Case in point…

Following up on themes discussed here, Valerie D’Orazio talks very honestly and bracingly about her experiences with pornography, sexual violence, and child porn. As strong an argument against those sort of things as you can find.

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8 Comments on “Case in point…”

  1. Doctor Brown says:

    Hmm. She lost me when she pointed to a “renewed faith in God.” Anyone who points to a fictional character as a source of strength should be held to the same standard as someone invoking Superman as a role model, and you wouldn’t say “A renewed faith in Superman helped me to remake my life and realize that a man can fly.”

    All kidding and religion-bashing aside, I am sorry that the blogger choses to associate and then distance herself from people who draw degrading porn for a living, but let’s look at that statement. DEGRADING porn. There is a qualifier there.

    I hate to be the Devil’s Advocate, and I WILL NOT ever defend child porn, but we are again defining a broad range of behaviors by their most extreme and universally condemned components.

    In reverse, it would be like a meat-eater condemning a vegan for swatting a fly. “If you refuse to eat or use animal products for some over-arching belief in the worth of life, why then would you kill an insect,” such a person might ask. Or better still, how could someone who holds life as sacrosanct take antibiotics to kill a bacterial infection? Or how could vegans support abortion rights? Etc., etc.

    These are almost so much the logical extreme of these arguments as to have little value beyond the purely academic — they are so charged with emotion, that a consensus of thought cannot be reached, and thus, no true debate can exist about them.

    Of course child pornography is wrong. It is CRIMINAL, and should remain so, to force children to perform sex acts, or any other behavior that they are too young to legally and emotionally handle.

    But drawing it? That seems to me to be a gray area. And when does that stop? It seems to me that “Superbad,” a rather popular teen sex comedy, depicted a high school girl wearing a thong, who then engages in sex with one of the main characters and describes it graphically, another girl offering to give her admirer “the best blow-j EVER” and various other lewd, sexual situations. While none of them were graphically portrayed, this still would fall under the territory of a fictional portrayal of under-aged sex.
    And this is but one example of literature, film, or music that describes the subject.
    In “Old School,” it is not shown, but the main character engages in sex with a high school senior, when he himself is in his 30s, which is even more to the point of the article, granted it was not forced sex, but still illegal and immoral behavior.

    Moreover, most of us would consider it immoral to kill or harm another human being, but your average superhero comic contains god-knows-how-much violence. Violence is a criminal behavior. People make snuff films. Do we ban all depictions of murder and violence because some people make snuff films? I wouldn’t think so.

    It just seems to me that this is a non-argument. Of course child porn is wrong, but if it is OK to draw one form of extremely violent behavior (murder), then mixing violence and sex in art ought to have the same protection, regardless of the fact that some creators suffered sexual abuse.

    The guideline “if you don’t like it, don’t look at it” would seem to be appropriate. I certainly won’t be looking at any child porn manga anytime soon.

  2. Doctor Brown says:

    As an addendum, I am fully aware that bad things would not be produced without a market for them. I’d love it if people stopped buying guns, animal products, fossil-fuel burning cars, etc., and I know how hypocritical it is to say “well, even if I stop doing this, so many other people will” — I hope that there is not such a huge market for child porn in comparison to the aforementioned global ills — so I won’t even make that point.
    I guess I am just a First Amendment die-hard, and any movement of thought that appears to target free expression as a social ill really galls me.
    But because we live in a society of free thought, and free expression, we have to take the implications of that, and not everybody is thinking about world peace, puppies and kitties and gumdrops all of the time — and wouldn’t that be kind of boring if it were the case. Without child pornographers, there would have been no one for Cloak and Dagger to fight in their first issue — incidentally, I wonder if anybody has ever raised the issue that “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” kind of trivialize the holocaust by employing the Nazis as villains in an adventure serial. Food for thought for a later discussion perhaps.

  3. Good response, Dr. Brown. There’s a lot to unpack there so I will just try and touch on just a few things.

    In broad strokes (pun?), I agree with much of what you say there. Yet, there is a big difference between agreeing that there can be good pornography in the abstract and agreeing that porn as produce in the US today is a good. An overwhelming majority of porn produced today is bad. It is bad for its stars and bad for its viewers. It teaches bad sexual values and is – more often than not – degrading to women. I know this a well as anybody – as you well know. In my misbegotten teenage years I viewed a large amount of porn and it taught be bad sexual values – socialization I struggle to overcome today.

    In the abstract can good porn exist? Absolutely. In the reality of today’s market? Not so much.

    As for the God thing: you know my stance on those matters well. D’Orazio lost me too when she brought them up – I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. But her theism really doesn’t take away from the thrust (pun?) of her argument and personal history.

    As for the free speech issues you address, I would point you to my “Sex, speech, gender…” post- below. You may not have liked my use of Lost Girls as an example of “bad speech” but I stand by my argument there.

    I agree with you that there is a difference between child porn that is “live” – that is, featuring a real child – and “drawn”. Mill’s “harm principal” is a useful tool here. In the case of “live” child porn an actually child is being harmed and thus it should be outlawed. Things are more complex with “drawn” child porn, which I feel is “bad speech” – as outlined in my “Sex, speech, gender…” post.

    There is even more to your comment to unpack and I hope to return to it later.

  4. Doctor Brown says:

    I am forced to return to my point that “bad” for you is not “bad” for me. I know we all have to live together in a society, but what is degrading about a video of a woman giving a blow job, in and of itself? Or doing it “doggy style?” I’ve even known a few sex-positive feminists who would say that it’s OK for men to cum on women’s faces every now and again, which some women would find yucky, though they have no more inherent right to claim the “feminist” brand.
    I know that that was fairly burlesque language, but I couldn’t find a better way to say it, so I hope you, and anyone else who might be reading this, will forgive my crudeness.
    I’m just saying that again, we cannot describe an entire, broad-ranging set of behaviors under the banner of “bad” or “good.” It’s all too “THX-1138” for me.
    To get away from child porn, which I think at this point we can agree is an abomination against the (fictional) God, let’s talk about regular smut. Here, I think, is an actual area that has enough mass appeal that we can actually argue about it.
    If Suzie Smith (who is a fictional character amalgamated from women who I have dated, talked to, or sometimes *gasp* watched porn with) enjoys watching a porn clip where two men share a woman, let’s say for the sake of argument it is called “Frannie Fingercuffs,” does this make her a bad feminist? I mean, that’s kind of a derogatory title. Is Sally buying into some pre-packaged, negative notion about female sexuality, or is she just looking for cheap titillation, which I would say, as long as no one is being hurt, is her (fictional) God-given right as a citizen of a free society and a human being in general?
    This question is above my pay grade, to be sure, but it seems unfair for a man to tell a woman that something she is doing is “not feminist enough.” It would be like me objecting to a black person using the “n-word.” It just seems absurd.
    So, what is bad to you may not be bad for Suzie Smith, and again, we two men end up arguing about women as if they can’t make up their own minds. Dangerous territory.

  5. Whoa. Whoa. A couple of things here. I am not calling ANYONE a bad or good feminist. I am not on the international Feminist Control Board, so the quality of one’s feminism is not in my purview.

    Secondly, at no moment was I imply nor arguing that women can not make up their own minds.

    I also think it is important to return to how I define “bad speech”. To me “bad speech” is relative, as you say “what’s bad to you may not be bad for Suzie Smith”. Thus all “bad speech” should be tolerated and thus not suppressed or outlawed. HOWEVER that does not make such speech immune from criticism.

    On the most basic level, let’s return to Mill’s harm principal: if some one is not being directly harmed by your speech it should be tolerated as part of the free exchange of ideas.

    “Live” child porn – as discussed above – harms a minor. Thus it should not be defined “bad speech”. The direct harm it causes prevents it from being tolerated.

    To return to your example of Suzie and porn. I agree that Suzie in a free society has the right to watch whatever I consider “bad speech”. BUT at the same time I have the right to make my case as to why porn is bad. Of course, I have no right – nor should I – to stop her from watching porn. If she finds my case full of shit – she’s free to watch what she wants.

    As for making a general case against porn – that requires a long, detailed answer. One I have neither the time or inclination to give right now. I will return to the issue later if you want.

  6. DoctorBrown says:

    Nah, I’m all porned out. I actually agree whole-heartedly with your last response, it mirroring my own idea of the truth, which, as you allude to, is entriely relative.

    I think I would stay away from a discussion about porn after this one, if only because I am bored. “Suzie” only came into being because I have met women would agree, and women who would disagree that porn is “bad speech,” but I see no reason to keep her around, so I am killing the character off. *In a flash of misogynist irony, an axe, wielded by Ron Jeromy, chops off Suzie’s head.*
    If I ever need to discuss why porn is or isn’t good again, and need a fictional female mouthpiece, I will think up someone with a more plausible, less aliterative, name.

  7. psycholarry says:

    Fellow blogger Mighty God King recently talked about porn and feminism if you’re interested.
    http://mightygodking.com/index.php/2008/12/18/my-commenters-got-comments-radical-feminist-edition/

  8. i more or less agree with the gist of the post you link to.


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