Thursday, May 25, 2006

Sex-Positive Feminism: The Beginning

...sorta. (sounded like a better title for this entry in the series than "Sex-Positive Feminism: It's Back And It's Mad." or, not).


Over at paleofeminist, we'd been discussing these issues (again, surprise); and among the questions that came up was this, posed by antiprincess:

But I wonder why porn and BDSM are inextricably associated..

In other words: why do porn, prostitution ("pornstitution," how I loathe that portmanteau) and BDSM seem to be the Big Three in the revived "sex wars" (if that is what they are) between the radical feminists and the sex-pos/sex-radical camp? regardless of which perspective you're coming from?

While in the process of trying to address something else, I stumbled across this, which I think goes a fair way toward answering that.

The following is from a transcripted interview between Amber Hollibaugh, Deirdre English, and Gayle Rubin, circa 1980 (at the height of the "sex wars").

(from My Dangerous Desires: a queer girl dreaming her way home, by Amber Hollibaugh)

AH: What is pornography? What do we define as pornography?

GR: I have a three-part definition. One, the legal definition, is that it's sexually explicit material designed to arouse prurient interest. I think that definition, at least for this historical time and place [1980, U.S.], is the most useful one. We should remember that porn is not legal; by this definition material that has no focus but to arouse is not legal. [referring here to obscenity laws, I believe]. In other words, a sexual aim is not considered legitimate in this country [emphasis mine].

But we also need a historical definition; that is, porn as we know now it is widely available, commercial erotica as opposed to the older erotica that was hand produced and was mostly something that rich people collected. In the middle of the last century, mass production of erotic materials started to take place, resulting in the cheap, printed dirty book.

Third, I have a sociological definition: pornography is a particular industry located in certain places, with certain kinds of shops which tend to put out a product with certain conventions. One convention, for example, is that the man's orgasm never happens inside the woman. Pornography has a concrete existence that you can define sociologically. But that's not the current, so-called feminist definition of porn.

AH: What's that--"what we don't like is pornographic?"

GR: The definition used in the antiporn movement is that pornography is violence against women and that violence against women is pornography. There are several problesm with this. One is a replacement of the institutional forms of violence with representations of violence. That is to say, there's been a conflating of images with the thing itself. People really don't talk about the institutions; they talk about the images. Images are important, but that's not the whole thing.

Actually, if you walk into an adult bookstore, 90 percent of the material you will see is frontal nudity, intercourse, and oral sex, with no hint of violence or coercion. There are specialty porns. There's gay male porn; that's a big subgenre. There used to be a genre of porn that featured young people, although that's now so illegal that you don't see it anymore. And there is a genre of porn that caters to sadomaschoists, which is the porn that they focus on when you see a WAVPM (Women Against Violence is Pornography and Media) or a WAP slide show. They show the worst possible porn and claim it's representative of all of it. The two images that they show most are sadomasochistic porn and images of violence that contain sex. For instance, the infamous "Hustler" cover with the woman being shoved through a meat grinder. An awful picture, but by no means a common image in pornography.

DE: It was self-parody. It was gross, but it was actually satirical, a self-critical joke, which a lot of people didn't get.

GR: They include images that are not pornographic that you cannot find in an adult bookstore. For instance, the stuff on billbards, the stuff on record covers, the stuff in "Vogue." None of it has explicit sexual content. At most, it's covert. And what they do is draw in images they consider to be violent, or coercive, or demeaning, and call that pornography. That definition enables them to avoid the empirical question of how much porn is really violent. Their analysis is that the violent images come out of porn and into the culture at large, that sexism comes from porn into the culture. Whereas it seems to me that pornography only reflects as much sexism as is in the culture.

The existence of S/M porn enabled this whole analysis to proceed. It's very disturbing to most people and contains scenes that most people don't even want to encounter in their own lives. They don't realize that S/M porn is about fantasy. What most people do with it is take it home and masturbate. Those people who do S/M are consensually acting out fantasies [emphasis mine]: the category of people who read and use S/M porn and the category of violent rapists are not the same. We used to talk about how religion and the state and the family create sexism and promote rape. No one talks about any of these institutions anymore. They've become the good guys!

...GR: When I went on the WAVPM tour, everybody went, and I stood in front of the bondage material It was like they had on blinders. And I said, Look, there's oral sex over there! Why don't you look at that? And they were glued to the bondage rack. I started pulling out female dominance magazines and saying, "Look, here's a woman dominating a man. What about that? Here's a woman who's tied up a man. What about that?" It was like I wasn't there. People said, "Look at this picture of a woman being tied up!"

AH: Another example in the WAVPM slide show, there will be an image from a porn magazine of a woman tied up, beaten, right? And they'll say, "Hustler" magazine, 1976, and you're struck dumb by it, horrified! The next slide will be a picture of a woman with a police file, badly beten by her husband. And the rap that connects these two is that the image of the woman tied and bruised in the pornographic magazine caused the beating that she suffered. The talk implies that her husband went and saw that picture, then came home and tried to re-create it in their bedroom. That is the guilt-by-association theory of pornography and violence. And I remember sitting and watching this slide show and being freaked out about both those images and having nowehere to react to the analysis and say, What the hell is going on? I found it incredibly manipulative.

GR: Some of the antiporn people are looking at material that is used in a particular subculture with a particular meaning and a particular set of conventions and saying, It doesn't mean what it means to the people who are using it. It means what we see! They're assuming that they know better than the people who are familiar with it. [emphasis mine]. They're assuming, for instance, that S/M is violent, and that analysis leads to the view that S/M people can't be the victims of violence.

AH: It also discourages anyone from making explicit any sexual fantasy which seems risky to them or from exploring a sexual terrain that's not familiar. It ignores the fact that you learn what you like and what you don't like through trying things out. What it says is that these forbidden desires are not yours but imposed on you. You never experiment sexually.

Yet most people know godamn well that their sex lives are wider than those standard notions let them play in. They may feel guilty about it, but they know it. So they don't need one more movement to tell them they can't play.


laura said...

my main problem with the porn industry is the lack of a strong union and the lax enforcement of condom use. don't get me wrong--these people are adults and should be responsible for their own safety. but no other industry subjects their employees to this kind of health risk, except for maybe mining. even construction workers have more protection.

if there were more employee protections in the porn industry, it would take a step towards a deserved legitimacy. they pay taxes right? their employees pay taxes on their earnings, right?

maybe 2 years ago, california cracked down on 2 porn companies that didn't use condoms in their movies. i thought it was about time.

the sad fact is that too many in the porn industry thinks that it's perfectly ok to sacrifice the health of their talent just for a quick buck. i mean, there's nothing healthy about disgusting stuff like ass to mouth and ass to vagina.

i'm not saying that porn should be illegal. all i'm saying is that porn companies can't have it both ways. if they want to be seen as legitimate businesses, then they are subject to workplace safety laws like any other businesses. and that also means they shouldn't be allowed to own the contract girl's (or guy's) work for perpetuity, and they should have to pay residuals for reusing these images in compilations.

the typical porn contract is very unfair. it's one thing to have your website, because then you own all your content. but the nature of the contracts that too many porn companies sign their talent's a travesty. and it's because thr porn industry has no viable union to act as a counterweight to the porn companies.

i believe in free speech, so obviously porn should remain legal. but the porn industry needs to clean up its own house before it starts blathering on about sexual empowerment and freedom of speech. as long as this industry treats its own talent like overhead that needs to be reduced, it will never get the respect it wants.

belledame222 said...

Yeh, I'm constant amazed whenever I take a look at "mainstream" het porn and see all the unprotected crap going on. As you say, it's not even just about preventing HIV transmission or the other biggies: cock goes into ass! same cock goes into pussy! agh, NO.

girlpr0n that I see tends to err on the side of overcaution, if anything;. (which I vastly prefer) not always, of course. but: dams, gloves, finger cots...

and it's been a while since I've seen gayboy porn, but as I recall they've been pretty good about covering it, at least for anal penetration, for a while now. I mean, you would expect so, wouldn't you?

yeh, I dunno as much about the workings of the Industry as I could do. Anthony might be better equipped to speak to this stuff; I know he's more familiar with Nina Hartley (who's been one of the main representing voices wrt this stuff) than I. but I seem to recall reading her saying something to the effect of the state was actually making it *harder* to require condoms? I really need to track that down, obviously; it sounded complex.

that said, I do recall being at a Dark Odyssey conference last winter where she gave a few workshops (I spoke to her a couple of times; she's very sweet and down to earth), and a friend reporting back on one workshop she'd given (which I did not attend) on giving head; apparently, said friend, who was rather scandalized, she'd gone ahead and started demonstrating on an audience volunteer without rolling on a condom. We speculated it might be a generational thing (some people are more casual than others about unprotected oral), but...yeh. I come out of a milieu where latex to the point of looking like Leslie Nielsen and his partner rolling around in a giant sleeping-bag-sized condom in "Naked Gun" ("I practice safe sex." "So do I") is just taken for granted.

Interesting article on the relative culpability of state vs. industry of not regulating here:

but anyway, obviously already we're making assumptions that are *not* congruent with groups like WAVPM and their descendents' objections. if porn is just plain E-V-I-L, you're not gonna be spending time trying to reform it; you're just gonna be out for scorched earth.

drove me crazy on a couple of sites I was on recently: the argument (yes, Bitch | Lab, now I've finally ran across it directly, not that I didn't believe you) that there's no point in trying to support union rights for sex workers, let alone decriminalization, doesn't solve everything for every woman, was the gist, as I understand it.

I'm still waiting for an argument that sounds more convincing than the RR's arguments against proper sex education in schools (Condoms break all the time! it's irresponsible to teach the poor dears that anything short of abstinence might be helpful! also it just encourages them!).

belledame222 said...

...shit, blogger comment box keeps cutting off the URL's. try this:

belledame222 said...

...aughh. from later down in related articles, cited, wrt the actor who infected Roxx:

>Anthony continued, "I've known Darren for seven years and over that time he's become one of my best friends. I'm very sad about this whole situation that's going on and definitely I want to go on the record saying Darren is a good guy. He doesn't drink. He doesn't do any drugs. He's not gay and he doesn't do anything with transsexuals."

Gee, where's *that* attitude come from?? Oh, O.K. he's NOT GAY, and he doesn't deal with peniseseses, and he doesn't do drugs (or drink!) and he's a "good guy." Therefore, he *can't* have HIV.

AUUGGGGHGHHHH. but does he PUT ON A CONDOM, you stupid fuck??

That's a lot of it right there, I'll bet the farm. "We can't have HIV here in the hetpr0n industry, because WE'RE NOT GAY. and wearing condoms would be like an admission that we might be."

that and, as noted by the author of that piece, the fact that in general, the Owners are greedy callous fucks and the Workers need to eat, so the former will get away with as much as they are allowed to get away with and the latter will put up with as much as they have to put up with.

which, once again: say-hey! why, perhaps it might make sense to look at this particular from more of a capitalistic/socialist axis rather than a male/female one.

but, no. for some people, anyway. does not compute.

and just because we're against all porn in all its forms in any possible or at least likely-to-exist-ever worlds *doesn't* mean we've internalized the (patriarchal, mainstream) message that MOST SEX IS DANGEROUS AND DISGUSTING ZOMG, so STOP SAYING THAT.

shannon said...

The problem is that porn has gotten more pervasive and worse. They didn't have Bang Bus back in the WAP days. Some of the alt porn people are trying to not be so bad, but are our teen boys seeing the (for lack of a better term) good porn or are they seeing the disgusting shit and confusing that with sex? That's what I'm worried about- people confusing porn with sex. Our young boys aren't getting accurate information, and then the image of sex they get is total sexbot. We can explain to our men that no, that facials are rude and that women tend to orgasm clitorially, but I feel sorry for teen girls who often think ridiculous things like they *need* to shave their pubes or that they can't refuse ridciulous and stupid practices.

I also don't think that porn performers get into the game because they want to be empowered, and that nobody ever coerces anyone in porn either or that all strippers are just testing their feminist theory. So yea, I'm sex skeptical.

belledame222 said...

Oh, I agree with all of that.

It's the combination that's so pernicious, imo. On the one hand, you have the cultural/sexual revolution still continuing to develop in myriad ways, more or less. On the other hand, we have an ever-more-rightward *and* more authoritarian government. The authoritarian part means clamping down on sex education, at home and abroad; the rightward drift means that, more than ever, money and power begets money and power.

And of course, as has always been the case, people grab a hold of an idea and turn it to their own purposes, especially commercial/corporate ones. You kind of saw an equivalent thing happen wrt the music industry, I'd say: we go from Riot Grrls to Spice Girls to Britney. who do you blame?

belledame222 said...

...Facials might or might not be rude, I guess, depending on who you ask.

Of course, that really, really basic idea--ASK FIRST, AND THEN PAY ATTENTION TO THE ANSWER, YES OR NO--*that's* what's been missing here for quite some time, all across the public discourse. that would be quite the problem.

I gather some women are into it., facials. probably relatively fewer than actually are, I'd wager, off the cuff. I dungeddit, myself, but then I don't understand a lot of mainstream hetpr0n conventions. whatever else about the industry as it currently stands, there's no question in my mind that it's....*odd.* Silicone basketballs on orange skeletons! (well, relatively compared to the non-porn media, but even still: hello, whatever happened to, you know, FLESH?) Cumshots are HAWT! and my personal favorite,

*horrrrrrrrk PTUI*

IS there some particular reason this is considered more sensible than reaching for a bottle of lube? Is this actually considered sexy? by anyone? hawking loogies?

because god knows having a snot/drool fetish would be convenient, seeing as how it would make my life all during this our glorious allergy season a lot more fun; but, Personally.

laura said...

the porn industry's bread and butter is its exploitation of our sexual hang ups. right now, we're becoming increasingly prudish about sex, with reproductive right being rolled back and abstinence education coming back into vogue. then there's this explosion of really degrading pornography that specializes in disgusting crap like ass to vagina and ass to mouth and even double anal. the porn is getting increasingly circus-like while the political climate is getting inreasingly conservative. and the connecting thread? women getting fucked harder than they've ever been fucked before.

this is what gives the sex industry a bad name--it's lack of concern with the well being of their talent, male and female alike.

sad but true--the porn industry is very very homophobic. darren, the guy who infected lara roxx and another actress, was filming in brazil, where condom use is very lax, to put it mildly. they didn;t test him when he got back to working here, they just took his word that he was "clean" because he wasn't gay. in many ways, the minds in the sex industry are still in the dark ages. another travesty in health and safety--annabel chong's world's biggest gang bang. let's see: 10g for 250 cocks, no aids tests, vaginal bleeding from the unmanicured fingernails, plus they didn;t even pay her! gee, i wonder why people think the sex industry is an illegitimate industry? and the cocks got recyled even though her vagina was bleeding!

you know, i love sleaze just as much as the next guy/girl. but jesus! she's bleeding! even most athletes are taken off the field if they bleed! the nba mandates that no athlete stay on the floor if they are bleeding. but in porno, who cares? bloody orofice, no condom, so what?

i respect nina hartley, and i thik she's a really smart lady. but it annoys me to this day that she doesn't call the porn industry on its disgusting business practices. doesn;t she realize that no one will care about making porn a legitimate industry until the industry is willing to submit to regulation and clean up its act?

antiprincess said...

I survived a facial cumshot.

how ever shall I let the healing begin...

of course, all snideness aside, I was conscious at the time, involved in a quite consensual encounter with my good and faithful partner.

It has also happened in not-so-consensual situations.

but I have to say that in no situation did it cause my face to melt off or break out in blue spots or grow fur. Neither did the mere act of getting some slime on my face demean me any more (or less) than getting slime on any other place on my body.

sometimes it stings the eyes. not always, but sometimes.

the issue is not the act, but the consent. the consent. the CONSENT.

I get the sense (though can't cite a particular source) that some people can't possibly imagine that I could consent to anything that they themselves find distasteful or humiliating.

antiprincess said...

laura - so, if we all weren't so hung up, there would be no profit in porn...and therefore no reason to make porn?


antiprincess said...

(if this is too much for your tender eyes, belledame, please accept my apologies and delete with extreme prejudice.)

Ok - let's assume that I and Antiprince, alone in our bedroom, engage in some sort of sexual activity involving semen and faces. That's okay, according to the "nobody-cares-what-you-do-in-your-bedroom" rule. But if I take a picture of it, that's wrong? or do I have to share the picture of it with someone else for it to be wrong? do I have to share the picture of it with someone who doesn't want to see it for it to be wrong?

though I can't cite a source, I get the feeling that some folks are saying "this picture of this woman doing this act, even though she looks like she's enjoying it (or at the very least not hating it), will convince other women they should do this act, even if they don't want to. this picture will convince men that all women want to do this act, will do this act, will do this act all day long."

so this picture of me with some random slime on my face will (not might, but will) inspire, or indeed cause, some man in some far-off place to snatch up some unsuspecting woman and beslime her.

Is that how it really goes?

shannon said...

Yea, porn is in its own world as far as sexual practices are concerned. It is also culturally bound as well. Like why do Japanese porn actresses make weird sounds? Because that's how the stage is set.You should see the bondage scenes in that type if interested. And I used facials because they are so common in porn, yet in real life, yea, springing that on somebody isn't exactly going to get a good reaction. Maybe I should use double penetration instead? But seriously, that was what I was talking about. The idea that women need to go along with practices introduced by porn to be 'cool' instead of focusing on pleasurable practices instead. It's like the woman who make out with other women to titilate men.

Put your pleasure first, and that's a sexual revolution to me. Otherwise, it's like the Suicide Girls- they say they want a revolution, but they all seem like the same thing with tattoos to me.

belledame222 said...

Interesting theory, Laura. definitely there is a relationship between society's hang-ups and porn. Also, arguably, horror, another stigmatized field, albeit not as much so--these are the "sewers," the under-the-bed, the closet, where the shadows/detritus of our zeigeist ends up.

that said, I'm kind of with antip wrt, I think: mileage varies on what is and isn't "disgusting." I mean, I think *unprotected* ass-to-vagina (that is, double dipping) and *unprotected* ass-to-mouth is unsafe, yes. But "disgusting?"

I mean, personally, and to my surprise, I've kinda enjoyed (protected) rimming; on a gay guy, no less.

>though I can't cite a source, I get the feeling that some folks are saying "this picture of this woman doing this act, even though she looks like she's enjoying it (or at the very least not hating it), will convince other women they should do this act, even if they don't want to. this picture will convince men that all women want to do this act, will do this act, will do this act all day long."

That's been kind of my impression as well.

Also: no matter what a woman says, *no woman* REALLY would enjoy that (among with a number of other "thats")--this I've seen more explicitly. not REALLY.

and if she says she does,


there must be something wrong with her?

she's bin brainwashed by the patriarchy?

she's really a guy (especially online), trying to fool y'all? or funded somehow by "the pornographers" 9tm Catherine MacKinnon?

I mean, I'm sure it's not just that the anti-porn (BDSM, whatever) folks who talk this way are dismissing other womens' feelings or experiences as invalid, or co-opting their voices, or ignoring their clearly stated desires and plunging forward with their own agenda regardless. Because we all know how wrong that is.

belledame222 said...

The whole idea that people and especially women could actually listen to *their own* gut (hearts, minds, naughty bits, whatever), as opposed to trying to please someone *else,* be it the Ess O, Big Poppa, or the wimmins' co-op, is so alien, still. it depresses me sometimes.

belledame222 said...

Midori is a big enthusiast of traditional Japanese rope bondage, and does it very elegantsly and beautifully. not sure if this is what you're referring to, though--I'm not that familiar with mainstream Japanese porn.

anime, I will say this, kind of gives me the wiggins. something about the consistently cute, perky little faces regardless of whatever else might be going on.
the twee/ultraviolent thing in general; yeh. wiggins.

shannon said...

I'm not seeing why you think porn stars enjoy every single act they participate in. They are *actors*. It's not *real*. It has almost nothing to do with what real sex is like. But when people confuse porn and sex there's a huge problem there, and I think you are conflating the two.

shannon said...

**sigh* Great, now you're conflating anime with porn. Watch Sailor Moon, Hare + Guu, Cowboy Bebop, Full Metal Alchemist, and the other twenty illion anime titles that aren't porn,ok?

belledame222 said...

Shannon--I don't think that, and yes, of course, porn actors are actors. my bad; I am bringing elements of other conversations with other people, mentally, into this one. pls ignore wrt what we were talking about here.

and I know anime isn't Japanese porn. and not intending to harsh on anyone's popcult o'choice. I general. the way the faces are drawn. doesn't work for me, aesthetically, or hasn't, to date.

then again I have been recommended to watch several things by people far more familiar with the genre(s) than I, including Cowboy Bebop and...shit. whatever that movie was that came out about a year ago (o, real helpful, right?) anyway I freely admit I could be more open, here, you're right.

laura said...

i should clarify.

what makes a2v, a2m, and double anal disgusting to me isn't that i think no woman would enjoy it. i am aware that there are extreme sexual athletes that can do these activities without hurting themselves. and yes, i'm aware that the mouth contains more bacteria than the anus.

it's the lack of a condom and the double dipping that 's being filmed.

i'm not saying that the talent never enjoys the extreme sex acts they do on camera. i'm sure many of them do, actually. but my concern was this--who owns the work? you can enjoy your performance all you want--but 1) it's out there forever so it doesn't matter if you're retired, and 2) who owns the work?

jenna jameson and a few other starlets have their own website so they own their work. the images will be there forever, so there's no running away and such. however, at least it's theirs. whatever money is being milked from the work will always belong to them.

again, the true problem with the porn industry is exploitation, not a question of pleasure. you can enjoy the sex, and the filming of the sex, but who stands to profit from it? that is the question. the sex itself is not degrading. but the circumstances of how the sex is occurring does matter.

say for example a woman stars in a bdsm porn, depicting spankings, anal penetration, and bondage. now, it's just art. making the film isn;t inherently degrading, as we depict murders and tortures in tv and film all the time. but--were condoms used? how much was she paid? were regulations in place so no one got hurt? will she get residuals if this film is a hit? what's her share of the pie, since it was her performance that made the film possible?

the answers the porn industry gives to these questions leave much to be desired.

let's use another example that's not so extreme. take a hot girl who stars in a vanilla porn film. it's a huge hit, so the company who signed her is making serious miney. except the contract she's under only gives her a one shot payment for the film. then the company runs around, takes stills from the film, repackages it in a compilation, and makes even more moeny from it. and the starlet doesn;t get any more money, though it is clearly her image and work that is bringing in the dough.

there were no extreme sex acts on the film, and she enjoyed making the film. but this doesn;t change the fact that she was exploited. the money she got for her work was a joke. this is not unlike what happened to jimi hendrix--his dad had to wait until a few years ago to finally get the rights to his dead son;s work, and hendrix was dead for how long?

there is very little debate on artistic ownership in the porn industry. this debate is still raging on and the battle lines are being redrawn in the legit industries, but the porn industry is still in the dark ages in terms of progressive labor relations with the talent.

i enjoy my sex life, but it's not a matter of work to me. for sex workers, it's their bread and butter, so the debate should be about their rights and their money. whether they enjoy their work is irrelevant--i'd hate to work in an office sitting in a cubicle, but that's not abuse. abuse is when i'm working overtime and i'm getting shorted. and too often, this happens to sex workers. besides, pleasure is private and individual anyway, so i think all it does it distract from the true issue.

again, sex isn't what degrades. it's who hold the purse strings and who stands to profit. in the porn industry, who stands to gain and profit generally isn't the talent, that's for sure.

porn needs a strong union. a strong union won't fix everything, but it's a start. and porn companies should be prohibited from owning an actor's work and pictures til perpetuity. that's a crime that sex activists and porn activists generally don;t bother to adress.

as someone who is entering the entertainment industry, ownership of content is a HUGE deal. and it disgusts me that so many of the talent doesn;t own their work. i don;t care how much the talent loved performing in front of the camera--if they're not getting their fair share of the profits, they're exploited.

shannon said...

I just didn't want anyone to be confused, and when lil Johnny wants some Naruto stuff to be like NO!! That's porn!!! and really confuse him for life.

belledame222 said...


mind you, I don't know who little Johnny is, but if he's reading this blog he's probably already pretty confused...


>but my concern was this--who owns the work?

Absotively. It is a very big deal. And not just limited to the sex industry, obviously.

belledame222 said...

"Spirited Away," that was it. one of these days.

Bitch | Lab said...

Antiprincess -- depends on if they're drinking rolling rock or not. HA

Bitch | Lab said...

Also, long story which you can reading by visiting the blog and reading the category, sonshine.

When I learned my son had sex for the first time, it was pretty wild. I'm one of those open about sex, feminist moms but I had not considered carefully things like clitorises. hell, only 3 years before, he'd said he figured he was gay. which probably shouldn't have precluded me from talk about the love and care of Teh Cock.

So, I'm sitting there, with two other members of Testosterone Central in the house thinking, "Should I ask him if he had a good bedside manner? Did they freakin' do it in a bed at least? Did she have an orgasm? What what what?!?!?!?"

I finally figured out a way to ask if he knew what Teh Clit was.

"Oh yeah ma. Remember those videos we found in the park? (riiiiiiiiiight) I learned about it there. That's how a girl has an orgasm."

Worse story: I was already used to have sonshine's gf around. When he went to work, sometimes we'd pal around at the mall. One day, I kind of forgot she was fucking my kid and made a crack about blow jobs.

She was aghast at the thought of giving him one and said "eeeeuuuuuwww ick"

And I said, but uh, he doesn't eeuuuuuwwww ick about pleaseing you, eh?" and I gave her a big grin.

I don't know whether the "eeeuuuwww" about the hummer was serious or if she'd just learned to put on an act in the company of friends, but it was mighty interesting.

Bitch | Lab said...

also2, maybe it's because the kids I know are from poor and working class backgrounds, but the young women I know simply aren't little ragdolls who do things for Teh Boys.

This so doesn't comport with what these young women are like, I'm always aghast to learn that other women feel differently.

I'm not denying that women make out with girls b/c they think it impresses the boys. OTOH, it bothers me that it's consistently viewed in Ye Old binary: either you're a lezbean or you're not and there's no way that these young women actually like kissing each other.

I used to go out dirty dancing with my ex-gf and before I met her, a whole bunch of us would go out and practically have orgies on the dance floor -- mixed company.

we were all dancing together putting on a show and, as far as I know, it's because we'd liked it.

personally, I find it enjoyable to do that and go home without some wanker. Glad you liked my dancing buddy, go home and have a wank on me.

Why I have to be interpreted it as doing it for anything other than I love to groove to music is beyond me and I kind of resent reading other people make the assumptions about everybody they observe.

how could you possibly know?

I take the analogy with things like sexy clothes. Let's say you dress in ways that are attractive to the opposite sex and you like wearing the clothes. Invariably, people will say that they are dressing that way b/c they like to. Ariel Levy goes on talk shows look like Teh Hawtness, a hetbuoyz' dream chick. Same Hetbuoyz think Charlotte (from Sex and the City) is the dreamdate too (some radio station survey I don't feel like looking up.)

so you dress like Charlotte and guys think you're Teh Hawtness.

Why is _that_ considered something women here will say they do for themselves and have chosen to do, in spite of their feminist consciousness -- and yet, some women make out on the dance floor and she can't be doing it for anything other than pleasing some Dudeness.

I don't know, as I said with my burning and slashing of Ariel levy's book, when I see the results of a survey and some real ethnographic, in depth research with said women, I'm going to reserve judgement.

For every anecdotal story of a woman doing it to get a night in the sack with Herr Dudeness, another woman are saying they do it because they like it.

If you hold out the notion that you escape ideology, or can at least act critically and with thought and care with it in mind, it seems to me that you should assume others can, too. That, or apparently every woman who, as Ariel Levy described them, looks like a "bimbo" must, therefore, be a dim bulb, a dupe of society, where the observer, ostensibly, isn't.

foooey on that.

belledame222 said...

yeh, and of course we had that whole discussion wrt "we poor hetgirlz are steeping like oversaturated oolong leaves in the pressure to be bisexual for the pleasure of drooling mens!!!1!" courtesy of you know whom.

clearly if I were more radical I would understand how much harder it is to be a straight chick in this our modern woild.

EL said...

What often gets left out is the legitimate pleasure of exhibitionism and performance. The 110% heterosexual gal may be, as Bitch points out, getting off on putting on a show and on putting on a very particular show for a very particular person or persons. Whether or not she is attracted to the woman with whom she is making out/having sex may actually be irrelevant to her pleasure.

This could be the case in double-penetration scenes. The woman may or may not enjoy the physical sensation (I imagine some do and some don't) but that doesn't mean she can't derive pleasure from the act.

There seems to be an assumption underlying a lot of sex-negative critiques (I wish I had a better term, but I don't off the top of my head) that some women's pleasure in exhibitionism is itself somehow playing into the patriarchy (self-objectification).

Finally, I am bothered by this whole "we're training the teen boys to expect double penetration, etc" idea. I am troubled mainly because it assumes that, once in a relationship or encounter, not only will the boy expect sex to look like porn (which is probably as true as it is untrue) but also that their partners will just be forced to comply. I mean, if they're forced, that's assault. But if they're simply asked, they can say no if they don't want to do it. But I actually think that women, even in hetero relationships, have agency.

belledame222 said...

Thank you.

And, too, I always come back to: if the concern is about the influence of media images, then why focus on porn, especially? I expect it factors, and it's probably true that more young folks have access to porn than ever before,'s still nothing compared to the deluge of images coming from commercials, MTV, the news programs Mom n Dad keep blaring all night, top 40, magazines, video games...

And of course, there are still all the mixed messages coming from family, church, "the air:" sex is dirty and dangerous, men are nothng but testosterone machines (and that's a good thing), women shouldn't/don't really want sex all that much, and if they do they're sluts (and deserve anything that happen to them).

and, gay people don't exist; or, if they do, they're irrelevant/disgusting/dangerous.

and so on, and so on, and so on.

And I realize that people who are concerned about porn generally also are concerned about all these other factors. And it's these...floating ideas...which filter into porn as well as so much of everything else.

But, funnily enough, it's a lot easier to police/make a dent in the porn than the other stuff. Which is, why? Because the whole genre of explicit sex is still taboo, and that particular aspect of partriarchal thinking predates the current zeitgeist by millenia. It hasn't gone away, and it isn't going away. You could (in theory) wipe out every porn video, magazine, image and story on the planet and it still, I submit, wouldn't begin to make a dent in institutionalized misogyny.

and it wouldn't make life significantly better for the vast majority of people.

It would (and does) however go a terrific way toward focusing certain peoples' energy, in the process of uncovering and destroying all that porn. It is good to have a mission in life, after all, even if the ultimate goal is elusive. As Campbell says, "it's all about the journey..."

shannon said...

Well, upper middle class women are not like that at all. I mean these are the girls who won't report rape, because you know, what if boys get mad? Or won't say they are feminists, because what if boys think they are butch. They are the D*ke 'Woimen's' L*cr*see Team. And these are technically grown women. So I can imagine how a teen girl getting pressure from her boyfriend might do something they don't want or try to 'play along' so they won't lose a boyfriend. Although I have to admit, some of the more lower class girls at my high school also weren'
t mini feminists in the making either.

belledame222 said...

in fact, when I say

"wouldn't make life significantly better for the vast majority of people,"

that brings me to my real question:

Who is the crusading (whether by Concerned Women for America or Dworkinites) actually benefitting? How, concretely, does it help, HAS it helped, anyone to I don't know pass laws censuring (or censoring) porn; or to "take the pledge" to abstain from porn; or to go out of one's way to shame-dump on people who enjoy porn? What does this accomplish? yes, I get that the goal is to eradicate porn. So say you did make a dent (in the porn, in your neighborhood or whatnot). Now what? Can you point to a way in which this has improved life for anyone, especially?

I mean, I know how unionization and so forth would concretely improve lives: it would make certain specific womens' jobs and livelihoods more secure, economically and healthwise.

belledame222 said...

shannon: sure, pressure matters.

At the same time: it's not always so cut and dried. And again, I don't think that in the overall scheme of things, the actual porn is that big a factor in all the factors that leads young women to become little miss cheerleader for the boyrapists. Not compared to: golden boys lauded all over town for their manly jockishness; the general female (and yes class-specific, often) conditioning to not make waves and please people (particularly, but not limited to, Men); Mom and Dad and the Mayor and the principal. none of whom may have ever flicked on a porn video in their lives. *they don't have to.*

And then, too; I'm always a little skeptical of the whole "moneky see, monkey do" approach to worrying about media images. Yah, we're flooded with shit, but at the same time, we all, as EL said, have some agency as well, and some room for individuality.

I mean, look: if media images *and* the general zeitgeist were enough to completely influence one's sexuality, I'd be straight.

belledame222 said...

(and, I was an upper middle class girl).

EL said...

This is sort of my point actually- rather than eradicating porn, shouldn't we be more interested in an overall culture (which is far more than porn) that encourages women and girls to get what they want out of sex, to stand up for themselves, etc?

Bitch | Lab said...

I know that no one wants to hear it, that they'll say my friends lied to me,but I'lls ay it again. In my old neighborhood, a lot of women were sex workers -- dancers.

My son is currently working as a bouncer at one of the clubs around here.


But you know what? These women simply have a lot more agency than a lot of these conversations give them credit for. A lot of them like to dance and they can make decent money at it. They enjoy what they perceive as power over men. They like the idea that they can, at last, get up on stage and show off their bodies and be reallyl sexy and, guess what?, they are in total control because -- my son will beat the crap out of them if the guys act up.

I'm not saying this is enlightened. I'm simply saying: these women like to dance, they like the power they have over men under those conditions, they like experiencing the power their sexuality has over men who -- and they will say this -- act like complete idiots.

About half of them actually have a great deal of contempt for men that they didn't have as manifestly as they had before dancing.

some of them are lesbians and mark the distinction in the same way an artist marks the distinction between designing a logo to meet the dictates of capitalism, and painting something because they love to express their creativity. One, they do for money and get the kind of satisfaction any worker gets out of pleasing a client but does so knowing that, if she could follow the dictates of what she thinks is ART, she would have made that logo very differently.

The artist who makes logos doesn't see her logo work as somehow worse or something that diminishes her art. Rather, they are bracketed off as two different things. But, it doesn't follow that she therefore doesn't get a different kind of pleasure in making the logo and yet another kind of pleasure in painting for her pleasure and those of other connoisseurs of ART.

none of these women feel especially trapped. All of them have partners. A few have partners who are abusive, including one bi woman, who's GF sometimes manages to get down on her for what she does for a living. She's ended up staying with me on those nights because she can't take the emotional abuse and yet still loves her partner otherwise. But like this doesn't happen with secretaries, product managers, graphic artists, and IT dept execs.

belledame222 said...

*I* certainly think so.

I think maybe part of what's happened is that in the psat few decades, there has been this increasing split, so that on the one side (roughly) you get people who are increasingly comfortable with talking about sexuality in a fairly sophisticated way; and on the other, you have ever-increasing repression of real education, and an exaggerated emphasis on the danger! danger! aspects of sex, from disease to assault.

And then, too, I think what's *maybe* happening with a lot of the hyper-anti-porn folk is, they (like many who aren't anti-porn, especially, obviously) have been raped or otherwise sexually abused/traumatized.

And the more "mainstream" voice of "sex-positive" these days, is that as with so many things that become a bit more acceptable and hence more commodified in this our corporate culture, it is far easier to find those aspects that dovetail with mainstream acceptability (heteronormativity, women looking a certain way) as well as this notion of fun! fun! fun! Buy this product, learn this technique: it will fix everything! I mean, what's easier to find: Betty Dodson or Cosmo? CAKE parties or Body Electric?

Whereas of *course* if you're still working out "no means no," this shit is going to feel less than irrelevant. If you're hurting, you don't want to go out and learn sixteen exciting new ways to give head, for crissake; that's the LAST thing you want to hear about. I get that, I think. I hope.

I'm just not convinced that huddling together under a sociopolitical umbrella and licking each others' wounds is a great solution, longterm, much less turning all that anger into a crusade against...images.

I mean, maybe it is; it's not my story.

But I do know that I have my own erotic wounds, and that I found the greater "sex-positive" movement/community profoundly healing.

I mean: I go to a weekend workshop on erotic power exchange, and I come back feeling wonderful. To the point where people notice *something,* if they don't know what.

(as someone noted, people often say "Did you lose weight?" when they recognize that something's shifted about you but they can't think what it is, and want to be complimentary).

Whereas, I go look at some Dworkinite diatribe, and I come away feeling like crap.

So, you tell me.

bitch | lab slip't.

Bitch | Lab said...

and I'll get all relativist on your asses and point out that one of my favorite dudes, a prof of rhetoric who belongs to the pulp culture list, has talked about how artists often have contempt for their audience.

pete twonshend, for instance, thinks of his audience as, basically, dim.

I could go on about this intersting little sub-discipline of study for those interested in what are called 'art worlds' and the relationship between artists and their publics, but one of the things that struck me about listening to these women talk about their contempt for men was these quotes put for in this literature about how musicians, painters, sculptors, etc. have often spoken of how stupid they think their audience is.

The see how, once they become famous, how they can manipulate them. They see how they can mean one thing and send a certain message, and then the audience doesn't get it and they think that their audience is kind of dimwitted.

I'm not sure how all this related -- and of course *gasp* the horror of my relativism is just Teh Wrong -- but it has always fascinated me that one common theme from my experience and reading up a bit about how sex workers sometimes see johns -- is that they have contempt for them.

belledame222 said...

To me, at least wrt artists, that's actually anger and hurt transmuted. "They don't get me. They never will. Stupid fucks."

Maybe with stripping, too: "They don't see me, not *really* me. They don't give a fuck about what's really going on with me. Sleazeball shits."

Lis Riba said...

BL: These women simply have a lot more agency than a lot of these conversations give them credit for.

About five years ago, my husband and I were at a computer conference in New Orleans. And while we were there, we (and a female friend) went into a Bourbon street stripclub.
Paid for a table dance, and had a lovely conversation with the woman who was dancing for us. She was a computer science student at Tulane (also on the soccer team). We found we had a lot in common. :)

belledamme: But I do know that I have my own erotic wounds, and that I found the greater "sex-positive" movement/community profoundly healing.

Bitch | Lab said...

i don't think class matters to making one a feminist. in fact, I refused to identify for a long time precisely because not a lick of white feminist thought spoke to me.

But I think what they see is extremely independent women. They also see a situation in which men's and women's incomes are often more on par and sometimes their moms have more respectable jobs than their dads or mom's ESSO's do. E.g., my son's best friend's father was training to become a nurse but had been a nursing home worker. his mother, however, had a job with more status in the scheme of things. With a four or five dollar pay differential with a combined income making them in the mid 30s for a salary, that's enough to have a little more economic power in the house.

i think what's a lot more obvious to working class women is that men in the working class and poor men are just as dependent on them to achieve the "good life" as they are.

i think it also makes it that much more obvious to us that there's an aspect of exchange of sex/love with a mn for his income. but in this case, you see how a man often has to bite the bullet and shut his mouth because splitting up consigns you both to half an income and two households to support -- at less than ideal wages.

When it is glaringly obvious every day how much you both need each other and you are often in jobs where you could getlaid off on a whim, with no savings or social capital or family to fall back on?

belledame222 said...

I was in my friendly local indie video store the other day (bought myself the Little Britain series 1, woo hoo! can't wait till they get the second in). Unlike Blockbuster, they do rent hardcore porn, a whole back room's worth (also some softcore "erotica," gay and straight, and animated porn, in the main room). I decided to have a gander just to see if, indeed, things looked very different from the way AH/GR were describing the average breakdown of what's available (that is, vanilla vs. hardcore "violent" porn).

So, okay. I should've taken notes (haw! would've loved to see another customer's reaction as I did...) But the breakdown, roughly:

Front few shelves: Andrew Blake (glossy, reasonably "soft" stuff, pretty-pretty, in the mode of Playboy Channel or a more explicit Zalman King). Some racks devoted to favorite stars and directors, same as they have in the main store (Berman, Bette Davis). Here: Rocco (famous Italian stud), Bella Donna, Jenna Jameson, some others I'm not as familiar with. Nina Hartley, of course.

Going farther back:

A shelf or so of "interracial" (which seems mostly to mean black on white), and various "ethnic" subgenres (all-black, including one hosted by Snoop Doog, and some Asian, which unlike the all-black vids and more like the interracial seems heavily skewed toward pleasing white fantasies of other-raced stereotypes. on the whole, off the cuff, imo and based on my sightings of such subgenres elsewhere). "BBW" or however they were terming it there, probably more vulgarly: women with some meat on their bones, is the gist.

Moving right along: specialty tapes: "gonzo" (no plot, "wall to wall" sex); all-girl (of course); anal sex ("buttman"); mildly fetishy stuff like stockings or latexwear; and our favorite, facial cumshots.

I think I saw maaayyybbeee three or four covers that indicated a nod to leather or kink. Including "Fashionistas," one of the few I've seen recently and one of the rare few "mainstream" porn flicks to have BDSM acts and hardcore sex, both. For the most part, you know, you cannot these days have both BDSM and penetrative "vanilla" sex in the same movie; it's one or the other. Don't remember where that comes from (need to look that up), whether it's an actual U.S. or state(s) law or whether it's a self-rpotective move by the industry; all I know is, that's far and away the way it is. (Indie stuff, esp. on the Internets, is something else, of course) "Bisexual" porn, which differs from "straight" porn in that unlike in the latter, man-on-man is okay in a mixed threesome or moresome, as opposed to just woman-on-woman. Not a whole lot of those.

Then the back half of the store, which was pretty much all gayboy porn (the video store is queer-owned and there's a heavy representation in the non-porn section as well). Which also seems to have its own subgenres: interracial, certain fetishy looks like military (I think), "shemale"/tranny porn, others. On the whole I'm a lot more familiar with indie lesbian visual porn (which by and large they don't carry there; you have to go to Babeland or some such)

A quick gander at the back of some covers seems to confirm: hetporn: no protection in sight, anal, vaginal, anything. Gay porn: at least in some shots of anal intercourse, the condom is clearly visible. And everyone's shaved (straight and gay, male and female), and everyone's coventionally pretty, and while the women aren't quite as anorex

In short: same ol, same ol'. Rife with creaky sexist, racist, heterocentric, fat-phobic, and god knows how many other reactionary drippings from the overall zeitgeist, absotively. Made in dodgy and frankly unsafe conditions that could probably use a good union or six, no doubt. But is it "horrific," as some woman at the recent Dworkin commemorative asserted? shrug. Not to me. I mean, depends what you consider "horrific," but: no meat grinders. No broken, bloody noses and bruises. No one getting killed.

In fact--you know where I see much more of the latter two? You know all those "softcore" quasi-noirish movies that Blockbuster and a lot of yer teevee after-hours channels seem to like so much? The ones that have shit like "sin" and "obsession" in the title, and always seem to end with some beautiful stripper or suchlike either getting murdered or being a murderer or both? I find those a lot more disturbing than most of the mainstream hardcore shit, myself. Isn't it interesting that the former, with their lack of actual depicted genitalia or oral sex or whatnot but plenty of dead women, are O.K., right up front and center in the big video chainstores; but the latter, many of which are pretty much just people gettin' it on pure and simple, if explicitly, are relegated to the back room of the indie joints?

How else to interpret this, if not as *sex IS dirty and dangerous, really?*

Anthony Kennerson said...

Sorry for getting into this fascinating and entertaining thread so late....

First, to Laura's excellent points about porn and performer protections: As much as I as a Leftist and a pro-porn feminist would love to see both unionization and much more safer-sex practices; I'm afraid that the stigma attached to sex work and porn, combined with the transient nature of the business would very much mitigate against such a move at the current time. While there are some terriffic examples of the benefits of sex workers organizing for better pay and safer practices (the communal strip club The Lusty Lady in San Francisco being the prototype), it would take a far, far more radical and much more sex-positive vision overtaking the country and the Left as a whole before any mass improvements would be able to take hold. As a porn viewer myself, I certainly share your anger, Laura, at how porn consumers don't stand up like they should for their favorite performers' health and safety....but in the end, you can't prevent people from doing scenes that you may not particularly like.

As for condoms: I do encourage condom usage, but only on a voluntary basis as up to the performer; I would oppose mandatory government imposition of condom usage and explicit banishment of certain sex acts merely based on public safety at the present time, mostly because given the repressive, conservative climate, such regulations would be used less to protect the performers and more to harass and obliterate the industry....and would be mostly applied arbitrarily and most severly against the kinds of sexual content and speech that is most progressive. Improved HIV/AIDS/STD testing combined with public outcry and peer pressure did do much to reduce the last HIV/AIDS "outbreak" in 2004 (with only 2 women ending up infected) from past outbreaks. (No consolation, of course, for Lara Roxx and Darrin James, who now face the prospects of HIV infection).

Besides, most of the real risks of dangerous sex practices come not from the major porn video companies in Silicone Valley, but from the fly-by-night websites and independent mom-and-pop outlets that are mostly outside California's (or most other government's jurisdiction.

And also, most porn viewers want to see a unsheathed cock going in a woman's pussy; a condom would destroy the fantasy.

BTW...the same regulations mandating condom usage would also require dental dams and other "protections" for depicted lesbian sex spite of the lack of evidence of HIV/STD transmission amongst women. All the more reason to oppose them as arbitrary and excessive.

[Part 2 to follow]


Anthony Kennerson said...

To Belledame now:

I wish I really did know Nina in the...ahem, a-hem-hem...more personal sense, but unfortunately, I'm only a major fan, follower, and worshipper of hers....and her activism as a pro-sex radical feminist has basically built up my present philosophy on sexuality from the ground up.

(BTW, a bit of clarification..that's a different Anthony, not me, that was quoted in the Darrin James story; I have never met him personally, nor do I know him in any way.)

The point that Nina made in 2004 (in her capacity of a member of the directing board of the Adult Industry Medical Foundation) during hearings of the California legislature on the HIV/AIDS outbreak back then, was that passing such repressive laws mandating condom usage and other protections would not give that much protection to performers. She said that the laws would probably simply drive such behaviors underground or to locations less condusive to effective treatment or regulation, and would discourage proper treatment and testing by shaming and stigmatizing performers.

However, that does not mean that Nina isn't willing to call the industry out for it's callous treatment of its talent..far from it. Laura, take a visit to her website forum and you will be quite enlightened at what she says.

She's certainly NOT an apologist for the industry by any means.


belledame222 said...

I take all that on board; the part I don't get is why HIV testing is o.k. but not requiring condoms (at -least- for vaginal and anal penetration).

seems to me that's a simple enough requirement and one that (in theory) wouldn't have to lead to anything more restrictive.

I mean, it's not as though HIV is the only disease that can get transmitted. HPV, chlamydia, the clap, hepatitis...

belledame222 said...

per dental dams and so on: again, not so much evidence for HIV; but HPV is a lot more commonly transmitted, for instance. And until such time as the fuckwitted fundies

I take your point about driving shit underground; but honestly I don't see why requiring a sheath of latex for penetration (it's not like people want the guy to come inside her anyway, right? you could certainly still have your money shots) is more invasive or humilating than testing. The gay male porn industry's been self-regulating for quite a while as I understand it.

*Is* this part of what's going on, do you think? that the fear is that condom use=uh-oh, the male performer must be a homo= stigma?

because that, you know, is something that maybe should be talked about more...

belledame222 said...

...until such time as the ff's assholery doesn't have an effect on whether or not women can just get the damn vaccine which is 100% EFFECTIVE YOU STUPID FUCKS,

i meant to say.

I mean, seriously. Queer folks have been using latex all over the place for dog's years now; it's not as though nobody on this side of the fence is really wistful for the direct experience. on the other hand, for a while there at least the restriction led to a lot more creativity, I'd argue.

seriously, think how much public good it could do if 1) porn really *does* have so much of an influence, then 2) condoms started being seen as the norm, as much as shaving and silicone tits and so forth?

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