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Anti Porn Men
September 17, 2010 2:31 AM   Subscribe

The Anti-Porn Men Project

From the website's About page:

The AntiPornMenProject aims to provide an online space for (mainly) men to write about and discuss anti-porn issues, providing others who are perhaps only just arriving at anti-porn thoughts a place to read, ask questions and feel part of a wider movement. We also hope to effectively provide and sign-post anti-porn resources and news articles concerning pornography. We hope this website will be used as a place to find opinions and resources for those who are genuinely interested in respectful engagment and -we hope- adoption of an anti-porn attitude.

It is the general opinion of those involved in the AntiPornMenProject that pornography is one of the most important social issues that we face in tackling both violence against women and wider gender inequality, as well as an important personal issue in the lives and relationships of many people. It is for these reasons -and not out of any conservative or religious sentiments- that the AntiPornMenProject is anti-porn. Our mission is to help develop a wider knowledge and recognition of the harms of pornography. We hope this will help bring about a greater level of public questioning of pornography.
posted by blue funk (146 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
The ‘porn’ in the ‘Anti Porn Men Project’ is -generally speaking- sexually explicit material that is characterised in some way by cruelty, humiliation, or degredation of women. This kind of material constitutes the vast majority of so-called ‘mainstream pornography’.

It does? (Genuine question, I have literally no idea.)
posted by robself at 2:36 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Good luck with that.
posted by delmoi at 2:38 AM on September 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


In the pursuit of common ground, I think we can all agree on better lighting.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:47 AM on September 17, 2010 [34 favorites]


robself, I did a bit of a doubletake at that too, but to be fair that's how they're defining "porn" for their purposes, that's the "porn" that they're "anti". I'm not sure if it's usefully provocative or if that will simply work against them.

delmoi: tbh that was literally my first response too. However, despite it being a very new website, they do have some interesting snippets, such as this (from "What is Objectification?"):


Objectification is about becoming a practically inanimate object. When choosing a second hand coffee table, a customer might request the dimensions, the age, and a brief description. When choosing soft pornography, a customer might request the dimensions, the age, and a brief description. Let me show this comparison:

Second-hand coffee table, pre-loved.co.uk:

“Beautiful mahogany sideboard cabinet that is over 15 years old.
Dimensions: Width 139cm, Height 81cm and Depth 45cm.”


One of ‘the girls’, page3.com:

Rosie, 18, From Middlesex.
Vitals: 30E/F-24-35 Appearances: 68 Last Appearance:14-DEC-09


If I wanted to explain what objectification was I'd have a hard time making a more apt analogy than that.
posted by blue funk at 2:48 AM on September 17, 2010 [17 favorites]


Christine O'Donnell is really busy these days.
posted by Aizkolari at 3:08 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


“Beautiful mahogany sideboard cabinet that is over 15 years old.
Dimensions: Width 139cm, Height 81cm and Depth 45cm.”


I'm dating her sister.
posted by sebastienbailard at 3:11 AM on September 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


In the end, aren't we all just pieces of meat?
posted by triceryclops at 3:20 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


In the end, aren't we all just pieces of meat?

In the end we are, yes.
posted by acb at 3:27 AM on September 17, 2010


Usually, the term sex objects means showing women as body parts

Oh, I see. The term only applies to women. And only men do it. So this is straight stuff. Oh, I'm so sorry, I forgot, straight is the default setting. Everyone is straight unless otherwise stated. And only men are in to porn and only men objectify, and they only objectify women.

I can see why they have such a difficult time understanding these things. They start with a cast of assumptions that are patent bullshit. Then they feed on the ancient guilt of lust and masturbation, because when you have a good wank, you're "objectifying". They had to add this new thing, because people stopped listening to their priests about it.

To that, I say simply, nonsense. You're jacking off, not "objectifying". Objectification requires some thought, and this isn't about thinking, this is about fantasy and getting some relief from that constant craving. It's simple, it's fun, it hurts no one.
posted by Goofyy at 3:35 AM on September 17, 2010 [42 favorites]


Anyone know what they're suggesting we do three or four times a day instead? Drink cocoa and say our prayers, perhaps.
posted by malusmoriendumest at 3:39 AM on September 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


If I wanted to explain what objectification was I'd have a hard time making a more apt analogy than that.

And yet the site continues on with this...
Objectification isn’t as complicated as the extract at the top purports it to be. Hopefully with the coffee table analogy we can see that this isn’t anything like appreciating a person’s mind or spirituality. “Women are as much their bodies as they are their minds or souls,” the author writes. However this is not true: a body is still a body when it is dead. The other two cease to exist because they, truly, are the essence of life.
That's a pretty poor argument against A Feminist Defense of Pornography, which they have quoted. In fact, it's a bit troubling that these anti-Porn Men have chosen to define objectification by tearing apart a feminist examination of pornography.
posted by crossoverman at 3:41 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


In fact, it's a bit troubling that these anti-Porn Men have chosen to define objectification by tearing apart a feminist examination of pornography.

Is it? Do (these) men necessarily have to defer to previous, feminist readings of men's relationship to porn? I hope I'm not putting words in your mouth but I find the latter to be more problematic.
posted by blue funk at 4:07 AM on September 17, 2010


In fact, it's a bit troubling that these anti-Porn Men have chosen to define objectification by tearing apart a feminist examination of pornography.
Yeah. If these guys really wanted to do something about misogyny and objectification in porno, they should advocate for porno without those things. It certainly exists.
posted by delmoi at 4:08 AM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Anyone know what they're suggesting we do three or four times a day instead? Drink cocoa and say our prayers, perhaps.

From what I could stand to read, it seems that they're suggesting hetero soft porn should be replaced by in-depth personality profiles and lengthy biographies, so we can - all of us, this is - really get to KNOW a woman (albeit at some remove) and appreciate the subtleties of her thought, the depth of her struggle and the caliber of her soul before ... actually, I have no idea what they suggest.

BUT PORN IS BAD, MMMKAY?
posted by kcds at 4:14 AM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I do not quite understand where he is coming from - so the site owner's problem with porn is that it focuses on the physical characteristics? So, if I fill my wank folder with specific material (redheads, slim, amateurs preferred) I should feel guilty because I feel attracted to those visuals? I do not know anything about these women apart from how they look, so I make no judgments on their mental or spiritual qualities, and I don't think I would actually want to know more about them than what I see; I don't think porn needs any of the emotional attachment a relationship brings with it.

And, conversely, I like to think that I would not treat women I wish to have a relationship with like wanking material: I might feel attracted to their physical appearance, but the more important factor is the mental and emotional compatibility.
I honestly don't know if this is so different from what other men think - to me, it is not even a conscious decision to separate between porn and real life, and I don't quite understand how you could get confused in one direction or the other.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 4:15 AM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hope they have fun with their misery and self-hatred. Given that Dworkin gets quoted, I look forward to the inevitable collaboration with the most vicious, backward elements of the far-right.
posted by aerotive at 4:17 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I'm too busy with the Anti-Water Fish Project.
posted by shii at 4:19 AM on September 17, 2010 [28 favorites]


I can see being against the objectification of actual live, in-person interactions with fellow humans. But I've never understood the issue people have with objectifying, if you want to call it that, of people you see in photos, film and what-not.

Yes, there is a real person being photographed. But that person isn't there when the photo flashes onto someone's screen. What's on screen is a container (so to speak) to pour our own fantasy person into. Our minds provide the details and the personality of the fantasy object.

Sure, I imagine for some people it never gets beyond body parts (and they may be like that in "real life" too--I suggest not dating them, that's pretty creepy), but for many people masturbation is aided by visual stimuli but that's hardly all that it is. The imagined interactions are probably coarser and less sophisticated than a relationship (however brief) with a real human--but that isn't a given. People get off to all sorts of stuff.

Personally, I think the furniture example is pretty terrible.
posted by maxwelton at 4:20 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I do not quite understand where he is coming from - so the site owner's problem with porn is that it focuses on the physical characteristics?

This website is an expression of a feeling that occurs to some men that the use of pornography is deeply injurious to one's spirit. The fact that it is framed in feminist argot is a distraction from the main point. The feeling has, as part of it, the sentiment that pornography cuts a man off from sexuality qua sexuality— i.e., the formation of emotional bonds, and divorces the physical aspect in an unhealthy and unnatural way.
posted by Electrius at 4:22 AM on September 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Figures they can't spell "degradation" correctly.

So stupid. Objectifying concepts is how the human mind works. What the fuck do they think "god" is?
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:23 AM on September 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


They way they describe pornography, as compared to what is generally meant by the term pornography, confuses the issue. Which I think is what they want to accomplish.

I can't quite put my finger on it, but what I read there bothers me in the same way that it bothers me when people argue that homosexuality is wrong "because [family, the bible, blah blah blah]" when what they mean is "because they find it icky."
posted by moonbiter at 4:29 AM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I can't wait until all the young comrades start wearing their anti-sex league sashes provocatively around their hips.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:35 AM on September 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


Immediately after visiting that site, I went to a porn site.

Just to prove a point.
posted by purephase at 4:53 AM on September 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Il n'y a pas de rapport sexuel.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:05 AM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


So can I assume that they're not against gay male porn? Or porn with dominatrices and submissive men? Or pegging porn? Or all the amateur porn where couples film themselves? What about all the straight porn where the male body is the selling point: big dick porn, hand-job porn, foot-job porn, rusty-trombone porn, etc.?

The point is often overlooked that lots of porn, both gay and straight, objectifies men. It objectifies sexuality, period. Porn gives us a space to exercise our libido free of emotional attachment. People want emotional attachment, but they also want a part of their life to be free of it. Anyone who understands what emotional attachment is, understands that it is an ambivalent good and we want sometimes to escape from it. Porn is the opposite of emotional attachment but it doesn't exclude emotional attachment, it merely complements it.
posted by creasy boy at 5:15 AM on September 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Some shoes are produced in conditions of appalling exploitation. That doesn't necessarily mean you should join an Anti-Shoe movement.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 5:18 AM on September 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Some shoes are produced in conditions of appalling exploitation. That doesn't necessarily mean you should join an Anti-Shoe movement.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:18 PM on September 17


No, but it might mean you should boycott the specific brands of shoes which are produced in that way.
posted by Decani at 5:34 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is it? Do (these) men necessarily have to defer to previous, feminist readings of men's relationship to porn?

They certainly don't have to defer to it, but their definitions are confusing the subject.

They are trying to define (redefine?) what objectification means. Apparently they (the anti-porn men) believe that objectification isn't that complicated and the writer of "A Feminist Defense" doesn't "get it". Then they trot out the poorly conceived furniture analogy and then write:
Hopefully with the coffee table analogy we can see that this isn’t anything like appreciating a person’s mind or spirituality. “Women are as much their bodies as they are their minds or souls,” the author writes. However this is not true: a body is still a body when it is dead. The other two cease to exist because they, truly, are the essence of life.
There's an uncomfortable subtext there. These men actually don't differentiate between a live body and a dead body. They believe the "essence" of life is mind and soul (which I think is reductive). That women aren't "as much their bodies as they are their minds or souls" - which I think completely devalues their argument.

So, no, they don't have to defer to a feminist reading, but it's problematic for their argument on objectification to actually devalue a woman's point of view of A) pornography and B) her body by suggesting she "doesn't get it", that objection isn't "complicated" and that a live body and a dead body are basically the same. Um, no.
posted by crossoverman at 5:39 AM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I get what they are saying, and I don't think they are against porn in general. It looks to me like they are specifically against the man-dominating-women porn that is the mainstream porn market. All of you above who are upset that they don't mention other kinds of porn or sexualities aren't getting the point. They specifically exclude those types of porn. Our sexualities are shaped by our early sexual experiences. That's where a lot of our fetishes come from. Have you ever had a sexual relationship with someone whose first (in some cases only) sexual experiences were with mainstream porn? It's like that is the only way they know how to have sex.
posted by domo at 5:42 AM on September 17, 2010 [8 favorites]


Personally, I think the furniture example is pretty terrible.

They are just trying to avoid wood at all costs.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:43 AM on September 17, 2010 [17 favorites]


As a transcript writer for adult videos, I watch porn all day so I've become very familiar with whatever milieu there is to interact with in porn. Thus, I will say this: although seeing girls get choked by whoever's fucking them and seeing them gag on dicks is extremely unpleasant and yes, degrading, the bottom line is that the personal choice to exchange sex for money is a choice that I don't see disappearing any time soon. The people in these movies make a choice that is wholly their own and whatever moral binary you want to try and throw at that choice doesn't really stick. I'm not gonna go so far as to say that these girls are empowered or anything because I haven't really seen it. Even if a girl is playing the dom role and punching ballsacks and shit, at the end she's still getting a load on her face. So yeah, you've got a point AntiPornMen. But to be honest, I'd be way more worried about the guys starring in these movies. Most of my day is spent laughing at the male dumbassery that pervades these flicks.
posted by auralcoral at 5:46 AM on September 17, 2010 [10 favorites]


Why was I watching this? Because I thought it would be different, less violent. And because I had read that this is what people are into nowadays. And some of it is more innocent. The next thumbnail was just a couple of young women fooling around with each other. Then I clicked along a couple of pages and saw a woman with her head in the stocks, and again a man thrusting at her face. I knew violent porn existed, but that it sat alongside more apparently innocent images on a popular site amazed me. And this is where the pornographers had made a mistake. I realized they make no distinction between very violent and less violent pornography, that it all sits together happily.

Right, and movie producers make no distinction between Pixar films and Saw XXVIII because they both sit happily in Netflix together. If you dont like violent porn, thats fine, there is tons of porn that is not violent at all. But don't try to suggest that all porn is secretly about rough sex and crying women when clearly that is just one particular kink.
posted by sickle cell moon at 5:46 AM on September 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Suffice it to say that I disagree with their perspective, but what really bothers me is the awkward, ungrammatical name of the group. The Anti Porn Men Project? You're opposed to Ron Jeremy?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:47 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


They specifically exclude those types of porn.

Porn is just one way that we document our sexual desires and behaviors, it is not the arbiter of those desires and behaviors. Thus, this group might claim they are pro-sex, but they are actually against sex in that they broadly lump together all ("vast majority") forms of recorded sexual expression as exploitive pornography, which is, like sex itself, something to be avoided.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:49 AM on September 17, 2010


As a transcript writer for adult videos

Well that's intriguing. For what purpose?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:49 AM on September 17, 2010


There's an uncomfortable subtext there. These men actually don't differentiate between a live body and a dead body.

Yeah, that's an important point too. When you're watching porn, you're not just watching bodies, you're watching pleasure. No-one objectifies anyone in the sense that they define it. No pornography anywhere is just a stack of bodies.
posted by creasy boy at 5:52 AM on September 17, 2010


No pornography anywhere is just a stack of bodies.
Fantastic, you just Rule 34'd "Stacking."
posted by verb at 5:56 AM on September 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Blazecock Pileon, that is a good point, and it brings up the question of why this porn is so prevalent. Why is female demeaning porn the most widespread? Is it more profitable than other types of porn? Why does it turn guys on to see a girl get called names and pushed around?
posted by domo at 5:58 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Objectification of strangers -- replacing multifaceted personality traits with the reduction of a person to little more than a physical object -- is certainly problematic, which is why it's important to only masturbate to pictures of people we know and regularly engage with, rather than the two-dimensional actors and actresses in pornography. Which is why I have all these photos of your mom on my desktop.
posted by Greg Nog at 6:01 AM on September 17, 2010 [38 favorites]


As a transcript writer for adult videos...

Your O and M keys must be worn paper-thin.
posted by rusty at 6:09 AM on September 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


Blazecock Pileon, that is a good point, and it brings up the question of why this porn is so prevalent. Why is female demeaning porn the most widespread? Is it more profitable than other types of porn? Why does it turn guys on to see a girl get called names and pushed around?
There are a lot of tangled questions involved in this. On the one hand, you have the implicit assumption that the majority of mainstream porn is fundamentally demeaning. If by 'demeaning' you're talking specifically about porn where humiliation and domination of women is part of the experience, then yeah -- it's problematic and there's a lot more buy-in around it. But if you come to it with a Male Gaze view of things, what constitutes "demeaning" grows considerably. The fact that someone voluntarily participated in the creation of pornography for money doesn't, in that view, make it non-degrading, it just makes it "compensated."

Of course, it's also hard to avoid the sense that these guys are just arguing traditional conservative sexual mores from a slightly novel angle, and Noe True Scotsman-ing any porn that doesn't fit their argument. The arguments they're making have been made by more thoughtful and rigorous people many times.
posted by verb at 6:12 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


“Beautiful mahogany sideboard cabinet that is over 15 years old. Dimensions: Width 139cm, Height 81cm and Depth 45cm.”

Jailbait.
posted by flabdablet at 6:25 AM on September 17, 2010 [11 favorites]


The Anti-Anti-Porn Woman.

Possible benefit of porn: research suggests that it reduces rape.
posted by John Cohen at 6:29 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't think they are against porn in general. It looks to me like they are specifically against the man-dominating-women porn that is the mainstream porn market.

If that's really the case, they've picked a needlessly argumentative and ill-fitting name for themselves.

So: either they're trolling by knowingly picking a broad term and then kinda-sorta redefining it to suit them, or they're idiots who really don't get that their restrictive redefinition of 'porn' changes it from what many — if not most — people understand it to mean. I generally try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but I'm not sure which is the kinder assumption.

Moreover, one of the problems I've always had with a lot of anti-porn arguments made by men (and some women) is that they seem to boil down to a "precious bodily fluids" squicked-outedness; i.e., they're anti-porn because they think that, somehow, porn is or would be injurious to the men who view it. This seems to take responsibility away from the viewer and put it on the material, or in some cases on the creator of the material or the actors in the material, which if the viewer is a man seems to be kind of a sexist attitude.

There are some legitimate criticisms of porn in general and male-dominated porn in particular, some of which I find pretty compelling, for promulgating sexism and sexist attitudes and enshrining the male gaze ... but this isn't one of them. Plus, their handwavey dismissal and refusal to seriously consider, much less respond to, McElroy's key question* from A Feminist Defense of Pornography smacks of male privilege and arrogance.

* To wit, "No one gets upset if you present women as “brains” or as spiritual beings. If I concentrated on a woman’s sense of humor to the exclusion of her other characteristics, is this degrading? Why is it degrading to focus on her sexuality?" That question cuts to the heart of their 'objectification' argument, which is ironic given that they lead with it as a quote and then stubbornly refuse to answer it in any meaningful way.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:31 AM on September 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Does the vast majority of porn involve "cruelty, humiliation, or degredation (sic)"?

Viewing youporn and redtube, free mass market sites, it seems as if the vast majority of footage involves fairly straight vanilla sex. Only a few involve degradation. I am aware that there are many sites that specialize in simulated rape scenes etc., but does anybody know what percentage of porn involves such scenes?

It's even harder to quantify is what goes on behind the scenes. Are the young women mostly in it for the cash, or is forced participation common? Dunno. I'm not sure that universities or government agencies want to taint their institutions with studies on this issue, although they should, given the billions of dollars and the multitudes of people in the porn industry.
posted by kozad at 6:43 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Regular actors get objectified too, don't they? An extreme example: James Caviezel in Passion of the Christ. Or perhaps one could say that he wasn't actually getting hurt, while porn women do get hurt. Actors get hurt working all the time: stunts, slaps, fight scenes, etc. Is it the showing people getting hurt that is bad, or people getting hurt that is bad?

This seems less about objectification of people in general and more about "sex is bad."

Other little things that bug me:

the use of "project" in the title. Why project? I guess "War on Porn" was taken? Projects don't change human behavior, beliefs do.

being "anti". Weird to me to have decided the issue beforehand. Although I guess slavery was acceptable at one point too.
posted by acheekymonkey at 7:04 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Does the vast majority of porn involve "cruelty, humiliation, or degredation (sic)"?

Degradation is kind of in the eye of the beholder. I think the implicit statement by antipornmen.org is that they find the vast majority of porn to be degrading.
posted by krilli at 7:06 AM on September 17, 2010


Just so you know, I totally jerked off to this thread.
posted by digitalprimate at 7:20 AM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Kadin2048, I think the point is that consumers of porn do not think of the actresses as 'people". They are ordering masturbation material. They don't care if she is faking the orgasm, if she's being coerced into performing, etc. She is simply a foundation to build a fantasy around.

acheekymonkey, did people masturbate to James Caviezel getting whipped? And how do you determine as a consumer of porn that the performance is consensual and safe for the actress? If there was a chance that James Caviezel was really being held down and whipped (non-consensually), would you still watch the film?
posted by domo at 7:25 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


krilli, have you been to many commercial porn sites? What about stileproject or 4chan? Walk into many adult movie stores? Read some of the blurbs to those DVDs and tell me that degradation isn't what they are selling.
posted by domo at 7:27 AM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


did people masturbate to James Caviezel getting whipped?

I'm pretty sure Mel Gibson did.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:29 AM on September 17, 2010 [20 favorites]


Why is female demeaning porn the most widespread? Is it more profitable than other types of porn?

I wonder how culture-specific that is; whether the types of tropes seen in porn from more traditional patriarchial/authoritarian societies tend to be more brutal and misogynistic, whereas the porn consumed in more egalitarian societies tends to be more wholesome. I.e., would the porn popular in Denmark be less degrading than that furtively downloaded in the US South?
posted by acb at 7:32 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


My choice of violent, degrading pornography certainly reflects my misogyny, and it certainly doesn't abate it, but I'm not sure whether it makes it more extreme. In my case, it doesn't matter, because I'm never going to find myself in a relationship with a woman in any event, but I can understand why people might find the misogyny of pornography to be concerning.
posted by planet at 7:33 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


krilli, have you been to many commercial porn sites? What about stileproject or 4chan? Walk into many adult movie stores? Read some of the blurbs to those DVDs and tell me that degradation isn't what they are selling. —domo

I agree with the definition that the vast majority of porn is demeaning :)
posted by krilli at 7:34 AM on September 17, 2010


If there was a chance that James Caviezel was really being held down and whipped (non-consensually), would you still watch the film?

Are you saying that all porn carries with it the chance being of non-consensual abuse? Is it a "few bad apples" thing where some abuse taints the whole barrel of porn? Because I think it's possible to be "against" real violence in porn and be still enjoy pornography. Like I ask, are people against real violence or acted violence?

And yes, given the infinite variety of humanity, I'm sure someone has had a jag watching Passion of the Christ.
posted by acheekymonkey at 7:36 AM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Are you saying that all porn carries with it the chance being of non-consensual abuse?

Not absolutely all of it, no. And not all porn is degrading. I think we can all agree on that. YouPorn and other armature sites are turning the tide and I hope that becomes the new norm. But the defense some guys like to make is that "she's not crying, she's acting" or "she's getting paid, so she must not mind it" is bullshit. You can't always know that, and if there is doubt, I'd rather err on the side of non-abuse.
posted by domo at 8:01 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like what Goofyy wrote. This is not very well thought-through, full of contradictions, and doesn't engage with the tough questions involved.

I.e., would the porn popular in Denmark be less degrading than that furtively downloaded in the US South?

Why would you "furtively" download something instead of going to one of those Walmart-sized porn emporiums that line the sides of Interstate 10? Outside of small towns, porn is super easy to buy openly and legally in most of the South. I think your bigger point is probably apt, I'm just not totally on board with the specific example given.

I'm not a big consumer or viewer of porn, so I can't claim to be an expert. But the sense I get, in what I have seen, is that the real degradation stuff is only a segment of the market; the majority may be demeaning in some sense (like, if your grandma rents your dvd, are you going to feel demeaned?) but isn't any more degrading than any number of other ways people are portrayed in media in our society.
posted by Forktine at 8:02 AM on September 17, 2010


If there is doubt, I'd rather err on the side of non-abuse. —domo

Hear hear!
posted by krilli at 8:02 AM on September 17, 2010


Forktine, are the stars of Dirrrty Sluts with Big Butz Volume XI treated with respect by their costars, or are they likely to be called names and ordered to "suck on this, bitch"? Or do you not consider that demeaning?
posted by domo at 8:17 AM on September 17, 2010


Volume XI is out already?
posted by Greg Nog at 8:20 AM on September 17, 2010 [8 favorites]


Why would you "furtively" download something instead of going to one of those Walmart-sized porn emporiums that line the sides of Interstate 10? Outside of small towns, porn is super easy to buy openly and legally in most of the South.

OK, replace "the South" with Utah, which apparently leads the US in porn downloading.
posted by acb at 8:25 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


WTF there's no porn in the links section
posted by Xoebe at 8:33 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


What's wrong with 'degrading' porn? I happen to be sexually kinked towards violence and that sort of thing. Whether or not porn involves simulated rape is an unfair questions, as it assumes the only sort of good sex involves very vanilla options.
posted by Phalene at 8:35 AM on September 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


Forktine, are the stars of Dirrrty Sluts with Big Butz Volume XI treated with respect by their costars, or are they likely to be called names and ordered to "suck on this, bitch"? Or do you not consider that demeaning?

I don't know, maybe you watch more of this stuff than I do and have a more informed opinion. But like I said, my sense is that the really nasty stuff is only one segment of a really large market (and a market that if we wanted to be honest we would expand to include the steamier kinds of romance novels, online slash fiction, and a variety of other titillating material that doesn't usually get called "pornography").

And over and above that, I guess I can see some separation between an actor and the role that they play. So the actor in that torture porn movie by Mel Gibson was playing a role that may or may not have reflected his actual attitudes towards violence and the body; similarly, the women in your Big Butz movie may or may not have been making choices from an empowered position -- we can't necessarily tell that just by watching the acting in the film itself. (Certainly they were making more money and were likely more in control of what did and did not happen than were their male costars, for what little that may be worth.) That's not my preferred sort of pornography, but that's an aesthetic issue rather than a moralistic one.

And again, the comments above about this kind of critique being so focused on one particular kind of straight porn really resonated with me. The minute you begin to consider all the different permutations of gay/lesbian/feminist-produced/amateur/etc porn, these easy and lazy critiques stop working so well.
posted by Forktine at 8:35 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


isn't any more degrading than any number of other ways people are portrayed in media in our society.

This is an important point that's left out of too many discussions of porn. For some reason, people assume that porn is this unique category unto itself, so they talk about it in a vacuum. Really, it's just one more kind of media.

I'm not against criticizing it. I find some of it appallingly sexist and degrading. This is a fine discussion to have.

But I don't know why the one type of media that exists (mainly) to give pleasure to men comes under a special kind of scrutiny that, say, mainstream movies don't. Oh, there are gender criticisms of Hollywood movies, of course, but very few people talk about all movies as something we'd be better off without.

Is the problem with porn that it depicts women as "sex objects"? Well, I'm sorry, but people are sexual beings. People, especially men, view other people as the objects of their sexual desire. This is human nature. It's not some scourge that was created out of the blue by magazines and websites. The pornographic magazines and websites only exist because they respond to urges that have always and will always exist as long as human beings exist.

What's more disturbing -- the fact that porn encourages men to view women as sex objects, or the fact that mainstream movies normalize and glorify men (and women, but mostly men) who get what they want in life by using ruthless, brutal violence?

Again, a lot of porn could and should be much, much more tasteful and less sexist. I would like to see this happen. But this would involve a more finely tuned critique than being flatly "anti porn."
posted by John Cohen at 8:54 AM on September 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


I think this is just another ruse for picking up chicks...you know, like anti-marketing marketing.
posted by vitabellosi at 9:10 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can't fap to this.
posted by orme at 9:12 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Many feminist critiques of pornography seem to me to fundamentally misunderstand (most) male sexuality. Which isn't all that surprising, I guess. It's nice to see that a site dedicated to male anti-porn viewpoints can be just as wrongheaded! Equality!
posted by Justinian at 9:29 AM on September 17, 2010


Phalene, I have no problem with Betty being paid to get tied up and have stuff done to her as long as Betty gets a safe word and is happy at the end. (Being a careful consumer of this type of porn to ensure that Betty is safe is another discussion) What the problem is with mainstream porn (note that BDSM is not mainstream) is that it is a casual degradation taken for granted and it bleeds into the sex lives of countless men.
posted by domo at 9:35 AM on September 17, 2010 [4 favorites]



This website is an expression of a feeling that occurs to some men that the use of pornography is deeply injurious to one's spirit.


In short, Anti-Porn Men is the new Table for One.
posted by chavenet at 9:43 AM on September 17, 2010


Ok, Justinian, explain to me why commercial porn is so degrading to women and what that has to do with understanding male sexuality (as if there were an umbrella that big).

The reason why they have to be specific about what kind of porn they are against (and why the name of the site is inappropriate) is because there are as many different kinds of porn as there are people. And yes, I think they did it to be provoking. Also because the Anti-sexually explicit material that is characterised in some way by cruelty, humiliation, or degredation of women- Man Project sounds stupid.
posted by domo at 9:44 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


It looks to me like they are specifically against the man-dominating-women porn that is the mainstream porn market.

Again, echoing robself, is it? Really?

I look at a fair amount of pornography, and I can't agree. But then again, that's not what I'm looking for, so maybe I'm wrong. Is there a way to objectively assess that claim?

This website is an expression of a feeling that occurs to some men that the use of pornography is deeply injurious to one's spirit. The fact that it is framed in feminist argot is a distraction from the main point.

Well, that's a pretty MAJOR problem. Even though there are only a handful of posts so far, they're ALL about men abusing women in pornography. For many, many men and women, that is definitely NOT what pornography is about.
I could stay clear of accepting responsibility for the harm I have caused by supporting an industry that degrades, depersonalizes, humiliates and abuses its female performers.

...

I've only seen three seconds of pornography. I clicked on a thumbnail on a particular site having read of its popularity in a weekend newspaper. I watched a woman, naked, crouching in front of a man as he thrust his penis in and out of her throat more or less furiously. After they both paused for a rest, he proceeded to slap her many times, with some force across the face, forehand and backhand. After another rest, he repeated the thrusting. At the next break the woman looked at the camera for no more than three seconds and began to cry.
I would agree that the "injurious spirit" of pornography (especially to self-image and personal relationships) might be an interesting topic of discussion. This blog has done an absolutely shitty job of that so far.

Another example: "Objects don't have spirituality" - I can't even begin to explain what is wrong with that statement. It would take me all week.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:46 AM on September 17, 2010


What's more disturbing -- the fact that porn encourages men to view women as sex objects, or the fact that mainstream movies normalize and glorify men (and women, but mostly men) who get what they want in life by using ruthless, brutal violence?

The latter.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:47 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


What's wrong with being degraded? Why is the default assumption that no one could possibly want to be degraded or derive any possible pleasure from it? Some people like rough sex. Some people like to be degraded.

Now I'm not saying the porn industry is free of problems or exploitation of its workers, its certainly guilty of that. But so are a lot of industries. But there's a difference between saying that and saying that degrading material itself is inherently wrong or exploitative.

A lot of people are saying they wish porn wasn't so degrading or sexist. I wish that the porn industry had a union and better regulation so there wouldn't be any questions of consent or abuse.

I dislike the assumption that actors or actresses in demeaning or degrading porn couldn't possibly enjoy their work or be proud of it. For the most part, it is acting. Look at any behind-the-scenes stuff. They can even win awards.

domo: "What the problem is with mainstream porn (note that BDSM is not mainstream) is that it is a casual degradation taken for granted and it bleeds into the sex lives of countless men."

I think this is a very bold assumption. Do you think that watching violent movies or playing violent video games makes someone more violent? I mean, you could make the argument that porn is just an extension of a patriarchal system that doesn't stigmatize sexist behavior in males, or rather, allows for a more public expression of misogyny (macho behavior, being a "player," etc.). But I think making the assertion that one type of imagery (casually degrading sex) leads to a certain type of behavior (misogynistic) is far too broad. Certainly, with some people it can be true. But I think its a blanket statement that doesn't take into account the spectrum of people's sexuality and their responses to sex.
posted by fryman at 9:48 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


What's more disturbing -- the fact that porn encourages men to view women as sex objects, or the fact that mainstream movies normalize and glorify men (and women, but mostly men) who get what they want in life by using ruthless, brutal violence?

Again, a lot of porn could and should be much, much more tasteful and less sexist. I would like to see this happen. But this would involve a more finely tuned critique than being flatly "anti porn."


I agree. But the post is about porn and I don't have a problem with chipping away at our violent impulses by turning more people on with sexy, raw, consensual (enthusiastically consensual even!) porn.
posted by domo at 9:56 AM on September 17, 2010


If you look, you’ll see there is a variety of different definitions of pornography. The ‘porn’ in the ‘Anti Porn Men Project’ is -generally speaking- sexually explicit material that is characterised in some way by cruelty, humiliation, or degredation of women.
I don't want to rag on men for thinking critically about the production and consumption of misogynistic, degrading, or otherwise exploitative sexually explicit material. I do want to rag on them for not thinking critically enough (or, alternatively, being intentionally vague about) this thing they're calling pornography.

There's an obvious definition game that is frustratingly common in porn/anti-porn arguments, where the anti-porn side self-servingly defines porn as "sexually explicit material that is bad" then demands to know why the porn side doesn't acknowledge that porn is inherently bad. This isn't just bad rhetoric; it's bad critique, reducing the argument to one about lexicography. That's been pointed out, but it's an egregious enough failure to be worth noting again.

But I really would like to press on the "generally speaking" qualifier. I doubt that they mean they usually object to sexually explicit material that is characterized in some way by cruelty, humiliation, or degradation of women, though the sentence allows for that reading. They must mean, then, that they are also against at least some sexually explicit material that is not characterized in some way by cruelty, humiliation, or degradation of women. It could be that they mean to include non-heterosexual porn, but their obliviousness to their heterosexism makes me think that is unlikely, too.

So what is it about this porn that isn't characterized by cruelty, humiliation, or degradation that draws their opposition? That's not an idle philosophical question asked to score points, but one that provides a lot more information about their project. And that information is valuable, because feminists aren't the only one who oppose porn, nor are they the only ones who claim to do so because of how doing so is in women's best interests.

These guys don't seem like a front for Focus on the Family or anything, but their personal narratives are drawing on a lot of the same tropes (confessing their weakness to porn, keeping track of how long it has been since they've seen porn, the resources pages with links that compare porn to drugs, an absence of discussion of racism in porn, an absence of awareness of heterosexism). Combine that with the mealy-mouthed definition of porn that may or may not include all sexually explicit material, and they look like they've been heavily influenced by conservative religious arguments that pornography should be treated like a controlled substance and its users like addicts, all for the purpose of protecting the true, pure sexuality of their Christian followers. That creeps me out, even if I am on board with the broad criticisms about the exploitative and degrading production of pornography using live actors.
posted by Marty Marx at 9:58 AM on September 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


*usually, but don't always object to
posted by Marty Marx at 10:03 AM on September 17, 2010


I think this is a very bold assumption. Do you think that watching violent movies or playing violent video games makes someone more violent?

No, but how often do couples say, "Let's try that thing from 'Left 4 Dead', that looked like fun"? Porn influences what turns you on. Human sexuality is very complex, and it builds on itself. People constantly look for more stimulation to get off.
posted by domo at 10:13 AM on September 17, 2010


No, but how often do couples say, "Let's try that thing from 'Left 4 Dead', that looked like fun"? Porn influences what turns you on.
I'm serious, people, if you don't stop Rule 34'ing in this thread someone will get hurt.
posted by verb at 10:15 AM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I've only seen three seconds of pornography. I clicked on a thumbnail on a particular site having read of its popularity in a weekend newspaper. I watched a woman, naked, crouching in front of a man as he thrust his penis in and out of her throat more or less furiously. After they both paused for a rest, he proceeded to slap her many times, with some force across the face, forehand and backhand. After another rest, he repeated the thrusting. At the next break the woman looked at the camera for no more than three seconds and began to cry.

I once met a black guy and he was rude to me therefore I am devoting my life to eradicating black people and this is totally logical because
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:21 AM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


(Pope Guilty, if you read to the end of that "article," he or she says "of course i've watched more than 3 seconds of pornography, but i've only seen 3 seconds")

I think this is a very bold assumption. Do you think that watching violent movies or playing violent video games makes someone more violent?

No, but how often do couples say, "Let's try that thing from 'Left 4 Dead', that looked like fun"?

How often do teenagers watch wrestling on TV and say "Hey, let's try that in the backyard!"
posted by mrgrimm at 10:27 AM on September 17, 2010


As a transcript writer for adult videos
--
Well that's intriguing. For what purpose?


"It was to the woman's great surprise that the pizza delivery man had modified the pie's box so as to create an affordance for his excited member." (SFW)
posted by FatherDagon at 10:35 AM on September 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


People constantly look for more stimulation to get off.

That seems like another bold claim. I don't mean to project my own issues onto you (:)), but it seems like you're projecting your own sexual type onto everyone.

It seems to me that most heavy users of pornography have compulsive libidos, i.e. they like the same thing over and over. I'm basing that on nothing but my own opinion, but what are you basing the fact that "people constantly need more and more stimulation" on?

For me, I get too much stimulation. Let's cool things down a little and let me get some work done. ^_^
posted by mrgrimm at 10:39 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Some women like to be objectified and humiliated, and they don't need a bunch of guilt-ridden males to tell them it's 'wrong'.
posted by Malice at 11:07 AM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ok, Justinian, explain to me why commercial porn is so degrading to women and what that has to do with understanding male sexuality

You're assuming your conclusion. Why do you believe that most commercial porn is degrading to women? That's exactly the point I was making.
posted by Justinian at 11:17 AM on September 17, 2010


Objectification is about becoming a practically inanimate object. When choosing a second hand coffee table, a customer might request the dimensions, the age, and a brief description. When choosing soft pornography, a customer might request the dimensions, the age, and a brief description. Let me show this comparison:

That is a terrible and wrong definition of objectification. Objectification is the process by which something is reduced to its utility alone. Describing something by its physical characteristics is not objectification.

What makes pornography objectification is that it is used. If we are proceeding with straight hetero porn, the woman or the scene is used to arouse and ultimately sexually gratify the user. It is used to help bridge the gap the reality (watching something on TV or computer) and the fantasy (having actual sex with another actual human). The woman is objectified because for the user she literally has no other facets than her utility for sexual gratification.

(And incidentally straight guys, don't kid yourself that you aren't also objectifying the men in those scenes as well.)

Where this group horribly misses the point is that pornography is almost the sole instance where objectification doesn't lead to frustration and alienation that in turn leads to violence. There is a very real physical reaction to pornography that the viewer experiences. It isn't simulated orgasm, it's actual orgasm.

Remember that sexual violence is about power, not sex. Where objectification is really a problem is everywhere else. Maxim or the swimsuit issue are more dangerous than hardcore porn, because they are basically teases, and teasing is accomplished (a) in the presence of an asymmetric power dynamic, and (b) by reveal to the viewer that they are the weaker part of that dynamic. In this way, teasing functions as advertising. you can look at her, but you can't have her.

So in that context, it isn't surprising that some guys want to steal what they can't otherwise get. But look at the objectification inherent in that. Sex, or the girl, is something you get. You get oral sex, or you get to second base, etc. It's the language of acquisition, of commodities. The sex appeal we see in marketing and in the mainstream is nothing less than the fetishization of women and their primary sexual characteristics. That is objectification. The reduction of sex to yet another resource to exploit.

Where all pornography diverges from reality is in its frame, in the construction of all pornographic sex acts as requiring and being for the benefit of a viewer. And all pornography turns all viewers into voyeurs. Pornography is sex fetishized, in which the sex act itself is objectified. But pornography, by breaching the line from reality to fantasy does not lead to a frustrated consumer of sex the way "sex appeal" in mass media do.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:34 AM on September 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


Porn is not human nature. I'm always shocked when people assert or imply that looking at pornography is natural or something that we should take for granted because that's "just how men are". Men in our particular time and place? Possibly. Men, in general? Not if you have perspective beyond the last 100 years.

I'm also surprised to see people confident that either:

1. They/people in general are not significantly affected by pornography, or
2. That they know that pornography doesn't have [x] effect on the people who consume it

Everything we know about people indicates that 1. is highly unlikely to be true. We don't know enough for anyone to back up 2. with any kind of significant evidence.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:56 AM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Not if you have perspective beyond the last 100 years.

You are asserting that sexually explicit material has only existed for the past 100 years? Or what? I mean, it is trivially true that pornographic video is a recent phenomenon. Because video is a recent phenomenon. But pretty much every new medium gets used for sex about as soon as it is invented. One suspects that the first cave man who figured out how to scratch pictures in the wall quickly figured out he could scratch pictures of little cave women and spank the ol' australopithecus africanus to it.
posted by Justinian at 12:04 PM on September 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


Pastabagel, you're asserting that objectification is a problem in every other arena besides pornography. You are saying that objectification in any other context leads to violence, but that this is not the case with pornography.

Can you cite anything saying that objectification routinely leads to frustration, alienation, and then violence?

If Maxim is a tease but pornography isn't, why? Do people come to your home and keep you from whacking off to Maxim? I can guarantee that men have gotten off using that kind of photography before. But you don't seem to see that as a possibility--it inherently leads to frustration and violence instead of orgasms--why?
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:05 PM on September 17, 2010


Porn is not human nature. I'm always shocked when people assert or imply that looking at pornography is natural or something that we should take for granted because that's "just how men are". Men in our particular time and place? Possibly. Men, in general? Not if you have perspective beyond the last 100 years.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but you might be ignoring a bit of history when you make a statement like that. The current concept of a media-creation-and-distribution oriented pornography industry is certainly a relatively modern innovation, just like music or commercial distribution of the written word. But the history of making pictures of people doing the nasty or creating representations of sexualized humans is not exactly new. In fact it could be argued that denying the historical existence of porn is in fact a relatively recent development.

Going farther, it appears that pornography is monkey nature. That doesn't address moral concerns, as clubbing people for their food is monkey nature sometimes, too. But pretending that modern society invented the practice of looking at naked people is pretty silly.
posted by verb at 12:14 PM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I mean, it is trivially true that pornographic video is a recent phenomenon.

I don't see how you can easily dismiss the wide availability of photography, film, video etc. as trivial. A drawing of a person or story about a person are essentially expressed/shared fantasies, of the same sort that we can construct in our own minds without any participation by anyone else.

Photography, video, etc. consist of recordings of actual people. Video, especially, requires that someone participate in a sexual act or acts so that those acts can be recorded. It simply cannot exist without sexual acts by real, live people. That is very, very new.

I hesitate to use the words "natural" and "unnatural" because they come loaded with value judgments ("natural" often being used as a synonym for pure, good, acceptable, etc). Natural is not always good. Unnatural is not always bad.

Then there is the fact that using technology is very natural human behavior.

So it's a vague thing to define. But if we're talking natural as in "this activity exists across cultures and across time because it is inherent to being human" then no, consuming pornography in the way that we do it today is not natural at all.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:25 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


You seem to be shifting the ground a little. Are you now saying that material which depicts actual people having sex, as in photos or videos of real people, affects a viewer in a negative fashion in ways which drawings or stories do not? Because earlier your issue was with pornography's potential effects on the consumer but not you're talking about its effects on the producers.
posted by Justinian at 12:34 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


yeah, i write closed-captions. it's a living.
posted by auralcoral at 12:36 PM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Remember that sexual violence is about power, not sex.

Pastabagel, on what basis are we supposed to think that's true in the first place, let alone "remember" it?

The fact that something is often repeated doesn't make it true.

I don't even know how it's coherent to say "sexual violence is not about sex." Doesn't "sexual" mean "about sex"?

"I believe that the rape-is-not-about-sex doctrine will go down in history as an example of extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds. It is preposterous on the face of it, does not deserve its sanctity, is contradicted by a mass of evidence, and is getting in the way of the only morally relevant goal surrounding rape, the effort to stamp it out." -- Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate
posted by John Cohen at 12:41 PM on September 17, 2010 [7 favorites]


I'm always shocked when people assert or imply that looking at pornography is natural or something that we should take for granted because that's "just how men are". Men in our particular time and place? Possibly. Men, in general? Not if you have perspective beyond the last 100 years.

Wow. Nothing remarkable there except the efficiency by which you completely discredit yourself.

"Ancient Pompeii was full of erotic or pornographic frescoes, symbols, inscriptions, and even household items."

You want to take a crack at explaining the difference between erotica and pornography? I'll go grab the popcorn.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:14 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


You want to take a crack at explaining the difference between erotica and pornography?

If the explicit self-described erotica on tumblr is anything to go by, that explanation would require a second, separate web site jam-packed with the same sorts of wrong assumptions as in this anti-porn/sex site.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:27 PM on September 17, 2010


I'm always shocked when people assert or imply that looking at pornography is natural or something that we should take for granted because that's "just how men are". Men in our particular time and place? Possibly. Men, in general? Not if you have perspective beyond the last 100 years.

You're a bit off with your timeline there. Men have been looking at depictions of naked women with exaggerated sex features for at least 35,000 years.

I'm shocked by people who assert that men wanting to look at naked women is a recent invention.

If men hadn't been obsessed with sex for thousands of years, you and I wouldn't exist.

You don't have to like these facts just because they're part of nature. There are many things about nature that I don't like. But men liking sex and having sex fantasies and wanting to look at pictures of naked women and people having sex is never going to change.

You know, if we were talking about gay men, or women, no one would be questioning their sexual preferences. Yet somehow, whenever the topic is straight men, their sexual preferences are attacked or called artificial.
posted by John Cohen at 1:31 PM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Blazecock Pileon, that is a good point, and it brings up the question of why this porn is so prevalent. Why is female demeaning porn the most widespread? Is it more profitable than other types of porn?

The question is not what form of pornography is most widespread, which is unanswerable, but what are the premises behind that question.

I don't agree with the premise that all porn is exploitative, since that denies sex workers the element of choice in their profession. Calling porn exploitative (all porn, if we're following the site's argument) is demeaning to its participants because it says they cannot have autonomy.

That's not to deny that actors can be exploited by the business operation, but that's a separate question from whether viewers can exploit participants who chose to have sex freely and willingly in front of a camera.

If some exchange of money for sex services is exploitative, then perhaps we are all degraded by capitalism, whether it is being paid for flipping burgers or for giving head.

So we come back to what IMO motivates this site: hatred of sexuality and any freely-made expression of it.

For fun, I did a whois lookup of the domain and it is using name servers in the UK. Jokes about the British aside, I'd like to know more about the people who are behind this.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:51 PM on September 17, 2010


Remember that sexual violence is about power, not sex.
Pastabagel, on what basis are we supposed to think that's true in the first place, let alone "remember" it?


Sexual intercourse is inherently "violent" in that it is a physical contact or physical intrusion on the body of another. Beyond this minimal scope, sex (again assuming hetero sex) is physically aggressive in the sense that it is not a slight physical contact (like tapping someone on the shoulder or patting them on the back). It is very significant physical contact. But sex is consensual. Consent is part of sex. If it wasn't consensual, even without a crime of its own (rape), then the sex act would be battery.

So whenever we talk about "sexual violence", "sexual assault" or the like, we are talking about something more than conventional sex. In fact what we are talking about is an act between two people where one does not consent. It is the desire to have sex without the other person's consent (or to bypass their consent or to deny them the opportunity to withhold consent) that represents the violence of it. Sex is about sex. Rape = sex - consent. Battery = sex - consent. Sex without consent is not sex anymore. It is battery in the guise of sex, or in a sexual context.

Let me give you an analogy. Beating someone with a bat is not about the act of swinging a bat into another person, it is about injuring that person, oppressing them, subjugating them, forcing them into a position against their will. Rape isn't about sex any more than Beating someone with a bat is about swinging bats. Rape looks like sex but is not sex because it takes place without consent.

If someone punches you, you might fight back to defend yourself. That situation may resemble boxing, but it is not boxing because boxing has within it the consent and the boundaries of a sport.

You are saying that objectification in any other context leads to violence, but that this is not the case with pornography...If Maxim is a tease but pornography isn't, why?

The other way around. I am saying that if there is violence, then you can be sure there was objectification. I am not saying that if there is objectification, it will certainly in nearly every case lead to violence. Admittedly that wasn't that clear in my comment.

The rapist does not simply want to have sex with the woman. The rapist wants to force the woman to do something she does not want to, engage in a sex act with the rapist.

Maxim is a tease because those photos (skimpy clothing, obscured naughty bits, etc) suggest the availability of the model for sex (perhaps even the availability to the viewer), but pornography explicitly depicts sex acts themselves - there is no suggestion and it is not as vague and indeterminate as "available".

Specifically, the tease is that you can be with the woman in the photo. You can "get" her. Because like absolutely everything else in those magazines, she is simply a matter of acquisition. Pornography doesn't tease the viewer by suggesting they could be with the woman. Pornography allows the viewer to experience the very real act of voyeurism in a simulated way. In other words, pornography is an actual experience, not of sex but of voyeurism.

Obviously people use Maxim in the same way them use pornography, and I made it clear that both are objectification. But what is objectified is very different. The only reason Maxim uses those photos is for commercial reasons. The desire is aroused and sublimated to the other things in the magazine (other ads for consumer products). But if that desire culminated in a sex act (voyeurism), there'd be nothing left to sublimate.
posted by Pastabagel at 2:00 PM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


If some exchange of money for sex services is exploitative, then perhaps we are all degraded by capitalism, whether it is being paid for flipping burgers or for giving head.

Welcome to 1867. Allow me to introduce you to this guy.

Specifically, the exploitation is not the sex-for-money, the exploitation is sex-for-money for less money than it's actually worth, and I (the capitalist exploiter) keep the much greater profits. And in-so-doing, I ensure you that there will always be a place for you to be paid well enough to have sex on film so that you don't look for some other work, but also poorly enough that you can never quit.

Also, this applies to everything (according to Marx).
posted by Pastabagel at 2:08 PM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]



Sexual intercourse is inherently "violent" in that it is a physical contact or physical intrusion on the body of another.


That's a strange use of the idea of violence. I think I could get on board with some kind of metaphorical "sex is violent to the boundaries of the body" thing -- but not that it's violence itself. It's not violent when the doctor puts a wooden stick in my mouth (hey, why don't they do that any more? it used to happen all the time when I was a kid) or the nurse puts a thing in my ear. I've consented, it's done with care, and there's no unnecessary pain. Anyway, this was hashed out more than a generation ago by feminist writers, and I think the conclusion by and large was that even if you call all sex violence, most people are still going to want to do it anyway.

That aside, I've never been all that convinced by the rape is power not sex concept. I can see some cases when that would be true, but there are also plenty of cases where I think it's more about forced access to sex. And probably most often it's both, in varying degrees, just as power and sex get intermixed in many non-violent sexual encounters.
posted by Forktine at 2:31 PM on September 17, 2010


yeah, i write closed-captions. it's a living.

In a world where 508c compliance for the websites of well-funded businesses is controversial (for some reason), this gives me a strange sort of hope for the future. There are worse ways to make a living.
posted by stet at 2:33 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


No sale
posted by A189Nut at 3:03 PM on September 17, 2010


I’ve only seen three seconds of pornography. I clicked on a thumbnail on a particular site having read of its popularity in a weekend newspaper. I watched a woman, naked, crouching in front of a man as he thrust his penis in and out of her throat more or less furiously. After they both paused for a rest, he proceeded to slap her many times, with some force across the face, forehand and backhand. After another rest, he repeated the thrusting. At the next break the woman looked at the camera for no more than three seconds and began to cry. Then she recovered herself, or surrendered herself, and the man proceeded again to slap her vigorously across each cheek.

Watching this brought some questions to my mind. Who was this woman?


You're in a better position than we to know. Generally sites have that information. All we, the readers, can say is "An actress".

Why was she in this film?

Because she is a paid actress.

Was this nothing more than sexual assault?

No, it was a number of things, but sexual assault isn't one of them.

Was she paid for it?

If this is a site you visited "having read of its popularity in a weekend newspaper"? Yes. What weekend newspaper has articles about the popularity of various porn sites?

Was this violence consensual?

It's not violence, but yes.

I couldn’t answer all of these questions, but I could see she was a desperate victim; sad, afraid, ashamed and in pain.

No, you didn't. What you could have seen, had you cared to look, was a particularly talented actress. But that's not what you were looking for.

There was one question I could answer easily. Why was I watching this?

Because apparently, in order to be all outraged on your blog, you need some sort of outside stimulus. So do a lot of people, for a lot of things. Their masturbation isn't any less worthy than yours just because theirs is physical, rather than written.
posted by kafziel at 3:04 PM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


consumers of porn do not think of the actresses as 'people". They are ordering masturbation material. They don't care if she is faking the orgasm, if she's being coerced into performing, etc. She is simply a foundation to build a fantasy around.

Wow. This is an incredibly broad brush you're painting with. It makes me a little puzzled about the great lengths porn producers go to in large swaths of porn films and clips and photos to show the woman is enjoying herself. I'm not saying that there isn't fakery, but it seems that it's actually quite important to a *lot* of porn consumers that the girl is enjoying it. In fact, as a former "phone actress," I've rarely encountered someone who didn't want me to get off. (Again, not disputing the fakery of phone acting.) The boon of the internet for porn consumers is that there is a *huge* self-profiting industry, growing every day, of "amateur" porn. In fact, the more real, the less produced and the more natural it seems to the consumer, I think, the more popular it is.

I have no problem with Betty being paid to get tied up and have stuff done to her as long as Betty gets a safe word and is happy at the end. (Being a careful consumer of this type of porn to ensure that Betty is safe is another discussion)

The most popular producers of BDSM, even the most extreme stuff, as a matter of course, include an interview at the end of the film where you see the actress whole and happy and telling you they had a great time. It is rather rare to find someone who isn't that convincing in their bubbly "thanks and (I'll take my paycheck now)."

I am a feminist. And I *really* like being degraded sexually by a man I trust and respect. It has taken me a long time to realize that that fact does not make me a "traitor" or some sort of media dupe. Sex is primal, and the sooner we recognize that our urges and fantasies don't make us disgusting animals the better. Sex is of course way more awesome when it's with someone you love. But that's only true if you're willing to let go of all that shame and "Ewwww, why do I have to like *that*??!!" bullshit, and allow mutually consensual fantasyland to flower.

But that's obvious, no?

I guess what I'm thinking is that when we really get out of our skins and allow our fantasies to play out with someone, we quite *often* objectify each other. Even right there face to face. Though it might be scary to let that happen, I think it's just who we are as humans and mammals. We can't always live in our heads and have kissy-lovey sex and never just fuck the shit out of each other. (If I had to live without the latter, I'd be very very sad.)

So, porn objectifies, surely. This is only bad because sometimes it's hard to know where something came from and whether or not you're looking at someone who's being victimized. But fine--that's not the fault of porn. That's the fault of an industry plagued with people's shame complex, and uneducated consumers. Those big producers of BDSM porn--they're not putting those interviews with the actress at the end because porn consumers want to watch actresses be degraded and that's that. It's not even because they feel guilty for watching it. It's because they want to know that they've participated in a fantasy. Just like in real life, I think, most porn consumers want to know that consent is there, and that they and the actress have made an agreement to play. Amateur porn is so very very popular for exactly that reason--people like to know that the people in the video are *really* having a good time.

I would argue, also, that the big part of the erotic charge that comes with "degrading" BDSM is that the person being "victimized" is actually happy to do what they are doing. They have volunteered, because it makes them just as hot to accept the "abuse" as it does the person doing the "abusing"... Nothing shrinks my lover's libido more than thinking I'm not happy to be there. Isn't that generally true of healthy sexuality?

posted by RedEmma at 3:09 PM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


CRAP.... forgot to de-italisize after the paragraph about "Betty." Sorry about that.
posted by RedEmma at 3:10 PM on September 17, 2010


Hail the new puritan. Righteous maelstrom.
posted by w0mbat at 3:14 PM on September 17, 2010


I would argue, also, that the big part of the erotic charge that comes with "degrading" BDSM is that the person being "victimized" is actually happy to do what they are doing.

Well, in my case you'd be wrong. A big part of my sexuality involves rape, violation and humiliation. It's not the erotic charge I want when I make sure everyone's okay, it's the ethics. I would never kidnap someone and hold them in my basement, for legal and moral reasons, but a person of the correct gender able to fake being a basement captive is likely to get my gratitude (and porn dollars). I don't want anyone to be really hurt, because I try to be a good person and only my sexuality is perverted. Same thing goes on the other side as a masochist, I want it to damn well hurt, and feel helpless, and cry and scream and beg.

My sexual kinks are not immune to criticism, but it still is what goes on inside my trousers, and I'll leave you to your wining and dining and roses, if you leave me to my holding my date at water pistol point and continue to write and look at really artistically barren porn.
posted by Phalene at 3:27 PM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, in my case you'd be wrong.

I see what you mean. It's another twist of the same rope, to me, though, since it seems you really just mean to suspend the reality of the consent *during*.
posted by RedEmma at 3:35 PM on September 17, 2010


Our sexuality is, to my mind, both the simplest and most complex thing going. I get why these guys would want to cordon off one particular avenue of sexual fantasy, because for one reason or other it's just not something that sits right with them, and that's fine for them. But keep your morality to yourself, please.

I am certain that some very small amount of pornography is actual sexual abuse, but I'm guessing it's unicorn-rare. Like, I believe that it's happened because all things are possible in life's rich pageant but that it's pretty uncommon. Satanic ritual abuse and snuff movies might be real-world stuff in extremely unusual cases, too, but I generally dismiss claims of their existence as the bullshit they are invariably found to be. On the other hand, I am sure that some women in low-rent porn have been coerced by guys who are essentially con artists, and are being exploited in that sense, and while that's not good it's not exactly a thing exclusive to the porn industry, and I highly doubt it's the rule in the porn industry.

My sense is that the objection here is to one's own perception that a woman is being degraded. Okay. But my feeling about that is the average person who saw porn they felt was genuinely bad for society would just not watch it. I think if you start a movement to loudly object to such a thing, something else is going on with you, and that's basically you've seen something that triggered something very visceral in you. My guess is that it's an attraction to such things that one cannot cope with. Which, again, is fine, but that's your problem, and not the problem of the world at large.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:47 PM on September 17, 2010


I am certain that some very small amount of pornography is actual sexual abuse, but I'm guessing it's unicorn-rare.

Considering the rate of sexual abuse in the population at large, and the rate at which sex workers in general are abused and assaulted, why would you come to this conclusion?
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:56 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Considering the rate of sexual abuse in the population at large, and the rate at which sex workers in general are abused and assaulted, why would you come to this conclusion?

Lack of motive. I just don't get the feeling that finding women to do porn is that hard. The large porn companies, of course, wouldn't dare do anything wrong by their actresses, as they're so much on the public radar, and the small-time companies probably don't have any trouble finding willing participants, either. Like I said, I suspect that the shady coercive stuff does happen, but I don't think that's exactly what we're talking about here. If we're talking about straight-up, unambiguous sexual predators, I would imagine that the majority of them do not film their relations with their victims and sell them on the internet, no. Maybe on Dexter, but probably not in real life, as that would require a person who (a) got his kicks from sharing his activities with the world, and (b) a person who didn't much fear the very likely legal consequences of filming himself raping somebody and sharing it with the entire world.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:11 PM on September 17, 2010


I guess my definition of sexual abuse is broader than the one you're using and definitely includes shady coercive stuff. I think any kind of sexual coercion is abusive.

I don't think that the availability or lack thereof of willing partners is what drives sexual assault/abuse.

I don't think that the legal consequences of raping someone who is seen by many people as "unrapeable" are as likely as you think they are. Rape is notoriously under-reported and under-prosecuted, especially when the victims are sex workers.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:16 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, I'm talking about stuff that's unambiguous both because it's a lot more quantifiable (does that actress really want to be there? how are we supposed to know?) and because I think the example of the crying girl is clearly meant to illustrate that the writer saw what he was sure was an unambiguous case of sexual assault. (My guess is: he didn't.) I certainly think there's nothing good about a person being coerced into sex (or anything else), but barring serious investigation of basically every pornographic film ever made ever, it's really impossible to guess how common that sort of thing is or is not.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:23 PM on September 17, 2010


I think the non-consensual stuff is unicorn-rare, because it's not mass-marketed or even niche marketed. A horrific example is that (oh god thankfully deleted but sadly not deleted from reality) story on the blue a few days about a sociopath who basically held a teenage girl hostage for 5 years and drugged and tortured her on camera. His "market" was 4 similarly deranged bastards, all of whom are also facing life sentences. This is so unusual and grotesque as to be newsworthy.

That said, of course there are certainly actors/actresses in mainstream porn who are semi-consensual, who are under the sway of abusers or con-artists or drug addictions, but... that's a whole different ball of wax. At my advancing age, I say fuck 'em for not having their own life under control or being so malleable to obvious charlatans. The truth is you could say the same thing about lots of professions and our willingness to undergo crap to make a buck; the reason such people may have disproportionate representation in porn is by and large the industry's skewed earnings curve in relation to experience and age. If you're 18 or 19, undereducated, and possibly addicted to drugs, the sex industry is the only one where you can make high five to six figure incomes if you are willing. If you're in your 20's and don't mind not having a life outside of work and putting on 10-15 pounds every year until your own body disgusts you... you might want to be a computer programmer!

The closest non-porn example I can think of is in top-tier professional sports (and you know, those people aren't always the most well-adjusted either). A very close parallel could be drawn between what an average NFL player puts their body through for the sake of a 3.5 year career making about $400K a year, and what a mid-tier porn star can make for the short life span of her career starring in ~5 films a month and then aggressively touring the strip club and escort circuit. Hell, for a decent number of starlets, the income and career length are probably eerily similar, along with what they put their bodies through.

But people still watch football, and they don't feel bad about it.
posted by hincandenza at 5:30 PM on September 17, 2010


Hincandenza, there's a difference between porn that is explicitly non-consensual and porn that appears to be non-consensual but is not. If an actress says, "No!" during the course of a filming and they don't stop, that's non-consensual whether or not they include that shot. There's no basis for assuming that because explicit kidnapping, torture, and rape films are unusual that non-consensual stuff is generally rare (especially given that rape is pretty common in the U.S. in the general population while kidnapping and torture scenarios are not).

But that's also a reason to be concerned about what you call "semi-consensual" porn. The factors that you identify (abuse, coercion, drug addiction, lack of alternatives, unawareness of alternatives) are things that render performers more vulnerable to all sorts of abuse, including rape, and make them less able to pursue any kind of remedy.

I would go further, though, and say that the things you've identified as semi-consensual are bad enough in their own right, whether or not they make performers more vulnerable to even less consensual scenarios. "Fuck 'em for not having their own life under control or being so malleable to obvious charlatans" doesn't do anything to make this more palatable, not least because you're arguing both that they are making free, rational economic choices about career earnings while also invoking their inability to control their lives, free themselves from others' control, and so on -- factors that would defeat the idea that they are free, rational economic actors.

You can't excuse the abusers and manipulators on the one hand by saying the performers knew what they were getting into and blame the performers on the other for not knowing what they were getting into (or being able to adopt some alternative). I suppose you could drop one side of the equation and hold onto the other, but then there'd either be no reason to say "Fuck 'em" since there'd either be no manipulation at all, or none of the factors that you take to justify saying "Fuck 'em" to people who are manipulated.

I'm skeptical of the financial claims as well, but I don't have any data one way or the other, though I'd be genuinely curious what the median income for a porn actress is in the U.S. I suspect it is not very high.
posted by Marty Marx at 6:18 PM on September 17, 2010


*and porn that appears to be consensual but actually is not.

Someday I'll learn to proofread.
posted by Marty Marx at 6:19 PM on September 17, 2010


Wow. I'd like to clarify that I am NOT talking about BDSM. I am talking about commercial porn (you know, the kind they make commercials for? And sell on DVD?) containing degradation of the actress as a matter of course. Why is this the default? I know not all porn is like this, and I'm very grateful for that. Obviously not every man feels the need to call his girlfriend a whore and slap her face with his penis, so why is that such a big seller? I am aware that lots of guys and girls get turned on by dom/sub play (I'm one of them!), but this isn't the same thing and I'm not sure how to articulate that. It's like this has become the new vanilla.
posted by domo at 6:33 PM on September 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


There's no basis for assuming that because explicit kidnapping, torture, and rape films are unusual that non-consensual stuff is generally rare

Are you saying you think there is a basis for assuming that non-consenual stuff is not generally rare in the porn world?
posted by Justinian at 6:36 PM on September 17, 2010


Are you saying you think there is a basis for assuming that non-consenual stuff is not generally rare in the porn world?

Not in that comment, no, but yes, I do think that is the case for similar reasons: the fact that non-consensual stuff is not rare in the population generally, and the fact that there are circumstances specific to commercial, filmed porn in the U.S. that make it easier for non-consensual stuff to occur. Hincandenza lists some of these factors, but economic dependence alone would be enough. The others I would actually count as non-consensual stuff, but the argument stands without doing so. Maybe non-consensual stuff really is rare, but I think it is quite reasonable to be surprised if that turns out to be the case.
posted by Marty Marx at 6:55 PM on September 17, 2010


That rape is not all that uncommon in the general population doesn't have any bearing on whether it is common in the porn world. Murder occurs many thousands of times per year in the United States. How many times are murders in film real?

The economic dependence argument doesn't really do it for me. Exactly the same logic would make working a shitty retail job because you need the money into slavery.
posted by Justinian at 7:05 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Murder and rape are different. That is a horrible analogy for many reasons.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:44 PM on September 17, 2010


That rape is not all that uncommon in the general population doesn't have any bearing on whether it is common in the porn world.

No? So what is special about the porn industry that makes it reasonable to believe that rape is uncommon? It can't be the strict oversight of working conditions or the greater ease with which performers can seek redress than members of the general population, since neither of those circumstances obtain.

There are, on the other hand, pretty good reasons to believe that directors (John Landis notwithstanding) won't really murder actors: murder is easier to prove than rape, especially in the case of porn, when directors can argue that the victim was acting, or that the accused believed it was part of the script; murders are more likely to be prosecuted than rapes, murder victims are taken more seriously than rape victims, and so on. It's the content of the argument, not the form, that's the problem, so substituting "murder" for "rape" and "films" for "porn films" only works to the extent that the substitutions are relevantly similar. In this case, they aren't.

The economic dependence argument doesn't really do it for me. Exactly the same logic would make working a shitty retail job because you need the money into slavery.
I think you've got me wrong. I'm not saying that paying performers makes any filmed sex act rape.* I'm saying that should a performer be raped (or be the victim of any other non-consensual act), their economic dependence on their employers and their reputation in the industry makes it harder for them to seek any remedy than performers in the general population. A better analogy would be not reporting your boss's sexual harassment at a shitty retail job because you need the money.

*I have to disagree somewhat with RedEmma about footage of actresses saying how much they enjoyed a scene. It may be that viewers want to see people having a good time, but they are, after all, actresses. I think it is likely they would not be able to get work from a studio again if they gave anything other than enthusiastic praise, and I'll bet they'd have some trouble getting their paycheck for that work as well. That's the kind of scenario I'm talking about. It's just not conducive to preventing or punishing any transgressions.
posted by Marty Marx at 7:44 PM on September 17, 2010


Sheesh. *seek any remedy than people in the general population.
I promise to use preview from now on. I promise to use preview from now on...
posted by Marty Marx at 7:47 PM on September 17, 2010


Marty, it's not that I think your points are off-base, necessarily, but it seems like you're asking for proof that this doesn't happen all the time. That there is no way to supply that doesn't mean that it in fact does happen all the time. If you can show that sexual abuse is a common part of the porn industry, then okay. I really don't think you can.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:52 PM on September 17, 2010


If you can show that sexual abuse is a common part of the porn industry, then okay. I really don't think you can.

The idea that sexual assault/abuse/rape is LESS prevalent in the pornography industry doesn't make a whole lot of sense and could certainly use supporting evidence as well.

Practically everything we know about sexual assault and sex workers makes it much more plausible that sexual abuse would be MORE prevalent in the pornography industry than it is within the general population.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:05 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, but sex workers in the sense of prostitution work in a very different setting. Often these are people who are drug addicts first, prostitutes incidentally, some of them essentially homeless, and it's just a very, very different scenario. On the extreme low end of the pornography spectrum, there may be little difference, but that wouldn't seem to be the norm. And I would say the problems in those situations, however common (or not) they may be, are basically poverty/social ostracization/addiction much more than pornography.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:11 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's just not true. For one thing, porn is legal. One reason sexual assault is common in sex work is that prostitutes can't really go to the police. Secondly, there are strong incentives to doing everything relatively above-board for most porn producers. Why exactly do you think Vivid or whoever is going to rape girls on camera and risk going to jail?
posted by Justinian at 8:12 PM on September 17, 2010


(I was replying to rope-rider)
posted by Justinian at 8:13 PM on September 17, 2010


"Beautiful mahogany sideboard cabinet that is over 15 years old."

In most states of The Union, that sideboard better be over 18 years old, or someone's going to have to talk to the judge.
posted by fartknocker at 9:41 PM on September 17, 2010


1. Does a market tend to create a machine to feed it? (Y/N)
2. Is the porn industry something you want to support? (Y/N)
3. Are you supporting the porn industry by consuming porn? (Y/N)
4. Is there a chance that any given porn clip has been produced by exploitation? (Y/N)
5. Can you know whether the actors were exploited? (Y/N)
6. Should you err on the side of doing less harm? (Y/N)
5. If you answered Yes to 4: How big does the chance of exploitation have to be? How much of a hunch that something is wrong can you sit on? Is it OK if there's only a 1% chance that someone in the clip got genital herpes in their throat? Is a 0.25% chance that I'm watching someone getting infected with HIV? Is it OK if there's only a 2% chance that someone in that clip is suffering from PTSD?

I believe that these are the questions that I asked myself. My conclusion is that I can only support pornography that I know is non-exploitative. It's not hard to see that that isn't a lot of porn :D

My conclusion is also that exploitative porn is something I want to actively fight.
posted by krilli at 3:28 AM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


krilli, here's the thing. I do not consider myself "pro-porn" in any fashion. I tend towards thinking that it is a net societal negative, but not for the reasons I think. Illegal immigration and the exploitation of undocumented workers is a serious problem too, and the logic you're using to say, "Porn, it is bad!" can be applied to almost anything.


1. Does a market tend to create a machine to feed it? (Y/N)
2. Is the industrial farming industry something you want to support? (Y/N)
3. Are you supporting the industrial farming industry by consuming vegetables? (Y/N)
4. Is there a chance that any given vegetable has been harvested by an exploited worker? (Y/N)
5. Can you know whether the harvesters were exploited? (Y/N)
6. Should you err on the side of doing less harm? (Y/N)
5. If you answered Yes to 4: How big does the chance of exploitation have to be? How much of a hunch that something is wrong can you sit on? Is it OK if there's only a 1% chance that someone in the clip is effectively living in slavery? Is a 0.25% chance that I'm watching someone is being forced to "work off" the cost of their ride across the border? Is it OK if there's only a 2% chance that someone in that clip is has the threat of being reported to the INS if they object to sexual harassment?

I believe that these are the questions that I asked myself. My conclusion is that I can only support vegetables that I know is non-exploitative. It's not hard to see that that isn't a lot of vegetables.

This is also known as The Cheney Doctrine -- it boils down to "if you can't prove that my worst case scenario isn't happening, you have to do what I say."
posted by verb at 5:58 AM on September 18, 2010


krilli, I admire your willingness to go all out for your interest in non-exploitation. I assume you no longer watch any media, regardless of porn content.
posted by RedEmma at 5:59 AM on September 18, 2010


Why? Logic please. State it explicitly.
posted by krilli at 6:17 AM on September 18, 2010


(My last comment was to RedEmma.)

To verb: I also try to do my part to work against the agricultural-industrial complex. And also the military-industrial complex.

And it is exactly not the Cheney doctrine. It is in the FIRST PERSON, not the third person. I can't prove that the worst case scenario isn't happening, so my conscience doesn't allow me to do X / consume Y. You may disagree.
posted by krilli at 6:21 AM on September 18, 2010


And it is exactly not the Cheney doctrine. It is in the FIRST PERSON, not the third person. I can't prove that the worst case scenario isn't happening, so my conscience doesn't allow me to do X / consume Y. You may disagree.
krilli, I apologize if I've misread your comments. You and I are both welcome to not consume porn, but the phrasing of your question was indeed in the third person: "How big does the chance of exploitation have to be? How much of a hunch that something is wrong can you sit on?"

I have no problem with the "I do not do X because I believe..." statement. I know there are some here who feel that it's moralizing, or posturing, but that's pretty much the risk run whenever anyone says something like that, whether it's about torture or eating meat or not watching porn or not buying an iPad.

While your formulation isn't Cheney-esque in the sense that you aren't advocating the military invasion of Vivid Video, you are posing questions to other people, specifically framing it in terms of their actions, and specifically framing it in a way that totalizes the discussion -- just like Cheney's "If there is a 1% chance, you must do what I would do" framing of military action.

The problem is that there is absolutely no way to be certain. This doesn't mean that porn is A-OK and that no one is being exploited, just that your "If there is any chance this is exploitative, it shouldn't be done" framing applies to absolutely every activity in the world, from using a computer manufactured by third world laborers to lacing up your shoes (made from defenseless animals, via cruelty and murder) in the morning. That kind of totalizing language always collapses back to "doing the things I feel okay about, and not doing the things I don't feel okay about."

And that is a useless metric. It is fine for explaining one's own motivation but it is fundamentally useless in arguing about the broader morality of an action. That troubles me when I see it being deployed in moral discussions.
posted by verb at 7:41 AM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know an American philosopher who believes that the problem with objectification is how badly we treat objects: ersatz, replaceable and disposable, rather than limited, precious resources.

Since we'll always be tempted to treat people like objects, the only solution is to improve our relationship with objects.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:09 AM on September 18, 2010 [8 favorites]


verb: Thank you - yes, that's true, there were you-s in there.

And that is a useless metric. It is fine for explaining one's own motivation but it is fundamentally useless in arguing about the broader morality of an action. That troubles me when I see it being deployed in moral discussions.

I can't properly articulate why, but this feels a little like trying to bridge Newtonian and quantum physics. Few methods exist that more strongly influence one's actions than having a good long staredown with your conscience, and losing. I'm sure that large-scale change can come from many, doing so individually.
posted by krilli at 8:18 AM on September 18, 2010


The idea that in order to do one good thing (or avoid doing one bad thing), you have to avoid doing ALL bad things is really silly--does doing one good thing stop mattering if you do bad things? But, to go with that for a minute:


People have to wear shoes; people don't have to consume pornography.

People have to eat food; people don't have to consume pornography.


Comparing something that is wholly optional, basically a luxury that no one needs, with buying shoes or food is really ridiculous.

You're essentially making the argument that someone has to be shoeless in a dumpster or they might as well give up and consume/buy/watch/fund whatever.


I am not particularly anti-pornography. I'm not particularly pro-pornography, either. But the arguments and assertions you all are making are really weak.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:19 AM on September 18, 2010


A successful engineer said build it wrong, but build it. Here, my plan is to fight it wrong, but fight it.
posted by krilli at 8:19 AM on September 18, 2010


krilli, verb said it best:
"If there is any chance this is exploitative, it shouldn't be done" framing applies to absolutely every activity in the world, from using a computer manufactured by third world laborers to lacing up your shoes (made from defenseless animals, via cruelty and murder) in the morning. That kind of totalizing language always collapses back to "doing the things I feel okay about, and not doing the things I don't feel okay about."

Anyway. No one is arguing that evidence of patriarchal, male gaze, bad-example-of-culture porn doesn't exist. However, we live in the age of full democratization of media. Anyone can make porn, and if you spent one afternoon looking at the porn available on the free sites out there, really *watching*, you'd see that that is exactly what is happening. Women are making their own porn in the privacy of their bedrooms *solo,* and often *for free* on a huge scale. Human polymorphous perversity is no longer in the hands of some mobsters in Long Island or Eastern Europe, and you could spend every minute the *rest of your life* watching naked people getting it on by themselves, in groups or in couples of every description, with toys and machines of every kind, and never watch a single person get exploited or look unhappy in any way.

No acting necessary.
posted by RedEmma at 8:47 AM on September 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


In other words, MORE PORN is the best way to kill off porn exploitation. These guys trying to stuff their urges and fapping in the dark and feeling ashamed about it isn't the way to get there.
posted by RedEmma at 8:48 AM on September 18, 2010


the young rope-rider: I am not particularly anti-pornography. I'm not particularly pro-pornography, either. But the arguments and assertions you all are making are really weak.
That's what I said in response to your earlier comment, too. I agree that "Porn is less likely to result in exploitation than prostitution!" and other arguments are not terribly convincing; they're basically assertions based on a lot of premises that anyone who is arguing from 'the other side' is unlikely to share. Remember, too, that you kicked off a side discussion by suggesting that pornography was a new development, that we have no way of judging how it affects people because it's so new, and that consumption of pornography isn't "human nature." All of those are counterfactual arguments, unless you're trying to split hairs so finely that 'porn is bad' is tautology. Call the acceptable stuff 'Erotica' if you like, but the discussion will continue -- it clearly has for millennia.

My point here isn't to attack or defend pornography: I see it as a complex issue, and friends of mine have been involved in both hurtful/exploitative and rewarding/empowering aspects of the sex and pornography industries. No matter what my feelings are about why I do or do not consume porn of any given kind, I know that I have to be cautious when making generalized arguments about "the industry" or "the genre" or "the people in it."
posted by verb at 12:01 PM on September 18, 2010


I can't properly articulate why, but this feels a little like trying to bridge Newtonian and quantum physics. Few methods exist that more strongly influence one's actions than having a good long staredown with your conscience, and losing. I'm sure that large-scale change can come from many, doing so individually.
I agree with you, and this is one of the reasons that I think it's complicated. Here is a statement, for example, that I can applaud:

"You know what? I think pornography can be and often is very exploitative. I think that the people who make pornography are being exploited just as much as sweatshop workers, even though both of those groups participate voluntarily. I also understand that there are many people in the porn industry who do not feel that way, and who view their participation in the production as an empowering and positive aspect of their lives. I also believe that for some men, pornography reinforces objectified views of women who do not choose to participate in it, and this can cause a lot of problems for them when interacting with those men. I understand there are other perspectives, but I choose not to consume it, both because I don't want to be part of the problem I perceive, or contribute financially to the industry that I believe exacerbates it."

The problem is that I've met people on both sides of the exploitation/empowerment spectrum, and while I am sympathetic to your "how do I feel about supporting this if there's a chance it is harming someone?" argument, I know a lot of people who aren't ignoring their consciences when they support or consume porn... they believe that people who oppose it are actually furthering the "othering" and marginalization of the people who are involved in its production. I'm not trying to throw it back in your face, just ruminating on the complexities of it.

I think the most objectionable aspect of the whole Anti-Porn-Men movement stuff that kicked this thread off is that it tries to dodge those complexities and brush them off rather than acknowledging and accepting them, and moving on to what can be confidently asserted (even if it's still subjective). As others have noted, it feels like a repurposing of the language of feminism with none of the underlying principle.
posted by verb at 12:12 PM on September 18, 2010


And, because I'm just writing essays now, I'll expound on the comment I made about "totalizing language always collapses back to "doing the things I feel okay about, and not doing the things I don't feel okay about.""

What I meant by that is that if you're trying to articulate why something is damaging and dangerous and exploitative, and should be avoided, one must grapple with, understand, acknowledge, and address the facts that don't fit the explanations being offered. There are people who recreationally create pornography, without anyone coercing them, without anyone offering them money, without anyone even asking them to. There are people of all sexes who consume pornography and have happy fulfilled relationships and don't rape people, or objectify other people. Grappling with the fact that the "new wave" of porn in the internet era is powere by recreational amateur porn, this is even harder to ignore.

I'm not saying that these facts mean that pornography is not a societal net negative, or that it on the whole increases the exploitation and victimization of people who are involve or affected by it. What I mean is that when totalizing language like the stuff mentioned several times in this thread is used, and no honest attempt is made to grapple with the facts that run counter to them, it is easy to dismiss them. They simply don't mesh with reality!

And when those things are dismissed, because easy arguments were advanced, any actual exploitation and abuse that you were concerned about becomes easier to excuse. If you believe that something's rotten at the core of Porn (or even in sub-genres, or whatever), figuring it out and articulating how it's different from the other stuff that seems perfectly fine is critical. Otherwise, it turns into people just doing what they're comfortable with, avoiding what they think is squicky, and declaring that set of subjective preferences to be What's Okay.

If you think something's wrong, and you want to take that beyond your personal choices to not consume or not support, work to figure out what's wrong and engage with the people who have a different experience of it.
posted by verb at 12:23 PM on September 18, 2010


just double tax 'em..
posted by 3mendo at 10:56 AM on September 19, 2010


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