspect of porn-watching and men do, yes, need to make the choice, as individuals, not to watch porn, but porn isn’t an individual problem or necessarily a neurosis, to be fixed via therapy. It’s a cultural problem and it’s learned behaviour in a misogynist, porn culture.

            All that aside, you don’t get to have ‘views’ about the things my friends talk to me about. Or, I guess you can have views, but you can also expect me to tell you you seem like a jerk when you do so.

            I’m happy to talk about social phenomenons and cultural conditioning and political contexts, etc. But I’m not interested accommodating you in making weird, sweeping statements about my personal life and relationships aight?

          • Lillian

            The views I expressed were about my boundaries, not yours. You have every right to make your own choices, as I have already acknowledged. But you are doing the name calling and judging here. And it’s your blog. Have at it.

          • Meghan Murphy

            1) You don’t get to have boundaries about my friends.
            2) I will have at it! Thank you.

          • Lillian

            I don’t have boundaries about your friends. I have boundaries about my friends. And you are free to choose your own boundaries, all of which is contained in my earlier remarks. And you can still reserve the right to wilfully misinterpret what I am saying, insult me, and moderate your blog as you see fit. Apparently that needs no further discussion. Are you happy with that?

          • Meghan Murphy

            Ugggggggh. I don’t care. Sure.

    • Me

      All there needs to be then is a huge “A True Love for Every Woman” campaign that works by eradicating porn! With a promise of free yearly Valentine’s chocolates for everyone, of course. Just imagine the mass appeal of a reverse Cinderella where she fights her way to save Prince Charming from the pornographers’ dungeon, while freeing all the women held there on her way. In the end so many Cinderellas come together and fight together, each at first to find their own true love, that a lot of them realize they don’t care so much for Prince Charming anymore as they care for each other and the women they’ve freed. 😀

      • MLM

        “Just imagine the mass appeal of a reverse Cinderella where she fights her way to save Prince Charming from the pornographers’ dungeon, while freeing all the women held there on her way. In the end so many Cinderellas come together and fight together, each at first to find their own true love, that a lot of them realize they don’t care so much for Prince Charming anymore as they care for each other and the women they’ve freed”.

        That’s an awesome idea, Me! Maybe you should even write this story as a novella or something – a kind of adult version of “The Paperbag Princess” :-)

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Paper_Bag_Princess

        Definitely potential there IMHO.

  • sporenda

    “e and I will not live celibate forever after. But I do find love between a man and a woman (too) difficult under patriarchy”

    I will live celibate forever, because I never came across a man who deep down really accepted women as equals and contributed as much to the relationship as he expected me to.

    Since I absolutely refuse to provide any amount of free work for any man–free work still being what marriage is about–living with a male is definitely out of the question; not only marriage is still exploitative of women, but it is more so than it was 100 years ago.

    In the past, in exchange for performing all the womanly tasks–domestic/family chores, emotional support, regular sexual access etc–women were at least supported financially by men.
    It’s no longer the case, women are no longer provided for, but they still provide huge amounts of free work.

    It’s a fool’s bargain, I would be going against my best interest if I was entering such a crooked deal.
    Of course, men love marriage, it’s an institution that works for them: married men are happier and live longer. The problem is that single women live longer, are happier, less stressed and less depressed than married women.

    Also, experience has taught me that when people belonging to the “inferior class” get emotionnally entangled with people belonging to the master class, they usually pay –sometimes dearly– for it.
    Pretending that there can be love between two people when the relationship can be neither equal nor fair is an illusion.

    • Lillian

      “Women were at least supported by men.” ?? Men were forced by law to provide for their wives and children as they were deemed his property. This is the very definition of patriarchy, and the legal basis for marriage. Anyone can decide mutually with their partner(s) what the romantic boundaries of their relationship is. Currently, the legal basis for marriage continues to be property rights, and child custody and guardianship. Marriage dissolution has never been easier. Pets are also considered property, and are considered to be part of a person’s estate, among other ( things ).

    • Meghan Murphy

      “It’s a fool’s bargain, I would be going against my best interest if I was entering such a crooked deal.
      Of course, men love marriage, it’s an institution that works for them: married men are happier and live longer. The problem is that single women live longer, are happier, less stressed and less depressed than married women.”

      Word.

      • Lillian

        Do you have reference to research showing that single women live longer than married women? I couldn’t find it. I did find this: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2570197/

        • sporenda

          About men living happier and longer when married, and married women being less happy, more stressed and more depressed than their unmarried counterparts, the book “Wifework” by Susan Maushart, is quite enlightening.

          This book pointed to me all the things I was doing for my husband when I was married that I was not even aware of doing.
          All these “invisible” tasks being nevertheless quite time consuming and a big mental weight:
          husbands “pitch in” but the whole organization of domestic chores, shopping/cooking, social life, going out, vacations etc– is still usually the wife’s responsability.
          So not only is she the all around unpaid handyman of the family unit but its unpaid boss as well.
          Quite a tall order, not surprising that lots of working women are overwhelmed and depressed by it all.
          Maybe it’s this organizational responsability that is the worst. You can always subcontract some of housework to helpers (usually minority women: white working women, unable to get their white husbands to really share the workload, unload some of it on hired minority women).
          But deciding everything, planning everything, trying not to forget any detail, to be a fautless organizer, I find it mentally exhausting–specially on top of a job where you have to plan and organize everything too.
          For most men, being married is still about being taken care of, I just don’t appreciate permanent male company enough to accept such a rotten deal.
          I have some feminist friends who are just asking for “tolerable oppression”, like “dont beat us up, don’t rape us, and we will still cook and clean for you”.
          For doing all this unpaid work, they are not beaten or raped any less than the more radical feminists.

    • Missfit

      ‘I will live celibate forever, because I never came across a man who deep down really accepted women as equals’

      Yeah, that is what I am thinking right now too.

      • MLM

        It’s very true that love between a man and woman can be no easy thing under patriarchy, but I don’t believe it’s beyond all hope.

        I’ve been with the man I love for about 18 years. We were fairly young when we met and there has been as share of growing up on both sides in the course of the relationship. I’ll admit, when we first met, he was probably not as committed to equality as he imagined himself to be, and didn’t always “get it” when I took exception to things. (I’ll also admit that the way I took exception to things when I was younger was not terribly constructive at times!) But he has always been committed to hearing my voice in the relationship, and respecting it, just as I have always tried to do the same for him. Neither one of us is perfect, but we do our best to be compassionate and fair to each other.

        I fully acknowledge that it is something we’ve learned to cultivate, but I do feel like he genuinely regards me as his equal, and that our love is based on solid respect and friendship. And we’re in a place now where things are largely understood and easier between us. (We probably can’t claim to be “hallmark” romantic, though – having each entirely forgotten it even was Valentine’s Day until our child showed us the card she made at school for us! :-) )

        All of that said, I completely agree that the idea of marriage/a romantic partnership for women as the “heteronormative finish line” (great term, @ Grackle!) is one that needs to die.

        And my wish for my own daughter is happiness with or without a romantic partner, and great love from people who listen to her, hear her and value her, which she also returns, no matter how that love manifests in her relationships.

        • sporenda

          3but I don’t believe it’s beyond all hope.3

          How old are you? :-)
          Twenty years ago, I’d have said that too.
          I was aware then that most men have a deep sense of entitlement when it comes to women, but I entertained the deluded notion that my husband was “not like the others”.
          That a man could escape the constant reinforcement of male superiority and entitlement provided by society would be nothing short of a miracle.
          Some men might be comparatively less touched by it, but finding them is like finding a needle in a haystack, and I don’t have the time nor the patience now: feminists tend to become more radical as they age.
          But I wish you the best: the fact that I given up hope doesn’t mean that you should give up too :-)

        • Grackle

          I actually took the “heteronormative finish line” bit out of Meghan’s blog post. :) I should have credited it–it is a great expression!

          • MLM

            No – of course, it’s right in the post above! I don’t know why it didn’t click for me that I’d seen there first. :-) Pretty silly of me. Sorry, Meghan.

          • Meghan Murphy

            No worries :) I don’t expect people to memorize every line haha.

  • marv

    Monopoly romance and/or marriage veil the reality of sex classes. Women are privatized, making it appear that sex ranks don’t exist. Mutual affection, though unavoidable, also conceals economic status divisions between women and men and between people and people because affable cross class relationships paper over deep fissures of financial discrepancy.

    In addition, when it comes to alternative relationships, unmarried equality is not feasible without the decline of couple colonialism. Non sexual associations exist in the shadow of sexual ones reducing them to a lower status. True egalitarian friendships immeasurably surpass typical romantic ones because the former are oriented to political equality and activism. Granted the two types can exist together but they are rare happenings. Mind you, equality driven asexual affinities are not that common either.

    A clumsy analogy is to see romance like dessert. It can be a great appendix to a nutritious, savoury and socially just meal. If dessert dominates as it does in our culture there are detrimental consequences to our physical and mental health – heart disease, broken hearts and growing disparity in the body politic.

  • vouchsafer

    I admit my husband makes the odd unsuccessful attempt to dominate me. I actually enjoy these little gambits of his because it gives me the opportunity to outwit, out argue, and outclass him, which I submit is like living in a little pocket of anti-patriarchy.

    Outside the walls of our marriage, where else can I assert myself so consequence-free? Certainly not in my workplace or at a bar.

    He doesn’t watch porn, either. Anyone who said that all men watch it or they’re liars is a defeatist and worse, because it’s like saying all women are condemned to live in a world of hopelessness.
    It’s the men who don’t watch it that raise the bar of other men’s behavior, and to say they don’t exist is to take away their motivation to not watch it.

    One more aspect of marriage i would like to defend is that of raising my son and daughter in an atmosphere in which their mother holds equal status. Yes he tries to put his foot Down once in a while. He ain’t perfect. But these opportunities give me the chance to demonstrate to my girl the way to hold your ground, and they also show my son that mom is just as dominant as dad is.

    • Meghan Murphy

      And, interestingly, I’ve noticed lots of men on my timeline/feed supporting the fact that Iceland is considering banning online porn. I seriously doubt that if these men were fans of porn they’d support banning it.

      • MLM

        My husband is also very much anti-porn. He’s really happy to hear that Iceland is banning it. (He’s never bought the “free speech” argument so often offered up in defence of porn).

        Not only is it untrue that “all” men watch porn, even amongst those who do, frequent porn use is not nearly universal (as this study illustrates).

        “This study examined correlates of pornography acceptance and use within a normative (nonclinical) population of emerging adults (individuals aged 18–26). Participants included 813 university students (500 women; M age = 20 years) recruited from six college sites across the United States. Participants completed online questionnaires regarding their acceptance and use of pornography, as well as their sexual values and activity, substance use, and family formation values”.

        http://eres.lndproxy.org/edoc/FacPubs/loy/BarryCM/GenerationXXX–08.pdf

        Of the men involved in this study

        13.9% reported no pornography use in the past year
        16.8% reported using pornography once per month or less
        21.0 % reported using pornography 2 or 3 days per month
        27.1% reported using pornography 1 or 2 days a week
        16.1% reported using pornography 3 to 5 days a week
        5.2% reported using pornography every day or nearly every day

        “It’s the men who don’t watch it that raise the bar of other men’s behavior”.
        That’s probably why there’s such an attempt to deny their existence. Because if “all men do it”, it invalidates whatever exceptions are taken to it. And it gets to be characterised – as it frequently is – as some kind of criticism of male sexuality itself, as opposed to a chosen behaviour that specific men can and should take responsibility for.

        • Meghan Murphy

          “That’s probably why there’s such an attempt to deny their existence. Because if “all men do it”, it invalidates whatever exceptions are taken to it. And it gets to be characterised – as it frequently is – as some kind of criticism of male sexuality itself, as opposed to a chosen behaviour that specific men can and should take responsibility for.”

          Yes! That is an excellent point! If we are told/tell everyone that ‘all men watch porn’ and we’re delusional or naive if we believe otherwise, it makes challenges to porn/porn culture futile and it normalizes porn use. Another thing it does is teach women that all men lie and that men don’t actually value women as friends or partners ever — i.e. they’re just lying to ‘get in our pants’ or whatever. Which is not true. There are, of course, lots of men who do lie and who don’t see women as friends/partners, but not all men are like that. As you say, the men who don’t watch porn ‘raise the bar’. Why not acknowledge, rather than deny that these men exist? We’re just making other men feel like porn use is normal and that, in fact, if they DON’T use porn they are abnormal.

          • Lela

            “If we are told/tell everyone that ‘all men watch porn’ and we’re delusional or naive if we believe otherwise, it makes challenges to porn/porn culture futile and it normalizes porn use.”

            Yes! This is exactly what I was getting at, rather snidely (apologies!):) in my earlier comment to Lillian.

          • Lillian

            So 86% of men in the study claimed to watch pornography, not taking into account for the guilt and shame that may produce some dishonesty. I’d round up to 90%. I’d say that is as close to “normalizing” porn use as is needed to make the point. It is saying, almost all men use porn. There is no substantive difference. No one is apologizing for that fact here, especially me. And no one is denying that there are some men that don’t use porn. It is an incredibly thin argument to make that “denying their existence” creates futility in challenging porn culture. That is just feeble. Take profit making out of the porn industry. I oppose “banning porn” because you will just create an underground market for it like drugs. I don’t trust regulators to decide what is porn or not. Educate young teens about human sexuality in an honest way. Teach young men about the violence of porn. Educate Lela about respect for others. Words are violent too.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Well actually, Lillian, you did claim that ‘all men’ watch porn by saying that those who claimed not to were lying: “The men who “don’t” watch pornography are liars.” No one, ESPECIALLY on this site/comments section, would counter the argument that we live in a porn culture and that most men watch porn (whether that’s on a regular basis is another question) — but not all men do. I mean, I think it’s probably fair to say that all people have seen porn in their lives, so I guess the ‘using on a regular basis’ part is what we’re looking at? Otherwise we’d have to say that all people have seen, therefore use, porn. Which isn’t really accurate.

            Would you also oppose banning child pornography or pornography that involves animals because it would ‘just create an underground market for it like drugs’? Would you oppose the banning of snuff films as well?

            Education is a VERY important part of this, that’s for sure. But I see nothing wrong with banning sexist, degrading pornography on feminist principles, which is what Iceland is looking at.

          • Lillian

            When I referenced Dan Savage, you suggested that he was probably not being entirely serious. I agreed, and acknowledged that I was not being entirely serious either. But you make my points for me. The study referenced suggests that almost 86% of men use porn from time to time, which suggests that it IS considered “normal” behaviour. And we know that many men lie about porn use. Child porn is illegal, and it is still a very present fact. But it is a more simple thing to regulate the sale of. We have a workable definition of “child”. We don’t have a workable definition of porn. Much of the sex education children receive is from porn. Educating boys about violence toward women will do more to reduce the use of porn, and perpetrating violence upon women, than attempting to ban all materials considered pornographic. In my view, it is not a workable solution.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I think you’re missing my points and it is resulting in this conversation beginning to go in circles. We all agree that porn is considered ‘normal’ in a porn culture. My point is only that not all men use porn and that the men who tell me they don’t watch aren’t lying to me. Not all men, as individuals, are the enemy.

            If we can tell what child pornography is than why would we not be able to create a workable, feminist definition of porn and ban it on that basis? Feminists have already done this defining, in any case (Dworkin & MacKinnon).

          • Lela

            “Take profit making out of the porn industry.” How?

            “Educating boys about violence toward women will do more to reduce the use of porn, and perpetrating violence upon women, than attempting to ban all materials considered pornographic.”

            Boys and men already know violence is bad. But the porn industry makes it look soooo fun and sexxxay!

          • Lillian

            I would be interested in what source you are referencing when you make the claim that men and boys already know violence is bad. I”ll bet you couldn’t source a single reference supporting that statement. And further, you wouldn’t be able to refer to any data that suggests that most boys and men even know that porn is violent, never mind “bad”. You don’t have a grasp of this issue if you believe what you are claiming.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Lela said “Boys and men already know violence is bad”. Everyone knows violence is bad. We don’t need a study to show this. Stop manipulating people’s words and stop making this conversation so freaking painful.

          • Lillian

            Violence is the one of the most prevalent values shared in our culture, which is supported and expressed across the spectrum of our culture, in several contexts. Not everyone “knows” that violence is bad, nor are they mostly aware that porn is violence. Really. I’m sure Lela can speak for herself.

          • Lela

            So if you think “porn is violence” then allowing it to exist and be promoted, while simultaneously trying to educate boys and men about the fact that it is violence, is going to work how?

          • Lela

            I said “boys and men already know violence is bad,” not “boys and men can readily identify all forms of violence.” Of course it’s necessary to bring to light all the ways in which violence is promoted. My point is that they know violence is bad because they are, largely, empathic human beings, they know how pain feels. But mass media culture contradicts this understanding, it glamorizes both violence and porn (which is violence.) This has obvious effects. When porn shows them one thing very powerfully and consistently, and feminists are telling them another, ultimately, who are they going to believe?

          • Lillian

            I don’t “allow” porn to exist, nor do you. Laws do not determine what exists either. I am suggesting that changing the law (should we be able to) will have no effect on its existence because it is widely accepted as being normal. We have examples of prohibition that has not worked. We also have example where we have changed public attitudes and public policy through other measures successfully by taxing, regulating, and educating. Once we have public acceptance of the violence of porn in the majority, it may be possible to legislate a change that is widely supported. That will take some time. I don’t think Iceland and Sweden are examples that support what you are suggesting in regard to changing the legal definition of porn. I respect that an Icelandic legislator has proposed a “ban on porn” but it is widely understood in Iceland that the law has little or no chance of becoming law for the reasons that I have stated, including the primary distribution of porn through the Internet. Sweden, which has the closest definition to Dworkin-MacKinnon (1983), in that they do not use obscenity as the measure of porn, continue to be a very liberal jurisdiction in regard to most forms of porn, and in some cases, are more liberal than many other countries’ porn laws.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Lillian – You’ve completely ignored all the arguments people have made here. Just because something is “widely accepted as being normal” doesn’t mean that can’t change. Smoking was used as an example — in very recent history, it was completely ‘normal’ to smoke everywhere. Absolutely everywhere. Now, less and less people smoke. At one time, it was ‘normal’ for women not to work and it was ‘normal’ for white people to have slaves, and it was ‘normal’ to hit your kids. Things change. No one expects porn to simply disappear off the face of the earth once banned, but it’s working towards change. Like societies that care about equitable conditions do – work towards change.

          • Lela

            “I am suggesting that changing the law (should we be able to) will have no effect on its existence because it is widely accepted as being normal.”

            But laws do deter people from doing things. They also send a strong message regarding the harms of the practice in question.

            If porn is violence, as you have said, and with which I agree, then we are now talking about “taxing and regulating” violence against women. Perhaps I’m missing something but I don’t see how this is compatible with deterring men and boys from consuming it.

            There has been a considerable anti-porn movement for decades. Much more would have been accomplished by now if the porn industry weren’t eminently capable of producing propaganda so effective, so insidious, that feminists have been no match for it.

          • Lela

            “And no one is denying that there are some men that don’t use porn.” But you just did, when you said “the men who “don’t” watch pornography are liars.” Perhaps you might consider the implications of your words next time, and also consider that this line is often used on feminists.

          • Lillian

            Lela, you need to re-read the post. I referenced Dan Savage and said that I agreed with Meghan that Dan was exaggerating and likely joking. And I stated that I was too. “Me too”. Why you want to press this point when it is clear that you are wrong, makes no sense. It was just before you accused me of being an apologist for pornographers and doing their work for them. Even while in every thing I have said is that I oppose pornography, and even while the academia referenced claims that 86% of men admit to using porn on some sort of continuing basis. Now you need to say something less obtuse, and get on with whatever it is you are trying to advance here. You are harassing me.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Lillian –
            Drop it now or I will stop posting your comments.
            Lela isn’t ‘harassing’ you. Whatever you said or meant to say is in the past. Discuss the issues at hand.
            We are moving on with or without you.

          • Lela

            You were pretty vague about your intentions at the start of this post, and you sounded to me like a run-of-the-mill porn apologist, repeating the same lines we hear from porn culture. I’ve been personally affected by the violence of porn. As a feminist, you should be able to understand the anger women feel around this. For you to say that I’m “harassing” you feels like a reversal. I know you’re going to milk it for all it’s worth. Have a good time.

        • stephen m

          Ordinarily I like to stay out of this sort of discussion but, the study sited is not a very good talking point for the conversation that has spawned. The study’s definition of porn:

          “For this project, pornography was defined as media used or intended to
          increase sexual arousal. Such material generally portrays images of nudity and
          depictions of sexual behaviors.”

          This is not what we seem to be talking about here. Here we seem to be concerned primarily about graphic sexual violence.

          I am greatly disturbed by graphic sexual violence and I have recently been reading about the modeling of violence with a model similar to a contagious disease. Very disturbing if we apply this to the graphic sexual violence that is freely available.

          • MLM

            @ stephen m, that’s a totally fair point. The study was actually posted in relation to the earlier (Dan Savage) claim that “all men watch porn”. So the definition of “porn” in this study may not match Iceland’s legal definition of porn. The conversation regarding the possibility of Iceland banning (what is legally defined as) porn evolved afterwards.

          • MLM

            Although I acknowledge that I also referenced that in my comment, so that may have added to the blurring, sorry… The point being made at that stage was a rebuttal of the idea that all men watch “porn”.

          • stephen m

            @mlm – apologies, my posting was not clear I was not being critical of the study and your use. What I was trying to point out was that these study statistics should not be construed to be accurate for this thread as it developed into media sexual violence. The word porn is very loose and I would like it better if we all used the same definition when it is used.

  • sporenda

    “I get that most men do, but honestly, ALL men don’t. I mean, believe what you like, I guess, but you’re wrong. So is Dan Savage if he claims (seriously) that all men watch porn”.

    Granted, but that’s–almost–irrelevant.
    About prostitution, porn, rape and wife beating, there 2 categories of men: the minority of nasty characters who do it (probably a slight majority in the case of porn), and the vast majority of men who don’t do it but don’t do anything either to curb these abuses, deny their magnitude or don’t even want to hear about it.
    Quite similar to the situation in Germany before WWII: there was never a majority to support the nazis nor to eliminate the Jews, it’s just that the majority never cared anough about the victims to stop the criminals.
    The indifferent majority, this is where the problem lies.
    “The world is a dangerous place, not because the actions of a few evil characters, but because the majority of decent people don’t do anything about it” (sorry, I am quoting Einstein from memory, this quote is not word for word”.

    There is a minuscule minority of men who are quite aware of the extent of the abuses and violences done to women by their fellow men, and sincerely want to do something about it.
    Some of them join feminist associations, but even that is no garantee: where I live, it turned out that some guys supporting feminist associations sexually harassed their students and even beat their wives.

    So I am not negative about the possibility of men changing their ways, but I am realist and leary; as such, I do not take at face value any expression of guilt or words of support.
    For some men, guilt is an added kick to the pleasures of watching porn, and even to the pleasure of beating their wives (you have heard about the wife beater who cries and ask for forgiveness after beating his wife, and beats her again the next day, I came across a few of those when I was counseling battered women).

    I am sure this small minority will expand overtime. For now, the vast majority of men either don( care, or don’t care enough to go beyond empty words and laws that are not implemented (2/3 years of jail at most for rapists in Western Europe).

    • Meghan Murphy

      Well, you’re right that it’s a minority, but I don’t think it’s irrelevant in terms of this conversation, because it was said that men who say they don’t watch are lying; which is a line quoted over and over again and it teaches both women and men certain things (men lie to women, women are stupid and naive, it’s ‘normal’ for ALL men to watch porn).

      • Lillian

        Men do lie to women. Hiding the use of porn is a lie. That doesn’t make women stupid or naive. The use of the word ‘normal’ is misplaced here. It is normal for men to watch porn in our culture. It’s just not healthy. Particularly for women.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Yes! Some do! Not all of them. Not the friends I talk to about porn.

          • Lillian

            No one is saying “all men”. I find this ironic. You consider it part of “normalizing” porn use when I say that most men use porn and lie about it, but talking to a man about his guilt about it is what??? Now, I’ve been very careful here not to use words that you would construe as me judging your friends or their guilt about their use of porn. I want to make clear that I am not. Or judging you. I am trying to understand what you are saying. It seems contradictory.

          • Meghan Murphy

            This isn’t about you ‘judging’ anyone. I’m perfectly fine with ‘judging’ (and I hate that word). Talking to the men in my life about porn and why it harms women doesn’t normalize porn. Porn is normalized in our culture. Arguing that all men use porn and that those who claim not to are lying works to reinforce the idea that porn use is inevitable, ‘normal’ behaviour for men and that it is impossible for men to be allies to women.

          • Lillian

            Porn use is not inevitable, and I am not, nor anyone else on this thread attempting to make that point. Nor is anyone that I can see, using the words, “all men”. (We’ve covered that ground, right?)’It is driven by profit motives. When I referenced the concept of a workable definition, it was in regard to law. We have an academically satisfactory definition of porn, but not a legal one. That is why I don’t support that path of reducing and eliminating most porn by “banning” it. I am recommending preventative measures like education or prohibitive taxes on income derived. Perhaps even anti-porn ad campaigns. Banning porn in the Internet age is improbable, if not impossible. Even in Iceland.

          • Meghan Murphy

            So your original statement that you agree with Dan Savage that any man who says he doesn’t watch porn is lying was misunderstood?

            Dworkin-MacKinnon’s was developed as a legal definition.

          • Lillian

            When I said I agreed with Dan Savage, you will see there is a smile icon after it. And when you pressed the point that Dan was likely exaggerating or joking I replied that I agreed with you and that I was kidding too. In fact I said, “me too”. You can check these facts for yourself. you are clearly wrong. There is no debate on this point however you would like to find one. To clarify my point on the definition of porn under law vs. an academic definition, I am referring to existing laws. Most western industrialized countries do have legal definitions of porn under law, much of it to protect the “rights” of pornographers and others. Dworkin-Mackinnon has been adopted as law in no jurisdiction that I am aware of. It is extremely unlikely that it will be, for a myriad of reasons. But to press the point further, how exactly do you enforce this proposed legal/academic definition of porn in a digital universe?

          • Meghan Murphy

            Ok, you were just ‘joking’. Sorry no one got your ‘joke’. You said “The men who “don’t” watch pornography are liars”. Period. No ‘just kidding!’. That’s what I and others were responding to. In any case, can we move on please? This back and forth is silly.

            I don’t understand what your point is. We argue that there are legal definitions of porn and that, if there are not, it is possible to create one and ban porn based on that definition. You argue this this doesn’t exist and/or it isn’t possible…?

            Confusing.

            Re: “how exactly do you enforce this proposed legal/academic definition of porn in a digital universe?” — the same way you enforce a ban on child pornography and hate speech. All sorts of things are illegal and censored in our society. Why do people seem to think it would be impossible to do the same with porn?

          • Lillian

            You argue that there are legal definitions that are proposed as law. They are not law, and therefor are not legal definitions and are unlikely to be adopted in any jurisdiction.. As I have mentioned, there are a myriad of reasons for this. If you would like me to expand on why this is so, I would be happy to. But aside from the rest, the simplistic reason is that child pornography prohibition is almost universally accepted and supported. That is what makes itmenforceable. In the study that was cited on these threads, 86% of men use porn. It has become “normal”, a few guilty feeling men notwithstanding. And many women accept pornography as well. It is not only improbable that a proposed feminist legal definition will be adopted into law, it would be impossible to enforce. Internet crosses every political boundary. It cannot be contained in light of the fact that is is widely accepted as normal. That’s why I don’t think that prohibition is effective. Taxing the profits of porn, and directing that money to public educational initiatives would be, and we have examples where these strategies work. It will take significant time to see the results.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Things change. Often via legislation. What the hell do you think feminists have been doing for the past 100 years? Changing the discourse and educating, yes, but also working to change legislation. If you feel change is impossible, a feminist world is impossible, changing laws is impossible, etc then why are we even having this conversation?

          • Lillian

            I used the word improbable in expressing the likelihood of a feminist definition of porn being adopted into law given it is considerably more accepted than say, child porn, that 99.99 % of people oppose. Criminalizing porn is unlikely to work, or be workable, given digital technology crossing the world unfettered. I propose heavy taxation on porn revenue, more strict regulation of its sale ( as opposed to a ban), and well funded education and anti-porn public information campaigns.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Do you think ‘criminalizing’ hate speech or murder ‘works’? People still get murdered…

          • Lillian

            I do think that cultural norms like murder and hate speech laws that are broadly accepted and supported is different than criminalizing porn for the reasons I have stated. Most people don’t murder or get murdered. Porn is ubiquitous.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Nope, not yet. But it’s got wide public support and is likely. Doesn’t seem like you’ve been following this story too closely?

            http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2013/feb/16/uk-iceland-ban-internet-porn
            http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/16/iceland-online-pornography
            http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/edwest/100203047/iceland-banning-porn-page-3-on-the-way-out-the-feminists-are-winning-thankfully/?fb

            Place like Norway, Sweden, and Iceland are among the most progressive in the world due to measures like banning strip clubs, criminalizing johns and banning sexist objectification in ads. It works. Feminist legislation works in terms of creating gender equity.

            http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/mar/25/iceland-most-feminist-country

            The strategies also include education and public campaigns.

          • Meghan Murphy

            It’s how we make change. The ‘feeling’ in Sweden, for example, in terms of sexism is much different than here due to values reflected in legislation.

          • Me

            I don’t understand how pushing through a heavy tax, stricter sales regulation and a significant education campaign would be more easily done than an outright porn ban, or why it would be an either/or thing.

            Though I understand that technically child porn prohibition is universally accepted and included in TOS for uploads, that doesn’t mean people’s attitudes are universally opposed to child porn. In other words, to the extent that the ban works, it doesn’t work in a climate where the webmasters and users have a principled opposition to the content it bans. So long as it’s not labeled child porn and therefore the kind of illegal that can get your servers confiscated, it can and apparently should be almost anything. A lot of porn tries to make girls look very young and act like confused children, which is supposed to be a turn on and a cue for an erection and rape. To me that simply says a child porn ban alone isn’t sufficient and won’t turn the tide on what is essentially pedophilia (being sexually drawn to children). Attitudes are also difficult to study in that when asked I don’t doubt the vast majority of people will not say child pornography is a good thing, but culturally and as a practice the sexual exploitation of children is condoned in that it is not stopped and there is not a cultural and social framework in place to stop it. A ban on porn in my view would be a part of that necessary framework.

            On a personally annoyed note, when you wrote that “Criminalizing porn is unlikely to work, or be workable, given digital technology crossing the world unfettered”, you do realize that’s also the liberal pro-porn final fall-back argument, don’t you? The old “it’s not just my opinion when I say it, the objective technical reality is that it couldn’t be done.” And who am I to argue with technology and objectivity. When people in Iceland may be on to a good thing, may actually make it happen, and that seems to inspire people elsewhere, why take out the steam from that engine?

          • Lela

            Wait, initiatives to educate men and boys about the harms of porn, funded by taxes collected from pornographers? “You see, boys, porn is extremely harmful women and also to you. However, we continue not to ban porn because, well, it isn’t really THAT harmful like, y’know, rape and slavery and other things that are actually illegal because we acknowledge they harm people (and by people, we mean, men.) We also collect money from pornographers, which has paid for this session today, because it’s still OK to accept money made on the backs of the women this session is designed to make you see as fully human.”
            I’m having a bit of a cognitive dissonance moment over this.

          • MLM

            “When I referenced the concept of a workable definition, it was in regard to law. We have an academically satisfactory definition of porn, but not a legal one. That is why I don’t support that path of reducing and eliminating most porn by “banning” it.”

            Actually, Iceland and numerous other European countries do have a legal definition of porn.

            *”It’s a myth that there is no proper definition for what is porn, 70% of European countries do have one in law,” said Gunnarsdóttir.

            The minister has said that the issue must be debated. “If we cannot discuss a ban on violent pornography, which we all agree has a very harmful effect on young people and can have a clear link to incidences of violent crime, then that is not good,” he said.*

            http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/16/iceland-online-pornography?CMP=twt_gu

            When some children are viewing hardcore pornography from as early as 8 years old, and many children are subjected to “accidental exposure”, (http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/pdf/CV169.pdf)
            the problem goes beyond educating teens, unfortunately, (though I heartily agree with you that healthy sex education is absolutely crucial).

            Porn is a bilion dollar industry that exploits both unhealthy cultural messages and one of our most powerful basic human drives. Not to mention the neuroplasticity of the human brain, and the powerful neurological reinforcement provided by the effects of an orgasm on the human brain. Some people – especially young people are far more vulnerable to it’s potential to shape their sexuality (and even their sexual responses at a neurological level).

            Iceland is a progressive country. For them to be considering this speaks volumes. And perhaps what it says is that it might be time to admit that some level of censorship on porn is actually a necessary triage measure.

          • Lillian

            Most porn laws in Western Industrialized countries protect the “rights” of pornographers and others. There are also issues regarding what is “soft core” and what is violent. I would argue that the large majority of porn is a form of violence even when considered soft core. This is where the legal and academic arguments start to come apart. In an Internet age, a legal framework that is effective is improbable.

          • Lillian
          • Lillian

            Iceland has not banned pornography, and is unlikely to pass legislation prohibiting it. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/feb/15/iceland-anti-porn-shield-misguided

          • MLM

            Iceland is definitely considering the move to ban porn and investigating the best technical ways to achieve it. And even acknowledging Birgitta Jonsdottir’s article and opinions, there is a strong consensus building among experts “from educationalists to the police and those who work with children behind this”. There is momentum behind it.

            “Attempting a total block of porn sites somewhere like the United States, with its legions of public and private portals onto the Web and the millions of software engineers who likely would spring into action to find workarounds, would be nearly impossible.

            But Iceland has a population of 322,000 — roughly the same as St. Louis, Missouri. That, and its remote location 1,300 miles off of the coast of Europe, would make jamming or blocking Web traffic to certain sites easier, if that was the route the government there chose”.

            http://edition.cnn.com/2013/02/15/tech/web/porn-ban-iceland

            Also, given the fact that “Iceland has had laws banning the printing and distribution of pornography for years” Iceland is apparently a country that doesn’t concern itself to the same degree with the “pornographers’ rights” you referenced earlier, the way the US seems to. (Unsurprisingly, perhaps, as approx 80% of porn comes out of LA).

          • Lillian

            Sweden
            Sweden has no age laws for the possession or viewing of pornography. Some shops follow a voluntary limit and do not sell to minors. Material that involves animals is de facto legal, though it is subject to animal-welfare laws. BDSM is classified as an “illegal depiction of violence”.[35]
            It is illegal for people under the age of 18 to act or pose for pornography. Pornography depicting children filmed and photographed, is illegal, even if the material was legal in the originating country. However, according to a 2012 Supreme Court ruling, pornographic drawings portraying children is not by definition illegal because the cartoons represent imaginary figures that can not be mistaken for real children.[36]

          • Meghan Murphy

            Porn isn’t (yet) banned in Sweden. So far only the purchase of sex is criminalized. I imagine that if Iceland goes through with this ban, others will follow suit.

          • Lillian

            I suggest Meghan and others read this, given the citation of Sweden as being more progressive in the context of sexism.http://www.cpsa-acsp.ca/papers-2009/Waltman.pdf

            I post this because it has been suggested that I’m not following the issue closely enough. It would seem that it’s the pot calling the kettle black.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Max has been doing some great work, indeed. He’s written for this site before, in fact: http://feministcurrent.com/6454/evidence-shows-that-ending-demand-works-a-response-to-noy-thrupkaew-and-the-attack-on-the-swedish-approach-to-prostitution/

            I know Max and he’s an abolitionist. I’m pretty sure he’d support a ban of pornography, also. I’m not sure who it is or what it is you think you’re proving wrong in sharing this paper, as all it does is show the harm of pornography and the fact that it contributes to a sexist society and violence against women.

            I also suggest you peruse the site a little before embarrassing yourself further.

          • Lillian

            When a human behavior is broadly accepted, banning that behavior using the legal system is unlikely to be effective. Increased criminalization of porn will help fill prisons, but it won’t be effective in my view. when you cite Sweden as an example of where things are better than Canada, for instance, I posted the material that refutes your assumption. You may know Max, but it seems you don’t fully understand what is contained in his study.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Well, I know feminists and activists who have lived in and live in Sweden and they tell me that it is different there.

          • Lela

            The following is not to say that women’s bodies are *anything* like a controlled substance, but there is a parallel here between porn and smoking, a comparison you have also made on this thread. Tobacco smoking is something that has been very widespread in our culture. it’s interesting to note that Canada has been pursuing what amounts to censorship on cigarettes, i.e., forcing companies to put deterrent labelling on their products, and hiding cigarettes behind closed metal shelving units, banning smoking from bars and other public places. There has actually been an overall reduction in smoking.
            http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2011/07/29/f-smoking-statistics.html

          • Meghan Murphy

            Indeed, Lela! Good point.
            Legislation does impact society and the behaviour of individuals.

          • Lillian

            Banning certain drugs has not lead to eliminating them or even reducing their use, and in most cases made things worse, escpecially for those most vulnerable in our society. In Portugal, the decriminalization of drugs has lead to reduced use, harm reduction, and higher participation in rehab programs. while drugs and porn are not the same thing, I believe that criminalizing porn will be ineffective. Indeed, banning porn may lead to some sort of additional “thrill” as another contributor pointed out.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I don’t think that women’s bodies and lives can be equated to a drug? We’re talking about creating a equitable world/society. Does criminalizing murder make it more ‘thrilling’ and then, in turn, encourage people to murder?

          • Lillian

            No one has claimed that women’s bodies are a drug. you are being intentionally obtuse. I want an equitable society and I want an effective strategy in getting there. You seem to feel that a criminalization of porn that “bans it” will be effective. I don’t.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Lillian, I’m not being ‘obtuse’. I’m trying to pull you out of your attachment to arguing against a ban by comparing it to situations/instances that aren’t comparable. The idea is that, an equitable, feminist society wouldn’t include the sexualization of violence against women.

          • Me

            How come this too is turning into a stupid criminalization vs. legalization argument, as if that somehow was at issue?

          • Meghan Murphy

            Yeah I don’t know. Good point/question!

          • Me

            …and by that I didn’t mean what anyone said was stupid, but that the criminalization vs. legalization argument seems stupid to me.

          • Lela

            “Indeed, banning porn may lead to some sort of additional “thrill” as another contributor pointed out.” I don’t think that was Sporenda’s point. The “thrill” in porn comes from violence against women. Violence against women should be illegal.

            Alcohol/drugs/tobacco and violence against women have nothing in common beyond being consumed as entertainment.

          • Lela

            Re: Lillian’s comment about favouring taxation/restricted access/public education. I can agree with the public education part but…. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to word this, here goes.
            There is broad acceptance that harvesting grain or other produce, processing it into alcohol, and selling it for profit is a legitimate form of business. Humans tend to harvest food and process many other forms of food and drink.
            Feminists are arguing that turning sexual violence against women into a product is not legitimate business; never has been, and never will be, and should not be seen as such. We can’t treat it like a controlled substance because it is not a justifiable practice in any way. To treat porn like a controlled substance overlooks violence and oppression, and presupposes that this practice is legitimate but merely unhealthy. This does not get to the root of the problem and it sends a confusing message to youth.
            It’s hard to doubt that pornographers would be ready to pay high taxes on their product, as it is profitable. But this government revenue will be had at the expense of prostituted women, and not only this, but again a contradictory message is sent.

            It would be fantastic to see a greatly expanded effort toward public education, hopefully finding support for a ban. In the interim, it remains important to introduce the general public to the words of exited women and a feminist analysis of porn.

          • Lillian

            then we do have some common ground. If porn is treated like a public health issue ( I realize that it is an insufficient analogy to tobacco), then we are much more likely to make progress in reducing its use, and in harm reduction. Tobacco is not banned. The strategy to more highly regulate it, tax it highly, and educate people on its effects has been very succussful. Tobacco use has dropped substantially since these measures have been implemented. Using another insufficient analogy, alcohol prohibition was unsuccessful for some of the same reasons as I believe an outright ban on porn would be unsuccessful.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Violence against women isn’t ‘a public health issue’. Oppression isn’t ‘a public health issue’.

          • Lillian

            I agree, oppression and violence toward women are not public health issues. If an outright ban on porn was likely to be successful, I might agree with that strategy. If porn is treated “like” a public health issue (as I was clear in saying that porn and tobacco are not the same thing), then it would be likely be an effective way to reduce its consumption and distribution and its harmful effects. Criminalization of porn won’t work.

          • marv

            Those who discount the law as an instrument to extinguish the injuries of pornography are overlooking other historical antecedents of remedies for sexism. In the mid-seventies sexual harassment became illegal in the workplace and in education due to feminist lobbying. At the time the legal challenge was highly unpopular and considered by many liberals as an unnecessary infringement on personal liberty (guess whose?) by pandering to a minority of oversensitive disgruntled women. If there were some abuses education could stop them. The opponents also thought the initiative was naive and doomed to failure. Eventually however the legal claim for sexual harassment made the action socially illegitimate. The law commanded gender equality in this respect and taught it at once. It educated men while holding them accountable. It probably was the first occasion in history that women defined their particular grievances in law as sex based discrimination despite a mountain of opposition against it by mainstream society. It didn’t eliminate abuse but it sure helped.

            If pornography isn’t sex discrimination, nothing is. Feminist jurisprudence has demonstrated that if legal instigations are designed by women’s real experience of violation the law can be effective. Sometimes the law can do something for the first time defying all odds. Porn abolition could fall into this category. People who can’t see the potential, suffer from two curable impairments: a deep cynicism towards the law and a profoundly deficient conception of freedom of expression.

            P.S. Racial harassment was originally seen by whites as something that could only be overcome by education not law. An intrusion of the State into *deemed* private affairs was taboo then too. Would any thoughtful person today oppose laws forbidding racism on the internet? There will be no justice for all without equality law, though not by law alone.

          • stephen m

            Actually the prohibition of alcohol in the US did reduce its use. Alcohol related disease dropped significantly.

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470475/

          • Lillian

            In stating that prohibition of alcohol had a positive effect, is to ignore the fact that alcohol is now legal, and a massive industry, more destructive than any other drug, especially in regard to violence toward women. Most people accept alcohol use as normal. Do you think a ban on alcohol would be successful in harm reduction to the most vulnerable? I don’t.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Let’s stop talking about alcohol please. We are discussing a ban on pornography now. The comparison was to demonstrate that changes to the law impacts society and the behaviour of individuals. If you would like further proof of this, I point you to the feminist movement.

          • Lillian

            There is not a debate about legalization. Most of it is legal now. The moderator and others have called for criminalization. I have said there is no evidence that this will work as a harm reduction strategy. I favour restricted access, high taxation, and public education as an effective strategy. And while this is not the same as a public health issue, it would be effective to use the same tools as if it were.

          • Meghan Murphy

            We’ve suggested a ban on pornography would be a necessary and productive step towards ending gender inequity and violence against women.

          • vouchsafer

            Wouldn’t an outright ban on porn mean that it would no longer be legal to profit from it’s production or distribution?
            I guess I agree there would probably still be a contraband market, but wouldn’t porn’s prevalence be significantly reduced?
            I would even just be happy if sexual violence against women was illegal to profit from, something that a ban might accomplish.
            That seems like a huge injustice to me,that it’s currently a perfectly legal and taxable source of income for pornsters, and I for one wouldn’t mind seeing Stephen Harper have to answer to that one.

          • Meghan Murphy

            People (men, in particular) are currently allowed to profit off of violence against women and the exploitation and degradation of women. Is there any reason at all this should be legal in an egalitarian society?

  • sporenda

    On the fact that the expression of guilt is not necessarily a good thing when it comes to watching porn: some of my male friends watch porn, they told me they feel guilty for doing it, they say they are repelled by the violence and abuse of women in porn.
    But they keep going back to it, not despite but because of the repulsion and the guilt they feel watching sordid, dangerous and forbidden acts . No repulsion, no attraction; no shame, no thrill.
    Porn is not about sex–nobody wants to watch vanilla sex–it’s about breaking the rules, about watching men doing things to women that are prohibited by law (and that you don’t have the guts to do yourself).
    In other words, it’s because it feels bad that it feels good.
    It’s this rollercoaster of emotions–excitement, leading to transgression/breaking the rules/, followed by guilt and remorse for doing it– it’s running this gammut of emotions that makes porn so addictive.
    It”s similar to the emotional rollercoaster of abusive relationships.

    I was re-reading the book about rape by Brownmiller “Against Our Will”. There is an enlighting story about the dark side of male psychology in one of the chapters; Brownmiller deals with the topic of rape in time of war.
    In some of the rape accounts, witnesses say that some soldiers who just gang raped young girls left the scene crying, some even moaning “I am just a dirty lousy pig”.
    That didn’t stop them from raping again later on during the war.

    I am not pro-love, nor anti-love; it all depends. It’s just that for women, love is too often the sugarcoating that makes us swallow the pill of abuse and inequality.

    • Me

      Excellent points Sporenda!

      I like the quote from Jack Forbes about the wetiko psychosis that goes “Brutality knows no boundaries. Greed knows no limits. Perversion knows no borders… These characteristics all push towards an extreme, always moving forward once the initial infection sets in… This is the disease of the consuming of other creatures’ lives and possessions. I call it cannibalism.”

    • Lela

      That is really interesting Sporenda, this connection between porn and the emotional rollercoaster of abusive relationships. Indeed, a lot is said about the “transgressive” and “subversive” nature of porn as somehow necessary to sexuality. I always tend to wonder, “transgressive and subversive to what?” and the answers are inevitably women’s boundaries, women’s health, feminism, and women’s future.

  • AidMo

    One thing I really love about your work is your consistent lack of regret over having a career and a passion. As a musician, I can relate to your deep love for journalism and activism. You say that you want a partner who respects that side of your life (which is really less of a side, and more an identity). How many times have I been invited out by friends who don’t understand that I actually have to practice EVERY DAY, or that I really do need to finish writing this composition? The same goes for you and your interviews, essays and analysis. You’ve said that you found yourself saying to a partner “My work is more important than you,” and as hard as that can be to express/think/feel, I get it. I would rather stay in and practice on an average night than go out and have some sort of vacuous social interaction. I want love too. I want all that Silver Linings Playbook-type stuff. I, like you, am not willing to give up my passion for it – but I’m a man, so it’s all good! Never feel guilty for it. Feel lucky that you are so deeply passionate about something that is so important in this world. Thank you for the continued inspiration.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thanks AidMo.