A Mostly Serious Piece on Pornography
Okay, so my response has taken slightly longer than a day. Mea culpa, I got a job at a store (ending in "art" and beginning with "K") so I actually don't have as much blogging time as before.
Anyway, when I was conducting my interview with the protestors, they kept repeating my questions back at me, curious as to what I believed in. "Did I believe in god?" "Was I a moral absolutist or a moral relativist?" "Could I see how pornography leads to rape?" that type of thing. I feel I restrained myself as much as I could, but these are questions I would like to answer for the benefit of those who'd like to know.
In this entry, I'd like to talk about sex and pornography. For the purposes of this discussion, pornography shall be defined as the viewing of sexual acts for the purposes of titillation (rather broad, I know, but work with me).
Now, I normally tend to fall into the pro-sex feminism side: I like sex, and see nothing wrong with expressions of sexuality. I deny, vehemently, that woman are uninterested in sex, or have less of a sex drive than men. Any woman who has experienced an orgasm is secretly laughing at anyone who says that. This is a stupid stereotype, but more to the point, it can be quite dangerous (because people turn this into a weird sex-as-dominance, or sex-as-transaction, or sex-as-something women have that men want to get). And, I am quite strongly free speech, and I think too many things that count as "pornography" are actually much more about anti-sexuality squick: namely things like belly-dancing or nudity in general. There is nothing wrong with our fleshly body, and carnal delights are quite grand, thank-you-very much. We are sexual creatures, and a denial of that is an exercise in frustration. Sex is a wonderful, messy, intimate, silly, pleasant, sometimes earth-shattering, sometimes disappointing, lustful, stupid-looking, lovely hedonistic activity to do. It's better with skill and experience, it's better with trust and love, but it is what it is. Sex is an activity that two people engage in. Sex is not a "self-gift" in the sense that I'm less than a person afterwards. It is more like a duet, where I am lending my skills to another singer in a beautiful music (and the other person gets to cover up some of my false notes). Does the fact that I have sang with another person make this song less beautiful? Neither does the fact that I have had sex with other persons make it less meaningful when I have sex now. Pleasure is an important an integral part of the action: it is sole reason to have sex is for pleasure, both my partner's and mine.
To that end, I LOVE the PBR. As I stated before, they are the only place in town that sells some sex-aids: massage oil, incense, sexual games, and masturbation aids such as vibrators. These things can help with sex, making better foreplay, more creative sex, more pleasurable sex.
But then, there's pornography. Pornography gets weird, because it's no longer an act that two people engage in. Suddenly, you are purchasing the right to be a voyeur, without the direct consent of the people involved. In many cases, sex is not something that two people engage in, but it something someone does to another. Man fucks woman. Subject-verb-object. In homosexual sex, there's a "bottom" and a "top", someone who's getting penetrated, someone who's doing the penetrating. And then there's "lesbian" porn, where it seems every woman is two drinks away from doing another woman, while they wait around for a "real man" to come and "fix them".
Clearly, most pornography I do not think accurately reflects healthy sexuality (not to mention, lacking almost any artistic merit. Hasn't anyone heard of "plot" and "dialogue" and "acting"? I mean, come on, there's temporary suspension of disbelief, and then there's WTF is wrong with you people.) To that end, I support the protestors against the objectification of SEX (which they misunderstand as the objectification of people, namely women). Women who engage in sex are not being objectified, woman who engage in this weird human-object dominance play are being objectified.
Where we draw the line, is where it starts to get fuzzy. If I wanted to watch "Madame Bovary" and they didn't fade to black when the sex scene came on, is that degrading? I would say no. But if I were to watch "Barely Legal Teen Fuckfest"* I think it would be degrading. However, since we live in a free society, I am not at liberty to say what can and cannot be watched, in the name of free expression. As soon as I start limiting other people's expressions, it will not be too long before they come after my own. Yet, I still disagree with pornography that is sex as a commodity, and I feel there is a great underlying misogyny in rape porn.
So, I'm not overmuch fond of the north side of the building, but I can't say not to have it. I don't want the store to close; I just wish the selection would change, so that it was less about sex-as-a-power play and more like sex-as-a-pleasurable activity. And I think that's where the divide between me and the protestors: I don't like objectifying sex, and they just don't like sex as a pleasure activity. If my boyfriend (in this point in my life, I have no desire to get married) were to go into the store, I'd be "whoopee! New toy!” not an insecure mess that he didn't find me attractive.
I do not believe that pleasure is inherently bad, just like I don't believe sacrifice is inherently good. Activities that lead to pleasure, and have no other harming side effects (like a violation of another's autonomy) are fine. Pleasure is a good in and of itself. Sacrifice that leads to betterment is fine. Needless sacrifice is stupid and should be avoided.
Later I will attempt to delve more deeply in my ethical philosophies.
*I have no idea of “Barely Legal Teen Fuckfest” actually exists. It sounds plausible, and it doesn’t sound like a healthy expression of sexuality.