PODCAST: Gail Dines on Iceland's proposal to ban hardcore pornography online

 Iceland has been called the world’s most feminist country. Ranking first in the 2012 Global Gender Gap Report, the country sucessfully banned strip clubs, adopted feminist legislation around prostitution, decriminalizing sex workers and criminalizing the men who buy sex, and have legislated against printing and distributing porn.

Now, the progressive country is considering banning hardcore pornography online.

While some are concerned about the ways in which this kind of ban could impact free speech on the web, the proposal has garned a great deal of support.

In this episode, Meghan Murphy speaks with Gail Dines, professor of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College in Boston, the author of “Pornland: How Porn has Hijacked our Sexuality,” and a founding member of Stop Porn Culture about the proposal.

 

**Warning: There is some graphic language in this interview

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

  • stephen m

    Meghan, Excellent interview and great questions. I really like the exposure of the issue of violent pornography as a health issue.

    There is a growing body of research in the literature showing the negative effects of violent pornography. Perhaps in the US the negative health issues might eventually spawn class action lawsuits against the makers of violent pornography.

    Here in Canada we should augment our existing criminal legislation for pornography with amendment(s) similar to what was added for internet child pornography:

    “[Bill C15-A] The bill amended s. 163.1(3), which prohibits the distribution of child pornography, to include language such as “transmission,” “making available” and “accessing,” thereby prohibiting the distribution of child pornography online. The bill also added ss. 163.1(4.1) and (4.2), making it an offence to “access” any child pornography, where this is done “knowingly.””
    http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/LOP/ResearchPublications/843-e.pd
    Serious enforcement would be advantageous too!

  • Melissa

    Thank you so much for this podcast, Meghan! I adore listening to Gail Dines; she expresses herself so eloquently with flawless logic. But of course even though she repeatedly explains that the ban on hardcore pornography in Iceland has nothing to do with morality or censorship, you’ll still have porn addicted men and male identified women screeching “Gail Dines hates sex!!!!!”

    I cringed when I saw the episode of Penn and Teller Bullshit on porn. They interviewed Gail Dines and instead of engaging with her points, they criticized her appearance and used every anti-feminist stereotype in the book. What was especially creepy was when they filmed Gail giving a lecture and honed in on the young women in the audience, and expressed disappointment that those women didn’t like porn because they were hot. Like all mansplainers, they dismissed everything Gail said when she admitted that there were no studies currently on the harmful effects of porn. And we all know that “scientific studies” are more important than actual women saying clearly that “porn has hurt me in x ways.”
    Thanks again to Meghan and Gail for all the feminist work you do!

  • copleycat

    Anyone else want to move to Iceland? Dines is great, thanks for doing this interview Meghan. She’s absolutely right on every count and it is profoundly discouraging that in the U.S. teachers are so discredited that they aren’t listened to by the public. The times when I’ve heard K-12 teachers speak at conferences about porn there has been an honestly bone-chilling urgency in their voices about this problem.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I wish more Americans would listen to this. It’s just so abundantly clear how regressive the U.S. is. I mean, you want equality? Take a clue from progressive countries. It’s no mere coincidence that Iceland is number one in terms of gender equality IN THE WORLD and has also managed to ban strip club and criminalize johns. Sheesh. And her point that Iceland is far more ‘sex positive’ than the U.S. (which of course, we all know, because objectification isn’t ‘sex positive’) flies in the face of those ninnies who think criticizing misogyny is ‘sex negative’.

      • Missfit

        The first time I heard the term ‘sex positive’, and especially since it was in a feminist context, I thought that it was about proposing a healthier, more respectful approach to sex to counter the toxic, mysoginistic, version now propagated through widespread hardcore pornography. Well, I was wrong. And how a reversal of terms I find it is!

      • copleycat

        “It’s just so abundantly clear how regressive the U.S. is.”

        Oh yes, it’s getting ridiculous here. It seems like almost every other week now guys are showing up in public places and going on shooting sprees. It’s almost as if we’ve got an undeclared civil war going on.

  • sporenda

    Really excellent, Gail Dines makes a lot of good points, some that I will recycle if I have to debate anti-porn laws in public.
    2 of these points caught my attention particularly:
    – pro-porn advocates want us to believe that, if anti-hardcore porn laws are passed, harcore porn will go underground, and that’s BAD.
    Gail Dines says that on the contrary, the ban on hardcore porn will be good news, and her arguments make a lot of sense:
    underground porn means less money for the porn industry, it won’t be able to taint as many customers, the pornographers will be severely constrained and fined if caught, they won’t be able to corrupt/buy politicians on the same scale as now, they won’t be able to lobby openly, they won’t be able to influence the media openly.
    In other words, they will be (somewhat) defanged, their financial and ideological power will be curtailed–and that’s very good news indeed.

    – another important point she makes: the country where, for the 1st time such a law might be passed is also the country in the world which is most ahead in terms of women’s rights.
    It’s also a culture where sexuality is more free of religious hangups, shame, fear of sin etc than anywhere else: sexual liberation there is not a phoney slogan meaning in fact more sexual access granted to males without concern for women’s wants and well being, it’s as close to egalitarian sexuality as one can get.
    So it’s no surprise that this truly sex positive proposal comes from a truly sex positive country–and not from the US, a society that is losing its edge when it comes to women’s rights, with only 17% of women in Congress, the relentless war against women led by the Republicans, and a level of violence against women far higher than in the most sexist European countries.

  • ELF

    The big problem with Dines work is that she reproduces the same mistake about pornography that was the failure of MacKinnon-Dworkin. Their definition conflated the harmful and the abusive with the sexually explicit. It claimed not to, but their code made it impossible to separate the two, and so it was and is untenable. This was an enormous set back for feminism because its since become extremely difficult to talk intelligently or analytically about sexually explicit material.

    Dines does the same thing: she claims they’re different, but then says that hardcore (violent) pornography is 80-90% of the pornography produced… She at least admits that she/Iceland doesn’t oppose sexually explicit material or “erotica” per se. Then, you ask her what she means by hardcore, and she mentions the “definitional dodge” – and she equates this with deep-throating (choking the woman with a penis), hard pounding, anal sex, and name-calling. She suggests defining “hard core” with specific acts. This separation of content from context would be interesting to see in action.

    There’s lots of terrible and offensive porn, but when you conflate deep-throating, hard pounding, and anal sex with abusive sex, you have a problem. At that point, the issue of violence against women or misogynistic representations gets conflated with moralizing over good or bad, healthy or unhealthy kinds of sex. Dines says that above ground porn is as hardcore as it could possibly be without killing the woman. I see terrible things on online porn sites, but that’s quite an exaggeration. That’s why her book hasn’t been taken very seriously, and that’s why instead of working at a proper university, she works for a tiny private “family values” college with less than 100 faculty.

    So, she suggests Iceland is going to do a kind of content analysis. This will be very interesting. Actually vetting scenes act-by-act. What I’d like to see is someone like Dines represent for us the difference between good and bad / healthy or unhealthy / acceptable or unacceptable sexually explicit material. A series of examples that show us the difference between “good sexually explicit erotic” and “misogynistic hard core violent” representations of sex. Then at least we could at least begin to consider a real definition of what “porn” is.

    Otherwise, by her definition, or by the MacKinnon-Dworkin definition, any sexually explicit representation can be labelled as porn (in the sense of harmful, misogynistic, etc), and we’re back to nowhere.

    On the other hand, I tend to be with Betty Friedan when she argues that “this current move to introduce censorship … in the guise of suppressing pornography is extremely dangerous to woman.”

    Or more pointedly: “get off the pornography kick and face the real obscenity of poverty.”

    • Meghan Murphy

      Why are you so attached to protecting misogynistic porn? What does anyone gain by protecting it?

      How does “Their definition conflate the harmful and the abusive with the sexually explicit”?

      Have you actually read or engaged with any feminist theory or discourse over the past 40 years? Because feminism actually has, and continues to do, a great job of “talk[ing] intelligently or analytically about sexually explicit material.”

      How did Dworkin, Dines or MacKinnon ‘set back’ feminism.

      What exactly do you think feminism is?

      The only way you could argue that feminist critiques of pornography ‘set feminism back’ is if you weren’t actually interested in feminism achieving anything in terms of liberation for women. Is ending violence against women and inequality something that you are actually interested in achieving? Because, if you aren’t, you really don’t have a place in this conversation.

      State your motives.

      • ELF

        My motives are to specify a place for a radical feminist argument.

        You’ve asked me to explain how the Mackinnon-Dworkin definition of porn conflates the harmful/abusive with the sexually explicit, and suggested that I haven’t engaged feminist theory on this topic. I’ve actually read everything I have time for on these topic, which is far from everything, but still a lot.

        “Marv” recently posted the M-D ordinance definition. The problem with it is that any visual representation of real, consensual, loving sex could be subsumed under the definition if it included depictions of genital penetration. This is why the ordinance failed, both in the courts and in feminist discourse. In response to this, I’m asking for folks like Gail Dines or Katharine MacKinnon to be specific: what forms of sexually explicit representation are acceptable?, and what forms of sexually explicit representation are unacceptable? Is it so hard to answer this question? If so, why? But this is the question that requires a specific answer to move the conversation forward.

        Asking “which depictions of sex are misogynistic and which are not?” is NOT “protecting misogynistic porn”. M-D define “porn” as *misogynistic* depictions of sexual acts. Good! I don’t want to see misogynistic depictions of anything. But this implies that some sexually explicit depictions are NOT misogynistic, so we need to specify what is misogynistic and what is ok in order to separate “porn” as bad and worthy of censorship, from other sexually explicit materials which are not misogynistic.

        Dines hasn’t had time to set feminism back, and the fact is that she lags behind both feminism and the mainstream in her work. More importantly, Mackinnon and Dworkin set feminism back by totalizing and essentializing definitions at every turn. That’s why their ordinance was struck down, and why it hasn’t been carried any further, even by feminists. I think CM was using AD for political gain, but that’s besides the point. In any case, have you read Dworkin’s “Pornography” – its entirely circular! A tautology without remedy.

        Meanwhile, as for what I’ve read, I’m quoting Friedan, after all, and she wrote between 50-20 years ago! So, why don’t you respond to the quote by Betty Friedan, because I hope you’ll be more open to engaging her than engaging me. I’m sure you’ve read “A feminist critique of ‘the’ feminist critique of pornography” to which she was a signatory. Thoughts? Or, short of that, what do you make of her specific assertion that feminists should be focusing on poverty instead of pornography?

        More importantly, why are we so obsessed with sex acts, and depictions thereof? And why do we insist on this obsession while refusing to specify our terms? If this is where the feminist battle is to be pitched, we must specify both strategy and tactics, and somewhere in there, we must actually define our argument: what sexually explicit material is ok, and what isn’t?

        If we can’t do that, do we even know what we’re talking about?

        • Meghan Murphy

          The Mackinnon-Dworkin definition of porn does not “conflate the harmful/abusive with the sexually explicit”. It’s the non-feminist/mainstream that does that.

        • stephen m

          @ELF OK, I might be naive to ask this question but you seem to really want to do it, so perhaps you will give us your definition of pornography (bad stuff) vs erotica (good stuff)? I suspect that it might be fairly long so perhaps an http link would be best as we don’t want to take advantage of Meghan’s blog space. I hope you can synthesize all the materials, correct previous mistakes, and give us a workable definition that we can all be happy with.

          Personally I am happy with R. v. Butler even though I know there are criticisms.

        • Me

          What’s circular is not feminism or feminist critiques of porn. What’s circular and nonsensical and broadly hateful is patriarchy and it’s cycle of violation, fear, denial and abuse. There is no way to make an argument for a porn industry, for example. Any point is a good point to decide to break the circle.

          Pornographers and misogynists and you are obsessed with sex acts and sexual violation. Feminists aren’t.

        • copleycat

          “I don’t want to see misogynistic depictions of anything.”

          So therefore you don’t. What refreshing honesty you have elf.

        • http://www.freesoil.org Aletha

          “Get off the pornography kick and face the real obscenity of poverty. The shameful secret of the women’s movement is that it has never really dealt with the fact that middle-class women are sinking into poverty.”
          That is presumably the Betty Friedan quote you cite, ELF, which I copied from http://articles.latimes.com/1987-05-17/magazine/tm-349_1_betty-friedan. There are a number of issues I would have liked to take up with her, for instance her role in creating the impression that feminism is a movement for white middle-class women, and her infamous warnings about the “lavender menace,” referring to lesbians. She was a pioneer of liberal feminism, and as such it is surprising to see her cited if your motive is “to specify a place for a radical feminist argument.” I do not think any feminist would call Betty Friedan a radical feminist.

        • lizor

          ELF, Dines gave a very clear definition and rationale for the type of content she sees as problematic. Listen to the interview.

    • Lela

      ““get off the pornography kick and face the real obscenity of poverty.” This is beyond offensive. Feminists are ALSO working on ending poverty, ELF, did you miss that part? Women are being harmed, by men, via pornography. This isn’t a “moral” issue. This is about harm.

    • copleycat

      Why are you insisting on using the phrase “deep throating”? The practice you are referring to is gagging. It is called this with in the industry itself. It is what happens – the woman gags and sometimes even vomits – that is an event which it is becoming more common to show.
      You don’t have a problem with it? Do you do it? If so what do you get out of it? Seriously, and I don’t particularly care if you’re male or female, either way if you do this act and want to advocate for its acceptance as a non-abusive act then explain yourself elf.

      • MLM

        “The practice you are referring to is gagging. It is called this with in the industry itself. It is what happens – the woman gags and sometimes even vomits – that is an event which it is becoming more common to show”.

        @ ELF, Quite apart from the literal physical trauma being outlined above, consider the symbolism of it: a penis is shoved down a woman’s throat to the point where she choking/unable to breathe properly – certainly unable to speak – and she literally vomits/is made sick because of it.

        I agree with copleycat, there is far more onus on you to make a valid argument that such an act is not misogynistic and abusive, remembering that porn is a mass communication about sex that goes beyond any private agreement between individuals. (So even if you were to try and make the standard “but I/some people like it” defence of this act, it would still not address the positioning of such an act as misogynistic and abusive in the general collective consciousness).

    • Marion

      “When you conflate deepthroating, hard pounding and anal sex with abusive sex, you have a problem”

      I shudder to think what would be so sadistic as to meet your standard of “abusive sex”.

  • sporenda

    ELF:

    First, with the possible exception of liberal/libertarian feminists, no feminist thinks that Dworkin/MacKinnon have set feminism back.
    Quite the contrary: if you judge by the rejection and outcry these brilliant women still stir up among the opponents of feminism, it seems they have done an excellent job:
    the efficiency of a feminist message can be pretty much measured by the rejection and outrage it arouses. In fact, I have seen the very uttering of Dworkin’s name send some men in fits of rage–the proof is in the pudding.

    “MacKinnon and Dworkin were totalizing and essentializing definitions at every turn. It’s why their ordinance was struck down”.

    This explanation is a figment of your imagination. Their anti-porn civil rights ordinance was passed twice in Minneapolis in 1983 by the city council and vetoed twice by the mayor;
    it was signed into law in Indianapolis in 1984, but declared unconstitutionnal by a Court of appeal.
    Finally, it was passed in Bellingham and Cambridge Mass., by referendum organized by popular iniative, and it received a solid majority (62% of the votes in Bellingham).
    So the local voters definitely supported these proposals, but they were turned down by professional politicians and jurists, all males of course.
    Not only one can assume that the old men who struck it down were too traditionnally sexist to support anti-porn laws but another major reason was that they were the targets of intense lobbying by the porn industry–some of these guys being ” fronts” according to Mac Kinnon (“Are Women Hhuman?”).

    The bottomline is: it’s a darn lie to pretend that a workable definition of what constitutes pornography is impossible to achieve. In fact, McK’s definition is pretty good; here it is:
    “women being dehumanized as objects or things or commodities, being penetrated by objects or animals, presented in scenarios of torture or degradation, being bruised, beaten, humiliated, raped, on enjoying incest and rape…”.
    This definition could be modified slightly, as new ways to sexually torture women have been invented since, but it covers–without ambiguity in most cases–the bulk of porn material.

    And I don’t see why it would be impossibly complicated to apply this definition.
    In fact, there is already a similar law in existence in the West European country where I live: it’s prohibits and punishes antisemitic speech, racist speech and negationist speech.
    In order to implement this law, a judgement has to be made as to what constitutes racist speech, and what does not.
    There is a margin of interpretation of course, but all in all, this law is implemented, and it works.
    In other words: what works for racism can work for pornography, it’s no more arduous to decide what constitutes pornography than what constitutes racism.

    The only difference is that there are no longer powerful racist parties with the money and the political clout to prevent anti-racist laws to be passed.

    • ELF

      While this is attached to *Sporenda’s* message, its a response to all 7 people who have replied to me thus far:

      Re *Meghan’s* comment, are you saying that the non-feminist mainstream considers all sexually explicit material to be harmful/abusive, or are you suggesting that in non-feminist mainstream culture, ALL sexually explicit material is abusive? The question raised by Dines is specified by Halla Gunnarsdóttir, advisor to Iceland’s interior minister. The law will aim “to encompass only violent and degrading sexual material. The goal is to make the important distinction between sex, on the one hand, and violence, on the other.” So the question is, how to make this distinction?

      I think I agree with *StephenM* about R. v. Butler. To be specific, in R. v. Butler offered 3 categories for sexually explicit material:

      1. Explicit sex with violence;
      2. Explicit sex without violence, but which subjects participants to treatment that is degrading or dehumanizing; and
      3. Explicit sex without violence that is neither degrading nor dehumanizing.

      According to this framework, (1) will almost always be illegal, (2) will sometimes be illegal, and (3) will almost never be illegal. To me, that seems reasonable, though the problem is that it only deals with representation, and even there, it begs the question: what is violent / degrading / dehumanizing and who decides?. The other important category is conditions of production. I don’t care how non-violent a sex act might appear if the people doing it are coerced or working under duress of any kind. That’s not a question of censorship, per se, but it is one that must be addressed nevertheless.

      I’ll leave it at that re StephenM’s question and turn to *Me*: I didn’t suggest that feminism is circular, I said that Dworkin’s argument in her book Pornography was. In any case, you could be less insulting (“Pornographers and misogynists and you” – zinger! Do tell me more about my obsessions, Me): nevertheless, the question of specific sex acts was raised by Dines, and I’ll be curious to see how she and Iceland approach this. *copleycat* and *MLM* call me out for the label “deep-throating”. I do apologize if its an offensive term, but the fact is that this particular act can be either abusive (a man forces himself into a woman, choking her) or perfectly healthy (some men and women proffer this freely and happily). Same with anal sex, bondage, or most other sexual practices. The gentlest kiss can be an act of abuse. And that’s why making the decision on the basis of specific acts is problematic. Finally, copleycat: you think I wouldn’t recognize misogynistic representations as misogynistic? How do you know? I would say this: misogyny means “women-hating”: it’s best to reserve the term for expressions of hatred, lest it be watered down too much.

      *Lela* takes exception to my quoting of Friedan (“get off the pornography kick and face the real obscenity of poverty.”). Best to take that up with Betty, but its too late for that. And its true that feminists do anti-poverty work, but its remarkable and disappointing to me that the “women want more” campaign seems to be focused on abolition and censorship issues at the expense of the issues that shape women’s ability to be free from structural/economic coercion: poverty, housing, social assistance, access to education, and so on. And Lela, I would suggest that any issue of harm is inherently a moral issue. I don’t understand how you seperate the two.

      *MLM* raises the issue of onus, and to this I would respond that the onus is always on the State when it proposes to regulate a human behavior. Regardless, please note that porn is not mass communicated in North America, like it is in many European countries. Here, it’s only available through broadcast channels via subscription. The internet is not mass communication, but I agree that it’s widespread enough that the distinction is moot. Its deeply troubling to me that young people have such easy access to ANYTHING: it’s not just porn, that’s just one aspect of the horrorshow that’s available. But for me, while that calls for some degree of regulation, it also calls on you, me, and everyone who can influence a child to inculcate better values, healthier ethics, and intelligent sensibilities about what one should consume.

      Finally, *Sporenda*: I’d suggest being careful about the “liberal/libertarian” label: it’s coming to be used as a sloppy pejorative. I’m aware of progressive versions of both. It MIGHT be fair to call me a civil libertarian. But you’d need to know alot more than that to assess my thoughts and actions. If you’re not aware of concerns about the ordinance within feminism, I’d suggest perusing Off Our Backs from the mid-late eighties. Plenty of good discussion there pro and con. Moreover, I believe the Feminist Anti-Censorship Task Force was formed in part in reaction to the M-D Ordinance movement. In any case, thank you for evincing the real issue here: as you point out, the M-D ordinance would rule out women “being penetrated by objects”. That means no representation of penetrative sexual intercourse, period. It would also make illegal the image of a woman putting anything inside herself. We could censor a mother feeding her child (fork enters mouth, after all) with a definition like that!

      I don’t completely agree with Alisa Carse when she writes “The struggle against pornography must be waged through education, expressive exploration, and protest, not through the law” – I do think we need the law to regulate truly abusive representations and acts, but we need to balance this against the real diversity of sexual desires and practices.

      • Meghan Murphy

        “*Lela* takes exception to my quoting of Friedan (“get off the pornography kick and face the real obscenity of poverty.”). Best to take that up with Betty, but its too late for that. And its true that feminists do anti-poverty work, but its remarkable and disappointing to me that the “women want more” campaign seems to be focused on abolition and censorship issues at the expense of the issues that shape women’s ability to be free from structural/economic coercion: poverty, housing, social assistance, access to education, and so on.”

        I don’t think you understand what the abolitionist movement and the Nordic model are about if you truly believe that it’s either about censorship or that it ignores issues of poverty, housing, social assistance, and access to education.

        • MLM

          “*MLM* raises the issue of onus, and to this I would respond that the onus is always on the State when it proposes to regulate a human behavior”.

          Sure, but in this particular instance what we were discussing was your opinion that *being forcibly gagged with a penis, even to the point of actually vomiting (a very specific act that Gail Dines described) is not necessarily a misogynistic and abusive representation of sex. Does your interpretation of “perfectly healthy deepthroating” actually differ from being forcibly gagged with a penis, even until vomiting? And if not, can you explain why you, personally, believe that is not a misogynistic depiction? (An honest question, not a rhetorical one. I have yet to hear an argument in defence that didn’t essentially boil down to “consent” of those involved and/or “some people like these acts”. I think both those arguments miss the point given the prevalence of porn that shows this).

          Similarly, Dines was quite specific about the type of anal sex – aggressive *pounding* anal sex that results in physical trauma/damage to the anal cavity (which is, in fact, a selling point for the porn). I don’t know, I think it’s fairly easy to argue that this is misogynistic. So, again, what is your argument against this (beyond the individualistic)?

          “it’s not just porn, that’s just one aspect of the horrorshow that’s available.”

          While I am going to say I think porn has a top billing in this horror show, I don’t disagree with this. But what needs to be acknowledged is that efforts “to influence a child to inculcate better values, healthier ethics, and intelligent sensibilities about what one should consume” will essentially be in competition with efforts to protect and further the agenda and financial interests of an (already) multi-billion dollar industry with immense lobbying power, and a medium that exudes tremendous cultural influence in the society that the child will be growing up in. This is a big part of what necessitates regulation.

      • copleycat

        You didn’t actually answer my question though did you? I don’t want to hear about some women and men and what they claim, I want to hear about you “…be specific…” What is your personal need to defend (and re-define) these sex acts? Do you do them and if so what do you get out of them? Or do you just watch and if so what do you get out of that? Ante up, let hear your motives for arguing that we should have to put up with this shit.

        • ELF

          copleycat, I don’t think my personal sexual predilections are appropriate here, any more than yours or Meghan’s or anybody else’s. I could just say, MYOB, but I’ll happily ante up if everyone here is comfortable with doing the same (I doubt that’s the case). My “personal need” and political motivation is already explicit and clear: to strike an appropriate balance between what should be supported as a healthy diversity of sexual desires and the need to resist and regulate unhealthy representations and practices.

          Needless to say, I never asked you or anyone else to put up with anything. Nor have I asked anyone anything quite so nosy! To call on me to take the lead in diverting this into a conversation about our individual sexual desires and deeds, as opposed to the social questions at hand, seems like an attempt to derail the conversation. Honestly, I’m a little alarmed and offended by your query, and I’m surprised the moderator permitted it, but you’re welcome to justify why I should tell you what I like sexually, and why…

          • Meghan Murphy

            @Elf – To repeat copleycat’s question: “What is your personal need to defend (and re-define) these sex acts?”

            Why do you feel it necessary to defend violent, degrading pornography? To what end? Why do we need it?

            To repeat my question: “Why are you so attached to protecting misogynistic porn? What does anyone gain by protecting it?”

            I asked you to state your motives. You responded: “My motives are to specify a place for a radical feminist argument.”

            What does that mean? I ask, partly because you don’t seem particularly interested in advancing radical feminist arguments, nor do you seem particularly familiar with the work/theory, so excuse me if I don’t buy that as a ‘reason’ for making excuses for sexist pornography; and partly I ask because, well, as a libertarian who doesn’t seem to have much invested in ending oppression against women, why would you assume that it is somehow your place to “specify a place for a radical feminist argument”?

          • copleycat

            “MYOB” “…nosy!” Isn’t it nice to be able to make an appeal to things like integrity, privacy, common decency? You know all those concepts and practices that porn destroys.

            You can’t say that you’re not asking us to put up with anything, you are asking us to put up with violent porn.

            We always hear about the freedom of speech that pornographers have to have, but the second anyone uses their freedom of speech to question what the consumers of porn are getting out of it when they get off on it, there’s a rapid, defensive retreat to the diminishing realms of privacy and decency.

            You can’t answer the very simple question, what do you get out of this? You are offended that the question has been asked, well I’m offended that you want to call gagging “deep-throating” and that you want to be blithely obtuse about how anal pounding actually causes damage to a person’s body.

            You want to minimize and negate violence and cruelty supposedly in the interest of advancing tolerance and equality but violence and cruelty are inherently antithetical to tolerance and equality. Everyone knows that, there is no argument to be made for tolerating these practices for the sake of promoting a just, tolerant society. So that leaves personal, irrational preferences as the real motive, and given how high the stakes are, it’s not unreasonable to ask for an accounting of these preferences from anyone who’s going to advocate for tolerance of violence and cruelty.

      • stephen m

        @ELF: You are avoiding the question. It is time to put down the easy and superficial criticism and enlighten us.

        To quote myself:

        “[@ELF] so perhaps you will give us your definition of pornography (bad stuff) vs erotica (good stuff)? I suspect that it might be fairly long so perhaps an http link would be best as we don’t want to take advantage of Meghan’s blog space. I hope you can synthesize all the materials, correct previous mistakes, and give us a workable [precise] definition that we can all be happy with.”

        • stephen m

          @ELF: Apologies, I just reread your earlier response to my question and I have to EAT CROW. I composed the above with expectations instead of careful reading your response to my post. I expected criticism as a matter of course.

          ELF is not all criticism as it sometimes seems.

        • stephen m

          @ELF: Bad day for me, busy and not paying attention. Here I thought that your comment of “what is violent / degrading / dehumanizing and who decides?” was strictly RHETORICAL. There is a legal meaning for terms used in legal documents.

          Loosely speaking and as I understand it, the legal system is set up such that terms REQUIRE challenge, interpretation and argument. This allows for terms to be left open ended which allows for future inclusion(s). The useful legal meaning or definition is interpreted and improved over time with their usage and re-usage in legal contexts.

  • sporenda

    ELF:

    ” the M-D ordinance would rule out women “being penetrated by objects”. That means no representation of penetrative sexual intercourse, period. It would also make illegal the image of a woman putting anything inside herself. We could censor a mother feeding her child (fork enters mouth, after all) with a definition like that!”

    First, a reminder for morons: a penis is not an object.
    If you see no difference between a penis in a vagina and a steel rod in a vagina, clearly you don’t have the slightest idea of what a vagina is and feels.
    And you are a danger to women to boost.
    Just to give you an idea of what the women in porn feel when a steel rod is inserted in their vaginas:
    would you like to have a steel rod shoved up your a…?
    Somehow, I don’t think so.
    So why do you imply it’s ok to shove dangerous objects up women’s vaginas in porn movies and that nobody should stand in the way of the men who pay to see it done?
    Liberal guys who don’t want to give up their porn think harmful dangerous “sexual” acts are ok when done to women, but they would deem these acts barbarous and intolerable when done to other men or to themselves.

    And the reference to a mother puting food in a baby’s mouth is particularly absurd: censorship only applies to images or words, one cannot censor life.

    These twisted arguments boil down to one thing: condoning the torture of women as legitimate entertainment for men.

  • Missfit

    After all the feminist critics that have been made of porn, I think we can move on the conversation beyond ‘what is porn?’. I think everybody has an idea of what constitutes porn; it is now everywhere to be found. We are not in the same place we were in the 70-80s in terms of mainstream content and accessibility.

    Anytime misogyny in porn is denounced, the argument that comes back from the pro-sex industry is always about ‘free speech’ and ‘consent’; you rarely hear the argument that it is actually NOT misogynistic (beside those who would want us to belive that a woman having her head forced down a toilet is actually ’empowering’; sorry, but nobody belives you). In every other domain of art/media, it is rare that you will hear the word ‘consent’ used in defending racism or homophobia, for example. Even by calling out ‘free speech’, you would usually not get out of this that easy and will either have to explain yourself about the message you’re trying to convey and its possible impacts, and/or have your work thrown out of the public sphere. The thing is that we live in society and no amount of individualism will change that. There are already laws in place to limit the content of hate speech and they are there for a reason, and a good one. As Sporenda mentioned, how come are we able to define what constitutes anti-semitism, for example, but would be unable to do so when it comes to misogyny? I am sure a panel of experts could come up with a general consensus of what constitutes harmful misogynist porn. Let’s not forget that acts and attitudes depicted in porn, no matter how misogynist and violent they are, are always presented as desirable (this coupled with the reinforcer that is orgasm).

    I know some (many) men are not interested at combatting misogyny because they benefit from it. For some, it seems their boners have become dependent on it (and everybody knows we can’t afford losing a boner!) . As a radical feminist, I don’t care about them and I won’t side with them. As Meghan asked, what is being gained, and who is gaining, by defending misogynist porn? Why is it so important for some to defend its accessibility? What is the worse that could happen if it gets tossed out of the way? Men who are dependent on seeing women being degraded to get an erection will see their penis fall off? Teenage girls will feel terribly repressed if they can’t get filmed while being penetrated by 3 men at a time? Afraid you would see something you would personally not define as misogynist being banned? And then what? I am sure things can be redefined as we go on… But can we go on? Why not start by banning incest/rape porn, for example? Could presenting crimes against the person as something desirable and harmless, in the special way that pornography does, be considered akin to incitement to commit crimes? Or why not make some hardcore material only available at specific, limited, places and not through the internet where every minor can easily get access to it (a lot has been written already about the impacts porn can have on minors who do not have the sexual maturity to process such material)? We all know that the ‘click only if you are at least 18’ doesn’t do it. As a parent, I am tired to be put in the position of always having to counter the values vehiculated by mainstream society. What about having girls being able to grow up in a world where porn is not used to harrass them, to pressure them, to make them learn that women are to be displayed and used as sex objects, to abuse them. And where respect for women is not something that parents have to actively teach boys about but would come as a given?

    I do not know why people are jumping to equate banning violent misogynist pornography with ‘banning any sexually explicit material’. Aren’t they able to envision sex without it being misogynist? If so, I think we, as a society, have a problem (and I think we already do).

    • MLM

      So well said, Missfit.

  • Laur

    I support legislation because it is one concrete thing we can do to change social norms. It’s not just about how it would or wouldn’t work to block material; a law would also say, “jerking off to pain against women is not okay.” Again, as part of a broader public health approach for the health of women and children, as dines mentions.

  • sporenda

    About “get off the pornography kick and face the real obscenity of poverty”.

    What good is it to have money if you can get raped anytime by guys who are taught by pornography that rape is fun and that women are subhuman fucktoys?

    There is a link between pornography and poverty, and it’s amazing that Friedan could not see it:
    since pornography builds up misogyny and misogyny is at the root of women’s poverty (through low salaries, lack of promotion, being stuck in “women’s jobs”, the glass ceiling, etc…), pornography contributes to women’s poverty by spreading misogyny.

    And since pornography promotes violence against women, the link is even more obvious, as violence against women directly creates poverty: women who have been exposed to violence, specially early on, often have emotional/psychological problems that induce self destructive or self defeating behaviors.
    For women who suffer from such PTSDs, even holding a job can be difficult; getting ahead professionally and having a career is unlikely.
    Generally speaking, women who have been exposed to violence tend to be afraid to take risks, shun competition and exposure and lack self confidence.
    Pornography creates violence, and violence keeps women in their place: poor and second class citizens.
    Lots of factors work to keep women down; seeing women’s oppression as only economic in nature is a short sighted analysis that tackles the problem only superficially.

    Finally, there is no way that a guy who watches pictures of women being raped, ejaculated on, gagged and tied down daily will treat women as equals in the workplace.
    He won’t respect their authority if he is their subordinate; and if he is their boss, he won’t give them equal pay or promotion– and probably won’t abstain from harassing them either.

    • Me

      “Finally, there is no way that a guy who watches pictures of women being raped, ejaculated on, gagged and tied down daily will treat women as equals in the workplace.
      He won’t respect their authority if he is their subordinate; and if he is their boss, he won’t give them equal pay or promotion– and probably won’t abstain from harassing them either.”

      He might though, might he, let’s give him and the pornographers and the sex-positives that. Not!

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